Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the last .1 percent

a while back (on my other blog) I wrote about the final mile.  about making it 999 miles, and feeling like the last mile in your effort to reach 1000 will possibly break you.
this was more about mental and life journeys than about real cycling . . . that is, until a climb I rode a week ago brought this sharply, clearly, fully in focus, right in front of me.

last week I was in maui (I know, not one bit of empathy out there from all y'all, that's okay), home of Haleakala.  the volcano.  my sweet john rented road bikes for us for the week so that I wouldn't go stir crazy and start chomping on or throwing things, and if you have the slightest idea of who I am, you'll figure out that I decided I had to ride my bike up haleakala.   john, willing knight, dropped me off at the ocean and I started pedaling up baldwin avenue toward the crater 35 miles ahead.  up.  up ahead.

I spent the first ten miles swiveling my head from right to left, up and around, amazed by the lush greenery surrounding me, the neat plantations, the old buildings, the low lying land off to my right.
while panting.
because the road was gently but consistently arching upward, with a gain of 500 feet in elevation every two miles or so.
about 10 miles into my ride I hit "the rodeo road"-- a cut-through that led me from olinda (which took over from baldwin avenue) to the haleakala highway-- a blessed down-and-up level half-mile stretch before the climb once again resumed.
at about 15 miles I hit the turn-off to the crater, where john had parked the car and started pedaling, elevation 3500 feet. and I kept climbing, john somewhere up there ahead of me.
I watched the painted messages on the side of the road ("breathe," and elevation numbers with every 500 feet gained), stopped when I needed to, sang praises for the visitor center (bathroom, water refills) at 7000 feet, and just kept pedaling up switchback after switchback after switchback.
when I reached the visitor center at the top, I saw a road stretching dramatically up to a smaller observation center higher up on a peak.
no, I thought, as I circled the parking lot, looking for john, for john's bike, for an excuse to stop.
no john, no bike, no excuse.
I headed up that last steep incline, gritting my teeth, telling myself I had enough left to get there.  after perhaps a quarter mile, I saw a cyclist waving at me from beside the road where it leveled off . . . it was a happy-to-be-there john.
and then I saw that the road hadn't yet ended . . .
there was one last extremely steep-looking climb to the round observation center on that little peak.
we sat and talked, we breathed, we drank water, we both looked at that last little climb and said, no.  our legs were fried, we were fried, and enough is enough.  we'd ridden 99.9 percent of it, and I was done.  done.  done.

then john looked at his garmin, which told him we were at an elevation of 9928'.
not the 10,000' we'd been promised.

we looked at the road up, looked at each other, and climbed back on our bikes for that last push.
as we crested the ridiculously steep little climb we saw the small wooden sign pounded into the volcanic rock on the right side of the road,  ELEV. 10,000 FEET.
we road on up to the lot, circled a time or two, and returned to the sign for a picture.

I honestly didn't think I could make that last push, that last tenth of a mile, that last teeny little climb.
but I did.
we did.
and life is all the better for it.
nuf said.

No comments: