Friday, July 31, 2015

What Hard Things Teach Us

No, I’m not talking about those hard things. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Take a look at this. An unfiltered glimpse of my Wednesday. And, there’s the peak we are headed for.

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This is how my family (Ken, 2 kids), my brother and my 2 nephews spent a day this week. For years my nephews (now 13 and 16) have wanted to do a 14’ner (aka climb a 14,000+ foot peak). They don’t live in Colorado. In fact they live about as far away as you can get – in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We decided this was the summer we would attempt this feat. The challenge? Gray’s Peak = 14,270 feet.

It’s weird living in Colorado. Things get normalized. So many people climb 14,000 feet mountains (there are 52 of them) that it becomes almost “no big deal.” Just like so many people run 100 mile ultras and do lots of other crazy things. But, there is nothing “no big deal-ish” about climbing a mountain or running ultras. It takes perseverance, strength, guts and most of all patience.

Much like a marathon, it is something a small percentage of the population actually does. Because it is HARD people!

To give you some perspective, the round trip was just shy of 8 miles. But, guess how long it took us? 5 hours. That’s about a 45 minute mile. Like I said, patience.

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I’m not here to tell you about the trail and how gorgeous (and extremely rocky and steep) it was. You can read a guide book about that. I’m hear to tell you about lessons learned on the trail. By me, by the kids.

As we started out in 35 degree weather when the sun was barely coming up, all was fine and dandy. It’s all fun and games at the beginning.

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We climbed about 500  feet until we got just high enough that the sun warmed our faces and we stripped off our hats, gloves and coats. The first two miles we climbed, but it was not especially steep. All of that changed as we neared the base of the mountain. Everyone slowed down considerably. We took frequently breaks for water and to get our heart rates down. Climbing at altitude increases heart rate dramatically as you are oxygen challenged. It is also very easy to get dehydrated, so drinking lots was essential.

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About a mile from the summit (which took over an hour to climb), the nephews plodded along, never complaining. After all, they were in the midst of realizing a dream they had talked about for the past 6 years.

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My daughter, Emma (14), was starting to struggle. I had headed up to the summit with Sam, and given the switchbacks I could see exactly what was happening from afar. She was hiking with Ken and she was losing her confidence. I know that she is more than physically capable of this climb. But, her mind was getting the best of her. Just as your mind can outlast your body, your mind can also be your own worst enemy.

I worried she would refuse to keep going. it was just too hard. But, little by little, I saw Ken coaching her and they continued to press on. I could only imagine the conversations taken place

Emma: I can’t do it. I’m tired. I’m done. Let’s go back.
Ken: You are so close. Press on. I know you can do it. We are not stopping now.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

If you have kids and you have ever attempted to something like this (or any race) with them then you know what I’m taking about.

In the end, she made it to the summit. Instead of initially smiling and taking in the view, she fell into my arms and cried. I get it. When you do something  tough and you are finally done, it is an outpouring of emotion and relief.

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My brother and his boys

As I watched the kids challenge themselves, I thought about why we even want to do hard things. I  mean, isn’t it so much easier to sit on our couches, a brewski in hand, chips at arm’s length and not even attempt to move out of our safety zones? Yes, maybe it’s easier, but it’s not better. Easy is not the point or the goal.

When we do hard things, when we are in the middle of a marathon and we hate life and wonder why we put ourselves through this suffer fest, we may wonder WHY, WHY? I’ll tell you why.

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When we do hard things we come to believe in ourselves in a way that is different than how we felt before.

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When we do hard things we gain a hard won confidence and the next time we know we can do harder things again.

When we do hard things we learn that when life throws us a major curve ball, we think back on the hard things we have done in the past and we know we can do hard things again. Not just physically demanding things, but life demanding things: losses, overcoming addictions, leaving a relationship that is not healthy, overcoming trauma.

When we do hard things we learn that we can rely on ourselves when maybe we can’t rely on others. Even if you have a posse of people cheering you along at mile 16 of a marathon, it still has to be you and only you who gets you to the finish line. That is self reliance.

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Since I started running I have completely changed as a person. Yes, I like to be physically fit, but the change I speak of is much different and more profound than that. I have learned to view myself as a survivor and as someone who doesn’t give up. Someone who finds a way, always.

I so badly want my kids to know that feeling. I think we are on our way.

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SUAR

44 comments:

  1. I went for a run with my 4 year old not too long ago. He loves running. This particular day was very hot and he was miserable. You could tell that he began to blame running in general on his misery. I love running and for a kid his age, I didn't feel that the lesson would resonate so I stopped so he wouldn't learn to hate what gives me so much joy. I will revisit the running again in the Fall.

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  2. Wow! Amazing! Congrats to you and the entire family for conquering the peak! I can't even imagine such altitude, living on the east coast of the US. Hike on!

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  3. This is awesome. Great adventure; great lessons; fantastic post!

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  4. This brought tears to my eyes, Beth. I've always said that the mental benefit of physical activity is life changing. It makes me feel powerful! The physical benefits are the icing on the cake.

    Congratulations to your daughter!

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  5. Love, love, love this post! I write a lot about my struggle with mental toughness! Yep, doing hard things has made me tougher. And I need that toughness on the road, but also off the road in my job and yes, in my parenting...

    Awesome job to all of you!

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  6. THANK YOU! I have been struggling with long runs in the heat lately and keep wanting to quit my marathon training. Your post really inspired me, and I hope your words will stick with me on my next long run.

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  7. what a great post! kudos to you and your family. truly awesome; way to go!!

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  8. This is why you are one of the best.
    Also, because you fully embrace the poop talk.

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  9. Why does your brother live in Bangladesh

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. I loved this post. I want to climb a mountain now (just not as high as that :)).

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  12. Great Post! Beautiful pics -- I'm extremely envious and wish I lived in Colorado now!

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    Replies
    1. Come visit!! The next best thing to living here!

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  13. This is the best thing I have read in a long time. Thank you. I need this. I am training for a half marathon (my second) and it is 257 degrees in Kansas at 5 am. I am a very slow runner...and I am doing it. And it is hard. And I want to quit. And I WON'T. Thank you.

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  14. Great post! I need to bookmark this one. Also I love the perspective on the 14ers. We live in CO and with 4 kids we haven't found the time to climb one yet, but we are itching to do it!

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  15. I think this is my favourite blog entry of yours - you summed it up perfectly!

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  16. I think this is my favorite post of yours. When I'm in the middle of an emotional rollercoaster because I've signed up for something that feels like it's over my head, I realize when it's over that accomplishing those challenges is what life is about! Living up to our potential, building character, all the things you've discussed in this blog. Love this sosososo much. And how wonderful all these kids are getting so much out of it. The physical and mental connection, the bonding, the rewards of achieving it, all of it. Great job, Beth, and love seeing your fam. XO

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  17. I really needed to read this today. I'm not training for anything right now because I am in school to be a radiographer. My struggle is to keep trying even on the days when I am tired and feel like I can't get things right. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  18. I really needed this read today. Perfect. Thank you!

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  19. You made me cry! Running has taught me about myself, and i will never go back to the person i was. Thank you xo

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  20. Can I come visit and you be my tour/hike guide? I'm visiting US in fall and am on the lookout for a city to visit between Washington and Houston.

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  21. Beth, I do really appreciate your blog! As still a novice runner (4 years now), I'm constantly lerning new things (a good bit comes from your experiences). These challenges do change a persons perspective on how they view things, life is the most important one. I think that is the one implict thing that is unexpected as a person grows in their running that they can't get from just reading. At some point, we have that Ah-Ha moment, and say to ourselves, "Hey this running thing has done more than kept me in better shape (or lose weight in my case), I have a more positive outlook about myself." Thanks again for this wonderful blog!!

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    Replies
    1. And thank YOU for reading. You are right - you just have to experience it to really "get" it.

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  22. This made me cry. You nailed it, Beth. Thank you.

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  23. KatieinthemountainsAugust 9, 2015 at 1:04 PM

    We're flatlanders and came to do some 14ers with a buddy a few years back. This was our first one and my husband napped at the summit. "Nontechnical" doesn't mean "no joke."

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  26. We may learn these lessons through individual experience or by watching others pass through them. What's important is that we understand these wisdoms so as to elevate ourselves above our hardships and not bear the same burdens twice. What has life taught you so far?

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