“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden.
I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.” –
Marjory Pay Hinkley
It was hard to focus the last lap of the race. This was my 5th time around the 16-mile course, and my 4th time in race-mode. It was hot. I’d been sick since the night before. The desert was profoundly beautiful, and in comparison to my night laps, the course was nearly clear of other riders. So my mind could race, pacing around this experience.
I took several moments as I flew down the trail to soak in the moment. My team was going to podium (5th place). All I had to do was finish in a reasonably strong time. I may not have this experience again, and I wanted to remember it. I wanted to memorize the heat in my lungs, the sound of my wheels on the dirt, the smell of the sage releasing its odors into the 90-degree air.
I sucked more water, and felt the sun burning on my arms, leaving a line where my team racing jersey crested my arm. And for these moments I was content.
It was maybe one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I don’t think I’ll be doing it again anytime soon. It was a 24-hour mountain bike race held just outside of Tucson, Ariz., in mid-February. I was on a team of five for the relay. I was the token lady, and I think I represented well – sick and all. For my first team sporting event, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
My husband, Dennis, wants to do one this year. Only instead of being on a team, he wants to do it solo. Round and round and round the same dirt trail for 24 hours. I spent two hours of our drive home questioning him, trying to understand why – WHY!?! – do we do this? Why does he want to do that? I’ve pushed myself very hard physically. And there are consequences. Days and days of recovery. And if you’re injured, weeks. Why do we do this to our bodies?
There are answers to this question as vast as the sands of the sea, because each one of us has our reasons for doing what we do. No, our choices are not often comfortable, but we must get something out of the experience or we wouldn’t punish ourselves so!
I think of my friend, Rachel, due this week with her third baby. She is suffering, and it’s a suffering I can sympathize with. But her reason for this suffering? A new baby. A new life.
Maybe that’s why we do it? Because it’s not the easy things but the challenging ones that make us, define us, stretch us, and we come out the other side with a new life. For me, I did it for one reason: my team. These four incredible gentlemen who invited me to join them in this endeavor. I pushed myself for them, and it was worth it.
So what hard things do you do, and why? How have you been altered, blessed with a new life, after each challenge is surmounted?
Elisa Jones is currently the chairman of the board of the Grand Valley Trails Alliance. She has degrees in science, music and business, but most of all she considers herself a teacher. A mother of three, she is an avid trail runner and mountain biker who gets her kicks practicing yoga, advocating for strong schools and indulging in dark chocolate.