It’s been ten years since I set this ridiculous goal. And back then, even if I did see myself pulling it off, the notion was truly absurd. You see, I smoked like a chimney. I’d inhale a pack of cigarettes on any given day. Realizing that my goal was unachievable, and considering the other pitfalls of my addiction, I quit smoking months after making this resolution-my aim: compete in an off road triathlon.
Of course, one can’t simply quit smoking and finish a triathlon. Other things have to change: like one’s diet for instance. Also, I needed to train. So, bringing me to my blog topic, since this park’s trails are somewhat comparable to the triathlon’s course, the Reforestation Camp has become my stomping ground.
“Wait a minute,” You may say, “If you quit smoking ten years ago, why not tackle the race then?”
The answer is quite simple. I had smoked for twenty years, so tar was thickly caked in my lungs. It doesn’t clear up overnight. I believe it takes seven smoke free years for a smoker’s lungs to become healthy. Never the less, giving up cigarettes brought me closer to my goal.
And, before I get too far, if you’re wondering what an off road triathlon consists of, I’ll tell you. It’s a combination of paddling, trail running and mountain biking. Of course, the distances for the running and biking events, at least in the Tri-Loppet(that’s the triathlon I’m planning to compete in), are shorter than an olympic triathlon. I believe they’re comparable to, what is known as, a sprint triathlon.
So, I had quit smoking and had this goal stirring in my brain. On to step two: purchasing a kayak. I did just that, and have been paddling ever since. Unfortunately, there are no substantial bodies of water at the Reforestation Camp. So, I train for that event elsewhere.
However, years after my kayak purchase, while skimming the park’s cross country ski course, I discovered the Reforestation Camp’s mountain bike trails. It didn’t happen overnight, but, one spring, I brought my Walmart special to the grounds and tried a simplistic double track trail. That was two years ago.
I should mention, before I expand on the mountain bike trails, that when inside the Reforestation Camp, one can venture a myriad of activities. An obstacle course, known as the Adventure Park, right next to the lodge, offers fun for any daring soul. Entrants can try a zip line, climb a rock wall or attempt other similar activities. Yet, considering this endeavor is pricey, I’ve never went through with it.
As for the camp’s wooded area, there are hiking, biking and horseback trails to journey. And last, but not least, the NEW Zoo resides right next door. So, a family could see lions and giraffes, dare a zip line, and hike, or trail ride, in one eventful day.
But I’m getting off track.
I mentioned that I brought my Walmart special to the double track trails. Well, by the end of that summer, being frustrated with the weight and performance of that bike, I purchased a Trek and was tackling more challenging paths inside the park.
These trails are tricky, with tree roots protruding from the ground. There’s also some tight turns; I’ve scraped a few trees in the past. Added to that, sandy patches challenge your bike handling skills. With those encumbrances, one might figure the paths are not cared for, but these courses are well maintained, hence the thirty dollar annual trail fee. A day pass costs five dollars.
One loop in particular, known as the Balsam Trail, has some pretty rigorous climbs. The distance might not be a full 13K(the Tri Loppet distance), but it’s close. The length falls in the territory of 7 miles. There are other single track paths to ride. If you were to combine them, I’m guessing your ride would be around ten miles. I’m going to bike the entire circuit this Thursday.
So, I’ve mentioned two aspects of my training. The triathlon’s third portion, actually the second event in the race, would be trail running.
And I hate running. I have allergies. As an adolescent, in gym class, during spring time, we were required to run 880 yards. Pollen would assault my lungs and wreak havoc, and I’d finish with the chubbier kids in my class. No offense guys, but, being that I weighed about 80 pounds, I just figured I should have placed higher since I wasn’t lugging around extra weight…that expectation wasn’t plausible.
So, with the onset of this late April, I tried the 1.7 mile hiking loop inside the Reforestation Camp. That initial run sucked! Flashbacks of Mr. Kingzinger brandishing his stopwatch plagued my mind. What did I expect? I was in the woods in the middle of spring-of course allergens were densely invading the air. Yet, now, as the pollen has subsided a bit, I’ve logged a few 3.5 mile runs.
In the Reforestation Camp, There are two hiking trails to run. The Pines, which is a 1.7 mile loop, happens to be the shorter jaunt. The other, the Oaks, which branches off from the Pines, is substantially lengthier. How much so? I couldn’t tell you exactly, but it’s somewhere around five miles. I always take the shortcut, which renders a 3.5 mile trek.
These paths are wide, with grass, sand and mud, along with a couple of tree roots, comprising their terrain. Some of the hills, on both the Pines and Oaks, are absolute killers. My thighs scream while climbing these monsters. Yet, if I’m training for a grueling race, I want nothing less. There is no cost to hike or run these trails, and the scenery is absolutely refreshing.
So, there you have it. That’s how the Reforestation Camp is helping me attain my decade old goal. Lately, I’ve seen friends beat the odds and accomplish feats seemingly unattainable. Others have come across epiphanies that have changed their outlook on life. I think this is a bit of both.
I always had this nagging obstacle, as I’m sure it is with many: the fear of failure. With that, the trepidation of my chagrin looms. I realize now, setting goals, whether you attain them or fall short, are productive acts. When setting off to accomplish these feats, your life changes for the better. And even if you fall short, you’ve become a better and different person because of that plight.
Don’t get me wrong. I desperately want to achieve this goal, almost as bad as I want to be a published author. Still, wipe away the fear of failure, and your world can change. Don’t be afraid to work for what you want!