I found it. Contrary to what the Bible says, hell is not bellow us. It is above. It exists on a hill called Nectar Way. It rises out of the ground like a cement wave, half a kilometer high, reaching towards the sky and ready to break down upon you and crush your very soul. It is the definition of pain and suffering. It is the kind of purgatory that belittles medieval torture chambers and endless power point presentations. It will break you.
Tony and I headed out today at 3pm, unaware of what we were in for. Gilad had found Nectar Way a few days earlier while driving around town with his wife, Erin. He was ecstatic when he saw the behemoth concrete monster, menacing and evil.
The hill starts out at a mellow 10% grade and gradually winds up to about 12 or 13% for a few hundred feet. Then it flattens out to 7 or 8% before the true test of will comes into play. The second half of the hill quickly inclines to 18 to 20%, stopping you in your tracks as you grind your smallest gears into shavings of metal in supreme agony.
The workout: 20 times up. All out.
Tony and I cruised up the first time. I did it in 58 seconds from bottom to top. The next time was harder, but we still went up fast and in a straight line. Number 3 was getting tough and I was still out of breath from the previous climb. Number four was the wall. Will joined us on this one and he beat both of us, still being fresh. By now my legs were acid and my lungs seemed to be at half capacity–no that doesn’t do it justice–it felt like my lungs were full of acid too. My head was throbbing in agony and my vision was blurred and cross eyed. I was getting extremely dizzy from lack of oxygen and my legs could hardly push the pedals at 300 watts by the top of the hill. This is pretty much how it felt from number four on out. Number five was slightly better for me, and Will and I pretty much tied. The next one was brutal, I was beginning to get a massive cramp in my side and was having trouble breathing. Number seven was my worst one, my side felt like it had been punctured by a dull machete. Number eight was better. Will and Tony had hit a wall long ago and we all began suffering on our own, no longer going up together.
The next 10 were brutal. I would go all out on one or two, heading straight up without any wavering or tacking across the road. And then I simply would not be able to do the next one without swerving all over the place, creeping up the 20% grade at 2 miles an hour in my smallest ring, just on the verge of stalling out. I remember one point in the workout when I looked up to the top of the hill, a quarter kilometer away, and saw Tony and Will duking it out at the very top. But it looked like there was more side to side movement than forward progress. Their bikes teetering back and forth as their ruined leg muscles struggled to tack across the full width of the road (it is a dead end and no cars go on it). I would have laughed at the sight, but I could spare no air.
Every once in a while, we would catch up with one another or wait at the bottom of the hill for a minute so everyone could head up together, which always made it harder. Despite the enormous advantage of having external motivation, we had all long ago entered our own worlds of pain. We were doing the workout together, but there was absolutely no communication. No one had the breath to speak. At one point, Tony stopped about 3/4 of the way up and fell off his bike. Completely hyperventilating and on the verge of blacking out. We were all on the verge for an hour and a half. It was the most intense workout I have ever done. And starting today, we will be doing this hill every week. All I have to say is: bring it on, my headache is gone.