After my conversation with Amanda’s mum, Diana, I hung up the phone and I sat and stared at the bulletin board in the office. A map of Algonquin was pinned to the board. Various routes through park were highlighted in red. Pick up and drop off points were indicated. One of these routes must be the path that the trippers were following. Wow! That was alota lakes and alota paddling! Hmmmm.
I was lost in a daze for a moment. My mind full of thoughts of babies and diapers, lakes and paddling and campfires. I gave my head a quick shake and looked at my watch. I had about two minutes to high tail it down to the beach for my run with the counselors. I picked up my back pack and tossed it over my shoulder.
When I arrived down at the beach there was a swimming class just finishing up as the kids were toweling off and shoving their feet into their shoes. I went to the picnic table and put my back pack down. I started to do some stretches in anticipation.
Danielle and Maggie came jogging down the main road. They stopped at the beach entrance.
“OK Anne! You ready?” Danielle called to me.
“I guess.” I grimaced and Danielle and Maggie laughed. “Please be gentle?” I begged.
“Awww Anne! You’ll feel sore tomorrow but you won’t be sorry!” Danielle said and gave me a wave to join them. “Our goal is to run to the first fork in the road. It will be a three mile round trip. Let’s do this!” Danielle clapped her hands and we were off.
We started up the gentle hill that led us off camp property. We were at a slow jog. My thighs began that all too familiar burn. This was going to be painful. I tried to remind myself that it had been about eight years since I had done any running, so I was not going to expect miracles. I also reminded myself that the first run is always the worst run. I wanted it over with ASAP!
The road into camp is a loose gravelly one. It winds, it turns, and has a mix of gentle hills and killer hills. Almost immediately after leaving camp we came to the top of a really steep hill. You couldn’t even see the bottom of the hill as it wound around to the right, so I couldn’t get a sense of how long this hill was going to be. The sight of the steepness of the hill made me cringe thinking about coming back and having to scale up it! Ugh.
I needed a distraction. So, I started asking lots of questions. Lots of questions.
“Where do you go to school? What year of university are you in? What are you studying? How long have you been a counselor at camp?”
I got to know these two, fine, young ladies as we trudged, huffing and puffing and sweating along the road. And to be fair, most of the trudging/huffing/puffing/sweating involved myself. I did enjoy our conversation. I also really enjoyed all the wild flowers that were in full bloom along the edge of the road; milkweed, daisies, thistles, Indian paintbrushes. It was a riot of beautiful lush green forest, accented with punches of color. We even saw a turtle. And I passed him. So, I felt like I had accomplished something! These were all nice distractions.
Things went pretty well actually. Until, that is, we were heading back and we rounded the final bend and I saw ahead of me the hellacious hill. My heart lurched and I slowed my pace to a walk, then stopped and put my hands on my hips as I assessed the behemoth. My running buddies stopped too. The three of us looked at each other.
“We call it Hellfire.” Maggie told me with a grave nod.
“No kidding.” I said as I bent over, hands on my knees, catching my breath and trying to locate some inner inspiration to conquer this beast.
“I think the best approach is to look down at the road just immediately ahead of your feet. Don’t look it in the eye, it will just suck out your spirit.” Danielle said philosophically.
“And take little steps.” Maggie offered helpfully. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
“Let’s get it over with chicks! Then we can dive into the lake!” Danielle called over her shoulder as she lead the way.
That sounded so delicious. That would be my focus.
I did as I was told. I kept my head down and started my little steps up the back of the monstrosity. The fight was formidable. My thigh and calf muscles were searing. My breathing was tortured. But I pressed on, focusing on my goal. Little steps. Deep breaths. Head down. Slowly but surely until I reached the top.
Maggie and Danielle, fully recovered, met me at the top as I stumbled up the last few agonizing step. They greeted me with cheers and high fives. Bent over, gasping for breath, and completely wasted I weakly raised my hand for the high fives.
And then….I puked.