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Don't Stop on the Saddle!

DaRenda Hanson

Two weeks ago, I attended a retreat in Phoenix, Arizona with nine other female financial coaches. The weekend was fun and relaxing--the perfect getaway!

We all arrived at various times on Thursday, and before that most of us knew very little about one another. The first evening was laid back and mostly consisted of us hanging out around the island in the kitchen of the villa snacking, visiting, having a few drinks, and getting to know one another. We are all in various stages of our financial coaching businesses and had a lot to talk about.

Friday morning's activity was hiking Camelback Mountain. I'm from Oklahoma. We don't have real mountains, so I was not sure what to expect on this particular adventure. The two coaches that organized and planned the retreat are from Phoenix, are avid hikers, and they had all the details covered. They filled Camelbacks of water for everyone, packed snacks, and tried to prepare us for the adventure that was before us.

We split up into two cars and drove to the base of Camelback Mountain. Once we parked the car, there was a little bit of a walk to the actual entrance of the trail we would be taking. We stopped at the entrance for a little discussion and pep-talk before beginning our hike.

The beginning of the hike was fairly easy. Not too steep, a few big steps, but very manageable. I forgot to mention that just four days prior to our hike, I was sitting in the doctor's office getting an antibiotic for strep throat. By the time we reached the first stopping point on our hike, I was breathing HARD. Now, let me tell you this...I am in no shape to be climbing a mountain. I knew that before I ever started. I was the most out-of-shape person in our entire group. I also have a history of heat exhaustion. I knew this. I wasn't sure I was even going to make it to the top of the mountain. But I didn't tell anyone else that!

At this point, our coaches had a few words for us. First was, "Look at the beautiful view!" It was amazing! Second was something to the tune of, "Look up and see how far we still have to go! You probably don't feel like you've gone too far, but now look down and see how far we've already climbed." We had climbed quite a ways. They compared this to our businesses. Sometimes we get so caught up on how far we still have to go that we forget where we've been. Don't disregard all the work you've done to get where you are. Don't get distracted by where you still have to go. Stop and celebrate the accomplishments along the way.

Once we all caught our breath, we continued our hike. We stopped a few more times along the way, but the next significant stop for me was what they call "the saddle." This is the place where a lot of people give up, the place where they decide they can't go any further and turn back. This is the place where if they could just push themselves a little further and get past their mental block, they could make it to the top of the mountain. This is the place where I almost talked myself into waiting for the rest of the girls to go ahead and I'd meet back up with them on their way back down. Then I said, "I got this." I was tired. My legs were shaky and weak. I was hot, but I had nine other ladies pushing me and encouraging me to keep going. They offered me words of encouragement, water, time, and nourishment.

We continued up the mountain. I'm not going to pretend it was easy. It wasn't. I can't believe anyone would climb a mountain for fun (I think the same about people that run)! The closer we got to the top of the mountain, the more brutal the climb. Huge boulders to climb over, no clear path, steep drop offs on both sides, and at some points we had to lean against rocks as we shuffled sideways to keep from tumbling down the mountain in the other direction.

There are two trails on Camelback Mountain. We went up the easier of the two, the Cholla Trail. Now, being from Oklahoma, when someone says we're going up a trail, I think it's going to be cleared path the entire way up. Boy, was I wrong! There were times when we didn't know where the trail was. There were different paths to take, and sometimes the path the person in front of you took wasn't the right path for you. Every one of the ladies on our hike took their own path, made their own way, but we all had the same end-goal in mind--to reach the top.

At some point between the saddle and the top of the mountain, I knew I was going to make it. I wasn't sure how, but I was going to do it.

The Summit

As I peaked the top of the mountain, I was tired, sweaty, hot, exhilarated, weak, proud, and a bit dizzy. I did it though, and the view was crazy awesome! The feeling of pride was a bit overwhelming. Like I said, I am in no shape to be climbing a mountain, I had actually been pretty sick the weekend before, and I don't handle the heat well. But I did it!

I compare the feeling I had at the top of the mountain to the feeling I had when I completed two half marathons. I'm not a runner, I'm a walker. I walked two half-marathons. In those two marathons and in the hike of Camelback, there were times I thought I couldn't go any further. Times I thought my legs were going to give out. Times I just wanted to rest for a few minutes, but I knew if I stopped I wasn't going to be able to go again. But in all those instances, I always had a partner (or nine) to motivate, encourage, and keep me going. Someone who would agree that it sucked, but it would be worth it at the end! Someone to say, "You got this!"

The top of that mountain and the end of the marathon route are both significant. They both show there are no limits to what we can do when we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. They also show us that surrounding ourselves with people to push us is sometimes the only thing that keeps us going. Surround yourself with those people. Be those people.

The Descent

Someone somewhere told me the hike back down the mountain was easier than the hike up the mountain. They LIED! Going down the mountain was a different kind of hard. By the time we started the descent, my legs were already weak and tired, but I really had to concentrate on watching for loose rocks, finding the best route, and not letting gravity be the thing that got me to the bottom of the mountain! It was hard on the knees, and there was less of a feeling of being in control when we were going down. My sense of balance was off, and there was a lot of scooting down the big boulders on my bottom. The trip down definitely took less time than the hike up!

The After

I'd like to tell you that I was exhilarated after the hike, but I wasn't. It was only 65 degrees outside, but we were in the desert and the sun was beating down. Since I can't physically handle the heat, I needed Gatorade, food, a cool shower, and a nap. I did just that. Luckily, there weren't any activities scheduled for the early afternoon. A catered lunch was waiting on us when we returned to the house. I ate, showered, drank Gatorade, and napped for two and a half hours. When I woke up I felt much better.

As I reflect on that day, and that entire weekend, a few things come to mind. There were a few times on the mountain that I wanted to give up. The trip up was definitely more mental than physical. Had I been by myself I would have quit before I ever reached the top. I probably wouldn't have passed the saddle. I would have limited myself. I would have doubted my own abilities. I would have sold myself short of the view, the pride, the glory.

I'm going to wrap this up by saying this. Find your people. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, find your limits and keep pushing. Don't be the one to hold yourself back. Don't stop on the saddle!

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