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Overcoming (and Knowing) Your Limits

I work for a super group of lawyers.  Really, there is such a thing. On Friday, we were told that we must all attend a team-building retreat.  Which I thought was going to turn out significantly like an episode of “The Office” or a scene from Office Space.

After a morning of the Human Knot (all hold hands and get untangled), an incredible weird game of baseball that involved a rubber chicken, and several other crazy adventures involving hula hoops and beach balls (all of which were actually quite fun and team-building)… we broke for lunch.

Then came the big scary.

Ziplining.  We had a choice to zipline or kayak. I had chosen kayak, but everyone talked me into the zipline. I don’t like heights. I don’t like dropping.  And as a rule, I don’t like fast unless I am a bike or in a car. But I let them talk me into it.

This wasn’t just one zipline. It was a “tour,” meaning you went from one zipline to another – for a total of nine.

As we harnessed up, I asked the guides a very important question.

“If I do one zipline, and I think I can’t do another… do I have the option to get down? Go home?” I asked the guide.

The guide said, “After three ziplines, you can. There’s a place low enough to the ground. Yes, after three, if you don’t think you can go on… you can get down there.”

So I went into the zipline tour with a few things I knew:
1) I was terrified, but I was going to face the fear and be a team player. Afterall, the whole day was about getting to know my fellow team of lawyers, being a good sport, and all that. I would do my best;
2) I might actually enjoy it, and then I would have overcome a huge fear and had a great time; and
3) Finally, if I thought I was going to die, I only had to do three ziplines, and then I could get down.

The absolutely worst part about the zipline process was the cuckoo plank and wire bridge.


I’m sure this looks harmless enough to you.  But, the bridge moves and you can see slap down to the ground, and I had run and gone to spin class seven hours earlier and I was tired already.

Walking across and then UP the cuckoo bridge was terrifying. I was sweating and shaking before I even got to the zipline.  For those of you who don’t know, a zipline is a huge wire that you are harnessed to – and you jump, roll, lean off a tower or bridge and let go and zip across to the other side. It’s fast. And you are screaming in, flying fast towards the tower.

I decided to go next, right after my boss, who was our fearless leader (he was also terrified, so I was glad he decided to go first).

I was clipped in, harnessed in.

I wasn’t going to hold up the group, so I closed my eyes and “jumped.”

Zoom, I was almost across, and I grabbed the wire to slow down… which caused me to slow down too much….so I missed the plank and I was dangling about five feet away from the platform.

As I was dangling, the thought that went through my head is, Why do I always end up in places like this…

Only two more ziplines and I can get down. I used my triathlon mantras to get me through the next two ziplines.  Each one was less terrifying, but my legs were jelly and my heart was racing. Part of the most horrifying part was being crammed on a tiny tree platform with eleven people. I just hugged the tree and prayed for it to be over.

As I landed on the third platform, I took a deep breath.  I did it. I can go home now, I thought.  As the last lawyer flew into the platform, followed by the guide, I announced, “I’d like to get down now.”

The guides looked at each other and said, “Uh, you can’t get down.”


“The other guide told me that I could get down, after three.  This is three. I want down,” I said. “Now.”

“But aren’t you having fun? There’s like six more. Only six.”

I looked at him and I thought I would lose it.  I was sweating, shaking and I had already lived up to my end of the bargain: three ziplines. I knew that if I had to do six more, they might have more of an issue on their hands (like my heavy ass body dangling passed out, lifeless on a zipline.)

“You need to get me down. Now.”

So with much ado, and regrettably, I held up my group for like 15 minutes… they lowered me to the ground and a cutie pie guide in a golf cart drove me back to the lodge.

“I’m sorry to inconvenience ya’ll,” I told everyone as I landed on the ground.

My group all said, “Good job, Meredith” and clapped. I don’t know if they knew what those ziplines took out of me, or if they thought I was just a chicken. Either way, they didn’t act like anything other than happy I tried. And hey, I was one less zipliner for the rest of the day.

As the guy in the golf cart drove me back, I know I made the right decision.

I knew my limits–which were ziplines, in general–but I overcame that fear.

I also really knew my hard limits–which were three ziplines.

And when the guides tried to push me past my hard limits, I stood my ground and I refused.

I learned alot about my co-workers and had a great time. I also learned alot about myself.  That I am able to take risks and overcome limitations… but at the same time, I know where my ultimate limits lie.

And I was glad that I didn’t push past those.

In triathlon, with each training workout, we have certain limits to overcome.  Each race is a bigger limitation to hurdle. And with the proper training, those limitations are less and less impossible.  In the beginning, triathlon sometimes felt like three ziplines–if I can get through these three, then I can stop.

Now, I want to do more and more.

I feel more prepared each race.  I OVERCOME limits… and I also KNOW my limits.  I didn’t jump into an Ironman first. I didn’t jump into an Olympic distance. I started with just three ziplines–a sprint triathlon—and now, I’m up to nine ziplines–the half Iron.  And tackling a big dawg in the summer.

Triathlon is a process, and everyone must go at their own pace. But eventually, I believe that we all can acheive huge things… one triathlon zipline at a time.


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