A couple weeks ago I section hiked 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail starting In North Georgia and ending in North Carolina. The hike was amazing but it was physically challenging. There were many significant climbs that really pushed my body. I was ready for it mentally. I have hiked here before and I am in relatively good shape but the climbs here were especially exhausting.
While climbing out of one of the gaps I passed a guy who was going extremely slow. Really, really slow. I thought to myself, “This guy will never make it”. And I kept heading up the hill. This was a tough climb near the end of the day so I stopped SEVERAL times before the top. While stopped and resting, this guy comes around the corner and passes me! This went on several times. I would blaze ahead and he would catch me. I realized that this was just like “The Tortoise and the Hare”!
I ended up introducing myself to the Tortoise and we talked a bit about his hike. His plan was to thru hike to Maine. We were similar in age but he had some health issues that required that he monitor his heart rate. He had a watch that kept his heart rate as he hiked. When we both hit the top of the mountain, I was going to camp and bail out early from exhaustion. He encouraged me to push on and join the group at a camp site about 5 more miles away. I sucked it up and hiked on. I pushed ahead and, true to the story, ended up arriving about 30 minutes before the Tortoise.
After contemplating what I saw, I realized the irony. The similarity to the story. The wisdom in going slower. I am conditioned to attacking the mountain. Attacking the task. Pushing really hard and getting it over with. The way of an athlete and an overachiever! But this method left me spent and exhausted. I was burning too much energy going too fast. The Tortoise was right. So going forward, I began monitoring my breathing to make sure I wasn’t pushing too hard. This way I had power remaining in my batteries to go longer. Attacking the mountain was NOT the best strategy.
I slowed my pace on the climbs and this made things much better. In the end, the time I lost going slower was not really significant. I was able to see more and keep the pain level contained which made things more enjoyable.
This lesson really spoke to the way I’m wired. I have always pushed super hard and this has been both good and bad. I accomplished a great deal but at a cost. This internal push has left me with a bad back, bad knees, countless missed opportunities and strained relationships. If I had to do it all over again I would use more restraint. Do a little less. Save myself for the important things instead of wasting myself on the task.
A great lesson learned on the trail- slow and steady wins the race!
So what do you think? Do you have a similar story? Press “leave and comment” and tell me what you think!