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Conquering the Wall

For many in Philadelphia, the first weekend in June brings with it a chance to pull out their lawn chairs and coolers, fire up their grills, and watch as hundreds of the world’s top riders take to the streets for the annual Philadelphia International Cycling Championship.  A 156-mile road race that has attracted the likes of Lance Armstrong, the event reaches its climax on each of its ten 14.4-mile loops with a trip up the infamous Manayunk Wall.
The Wall, so named by pro cyclists David Chauner and Jerry Casale, is a half-mile climb, which, at its steepest, reaches a 17% incline.
And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s about 3 miles from my house.
So, last weekend, Brent and I decided that we were going to conquer the wall.  
We set out a little after 5 PM on Sunday afternoon.  After my eighteen-mile run the morning before, I wasn’t sure how my legs would fare, but I felt surprisingly good as we begin our climb up the first of what would be 7 hills.  You see, The Wall (or Levering Street, in layman’s terms) is one of a series of half-mile hills that run from the Schuylkill River up to the peak of Fairmount Park’s Wissahickon Creek Gorge.  Not all are as steep as Levering, but at least one or two are longer, windier, and – for whatever reason – unrelenting(er).
Up and down we went.  From Wise’s Mill to Shawmont, From Shawmont to Domino.  It was four major climbs before we even made it to The Wall.  Finally, nine miles into the ride, I saw our destiny.  [To follow our route, click here]
And you know what?  It was kind of anti-climactic.  Sure, it was steep, but so were all the other hills we climbed.  The grade varied enough that I always had a chance to catch my breath, and though it wound around a bit, it followed a relatively straight path that left me unfazed by the cars whizzing by.
We finished off with another couple hills, and headed back home as the sun was setting.  In total, we covered 15 miles on the nose, and 1900+ feet of elevation gain, with the vast majority of that coming between miles 3 and 13.  For perspective, I went and looked up the elevation gain of Ironman Wisconsin.  Over the course of those 112 miles last September, I climbed just over 7150 feet – about 60 feet per mile, compared to 190 feet per mile last week.
So, Jon, bring on those hills this October – I’ll be ready for ’em!
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6 responses to “Conquering the Wall

  1. I Run for Fun September 28, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Wow! You go, girl! You really conquered those hills. I am sure I would have given up before I even started.

  2. N.D. September 28, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    that's cool – the hill looks crazy!!!

  3. RunToTheFinish September 28, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    hot dang, do you do anything that's considered "easy". 🙂

  4. Denise September 28, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    That's cool!! You know, growing up in this area and I've still yet to come down to the bike race?Do you run Shawmont ever? There's a 14 mile loop we do that we climb Shawmont at about mile 9. I love it!

  5. RunningLaur September 29, 2009 at 2:29 am

    17%? Wow. I love all the little out and backs on the route – you're pretty hardcore 🙂

  6. Angela and David Kidd September 29, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    I find it hysterical that a 6 hour race is called a "sprint."Doing that hill routinely will make you strong! I'm jealous.

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