Mettle

All words are metaphors. 

The A to Z blogging challenge continues, and I’ve noticed a drop off not only of comments on my blog, but in number of posts from the blogs I’ve engaged with. I am sure I’m missing out on thousands of other great blogs and need to do better at finding them.

I’m struggling as well. The first week, I was excited and motivated. I posted, then spent the next two hours reading and commenting. I feel that determination slipping, and we are only on the letter M.

m.jpg

Pushing through, writing even when I’m sure I don’t want to write will show my mettle.

For a large portion of my life, I was not very skilled at confronting adversity. When things got dicey, I tended to surrender. As a junior in high school, I achieved a dream by making the school basketball team. For some reason I thought I had made it, and the rest would be easy. Instead, things only became more difficult. Most of my teammates didn’t believe I deserved to be there, and I was constantly challenged to prove myself. I hate to admit it, but I shrunk away. Rather than practice more, fight back and show them my skill, I let myself slide into the background. I didn’t quit, and because I did have some small amount of talent, I had a few great moments. There weren’t enough of those moments to make me stand out, and the following year, I did not make the team.

I wish I could point to that experience as the event that changed me. No particular instance stands out as the catalyst, but somewhere along the way, I either got tired of quitting, or finally understood how to fight back.

This might be a silly example, but I’m going to use it regardless:

In my 20’s I mountain biked, but never worked at mastering the skills that would make me a better rider. I never learned how to climb properly, and therefore always ended up walking my bike up difficult hills. After a while, I just quit riding altogether.

In my early 40’s, I decided I wanted to switch to road cycling. I invested in the proper equipment and spent time training my body and mind. When faced with a climb, whenever my legs hurt or my body screamed at me to stop, I was stronger physically and mentally. I ignored my discomfort and completed my ride.

Climbing the hills around my house (and there were some epic ones) strengthened my will and resolve. With my brother along side me, I was able to ride up a local canyon (Emigration Canyon) to a summit called Little Mountain. It wasn’t a huge climb, but certainly a more difficult challenge than I had yet undertaken.

ry

dy

Encouraged by our success, we planned a more strenuous climb for the following Spring. Up the road from Little Mountain summit, is the much steeper switchbacks leading up to Big Mountain. Unlike the Emigration Canyon climb, there is no gentle slope, no moment to catch your breath or let your legs rest. Big Mountain is a serious climb, but by no means insurmountable.

The day came.

As we cycled along the last semi-flat road and approached the first switchback, I was afraid. I could already feel the strain on my knees and thighs. The total elevation gain for the ride would be 3300 feet, and I wasn’t sure I could make it.

I had been taking pictures on the ride, trying to document the climb; snap shots of trees and the road in front of us. Big Mountain didn’t allow any of that. I had to focus, keep my eyes locked on the road a few feet in front of my tire. If I looked up, I worried the remaining distance, the steep grade, would be too intimidating. My body screamed at me and the voice of doubt in my head begged me to just quit. I knew if I stopped to rest, it would be easy to convince myself I’d done enough and that I should just head back down. Down would be fast and fun.

For a while, we were barely moving forward (under 5 miles an hour at one point), struggling to keep our bikes upright. Dozens of riders passed us, which would have been disheartening if not for their words of encouragement. Sweat stung my eyes. I was about out of water, but we kept climbing.

And then it was over.

summitclimb

We were standing at the summit, talking with other riders, all of whom were much better at this cycling thing than we were, but we had made it.

Heading back down, with the wind in my face, I felt such a rush of accomplishment. To this day, whenever I feel like the road has beaten me, I recall the sensation I had when I mastered a much more difficult stretch of tar and asphalt. I smile and keep pedaling.

I know what I am capable of accomplishing, and if I can climb up mountains, I can finish a silly blog challenge.

 

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About fenster

There are some who call me, Tim?

8 responses to “Mettle”

  1. Liesbet says :

    That was a great feat, Ryan. Congratulations on pushing (literally) through. I would have walked my bike, or locked it to a tree and hitched a ride up. But, then again, I don’t like exercise in combination with big hills. I am a flat-lander from Belgium! 🙂 That being said, I will never forget the most exhausting thing I ever did: a night and day volcano climb in Indonesia in my twenties. Even then, I thought afterwards “Even if they give me a million dollars (or was it euros?), I would not do this again.” Since then, every time I climb to a viewpoint and feel exhausted, I think back at that moment and about how easy peasy this hike is compared to that and I persevere! I hate giving up when committed to something; that also counts for this A-Z Challenge…

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

    • fenster says :

      I used to hate climbing while cycling. I would avoid it at all costs, but something about riding a road bike, and maybe something about not wanting to feel 40+, drives me. I seek out the climbs. I almost crave the challenging things. I used to run from them, or cower when they came at me.

  2. Jessica Triana says :

    Yes I’ve noticed the drop off too. It’s the middle of the month and I’ve been mega busy with other things so I wonder if others have too. I’ve only really had time to read and like the blogs I started following at the beginning and those on the Insecure Writers Group Facebook page.

    I’m sure I’m reading nearly 20 blogs a day and always go to the blog itself as I know how the little clicks to my blog make me happy! But perhaps others are just reading the emails and not clicking through?

    There are a couple of blogs I was really enjoying that seem to have given up, but I do try to keep visiting new ones from the challenge page. Hopefully others are the same way. There are over 1000 on the challenge and I know there’s no way I’ll get around to visiting everyone. Perhaps traffic is centred on those we haven’t yet visited!!!

    Well done on persevering to the top by the way. Great achievement. I used to ride my bike to work up and down lots of hills and I used to sing Salt n Peppa ah push it…. p push it real good and the rhythm always helped and the words obviously too! lol 🙂

  3. Yolanda Renee says :

    Congratulations on your achievement. I’m a walker, could not have done that on a bike. Maybe when I was younger, but then I could do anything. LOL
    I’ve noticed a huge drop off too and I’ve visited consistently adding more each day. Lot’s of folks aren’t reciprocating on the comments, but the hits are massive. Gosh time is such a huge factor. Love the way Alex has tackled this, all posts for the week in one day, then it would give lots of time for visiting. Just say’n!

    • fenster says :

      I’m not sure I could write them all out in advance. I shoot from the hip way too much for that to work for me. That said, I would like the added time to go read and comment. That would be fun.

  4. Damyanti Biswas says :

    I love biking, but I wouldn’t have survived this.

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