Overcoming Mountains: Bit by Bit and Piece by Piece – Skate across America Day 43

November 15th, 2010



Total Distance for today: 9 miles
Total Distance for Tour: approx. 377 miles
LOCATION: Richmond, VA
STATUS: Preparing for some talks at high schools in Richmond

Baltimore, MD to Richmond, VA in One Week

So I finally arrived in Richmond, VA today. It feels good to be here, and I’m excited about the presentations I’m preparing for. Looking back on the last week, I realized that I skated five of the seven days and amassed a total of 135 miles. That’s a new record for me, I’m quite certain. It’s crazy to think that back in early June, I was just beginning my training and doing something like 15 miles a week. At the peak of my training schedule, I was up to about 70 miles in a week.


I’ll never forget the first night that I put on my skates: I was awkward, as it had been years since I’d Rollerbladed. I went down to the Millpond park in Brighton, MI with my friend Victor Banta to do some photography. At that time, I was telling people my plan, but it felt completely crazy and foreign to me. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was just flailing, or if I would actually pull it off. My ankles were not helping my inner dialogue: I was having a hard time properly standing or skating after just 45 minutes of skating around the park to take pictures and tell people what I was doing. I’ve grown a bit or two.


Early on in training, 5-10 miles felt like a pretty substantial skate, and one moderately long and steep hill made my legs feel as though they were doused in gasoline and set on fire! Now, I’ve learned to accept that 35 miles and countless hills must be taken in stride. I’ve grown a bit or two.


When I first started telling people about my plan, every little obstacle or detour made me doubt it. Minor financial ups and downs, failed connections with potential sponsors, failed attempts at scheduling speaking gigs, a discouraging word from a well-meaning friend or loved one – all of these were enough to make me doubt and question my plan and my cause. Car and school loan payments, daily bills, and the general financial obstacles of life seemed a bit overwhelming then. These days, I’m a bit more comfortable with uncertainty, ambiguity, and even failure. No failure is final, and no situation is unworkable. Then, I struggled to imagine how I would raise enough money to cover basic expenses. Now, I concern myself with how I will raise over $1,000,000 for something I believe in: the Detroit project. I’ve grown a bit or two.


With all of this, it might seem as though the first lesson and impulse have changed. I can assure you: They have not. The lesson, and the impulse behind all of this was, is, and always will be this: You can do anything you set your mind to, and you can achieve what everyone else thought impossible, if you have the courage to start and to continue to believe in your dream. Progress doesn’t come in leaps and bounds. It comes in bits and pieces, but eventually, those pieces can begin to come from all directions, until you are overflowing with success, and what seemed impossible is now a small bump on the way to the next mountain. That’s the thing about mountain climbing: You don’t climb a mountain to look back down and scoff at all those who couldn’t climb it; you climb a mountain so you can see more clearly and have the perspective to approach a larger mountain. Always remember: It is not the mountain you overcome, but yourself – bit by bit and piece by piece.

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