Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bernal Assault

Today: 4
Present: 620
Count: 90

The rise from Cesar Chavez to the top of Bernal Hill isn't much more than 300 feet and you have a mile to get there. But the tail end of Alabama is only moderately runnable and the climb is relentless. The views, a worthy reward, are barely noteworthy sucking in that much air.

I feel, not without a hint of pride, like a race car driver whose vehicle has been in the shop. Every day he drags over to the mechanic, asking when repairs will be done and he can take it out for a spin. Patience. But waiting is hard you're used to opening it up every chance you get.

And then one day, just when the driver thinks maybe he'll stop coming every day, perhaps just a call will do because its too painful to see those sad shoes lying on the ground, begging for a spin, the mechanic smiles and tosses him the keys. He idles off the lot, gently tapping the accelerator.

The engine purrs, urging him on.

Sunday was that first test drive after months in the shop. The engine responded, like it never missed a beat. All those months swirled down the drain, an empty, gleaming tub.

But today was the first real test. The test to make sure the screws are all tight, the nuts all bolted on with just the right amount of torque. I ramped up Alabama and was quickly breathing hard. So it goes, up the hill. I kept climbing, hard without overdoing it. I know the climb and I know the hill, its a long mile.

The flat before veering onto the hill proper is a welcome respite, but heavy legs and heaving lungs meant even keeping a moderate pace was still a challenge. I pressed on, maintaining the intensity. My legs responded well -- complaining but not unduly so.

The wrap up the north side of Bernal is gradual but steep enough that most people crawl up. A path I've done a hundred times or more, I know the grade, the turn, even where the rocks are apt to collect after tumbling down the hill. Dogs outnumber people and the walkers always give me this odd look, like I'm the first person they've every seen actually running up this thing.

I rounded the top and peaked south, to Candelstick and Bayview and Hunters Point and perhaps the future of San Francisco. Decades from now, runners may crest this hill, take in this view and wonder how BVHP as we know it today lasted as long as it did.

I kept on going, all the way to the top. My chest heaved, and I leaned in until I touched the gate. Quite a mile.

Drifting down, I finally took in the views, soaked in the expanse. The city laid out before me, the Bay and both bridges easily seen on this crisp autumn afternoon. I zoomed back down and did my best superman impression, donning a sport coat and slacks for this evening's schmoozefest, my brown plastic glasses masking my true identity.

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