ego intact“You played the cancer card?” Mike asked, stunned. “You mean to tell me, you actually played the cancer card… this late in the game?”

“I’m afraid I had no choice…it wasn’t my fault… my ego was at stake,” I explained to¬†him, as I sipped on my red wine and told him the story of my day.

So here’s¬†the story: ¬†this past¬†Saturday, I¬†participated in an All Women, All Day, Nordic¬†Skate Ski Clinic in Waterville Valley, NH (I point out here that skate skiing¬†is the kind of nordic skiing that Olympians do.) My¬†day¬†started at 9:00 AM with coffee, fruit and trail mix, followed by a two hour¬†ski lesson, followed by lunch and health talk, followed by another two hour ski lesson, followed by yoga, followed by a “wine and wax technique” lesson at 4 PM (it makes me tired just writing that¬†description.)

Before I left, I summarized my day for Mike.

“Is that a¬†body wax technique session or ski wax technique session at 4PM” was his big question. ¬†I looked at him in amazement, wondering whether or not to give him a pass on this question. After all, it was an all day women’s clinic. ¬†Perhaps he was hoping I might come back with a Brazilian, and he wanted to manage expectations. And for sure, wine would go just fine with body waxing too.

“That would be¬†ski waxing,” I told him, and I could see he was deflated.

Off I went, energized by two double Nespressos, lugging two sets of long underwear, mittens, hat, neck warmer, hand warmers, water bottle, skis, poles, yoga mat and yoga pants and top.

But before I went, I took a photo of the temperature for Instagram, because you really can’t get a complete sense of the day without this mental image:

temperature below zero

And if I do say so myself, I was a star in the morning. I didn’t complain about the cold. ¬†I didn’t complain about my equipment. ¬†I didn’t complain that I hadn’t slept well the night before. In my¬†advanced beginner class, I showed off my V1’s and my V2’s (that would be skate skier talk.) ¬†When it was almost time to go in for lunch, I suggested we go around the pond for one more loop. ¬†I was so good, in fact, that my instructor suggested that in the afternoon, I go into the intermediate/advanced class. ¬†My ego was fully intact, but¬†didn’t bother to inform my¬†body it¬†was getting tired.

In the afternoon, fresh from hogging the best spot on the heater, changing my long underwear and downing a veggie wrap and water, I joined the more advanced class. Off we went, eight of us, with two instructors.  It was time for blue squares.  The group just took off.  No one had a problem with their skis, no one was confused about which way their straps went on.  No one hesitated, even for a second, as they raced toward the head of the trail. Immediately, I could smell trouble.

For the next hour and a half, I struggled, big time.  I was the one constantly bringing up the rear with the instructor (there is always one in a group, am I right?Рbut it is never me.) Every so often, everyone else got a nice long rest while they waited for me to catch up. I would have given a leg (gladly) for a rest like they got waiting for me.

I was sweating like a pig.  I could not catch my breath.

“I guess I’m not in as good shape as I thought,” I huffed, “I actually work out a lot, but I guess this is different. ¬†Maybe because it’s so cold out.”

“You’re doing great!” the teacher¬†encouraged. “But do you need a break? Let me know if you need a break.”

“Of course I need a f#%king break,” I thought to myself. But the group was way ahead already. ¬†I lied and told her I was fine, took a gulp¬†of water, and went on.

My legs were jello. ¬†My tempo was off. ¬†I stumbled. I couldn’t get up without somehow mustering the last bits of energy I had in reserve. ¬†And yet, on I went… up a¬†hill, down a hill, up another hill. The rest of the group was now nowhere to be seen.

Finally, halfway up the last hill, I just stopped. I was spent, physically and emotionally. I felt I had left my ego on the heater at the Nordic Center. I simply could not go on.

“You know,” I told my teacher, looking her right in the eye, “I am just really, really happy to be out here, in nature, getting physical exercise…”

And¬†then I just couldn’t help myself, “…especially when last winter, just a year ago…. I couldn’t get out at all….I was stuck lying on the couch….because of the chemo…” And I told her about the cancer, which was SO last year.

And at that moment I had a realization. ¬†I had successfully gone from the worst in the class¬†of “intermediate/advanced-women” skate skiers, to being the best in the class of¬†¬†“58 year-old-women-who-had-breast-cancer-and-got-out-of chemo-less-than-a-year-ago” skate skiers. ¬†In my class, I was still a star, because I was out there, and it hadn’t killed me.

It is always possible to make yourself a class of your own. And that is one sure way to keep your ego intact.

 

 

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