As promised, this week I am very excited to have my amazing cousin Tracy share an experience that illustrates how presence and mindfulness can help you overcome an incredible challenge – even when you’re not fully prepared!
Cycling 200 km in two days – no problem. Confidence – no problem. Very little training – this may be a problem. Hill climbs – oh right, I forgot to train on those. Meh, no problem!
The above basically sums up my attitude leading up to the Melbourne Ride to Conquer Cancer. I commute everywhere by bike and do at least one 30 km ride per week. Clearly, that should be enough! Shouldn’t it? I do not know what made me think I could go into a 200 km ride with so little training. It could be that I felt I knew how to face this physical challenge using the tools of yoga. And that right there; was my ego speaking.
In all seriousness though (sans ego), it really is yoga that aided me through this experience. Yoga has taught me many lessons; two of which I live by. Both pertain to living in the present:
1) Be mindful. Be present. Be happy.
2) The past is in the past and the future depends on our actions in the present.
To illustrate how these two affirmations helped me let’s fast-forward to the 60 km mark on day 2 of the Ride. My legs are tired, my glutes are tired, and my seat bones are beyond sore; however, the spirit and purpose of this Ride never slips away. The day before the Ride, being aware of my lack of fitness, I taped some names to my top tube/cross bar. Names of people in my life that have been affected my cancer. Names of people who have struggled far more than I would on this Ride. Names of people that would pull me through and inspire me to cross the finish line.
So now as I cruise down a 17% grade hill, I look in the distance and see yet another hill (this course was absolutely, without a doubt, the hilliest ride I have ever done) and this hill before me is the ‘doozy’. Right away I think about the pain my legs are going to feel and as I start to ascent I think about the hills that are going to follow this one. It was at that moment, that I said to myself, “Trace, be present.” How did I do this? Let’s go back to the two ways I choose to live my life and see how I applied it to this massive hill climb.
Be mindful – Recognize the physical pain. Recognize the future-thinking thoughts. Now let those thoughts go. Remember why I am doing this Ride; there is a very good reason I chose to participate. Remember that.
Be present – Be in the moment! I have a challenge in front of me. The only way I can get through it is to face it. Feel the burn and love the burn! Focus on each movement my body is making. How is my position on the bike? Am I pulling up with as much force as pushing down? Am I breathing? These are the questions I answered as I carried on up the hill. Every breath I took, I carried it to the place of discomfort. After refocusing my thoughts on the present moment (and glancing down at the names on my bike), I was able to tackle that hill with positive energy and before I knew it, I made it to the top.
Be happy – Because of the two aforementioned actions (being mindful and present), I had conquered that hill like a champ! I was elated and I remember so clearly that it was at this point where a new found energy came from within. I rode with such power the rest of the way (not without a few more hill climbs and the exact same thought process as above). But I didn’t let myself forget, I was riding this Ride for a reason and I couldn’t be happier that I was a part of this amazing event.
The past is in the past… – I couldn’t change the physical aches and pains I was feeling. Day 1 saw the longest ride I had done in a year. This was my own doing; I didn’t train enough. I knew Day 2 would be tough but there was nothing I could do about my lack of training now.
…and the future depends on our actions in the present – Thinking about the hills to come wouldn’t benefit me at all. Thinking about how many more kilometers to go wouldn’t benefit me at all. What would benefit me was focusing on the present hill; I can’t get to the next hill without completing this one. Would I finish this Ride? Well I would have to climb to the top of this hill first. Crossing the finish line depended on taking each challenge (hill climb) one at a time.
So 200 km later and $6.2 million raised (for Peter Mac Cancer Centre) by 1600 riders, I am happy to report I completed this Ride! Physically exhausted…but so unbelievably happy.
~ Tracy Stoessiger
Wow! While we might not all have Tracy’s drive to take on a physical challenge, I know we have all agreed to do things or participate in things that leave us wondering, “how did I get myself into this?” Which is usually followed by, “how the hell do I get myself out of this?” I know it has happened to me on many occasions. Tracy’s advice to focus on the present hill instead of the hills to come is perfect advice. Crossing the finish line really does happen one hill, one challenge, one day at a time; whether it is a physical challenge or not.
Have you ever found yourself in over your head after agreeing to take on something? Maybe you agreed to make a speech, plan an event, or take on a new task at work that you have never done before. How did you overcome this? Share your comments below, we would love to hear from you! If you have a specific question or comment for Tracy you can also post this in the comments section.
Thank-you Tracy for sharing your story and your wisdom. You are an amazing inspiration and I am grateful that you are a part of my life despite the many miles that divide us!