“Please do no feed the fears.” Unknown.
Recovery week in my monthly training I have a prescribed day off the bike. Damn. If I can’t ride, why not climb a tree? Makes sense, so I find myself standing on a ledge 15m high harnessed into a rope challenge course.
My 14-year-old daughter has already scrambled across the swinging rope wall quite a few metres wide. Fear is pumping through my veins. I feel frozen. I shout to her that I’m flipping out. She laughs, and yells “just start, if you fall the harness will catch you.”
I step out with a shaking body which doesn’t sync well with the swaying. She’s giggling and belts out an after-thought, “Mum you’re only scared because you’re thinking about this too much.”
Boom. Out of the mouth of babes.
I almost ask her if she wants to be my endurance coach, in fact, my life coach. She’d probably eye roll and reply with, “doh Mum I already am.”
I’m a budding endurance cyclist and a multi-day hiker. Turns out I’ve got a thing for going long. Stubborn. Determined. Brave. Driven. There is a constant pull to push myself. I live in contradiction, outside what is comfortable.
Let’s face it I’ve been going long for long. A hopeless, reckless drunk in my teenage years and sober now for 28 years. I’ve had four kids, that means four long and beautiful labors. There’s been 18 years of mothering so far. I have lived through my marriage ending and the unravelling of me. I faced a clinical depression and then recovery. I’ve been doing the solo mother thing for 10 years. Throw in 6 years of full-time university study finishing with my Masters, just to change my career path.
I want to eye roll myself.
We all have stories of endurance. Arriving in many forms, this being human, you can hear and be inspired by so many tales of what people have and are living through. In fact, this is where I find connection and belonging.
It is clear to me that I thrive on staying power and some of my biggest hikes range from 100kms to 235kms. I’ve trekked up and down some mighty and spectacular mountains and landscapes, following that call. And it seems my cycling is going that way too, with my new record of 193kms in a day with 4,000m of climbing, smashed out just last week.
My next big ride is Three Peaks Challenge, and that will be a new personal best for me, some 235kms. Strangely, it’s where I feel at home, that’s the pull. If there is one thing I know, it’s to just turn up. To keep going. To believe in the rise. If this is not endurance, then I don’t what the hell it is.
Back to a training ride recently, I approached the downhill with an opportunity to gun it. Slight deviation from my training plan. Insert high school report…..Georgina would do well in class if she would only follow directions. Just saying.
I take off pedalling hard with my mind kicking in about all the possibilities of what could happen if I come off. As the air is smashing into my face and ears, I hear my daughter’s words loudly, “don’t think Mum.” Turns out I hit 75km/hour.
I laugh out loud as I continue on with my slog at a more sensible pace. Sorry coach. Not sorry. I wish I could do that on the flat, but I need a trusty wheel for that. And that’s another story. Insert certain gutsy track rider.
Cycling is certainly about knowing your own strengths and limits so I’m not suggesting riders ought to try this on their next ride. Well that is if you don’t want to. Rather, my point is, I have become weary of being driven by what others might think and the narrative of my own self-doubt. I now live in digging deep in spite of the fear.
I just have to keep looking at the results to know it’s working even if sometimes I need a 14 year old yelling out at me from the treetops. I’d rather her see her mama scared and still doing it, than standing at the bottom of the tree allowing doubt to falsely create an illusion of safety.
And you know, I’ve always been the girl in the tree, finding myself in places that terrify me, but I’ve grown into the woman who can cross the ropes. And once you make that move, you can’t go back.