Sometimes we focus on the mountain. We become fixated on the seemingly insurmountable obstacle we would never even dream of overcoming. Ironically, it’s the self-defeating language we speak to our inner selves that leads to poor imagination. We predetermine we are not able to do, to conquer, to overcome what is before us then we lay down and play dead… or put our heads in the dirt… or crawl into caves for extended hibernations.
Alternatively, we can choose to simply look at the mountain for what it is: something that has multiple sides and levels. There is always a way up, over, around, under and through it. Be assured, getting to the other side is achievable. Remembering this simple truth about every impossible situation will shift perspective and focus immeasurably. The mountain may not become a molehill, but it will become manageable. It can then be approached as a challenge or trial in need of an action plan.
When we no longer view our obstacles as insurmountable they stop being the opposition of our life, the limits of creative thought, the borders of vision and the anchors of our energy.
How we react to external problems reflect our internal conflicts. The human condition seems to be a lifelong process of constantly striving to get to the other side of fear, and therefore to the other side ourselves. First, we have to see that it’s possible to do so.
The Process of Change
A few days ago, I resuscitated my bike; it had been sitting on flats in the garage for over a year. One of the things that attracted me to the Sonoran Desert was the thought of cycling with my camera throughout the year. Unfortunately, when I got here, everything about riding in the desert seemed like a death wish. Long expanses of curving road. Impatient drivers. Wild animals. Cactus needles. Dehydration. Sun-burn. Unending upward mountain climbs.
The fear snuck up on me.
I had been riding around New York City and parts of New Jersey since 2011. I had done cycling events – The Five Boro Ride several times, a couple of half centuries, and countless other organized and solo rides. Yet, I when I got to a wide open road in the desert, I believed the limits of my sight. New York City didn’t have mountains! Where’s the shade? Where can I rest? What if I run out of water? What if I get hit and no one sees me in a ditch?
The obstacles I created impaired my ability to actually do one of the things I enjoy most and something I’ve wanted all my life to do around the world. During the two years I’ve had my bike in Arizona, I’ve gotten on it no more than two or three times.
Getting to the Other Side
All this to say, the other day I went out on my bike for the first time in a long while. For two days prior, I had walked a nearly three-mile route. The same route I had tried to ride last year and ended up feeling as if I had outdone myself with. It completely took my breath away, or more aptly, it was so hard to breathe that I turned around and went home. One and half miles did me in. And kept me off my bike for a year. I could have pushed through. I could have tried again that next day. I did neither. I limited myself and refused to even try again.
This time, I did push through. This time I huffed and puffed up this incline and whoo-hooooed all the way down! The downhill return was mind-blowingly-smooth and I basically coasted back to my subdivision gate. The below video was made during this ride. In it I talk about how the payoff is worth the effort.
Remember Who You Are
When I got home, I reviewed my ride stats on my phone and saw old ride stats that sort of blew my mind.
This three-mile roundtrip in my neighborhood had an elevation gain of 269 feet. Isolated, that sounds like a lot. The 269-foot climb must be what took my breath away, or so I thought. But my old stats show rides around Manhattan with 100 to 600 feet of elevation gain. One Staten Island event had a route elevation gain of 3203 feet. Since the highest point I reached was 396 feet above sea level (practically the tallest peak on the island), I believe the gain indicates the combination of hills I went up that day.
While writing this piece, I’ve finally realized I never accounted for the need to acclimate to a higher overall elevation. New York City is 33 feet above sea level. My home address in Marana, Arizona is at 2425 feet above sea level. My lungs are working harder here due to altitude and thinner arid air.
Sometimes we have to give ourselves a break and consider the practical elements of our environment and what adjustments we need to make to adapt better.
I had long proven to myself I’m capable of overcoming physical obstacles. Yet when my new environment proved more of a challenge than I expected, I gave up. I didn’t examine why it was more challenging or how I could adapt to the environmental changes. Focusing on the mountain ranges surrounding me defeated me. I psyched myself out.
Now that I’ve reminded myself that I did more in New York than I’ve even attempted in Arizona, I’m gonna retrieve that fearless, can-do attitude and go ride these desert roads!
Be blessed. Don’t psych yourself out. Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving! Amen!
I used to be an athlete.
Bike the Boros: Staten Island
Morning Stretch and Praise Break