Thursday, March 25, 2010

Going to the Mailboxes...

You know that phrase from The Godfather, "Go to the Mattresses" ? For those of you who don't quote Sonny Corleone regularly, it's an Italian saying used to describe a family going into battle.

Well, I haven't had much experience with going to the mattresses (despite growing up with three brothers and one bathroom). But I have had the hard-nosed knowledge of going to the mailboxes.

Yep. Mailboxes. Any rider or runner in this town probably knows what I'm talking about and they nod in appreciation and empathy when I say I've gone to the mailboxes.

There is a great road for hill training in our neck of the woods. This old, country road is filled with climbs and descents; some long and arduous as a grey, rainy day is long.

If one were to look upon this 10 km road before hitting the pavement, their eyes would probably scope out the mid-section and consider this the most grueling. The spot to prepare for, and I can see why. But this first assumption is deceiving.

I won't deny this stretch of pavement is a real grinder when it asks you to commit early and get into stride; its vertical challenge setting into your quads, your legs burning as your bike tires (or feet) maneuver in and around the pot holes holding empty promises to be filled by a mayor who doesn't give a crap.

But the true feat is up ahead where four mailboxes rest lazily on the side of the road. It's deceiving, this spot. You don't see it coming. It's a short climb, but the slope and pitch turn on you quickly. Before you know it, you're gearing down without realizing why, as you slowly creep by those four mailboxes. You start counting them in your head in an effort to mentally pull yourself up the hill:

One. Okay, I can do this.
Two. Halfway there, don't tease yourself by looking up.
Three. Where the hell is three? Why did I look up?

And then...

Four. I squint to make out the label on this mailbox carefully so I can curse its name with precision.

Oh, these mailboxes look innocent enough. With their cute little metal flags pointing towards the sky, trying to look all country and Green Gable-ish. Look at me. I have mail, they say. But don't let them fool you. They're laughing on the inside; with all their junk-mail and bills. Gone are the days of hand-written letters and Grandma's congratulatory cheques for passing the fifth grade. We all know what's really in their dark, cave-like innards.

Just as Sonny underestimated his brother-in-law, Carlo Rizzi, one should not underestimate the mailboxes.

Of course, there is justification as you pass this section and continue on your hilly journey. You enjoy the view as you find yourself at the summit. Sheep graze in the valley to your right. Birds sing praises for your hard work and you close your eyes for a brief moment and lift your face towards the warm sun.

When you reach the end of the road and make a 'U'-ee to enjoy the best part of any hill (downhill), you whiz by those mailboxes in third gear and wonder what the big deal was. They are kinda' pretty all lined up in a row, and you soon forget what torture they put you through. In a way, you're glad they're there; challenging you. Asking you to give more so you will perform better next time.

As you're loading your bike, you'll think of those mailboxes and look forward to the next ride as you plan to make the same trek.

And you'll go to the mailboxes yet again, welcoming the battle. Cursing them in one direction, and thanking them on the way back.

Sonny Corleone photo courtesy of
pothole photo courtesy of caribb on flickr


  1. Nice article Trace...And what road would this be you??

  2. not sure why it says "you" at the end.. I think I was gonna write "you are referring to" but got

  3. Haha! I'll show you which one if you get on your bike...


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