While I was in college, I worked summers at a hotel in Glacier National Park. (If you were one of the myriad students who did the same, it was St. Mary Lodge & Resort, not the then-Greyhound-owned hotels). On our time off, we went hiking. We took all-day hikes, no matter what our condition going in. We were young and foolish, and our one day off a week (!) was precious, not a minute of it to be wasted. It was there that I learned the phrase, “We’re burning daylight!”
I remember my first hike, to Napi Point with two new friends from work. This was a rare up-and-down hike that didn’t require two cars–leaving one car at the end of the trail to drive back to the trailhead. We would exit the trail at the same point where we went in.
These young men hiked much faster than I did. I was a long-distance cyclist but I was coming off a broken ankle, and I was still not used to the elevation—4,750 feet at the foot of the mountain. The guys hiked hard. They would get far ahead, wait for me to catch up, and keep on going as soon as I caught up, never giving me a chance to rest.
That feeling I had that day comes back often, when people wait for me in all kinds of ways and keep going as soon as I catch up, or often they don’t wait up at all. I so often have the feeling that I can’t keep up.
Recently I had a work client invite himself along on a bike tour I was planning. We met on the phone in the course of my work for his company, and he hasn’t seen me and knows little about me besides the fact that I’m an avid cyclist and I live in a tiny house. His intention in inviting himself along couldn’t have been romantic interest; he was just anxious to meet up with another adult who wanted to go on the road with bikes and could take off work at the same time. That’s rare—the biggest barrier to group bike touring is the inability of people with different jobs in different fields to take the same time off work.
I’ve always preferred to ride alone and see friends at night on tour. This preference has solidified since I got hit. When I’m alone on the road, I feel strong and competent. I’m getting from Point A to Point B, never mind my speed. Some days I make great time, others I plod along. It makes no difference when you’re alone. I rest when I need to and don’t go on until I’m ready. I know that even on my worst day, most average people couldn’t keep up with me.
When you add in an experienced cyclist, especially a man, I’m right back on the trail in Montana with those guys, struggling to keep up. I hate being the straggler.
The same thing happens in other parts of life. I can be volunteering at an animal rescue event and when my pain sets in and I get tired, the other volunteers run circles around me. One of the ways I’ve coped with that is by scaling back my participation in those events and doing support work on my own that only I can do. Every fall I sew 50 lined wine bags for the Whatcom Humane Society fundraier gala. I have it down to a system and can knock them out in a few weeks, numb hand and all. Those wine bags are my unique contribution and the only thing I have to keep up with is the looming deadline of the event date.
I forget to plan for catching up sometimes. I recently returned from a bike trip and told my clients I’d be back in the office on Monday. I got in at 9 PM Sunday night, and I was in no condition to work Monday morning. That didn’t stop my phone from ringing. I should have known better and planned a day to recover before returning to work. It’s been 3 weeks and I still don’t feel like I’ve caught up (and I’m leaving again on Thursday!).
I remember strolling with the Fairhaven Ladies of the Evening Society, a local historical re-enactment group that celebrates my town’s original businesswomen. Wearing historically appropriate shoes was a challenge, and mine had a “wrong” rubber sole and low heel in order to be minimally tolerable. I had reached a point where every step was agony, and my heel was bleeding where my stocking rubbed behind my voluminous skirts. (As fun as it is, cosplay can be really hard for people with physical issues.) There was an old-timey band playing on the Village Green and one of the Ladies said, “Let’s dance!” Everyone started dancing with high kicks appropriate for the era, including then-72-year-old retired ballroom dancer Kitty Todd, and I sank onto a park bench while my friends tried to cajole me into joining the dance. I just couldn’t do it. That moment put me back in Glacier Park, on that mountain with those guys in my mind.
The two guys eventually left me behind, limping on my braced ankle. I reached the end of the trail and the car was long gone. I had to hitchhike back to the lodge with two older ladies. I picked them to ask for a ride because of the Bibles in their back window. As a college girl fresh from the suburbs, hitching a ride was truly terrifying. I figured this ride might be awkward, but probably not deadly. My boss saw me come back alone and limping, and the guys were fired and sent home. (Abandoning your hiking partner was a firable offense, even though we were not at work. It’s a matter of life and death in grizzly country.)
I got strong as the summer went on, but I never lorded that over my less fit hiking partners. When they caught up, breathless and exhausted, I offered them some water and trail mix, and we didn’t go until they got up and said it was time.
I wish the karma from that summer had followed me more closely and I never felt left in the dust that way again, but with my unpredictable condition affecting my endurance, it happens often.
Does this happen to you? How? Have you changed your behavior to avoid this situation? Tell us about that. And if you worked any summers in Roscoeville (St. Mary Lodge), tell me about that too.