The pursuit of hills, mountains and cols is one that begs the question... Why?
There are perfectly serviceable flat tracks, level park runs and beautiful coastal roads to enjoy. Why then do we find ourselves drawn to these peaks that soar from the ground like bullies of the horizon?
It certainly isn't for an easy time. It may be the KOM's or the PR’s...for sure it's the KOM's and the PR’s but online Strava glory seems a shallow reason for the pain we put ourselves through to gain some vertical meters.
The most logical explanation in terms of training is the increased resistance provided by the 9.81m/s/s of gravitational acceleration acting down on us. And the steeper we go, the more gravity pulls on us like an invisible competitor: I will beat you. No you won’t.
This battle against gravity increases the effect of aerobic capacity training and reduces recovery time. Valuable to any training programme. When you need to reach further for muscle packing routes it's often the hill on the way home that allows you to go into the red one more time. That makes a difference weeks down the line.
The judge, jury and quite often executioner. Mountains are places to enjoy endurance sport. They offer – in fact they force - a change of pace. It’s a chance to look around and take it all without compromising the training affect. Go slow to go fast.
The lower average speed means routes require more planning. Often the search for elevation has to be saved for the longer days. Sometimes it is literally the weekend to our Monday to Friday.
And despite the days when the judge’s hammer falls and gravity wins the battle, we return for more. Because reaching the summit, seeing the view and taking time to appreciate the outdoors, you look down at where you have come from. You’ve reached the top floor of your surroundings and in the process you may well have reached the upper limits of your physical abilities.
There is, of course, an element of pride in climbing but it is perhaps more straightforward than that. It is quite simply there to be done and we climb because we can. Riding a mountain pass or running up a scree face is like the pursuit of dreams: chasing a summit like a fantasy.
Pushing our boundaries is what we do. We are ticking a box on a list of achievements drawn up but never complete. Objectives change, targets move but sometimes, only elevation will work.