Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's a Big Exciting World Out There

Off season 2013:

This fall/winter has been about re-learning how to cross-bike (next step mountain biking so we can venture off the green runs! Or just get better at cross-biking I suppose), trail running (!!!), and wondering how it is possible to lose swim fitness so quickly. I've also been wrapping up my last somewhat-real semester of my Kinesiology degree! oh AND becoming indestructible! We were able to go to North Vancouver to work with the one & only Anthony at Level 10 Fitness. While we were there Alex and I met up with the great team at Elevate Me (because proper nutrition is one of the foundation stones of becoming indestructible). It's been a good fall. Winter? It has to be winter by now. This dark by 4:30pm is killing me.

Ellen XC biking in North Van
When you are finishing high school and deciding what to do next, you don't think too much about what happens after that. I am rapidly reaching the after-that. It's complicated.

So far, in my almost 24 years of existence, the accomplishments that I am the most proud of are the ones that took a MUCH longer amount of time, and a greater amount of effort, than I ever imagined they would.

Example A: getting my drivers license when I was 17. I never thought that would be something difficult to accomplish. Everybody gets their drivers license. But a combination of low driving confidence in a decently big city, the world’s most horrible driving instructor, HATING being judged, and a natural anti-talent for driving, made it very hard. I don’t even have many memories from that period of my life, but the in-class driver’s education sessions stand out by how absolutely miserably boring they were (interspersed with moments of terror as we watched the old New Zealand anti-drunk driving ads). I took the driving test twice because I failed the parallel park. I was under the impression I had to do it in one go rather than being allowed to do the ee-eer-eee-er-eee-er type park that everybody actually does. Automatic fail. Anyways, the point of my story is: getting my drivers license was a BIG accomplishment for me. (I won’t even say that I'm a good driver now, because everyone will just make fun of me if I do...but no really, I'm not that bad).

I am now feeling this way about my undergraduate degree.

Example B: I never thought twice about not getting a University degree, I just dove in without really contemplating what I was getting myself into. Now I know. You have to take 40+ classes to get a degree! 40. 40 classes! More if they change the degree requirements all the time without telling you so you take the wrong classes. Plus all the labs, extra-curricular experiences, and those stupid sports activities (like dance which resulted in a stress fracture) that kinesiology students no longer even need to take these days (yes, it has taken me long enough to do my degree that I can use the words 'these days')! Who knew it would feel so long when you spread it out! The path of least harm was always my approach; try to minimize the damage to both my academic and athletic careers, but it is HARD! So, it turns out I will be very proud to finish school.

I only have one class left before I graduate, and it feels like the future is all of a sudden in my face. Like out of nowhere. I am VERY excited to completely dedicate myself to triathlon! But again, I underestimated how terrifying this would be.

Getting to where I am now has been the result of massive parental and Triathlon Canada support. Thus far, I have been incredibly lucky, and managed to avoid the amateur athlete, 'how do I train for my sport without ending up asking for handouts on the street' crisis. Unlike what everybody seems to think, receiving funding for our sport is a huge accomplishment. Also, unlike what people tend to think, most of us aren’t fully supported by sponsors. The fall back plan of taking out a student loan is now out the window... How does someone just out of university fund themselves to travel the world (with a bike box) when we’re supposed to just be worrying about how to make rent & buy food!!!? 

To summarize: my life plan is slightly daunting.

Scary thoughts aside, I've been lucky to experience how the best athletes in the world train, and I’m ready to commit to that full-time! How cool is that? 

I am currently just believing that it will all work out. Thinking happy thoughts! The athletes who say they always KNEW they would win gold at the Olympics, and then did because of their belief in themselves, were prodigies from day 1. They also had an unfortunate case of hubris which, luckily, worked out very well for them. For the rest of us, sport teaches us HOW to believe in ourselves.

For example: I was doing my first ever lead-climb this one time…. 

My sister, Alex, & her boyfriend, Austin, had been climbing for the past month so they were pretty strong. There is an initial total-sucking stage with climbing that (I believe) affects everyone when they climb for the first time in a long time. It could be that I just only climb once a year. My sister sent me up what she thought was an easy enough first-ever lead climb. Lead climbing involves clipping in the rope as you go up, so every 6 or 7 feet or so, you clip into a bolt. When you fall you will ideally only fall as far as your last clip. If you are 5ft above your last clip, you will fall 10 feet down. Well this particular climb had crappy crumbly-mossy rock, with a dangerous line over many jutty-outy bits. The bolts were spaced out very far apart in my opinion, and I am convinced that it was a harder climb than it was graded. I guess I might have just been rusty. Somewhere, three-quarters of the way up, I came to the crux of the climb, and could not make the next move. I felt very high up. My forearms and fingers and calves were cramping from trying to stay plastered onto the wall by a very tenuous hold (yup- good word right there, I know). I felt very far above the last clip, and there was a ledge I would likely hit on the way down if I were to fall. I didn’t have any experience with lead climb falling, so I was freaking out. I didn’t actually think I would hit the ground if I fell, but that wasn’t what I was focused on. I was just irrationally terrified of falling. I was shaking uncontrollably while barely clinging onto the wall type-terrified.

Not actual site of this particular anecdote
 I’m not even a thrill-seeking type person! I don’t ever want to jump out of a plane, or bungy-jump, or go off of a high diving board! I climb because I love being in the forest. I like the challenge, and the community; the same reasons I do triathlon.

Neither is this one
At that moment I was NOT enjoying myself. Unfortunately, you can’t give up when it would mean falling 12+ feet and probably hitting a jutty-out rock on the way down, so the only option was to keep going up. In this case, that meant risking it and lunging for a seemingly non-existent next move with only the barest of grips to launch off of. I guess I made it in the end, because I didn’t fall. By the time I got back to the ground (an eternity later) I was SO relieved to have done it, and VERY grumpy at my sister for putting me through that. Why couldn’t I have started with an actual easy wall! I’m not saying that everybody has to go through a similar forced self-belief experience, but I do think that we will never overcome our fears if we can simply avoid them in the first place. 

In conclusion, getting your drivers licence is hard, getting a University degree is hard, climbing is scary, and I’m going to try to make it as a triathlete for a couple years. I’ll keep you updated on how that goes. 


1 comment:

The Foxes said...

Still occasionally reading your blog. Cool to be able to watch you and your sister grow up...Can't believe you guys are 25 this year! I remember taking you on your first outdoor ed trip..."Kettle Valley Railway" when you were 13! You were such strong cyclists then for your age...it's very cool to see where you've taken your athletics. One day when you're finished road triathlons and want to start mountain biking, come to Canmore and I will teach you to mountain bike..then you can start kicking butt at X-terra's. :) Shannon Fox (Guthrie)