Hey Copenhaffer Road – you ain’t so bad! (OK well maybe you are a little bit)

My favorite movie from when I was a kid is Rocky II.  I am not a boxing fan in general; it is kind of a stupid sport in my opinion, but Rocky is, well Rocky, and so I can overlook the fact that it is a boxing movie.

Elevation Profile of the South Side of Copenhaffer Road

Elevation Profile of the South Side of Copenhaffer Road

My most favorite scene takes place at the end of the movie, during the fight scene.  Sure, it’s great when Rocky wins the flight, but I love the way he wins – barely able to breathe and crawling up the ropes, with Apollo struggling just the same, only seconds behind him.  It is like real life – rarely do we win anything miles ahead of everyone else; usually we are struggling just as much as the people in second and third place.

Which brings me to my struggle with Copenhaffer Road.

You may remember that back in December, 2012, I made a pledge that I was going to attempt to bike up Copenhaffer Road in York, PA.  I don’t really know why I made this pledge, but I think it is because Copenhaffer is notorious around here within the cycling community so I thought I should at least try it. There are obviously two sides to this mountain; the north side and the south side, with the south side being the most difficult.  In my mind, my pledge was to bike up the easier side, at the end of the biking season, around October.  I figured I would have lost the 50 pounds I set out to lose this season and I would be in the best possible shape I could be in.

Things don’t always go the way you plan them, and sometimes that’s your own fault.

About seven weeks ago, I was talking trash with a friend of mine and our egos got the best of us and I challenged him to race me up Copenhaffer Road.  Granted, he does not actually own a bike, but he claimed that as long as we raced in June he would win, because he has some kind of “June thing” going on, where he never loses.  Of course, during this conversation I was incredibly arrogant, which was not attractive in any way, and I sounded quite convinced that I would beat him.  But then, a few hours later, I thought – how the hell am I going to bike up Copenhaffer Road in JUNE?

Fast forward to May 17, 2013.  I had lost about 35 pounds and I thought it was time to tackle some hills since I now had to race up Copenhaffer in six weeks instead of 18 weeks.  The first hill I attempted was the north side of Lewisberry Road.  My average speed was about 6 mph, which is not terrible.  I didn’t want to go down the other side because then I would have to get back up that side, so I turned around and went back down the side I came up.  I probably went down slower than I came up – going down hills I am not familiar with kind of freaks me out.

On May 27, 2013, I biked with my good friends Jane, Craig and Phil, who were dedicated to helping me win my big race.  Jane strapped a speaker to her bike so that we could listen to the theme song to Rocky on the way up; I kid you not.  There we were, in the middle of no where, four cyclists in our ridiculous cycling outfits, blaring the theme song to Rocky 2.  I am sure everyone who saw us was envious.

We biked up Lewisberry and then down the other side (which really did completely freak me out – that is nothing but downhill; no flat areas at all) and then we biked up the north side of Copenhaffer, which is the “easier” side.  We then turned around and biked back down the north side of Copenhaffer and up the other side of Lewsiberry (which honestly never seemed to end, but Phil told us inappropriate jokes the whole way, which helped take my mind off of my misery). I never got off my bike, although I did coast a little.  It is hard to coast going up hill, you basically just balance yourself on your bike and try not to fall over, which is hard to do while your legs are shaking and you feel like puking.  I made it up all those hills and it was a huge accomplishment for me.  But I didn’t think I could attempt the south side of Copenhaffer; that was just out of my league.

My friends however, disagreed.

I have now lost 37 pounds and on June 9, 2013, I biked with my good friends Jane, Phil and Amy and we tackled the south side of Copenhaffer; Craig was not feeling well and stayed home (smart man), but he was absolutely with us in spirit.

You can’t really appreciate just how awesome my friends are until you see this hill because only awesome friends would agree to bike this hill with you.  The south side of Copenhaffer Road has about four different sections of hills and each one is worse than the other, with the one at the top having a grade of 11% to 15%.  It would be hard to walk up this portion of the hill.  It’s hard for my car to get over this hill.  Who knew that learning about the rise over run in elementary school would someday help me understand just how devastatingly hard a 15% grade was.  I should thank the nuns in my Catholic school.

Biking up hills is psychologically challenging, as well as physically challenging, because  you see this massive hill in front of you and you know it is going to absolutely suck trying to get up it.  And you shift to an easier gear, and then another easier gear, and then – you run out of easier gears and it sinks in that this is it – this is the gear you are stuck with until you get to the top of this hill.  I ran out of gears way earlier than I wanted to.

I knew if I just took it slowly I could make it up (little did I know that meant 1.4 mph).  I didn’t need to rush; this was not a race.  The first three hills were painful, but I didn’t stop.

My good friend Phil stayed with me the entire time – actually biking circles around me as I ascended very slowly, and Jane and Amy went to the top to take photos of me as I made it over the hill.

Phil and Dawn biking up the last leg of the south side of Copenhaffer Road

Me and Phil biking up the last leg of the south side of Copenhaffer Road

I could have walked faster.  I had to stop two times on the last section to catch my breath.  I was surprised that my legs actually felt fine, but my heart was screaming.  A few minutes of rest and I was able to start again.  I had to “paperboy” at the very end right before the crest, which is kind of cheating, but it isn’t the same as walking your bike, so I don’t really care.

In the end, I made it up to the top of Copenhaffer Road, on the south side.  It wasn’t pretty, but with my friends cheering me on it was amazing.  Just like Rocky, I had to claw my way up that hill, but who cares how I got there as long as it was pedaling a bike.  When I got to the top, I actually cried a little from the sheer joy of knowing that I did it.  Then I had to “check-in” on Facebook to a location I created: Top of Copenhaffer Road, and post that I actually made it up the south side so all my friends could tell me just how awesome I was.  Which they did.

Top of Copehnaffer

Me, Phil, and Amy after we made it up the south side of Copenhaffer; Jane is taking the photo.

I am ready for my race.

I should note that I owe a lot of my success to my fellow trash talking friend.  His bet and my ridiculous ego forced me to get out on that hill a lot sooner than I ever would have.  In fact, maybe I never would have even attempted Copenhaffer if he had not accepted my challenge.

Of course, that does not mean I am going to let him win.  I am still going to beat his ass.

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6 Responses to Hey Copenhaffer Road – you ain’t so bad! (OK well maybe you are a little bit)

  1. jane s. says:

    what will dawn conquer next?

  2. Gary Meyers says:

    Enjoyed your account of the “Trial of Copenhaffer Road” immensely, Dawn. I know Phil quite well. You look on him as a friend who pushed you over the top so to speak. I submit that he may see potential businesss in you. Be wary of his offers. You may want to lawyer up.
    (In reality, he’s a great son who has dedicated his life to helping people. And he’s pretty fair at sports also!)
    G. Meyers
    Proud Parent

  3. Dawn Cutaia says:

    Ha ha ha @ lawyer up! :)

    I am not sure I could have made it up that last part without Phil’s help.

  4. Marie says:

    Go Dawn! I /hate/ uphills and I’m so impressed with the fact that you conquered the tough ones! Great job!

    • Dawn Cutaia says:

      I never thought I could do it to be honest. I owe it all to my friends for helping me. And I still hate hills.

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