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?– but 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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