“You’re a loser, Nancy,” said the Niggling Little Voice roaming around my head.
“No, I’m not,” I replied. “Do you see this hill I’m climbing? Two miles straight up! I am strong. I am invincible. I am WOMAN!”
“But look at how you’re huffing and puffing,” the NLV said. “You’re pathetic.”
And then I reached the top of the climb and started down.
Within a few feet, massive jolts of pain radiated out of my left hip. I leaned on my trekking poles and carefully picked a path between rocks and roots, knowing I had two miles of downhill in front of me.
Two miles of torture. Two miles of never knowing when my hip would buckle and I’d plummet down the steep slope.
“You’re a loser, Nancy,” the NLV repeated.
“You’re right,” I agreed. “Totally.”
I was invincible on the uphills, but worthless on the downhills. Less than worthless. Pathetic.
“Mom, are you OK?” Davy asked. I think he saw the tears streaming down my face. No, I wasn’t OK.
By the time I reached the bottom of the hill two long miles away, I was emotionally and mentally fried. I unbuckled my backpack, peeled it away from my body, curled up in a fetal position in the grassy meadow, and sobbed hysterically.
We had been so excited about tackling a new adventure. We’ve mastered the bike touring learning curve and were excited about trading our pedals for hiking boots. A 500-mile hike from Denver to Durango sounded idyllic.
And it was idyllic – for John and the boys. For me it was a nightmare.
Together as a family we made the painful decision that I would bail from the trail. My three boys would continue on without me. The dream was over for me, but not for them.
As I wriggled into my backpack the following day for the hike out to the road, confusion reigned unchecked in my mind. On the one hand, I wanted to be with my family. I wanted to complete what I set out to do. On the other hand, I knew the reality and knew that, for me, continuing on would be foolish.
How does one find the equilibrium there?
As I lay in the back of the pickup of the father/son team that took me out to the highway, I had some time to think. What is it that I always tell my sons? That I don’t really care if they win, as long as they try their best? That it doesn’t matter if there is something they can’t do, as long as they give it a go and at least try?
And yet somehow that didn’t apply to me. Somehow I was different. I didn’t play by the same rules. It wasn’t acceptable for me to bail.
But it was.
I’ve now been off the trail for ten days and I’m good with it. I know I tried my best. I hiked fifty miles and gave it my all. I can look back upon that week on the trail and know I poured myself into that dream.
I also know there are times when, no matter how strong your mind is, your body doesn’t cooperate. This was one of those times. I’m getting older and my body isn’t what it once was. It would have been foolish for me to continue.
Did I lose? You bet – in some ways. I lost 450 miles of the trail. I lost precious time with my children.
But overall, I’m not a loser because I tried. I packed that backpack, slung it onto my back, and tried. And I truly believe that is what’s important.
I could have looked at that 500 miles and said, “I can’t do that!” and then not even taken that very first step. If I had done that, I would have been a loser. If I hadn’t even attempted it, I would have lost for sure.
Way back in 2008 as we were getting ready for our Alaska to Argentina bike tour I said, “We might not make it, but we’ll never know if we don’t try. If we never take that first pedal stroke, we’ll never take the last one either.”
And now, I won’t get to take that last step into Durango with my boys, but I took the first. I tried. I gave it my best shot. I may not have accomplished all I set out to do, but I’ll go to my grave knowing I tried.
If that’s what I ask from my sons, that’s what I’ll demand from myself. And it’s a heck of a lot more than most people ever do.
I’m not a loser. I won because I tried.