On February 21, 2023

Getting out there when your body doesn’t want to

By Merisa Sherman

Almost despairingly, I lifted my head. I could see the towers sticking up from the summit of Pico and they seemed so very small from so far away. I was worn out and frustrated, my skins sticking to the snow just enough to make each glide forward feel like a battle between me and the snow below. I could feel my brand new skins apologizing to me with each stride, as my hip flexors started screaming from exhaustion. 

I have done this commute countless times before and never seemed to struggle so much as today. Even post-injuries, this walk has seemed easy and if not easy, always smooth and graceful. A mellow stroll to the summit in direct comparison to the grueling hike up the front side. The pitch is perfect for an evening glide or a warm soak in the sun, the snow is usually at least partially groomed since it became an uphill travel route and the Pico tours always seem to move gradually forward. 

But not today. Today, each stride felt like a battle unto itself. I used to run up this route and today, each stride felt like a battle unto itself. I could barely breathe, each intake of air feeling forced and short, never quite filling my diaphragm or my lungs. No matter how strong my breath, I couldn’t get enough air. It hurt. I could feel the tinkling of the air as it went through my inflamed airways, each breath taking so much more effort than usual. 

Bronchitis sucks. That’s really alI wanted to say in this week’s column. I know, maybe you wanted to hear about the big snowfall that’s coming on the day you might be picking up this paper but when you’re struggling to breathe it’s hard to focus on anything else. I’ve slept 12-16 hours a day for almost a month, just getting out of bed enough to work and then hiding back under the covers. I’ve never been taken out by something so utterly before and the result was … a feeling of inadequacy and incompetence. 

And so here I was, forcing myself up the Hershey Highway to the summit of Pico at the slowest pace I could possibly imagine but still putting one foot in front of the other. I was torturing myself, committed to making it over to Forty-Niner and down Pico, even as my body fought me. My mind was stronger, my legs were stronger and I knew I could do this … even as I was reduced to coughing spells every five minutes. 

I was hoping that my body would take comfort in the familiar movement, that I would get lost in the glide like I had done so many times before and my mind would simply transplant me to another place in the world. Like getting lost in your meditation just by focusing on the repetitive flow of your breathing. Skinning, especially on the highway, has always been a form of moving meditation where the repetition of my breath and the movement of my body create a shift of consciousness that calms my mind and creates a heightened awareness. 

How do you accomplish that calm when every breath is a struggle?  When every breath reminds you of the suffering of your body rather than creates calm?  You persevere. You continue. You dig deep and rely on your willpower to keep your body moving even though you can feel the struggle flowing through you. Perhaps you repeat a mantra, trying to convince yourself that somewhere, buried deep inside you, is the inner strength to keep moving without surrendering.

Some days, it feels like the world is searching for a way to break you, to shove you so far down into the snow that you will asphyxiate before you even have a chance to begin.  But you have to believe, believe that hard work can overcome any self-doubt. That your breathing will continue, no matter how difficult the struggle, if you only continue to put one foot in front of the other. The doubt fades away as you repeat the movement, whether on the skin track, skiing Highline for the first time or making it to the mountain every day to get that 100 Day Club hat.  

Confucius, in his great wisdom, wrote that It does not matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop. Without perseverance, even the most skilled person will not achieve greatness. Without will power, a person cannot persevere. Combine these two and you can achieve almost anything -— including a very long skin up a mountain. It does not matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop. It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop. It does not matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop. 

Merisa is a long-time Killington resident, KMS coach, bartender and Realtor with Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty. She can be reached at femaleskibum@gmail.com. 




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