Scott's Articles

 

 

 

Conquer Your Fears

 

 

 

Driving home one crisp fall night - much like the nights this month, I saw several adults sitting in the parking lot at my Kroger, putting on roller skates.

In the dark.

Very odd.

A few weeks later, I saw them on a Friday night.  This time they were skating in the parking lot - little lights flashing on their backs, some of them with headlamps on their helmets.  Suddenly, they all lined up and ...

z-o-o-m

out of the parking lot and into the street, they flew off into the Buckhead night.  I laughed.  It looked like so much fun.  I sat at the red light - and wished I knew how to skate.  I sighed and drove home.

For a couple years, I occasionally spotted this little tribe of dedicated street skaters in the neighborhood.  It always made me smile.  I nicknamed them the Buckhead Bombers.  I thought, what a wonderful thing to do on a Friday night - but I could never do that.  I did not even try skating.

That Christmas, my brother gave me a pair of regular roller skates that looked like red sneakers.  I kept them in my car for months, and then - feeling a little foolish, I put them on in the parking lot at the gym where I worked out.  I put on some leather baseball batter's gloves and a funky old bicycle helmet, and stumbled around the parking lot.  Passing drivers were either laughing with me or at me, but I laughed back.  I'm sure I was a strange sight.  But it made me smile.

I still saw the Peachtree Road Rollers on occasion, but I never thought of trying to skate with them.  They looked too professional, and skated too fast.  I felt incompetent by comparison.  Then a friend started skating with me at Piedmont Park, and slowly we ventured out onto the city streets.  By then the Road Rollers had moved to a shopping center in midtown, and I found out their real name was the Peachtree Road Rollers.  And that they met every Monday and Wednesday night at 8:30.  I thought, maybe someday ..

I ventured to midtown one Monday night - just to say hello and meet them.  Not to skate.  I was sure I couldn't stay with them.  Then I saw some of them skating, and thought - I could do this.  So I got my skates out of the trunk, and sat on the ground in a group of thirty grown people, putting my RollerBlades (I had graduated) and helmet and little flashing lights on, and...

z-o-o-m

off we went into the midtown night.  I laughed the whole time.  It was like summer-skiing on asphalt.  In the distance, like fireflies - the lights on the backs of the speed skaters slowly left us.  I looked after them, and smiled.  Maybe someday ...

For several years, I skated off and on, sometimes commuting to work - sometimes not at all for months.  I volunteered to help at a skating race sponsored by the Peachtree Road Rollers that starts in Athens, Georgia, and finishes in Piedmont Park - in Atlanta.  86 miles away.  I longed to try it, but looking at the exhausted, blistered (sometimes crying) speed skaters collapsing after the finish line, a nasty little voice of self-doubt said you're too old - you started too late.  You're not good enough.  You're being foolish.  Grow up.

Then I decided: I wanted to beat my doubts and fears, and conquer the race.
                       
In late January, 1997, I started skating again.  A lot.  Almost every day.  By April, I was skating two hours a day, six days a week.  By May, I began to think I could do it.  I went to a speed-skating class.  I began climbing stairs before dawn to get my legs ready for the brutal hills from Winder to Stone Mountain.  It was hard work, but I laughed and smiled all summer.

Then I started skating some of the race route, and a car crossed the road on a fast downhill.  It was a serious crash, bad head injuries - thirty stitches and a concussion.  The next night, I skated two hours.  I would not allow the gremlins of fear to conquer me.

I worked on focus as much as strength.  But the downhills made me pause.  I kept seeing the accident unfolding in slow motion.

September 1, I skated The US10K Classic in Cobb County, Georgia, my first race - and finished a short but very hilly course in under thirty minutes.  And that was scrubbing off speed on every downhill - still fighting off images skin layered into my zipper, a bloody Camelback, and skate frames that looked like props from a horror movie.

September 19, I completed the 63 mile New York Roller Skating Marathon in 5:16.  I wasn't fast, but for my first real season of skating - and my first skate further than 38 miles, I was ecstatic.  But I was still slowing down on every hill.

October 12, 1997.  Athens-to-Atlanta.  Leaving Check Point 1, I decided that if I was ever going to start beating my fear of crashing again - the time was at hand.  I jumped on the back of my first pace line (a line of skaters v-e-r-y close together), and rode it down a hill like a roller-coaster. Skating alone, I picked up a quarter of a mile an hour at every checkpoint, completing the last checkpoint at over 14 miles per hour.  Slow by the  speedskating standards - but a major victory for me.

I completed the 16th Annual Athens-to-Atlanta skating race in 6:46:58 (over an hour under my "happy" time).  It was the toughest thing I have ever done.  And I would not trade having finished for anything.

At every age, we have fears.  When we conquer them, the rewards can be profound.

 

 

~  Scott Nilsson

Atlanta, Georgia - USA / 2nilssons.com

Copyright 1997 by Scott Barricks Nilsson - All Rights Reserved

 

This article was published in FASST (Fitness and Speed Skating Times)

 

 

 

 

 

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