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July 26, 2009

World Keeps Spinning

"Who's to say -
What's impossible, well they forgot -
This world keeps spinning and with each new day -
I can feel a change in everything ... "
- Jack Johnson, "Upside Down" (video after post)

This is a fairly well-known landmark in the Fort Ord open space:

It’s affectionately known as “Hurl Hill” by the local mountain biking community; a short, steep, choppy quad-buster that lies near the end of a 5-mile single track loop through an area called Couch Canyon.

The hill is physically and technically challenging, but just forgiving enough that dismounting to walk your bike seems like a cop-out. Consequently, Hurl Hill doesn’t really give you a choice: your pride says you have to ride it, but your legs and lungs (and maybe, considering the moniker, your digestive system) will hate being worked to shreds while you’re doing it.

So I wasn’t expecting great things from my 11-year-old son when I took him there for the first time last week.

We were halfway through a 10-mile ride, and I had been telling him about the challenge of Hurl Hill at the end of the canyon. As we approached, I gave him encouragement, while at the same time lowering the bar of expectation, so that he wouldn’t be too disappointed if he had to walk: OK man, here we go … it’s a tough one, but just do the best you can … work hard and see what happens … just go as far as you’re able to.

His response: OK, and he rolled off toward the hill while I hung back to take another picture.

I took one frame, then refocused and took another, and was zooming in for a third when the realization hit me: He’s riding a lot further than I thought.

I kept watching … and he kept riding. And riding. And riding some more.

By the time I hopped on my bike and sped into the hill to catch up, he was more than two-thirds of the way to the top; the bike was swerving and wobbling and moving in slow motion, but moving nonetheless. Constant motion, one slow pedal stroke after another, until I had to take my eye off him to make sure that I navigated the hill properly myself.

Once we finally crested the hill, I let out a big “Woo hoo!!”, and asked the question I already knew the answer to: You rode that whole hill, didn’t you?

His response: Yeah. In the midst of very audible hyperventilation – and a very visible smile.

We stopped for some water, took in the view around us, and let the moment settle for a few minutes before finishing off the loop and eventually returning to the car. Aside from the three or four minutes spent on Hurl Hill, it was just like any other bike ride.

Shortly after he got his bike last summer, I wrote in a joking fashion about how the only difference between his performance and mine was the relative strength of our engines. No longer could he use the excuse that his bike wasn't good enough to keep up with me; in fact, his ride is far more advanced than my 20-year-old Rockhopper, so he’s actually working with an advantage. Tagged onto that post, a friend left a comment that has become one of my favorite analogies: dropping your dad on a climb is the new arm wrestling. It's outward evidence that the strength and determination of the pupil has finally surpassed that of the teacher.

I’m not foolish enough to think that my son would never outclimb me – but I figured I had at least 10 or 15 more years before having to deal with such an indignity. However, those few minutes on Hurl Hill made it clear that the time may be coming far sooner than I thought. Our worlds keep spinning, and there's no more time to waste. I suppose I should embrace this revelation as good news … but you’ll forgive me if it feels a little bittersweet as well.

And lest my kid starts getting cocky, there’s one final point that deserves mentioning: I’m not going down without a fight. When our changing of the guard finally comes, that kid’s going to know that he earned it.

"This world keeps spinning and there's no time to waste -
Will it all keep spinning spinning round and round and upside down ...
I don't want this feeling to go away."
-Jack Johnson, "Upside Down" (click to play):

(In case you were wondering, the song and video are from the delightful Curious George soundtrack.)


Wendy 7/27/09, 3:47 AM  

A wonderful post! Congratulations to your son.

Thomas 7/27/09, 5:38 AM  

Very much a chip off the old block. When will he be signing up for his first IM?

RBR 7/27/09, 7:39 AM  

Such a very "Awwwww" post. I suspect it will be less "awwww" and more "day-um" when he finally does it.

There is be great cred to be earned when he can drop you, of all people.

Sorry, I teach high school. It has completely changed my vocabulary. They are like a virus. My bad.

runningcommentaries 7/27/09, 8:24 AM  

Great post- but make him earn it! It must be so rewarding to see improvement each time you guys ride- and a lot of fun too.

I actually think I ran up hurl hill once when I lived in Monterey and it definitely earned its name.

jeff 7/27/09, 9:54 AM  

this made me smile, donald. it's a good look into the future for me.

and, yes, your boy is going to have to earn his besting of you. he's got the alpe d'huez of arm wrestling ahead of him.

Gretchen 7/27/09, 10:46 AM  

You know Donald, I'm going to have to stop reading your blog if I can't avoid getting all teary-eyed while doing it. Seriously, just stop it.

And you really thought it would be 10-15 more years? No offense, but I'm rooting for your kid here. ;) I'll never forget in Jr. High when I first beat my dad on a 3 mile run. Such sweet victory!!

Peter Lubbers 7/27/09, 12:12 PM  

Congrats to your son, Donald! That looks like a grueling hill. You'd better get out there and start doing frequent hill repeats (Hurl repeats?) if you want to stay ahead ;-)

Backofpack 7/27/09, 1:31 PM  

Happy days at your house Donald! Love those signs of growing up, and even better, the father/son moments. Way to go!

Pete Danko 7/27/09, 2:14 PM  

Congrats to your son for conquering that hill! (And thanks for the post; my son is about to turn 10 and your well-told stories like this really connect with me.)

robtherunner 7/28/09, 2:13 PM  

Simply awesome, Donald! What a great ride and one that I'm sure you will remember for a long time.

triguyjt 7/28/09, 2:50 PM  

The new arm wrestling....great analogy...

thats fantastic how your son ripped up the hill...
don't know you can't make it..and guess what.....you make...

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