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Climbing Over Fear

I struggle with fear–a lot. I have always been a worrywart. And I passed it on to our son.

We nicknamed our son “Captain Careful” for the same reason–and he comes by it very honestly. He’s uber cautious and a rule follower, just like I am. But I am also a vicious nail biter. Worries? Hands in the mouth and biting furiously. Our son? When he was very small and got worried, he would put his entire hand in his mouth. Now, he puts his hands to his face, and fingers slightly in the mouth (e.g., the hands in the mouth scenario is nearly gone, but I get it. I’m right there with him.)  We can easily gauge how nervous he is about any given situation depending on whether it’s a one-hand-in-the-mouth concern (a ‘lil worrisome), or if it’s a two-fister (big kahuna).

Two worryin’ peas in a pod, that one and me.

The Expert and our daughter are very much free spirits. They don’t seem to worry about much–but really they don’t need to. Afterall, they have Captain Careful and Four-Star General FreakOut (me) to handle all the heavy worrying for the household.  We got it covered, baby!

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Worry is rooted in fear.

We worry because we are afraid. Afraid of making the wrong choices. Afraid of the other shoe (doing all its dropping).  Afraid of the unknown.

Stepping out blindly into the unknown, devoid of a plan and a blueprint, is just not something that I usually do.  It’s not something that I desire to do. In fact, stepping out into the abyss is something that I avoid at all costs.

That doesn’t mean I am lazy.  Rather, it means that I plan… everything. I map out… everything. I keep everything within the walls of what I have deemed the big goal, and that becomes the path, and the focus. I have concocted every inch of my current life and limits probably with an insane amount of hard work and planning, that it would make a head spin.

I am not comfortable with pushing beyond these outlined, in-my-mind acceptable limits.  When the limits are pushed, my internal alarms go off, and I look down at Captain Careful, and I suddenly want to borrow his hands AND mine.  We get scared. Sometimes things are scary.

The real people in the world aren’t afraid to admit that.

How do I know if this is the right decision?  Retreat! Retreat! Abort! Abort!  *Ringringringring*

Fear of the unknown and my limitations was always a part of my tapestry until I found triathlon.

Triathlon provided this cool way to push outside the limits, to dream outside of what was standard and possible for me.  The sport allowed me to go blindly into the unknown (race day) and hope for the best–completely with no guarantees.  To confront fear in the face, and come out on the other side alive, with a medal and a banana.

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Today was a good example of this theory.

My workout today was to ride a familiar loop, with three hill repeats of one location, and then another few repeats at another part of the ride.  I wasn’t scared. But I knew it was going to be a challenge.  Challenge.  Hmmm.  Maybe I was scared…

As I took off riding, instead of doing the first loop on the easy section to warm-up, I went straight for the monster… also known as The Big Sister.

Ah, the Big Sister.  What is THAT?  Well, she is a monstrosity of less than a half mile distance, but 200 feet of climbing with a decent pitch.

The first time I rode the Big Sister was in 2012, and it resulted in me and Yoda walking up it with our bikes.

(Talk about throwback, this post here is one.)

The way we were. Mere & Yoda - 2012.

Mere & Yoda – 2012.

Anyway, so the Big Sister became the yardstick by which I measured all climbing on the bike.

“Yes, it was hard, but not Big Sister hard.”

“Oh, that was like the Big Sister, but shorter!”  Etc., etc…

Fast-forward to 2014, and the Expert and I moved to Roswell, Georgia–a mere 1 mile from–you guessed it–the Big Sister.  I had totally forgotten where she was located, until I was wandering my bike in the new hood.

The air felt weird, and an imminent darkness rolled in–and there I saw on the road:

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You can read about the second Big Sister encounter here.

But the long story of it, two years ago, I accidentally found myself at the base of the damn climb… and there was nowhere to go but up. And I was scared. I texted Yoda, who told me to put on some Eminem and big girl panties… and go.

So I did.  I made it up the Big Sis – once.  And I was so proud!  Yassss! I did it.

[Oh, and this is not my video, but here’s a YouTube of the Big Sis:]

So I went on to ride the Big Sister several times leading up to last year’s Ironman Lake Placid, and I was officially “not scared” of that climb, and I didn’t care anymore. I knew I could do it. No biggie. Even make a point to take people on tours of the damn thing when we ride.

But fast back forward to today– I was scheduled to ride my butt up the Sister three times. Just three little jaunts, in the course of an hour and a half. Okay, fine. I can do that, I thought to myself.  Then I proceeded to delay all morning.

Finally, I got my butt on the bike. But as I pulled out of my neighborhood, I was filled with this dread, and this fear.  So stupid. It was riding, for Pete’s sake. Just out for a ride.  But there was definitely a sense of fear.

And I had had enough of this silly feeling–this dread, this fear.  Fear of what?  A climb?  This was getting ridiculous.

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Instead of going right, I went left–and turned my bike straight towards her.

I thought to myself, “Screw this scheduled workout. I am going up and down the Big Sister as many times as it takes to not be afraid any more.”

I rode down the scary and brake-heavy descent.  I turned at the base of the climb, and headed back up.

One.  

Wow. That sucked.   My power meter battery crapped out on me. I reset the Garmin.  Restarted the workout, in hopes that it would wake up, but it did not.  So I hit “start” again, and went back down, and turned around and faced her again.

Two.

Three.

Four.  Okay, so that was a record.  Four times in a row, and that should be just fine.

But I was still fearful.  Of what, I didn’t know.  So I went down again.

There were some dudes out in hard-hats working on gas lines, and I noticed that they had started to notice me– this crazy girl, feverishly riding up and down this half-mile long mountain, right where they worked.

Five.

Six.

I was pouring sweat by the top of climb number six, and my shoes were sloshing.  My legs were wobbly.  I turned back around.  The dudes in the hard-hats cheered.

Seven.

Eight.  Well, eight times up the Big Sister in one day and in a row seemed good enough for me.  Except… it was so close to the number ten.  I could try one more.  One would be nine. That’s good.

Nine.  That didn’t hurt enough.  I didn’t leave it all out there. I have another in me.  I went back down.

Ten…

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I stood at the top of Mountain Park and realized, “Ok. I am not scared of that anymore. I’m a Forrest Gump sort of tired. But I think I’ll try for twelve.”

(Clearly this was one of those days where the rhythm had set in… and I was going to go until I collapsed.) That is… until PING!!  PING!!

I fished out my phone.  My boss texted, and I was to be on a conference call in ten minutes.
Nope, twelve would have to wait for another day. 

So I made it up the Big Sister ten times today.  Translation:  2000 feet of climbing in ten 1/2 mile segments.

I texted my coach.  “How many times would I need to climb the Big Sister to impress you?”

He wrote: “27.”

D’oh.  Next time.

And by the way, I would even venture to say that it was fun. Though I think facing the irrational fear and attacking it with a sense of crazy was more of a necessity than fun, per se.

But semantics. Who needs ’em.  Just kick the fear in the face.  It feels good.

And I think I’ll keep trying.  In all areas. Maybe sometimes with my hands in my mouth, biting my nails furiously… But plowing forward just the same.

#HappyHumpDay #FaceFear

 

14 Comments

  • Andrea

    July 20, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Woo *freaking* hoo!! I LOVE this post…by the end, I was cheering you on just like the construction workers. Proud of you, woman!!

    Reply
  • Kelly

    July 20, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Read this and cried. Re-read it and yep cried again. Written out of the pages of fear in my own heart. Thank you. And way to kick it sister- RIGHT IN ITS FACE!

    Reply
  • SJ

    July 20, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    …and you’ve just articulated for me, finally, why I start every single one of my runs with the worst hill in the neighborhood (which my house happens to be at the bottom of, because I wasn’t a runner yet when we bought the house and I didn’t have the foresight to think about what “immediately adjacent giant hill” meant for running!).

    (P.S. I’m a new reader/first-time commenter, and let me just say thank you so much for writing this blog – you are more inspiring than you can possibly know!)

    Reply
  • Kimberly Degonia

    July 20, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    I Love this post, Meredith. My “Big Sister” is open water swimming. I start and end the week with it and am a total mess on each of those days until I’ve got it done. But afterward, I feel like a real badass. I’ve gone up Big Sister, too, BTW. What a challenge! Way to go!

    Reply
  • Steffi

    July 21, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Oh how I love this approach. You rock!! Big sister might as well become a sister instead of an enemy, huh?!

    Keep on rockin’!!

    Steffi

    Reply
  • Lindsay Waibel

    July 21, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Wow, Meredith! 10 repeats on the Big Sister…super impressive! I did the GA 400 century earlier this month and that one was a tough climb. Kudos to you!

    By the way, I highly enjoy reading your blog – humorous, real and relatable. I always look forward to your posts.

    Reply
    • Swim Bike Mom

      July 21, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks Lindsay! It was a tough – but it’s much tougher on that century when you have 80 miles before it. Good on you! I hope to do that ride again next year – so fun!

      Reply
  • Alli

    July 22, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Awesome!! I will think about you when I tackle our Big sister “twin” in my neck of the woods- 10 times it is …..oh dear 😉 Have a great weekend Meredith xx

    Reply
  • Christy

    July 27, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Meredith:

    Just found your blog. I’ve been reading it for three days now – i have seriously cried and laughed so much. I am so happy you’re doing well. Your little family is so beautiful. Love, Christy (your long lost friend from UGA Law).

    Reply

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