By Tina Zita
There is a hill roughly 20 minutes outside of where I live that is very popular with the “fit crowd.” I’ve repeatedly heard people say, “If you want a good workout you have to hike that hill!” I finally tired of hearing about it and thought, “O.k., whatever, I can get on board with hiking. How hard can it be?” I’ve committed to going twice a week with some younger friends of mine. When I venture into nature for any reason, I tend to arrive equipped. Preferring to camp with tweezers, toilettes, flares, and a Swiss Army Knife all tucked safely inside my rattlesnake-proof boots. Remaining true to tradition, I shoved two aspirin into that handy built-in key pouch that comes sewn into most Nike pants before I walked out the door. When I met up with my pals I said,” Hey, if you look back and I’m down on the ground — shove these suckers down my throat, I saw this move on Dr. Oz!” Then I pointed to my throat, the Nike swoosh on my pants and said, “Just. Do. It.” Which garnered a laugh, but deep down, I was serious and studying their fingers, deciphering which one of them had the best chance of successfully shoving an aspirin down my throat, while simultaneously calling for an attractive fireman to save me.
As I started climbing this mountainous hill, I was sure my lungs were going into shock. If I could personify them, I imagine they hit the mute button on the remote, put down the hot Cheetos, and said, “What the hell is going on? She’s trying to climb a hill? Dear God! Open the emergency alveoli sacs now!” I’m considering taking those guys to an oxygen bar as a “thank you,” because what my lungs did for me this past week was nothing short of amazing, they really got me up that hill; twice. Then it happened, I noticed two older women approaching quickly. I recognized them as the same women that were about a half a mile behind us when we started our hike. I called out to those in front of me, ”Are we really about to get our asses handed to us by two “60’ish” year old women?” My group of friends looked back over their sweaty shoulders at the women gaining on us and continued in silence, albeit the sounds of us panting for relief in unison. My primal instincts kicked in as I selflessly sacrificed myself, “Go on, you’re younger than me, save yourselves! I’ll distract them and hold them off at the ridge!” I was pretty sure I’d heard that line in a movie once and was thankful the opportunity to use it had finally presented itself. My friend Stephanie, always the pragmatist, shouted, “Tina, there is no ridge, you dork!” Her comment burst my cinematic moment of martyrdom, stole my thunder, and brought my mind back to the reality of hiking without properly trained lungs. I grumbled along thinking, I’ll bet she didn’t use her imagination enough as child. We continued upward as fast as we could manage until that humiliating moment about a quarter of the way up, when the women appeared again, like gorillas in the mist, zooming past us and without any sweat dripping down their backs. They even had the audacity to hold down a conversation. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that they had found enough oxygen to carry on a conversation while climbing altitude? These women must have been twenty-five years older than me and were hiking this hill like it was flat land. They knew our group was suffering, because as they left us in their smoke they looked back saying,” Keep at it, before you know it you’ll be going as fast as us!” If I could have caught my breath, I would have said something smug and clever, but I couldn’t breathe. My 20 year old friend and the only male in our group, tried to shield his pride in the throes of agony by stating, ”Oh, I could do it; I’m staying back on purpose to protect the ladies.” Pointing to us as he continued, “You know, I don’t want to leave them alone in the wilderness.” The beads of sweat cascading down his face and our eye rolling gave him away — not that they were falling for it anyhow. The women laughed at his joke and disappeared into the steep distance so quickly; it was humbling. In my defense, I held my own with 20 year olds, but I couldn’t move my ankles or sit down without screaming in pain when it was over.
Our group went back the next day for round two, we made it a little further up that time, but I had a new problem. At dusk, I saw a coyote resting in the middle of an abandoned walnut orchard. Coming down the hill, I was at the back of the pack, my legs were barely moving, and I could hardly lift my water bottle. I tried to telepathically deter the animal by projecting photographic thoughts of the fresh garlic I’d consumed the night before in a bowl of homemade spaghetti. Then my neurosis kicked in and I wondered if that coyote was in actuality, a rabid wolf about to initiate a chase? Because I was thinking so clearly, I decided the only option was to impress the hot fireman that would be arriving to dress my wounds by my using a “stop, drop, and roll” maneuver. That would provide my only chance at making it down the hill in time to push my car alarm button, start my engine and run over the rabid wolf. I finally came to my senses, realizing my boobs were too big to effectively roll down anything without stopping like a square peg at every rotation. It was decided, I would have to talk my way out of the situation. I was too exhausted to fight.
If that coyote came after me, I would just concede and say,” Look you bastard, only eat what you need O.k.? Don’t be greedy! I’m too tired to run or fight your fury ass — I’m not a 60 year old.”