Back in 2003 I began training for my first lengthy bicycle ride, a 175-mile trek from where I was shot in Brooklyn to Albany. I live in a very hilly area so I began thinking of a motivational term I could link to the challenge of reaching the top of a steep and, at times, lengthy climbs. Finally I decided on breaking hills. Breaking the hill meant defeating the climb, taking the challenge and pushing through it no matter how grueling.
For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, I am back on the bike breaking hills and loving every minute of it. Perhaps a recent reduction in coffee intake, which brought about a nice drop in anxiety levels, helped me rediscover the joy of getting back on a bike and going for it. Then too, there has always been something about taking on a physical challenge, getting back in touch with my body, that I’ve found emotionally and spiritually healing.
Many years ago, around 1986 I’d guess, after nearly a year in seclusion, I began going to the 23rd Street YMCA actually named the McBurney YMCA with my friend Dane. The nine-story McBurney YMCA was built in 1869. When Dane and I went I’d play racquet ball, diving all over the court with a somewhat manic little boy joy. I was genuinely saddened when I learned the YMCA closed its doors there and reopened on 14th Street. I find it hard to believe that the Michael Bloomberg era of money first tradition last had nothing to do with creating the atmosphere that led to the building conversion to a bunch of condominiums in 2004.
Later, in 1991 I ran my first marathon and from 1991 to 1995 tacked on five more.
At any rate, the spiritual glory of breaking hills is on me again. Recently a man in Long Island asked me if I was planning to do any more lengthy bike rides. I did the 175 mile ride in 2003 and a 1,000 mile ride in 2004. I surprised myself when, without pausing, I said, “Yeah, why not?”
And I meant it.