Category Archives: Adventure

Half Dome – Yosemite National Park

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June 6, 2019

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

16 Miles Round Trip

4,800 Feet of Elevation Gain.

400 Feet of Steel Cable assistance.

12 Hours up and back from the Valley

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It wasn’t supposed to happen—at least the odds were totally against me.

  • There’s a 2-7 percent chance of receiving a permit to climb the Half Dome Cables (the final 400 feet of the 8-mile-one-way ascent). People apply for years without getting a permit. I applied and received one for the first full day we were set to be in California.
  • The cables generally go up around Memorial Day each year, but the date is approximate—not official, as the set-up of the cables depends on the aftermath of winter. This winter, for Yosemite, was brutal. On April 1 of this year, the park measured at 176% of it’s average snow pack, making it difficult to estimate when the cables would be safely put in place and available to climb. From mid-May through June 3 – there was no estimated date of the cables opening. The hike was likely to be cancelled. My hopes dwindled. But then, by some miracle, Yosemite announced that the cables would official open on June 6, 2019. I don’t know what those odds were compared with receiving a permit, but I know they were small.

I had my permit. The cables went up. The only other thing out of my control was the weather the day of the hike: which fortunately, proved to be beautiful.

From mid-March through June 5, I trained, hiking over 70 miles in preparation for the challenge ahead. I used my days off to go to the Catskills, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, and PA – where I could get an elevation gain I couldn’t get from city streets. I worked out at the gym 2-3 times a week and followed the program my trainers provided. We built my lower body strength, my endurance, and my upper body strength so I could pull myself up the cables. I didn’t want to just complete my challenge—I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to reach the top and not dread the 8 mile return. I wanted to reach the top and feel like I could do it all over again—like I’d want to do it all over again, like I could keep going and reach the top of any summit I wanted to reach.

The trek was unlike anything I ever experienced. I woke up at 4:15am, drove to the base of the mountain, met my guide, Maddie, from Lasting Adventures, and we took off. What began as a gentle incline quickly took the form of a steep ascent through the Mist Trail where Vernal Falls crashes from above. With the high snow pack/snow melt the Mist Trail may have more aptly been referred to as the Monsoon Mountain, as the wind and water whipped at us: the climbing steps with deep puddles. Not even an hour into our hike and we were drenched, our boots filled with water. In another scenario—I may have been miserable–but instead, the moment felt magical. This was the mountain’s territory—and it gets to choose the conditions: not us. We wrung out our socks, poured the puddles out of our shoes, and got back to hiking, quickly. We followed the trail up to Nevada Falls where we took a twenty minute break. Two hours in and we still had 4.5 miles to go to the top. The views were amazing, but there was little time to waste: the journey was still long ahead. We continued on, passing Little Yosemite Valley and meeting other hikers. As we gained altitude, my pace slowed, and my breathing became heavier. Every few steps, we took a break. We closed our eyes and listened to the rushing water through the park. We slowed our heart rates. We continued on. The only worry now was the threat of storms. But the clouds were moving – and it was clear, nothing was going to stand in the way of the cables and me. As I grabbed a hold of each cable I began my climb. My arms tired after each big pull, but that did not stop me. As we reached about halfway up the 400 foot incline, I took a few deep breaths. I let some of the people who were going down pass me. I forged on. And then. I was there—the top of Half Dome. I had made it. The emotions began pulsing through me like the creeks and streams and rivers and falls through the mountain.

After six hours of hiking – taking in the views, scrambling up parts of the sub dome and then ascending the cables –I had done it. I had reached the summit. I looked down at the Valley floor below. Tears began to stroll down my face. I imagined this moment. I changed my screensaver at work to Half Dome. I closed my eyes and envisioned it. The hard work – it was all worth it. But it wasn’t just me who had reached this summit.

It was my guide who was next sitting next to me sharing in lemon scones. It was my fiancé who had patiently sat through my stress and anxIMG_2558iety whether the cables would ever go up: who supported me and cheered me on each week as I woke up before dawn to head out to another mountain. It was my trainers at the gym who listened to my goals and pushed me each and every day of my program to exceed expectations. It was my friends and family who knew of the challenge I had set out on—and encouraged me to do it. We were all on the summit in that moment. We were all there breathing it in. It took about 6 hours to return to the base of Half Dome–6 hours of which I was in spectacular awe of the journey I was lucky enough to go on.

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Life is unpredictable. Some things just aren’t meant to be—and other things—well they just are. I truly believe this journey was meant to be and I am forever grateful for the opportunity I had to climb Half Dome: To see the whole valley with a bird’s eye view; to stand 8,000 feet above sea level and feel the rush of accomplishment in completing a challenge, I set out, so long ago to do. I am forever grateful for this memory, for Half Dome inviting me to experience it–for getting to meet this mountain.

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Never Have I Ever (Until Now): The Prologue

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Five years ago, this last week, I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now) – The Prologue

Find your passion and run with it. Don’t look back. Thank the people who call you crazy–anyone who’s crazy enough to pursue their dreams is strong enough to achieve them too.

An Intro

“You really need to quit something,” My supervisor tells me as she walks by my office door. “You’re taking on too much.”

My supervisor is right–I’m taking on a lot.

It’s January of 2012. I’m an associate television producer for the City of New York who has recently, in her free time, started writing and performing stand up comedy, perfecting her drawing skills, training for her second half-marathon, and doing photography with a digital SLR. And now I am signing myself up for an acting workshop.

My day planner is filling up faster than a doctor’s office during flu season.

My mom would tell you that I was just as active as a kid as I am when my supervisor tells me that I need to quit something. When I was younger, I played field hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball, and softball. I’d attempted the clarinet, I’d tip-toed through a ballet class, I’d sailed in a lake, I’d canoed across a pond, and I kayaked down a river. My parents would rush me from one athletic practice to another; from one gym and on to the next. I was relentless. I never stopped.

But then I grew up, and my willingness to try new things suddenly came to a halt. For several years, I was in a funk. I had fallen into depression and I had forgotten how to live life fully and completely. I would say that I wanted to try something and then I’d never try it. I’d fear failure or judgment from my peers. And instead, I’d mope on my couch about how I’d never be good at anything. I’d lost my sense of wonder. I had lost my yearning for learning new things. I had lost my smile, my laughter, my sense of joy. I had concerned myself so much with destinations that I had forgotten that what really mattered was the journey.

With the new activities, the stand up comedy, the drawing, the photography, and the acting, I felt that I was finally opening myself up to a life that I had been letting slip to the way side. And now, suddenly, I felt as though the progress I was making with the activities was being threatened as my supervisor told me that I needed to quit something.

I didn’t want to quit anything. I didn’t want to limit my life to going to work, coming home, cooking (or getting take out) and going to sleep. I didn’t want to experience living solely from the couch in my artist loft.

So instead of heeding my supervisor’s advice, in February of 2012, I set out on a yearlong quest in the hope of navigating my way to a life that extended beyond my 9-5 job and beyond the sadness I had sulked in for years. I decided that in opposition to quitting anything, I instead wanted to try one new activity or hobby each week for an entire year.

I started to brainstorm names for the quest and came up with “The Hobby Hoarder.” I used my lunch to draw logos on blank pieces of paper and to write lists of hobbies or activities that I could try that I had never tried before. I hadn’t even started the project and I was beaming with excitement.

Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to brainstorm on the year, and began telling people what I was going to do. As I sat down to coffee with a friend, she said, “So you are going to live like you are dying.”

My eyes brightened. “No. I’m going to live like I am living!”

The truth is that I don’t believe we should live as if we are dying. Instead, I think we should live each day as though it’s one of our firsts: full of excitement and ambition, full of curiosity, full of fear, full of imagination, and full of wonder, full of an openness toward whatever comes our way—that’s right—we should live each day like it’s our first.

For so long, I had forgotten what firsts felt like. When we are young, our firsts are celebrated with smiles and applause and sometimes balloons. First step. First word. First hit in tee-ball. First A+. But somewhere between the time we share our first kiss and the time we hit our twenties, we lose our thirst for the sensation we feel when we experience something for the first time. Firsts can make us realize what we are passionate about: Maybe you’ve never taken a dance class before but when you do you figure out that you’re meant to be the next Beyonce. Maybe you’ve never swung from a trapeze before, but that first time you do, you realize you’re meant to be in the circus. Or maybe you’ve never piloted a plane before, but then you do and you discover that you were always meant to fly.

Firsts can make life worth living. But when we hit a certain age, it’s almost as if we forget to let ourselves experience those firsts. We get caught in “Busy traps” (NyTimes) and “life takes over.” But that’s not true. Life doesn’t take over: Work takes over—financial restraints take over. Think about the last time someone asked you to do something and you said you couldn’t. What was your excuse? If you’re without children was it work? Was it money? Life clearly does not take over. If anything, life takes a backseat ride.

Too many times, we get so caught up in our daily routines and our jobs that the only thing we concern ourselves with when we get home is kicking back.

But that’s not how life’s supposed to be—not at all. Life is supposed to be enjoyable. Life is supposed to be full of challenges—and then exceeding our expectations of those challenges. Life is supposed to be full of fear and overcoming that fear. It is supposed to be about saying I’d love to do that and then actually doing it. Surprisingly life is supposed to be about living.

I hope that before you continue reading this book, you’ll step away. You’ll grab a pen and a paper—and you’ll start writing down everything you want to try this year—that you’ll make your own quest—to live.

And if you haven’t stepped away yet, and have disobeyed my only wish, then welcome! Strap on your seat belts, make sure your seats are in their upright position, understand that the only emergency exit is to live your own life—and that it’s now time to take flight. Literally.

All Aboard.

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Moving Forward

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted—and to be honest it had been a while since I had hobbied. 2014 has been an interesting year—between a small biking accident, breaking my hand in April and then spraining my ankle in July, I’ve spent more time on the mend than I have on my feet.

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And I’ll just say it: those four months were really, really difficult.

But they were more difficult than they should have been:

because I chose to let them be.

A good friend of mine is currently reading the book “Dear Sugar,” by Cheryl Strayed. And throughout our trip to Orlando, she went about reading me brief blurbs from different chapters—brief blurbs that affected her and that in turn affected me.

One of those blurbs happened to hit me just before we entered the 165 mile per wind tunnel at iFly Orlando —where I officially broke my hobby hiatus:

“You do not have the luxury of despair.”

Sitting cross-legged on top of a cabinet, I stared at the group of people who were indoor skydiving ahead of us, and I breathed into that thought and repeated it in my head several times:

You do not have the luxury of despair.

 When bad things happen—we are very quick to issue blames of circumstance, to sit and to brood. To over-think. To think all of our issues are worse than those of the person next to us. To fall into traps that “the world is out to get us.” And that “Life is just so not fair.”

The small things become big.

So when each of my physical incidents happened, I went through a series of heightened emotions:

First I was sad—then I accepted it—and by the time I sprained my ankle, I was angry.

But it wasn’t fair to me or the gift I was being granted: the gift of time to sit with myself, time to give my body the break it deserved, and time to heal.

Yes. I said it.

Hurting myself over and over again was a gift.

Through those four months, I learned a lot about myself. I learned how to listen to my body. I learned how to ease back into things. I learned how I deal with injury; I learned about my level of neediness—and selfishness; I learned about how to control my neediness and selfishness; I learned when I am both my worst and best version of myself.

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And above all: I learned how to accept that not everything will always go the way we’d hoped it would—but that’s okay.

 Because no matter what—we have only one option:

 

And that’s to move forward.

 

And what better way to move forward—than to fly:

 Special Thanks
iFly Orlando

Special Thanks
The Albertsons

 

iFly Orlando
6805 Visitors Circle, Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 903-1150

 

 

Top 10 Hobbies

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A lot of people ask me what my FAVORITE hobby has been. I usually answer that piloting a plane was my favorite hobby–and that I’ll be looking to earn my pilot’s license after this year. That’s 100 percent true, but ranking hobbies at all is incredibly difficult, because each one has done an incredible job in helping me to overcome fears, build courage and manage both my mental and physical strength. Additionally–for several of the hobbies, friends joined me–and being able to watch some of them overcome their fears was more often more rewarding than anything else. AND one of my favorite parts of the year outside of the hobbies that I did–was watching a friend complete her own challenge: Tears came to my eyes as Rena completed her 100th Bikram Yoga class in under 100 days. What I can’t drive home any more is that it’s not until we try everything–that we realize just how capable we are of anything. I hope that these posts do nothing more than inspire you.

If I had to answer “the top 10” questions, this is how the activities would play out from 10 to 1 (1 being my absolute favorite):

10. Ziplining 

“At 650 feet in the air going that fast, let me tell you something,  you’re not thinking about falling to your doom–you’re thinking about living. You’re thinking about how free you feel–how amazing of an experience you are having, how you don’t want this 3,200 foot zip to ever end, and how your smile is going to be plastered to your face for the next few days after completing this. No, you aren’t thinking about falling–you aren’t thinking about landing–You are indeed doing nothing but living.”

9. Subway Singing / Dancing

“It’s great to see what makes people really crack a smile.”-Grant Ryan

8. Chess

” The truth is, when a stranger has faith in you—after only moments of knowing you—it is an incredible feeling—and it makes you wonder how you’ve ever doubted yourself.

Checkmate.”

7. Pon De Flo

“Halfway through class, I had a hobby breakthrough: As I began giggling to myself while I messed up another dance move (sorry Heather!), I noticed that I didn’t care if people thought I was America’s next best dancer–I didn’t care if people saw me mess up–and I didn’t care if my right foot accidentally went when my left foot was supposed to. Eventually, I felt tears begin to fill my eyes. I wasn’t in pain–and I wasn’t ready to run out of the room screaming. No, instead the tears had developed because a great amount of pride had come over me. I realized in that moment, that the fears and worries that I had carried with me just 11 months prior had now dissipated completely. While it may sound insignificant when written down, it was one of the highest points of my hobby year, because it had meant that the hobby year was coming full circle–revealing bits and pieces about myself and how far I’d come, without me realizing that it would.”

6. Surfing

“As I surfed closer to shallow waters, I splashed off the board and was congratulated with a nose and mouthful of salt  water. When I surfaced–I fist pumped into the air, and yelled “I did it.” Joel looked at me and smiled from a distance, though I’m not sure he actually heard me with the crashing white waters. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t do this for him–or for anyone else–I did this for myself.”

5. Meditation

I had escaped–I took a quick short vacation, a brief leave from the world. I spent time sitting still in a moment of ultimate calmness. What one could consider a thing of beauty.”

4. Chalking Happiness

“And what I learned most about happiness–aside from where to find it (ahem, again, everywhere): was that much like my chalked out versions of the word: Happiness doesn’t always come in a straight line–in one swoop–or even in one size–but it always, always feels good.”

3. Trapeze

In the end, all that matters is having the courage to jump.”

2. Hang Gliding & Skydiving (tie)

“I open my eyes back up, and I take in the world around me. I don’t want to lose this feeling–this feeling that nothing can knock me down, this feeling of being able to hold the entire world in my arms and hug her tight–this feeling that I am flying–this feeling that I am living. “

I’ve learned this year that the more you let yourself “just do” the less you try to stop yourself–the more you go with your heart’s desires–the more your fears subside–and the more fun you have. And life is supposed to be about having fun.”

1. Piloting a Plane

I enjoyed piloting a plane so much that I just had to do it twice…There is absolutely nothing more freeing than using the plane to paint the canvas of the world down below.

“No fear. No looking back. No hesitation. I was–and still am–on top of the world.”

“I don’t believe that I’ve ever taken on a challenge of such great magnitude before–one that set me off into the world to tackle my fears, overcome my personal issues, and become an all around go-getter. This flight, now, gave me the time to see that.”

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The Hobby Hoarder Ziplines

The Hobby Hoarder Dances her Pants off

The Hobby Hoarder Flies a Plane

“Scratching the Sky”

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I recently came across this documentary which is both visually stunning and emotionally heart warming. I won’t say much more than that–I’ll let the video speaks for itself. I truly hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

“Sometimes the biggest risk we can take is to truly live.” – Scratching the Sky

Skydiving: Round 2

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It’s midnight. I’m wide-eyed and my mind is racing. “Tomorrow,” I think. “Tomorrow I am skydiving again.” My mind continues, “Do I really want to skydive tomorrow?” “I got sick the last time I went skydiving, and that wasn’t so pretty, but I still had an amazing time, and well tomorrow I’m sure…I’m sure I’ll still have an amazing time…” I hear noises from another room of the house I am staying at in Rhode Island.

“We’re going skydiving tomorrow!!!!” I hear my friend Lauren shout. Then tap, tap, tap. She comes running out of her room and pushes my door. “Libby! We are going skydiving tomorrow.” I hear her giggle again and tap, tap, tap, back to her room. I smile. I swing my legs out of the bed and I walk over to the room Lauren and her friend Kat are staying in: “Getting excited I ask,” with a grin on my face.

They both nod happily, and then begin to ask me questions about my first experience. I tell them everything, from the preparation, to the boarding the plane, to the jump. I tell them we won’t die (hehe) and that it will be a lot of fun, that they are doing something brave and awesome and amazing. I watch them get excited all over again, and then I excuse myself to go to sleep. As I lie back down, I can hear them still chatting–their voices an octave higher than they usually are. I wonder if they’ll sleep at all, but their excitement calms me.

The truth is that I wasn’t sure I wanted to skydive so soon after my first experience last year.  I knew I wanted to try it again, but I wasn’t positive this was the right time. However, a new friend of mine, Danny had expressed interest in going on an adventure so after deciding against a bungee jump trip to Canada, I told him we could go skydiving. A few other friends of mine were also interested in joining–and they were located in Rhode Island, so I made us all a reservation up at Skydive Newport. When I went to meet Danny, I was nervous about the weekend. I didn’t know Danny all that well and if he wasn’t super excited–I knew it would be difficult to get through another skydive, since it hadn’t been my top priority. Safe to say–Danny was super excited, and the moment we saw each other in Penn Station, I felt waves of positive energy. “This is going to work out just fine,” I thought to myself.

It’s now 1:00am and I am drifting in and out of sleep. I can hear the girls still chit chatting away about the jump in the morning. Danny is asleep downstairs on a couch. But I can feel the energy still buzzing around me. And even if skydiving wasn’t exactly my first choice for a hobby to repeat right away, I am now suddenly overwhelmed with excitement myself–not for me jumping, but for my friends who have never jumped before. THIS is what I love about the hobby hoarder project–going on adventures with others, listening to their excitement, and having the opportunity to see others be completely open to trying something new and taking risks and challenging themselves.  “Tomorrow is going to be awesome,” I tell myself as I fade into a deep sleep.

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When we wake up in the morning, we’ve got an hour drive to Newport. As we drive, Danny turns to me, “I’m so excited. I just want to jump now.” I smile. Again, THIS is what excites me about hobby hoarding.

We arrive at Skydive Newport, sign away our lives, empty out our wallets, watch a safety video and then head outside to take our turns jumping out of an airplane. Lauren and Kat go first. They’ve opted to wear the jump suits and are hopping up and down with joy. Not before long, they disappear onto an airplane with their tandem instructors. A group of us watches as the plane takes off and they disappear into the higher altitudes of the sky–the buzzing engine allows us to follow where they are. Ten minutes pass and we watch as two specks fall through the sky. Less than a minute later we see the shoots pulled one each of the jumpers. “Ah I just want to jump now,” I proclaim, almost surprised to hear it come out of my mouth.

Time slows down for us in the spectator booth as Lauren and Kat float to the ground. I cross my fingers hoping they loved it–hoping no one got sick the way that I did the first time–and hoping the first things out of their mouth will be something like “That was amazing,” or “I just want to go again right now.” They start briskly walking over to us and I can very clearly make out giant smiles on their faces. Lauren runs over to her Dad and gives him a hug yelling how much fun it was. THen she comes over to me and gives me a hug, thanking me for planning the trip–exclaiming how much of a high she is now on. Kat does the same.

“Success,” I think. “Just their smiles right now mean this trip is a success.”

Danny and I are next.

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We follow our tandem instructors into a small five person airplane. I’m much calmer than I was the first time I went skydiving. I wasn’t scared when I went the first time, but I can remember my adrenaline rushing, I can remember just wanting so badly to jump out of the airplane for such a free feeling. And I can remember it all happening so fast that I got sick on my own adrenaline. This, right now, is a different experience. I feel the plane leave the ground and I look out the window.  The sky is void of any clouds and the water down below is reflecting a beautiful blue. The Newport Bridge stands out and I watch as the houses get smaller down below. This view is stunning.

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My instructor tells me we are getting close to jumping altitude and asks me to put on my goggles. I do. He tightens them. I take a look over to my friend Danny. He’s ready. I can tell. His tandem instructor pops open the door and they begin making their way toward the edge. Before I know it, Danny has disappeared out of the airplane, and now it’s my turn. Nicky, my instructor, and I move toward the edge of the plane.

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He tells me to go out a little further and I oblige, smile for the camera and then feel ourselves flip out of the airplane. Unlike my first jump, the world seems to slow down. Free fall feels less intense and I actually take in my surroundings. I’m present. The adrenaline hasn’t taken over my body, and it’s kind of an incredible feeling. I’m breathing easy. I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe the first time I jumped out of an airplane.

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Fifty seconds later, Nicky pulls the chute and I feel ourselves abruptly slow down. He instructs me to take off my goggles. I’m in awe, still as I take a moment to breathe in the fresh air. “Gosh. This is beautiful. I feel as though I can hold the whole world in my arms.”

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Again, I feel present. The parachute ride feels a lot less intense than the first one I did. This time, the instructor allows me to control the direction of the shoot. This time, I don’t get sick. “I’m flying,” I say to Nicky. “I’m really flying.”

As we come in for landing, I giggle with joy and Nicky and I exchange high fives.

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And then I cross my fingers for Danny’s reaction. “I want to do it again,” he says. I laugh. I kind of do too.

 We run over to our friends in the spectator booth. I look at everyone and proudly exclaim, “I didn’t vomit this time!” They all laugh and we hug it out–excited about the feat we’ve just accomplished, the adventure we’ve just gone on, the chance we’ve just given ourselves to embrace life and the opportunities we are granted. My friends thank me again for setting it up–and I thank them for being up for it–and for getting me to be up for it again too–and for getting me excited all over about it again.

That’s what life is about–getting excited, and about being open to trying new things and being open to trying things again and seeing how the experience differs. It’s about taking off or jumping (literally and metaphorically) and knowing that life’s accidental blessings will catch you. It’s about going on the adventures we’ve always said we wanted to. It’s about living the life we’ve always said we wanted to. So remember–beyond all the fears you feel when you set out to try something new or when you decide to take on a challenge,  get excited—and embrace the opportunities. And most of all–when you do decide to jump (literally and or metaphorically), don’t forget to just enjoy the view.

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Special Thanks

Skydive Newport

Rugged Maniac

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“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
-Thomas A. Edison

“I didn’t train enough.” “I won’t be able to complete the obstacles.” “What the hell was I thinking?”

It’s a week before my first obstacle course 5k, and I am silently talking myself down.

Just a few months earlier, I excitedly signed up for a race called the “Rugged Maniac” which is “a 3.1-mile course filled with 20+ obstacles designed to push you to your limits!” The obstacles range from crawling underneath wire to jumping barricades, and from dodging swinging tires to swimming through mud pools. When I signed up, I figured it would be much more doable for me than say a 10 mile tough mudder. But suddenly, as I sneak a peek through the full obstacle list, I can feel my optimism sink to pessimism. I turn to a co-worker and tell her, “CRAP. Look at this obstacle. How will I EVER be able to do that?!”

I think about texting my friend Neil and canceling on him. I think about telling him I’d love to still come watch our crew compete, but that I’ll have to sit this one out. At the time, I’m not sure what I’m more concerned about–thinking I haven’t trained enough to tackle a 5k with 20 obstacles–or the thought of possibly holding back my teammates by being unable to complete the course.

Somehow I talk myself out of texting Neil.

“You’ll be okay, Libs. You got this.”

What I’ve learned this past year is that we can often be really good at talking ourselves out of things, but that it takes discipline and strength to remind ourselves that the things we fear doing are often times the most rewarding to tackle.

When the Rugged Maniac rolled around last Saturday, I threw on my race day clothes: black shorts, black tank, yellow glasses and a black bandana. Safe to say, I looked like a bumble bee warrior.

I then laced up my sneakers–an old pair of nikes that I didn’t mind ruining in the mud obstacles–and headed out the door to meet my teammates who had driven up from Pennsylvania. Our team consisted of my good friends and brothers: Neil, Nick, & Ross; and Ross’s girlfriend Martina.

As I climbed in the car, my nerves continued to rumble. I’ve competed in a lot of races–but never have I done one that would test me in such a way as this. Normally, for me, races are a good test of stamina, endurance, and leg power. This race would require more–it would require upper body strength, something I’ve lacked for most of my life. But again, I didn’t want to disappoint my teammates. Each of the brothers and Martina had done a series of tough mudders and longer obstacle courses in the past, so I knew that they were much more prepared for this than me. “I hope I don’t die,” I exaggerated in the car.

Less than an hour later I was standing in line to check our bag for the race. While I patiently awaited my turn to check the bag, I turned to the couple behind me and struck up a conversation. I asked if they had ever done one of these races before. The man looked at me and smiled, “Yep. They are a good challenge. I broke my ankle on the last one I did.”

And that was the end of our conversation.

After I checked our bag, our team of five headed to the start line where we were greeted with our first obstacle–a five foot barricade that needed to be hopped before you could even cross the start line. With the help of Ross, I made it over. “Oh boy. For each of those, I hope you know I’ll need your help.” Ross smiled. “No problem.”

And then it was go-time.

Within moments, we were faced with rolling hills of dirt. Without thinking, I raced up and down the hills. As I reached the last one, I heard a scream and watched as a woman face planted into the concrete below. “Shit. Okay, forget about it and move on,” I sighed to myself.

The five of us continued on through the next series of obstacles which included a military style sprint through tires that were set on the ground. “I can do this,” my confidence grew as I successfully completed the tire challenge without clumsily stumbling. Next up was the flying tires, crawling underneath wire, and more barricades. Ross got down on a knee and helped me climb each of the barricades.

I could feel myself starting to breathe heavier, and I told the team that if they needed to get ahead–they could, and not to feel bad, that I would catch up.

Neil looked at me and laughed. “Libs. Our team name is Libsters > Hipsters. If we leave you behind, the hipsters win. That’s not going to happen.”

I laughed. I was grateful to be with a team for a race like this. I knew that their support would get me through the series of obstacles that we still had yet to complete including a rope climb over a slanted barricade, 100 yards of hurdles, endless ladder like barricades, a balance beam and several mud pools.

In an hour’s time we closed in on one of our final obstacles: crawling tunnels–which required us to slide through a downhill tunnel, crawl through a pool of mud, and then pull ourselves up via rope through an uphill tunnel.

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 11.19.57 AM-Photo Credit: Rugged Maniac

As I went to climb through the uphill part, I could feel my feet losing their grip in the tunnel. A woman had already started her ascent through the tunnel, and put her hand up out in front of her. “Here, push off of my hand, you got this,” she shouted.

With a little push, I got myself through the tunnel and out into the open. My teammates were patiently awaiting. “You good Libs?” I looked at the woman who had just helped me complete the last obstacle, “Better than good. Let’s do this.”

Within fifteen more minutes, we made it to our final obstacle: “A sui-slide” which was a giant inflated slide into a pool of mud. But before getting to take the plunge, we’d have to climb to the top which included an inclined barricade that would need be to climbed with the help of a rope; an inclined net, and another laddered barricade. My teammates asked me if I would be good. Confidentially, I said yes. As I looked up, I remembered something that my good friend David told me during our road trip. “Do one thing every day that scares you. And then do one thing every day that terrifies you.” I was definitely living out this mantra.

I grabbed a hold of the rope and started my climb. However, unlike the last roped incline I tackled, my feet were now covered in slick  mud. Several steps from the top of the incline, I could feel my feet begin to slip out from underneath me. Holding the rope tight, my body banged against the wall. I managed to pull myself back up to my feet and give it another attempt–again slipping. Nick was waiting at the top. He reached out his hands grabbed me. Ross met him, and grabbed my other hand. “Don’t worry Libs, we aren’t gonna let you fall.” As they started to pull I kicked my legs. And with one more tug, I was over the first part of the uphill obstacle.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I regained my composure.

I really did have the best teammates a girl could ask for.

But before the guys could let me get too sentimental for them helping me, we all climbed the final two parts of the uphill battle before having the chance to  hit the sui-slide.

As we crossed the finish line, I felt a giant burst of pride.  “That was awesome,” I cheered. Neil laughed at me.

It was just another reminder that sometimes the biggest obstacle we will face is “just doing it” in the first place.

Special Thanks, Neil, Nick, Ross & Martina

PRE RACE
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POST RACE
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