When I was teenager, I was a competitive alpine ski racer with the Rabbit Hill Alpine ski team. I remember one afternoon the team was on our way back to the hotel from a day of training at Lake Louise. Our coach pulled the van over on the side of the highway – a short distance from the bottom of the hill leading up to the hotel and said “ok guys – see you back at the hotel for dinner” . I’ve always remembered him laughing diabolically as he drove off – but I probably made that part up. We started running along the highway.
We tend to avoid things we don’t like
I’ve never been fond of running. I look up and to the left and can see my goal – the hotel up a the top of the hill/mountain. I figure – I can hop that fence – cut across that field, climb that hill and TOTALLY save time and effort. So I did. Through the knee deep snow, over the fence, and through the field. My team mates were yelling – and I waved them off. “See you at the hotel suckers!”. In hindsight, this was mistake number one. At the time though – this was fun. I remember feeling incredibly excited – incredibly alive. Until I came to the creek. Well now what. It was too wide to jump, I didn’t know how deep it was and getting wet in the middle of nowhere – in the middle of winter is usually a bad idea.
Take a left. Follow the creek. In hindsight this was mistake number two. I don’t know what I was thinking – but hey I was 16, indestructible and alone in the Canadian Rockies. I was having a blast. Ok now I’ve been running for a while. Keep in mind that up here in the winter it starts to get dark pretty early. Like 4pm early. I don’t know how long I’ve been running but I’m pretty sure I’m now running the wrong way. Wait what is that noise…is that howling?
Howling and fish and no turning back
Now I’m feeling a little vulnerable. There are wolves and its getting dark. The idiot in me ignored the suggestion made by someone in my head to turn back and follow my tracks. “That would take me back to where I started!” I argued with myself. I trudged on. After a bit I saw a light. This was a good sign! I run to the light and found a building. I opened the door and stepped inside and a loud alarm sounded. It was a fish hatchery and a few more steps would have resulted in falling into a tank of baby fish. Well at least it was a sign of society and most importantly a place I could survive a wolf onslaught. Fortunately for me – there is still no mistake number three.
Back to society and almost there
Keep on running. Up ahead – I see life. The best part is its not the kind of life that would try and kill and eat me – it was humanoid. Turn on the gas. I think I may have scared the crap out of these people. I ran up almost full speed yelling “heyyyy stoppp!!” – at this point I should probably add I had shoulder length bright pink hair. Hey it was the 90s =). Once I assured them I was not a crazy person on drugs coming to axe murder them – they told me I was at a golf course and pointed me towards the gate. Run run run.
I get to the parking lot and ultimately back onto the road. I look around and realize – I’m now several miles BEHIND where I started. A few choice words are said and I suck it up and start running. After a while I see tracks running off into the ditch and across the field. A few minutes later I turn onto the road up the hill to the hotel. I hear a honk behind me and an old Volkswagen van pulls over “Hey man – do you want a ride up the hill?” says the ski bum in the van. “No thanks – I think I think I’ll just keep running”. The van pulls away and I keep running. In hindsight that was the first smart thing I did all afternoon. I arrive back at our hotel about 7pm. Its dark, I’m hungry and I’ve missed dinner.
The lessons of this day have stuck with me for almost two decades now. I think of this afternoon often as I make choices in my life. Taking shortcuts while attempting to reach your goals – especially with regards to fitness – if you even get where you want to get will usually cost you more.. Though in this case, fitness wise, my shortcut probably paid dividends with all the extra running – my goal was to reach the hotel and that was much delayed by my shortcut. My coach breathed a huge sigh of relief when he saw me and I received a much deserved tongue lashing.
There is no magic health and fitness pill. Just hard work and proper nutrition.