This Is Not A Hill

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When I first ran up this road in Stanley Park, I struggled to breathe. My lungs and legs burned. I doubted that I would reach the flatness of Prospect Point, doubted my decision to try this triathlon thing. That was me five years ago running the BMO Vancouver half marathon when the climb to and over Prospect Point was the most cursed section of the course.

About a month ago, in the final weeks leading up to IRONMAN 70.3 Cabos, I completed six up and down repeats of this hill (plus run warm-ups and 6:20 sprints at the end). There was some discomfort, but I mostly felt the hot satisfaction inside my gut for seeing my legs and arms move in good form. My training through the spring and summer was paying off, and completing the race under the Mexican sun seemed possible, satisfying, even enjoyable.

Thanks to my improved physical fitness, the hill is no longer a hill.

Instead, other hills spread in front of me.

It is not the hill of doubt about my decision to shift my career sideways and launch a freelance writing service in my early 40s.

It is not the hill of summer loneliness that left a canyon each day, swelling up in the afternoons after the rested mornings, crumbling when the busycookingcleaningbrushingmyteethtakingdogoutgoingtobed evenings started.

It is not the growing hill of financial worry every time I do my budget.

It is not the hill of boxes entombing my books, my family photos, my stuff from Seattle, all now stacked in our living room.

It is not the hill of never-ending steps and jumps to Canadian permanent residence.

It is not the hill of sadness with its mean switchbacks of depression when Luddo, my canine companion, stumbled and fell close to death.

One of the reasons I love triathlon is its requirement to physically and mentally push yourself to make yourself better. In the past, its training had been my way of injecting challenge and growth into my day.

Now, triathlon is a comforting refuge with its predictable pain and needed endorphin rush. Its hill is no longer my hill.

Some days, when I ungracefully and doggedly scramble over the professional and personal changes stacked  around me, I wish I could go back five years to that churning burn of Prospect Point.

To feel relief by seeing a definite peak, feeling solid wherever my feet land, stopping my running, walking a bit, and catching my breath.

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