How Big Is A Railroad Tie? Part 1

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Today I’m in Houston, in the middle of a 6-day trip for United Airlines. It’s my second layover. The first was in Honolulu. Not bad duty, especially when there’s snow on the ground in my hometown of Centennial, CO.

I’ve had the great good “fortune” (in quotes for those who are familiar with my book) to enjoy many layovers in Hawaii over the years. As is the case with any layover city, once you’ve seen all the well-known attractions in Honolulu, you start to wander a bit farther afield. Which is how I found myself climbing the Koko Crater trail yesterday.

Koko Head is a volcanic mountain on the southeast corner of Oahu. There are a number of popular and interesting formations there. Hanauma Bay, known for its snorkeling, and the Koko Crater, a cinder cone that stands sentinel over this part of the island, are two of them. Koko Head’s strategic location provided a great radar site for the US military from 1942 until its decommissioning in 1966. There are still remnants of the site’s concrete and steel foundations at the top of the mountain. But that’s not the attraction.

Today people go to Koko Crater for the climb. It’s a fantastic cardio workout. And the view from the top of the mountain is spectacular. Diamond Head and Waikiki are in the distance. Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai are nearby.  IMG_20140123_110806

When it was an active radar site, the main base was at the foot of the crater. The operational facility at the top was accessed by a rail tram that ran directly to the top, climbing some 1,200 feet along the way. All that remains of the tramway today is the track.

Back in the day, the track’s users didn’t mind the grade. Passengers and supplies were winched up by machinery easily capable of taking passengers in a straight line – no switchbacks required.

Which brings us to yesterday. There I was in the company of a couple hundred of my closest friends climbing those railway ties. There are over 1,000 of them. IMG_20140126_092723

The climb starts gently enough. The first half is deceptively easy with a relatively shallow grade. But just after the 500th tie, the track crosses a ravine. It was constructed for rail cars – not humans, so exposure below the ties wasn’t a concern. But as one hikes across the ravine, one needs to tread carefully.

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There’s nothing between those 64 ties except the rails themselves, and a misstep looks as though it could be disastrous. This is challenge number one. And it is the end of the day for many. Those who simply cannot stomach the idea of exposure to a fall through the ties turn back here.

Then comes challenge number two. Here the trail bends upward and becomes much steeper.

IMG_20140126_091947And the crowd really begins to thin at this point. Climbers who didn’t understand what they were undertaking have a reality check and many turn back. Those who are not ready physically or psychologically, or who are not properly dressed, or who didn’t bring enough water, or who are too old or infirm to climb a steep grade stop here or shortly after. They give up. They know they can’t climb another 500 railroad ties up this massive incline. From here on, the number of climbers heading down to the parking lot is greater than the number going to the top.

None of these people get to enjoy the feeling of meeting this challenge. They don’t feel the endorphin rush that accompanies the last step as they reach the top of the mountain. They won’t know the “wow” factor of the view out over the endless Pacific Ocean in all directions from the rim of the crater.

All because they couldn’t climb to the top.

Really? Did any of them have to climb to the top to reap those rewards?

Well, no, actually. All any of those people really had to do was climb one railroad tie. Not all of them. Just one.

In part 2 we’ll talk about how I saw this reality applied in dramatic fashion on another hike on Oahu. More importantly, we’ll start to think about how this applies to challenges you are facing today.

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#symphonyofyourlife #wheeloffortune

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Link to Mark’s Book: They Symphony of Your Life

Mark Hardcastle graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com or call 720.840.8361

You Can – You Just Need to Know You Can, Part 1

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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During my third summer at the USAF Academy, I had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Army’s Parachute Training Jump School at Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia. It was a challenging three-week course. Ground Week taught us to properly put on our 50 pounds of equipment and how to do a tumbling roll to absorb the impact of hitting the ground. During Tower Week we were hoisted up on towers high enough to allow us to experience descending underneath an actual open parachute. Then came week three: Jump Week. During Jump Week we would jump five times out of perfectly good airplanes.

Three different weeks, three different skill sets to master, on our way to earning our Parachutist Badge, or “Jump Wings.”

It would be an important omission though, if any description of Jump School did not emphasize that the syllabus consisted more than anything else of physical conditioning. It’s certainly true that when descending beneath an open parachute one comes down more slowly than if one didn’t have a parachute. Even so, one can still hit the ground pretty hard, and injuries are not uncommon. The best way to keep from getting hurt is to be in the best possible shape. So a large part of the training involved getting us in good enough condition to endure a parachute landing without injury. We did a lot of push ups under that Georgia sun. And more than a few sit ups in the wet heat.

No surprise, then, when we showed up for training in the middle of the second week and were told that we were going on a one-mile run. We formed up in a platoon and off we went. And the Jumpmasters set what we might call a “brisk” pace. And then they got faster. And faster again. As we approached the end of the course we were at a lung-searing sprint.

We came down to the final hundred yards. At that point the Jumpmasters began taunting us, telling us that we’d be going another full mile before being allowed to stop!

Soon as they said that a bunch of trainees dropped out of the platoon. They felt like they couldn’t go another step, much less another mile. So they gave up on the spot.

Then came the lesson of the day. Those of us who stayed in formation ran maybe another hundred yards before the Jumpmasters called us to a halt and let us rest. As we walked back to join our friends who’d given up only a few yards short of the end, the instructors said nothing, allowing the lesson to become self-evident…

Part 2: The lesson of the day…

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark Hardcastle graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com or call 720.840.8361