Several weeks ago, I participated in the second of 10 training hikes designed to prepare for the highest climb in the Columbia Gorge. At 11 miles in length and almost 5000 feet of elevation gain, Mount Defiance poses a sizeable challenge to most hikers and thus the plan of training hikes to build the endurance and stamina required.
Imagine me on this second hike: I’m panting. I’m moving much slower than the 20 and 30 somethings. And half way up, I’m thinking there is no way I’m doing Defiance if a mountain half the challenge is giving me trouble. I begin to doubt and in my doubt I felt distressed and deterred. But before I got too far into that pity party, I thought about where I’d come with myself over the last four years and I thought about what I have learned about failure (Failure and the Sexy Red Dress). By the time I got to the top, my tune had reversed and instead of thinking no way to Mt. Defiance, I had concluded that the question to ask myself was How? Not I can’t do this but rather how can I climb Mt. Defiance in 4 months on July 30? The view from the summit took on extra shine in the sunlight as my heart and mind claimed a new horizon for me.
This journey to Defiance is, like most journeys, not truly about the destination. Instead the destination offers a focal point for my effort — a direction to strive toward, an opportunity to attempt. In this moment, can I make a step toward my goal? Because I will get to the top of Mount Defiance by preparing myself in this moment to do the best I can in this moment, trusting that this step takes me where I want to go. Mt. Defiance is my opportunity to make an effort, to improve myself physically, to let the athlete in me buried away for the last nine months climb forward. I claim the possibility of the summit in spite of, regardless of the very real risk that I may fail.
My journey to Mt. Defiance is a dance with failure. Because when one moves from No Way! the motion of your life accepts the challenge of risking all. By accepting the challenge of moving past NO the nature of failure shifts. In the face of effort, failure becomes not trying. In the face of How, failure comes in allowing the possibility of not succeeding to hold you back, buying into the No Way!
What do you need when you decide to dance with failure? Help and a PLAN!!! By the time I made it back to the trailhead parking lot, I knew what I was going to do to create my plan. I reached out to folks who I thought might know something to help me figure out how I can climb Mt. Defiance.
My first call was to my Father, marathon runner, mountain hiker extraordinaire! His credentials include climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in the 80th year of his life!! I thought he might know something including whether or not I was crazy. I got awesome advice and most importantly I got amazing encouragement. Do it, Cheryl! I know you can!
Then I went to the owner of the gym I’ve been going to for the last 3.5 years. I told Brad what I wanted to do. And instead of grimly breaking the bad news to me, he smiled and said I’ve seen what you can do, I know you can do this! In the last four weeks, Brad has helped me create a training program aimed towards getting to the top of Mt Defiance and down! I’ve given my training program a name: Defiance to Failure! All Saturdays between now and July 30, I hike and every other Saturday is one of the scheduled training hikes getting progressively more challenging. During the week, I do high intensity interval workouts designed for me by Brad three times a week and as much time as I can stand on the Summit — an elliptical stair climber which simulates steep uphill motion. Plus Brad has helped me incorporate some amazingly beneficial rebuild and repair supplements to keep this 56 year old body functioning without major muscle soreness and fatigue.
My defiance is paying off! Already I see and feel a difference both on the trail and in the gym. My butt is infinitesimally smaller, pants looser, and the hike leader said I did the nasty steep part faster this past Saturday. Whoo hoo! Most importantly, I’ve let go of the mind-numbing fear of failure. I show up, I do what is in front of me in this moment and so far nothing has kept me from finishing and achieving the current goal. I feel like I will be able to make the climb AND I know that every effort I make even if I don’t summit Defiance is a rebuff of failure. I can’t lose!
There has been so much in my life the last four months which has challenged my sense of stability. I have made much effort to reassure myself that I am moving in the right direction. By accepting this challenge of Defiance to Failure, I am looking myself in the eye and saying I can! I move past the No Way! in my mind and reach inward for the steady truth of my heart: I can try. I can risk. I can learn. I can explore. I can defy failure.
To find more writing I have posted about my life experience, begin here: About Cheryl Marlene.