When I reached the top of Signal Hill with my tire today, I found myself giggling at this sign. I wondered where my trunk was since all I had was the wheel of a car.
One woman came over and said, “I just have to ask.” I answered the unspoken question, “I can’t afford to buy gas.”
She replied, “No really, I can’t go back and tell that stranger in the car over there, the wrong answer. ”
“OK”, I said, “I’m training for a mountain in Antarctica that requires that we pull sleds.”
“Just as I figured” she responded, shook hands with me, and turned to go tell the curious guy over in another car.
I fielded lots of questions on the hill today. It was a gorgeous day and it was 3:30 in the afternoon rather than 6:30 in the morning…thus a half of St. John’s was driving, wheeling, and walking up the hill.
The first half of the the first pull felt like it was going to kill me. My calves, engorged with blood, felt like they would explode a shower of lactic acid all over the road. My tire was bouncing annoyingly behind me. My Garmin flapped in the wind. My mind wrapped up in a blanket of perceived suffering. I eagerly awaited each preordained break spot and quickly turned to face downhill to give my legs a rest. I kept wondering why is was being so hard.
“Probably yesterday’s six ascents/descents might be a clue” I chimed in. Funny how that works. I’d read recently about a study that found we can sometimes talk ourselves out of pain so I thought I would try some of the hints the article gave. I started paying attention to the sights around me rather than how my achilles felt tighter than violin string. I watched each sweat drop splatter against the white pavement marking and then glisten in the sun. I gave thanks that I had the physical ability to be pulling the tire.
At some point, I realized my legs had stopped hurting. I wasn’t setting any speed records because I gave myself permission to take it a bit easy since I’d put in a big day the day before. Once I relaxed into the situation (as advised earlier in the day by my Buddhist teacher-thanks Moh), it became much more manageable in my mind (and body). The giving up of all the chatter in my mind about how hard it was being, made it easier…and once that constant noise quieted down, I knew I could pull off two pulls up the hill.
I know I have had this lesson before. Sometimes it takes more than once I guess. It takes awhile for my body to get going and while that warm up period is under way, it feels very hard and that feeling triggers the thought, “I don’t know if I can do this.” What I have experienced in the last two days, and on many many mountains, is that it usually gets better. It gets easier. I just need to be patient, calm the dizzying discourse of difficulty that develops in my mind, relax, and just keep stepping. When I came down off the hill today, I saw that a few people had liked today’s Visual Soliloquy. Its quote seems an apt reminder for me when the going gets tough.
What saves a person is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Thanks to all who honked, waved, and took the time to stop and wish me good luck on the hill. I appreciate all of your kindness and well wishes.