There I was, standing in front of my cross-country team. "Ok, gang. Today's practice is all about sustained hill running. The conference meet has a steady climb between miles one and two. We need to practice that."
I explained the workout. Just getting up to our beloved trails from the school was a chore. Even the name gives it away: Chandler's Mountain Road. As of late, I do well to make it to the trail head of a rugged and rooted path without walking. But this time, the plan was to stay on the road and continue up the steep incline to the ski lodge. I honestly thought there was little chance for me to make it walk-free. But I would try. Try hard. Guess what? I made it and started to smile.
Next, it was a mile run on gravel road, some of it uphill as well. Another victory for me. Then, our task was to run down, down, down the Valley View dirt road to the very bottom before turning about-face. With just one rise in the middle, it was fun letting gravity pull us down the mountain. But of course, what goes down must go up. The plan was to run the mile and a half climb without any walk breaks. Could I do it?
"I think I can. I think I can." Just like the Little Engine that could, I shuffled up the mountain, my "granny gear" engaged. I wasn't going fast but I was going. The closer I got to the top, the more excited I got. I had never done that before. Yahoo! I felt like shouting.
I ran the mile of gravel road back to the ski lodge with a couple of my girls. We took in the picture-perfect views of other mountains across the way. Not even the steep rise at the end reduced me to a walk. Then, it was a free-fall down the mountain and back to the school. I barely felt my feet touch the ground. It was effortless.
On a crystal-clear, crisp fall day when the sky was blue and the leaves golden, red, and orange, there was nothing more delightful.