I remember when I was in college (Go Spiders!!!) and we used to call our hardest academic weeks “Hell Weeks” because they were so crammed with exams and projects and presentations and sleep-deprivation and coffee. Today I wanted to write myself a note:
Dear Former Self:
Here is the kind of “Hell Week” you’ve graduated to:
Saturday: Col de Manse round 2, plus a 3 km finish at a ridiculously steep incline
Sunday: Col de Ornon – Altitude 1371 m
Monday: Alpe D’Huez round 1: 21 switchbacks at 8.4% grade. Plus Col de la Sarenne at altitude 1999 m and 8% grade.
Tuesday: Alpe D’Huez: round 2
Wednesday: Col de Glandon: Never ending 22ish km climb at 6% to altitude of 1924 m
Thursday: Col de la Madeleine: 20km climb at 8% to altitude of 2000m
Friday: Col de Tamie – 9 km at 7% grade.
Better take your coffee strong!!
Your Future Self
All told, I think this past week was the most difficult of the entire Tour, and I am sure the riders will feel the same. I still have four more days in the Alps, with 8 more Cols to cross off, and I’m sure each of these days will be as hard as each day this week, but at least there’s just four of them. The weird thing is, by now I’ve realized that I’d rather be in the mountains than anywhere else. I don’t think I’ll even try to discover why I feel that way via written word, because it’s not a thought or a fact or an observation – it’s just a feeling. It’s calm and peaceful and at the same time it’s nudging and prodding and tempting you to go up and up and further and further. I grew up by the ocean in Maine as as much as I LOVE the ocean, I don’t think I feel the same way there. At the beach I want to play in the waves and walk in the sand and swim in the water but I don’t think I’ve ever felt the movement of discovery like I feel in the mountains.
I was thinking a lot about the philosophy behind our drive to get to the top of mountains – from the historic castles perched atop the highest summit to the modern sport of mountaineering. And I don’t think, for me at least, that it has anything to do with wanting to “conquer” a mountain or claim some sort of victory at the top. Because at the top of the mountain, what you see is that there are an unfathomable, unsurmountable number of surrounding mountains, many of them higher still, and that in tackling any of them you’ll just discover more and more and more. So I don’t think getting to the top of a mountain is an ego booster or a way to show the mountains who’s boss – it’s a way to get to this place that we’ve come to equate with the top of ourselves, only to discover that that’s a destination to which we are always going but never arriving, because there’s so much more possibility out there. It’s a different perspective up there, truly more broad; and I think in the truest sense of this cliche, it’s only when the perspective is most open that you can focus in on what’s most important.
So even if it’s killing my legs, I’m happy to be spending this time in the Alps and am already dreaming of spending summers in some half-lived in ski town here and running up and down big hills all day.