Conquering a Challenge! by Cheryl Oakes

Two years ago I tried something I had never tried before. I entered the Mt. Dew Vertical Challenge ski race. My first race was all new to me. I had never raced on skis, never in a slalom and never in a crowd of all ages from 5 year olds to 70 year olds. My heart was pounding when I reached the gates during my first race in 2007. My purpose was to have fun, but in the process I discovered the same kind of feeling many of us have when we encounter something new and challenging.

In January 2009, at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, I raced the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge slalom course. My youngest son raced at the same time I did, he was on his snowboard trying to best his record. I started out with him, but soon was pretty far behind him, but I keep at it. I was almost as nervous as the first time I raced and throughout my race I talked my way through the slalom course to the bottom. I kept reminding myself that I could keep going fast and not to slow down until I was past the finish line. By the time I was at the end of the slalom course and still standing, I was thinking about whether I had beat my old record and if I had improved. My goal for the entire year had been to beat my previous time, and since I moved into a new age group I hoped I could be first in my age group.

While I was racing this year, I was reminded that when I am presenting to others, I have to imagine that there are some in the audience who are feeling nervous, scared, and probably that "just get me out of here before anyone notices how little I know feeling". I think all presenters who are mindful of that nervous feeling will be able to reach some timid members in the audience and encourage them to try something new with purpose.

I am happy that I have kept at my own Vertical Challenge for the past three years. I am happy that each year I have gotten a little bit faster. I am happy and surprised to report that I did win my age group, FIRST PLACE. I have a medal to prove that I won, but just knowing that I kept at it was enough for me. As much as I enjoyed winning, I am confident that I will remember the nervous, heart pounding sensation that accompanies trying something totally new and out of my comfort zone. If I can take that to each professional development event that I am involved in and share, I hope those in the audience will gain some confidence that they too can conquer any challenge. I will be right behind you!

Oh, by the way, my son not only won his age division but was the fastest snowboarder on the mountain! Way to make his momma proud!