Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Accidental Hiker

How does one accidentally hike up a mountain? Sounds shady. Well, I was in Aspen Colorado. And if you have never been... let me tell you... when you get out of the plane and take a deep breath of that clean mountain air (after the altitude sickness subsides and you get over the nightmare of flying on a plane the size of a minivan), you feel like you can do anything. Colors are brighter. Due to the lack of humidity, your hair looks amazing. You can practically eat the nutrients out of the air. And as you look around at all the Ray Ban wearing, North Face clad, thin, fit, and sun-bleached people, you start to think that maybe you too can look and feel like a cross between Brandy Chastain in her sports bra, and Pippa Middleton. Sporty, Healthy, Tan, snacking on Fruit and Quinoa.  I mean, when these Colorado people want to relax, they climb stuff. Sometimes they climb with their feet, or while on a bike. Sometimes they climb on skiis, or perhaps they just drop their stuff on the floor and climb whatever is vertical and available at the time. How strange... I mean in NY, when people take a load off they watch TV, or go to a bar, or yell at eachother.

I also happen to be with one of the coolest, most inspiring people I have ever met. She is one of those people who did "Outward Bound" as a teenager when the rest of us were lathering up in baby oil, laying around a pool debating strategies on how to win a game of "asshole" or "flip cup". This friend... let's call her Energy-Girl, suggests that we hike up Aspen Mountain. After chuckling and explaining to her my "No Hiking" rule, we get to talking about athletics. I explain that when I was younger, I used to do this little triathlon at summer camp. I was a great swimmer and now that I am done having babies, I want to be more athletic. Of course, after gaining about 60 pounds during 2 pregnancies, the only triathlon I was doing was an eating triathlon. And I was winning. But I tell her, that I always saw myself as an athlete. And then she says the words that change things for me. "In my experience, people are EXACTLY, who they picture themselves to be." Then she suggests I join her for a "short easy hike" the next morning. Hmmm... ok, if it is short and easy.  And if I picture myself as an athlete, maybe I really am. Might be a nice way to enjoy the Colorado fresh air. Sure. Why not.

The next morning, in my lame Nike fake running shoes, I wait at what I think is the entrance to the trail. No one is there. Foolishly, I decide to check it out. So up I go. About 10 minutes later, I am at the end of the trail. Huffing and Puffing, I hear people calling my name. So I hike back down to the beginning to find Energy Girl, and 2 other people waiting for me. I tell them that I have already been to the top. They laugh (which is never a good sign).

I turn around and realize the REAL trail is on the other side. OK, no problem. I've just done a good hike. I am an athlete, remember?. I'm totally up for this. So we start. About 5 minutes and 20 switchbacks later, I realize that my little pre-hike was not a hike. It was a walk. In fact, it wasnt even a walk... it was a stroll. THIS is a hike. Energy Girl keeps looking back at me with a worried look on her face. Perhaps she realizes that I am in a bit over my head. Just a tad. I can't talk, breathe, see, hear, or feel anything. This trail went straight up, and up, and up.

To keep me occupied, Energy Girl keeps telling me stories. Motivating stories ... about people achieving things they never thought possible. The whole time, all I can think about is... how the fuck can she keep talking when I cant even breathe? 10 minutes go by. 20 minutes... 30 minutes... 45 minutes... now I lose track of time and focus on not dying. I try not to be discouraged by the Brandy Chastains and Pippas, who are RUNNING up the trail, which I guess is what Colorado people do after their hour of morning yoga and daily tree-huggin. (Outdoorsy Fuckers).

Finally, I make it to the top and collapse on a large flat rock, which I nickname "Collapse-in-Agony-Rock". After a banana and some water, and about 10 minutes of praying and speaking in tongues... I finally open my eyes. It is a weird sensation. I had never in my life felt so ... good. And strong. And proud. And it's really beautiful. For someone who proudly declared for many years, "I hate nature", this is an interesting turn of events. I no longer wish I had stayed at the hotel with my husband, curled up in bed, watching Golden Girls reruns (although I must admit, I do love them Golden Girls).

Collapse-in-Agony-Rock is where I decide to become what I always pictured myself to be. An athlete. After my moment of clarity, I quickly realize that before I can make the US Soccer Team, and be featured in the British Tabloids, I have to get my ass off the damn mountain. So began the first of many ups and downs to come.

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