Epic Fail: Three-Mile Ski

Molly enjoying a winter adventure“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~Thomas Edison

My personal goal is to never give up until failure is definite. I’m proud to say that I didn’t let a mere nuisance ruin my RV plans. No, we went down in a blaze of glory and dragged our broken remains to the mechanics. If you’re going to fail, you should epic fail.

In that same spirit of epic fail, I recall another adventure that died a glorious death …

A few winters ago, the latest big idea to get in my head was cross country skiing. My mom loaned me an old pair of skis, and after much tripping over my own feet, I finally got into something of a cadence. One of the skis was unbalanced (or maybe it was just me that was unbalanced), and the shoes were slightly too small, but soon my dog Molly and I were each laying our distinctive tracks through the snow in our favorite park.

Nice. What next? Why, long-distance skiing, of course. We knew of a beautiful paved bike path running through the countryside, and I’d seen ski tracks along the shoulder. So we chose a goal about three and a half miles from our start point, which would make for a seven-mile round-trip, and one cloudy but pleasant afternoon we headed out.

About a mile into our ski, I was having trouble with my equipment–namely, the shoes. Just barely too small! They started rubbing the backs of my heels. But I wasn’t a quitter. What the heck, I could nurse blisters later. I wanted to finish my ski.

Then the weather shifted. Suddenly that pearly-gray sky started dropping snowflakes. Within minutes, the snow was so heavy that objects a few yards ahead of me looked like they were draped with a lace veil. When we stopped for a break, Molly’s black and tan coat turned white.

So? What was a little snow? (Okay, I was beginning to entertain visions of hot chocolate.) But we pressed on. Success would taste that much sweeter, knowing everything I’d overcome to finish this ski …

Then a hole appeared out of nowhere.

No, really. A hole. Right in the middle of my path. A giant, rectangular hole surrounded by yellow caution tape. Big enough to bury one of those little eco cars. I couldn’t get around it to the left because the bike trail was cleared of snow. I couldn’t get around it on the right because of a chain link fence. The far shoulder of the bike trail didn’t look any more promising–the snow was wind-blasted hard, offering my skis nothing to dig into.

So I took off my skis and walked around the hole on the hard-surface trail. Put my skis back on. Started again. Several yards later, another giant rectangular hole yawned in front of me. Took my skis off. Walked around it. Put my skis back on. Several yards later … Gee, you’d never believe what I found. Again.

At this point, I had a good vantage of the trail ahead, and the snow cleared enough for me to take in the view. You guessed it–giant rectangular holes all the way down the trail, as far as I could see.

The snow on the far shoulder still didn’t look too friendly, but it was the one option left. So I crossed to the other side. That lasted about two minutes. I skittered all over a sea of frozen waves.

So I gave up.

Mind you, I didn’t give up when my feet started to hurt. And I didn’t give up when it started to snow. And I didn’t give up when a dotted line of car-eating holes blocked my path.

I only gave up when failure was definite.

Oddly, working my way around those holes wasn’t any more fun on the return trip than it had been on the way out. It was slow and awkward, and now I was also grouchy and disappointed in myself.

Molly, on the other hand, was having the time of her life. She plowed through snowbanks muzzle-first and snorted the flakes out of her nose and ate big bites of snow, oblivious that things weren’t going as I’d planned. That’s one of the things I love about having adventures with my dog. It doesn’t matter how badly my plans may be going–she’s still having fun.

I found that inspiring. So once I’d conquered the last hole, I stuck my skis and poles in a snowbank and plopped down next to Molly. The snow turned our heads and backs and shoulders frosty white in a matter of seconds. The quarter-sized flakes swirling all around us were pretty and profoundly silent. A snowstorm is the best place in the world, if you want to be really alone.

It was another mile to the end of the trail, and I pretty much dragged myself over the finish line. I had bruises on my heels for months afterwards, well into summer–a memento of our little adventure, and a reminder that if you’re going to fail, at least you can epic fail. To this day, I have no idea what purpose those giant rectangular holes served, other than to make for a story I can look back on and laugh about–and remember fondly.

Yes, fondly. Just ask Molly. She’ll tell you that ski trip was some of the best fun we ever had.

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