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Fear in the Backcountry

January 6, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun 3 Comments

As evidenced by my last post, we had a fantastic time at Squaw Valley with the “tame” resort skiing on Saturday and Sunday. We met up with friends on Sunday evening and stayed with them, plotting Monday’s backcountry expedition.

NOTE: I have no backcountry gear or skills. I realize gear can be bought. And if I could buy the skill, I would.

So, as RB was making breakfast, he made a remark like, “It’ll be a one hour hike up the mountain. The usual ratio is 3:1 hiking/skiing, but this trip is different and I expect to be skiing downhill for approximately 45 minutes.” Based on this, I had a moderate day planned, and only one hour would be “work” — hiking up. Great! I was the one who said I wanted a good workout to begin with. Bring it!

For me, the hike up was the easy part. I was in snowshoes because my husband is a dear man and carried my skis and one of my ski boots. This is also because I don’t have the proper backcountry ski gear (see above). I carried the other boot along with an extra set of gloves. Ha!

I’m good at climbing and I’m reasonably fit, etc… It wasn’t a walk in the park, but it was the kind of workout I was going for. Our friend Jen suffers from asthma, so she had to take it slow as not to lose her breath from exertion and altitude. We finally made it to the top (8300 ft), where it was ridiculously windy and cold. I found a windbreak behind some trees and Greg made the short trek up to meet me so I could change out of my snowshoes into my ski boots. Here’s an idea of the kind of effort involved in traveling a short distance:

Laborious, right? It’s like watching paint dry.

But then “the fun part” came. Downhill! Powder! Freshies!!

Yessssss! I mean no. Give me a groomed blue run + a beer and I am golden. This was uncharted territory. Literally. But I’m a team player. It was nice and fluffy if I fell, so I put my fears aside and only complained in my internal voice. I think even the experts were impressed with my stick-to-it-ness. (Hopefully)

We arrived at an abandoned train tunnel that we would need to walk/skate through as part of the adventure. We found an exit door, only to see a straight-down slope. I was nervous at best.

As we contemplated continuing on through the tunnel, RB suggested that only one person go to the end to see if that route down was better. Considering the treacherous conditions (pure darkness, icy patches everywhere, etc…), I agreed. No one else did. Hmmph!

So… there I stood. By myself. In a dark tunnel. There were big icicles — I mean KILL YOU IF THEY FALL icicles — hanging from the ceiling. I eventually couldn’t hear my friends anymore. I was alone, and my mind started working on me:

“What if an icicle falls and kills me?”

“What if there are bats in here?”

“What if my phone rings and that startles all the critters out of their hiding places and/or the icicles fall?”

My heart started racing and I started sweating, even in the freezing cold. I really started to panic in there, and I’m not a person prone to panicking. I hated it. I knew I had made the wrong choice. How many calories does fear burn? You can imagine my relief when I heard Greg calling for me. He lead me back to the fading daylight with a headlamp.

The rest of the trip down was “fine.” Yeah. That kind of “fine.” I made it about three-quarters down and then lost it. I was tired, hungry (5+ hours since breakfast!), dehydrated, frustrated, wet, cold. OVER IT. Did I mention it was getting dark?

I was in tears. Remember our first skiing experience so many years ago? It was no better this time around.

We made it to the bottom, still intact — my knees AND the marriage. Whew! Believe me, dear reader, you are thrilled I am sparing you the details. We still had to walk a mile back to the car. In ski boots.

Apologies were given from each of us. Wine and beer were consumed. Food was eaten.

The end.

Don’t Try This At Home (or on vacation)

September 18, 2010 Family, Fear, Fitness, Friends 6 Comments

Today – September 18 – is my good friend Ryan’s birthday. I have known and acknowledged this for 20 years now without a calendar reminder.

But as Ryan celebrated his 33rd birthday on September 18, 2007, his well-wishes from me were missing for the first time in 17 years.  Sure, we’d had our ups-and-downs, as most long-term friendships do. But I never miss a birthday (or the chance to relish in the fact that Ryan is 2.5 months older than me). I got my birthday message out to him a couple of weeks late, along with an apology and explanation:

On the morning of September 18, Greg and I were set to leave Emerald Isle, NC where we had been visiting his family for a long weekend. I woke up early that morning to go on a quick bike ride before spending the rest of the day traveling cross-country back home.

We’d had a fair amount to drink the night before, so waking up at 6 AM was not an easy thing for a lot of reasons. However, we’d rented the bikes and I knew it would be a long day of sitting, so I went. Greg heard me rustling around but didn’t get up with me; I figured he’d rally and get a late start.

I went 16 miles out and turned around. I was so glad I’d made the decision to get up. It was a beautiful morning! On my return trip, I kept looking for Greg, assuming he was right on my heels. We’d gotten into an argument the night before, and I’d almost forgotten about being mad at him with all that fresh air coursing through me. I was really clipping along, racing myself for a negative split back to the hotel. As I got closer to where the resorts were, I moved off the road and onto the bike path that ran parallel.

I was a couple of blocks from the hotel.  As I was getting ready to cross a road that led to the driveway into a small strip mall, I saw a white pickup – a Ford F-150 perhaps – pulling out of the driveway.

I knew he didn’t see me. He wouldn’t have pulled out if he had seen me. I looked down at my speedometer: 19 miles per hour.

I am bad with spatial awareness, so I’m going to guess that I had 50 yards to make a move at this point.  I actually sped up, hoping against hope that he would be slowing to stop for the traffic light and I’d be able to get in front of him.

I was wrong.

I slammed squarely into the side of that white pickup. I really expected to find myself on the other side of it, having been launched over. Nope. I hit the truck and then hit the ground. I wasn’t knocked out, thank goodness!

I sat up as the driver, a young man, rushed over to me. I was able to sit up, but things didn’t feel great (not that I expected them to). I did a quick assessment of things and remember feeling grateful that I was able to do this. I wanted to untangle my legs from the bike so we could see what we needed to do in order to still make the flight home. This is literally the first thought going through my head: I’ve got to leave on an airplane in three hours.

As I lifted my left leg to move it over, my thigh and knee went one direction and my calf and foot went the other. My foot was not going the same direction as my calf. OH FUCK. Still, I’m thinking: Broken leg. People break their legs everyday. This should be pretty quick if we can just get to the emergency room.

So, I gingerly put my left hand on the outside of my left leg and my right hand on the inside of my left leg in an effort to “straighten” things out (and so that I wouldn’t create a compound fracture that I luckily did not have to begin with) and laid it on the ground. I pointed my finger at the driver and said, “Call 911. My leg is very broken. Do not let them touch my leg.”

Another car had come upon the scene now, two women. They asked what they could do. One got a blanket out to keep me warm. I asked if they could call Greg. Naturally, I had left the hotel without my phone, or ID, or room key, or water, or anything. THANK GOODNESS I was not unconscious. I would have arrived at the hospital as Jane Doe and caused even more undue worry for a lot of people. Greg arrived just after the ambulance did. I kept fussing with him about packing up all our stuff and the travel arrangements. “Make sure you get my bathing suit that’s hanging in the shower!” “Don’t forget to turn our bikes in to the rental shop!”

I kind of lost it from there, I think. Shock is good like that. I remember certain things and not a lot of others. I remember shivering in the ambulance, terrified of when it would start hurting. They couldn’t get an IV started because I was so dehydrated. Do you recall all that drinking we’d done the night before? Add on a 32-mile bike ride and my veins were collapsed. Not awesome.

I remember being grateful that I wasn’t dead. No matter how bad it hurt, I wasn’t dead.

They took me to the small hospital outside of town. Still no drugs. When Greg tells the story, he remembers standing outside the radiology department listening to my screams that sounded like a concentration camp victim. They had to move my leg around in a lot of positions to get the right pictures. I remember knowing this was excruciating, but I can’t recall the pain now. Next thing I know, they’re telling us that I have to go to the trauma center in Greenville, NC because my injuries are too extensive for them to treat: my tibia and fibula were in a zillion pieces, my left collarbone was broken, and my right wrist was severely fractured (but not broken clear through). I was fortunate to not have any back, neck, or head injuries.

We arrived in Greenville and all I remember is being told I’d be going into surgery immediately. By this time, I had drugs – a blissful morphine drip! – and was barely conscious. I woke up the next day and I hadn’t had surgery. The surgeon had a more pressing case come in (a broken pelvis is life-threatening, in case you didn’t know). They moved me upstairs to a room that afternoon. I was told for three days that I would be having surgery in the morning/in the evening/in the morning/in the evening. I had to have sponge baths every evening and every afternoon as pre-surgery procedure. This meant more jostling of my leg every time. And every time, no surgery. I was miserable.

Greg was there with me, as were his parents. They travel in an RV, so we were able to save on hotel and dining expenses that way. They would come to visit me everyday; Greg was the first to arrive every morning and the last to leave. The nurses allowed him to stay beyond visiting hours. I had my computer, so he was corresponding with my family, friends, and work about my condition. He would snuggle in bed with me and we’d watch a Netflix Play Instantly movie until I drifted back into my drug-induced sleep. The argument was long-forgotten by now!

Finally, I had surgery on the fourth day – Friday. I woke up with my leg in external fixation and my wrist in a cast. They gave me a brace for my collarbone. Just being put back together put a whole new shine on the world. The occupational therapist arrived and taught me how to use my brand new walker. My wonderful nurse Elizabeth washed my hair, and I shimmied into the one skirt I had brought along on this trip – the only thing that would go around the behemoth that was my leg.

The trip home was memorable. The ONE TIME I get to fly first class, and I can’t eat or drink anything because I can’t maneuver to go to the bathroom! Greg was a hero: carrying me aboard and off the planes, going into the family bathrooms with me to help me do my business, arranging with the porters for the wheelchairs. Pete met us at the airport with the wheelchair he had rented for me. My mother had arrived at SFO an hour before us and waited for our arrival. She had come to care for me for a week. Then Sarah came for a week. Then my sister for a week. Then my mom for a final week. We were spoiled.

A week later, I had a second surgery to put all the metal on the inside of my leg, where one plate and nine screws stayed for a year on my tibia and a second plate and seven screws will stay forever (hopefully) on my fibula.I went to a wonderful chiropractor that was able to reduce the distance in the break of my collarbone by about one-third before the callous started to form. My wrist healed within about four weeks. As soon as I was able to work with my upper body, I was back at Pilates. As soon as the cast came off my leg and I was in a boot (mid-November), I was in the therapy pool doing my own work. I was never prescribed physical therapy for any of my injuries. I was very motivated to heal quickly, and I did.

On January 18, my doctor told me I didn’t have to wear the boot anymore. I was healed enough to walk unassisted. I had gone from a wheelchair or walker to crutches to a boot to freedom in four months. That day, I rode my bike 15 miles on Canada Road. I was able to start running in May 2008, which was quite painful in the beginning. Now, running hurts less than it did before the accident.

I have overcome these physical hurdles, which were significant. But more than that, I was able to defeat the mental thieves who wanted to steal every positive moment with more pain or setbacks. There were a lot of scary things about the accident, the diagnosis – what if they tell me I’ll never walk again? – and the recovery. I had wonderful support from friends and family that helped tremendously, as well as my own special relationship with fear. That helped a lot, too.  While I wouldn’t wish this kind of accident on anyone, I learned a lot about myself and other people in the process:

  • Greg can and will take care of me, and I am capable of letting him. This revelation was huge for me. I believe wholeheartedly that we would not be married if this accident hadn’t happened to reveal this.
  • When you’re hurt, the one person you want to comfort you is your mom. Don’t worry, she wants to be that person, too.
  • Now when I’m on my bike, I assume cars do not see me. I take every precaution with the assumption that the driver does not see me.
  • Never leave the house without identification. I purchased RoadIDs for me and Greg and we never run or ride without them!
  • When I need help, I will ask for and accept others’ offers. I know it is as much a gift to them to give it as it is for me to receive it. I offer my own help willingly.
  • If your walker doesn’t have the tennis balls on the legs, the stoppers get caught on the floor and it’s dangerous.  Also, it’s hard for your dog to understand why his tennis balls are on the legs of your walker. It’s a cruel joke.
  • Good friends will forgive you if you miss their birthdays, especially with an excuse as tight as this one. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RYAN!

Something To Believe In

September 13, 2010 Fear, Fitness, Friends, Fun 1 Comment

Greg has been off mountain biking for the last four days while I’ve been home with Argus. He and his buddies go on an annual trip, usually somewhere epic like Moab, UT. This year, they are staying closer to home and went to Mammoth, CA.

In 2006, the trip was in Whistler, BC and the girls got to go. Woo hoo! It was my first time visiting that area and I was excited to be along for what promised to be a fun trip. While mountain biking has never been my first passion, I knew the trails there would be fantastic and that I would be riding with a couple of girls who had been to “Dirt Camp” and could give me a few pointers without judging my less-than-stellar abilities.

It was slow-going at first as we warmed up to the terrain and each other’s riding styles. I started out riding reasonably tame single track through the forests with three other relative novices while a helicopter dropped the expert group on top of some mountain. In the end, I think we novices had a much better day (as you can see from that section of Pete’s photojournal.) By mid-afternoon on the first day, I was actually starting to feel more comfortable on my bike and I surprised myself by taking more risks – going faster, riding over short ladders without bailing out, and getting some air (approximately 2 inches, probably) when navigating a drop. It helped that I wasn’t intimidated by my fellow riders, as is often the case when I am when I ride with Greg. We were all in the same boat, working on our individual skills and cheering each other on along the way. I was really enjoying myself!

Even four years later as I write this, I can picture where I was standing at the top of a long ladder with a sharp turn at the bottom. This one, to be exact:

Now, I know this isn’t difficult to someone who is a mountain biking veteran. It even looks tame as I look down (or up, as the case may be) it now. But perspective is everything.

“V” flew down it with no trouble at all (he probably could have done the expert ride that day). “A” came down next and she made it look easy. “J” had a few false starts at the top, but she eventually made it without incident.

And then it was my turn.

I stood up at the top of that ladder for two hours. It was probably more like fifteen minutes, but it felt like an eternity and my fears were piling up. I was nearly paralyzed thinking about all the things that could and probably would go wrong. Meanwhile, my friends were encouraging me that I could do it. “Just look ahead!” “You’ve got this!” “Don’t look down!” “This isn’t the hardest thing you’ve done today!”

As my mind continued to wander to far-off places like hospitals and assisted living centers for the young, I began to feel even worse about the situation. Here we were in a beautiful setting, among friends, getting great exercise. WAIT! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE EXERCISE! And I had stopped the whole show over my silly fears of crashing, hurting myself, and looking like a fool.

Even though I hadn’t moved in probably 30 minutes by then (including the time it took the others to go down and my panic attack), my heart was racing. I was sweating. It sure felt like exercise.  Aha! I’ve found the silver lining! With this in mind, I hollered down to my friends,

“How many calories does fear burn?”

And with that, I had created a filter through which I could measure the hard decisions in my life.  Because what is more important than burning calories, even if they’re metaphorical?

I eventually made it down that ladder and didn’t crash. Even if I had, it would have been worth it. TRYING made it worth it. I even did a bunch of other, even scarier stunts over the course of that weekend. Like thisthis, and even this (but nothing like this). And, while I have not been mountain biking on any trails that resemble these, I know I’m good enough to do it if I really want to.

Most people don’t like being afraid. Or they like being afraid of things that aren’t real – like scary movies and haunted houses at Halloween. This idea that I’m burning calories when I do scary things gives me one more reason to go for it. That, and finding out time and again that what’s on the other side of the scary thing is so much bigger than the fear itself and better than where I was.

It’s kinda fun (in a masochistic way, of course) to apply this idea into all aspects of my life, not just physical things like mountain biking and triathlon. You know, life-changing things like moving cross-country or deciding to get up every day and be positive even though your body is broken into a million pieces from a bike wreck. Or hey, what about getting married? There’s a big one that people do every day and don’t realize how scary it is.

Wait… Marriage? Scary?

How many of you said “forever” in your vows? Start counting!

Good Enough

September 11, 2010 Fear 4 Comments

I’ve never been The Best at anything I’ve done (can you say salutatorian?). And here’s a not-so-revolutionary sentence in cause-and-effect relationships – I’ve never given my all in order to be the best. The reality is this: I can do many things reasonably well and am the best at nothing. I rather like it this way!

But for me, this fact becomes more interesting when I look at it through a filter. A filter like fear. Why don’t I try hard? As hard as I could?

Am I afraid of failing?
Or succeeding?

As it turns out, I don’t need to be the best; I don’t even want to be. And here’s why — I’m afraid of having to keep that up. That, my friends, is fear of success.

I’m pretty good – good enough – at most everything I do. And I do a lot of things! Swim, bike, and run. Market and sell things (when I was employed). Cook. Look like I look. Care for [other people’s] children. Run my household. Be someone’s friend. Entertain people with my writing.

As a kid, I was lucky to have supportive parents and that I grew up in a small community where I could be marginally good at a lot of things — I didn’t have to pick Just One Thing to be good at. No fear! I could do most everything without ever actually failing. Even growing up, I did a lot of things without trying very hard:

I never practiced my musical instruments (piano, trumpet, French horn) outside of school. I never even brought them home past seventh grade!

I never practiced my sports (volleyball, softball, track) outside of the group practice. Ever.

I rarely studied. I’d do required homework, but I did not open textbooks and stick my nose in them. In undergrad, I barely had an idea how to navigate the library. In grad school, I didn’t even buy all the required textbooks.

My secret? Well, it isn’t that I’m a savant or even your run-of-the-mill brainiac. I figured out very early on that I learn by doing. I never missed a class and I took copious notes during class. I never missed practice. And showing up meant more than just being there; I was actually present. That is how I learned. For the better part of my life, that has always been good enough. I got good grades and I excelled in every extra-curricular activity there was. I succeeded despite myself.

But it’s different with triathlon.

I have been one spot away – from the podium, from the top 10 finishers – every time. And with triathlon, I’m actually trying. I’m trying harder than I’ve tried with anything ever before. I work harder and more consistently at every one of these sports than I ever have anything else. Sure, it’s definitely something to even complete a triathlon and I’m not trying to diminish that; finishing one in and of itself is “good enough” on a lot of scales. But to come SO CLOSE to the coveted podium is a little heartbreaking.

Bleeding heart and all, I don’t know if it’s as hard as I could be trying. Who am I kidding? Of course I could try harder…

  • I drink like a fish.
  • I am not diligent about feeding my body what it needs, when it needs it.
  • Greg buys my gear without me even knowing. Even if I knew he was buying it, I haven’t hand-chosen the exact component that will make or break my next race.
  • I loosely follow a triathlon “training plan.” Someone suggests what to do and I do it. Unless I want to do something else that day.

In having this conversation with my best friend, she suggested, “Maybe you should try going all out, just once, and see what happens?  Then you know that you can do it.”

I paused.

Me: BUT WHAT IF I FAIL? WHAT IF I AM NOT ON THE PODIUM?
Her:  So what? Isn’t it worth a shot?
Me: The opportunity cost is tremendous! And here’s what’s worse — what if I SUCCEED?!? Then I’ll feel compelled to keep doing it!
Her: Well, maybe it’s enough to realize it’s “good enough” to get there, just one time.

Oh dear. Being good enough all of a sudden got more complicated.

Winter Diversions

March 15, 2010 Fear, Fitness, Fun 1 Comment

We just got back from a weekend in Tahoe. Since we don’t have a ski lease this year, we have been getting up early on Saturday mornings to drive up so we only have to pay for one night at a hotel. This is a little bit hard on me since I am not so early to rise on a normal basis… but I suck it up. For this trip, we spent Saturday at Squaw Valley USA and spent Sunday in the backcountry.

I’m not a die-hard skier, that’s for sure. In fact, I only learned to ski four years ago. Having grown up in Iowa, my outdoor winter activities were limited to sledding and fort-building. I went skiing for the first time ever at age 22. It was an impromptu road trip with two guy friends from college to Colorado Springs. We went to Copper Mountain and I mastered the bunny hill without pushing my limits. The next opportunity for skiing came up after meeting Greg at age 29.

It was our second date. I was in the Bay Area for work and stayed all of Thanksgiving week, much to my mother’s dismay. It was scandalous that I should be spending all these nights with a man I just met, and that I should be spending a major holiday with him instead of with her. I couldn’t be bothered by this; I was there and loving it. Greg’s idea of fun on Thanksgiving had nothing to do with cooking up a big bird and watching football all afternoon. He was taking me to Lake Tahoe to ski! I had the heads-up on this plan and had borrowed ski clothes from a friend.

Rule #1: Always look the part, even if you have no idea what you’re doing.

We packed a small cooler of deli turkey, an avocado, bread , and chips and made for the mountains very early on Thanksgiving Day. My stomach started getting that nervous feeling as we climbed through the Sierra Nevada on Highway 80. Greg knew that I had only skied once in my life, but I’m reasonably athletic and I’m sure he thought this would be no problem at all. I wasn’t so sure. We parked at Sugar Bowl and made ourselves meager turkey sandwiches before hitting the slopes. I mostly wanted to throw up by this point because I was so nervous about making an ass of myself in front of my new boyfriend.

Greg got his gear around and led me to the rental shop. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know what gear to ask for. I didn’t know what size I needed. I didn’t even know what measurements the sizes came in. I felt abandoned as he was outside putting his stuff on and otherwise not helping me. Once I got my stuff, I had no idea how to put it on. Since he assumed I knew what I was doing, I didn’t want to appear completely ignorant and needy. I didn’t know how to step my boots into my skis. Once I got them on, I couldn’t go anywhere with them. I finally got the torture devices on (still my least favorite part of any given ski day) and clomped out to meet him, barely juggling my skis and poles.

We were supposed to “ski” over to the lift line on flat terrain. As if! I thought I would burst out crying at any moment. I was trying SO HARD to be brave and put on a happy face. I could see that he was completely in his element in the mountains. He was having the time of his life, blissfully unaware that I was about to explode. Once we got on the lift, I had about 30 seconds to relax before I started to think about what was going to happen when we got to the end of the line.

I was going to have to ski. Oh shit.

We got there, and I magically slid off the chair and down the small ramp without falling. This was probably a bad thing, actually. If I had fallen right there, it would have been abundantly clear to Greg that I had no idea what I was doing. Not me. I made it look like I was a natural. That is, until I was facing the mountain and he expected me to ski down it. “Okay, ready? Let’s go!” He takes off, swooshing down the mountain with a few easy turns. I am paralyzed. My knees are locked. My stomach is clenched. I am sweating in my layers of silk long johns and wind-proof outerwear. He stops to wait for me. “Come on! It’s easy!”

“I don’t know how.”

I must have thought that he would break up with me on the spot or something, as hard as it was for me to admit that. He patiently side-stepped his way back up the mountain to where I was. He stood beside me and explained that you just let gravity take you sideways across the mountain. When you get to over there, stop and turn and go back the other way. I felt I might be Better Off Dead… I started to try this and panicked. I was literally stuck. I sat down right there, refusing to go. I was terrified. I actually don’t know if I was terrified of falling and getting hurt, or of being out of control, or of looking like a fool in front of him, or what. I basically threw a temper tantrum. “I won’t go and you can’t make me!” He said there was no other way down, that the ski patrol only rescues injured people. We debated back and forth like this for awhile, eventually coming to a stalemate.

Rule #2: You gotta know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em.

I reluctantly got back up and steeled myself to get off this fucking mountain and into the lodge where I could have a stiff drink. I slowly slid over to where he was. I purposely fell, turned my skis over manually, and made my way across the mountain sideways to where he was on the other side, repeating this over and over again. It was a miserable existence. I was humiliated. I was exhausted. I was afraid he really was going to break up with me because I couldn’t ski. At this point, I didn’t care much about that. Breaking up would feel better than what THIS felt like, I was sure. We finally made it to the bottom. Relief!

“Okay, let’s go again. You’re really getting the hang of it now.”

Areyoufuckingkiddingme?

I politely explained that there was no way I was going again. Did he not realize that it had just taken me over an hour to get down ONE RUN and that tears had been involved? I implored him to go and have all the fun he wanted to have all afternoon long, and that I would be perfectly content at the bar. He protested with a lot of encouraging words. I dug my heels in and said no. With a long sigh, he skied away and I trudged as fast as possible to the bar. As I waited, I was nervous that he was really disappointed in me. I was not looking forward to the long drive home if that was the case. And I still had three more days of this “vacation” to get through. I was formulating my Plan B when he finished for the day.

As we were walking to the car, I apologized for wasting the day and said that I didn’t want him to be mad at me. He replied that he was not mad at me and that I didn’t waste his day. He said that if he were me, he’d be more worried about my lack of character for quitting.

Rule #3: Stand up for yourself.

I quickly got into the passenger seat and sat there in stunned silence. As he drove, I calmed myself for the argument I was about to make. Screw his disappointment. Screw his wasted day. Screw him breaking up with me. I was shocked at his audacity. I was livid.

“You don’t know the meaning of the word character if you are implying that I lack it. I have come out here to visit you twice, and each time I have done everything you have asked me to do with a smile on my face and fear in my heart. Kayaking, running, mountain biking, skiing. I haven’t told you no. I haven’t told you I’m scared. I haven’t asked you to do anything that is beyond your comfort level, so you don’t know what this is like. If you believe that I quit today because I made it down the hill and didn’t go back up and you believe that I lack character because of that, then we don’t have anything else to talk about.”

By this time, we had pulled into The Bridgetender, a rustic bar in Tahoe City. He quietly regarded me. And then he apologized. He said that he had no idea how terrified I was of any of those things because I was able to do all of them so well. He had no idea I was so far outside of my comfort zone. He was sorry.

Yes, folks, it could have all been over right there. As much as we thought we knew about each other, this was a real fork in the road for us and either path could have been taken. I am proud of myself for trying all the things he had introduced me to, and I’m proud of myself for knowing my limits. I am proud that I defended myself rather than letting him make me question my character. Mostly, I am grateful that he didn’t let his ego get in the way and he was able to apologize.

I didn’t ski for two years after that. I then met a friend who had been a ski instructor and asked if she would teach me. I was a motivated student with a fair amount of athletic ability. That season, Carolina and I spent most weekends at Alpine Meadows making turns, shifting weight, planting poles, bending knees, and leaning forward. It was an honorable moment when Greg said he didn’t recognize me from the chair lift because I no longer look like a beginner! I can now ski Expert Only terrain (just in case I follow Greg onto the wrong lift) and we can look back at our first day on the slopes and laugh.

Day of Rest – Take 2

February 26, 2010 Fear, Fitness No Comments

About 10 days ago, I started following a prescribed training regimen for a Half Ironman triathlon. So far, so good. In fact, it has really helped me stay motivated. I like knowing what I’m going to be doing and not having to come up with it myself. That said, I’m working considerably harder than I would be if I were the decision maker.

Tomorrow is a prescribed day of rest and I can’t wait! This week was supposedly a “light week” in terms of workouts, relative to what next week will be. I had guests in town and could not participate in the 56-mile bike ride on Sunday, and I chose to do a 40-mile bike ride on Monday instead of the grueling swim workout that was on the schedule. Other than that, I did as well as or more than what was planned: Tuesday morning yoga + 5.5 mile track workout (in the pouring rain) that was H.A.R.D. Wednesday’s swim workout was a welcome change because it didn’t require my body to hold its own weight. I was sooooo sore from Tuesday I could hardly get out of bed, get onto or off of the toilet, into or out of my car…you get the picture. It felt good to be semi-weightless in the water! I was proud of myself for completing the 1400-yard workout (and actually enjoying it). The “lunch ride” on Thursday was, for me, a 21-mile interval ride with lots of short, steep hills and little recovery. Today, a 3.5 mile run, my strength routine, and a much-needed 90-minute massage. Ahhhhh…

Tomorrow is a day of rest. But I have seen what is on the calendar for the following 7 days and I am officially frightened. It is a week that is largely focused on swimming, and that is clearly my weak link. I am nowhere near where I need to be to get through the drills and main sets of swimming in terms of my basic form. There are lots and lots of bricks — swim + run, swim + bike, swim + strength, swim, swim, don’t drown, swim. EEK! I’m scared that I won’t be able to do the swim workouts well, and that mental defeat will play into my other sports. I’m scared that it will rain all week and I won’t be able to get out on my bike or otherwise have to compromise myself. I’m scared I’ll look for excuses to compromise myself because it’s too hard.

So, I ran my 3.5 miles today and enjoyed my massage (probably a little too much). I am considering a yoga workout tomorrow if we don’t go skiing in Tahoe… but will otherwise relish the day off. That’s a first for me, and a big win mentally as I enter a week that is sure to be full of a lot of mental failures.

Here’s to progress — and FEAR!

F is for _ _ _ _

February 25, 2010 Fear No Comments

I don’t know what to write about. I feel like every post should be Profound, and that paralyzes me. So I don’t write at all. I wonder, “Will they think I’m funny?” “Will they care at all?” “Will my punctuation be correct in this situation?”

And then I think, “Fuck them.” [who are they??] “This is my blog.”

I won’t let fear keep me from doing this. Because the reality is this: which is worse — doing it and sucking, or not doing it at all?

So I’ll just write and maybe there’s a theme. Maybe there’s a common thread. Maybe not.

I’ll just write.

Day of Rest

February 14, 2010 Fear, Fitness No Comments

A prescribed day of rest. This must be the day that most people look forward to. I’ve known since Wednesday that this would be a “day off,” and yet it has plagued me since then (including today). In fact, for two days, I have planned to do my Tracy Anderson video AND go to the sauna as “active recovery.” And yet, it’s 10 PM and I have done none of these things. At this point, all I can do is say, “Oh well!”

Admittedly, I have not been feeling 100% lately: sore and achy in general, my right knee is bothering me, and I’m generally tired. So while I had planned to “over-achieve” today and do my toning workout and/or go to the sauna, it just didn’t happen. In some secret society that my alter-ego leads, I’m rejoicing for the break. But for the rest of me, I’m trying not to stress about it (as I eat a piece of chocolate cake that pairs so well with my red wine).

A friend came over earlier this evening for a chat and I spoke of my  day-off-dilemma. Her first question was, “What are you afraid of?”

Don’t get me started.

The Same, Only Different

February 10, 2010 Family, Fear, Fido No Comments

“Oh yeah, I’m sure you’re stressed,” says Greg tonight as I lean into him for a back rub. This is the guy who is working 1.5 jobs in 10+ hour days, trying to train for his racing season, and be a loving husband and doggy dad.

Well, it’s not so much that I’m stressed in the way that he is stressed or the way that I used to be stressed going to my job, but it’s not like I’m living the life of The Real Housewives of San Mateo County. I even surprised myself by defending myself in this manner (rather than reverting to my alter-ego PAM — Passive Aggressive Molly).

“I realize that I’m not doing what you’re doing, but here’s my new reality:

  • I gave up what was familiar, comfortable, and “normal” to me in terms of everyday life and livelihood.
  • I don’t earn any of my own money or have spending money like I used to.
  • I don’t have the same level of stability as I’ve always had and been able to provide for myself.
  • I am in uncharted territory.”

He did concede by saying, “Yeah, not having money is stressful.” I guess I feel good about that level of empathy from him (we don’t share money, so it isn’t like I’m spending his earnings on my everyday whims), and maybe it’s good that I’m getting to the bottom of the funk and grouchiness that I’ve had the past few weeks. I can only blame it on lack of sunshine for so long…

I’m scared of being so far removed from Corporate America, where I was able to be a positive contributor, make friends, add value, make money, and LEARN. Maybe that’s what I’m most scared of. I am afraid I’m getting dumber everyday that I spend more time with myself and not with smarter people. I learn by osmosis and my dog doesn’t count.

There. I said it.

I’m scared. It makes my heart rate increase. It makes my breath shallow. It makes my muscles tense up. This is where body and mind meet. Psychosomatics. The body reacts to fear in a similar fashion as it does to physical work. The silver lining must be that we are burning calories when facing our fears! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Well, at least until I get my book written.

As frightening as all this unknown business is, I’m still moving forward with my dream of getting away from a desk job I hate. I am scared and uncertain and grouchy, but it’s better than the pit in my stomach that I got just thinking about going to work the next day. In fact, the best part of my day (especially Sunday) is knowing that I don’t have to answer to anyone but my dumb dog tomorrow.

Dog-GONE Scared

February 1, 2010 Fear, Fido No Comments

February 2009. I was out to dinner in Palo Alto with my friend Gordon. When we get together, he and I sit there for many hours and talk about everything and nothing over several bottles of wine. I wasn’t paying attention to the many text messages that I was receiving from my husband while we were chatting. Now, if you know Greg, you know he isn’t the type to incessantly text me — especially when he knows I’m out with friends. Usually the only messages I get from him are, “Did you feed the dog?” Well, not this time. It had to do with the dog, but not whether he had been fed.

Greg was inquiring if I had Argus with me, if I had dropped him off at a friend’s, and if I otherwise knew of his whereabouts. I calmly replied “no” to all of these questions and made no rush to end my dinner with Gordon. The truth of the matter is that Argus gets out of the gate somewhat often. He goes down to the creek or mills around our little cul de sac and comes home. I figured this is what had happened. Unfortunately, Argus didn’t have his collar on that would let people know he belonged to us.

Oh no.

It wasn’t until Greg called me, frantically searching for him with no luck, that I abruptly bid Gordon farewell and started to think about the reality of Argus being gone. Of course, Greg had searched all of the usual haunts and had talked to all of the neighbors — no one had seen him. He was GONE. While I drove toward San Mateo, I called friends and they started looking for Argus as well. Before going home, I stopped at each of our two dog parks, calling his name and running around trying to find him. I was now starting to panic. I went home and lost it when I saw Greg. He was distraught as well. We continued looking for a couple of hours and resigned ourselves to go to bed and start anew in the morning. It was raining, but we left the back of Greg’s Element open and a bowl of food there. We’ve never known Argus to turn down a meal… It was a restless night for both of us and we woke early to get a jump on the search efforts.

The following morning, we both called in to work and spent the morning looking for Argus. I quickly made up a flyer with a picture representative of Argus’ distinctive face and size. The SPCA doesn’t open until 11 AM, so we canvassed the neighborhood to pass the time. A few people thought they had seen him, but the leads went nowhere. We were so exhausted by this time we didn’t know what to do, other than hope beyond hope that someone had found him and turned him into the pound. We had really started to come to terms with the fact that he might never come back, that someone had taken him in and that we’d lost him forever. It really felt quite desperate.

Finally, the SPCA opened and we were one of the first ones there. We had to fill out a form with his physical characteristics and the nature of what had happened. The lady took us back to where they keep all the strays. It was a T-intersection down a hallway, where we first turned left and walked a long hallway of “jail cells” where barking dogs were pleading for us to choose them. Argus wasn’t there. The pit in my stomach was worsening, reality setting in. We headed down the right side of the “T” and got to the last cell. Argus was there! I could not imagine the amount of relief that I felt when we saw him!  We knew it was him — true to Argus’ form, he snapped at his cellmate once he saw us, like the jerk he can be. Greg was in tears the moment he saw him. I was in shock. I had already cried my tears and had started the grieving process of having lost him. I give Greg all the credit for keeping hope alive.

The bottom line is that we diverted disaster and it was a terrible fear that had set into both of us. Wait — all three of us. Argus wound up at the SPCA because he had either wandered four blocks up to the fire station or someone had found him and turned him in there. According to their records, the kind firemen deposited him at the SPCA’s collection center around 11 PM that night. He spent a long, cold, lonely night by himself in a pen and I’m sure that it wasn’t pleasant. He had to have been terrified that we wouldn’t come for him. But that wasn’t the first of his fears that night.

Fast forward one year.

(Stay with me here. I realize this is a long story made even longer… )

We were in Tahoe this past weekend, and I’d taken Argus on a strenuous 6-mile hike involving a lot of elevation gain as well as him “post-holing” where his paws sink into very deep snow and he’s working hard with every step. He slept for a couple of hours while we grabbed beers at the end of the day and then slept the entire drive home. He was dog-tired! We were shocked when he was itching to get out of the house this morning around 5 AM. Greg let him out and he instantly went for the gate, pawed it open, and started to make a run for it. This NEVER happens, especially not at 5 AM.  Greg corralled him and brought him into the bed with us, telling me what had happened. Argus was between us, panting like he was under a lot of stress. His stomach started making funny noises, so I thought I’d let him out and watch him. Dog puke in the bed is no fun.

He did the same thing: bee-line for the gate and started to let himself out. I told him to wait (which he obediently did, amazingly) while I donned my robe and slippers and grabbed a leash. He took off like a bullet! I let him get around the block and realized he just wanted to sniff at and pee on the same things as always. He just wanted out of the house! I made him come back home, but he was very hesitant to come in the house. As I was waiting at the door for him –

Beep!

A-ha! I waited under the smoke alarm in the kitchen. Nothing. I waited in the guest room. Nothing. I went to the basement and found that its battery was almost dead and the alarm was beeping every 30 seconds or so. THIS is what had driven our dog to run both times. It jogged my memory to the prior year when Greg had said that an alarm was beeping when he got home, but that he’d forgotten about it when he realized Argus was gone. I took the battery out and invited Argus back to bed with us, proud of my sleuthing skills!

It’s a vicious cycle to think of how frightened Argus was of the beeping — enough to make him run — then to think of how scared we were of losing him. We can all rest assured now that we change the smoke alarm batteries every six months without fail!

One potential up-side is that I may have found a way to make my lazy dog run with me…