The last four hills on the West Ridge Trail leading to the “Top of the World” (Laguna Beach) are the hardest. I should say, the last “middle two” of those four are the hardest. So #3 and #2 are real beasts. #4 is no biggie and #1 is also a relative peace-a-pie, and #1’s extra sweet because it’s the last one before the big payoff at the top with the blue ocean view. Throughout this 20- mile regular ride of mine—the only time I ever get off and walk my bike is on the beasts of #3 and #2 and only if it’s an especially hot day (like today) or especially crowded (also like today) or I’m just being a baby (not at all like today).
So, I was on #4 and gaining on two bikers who were clearly huffing it. One was a man of maybe forty, the other was a teen, and perhaps they were father and son. I was at a comfortable, normal pace, not showing-off in the slightest. As I began to pass them on their left, the dad looked disbelievingly over his shoulder at me as I was passing him and said:
“OH NO! YOU’RE A GIRL, YOU HAVE TO GET BEHIND US! YOU BELONG BACK THERE!”
An “OH NO YOU DIDN’T!” rebel yell erupted from my lips with a pitch and fervor comparable to Mel Gibson as William Wallace’s “FREEDOM!” Now completely overtaking them, I could hear the echo of my wail in the canyon down below, in concert with the howl of coyotes and wolves (okay, echo and howl might be hyperbole).
Out of breath, he eked out a “Just kidding.” I smiled back, of course, being the humble, grace-giving, good sport I am. Now having rocket fuel in my veins, I flew up that hill—and the next, and the next, and the next straight up, not a zig or a zag. Was I showing off now? Oh, yes, I did.
Sometimes when I pass someone on the trail, I think of the verb “overtake” and that day in Italy a few years ago when I drove a shiny red Ferrari 458.
My professional driving instructor on my right kept saying, “Push, Pameeela,” which meant, step on it. Push the pedal down, put the pedal to the metal. When he wanted me to pass a car, he instructed me to “overtake.”
I was scared to do it, but when I did overtake? Dude, it felt good. If you watch the video, you’ll hear that I said as much. He laughed and said, “It’s easy.”
Of course, it is.
The mind-body connection is powerful. Today, when I was little taken aback by my fellow mountain biker’s assertion—telling me “my place”—pushing myself up that hill suddenly became easy. The dude rides. I was on a red Ferrari mountain bike, full tank of rocket fuel, pushing Pameeela.