The yellow sign warned drivers that they were coming to a “steep zone.” Not that this fact would have gone unnoticed otherwise. If you’re summiting Mount Baldy, you’ve probably prepared yourself for some sort of incline. It is, in fact, a mountain. But I guess that yellow sign was just a friendly “Hi there!” reminding us all that, from this point on, along with keeping our eyes peeled for falling rocks and avalanches, we should also note the “15% Incline” and pull out the heavy treads for our tires.
But vehicles and tires were not really in the cards for Pomona-Pitzer women’s cross-country last Saturday. The day had finally come for the annual P-PWXC Mount Baldy run. A solid six—or if you were one of five lucky runners, seven—miles of uphill running to the Baldy ski lifts. Starting out at a given drop-off point, the team was to run the traditional course, winding its way up the mountain, passing by some lovely geological specimens, epic murals, day trippers, and the Mount Baldy Zen center.
At the first drop-off point, seven long miles from the lifts, the white P-P van swerved onto the rocky shoulder of Mount Baldy road. The cargo doors flew open as Annie Lydens PO ’13, Naomi Wagner PO ’13, Roxy Cook PZ ’13, Claire Brickson PO ’14, and Dot Silverman PO ’14 tumbled out of the car. The ladies took a brief moment before beginning their grueling excursion to pose for a photograph. At first it seemed they were overcompensating with laughs and smiles in preparation for the next 80 minutes. But they kept their spirits up the whole way through.
The rest of the team jumped out at the six-mile marker. Hannah McConnell PO ‘12, wearing her favorite white sports bra for extra luck, jogged ahead.
“I kept thinking about our pre-run karaoke-sesh,” she said, referring to PPWXC renditions of Rihanna’s latest hit. “‘Love the Way You Lie’ was on repeat in my head.” That may not have been a pleasant thing for McConnell, but she sure ran up that hill quickly.
Not to say that it didn’t cross more than one runner’s mind to accept the generous offers for rides issued by a slew of passing motorcyclists. Ilona Kats PO ’12 mentioned—off the record, of course—how tempted she was to “just forget about their curly ginger beards and leather fringe” and accept the chance to steal up the mountain (and beyond).
“They were pretty creepy,” Kats admitted, “but by mile three, I was beginning to notice the shine of their fenders more and more.”
But as much as each girl wished to be spirited away by her own leather-clad mountain man, the girls had to stick to time-honored tradition.
“We do it every year,” coach Alicia Freese PO ‘13 told TSL. “It’s sort of a team bonding experience. And a tough workout, but more bonding I’d say.”
Along with all that bonding, the team had to maintain its focus on the hard road ahead. The only thing that kept each girl going—besides her own pride—was the confidence that with each step she was that much closer to the omelette line.
As Lydens and Silverman dashed through the parking lot, finishing their last 100 meters, the girls glanced at one another and clasped hands, crossing the line with grins and cheers from the team. It was bonding. And it was precious.
The Baldy run is the sort of event that looms on the horizon. It’s something we all complain about to whomever will listen, preparing ourselves by warning the frosh that it “seriously takes 90 minutes, minimum,” and imagining the course as an insurmountable and wholly miserable experience. But in reality I’m pretty sure each girl secretly looks forward to the date. One of the ladies put it well—it’s the day we enjoy the “woman versus nature” challenge, where we each have the chance to “realize how alive we are.” And I’m guessing it is that feeling that keeps each girl’s legs moving and her eyes trained on the top of the next switchback.