Not the Weakest Link

The truth is, I’m the weak link on any kind of expedition. Hiking, biking, running, you name it. Unless I happen to be out alone, or with someone who is a rank beginner, I’m the person holding everyone else back.

Example, from last spring: K and I were climbing Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. Everybody and their cousin hikes up this mountain. My guidebook ranked it as moderately difficult, but the read-up included a cheerful account of climbing it with a small child. And, you know, everybody does this hike. The main trail was packed, so we took an alternate way. It was lovely, but it did make the climb a fair bit longer. We stupidly carried plenty of water, but little to no food. Once we were most of the way to the top, I realized I just couldn’t climb the rest of the way–not if I wanted to get down. I sat on a secluded patch of rock and took this photo:


which in my mind has always been captioned “Boots: A Portrait of Despair.” I was tired. I was hungry. We were a fair distance up a mountain.

K, on the other hand, blithely went on and took this photo from the top:


and then ran back down.

The way down was worse. The “regular” route was my worst trail nemesis–an endless, irregular staircase of broken granite. Half a mile from the car I stopped by the side of the trail, sobbing, while people in flip-flops jaunted past me. I finally pulled myself together, got back to the trail head, and bought the most delicious bag of M&Ms ever created. (Lesson of Monadnock: carry more snacks.)

The whole thing was more than a little humiliating. Even more so, in fact, because I just realized that this hike was the first I took with my Garmin. I went back to look it up, and the whole thing was four miles, with a little under 1500 feet of elevation gain.

My fitness has improved since last spring, beyond a doubt, but that hike still haunts me. We’re thinking about our upcoming vacations, and after every suggestion I think, “Well, I should wait until I’m stronger for that.”

No more. No more waiting. No more being stronger later. No more weakest link. I will be stronger and fitter and faster, starting now.