With the return of beautiful fall weather today, Rokk-It Red was clamoring to get outside to explore more of the Lehigh Valley trails. She had never been to Rodale Fitness Parkbefore, so I loaded her into the car and drove her to one of my favorite places.
I’ve gotten good at climbing the small hills on the 0.6 mile inner loop, and I can easily lap it many times now. But I have always set my sights on the grand prize, which is climbing the big hill that I’ve affectionately dubbed “Mount Rodale” at the beginning of the 1.3 mile outer loop. Despite my increasing fitness and Trikking skills, I’ve always put that goal somewhere “off in the distant future”.
|Pictures don’t do it justice. It’s steeper than it looks!
Perhaps it was all the pent up energy and frustration I’ve felt after several rough weeks of being cooped up at home and at work in the dreary weather, but as today’s warm sun cascaded down onto Mount Rodale, I couldn’t help but gaze at it longingly as I took the fork in the path that steered me away from it and onto the flatter inner loop. My second pass of the same spot just made my yearning that much greater.
Should I try it today? Could I possibly do it today? “No way,” I thought. “I’m getting stronger, but I’m just not ready yet.” But as I approached the fork the third time, I made a quick decision. I would try to climb Mount Rodale! Today! Right now!
The outer loop’s steepest hill comes just after the fork, and reads as 4.5 degrees on my iPhone level app. Despite my best efforts, I ground to a halt in the middle of it. No surprise here. Ignoring the fact that I made it half way, the critical demon that lives inside my head began berating me. What business did a fatty like me have trying to Trikke up such a big hill anyway?! Surely the whole world must be laughing at my folly. Before the critic could continue, I scolded myself for scolding myself and got back to the matter at hand. I walked Rokk-It Red up the more gradual middle part of the climb, got back on, and resumed Trikking. The approach to the summit of Mount Rodale grew steeper again, but not quite as steep as the lower part. With some effort, I did make it up the 3.5 degree hill and smiled with joy as I glided down the back side.
“Okay, that wasn’t so bad,” I thought. I could still enjoy the inner loop today, and I’d come back next year to tackle Mount Rodale again after my skills improved some more. I circled the inner loop two more times, all the while realizing I didn’t want to wait until next year. I would try it again . . . today!
My second attempt at Mount Rodale was only marginally more successful. I ground to a halt at the same place again, but instead of walking, I gave Rokk-It Red a good boost by kicking off a few times, and then I rode her the rest of the way up that steep hill. This was promising! I decided to settle into a pattern of 2 laps on the inner loop followed by 1 lap on the outer loop for the rest of the day.
By my third attempt at Mount Rodale, I was really determined to succeed. I put everything I had into building momentum leading up to the base of the steep hill. Rokk-It Red began her inevitable slowdown. “You can do this!” I actually said out loud, as I punched into the next carve even harder.
My heart was pounding in my chest as my breathing became more labored. I punched and leaned, and punched and leaned, and punched and leaned, and Rokk-It Red kept crawling slowly up Mount Rodale. It was now or never! “Come on! You’ve got this!” I shouted. Punch and lean, punch and lean, punch and lean, and . . . there it was . . . a sudden surge in momentum that told me I’d crested the top of the steepest part!!
I reminded myself to keep breathing as I continued climbing towards the summit. My mind flashed back to all the trials and tribulations of my journey towards fitness . . . the 30 minute walk last December that left me light-headed and nauseous . . . the 10 mile bike ride in February that left me so sick, trembling, and crying to the point I almost gave it up for good . . . my first 2 mile Trikke ride in March that was fun, but exhausting . . . the 15 mile bike ride in April that left me feeling great and renewed my faith in my ability to do this . . . my first 10 mile Trikke ride in July after attending the Academy in June . . . and now this . . . as I finished my mental recap of the year, I crested the top of Mount Rodale for the first time without stopping!! I did it, I did it, I FREAKIN’ DID IT!!! Was that a tear in my eye as I glided back down the hill, or was it just the wind from my new burst of speed? My lips trembled and my heart beat faster as the impact of what I’d just achieved sunk in.
|Feeling on top of the world!!
I did 2 more laps on the inner loop, but instead of peeling off to go home as I had planned, I decided to have one final go at Mount Rodale for the day. I had to know, was it just a fluke that I made it up the first time? Or had I really taken my Trikking to new heights?
With renewed optimism, I carved towards the steep base of Mount Rodale. My tired muscles were burning, but I had little doubt this time what the outcome would be. I kept punching and leaning and before I know it I was back at the summit of Mount Rodale! Despite my fatigue, I think it was actually a bit easier this time.
As much as I wanted to keep riding, I knew I had reached my limit for the day. I peeled off the trail and did a victory lap around the parking lot before putting Rokk-It Red away for the day. When I checked my MapMyFitness app, I found that one more surprise awaited me . . . I had not only scaled Mount Rodale, but I had just completed my longest Trikke ride ever at 10.41 miles!!
I feel so alive and invigorated right now, I want to shout it from the rooftops!! What a journey this has been in just 10 months to go from feeling sick and defeated after a half-hour walk to Trikking 10.41 miles and conquering some of the steeper hills the Lehigh Valley’s trails have to offer!! And to think my fitness journey has only just begun . . .