Yesterday was my birthday. I’m now 28!
I told Tony I wanted to spend it on a “ski vacation,” so that’s what we did. My parents came down on Friday; Saturday I did a long run (at 8 miles) with my friends at the club and then on Sunday we packed our skis in Tony’s Civic and headed towards Sunday River in Newry.
Last year on my 27th birthday we went to Mount Abram and it was so frustrating and demoralizing I cried going down a hill. Because there was no way to go down other than to ski down. (The conditions, having been an unusually warm winter with little snow, we are also not great.) This was on a beginner trail, too.
This year I was much better.
Most of the beginner runs I could handle with ease. I even skied down a few intermediate trails, most of the time doing OK. I consider it a major accomplishment that I even agreed to ski down an intermediate trail.
I did find that painful place, though. We skied down one intermediate trail, Ecstasy, which was waaaay beyond my ability. I panicked. There was a lot of falling and false starts and reluctant snow plowing down the face of the mountain.
But at least I didn’t cry.
The hardest thing about skiing to me is the fear. When it gets steep I am afraid of turning down the face of the mountain. When it gets mogul-y I am afraid of plowing over a big hill. When it gets crowded I am afraid of taking up any space and getting smacked from above.
Fear is healthy. It keeps you alive.
Tony said to me that I have a “low threshold for adrenaline.” His support for this argument was that I was loudly whimpering after a beginner run (Lollapalooza). And that I hate gory movies.
This might be true. I tried to think of ways that I do like taking risks, but my best retort was that I didn’t mind travelling alone. Even training for marathons isn’t necessarily an adrenaline-filled experience. There are dozens of long runs that are dress rehearsals for the big day, so by the time you get to the starting line, there isn’t that question of can I finish, it’s just can I do what I set out to do? I think this is why I’m drawn to endurance races as opposed to sprints — it’s about that inner fortitude to go on and not about pushing yourself into an uncomfortable place.
Uncomfortable places are important, though. That’s how we grow into new skills. How we become better. I’ll never be a better skier if I just stay on the kiddie hills. I’d never be a better runner if I only ran easy.
When I was on Ecstasy I didn’t want to do anything other than not be on Ecstasy. But sitting here writing about it, I’m proud that I tried. Even if I had to skid on my butt down the hill (I didn’t) I’d be proud that I tried. My neck and my shoulders and my glutes and my quads are all screaming tonight from clenching together and I skid down that mountain this afternoon.
But I tried.
I don’t have to love the uncomfortable places. But at least I was willing to go there.