I am sitting here in the hotel in Colorado Springs, after just having returned from summiting the mountain. We took it slow, summiting 7,300 feet elevation in 12.6 miles over two days. The first day we reached camp a little after noon. The next day we summited a little after 1, then had to return to camp before nightfall.
The summit was tough. The climb was rocky. As we reached mile 11 I began to doubt myself. The air was thinning. Due to a vicious beast of a bird (ok, maybe he was just a jerk) I lost more than half of my mid-morning snack and was summitting on a pancake and a couple of nuts. (Really, the bird stole my food from my hands).
The closer I got to the summit, the more I doubted my ability to make it. Around 1/2 mile to the top I almost passed out. I saw spots. I sat down and tried not to sob. I had this goal. I had been training for. Working for. Talking all about. And here I was, mere yards from my goal and I might not make it.
My throat tightened as my heart started to break. I realized I had to focus on breathing. I put my fist to my mouth and slowed my breath (as if breathing from a paper sack). I took small sips of water. I shifted my thoughts. If I thought about the summit, I would start to cry. So I stopped. I still had the summit in my heart, but first I had to look at this step in front of me.
So that is what I did. I slowed my breath. Slowed my heart rate. Changed my mental talk. I no longer could look at my end goal. Because while it was SO close, it seemed still impossible. So I looked only at the step in front of me. Literally, I began saying that over and over. Out loud. “Just this step. I can do this. One more step.” Over and over I said that. Until I reached the top. And my husband put up his hand to high-five me.
I dropped my hiking poles and folded into his chest. I may have hyper-ventilated a bit as I sobbed into his chest.
As I sat there considering if I would make it to the top I weighed many thoughts. First, of course, was my health. I knew no matter which way I went I would have to even my breath. I knew if I continued I would have to go slow. I never had considered summiting a race. (Good thing too, because there are these crazy people that seriously run up and down the mountain.)
I thought next about my patients. I remember, as I always do when I tackle a physical obstacle, the patient I had as a student. I helped him take his first steps after a significant stroke. He was over 6′ tall (I’m just 5’3″) and had significant tone in his right leg. Meaning I had to pretzel myself around his leg to keep it from folding up on itself when he stepped on it. It took every bit of energy both of us had for him to take 4 steps. I don’t remember his name. I called him Morgan because he looked like Morgan Freeman. So I thought of Morgan as I sat on that rock. Next, I thought of my health coaching clients. All of the people I will help address their fears, their challenges, and conquer their dreams and goals.
As soon as I regulated my breathing, I knew I needed to try. This literal mountain was a tough goal. It tried to overtake me. But it is far from the toughest goal I have ever had to face. The blisters I have will fade in a few days. The challenge itself lasted only 2 days. I have faced worse. I ask my patients to face worse. And I will ask my clients to face worse. I realized it was not the mountain that tried to overtake me, but rather my own thoughts, my own doubts. And I was never going to let that happen.