Every Step Is A Good Step: Relentless Forward Motion
"If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done."
Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable to move past the limitations that you've placed in your own way.
Identifying change can't happen very effectively while you're comfortable. Sometimes, you have to be willing to go into an uncertain future with potential for pain and without a clear idea of the end result in order to fully realize who you are and to be authentic to yourself.
Seems easy enough, eh?
WRONG. NOPE. Try it. Try getting out of every comfort zone you've ever known. I dare you. For lack of a more PC term, it sucks. It's scary. It's uncertain. It's shaky. It's the unknown. It's very scary. Did I mention uncertain? Scary? Yeah.
Sometimes, looking at your limitations enables you to go past them. Just because I didn't run the race i thought i would, that doesn't mean I didn't run a race.
And life isn't linear, is it? Life is messy. Life is unscripted, unplanned, and coming at us full speed ahead, relentlessly, whether we like it or not. Life never stops coming at us. It's messy. Did I mention messy?
I didn't give up and go home. I wanted to. Believe me. I wanted to. BUT.....I did what i could ... Just like in life. I didn't give up. I've never given up. I'm not a damn quitter. I'm many things - I'm cranky, I'm up a few pounds so I'm fluffy, I'm having a bad hair day, I am bitchy, I am hungry, I am sarcastic, I am an airhead, but I am not a quitter.
File this under FACTS ABOUT MEL: NOT A QUITTER. I'm a survivor. Anyone can not be a quitter.
But only some of us are survivors.
Just like in life, during the lowest of low moments when you think you can't get through, guess what, heifers? You have to run the race that's before you. You have no choice but to keep going. One foot in front of the other.
RELENTLESS FORWARD MOTION.
It's easy to keep going when you know what's in front of you and what it takes to succeed, or even to just eek out a survival plan. But how do you go on when it's uncertain? How do you carry on? How do you wake up every single day and go through the motions? HOW?
This is one of the hardest blog posts I've ever had to write. I know you're waiting to hear about the Himalayan Rush triathlon that I participated in a few weeks ago in Nepal.
You've all been incredibly supportive of me, from the very beginning. And I love you all for the support. It's carried me through the tough times even in the early days of training, learning how to swim properly and ride that god-forsaken mountain bike that I came to accept, even though I never loved it. I can honestly say you will never find me on a mountain bike ever again, unless my life depends on it. Trust me on this one, heifers. Trust me.
Acceptance. I had to accept it. And I had to go on. I had no choice. Sometimes we're forced to accept things that we never saw coming.
So many mornings out there on the mountain, I stared that bike down, stared the mountain down, often in tears, and wondered "How will I go on?" How will I do this? It's uncertain. My ability to conquer the mountain even in Arizona was inadequate. HOW will I go on and conquer a foothill in the Himalayan mountains? HOW????
This journey of a lifetime began months and months ago, maybe even years ago.... with the decision to get uncomfortable. The journey to Nepal began with a sponsorship by a company whose product I not only love, but whose people I love even more. One big huge shout out, once again to my BFFs over at Aftershokz for making this amazing journey possible. I am proud to be a #shokzstar 4LIFE.
In my life, I've grown into a habit of enjoying comfort. Who doesn't enjoy being comfortable? Whether it's in our own bed, on our own couch, in our group of friends, our job, etc. We all want to be comfortable. We strive for comfort. But is comfort enough? Is it enough? Is comfort in a failed relationship enough? Comfort in a job we don't love anymore ... is that enough? When is it time to pull the plug and say ENOUGH? I'm ready to get uncomfortable, I'm ready to delve into discomfort knowing that even in its uncertainty, it could be the best thing to happen to me. It could change my life. Accept discomfort. It's the way forward. Embrace it if you have to. It's dirty. It's messy. And it's the only way forward.
I began training for this race with the help of my amazing tri coach, Renee. She put me on a swim/bike/run regime that nearly killed me. I mean that. Most of you who follow me on twitter have seen my struggles as I've shared them readily. I'm all about keeping it real. You can search there using tag #iKahn and find all kinds of insane ramblings. Or watch below. I've added just a few finer moments, or lowlights as they may be.
The training was rough. There were days when I didn't FEEL like getting up at 4am for a run. Ok to be honest, that's most days. My brother Adam coined a term which I'll talk more about later, but he kept telling me, out there on the mountain,"Melissa, every step is a good step!" Well, turns out my little brother is pretty wise.
Every Step Is A Good Step.
In training. In life. In acceptance. In moving forward.
When you're facing down the mountain of YOUR life, no matter if that's a mountain in the Himalayas, or your relationships with others, or your job, or your fears...Every step is a good step.
RELENTLESS FORWARD MOTION.
I am blessed that my dear friend Debbie (go follow her on twitter!) decided to accompany me to Nepal and do the triathlon as well. She's legit crazy. WHO DOES THAT? I'll tell you who. A fearless heifer with a finely tuned athletic body (I hate her, it's ok, I can say it out loud, she accepts that.)
She lives at a high altitude, so going "down" to Nepal was a no-brainer for her. Thick air, beautiful hills. She was in from the get-go. And I'll be forever grateful, because traveling to a developing third world country isn't always a can of Spam (huh?) or something. It's not always rainbow cows pooping skittles (but trust me, there are lots of cows there, everywhere, in the streets, on the sidewalks, at the "resort".... just cows. Cows everywhere. It was enough to warm this heifer's heart.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me just brief you quickly on our journey TO Nepal. I met Debbie in San Francisco, where we had a lovely 10 hour wait to board our flight to China, and on to Kathmandu. As I mentioned, my "little" brother Adam (6'2", 230 pounds, ladies, he's available...just sayin'....) accompanied Debbie and I, as he'd been to Nepal and India before, and really, it was a great excuse for him to travel. He loves travel as much as I love cookies. (Ladies, he's available, did I mention that?) And also, he's good security for two chicks hanging around in a crowded city where the streets have no name (no really, the streets actually have no names. They have no traffic lights either, but whatever...)
We had the awesome opportunity to meet up with our BFF Jeff from Twitter. If you're a trail runner, a runner, or a cat lover, trust me, go follow him. He's a heifer-super star. Here are the three of us - he came out to meet us for dinner, at the airport, after having run a marathon that morning. And impressively enough - he could still walk.
So we met up with Jeff for dinner, and we were off on our way.
Kathmandu OR BUST!
Cue the 15 hour flight to Guangzhou, China. Don't quote me on the spelling. I don't speak Greek. We land without incident, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure the left wing was held on with duct tape and bubble-gum. Even Adam saw it, so... street cred.
We were tired. We were exhausted. But...there's wifi in China, so we were happy.
We decided to eat some food, because, airplane food cannot sustain two FINELY TUNED ATHLETES and their young man-chaperone, who can eat more in one sitting than my 4 teens can eat all week.
Below is just a clip of why I shouldn't be allowed to travel unaccompanied by handlers and security people who take my iPhone.
Those pasta things we were eating ...they're called momo. And I gotta say, they aren't too bad. Til they hit your stomach and you're pooping water for a few days. But whatevs. Weight loss diet, Chinese style. I pooped out food I never even ate. #TMI. Sorry.
We board the flight to Kathmandu and imagine our total shock and awe when our 4 hour flight very unexpectedly turns into a 6 hour flight, with no announcement on board telling us why, until the very end where we hear the pilot (In Chinese, which when you speak English, is super confusing... all I can say in Chinese is "Chicken Lo Mein")... tell us we're about to make an emergency landing in Lucknow, India.
Now, last I checked, India is NEAR Nepal, but India is NOT Nepal.
Relentless Forward Motion. Acceptance.
We were moving. Just not towards Kathmandu. We landed in India. That was exciting. We learned that many of our fellow plane-mates were doctors traveling to Kathmandu for a med conference. We also learned that the flight attendants like rap music, didn't speak English, and gave away all the alcohol left on the plane to the very frustrated passengers, all wondering why we all but crash-landed into India with no explanation.
I rarely drink. So here's what I treated myself to.
After a few unexpected hours in Lucknow, India, without further insanity, we simply sped down the runway and landed in Kathmandu a few hours later. I was never so happy to land at a destination than I was in that moment.
I was exhausted by this point - we headed to our hotel where we discovered by chance that you should NEVER (and I do mean never) order open faced Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches from room service in Kathmandu. Just trust me, because I really don't want to explain this. We ran out of toilet paper and we lost some dental work. I'll just leave it at that.
We were so happy to get into our beds, and fell asleep quickly, knowing that in the morning we were heading to Mount Everest.
It's the only thing that's been on my Bucket List since being a very small child. I used to dream of being able to climb Mt. Everest - me, the fat kid. Me. The one everybody made fun of for my thick glasses held together with tape at the nose. We were too poor to get new ones, so I had to wear the ones that were damaged from being hit in the face during schoolyard games of Dodgeball. Me. How could someone like ME make it to Mount Everest?
Well, I didn't make it to basecamp or even close. But we did book a flight that flew us near the peaks, so that was definitely good enough.
Sometimes you have to change your course, right? Your original goal is no longer an option.... so you move things around, shift them, and accept that you came close, or you tried. You did what you could.
I didn't climb it. But I flew damn close to it. I accept that that'll be good enough, and move on.
Seeing Mt. Everest was a lifetime highlight for me. I had to shift my goal on it. I wasn't ever going to be able to climb it. But I saw it from pretty darn close up. I can live with that. We came back and enjoyed the only good meal we had in Nepal, at the Radisson buffet. Enjoy it with us below. Let me say what a good sport Debbie was, being videotaped the whole time, and she never once gave me the finger. I think she wanted to. But she didn't. She's awesome.
After a hearty breakfast, our last decent meal of the trip... we headed back to the Kathmandu airport to catch our flight to Pokhara, Nepal. It's the second biggest city in Nepal after Kathmandu. It did prove to be very large, very dusty, very polluted, with very kind people, very beautiful people, none of whom spoke our language, which of course made it just that much more fun.
We're the foreigners here. My own shameful feeling of "American Privilege" stood out in my mind, and I'm embarrassed to admit a few times I became frustrated, unnecessarily so, because people didn't speak MY language. In THEIR country. Ha.
It's definitely embarrassing that I felt that way. I admit it here for you because it occurred to me how arrogant that was of me, getting all frustrated. Acceptance. I'm the odd one out here. Get over yourself, heifer. Just being honest. I was dead-wrong for feeling that way. I still feel bad for it.
We waited for hours in the Kathmandu airport (fact: it has one runway and 43 billion aircraft, all waiting to take off or land. This makes for a fun experience when storms are threatening to shut down the airport. There is also no decent food in the Kathmandu airport. There's bottled water and pastries resembling hard stale hockey pucks from last year's game).
I think they're iced in cow-dung. It's an "eat at your own risk" kinda place. Starvation won. Not like I was fueling for a triathlon in a few days. It's all good.
So what's a heifer to do while waiting on a flight that's been delayed for 5 or more hours? Plank. Of course.
We waited in the airport for maybe 6 hours (honestly, I lost track, it was hard to keep that happy face after a while, I was hungry cranky and in desperate need of a shower, I think I wore that shirt for something like 78 hours in a row without a shower) It's a wonder Interpol didn't pick me up in line and deport me based on my stench alone. Maybe they'd have had a good sandwich or something.
I digress. When faced with unexpected road blocks, or plane blocks as it were, what do you do?
I wasn't happy, not at all. Our flight was cancelled at this point - all flights into and out of Pokhara were cancelled due to weather. This was completely out of our control. Being a triple type A control freak - it was hard for me to deal with...but we did what we had to do.
We decided to hire a private van with a driver and make the 8-9 hour drive into Pokhara, thru the foothills of the Himalayans. What could possibly go wrong with that? It turned out that the race photographer and his asst. were also in the same predicament, so we shared the van with them. Very nice guys. Shout out to Anuj for being AWESOME and helping us navigate the language and ways of the Nepali people.
I get motion sickness. BAD. I'm a horrible car passenger - if I'm not shotgun I get sick. It's just another MELFACT.
Well, I was in the very back seat of this huge conversion van. Bumpin' and jumpin' with every single pothole (remember, no real roads - this was a dirt road that was full of rocks, and without a sports bra on I would have been injured beyond the ability to stand up the next day.) If one car breaks down on this very narrow road - traffic backs up and there is a standstill. For hours. It's quite an adventure. There's no "shoulder" as we know and love it on western freeways. It's just a free-for-all including cows, goats, mopeds, and more cows.
I was sick. I'm talkin' PUKE IN A PLASTIC BAG sick. I was miserable. There was no wifi signal (horror) on most of this car journey. We stopped a few hours into our journey at the "truck stop" which was a side of the road stand, complete with goats and other unidentifiable animals (hey. I'm a city heifer. I don't do farm things. It's just who I am.) Note that I am STILL wearing that shirt. 79 hours and counting....
This video was taken before nightfall, when things got pretty ugly. I was dying in the back row of that white conversion van. I tried to close my eyes and sleep a bit.... yeah... that didn't help. It just made me more nauseated. In the dark.
FINALLY, and I do mean FINALLY we arrived to our hotel. Not without stopping several times, for me to get out and breathe fresh air. HUGE shout out to my brother Adam, who not only helped me out of the van, but held me while I cried like a damn baby on his shoulder each time.
I was facing down some big emotions on this trip. Had to accept some things into my mind that are very hard to accept, none of which had to deal with the triathlon. All of which have to deal with the rest of my life.
ACCEPTANCE. TRUTH. TEARS.
I owe Adam for joining me on this journey for so many reasons. He is, without a doubt, the very best brother of all time. Every Step Is A Good Step, he told me. And he's right.
We arrived to our "resort." I could go on and on. AND ON. But allow the photos to speak for themselves. This was the "recommended" race hotel. I'm trying to be gracious and describe it as nicely as possible. Read the photo captions.
This is the A/C unit pictured above. Mind you - there was a DYING BIRD just behind this unit. How do we know? Because it chirped and chirped...and chirped...until it was dead in the morning. It was heartbreaking. But I was too busy eating a pop tart in bed to really focus on the imminent death of this Himalayan bird. Sad really. But I WAS HUNGRY and found a crushed up POP TART in the bottom of my purse. I was too busy celebrating processed junk food to mourn the loss of this poor bird. It was the first food I could tolerate in 3 days. So I sat in bed eating this pop tart without abandon. That pop tart was the best pop tart I've ever eaten. It was the vanilla frosted kind with chocolate on the inside. Y'all know someone is wondering what flavor it was. You're welcome.
I still feel bad about the dead bird and later said prayers for it. We would have called downstairs to the front desk to have them help...but.... that whole English language barrier. It was foreshadowing of things to come. Sometimes, you have to let things die a natural death. Mourn if you want. But accept that death is part of life.
DEATH. ACCEPTANCE. RELENTLESS FORWARD MOTION.
We woke up the next morning and headed out to do some zip lining. Now, those of you who really know me, know I'm not into adventure. WHY are you in the Himalayan Mountains, then, heifer? I know that's what you're thinking. I was in the Himalayan mountains for a few reasons.
The main reason was to inspire people. If someone like ME can find their way to Nepal to compete in a triathlon...then surely SOMEONE on the couch, overweight or unhealthy or both, can say "Heck! If SHE can do that, why can't I get up off the couch and go walk a half mile?" Or even more. I did this to help motivate the masses, to help inspire SOMEONE - ANYONE - to wake up and get healthy. By sharing my journey honestly, including the highs and the lows, I hope that people who followed along would somehow be inspired. (And if you were, kindly leave me a comment or two below, I want to know if anyone was inspired, really, by this insanity.)
The underlying reason? Why'd I go all the way to Nepal? I was running. This is the part that hurts. I was running from what was in my heart. I was running from a very painful decision that was long overdue. Long decided but not acted upon. The most painful decision I've had to make in my life..
RELENTLESS FORWARD MOTION.
I was in Nepal to run away from the noise in my own head. To gain the courage to honor the truth inside my heart. A very painful truth, one which has been in my heart for years and years. I cannot even type this without tears. I'll come back to this in a bit.
Back to zip lining. Debbie made me do it - I'm glad she did. But holy cow, never again. I'm not an adrenaline junkie AT ALL. They plopped us into these chairs at the top of "the world's steepest and longest zip line!" and wished us a good time. I said 8 Hail Mary's and I'm not even Catholic. I did the rain dance, too, for good luck, although looking back THAT may have been a bit of overkill.
Never been so relieved to get OFF of a ride
Don't try this at home
Zip lining now complete, I could quite literally die happy. Actually I thought I was going to die WHILE on the line. Thankfully, I lived. That's Debbie on the right side of the photo. I felt seriously overweight because we started at THE SAME TIME. But I went faster than her. It can only be due to that pop tart the night before.
I hate zip lining. My next adventure is going to involve a jigsaw puzzle by candle light. Way more my speed, heifers.
We spent the afternoon getting our bike rentals sorted out, then explored "town" a bit. We ate at a little sidewalk cafe. Let me say this. When in Nepal...DON'T ORDER SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE. Seems obvious, I know. Debbie ordered more Momo. Definitely a wiser decision than Spaghetti Bolognese. I'll leave it at that.
Let me just drop in a few photos of Kathmandu and Pokhara for you guys. Local Flavaaah. This first pic is from Kathmandu. People were doing their laundry and fetching DRINKING water out of this water. Now, stop for a minute please and let's think about when we complain that our satellite tv goes out, our internet goes down, and our Mercedes needs a tune up. Yeah. These people are DRINKING THIS WATER. Some walk miles and miles with their children to get to this water. Stop complaining about first world problems, y'all. This shit is real.
Below is a typical street scene. I forget if it's Kathmandu or Pokhara. But this is how the roads look. Except many of them were worse. These people were some of the few NOT wearing face masks. I fear for their lungs. Seriously.
And below? No, this is not a road map of my emotions leading up to this trip, although that'd be accurate. This is how every street corner looked. Wires in total disarray, everywhere. These were neatly arranged compared to most of what we saw. Daily we experienced power outages, some of which lasted hours. We learned that it's common there. People just continue on with their day as if nothing has gone wrong.
I have a billion more photos to go thru - you can find them all HERE....
Back to business - we rented our bicycles and the next big thing was to attend the race briefing. Most races have an expo of some sorts. This expo was at a local bar/restaurant. I'm excited to say they had Diet Coke. I'd not eaten solid food (except that pop tart from a few days prior) in so long that I think my stomach was beginning to digest my pancreas. Or something. Just trust me. I was starving. Heifers cannot live on Runts candy alone. If you don't know what Runts are, you really need to get some. The banana ones - totally hit the spot when you're a million miles from a real toilet and Charmin toilet paper.
The race briefing was going swimmingly until someone stood up and started telling us that the course had magically changed overnight due to the insane storms from a few nights ago. Course markings? Maybe. Maybe not. In the best case there was plastic tape around trees to show you you're still on the right path. The bike course? Changed. They added 5k to it. Uphill. Best part? The addition of millions of WET LEAVES on the bike and run portion, all covering up uneven jagged rocks. I mean, this IS an adventure triathlon right? In Nepal. So, yeah. Super good times.
Now - heifers. Those of y'all who followed along on my journey on twitter, you KNOW the bike was the part I was stressed about. The bike was the part that rendered me a pile of tears, on top of every single Arizona-sized hill in the USA. My videos showed me in tears, paralyzed in fear of going DOWN the hill, deathly afraid of heights and falling, breaking a bone or even worse, a fingernail.
Here is a pic that someone from the tri snapped during the race review. Look at my face. That is the face of NO.
That is the face of a woman who traveled 48 hours into a developing third world nation, knowing that finishing this race was the most unlikely thing ever. Knowing that any challenge put in front of her, no matter how big, she'd attempt to conquer anyway. It's the face of a woman trying to not just inspire others, but to prove something to herself.
But this is also the face of fear. This is the face of acceptance. The face of resignation as to what's in front of me. In every way. Resignation and acceptance.
This is the face of a woman who traveled 48 hours around the world to face down her own truth. Her heart. To accept what she knows is inevitable, whether with the race or with life. This is the face of "shit just got real." In every single way.
RELENTLESS. FORWARD. MOTION.
After the briefing, we walked back to our hotel, our mood somber. In the USA, we get race maps, elevation charts, so that we can prepare ahead. This briefing was at best, an enigma. A doctor stood up, and in very low unintelligible tones, told us of a mobile hospital that's been set up on site in case anyone needs it - we heard about the extra 5k addition to the bike course based on (what I think we understood as) bad weather having caused the path to change. Wet leaves, treacherous terrain. Oh, and it was more uphill. Debbie looked scared, but I never doubted for ONE SECOND that she could do it. She's from Denver. She's a badass. Me on the other hand, I was reduced to tears. Trembling, shaking tears. I made her hug me. She looked afraid. Not sure if it was of my hug or the bike course. Maybe both.
I had to make some hard choices. But that's nothing new. I've been staring down hard choices now for a few years, and was finally ready to rip the proverbial bandaid off, in every way. Sometimes it just feels better to speak your truth. Get it over with. And move on. Onward.
Having returned to the hotel, in tears, I made a few phone calls. I called family, friends, and sat down to do some soul searching. I could attempt the bike course, definitely. I could attempt lots of things in life, knowing full well that the chance of failure was high. Already I was going into this race with the bike portion being my biggest challenge.
I could do it, and run the risk of breaking my collarbone and staying in a Nepali hospital for 2 weeks recovering before I was allowed to travel home. I could let down the thousands of people who have followed me along on this journey by bailing out of the whole tri. That occurred to me multiple times. Dozens if I'm honest. Quit the race, people will understand.
But a little voice in the back of my head whispered "You're not a quitter." And I'm not. I'm tough. Knock me down 7 times, I will get up 8 just to piss you off and show you I can do it. That little voice said, "You're a survivor!"
Then the other voice muttered quietly, "Yeah, heifer...but your collarbone is still in tact... you really wanna mess that whole situation up?"
MORE SOUL SEARCHING. FORWARD MOTION. DECISIONS. ACTION.
The night dragged on forever. My stomach was still queasy and I hadn't eaten much proper food since that pop tart. I brought with me a ton of food from home - chia bars (hey they're a superfood), granola bars, peanut butter, candy, protein bars - none of it sounded remotely tasty. I downed a few litres of water and some Nuun tablets and tried to sleep. Sleep never came. I tossed, turned and was restless all night. Seemed fitting. I was hoping for another major storm, as it would have matched my mood. Doom and gloom, with a chance of optimism.
We woke up in the morning, my heart and mind were heavy. I was dealing with race uncertainty, malnourishment, dehydration, and wondering what I should I do.
Should I attempt the bike ride?? I was barely trained for conditions on a GOOD day. The swim was now causing doubt in my mind, too. The lake water is warm - do I use the wetsuit, leave it off and hope my boobs make me buoyant enough? What about the run? I learned the night before that it too was up a steep incline, full of wet leaves covering jagged, unstable rocks.
Seemed fitting for my life lately. A layer of smooth-looking things masking the truth, covering up jagged, raw things underneath. A layer so smooth that people would SWEAR there was nothing jagged underneath. Little did they know. Little did I know.
I was uncertain of everything. Sure of nothing.
Arrived at the departure point for the bus to take us to the triathlon venue. It was a gorgeous area, called Begnas Lake. We boarded the bus and off we went, about a 30 minute drive thru Pokhara into this tiny residential area, complete with brown muddy streams which found women and children doing laundry, bathing, and filling buckets to bring home, likely a several mile walk. Indoor plumbing is not a thing here, people. It's not a thing.
The mood at the tri site was festive. Finally we found all the technology in Nepal. It was with our race group. They had music BLARING. They had Mr. Microphone (kids of the 70s, nod along in agreement with me). They had snacks, they had guys cooking bbq chicken up on an old-school grill. They had local Nepali women decked out in their beautiful native wear, kayaks at the ready for tired swimmers. It was LEGIT. It was go time.
They had several races going on that day - a standard distance and a sprint distance tri, plus a duathalon, a 5k, and I think also a 10k, so there were MANY groups being started at different times. Surprisingly, it was carried out in such a calm orderly fashion - the MC of the event was awesome and really went a long way to make sure we were all feeling festive.
There's something absolutely incredible about standing in front of a lake, staring up into the clouds, and seeing Annapurna Mountain Range in front of you. 8 of the world's tallest peaks were in our sight. That is something I will never forget. I think at the moment, I looked up and felt hope.
I felt that even if I failed the event - if I messed up the swim, the bike or the run, that somehow things were going to be ok.
Maybe I felt that way about my life decisions too. Things may suck right now. But keep your eyes upwards. Keep looking towards the sky. There are positive things to be found in every situation if you just keep moving towards your goals. Swim to them. Bike to them. Run to them. Crawl to them if you have to. Just keep moving towards your goals and somehow, in that moment, I felt everything was going to be ok.
Then again I felt that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, so my intuition needs a tuneup, I guess.
We waited until the Sprint triathlon was ready to begin. We took our places in the water, Debbie feeling confident, and me just hoping not to drown like a beached heifer-whale. The gun sounded (timer? loudspeaker? i couldn't tell you WHAT went off, I just know we were cue'd to start) and off we went.
The water actually felt refreshing, and I was settling into my stroke. Debbie was long out of my sights by now. She is a water-heifer for sure. I got 25 strokes into the swim and I felt the lack of oxygen (altitude) effect. I was out of breath. I was glad I decided on the wetsuit, and grabbed onto the nearest kayak. Tried to make small talk, but again... no English no talkie. So, I said "thanks, bro!" and headed off for another 10 strokes before I needed to stop again.
JUST KEEP SWIMMING.
I was struggling. I was 1/4 of the way into the swim and I decided to quit. I was looking for the nearest kayak and about to raise my hand, signaling I'M DONE, RESCUE ME NOW.... and all of the sudden, out of the thin air, I hear a voice calling me.
"Melissa! I'm over here! Follow my voice!"
Now, look. I'm here in the middle of Nepal. Nobody around me speaks English in an American accent except me, Debbie, and my brother Adam. It was a man's voice. I look up, and see a big hairy naked guy directly to my left. Adam. He stripped naked (explained later that he didn't want to get his clothes wet).
Adam didn't know that it's ok to hang on to a kayak during the swim. He was worried for my safety, maybe he thought I was drowning. Metaphorically, I was drowning in sadness and the realization of my own truths...but physically, I was still in the water. He jumped in, buck naked, and decided to 'swim me in' to shore. He stayed next to me, calling out to me things like "Go right! Go left! You got this, girl!" and swam with me all the way to shore. I wanted to quit. With every stroke I was out of breath, emotional, and sad. I wanted nothing more than to swim back to shore and cry. But I kept swimming.
Brother of the year. Without a doubt. We got out of the water, he quickly donned his clothing (thank you God) and then ... we sat down.
I decided not do the bike portion. I made this decision with a heavy heart The race briefing spelled it out for me. Longer distance. Higher elevation, more treacherous conditions. I had to do the right thing. FOR ME.
I HAD TO DO THE RIGHT THING FOR ME.
Not just in the triathlon. But in my life. I had to make some tough decisions. Decisions that I knew I'd have to make. Decisions that I knew would be hard. I had to do the right thing for me. Really I think going into the trip, the decisions had already been made. I had to face reality.
I knew I would be disqualified from the race. You have to run the race that's before you. You have no choice but to keep going. One foot in front of the other. But you also have choices.
I had to make the choice ... take the safe option, or take a very risky option for me. I wasn't ready for those hills, that altitude, the potential for massive injury.
I had to take the safe way out of this race. I feel that I let down thousands of you, because I had to take the safe option. i wanted so badly to conquer that bike ride, and come out victorious. I wanted to conquer those hills FOR ALL OF YOU. Because this was YOUR race too.
But I had to make the decision for my own personal safety and well being. If I let you down, even one of you, I am sorry. I felt I had no choice but to take the safe option. I will never forget that feeling. And I will take that to my grave. I don't know if I chickened out at the last minute - or if I really made the right decision. I had to go with my gut. I had to do the right thing for me.
Adam and I waited over an hour for the run portion to be "ready" - meaning - they had to put personnel out there in the hills of the run, so that we wouldn't lose our way. Let me break this down for you. Look at this pic below. That's a 4 story house. That hill behind it - that's the run portion of this "adventure race." No ... it wasn't switchbacks and gentle inclines. No. No. No.
That shit was straight vertical, we had to use our hands, arms, and pull each other up that damn mountain. Wet leaves covering jagged rocks. Seemingly smooth surface covering up unknown danger.
JUST KEEP MOVING FORWARD.
I'm afraid of heights, I mentioned that. I relied solely on Adam to get me up that hill. It took my brother's strength to pull me up that hill. It took my own strength to come to terms with everything I'd been dealing with.
Don't think that my ascent of that hill was pretty. To be fair, I was just happy Adam put his clothes back on. I hyperventilated halfway up the hills. People were stuck behind me because the path was quite literally about 12 inches wide. They had no way to go around me. I could fall UP the mountain, or fall OFF the mountain. But I had no choice of backing out and turning around.
I HAD TO KEEP MOVING FORWARD.
Adam was an incredible support. He kept holding out his arms for me to pull myself up, remind me EVERY STEP IS A GOOD STEP. It became our mantra going up that mountain. Every step is a good step. In the right direction. I kept moving forward.
I couldn't breathe, I was paralyzed in fear because if I looked up to find the path, I got dizzy (vertigo got me, bad). If I looked to my right, all I saw was how I was going to fall to my painful death. I was embarrassed. People were lined up behind me, hearing me gasp for air and watching me cry hysterically. It definitely wasn't my finest moment.
It was the moment in which my entire life's direction was defined. I knew that as painful as my decisions had been... I had no choice but onward. I'd rather go up hill through uncertainty and come out victorious, than to stay stagnant on SMOOTH BUT DANGEROUS SLIPPERY leaves covering jagged rocks underneath. I'd rather keep moving forward than to stand still in unhappiness.
Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable to move past the limitations that you've placed in your own way. So I did what any self-respecting heifer would do.
I wiped my snot on my arm and I marched upward. Onward. To the top of that damn mountain.
We did finally reach the top, to the happiness and delight of the 43 people lined up behind us by then. We shared some chia bars, some runts candy, some water and some Nuun with other athletes (they weren't even crying, that baffles me)... and then we just slowly made our way back DOWN the mountain to the finish line. Here's a pic Adam took of me. You can't tell I'd been hysterical for an hour prior, I think because it's a bad photo. So I got that going for me.
At this point I decided to tune Adam out and was thankful I was wearing my AfterShokz headphones. I turned on a few calm songs that I had put on a playlist in advance, and tried to zen out a bit. Didn't work - but the music was nice anyway. Every step is a good step.
We made our way to the finish line slowly. I was done crying. I was done worrying. I was just done. With thinking. With staying stuck. Stuck on a mountain or stuck at this point of my life.
I was done. Time to handle my shit.
TIME TO MOVE FORWARD. ONWARD. UPWARD.
a hat's Adam behind me in the navy blue t-shirt. I think he finished this race in flip flops. I was too self-absorbed to notice.
I crossed that finish line and they gave me a medal. I promptly gave it back, telling these kind hearted people that I did not EARN that medal. There was no way in hell I was going to accept a medal for a race I didn't finish. They insisted I take the medal. I had to take it because I was afraid of offending them. The culture of these people is so kind, so generous, so good-hearted and loving. I took the medal.
I looked at the timekeeper (this is Nepal. time was kept in a spiral notebook with a pen). There was a huge rectangle drawn around my name.
I knew it in advance. I knew I'd disqualify by not attempting the bike.
But I ran the race in front of me anyway. I kept going. I finished WHAT I COULD.
I DID WHAT I COULD. I KEPT MOVING FORWARD.
Debbie did AMAZING, she ran it in and we screamed so loudly at her, "RUN, HEIFER, RUN!" that even the locals were staring.....
We were packing our things up to go back on the bus, and a small Nepali man approached me. He asked if I was Melissa. I wasn't sure what to say (if you know me, you know that if someone asks me if I'm Melissa, it could go one of two ways - good or really bad). I decided to throw caution to the wind and told him, yes, I'm Melissa.
He removed his medal from his neck, and gave it to me. I told him NO. I would absolutely not accept his medal. He insisted, telling me in very broken English, this is a "token of love" because I didn't finish the whole race, but he wanted me to have HIS medal.
Good lord have mercy. Cue the freaking tears. That was the kindest gesture from a total stranger. Maybe it was all the emotions of the trip, maybe it was all the emotions of the years leading up to this point in my life, or maybe I was just PMS and needed some crackers - but this gesture made me cry like a baby.
I accepted his medal, and gave it to Adam. Adam carried me through this race. He jumped in, nekkie, into a lake in Nepal, to help me make it to the finish. He carried me up a mountain when I was too weak to make it myself. Adam EARNED this medal. So Adam went back home to America with that medal. I will be forever grateful to him for getting me through this race.
At the end of the day, heifers, I had to run the race that was before me. I had to make hard decisions that would affect not just my life, but my race.
None of these decisions came easy. Some have been brewing for so long that they became part of the facade of who I was. Part of the person I was pretending to be. Maybe I was pretending to be a badass, knowing all along somewhere inside I didn't have what it took to finish this race.
Identifying change can't happen very effectively while you're comfortable. Sometimes, you have to be willing to go into an uncertain future with potential for pain and without a clear idea of the end result in order to fully realize who you are and to be authentic to yourself.
At the end of the day, I knew it was time for change.
Time for a change of strategy. A change of scenery. A change of everything. I have to be true to myself. I have to run the race that's in front of me. And I learned that I have to do what's right for me. It's not without tears. It's not without pain. It's not without a pound of flesh.
But I have to move on. Relentless Forward Motion.
I am a survivor.