Facing One’s Fears

I have always struggled to achieve excellence. One thing that cycling has taught me is that if you can achieve something without a struggle, it’s not going to be satisfying.
Greg Lemond

Well it seems training is over. Time for the ride to begin. I have the same butterfly’s I feel before a ski, bike, or whatever race. The butterfly’s are just wiggling their wings in my stomach. It is that feeling I get when taking off on a solo trip somewhere. What have I gotten myself into? Have I done the best I could to prepare. Did I make the right decision joining this ride.

My friend Buck Benson is here in Cusco and he is starting to feel a bit better from the past weeks trials of altitude, cold, and illness. We are just hanging, going for walks about the city, sitting in the sun in the park, watching tourists taking pictures, winding their way through the local vendors plying their wares. It is great having him here and listening to stories and instructions. He has said everyone agrees it has been one of the more difficult trips they have done, and these people have biked all over the world . But at the same time Buck has reassured me they are just people like us all, and I will do alright. The range of abilities is great and it sounds to me it is just like any other activity I have done.

So what is this fear? I said before I left the biggest fear I had was showing up in Cusco where it has already been established that Cusco is a difficult place to join the group due to the altitude of 11,200. And this is an established group who have been biking together nearly every day for six weeks.

Well it is that time of my fear and I am feeling good. It is what it is and will be whatever. I cannot tell the future. As discovered last week with Jeanne’s dad one never knows what will happen. But until I get into the swing of things I will have a fear.

So what is that fear. I guess it is the unknown, or perhaps will I be alright, or embarrass myself. Who knows. But if you do not try you will never succeed. Buck and I were talking about former days of mountain climbing. I mentioned my friend Doug Buchanan who said he felt a successful summit once in 20 was good. He carried a jello cheesecake in the bottom of his pack to celebrate a successful peak. I was lucky enough to share a few successes with Doug and by the time we got the cheesecake the package was a crumbled mess, the result of sitting in the bottom of his pack for multiple unsuccessful trips. No matter it was delicious. You have to have failures, the success is in continuing to try.

Carlos Castaneda (incidentally he was from Peru) in his Don Juan series of books mentioned you must be decisive with decisions, and be prepared to stake your life on that decision. Now that seems a bit heavy. But suppose you want to go to lunch; OK, but you have to cross the road so you decide to cross the road. No big deal, but pedestrians get hit and killed. That decision to go to lunch requires defending that decision even with your life or decide to not have lunch, which is another decision. Minor decisions can lead to big results. We make decisions hoping they are right! But never really know until the results are given. The point is we cannot tell the future.

We make decisions based on the best information we have. No one I believe goes out and purposely makes a bad decision. Maybe later with additional information we can decide it was a bad decision, but it seemed correct at the time given the information available. These decisions are not made blindly. One prepares as best you can. When running a river you never blindly go into a rapid without checking first. You gather and prepare yourself with the information available.

And so it is with this trip. Of course it is scary, but then any change is. We like things the way we can understand and relate to. Sometimes we have to extend our boundaries. Find other ways of doing and seeing things. Without knowing the limits there is no growth, no revitalization. We cannot learn if we do not reach out.

And keep in mind there is no real safety in anything. Last spring I was helping with the ski jumping program in Anchorage, and jumping some myself. Seems most people thought it dangerous and crazy. Well, I fell walking down the steps breaking my wrist. It is the little unexpected things that get you. But if you do not try what is left?

As Jeanne tells me when I come in near last place in the Tour of Anchorage 50 kilometer ski race, “there were 250,000 people in Anchorage who did not even enter”. And it has always been fun for me even near the end when I am near collapse.

And thus it is with this trip. I realize I am pushing myself and risk failure. But then who defines failure and success. In this case I get to. To not try is failure. The definition of success will come later.

Tomorrow the Bike Dreams biking tour of the Andes arrives in Cusco. They have a three day rest and are going to visit Machu Picchu for two days then a day in Cusco, after which we all head toward Copacabana and Bolivia, riding along Lake Titicaca.

Training is over.

5 thoughts on “Facing One’s Fears

  1. Remember, J. R., living life is not about the worry of failure or success. It is that force of being alive and just being in the moment of the experience of it. Breath in and enjoy the ride my friend. The air is always sweet.

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  2. From Aunt Shirley: I just read the post from JR and really loved reading it and loved what he wrote. I wrote a longish paragraph but didn’t know how to hit “reply” so just hit “enter.” Any way you can tell him how proud I am of him, and how I understand the butterflies, though I never put my body into such challenges.

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  3. Yo JR, thinking of you and Buck. Hoping for the best for both of you. Remember our old ski racing goals: we don’t die, we make everybody else look good, and we beat every ten year old in the field! We’re just finishing our kiddie bike trip in France and thinking of you. All the best my friend. Crea and Steve

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