So it’s my Birthday and I usually like to do something epic.
I don’t know why, but I love stretching myself completely in some sort of challenging endurance excursion on my B-Day. I guess I feel it’s a way I can honor, give gratitude, celebrate and feel being fully alive. Some people eat cake, I like to ride 100 miles or some equivalent (oh, and I eat cake too!).
So, despite where Ronny and I might be in our personal journey with one another (which has been its own epic adventure in and of itself for over the last 13 years), I can always count on Ronny to be my partner in crime on my Birthday.
Ronny is intense. When most people describe him that is the word I hear first and most often – intense. He would have been the perfect Marine Corps Drill Instructor. Instead we co-own a business together and share a daughter. Those two things are hard for us to do together. I do not respond well to “drill instructing.” Where we meet as one is on the trail. It is on the trail where we also meet the deepest part of ourselves. I think that’s why we do it.
The B-day celebration starts like this. It’s summer, August 23 (my birthday is actually the 26th, but this is to be a 3 day adventure celebration). Even though it should be a steamy August day, it is not. When we start our bike ride, it is 68 degrees and raining hard –sideways. I would expect nothing less. After all, this is an adventure with Ronny.
We start with a climb. There is no warm-up.
We knew it was going to be a good climb. We were wrong. It is a phenomenal climb.
Within 20 minutes, Ronny offers his first apology. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it would be this steep.”
I’m not silent because I’m pissed off that the climb is so steep. I’m not pissed off that I feel light headed and like passing out at only 20 minutes in.
I’m pissed off because Ronny has enough oxygen to speak. And he does so without it seeming to tax him further.
He is used to me not responding. He knows I am either:
1. Pissed at him or
2. Digging deep
Often it is both.
One thing I really appreciate about Ronny is he is never offended by my silence.
More climbing. The rain has let up a bit and the fog is rolling in like crazy. My quads are burning, my lungs are burning, and I’m seriously light headed. I think about my adrenals (which I’ve had some challenges with). I’ve already had 2 cups of coffee, and shared an Americano (with an extra shot –of course!) with Ronny. And I haven’t slept much the past two nights. A couple of work projects have me excited and in overdrive.
I say, “Sorry adrenals. I will treat you better after my B-day weekend. I swear!”
This climb makes the Gauntlet at the Cove (one of our favorite climbs back home) look like an active recovery day. Or maybe it’s just me. Without a doubt this is the least “trained up” summer I’ve had. Even my summer right after having my daughter I was much stronger. So maybe, it’s not that challenging of a climb. Maybe, it’s me.
Ronny is not in sight. I usually hate that, but today I’m in too much pain to care. I climb. The fog is amazing. Big wet puffs keep rolling in on me. The temp has dropped 10 more degrees. The climb is keeping me warm enough, but I’m thinking I will be freezing on the decent. The decent is worlds away. I can’t imagine I’ll ever be descending.
Next curve….there is Ronny. He is stopped and waiting for me. My heart gets lighter…we must be at the top. Thank God. Woo-hoo, what a climb! I’m ready to celebrate.
Ronny offers his second apology of the day. “Man, I’m sorry. I had no idea it would be like this. You are a rockstar!”
My head is down. I keep pedaling and manage a quick burst of, “Are we there?”
Ronny: “Um, I hate to say it, but we are just at the halfway point.”
Me: “Let’s go.”
I can’t stop. It is too rough on the quads to stop and start again. Plus, I want to do this in one fell swoop. No resting. No stopping. If I stop I will feel like I really haven’t done it. Which is ridicoulous and not at all true.
It’s much like a road runner who switches to trail running. Road runners feel like a loser when they walk. But trail runners know you must, especially on the long runs. You hike the steeps, it conserves energy, it’s smart.
Same with adventure racing. Often times, even if you can ride it, you don’t. You can’t empty your tank when you have 20 hours left to race.
But that’s not what this ride is about. It’s to climb to the top. Period.
At some point in the pain process, I drop into my own world. I’m no longer silently cursing Ronny. I’m not aware of being light headed. I’m not aware of burning quads and lungs. I’m somewhere else. This is my meditation. I start getting awesome downloads. I’m writing in my head all the awesome things that have now been connected and beautifully downloaded to me. I’m in bliss.
The fog is so thick I can’t see 3 feet in front of me. It’s mystical. It’s peaceful and feels huge. Awe and gratitude wash over me. I get to experience this. I am fully alive.
The bliss is fading. I’m very aware of my legs and my breathing. I might throw-up. My left arm is being shredded by briars. I see the perfect line away from the briars out to my right, but to get to it I must cross a rut. It’s not very wide or technical, but I have nothing left. I know I can’t cross and keep it together. I cling to the briars and hold my line.
The phrase, “Adventures with Ronny” keeps floating through my mind. Terry, a previous manager at one of my fitness centers coined that phrase over a decade ago. After hearing of one of my crazy outings with Ronny, she calmly and knowingly shook her head and said, “Adventures with Ronny.”
I can’t tell you how many times over the last decade I’ve found myself in the wilderness viewing Ronny’s backside ahead of me on some remote kick ass trail as I’ve murmured, “Yep, Adventures with Ronny.”
Like the time I raced a 36 hour adventure race with him. My legs were slashed (briars again) and bleeding. To cut distance, we bushwhack and Ronny takes us through a field of stinging nettles. Have you ever experienced stinging nettles? Then we waded through a pond (swamp!) that was dark, murky, stagnant and smelled like dead carcass. I chatted with other racers afterward, and interestingly at that particular race no one else experienced stinging nettles or swamps. Adventures with Ronny.
Or the time we were piecing together a race course for one of our events and were already 2 hours late picking up our daughter and we weren’t sure what state we were in — Virginia or West Virginia? Once we made it to a hard service road, we started looking for license plates on cars to clue us in. Adventures with Ronny. (Side note: This was like 8 years ago. Before Ronny became the master navigator he is now. This wouldn’t happen now. I. DON’T. THINK.)
Or the time we set out to do a 50K (just for fun). At midnight. And I had a broken arm (from another “Adventure with Ronny” outing, but that’s another story). In my defense, I didn’t know it was broken at the time. Adventures with Ronny indeed.
This is what I’ve learned from my adventures:
Whether you (and I mean me + you!) are on the race course, on the bike, on the trails, or going after anything in life these 3 things can make all the difference:
- Don’t try to figure it all out. Put yourself on a need to know basis. Don’t look at the whole enchilada. Believe me, you don’t want to know everything ahead. If you do, you’ll psyche yourself out or just become completely overwhelmed. Just start and keep forward motion at all times. It’s amazing what you can handle as it comes up.
- Dig deep. Then dig deeper. If you stay the course, if you dig deep, you can do the “impossible” – you are so much stronger than you think. You really are. I promise.
- Attempt more impossible things. Sometimes you just have to attempt things that are extraordinary, that seem impossible and a bit crazy just because you can! And… because they inspire your own soul.
So I asked Ronny, after the ride if he thought it was hard.
Ronny: “Hell yeah, that was the steepest I have ever climbed for 3 miles straight!”
Me: (Thinking- whew! This man has done some climbs so I’ll take it!) “What was the best part?”
Ronny: “You. At the halfway point when I asked you if you wanted to rest. And you grinned and just said, “Good to know,” and pedaled off.
I don’t remember the grin. Or the good to know. I just remember the pain and the let’s go.
But our company motto is “Your Pain is Our Pleasure,” so evidently it must resonate at a deep level. For me the PAIN stands for Passionate Adventures In Nature.
I mean, what could be better than that?
What a gift. A tremendous gift.
PS. If you are an adventurous high performer, high-achiever and have considered working with a life coach, then this might be right up your alley! I mean trail. I mean mountain. 🙂 Check it out: ADVENTURE COACHING INTENSIVE