Ever see someone else doing something amazing…
and dream for a moment about yourself doing it?
And then proceed to convince yourself that it’s not possible for YOU?
I have. (many times)
Eight months ago, my mentor suggested that I compete in a significant fitness competition like a Spartan race. Other guys in our group had. They lived to talk about it. They loved the thrill of competition and the adrenaline rush from that style of workout.
Cool. That would be great! I envisioned myself jumping the walls, lifting the sandbags, running briskly through the course, flexing my muscles for the onlookers.
When I told my wife, she just smiled and said that was a nice idea. She laughed and shook her head, and asked, “are you serious?”
I looked in the mirror. My body is in no shape to compete in ANY event. I had never run a race. I wasn’t strong enough, fast enough, agile enough.
I dismissed it as a pipe dream, or at least something that would be YEARS away.
I continued to improve my fitness, lost a lot of weight, started to improve my agility. My mentor kept encouraging me to set the bar high and keep reaching. I still thought he was out of his ever-loving mind.
Many of the guys in our group are in another league when it comes to fitness. They are seasoned athletes. Some are personal trainers. Several have competed in the Ironman triathlons. Some regularly lift and run 2, 3, 4, 5 times as much as I’m able. Intimidating to say the least.
I reluctantly registered for a lower-difficulty obstacle race later this fall. I figured that with my fitness gains, I MIGHT be able to make it through the course, especially if I had some friends to help me out.
A scheduling issue arose and I had to withdraw from the race. I had dodged the bullet. I could say, “I tried.” I could wait until 2016 to prove myself!
Then a group of people from my CrossFit gym announced they would be competing in the Spartan race in August. How could I do a Spartan race? That would be too much, too soon.
It must have been a weak moment… or divine providence… but I registered for the race.
The next day, dread set in. What had I done? There would be such embarrassment if I didn’t finish the race. I spent the next 6 weeks conjuring up excuses for why I shouldn’t compete. I tried to get myself kicked off the team, but to no avail.
As race day approached, I was torn. The thrill of competition had set in. I wanted that adrenaline rush! At the same time, I wasn’t confident that I would be able to make it through the course and handle the difficulty of the obstacles. To make things more challenging, I had sprained my knee the week before and was sporting a not-so-lovely knee brace. I didn’t want to be the weakest link.
My teammates, my wife, and my mentor all kept cheering me on. I thought they were crazy or at least overly optimistic. I had run out of excuses.
Race day arrived. My adrenaline was pumping. My heart was pounding with excitement of victory and fear of defeat. My mind was generating reasons to bow out, but my knee wasn’t hurting. My wife gave me every affirmation imaginable. My daughter, on the other hand, called to ask that I not die on the course today, and, oh, have some fun.
We got to the starting gate. (You have to jump a 4 foot wall just to get to the starting line.)
THERE WAS NO TURNING BACK.
My mental game shifted to “compete and complete at all costs.”
Beat this damn course before it beats you.
Do not stop.
Do not look ahead;
take each obstacle and each step as it comes to you.
I felt abandoned and angry. This quickly turned to frustration… then disappointment… and then acceptance. This was the way it was meant to be, even if I didn’t understand it; even if I didn’t like it.
I kept running and climbing and lifting.
On the course by myself, I quickly found a FREEDOM.
- Freedom to ask myself tough questions.
- Freedom to give myself brutally honest answers.
- Freedom to be happy, sad, excited, and angry.
- Freedom to cuss at the people that had eaten away at my self-esteem over the years.
- Freedom to be pissed at the people that tolerated my excuses.
- Freedom to be pissed at the people who feed me their excuses.
- Freedom to see myself for the empowered soul that I am underneath this skin.
- Freedom to see my physical body for what it is and what it is becoming.
- Freedom to be me in this moment.
At points along the course, I was crying. Not tears of physical pain or exhaustion. They were tears of physical, emotional, and spiritual release: freedom.
With each hill, each obstacle, each breath, I was shedding layers of skin just like a snake. I was realizing the growth that had been below the surface for months. The old stories were peeling away. The new fresh, vibrant, strong me was being discovered.
I had not allowed myself to look at the course map, so I had no clue what to expect next.
Some of the obstacles were easier than they looked; others were hard as hell. In some cases, it wasn’t the obstacle but dodging the other competitors that made the battle difficult.
Scaling walls… wading through ponds of mud… climbing steep hills with a sandbag on shoulders… carrying a (not small) log for a 1/4 mile… climbing ropes… throwing spears… crawling under barbed wire… climbing a muddy hill with no traction… carrying a 5 gallon bucket of stones up a hill…
I didn’t win 5 of those battles and took the 30 burpee penalty for each of those.
Could I have won a few more battles if I had a teammate present? Most likely. In those moments, I went through that same cycle of anger, frustration, disappointment, and acceptance. But I have no regrets.
I HATE HATE HATE burpees as an exercise. But that day I loved all 150 burpees. My wife and teammates were actually concerned when my dehydrated body was SMILING while doing burpees.
Slowly. Deliberately. I did each burpee. Each was a victory of the NOW over the bullshit I had told myself for years. Each was an insurance plan of never turning back, never going back to what my body was in the past.
After 2 hours and 31 minutes, I won the war. I reached the finish line of the race.
It was an hour slower than most of my teammates.
It was 3 times slower than the “elite” athletes.
It was the perfect time for me on that day.
After I crossed the finish line, I raised my hands in the air to pose for a picture. On one hand, it was a victory of the race. On the other hand, it was the victory of starting a new journey in my life.
All week, people have been asking was the Spartan race difficult for me? Hell yeah.
Will I do it again at some point? Hell yeah. I will win all 24 battles next time!
What did I learn? Probably a hundred things, but here are the most important ones.
- The things you think are not achievable can be achieved with determination, tools, and support. Anything is possible. (Yes, you too, could compete in a Spartan race.)
- You don’t need other people to carry or push you. (It may be easier when they do, but you might not grow as much.)
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Find people who are willing to be called crazy and be cussed at because they see more in you than you see in yourself. (Thank you Sherry and Jaramy for taking the front of the line of those crazy people in my life right now.)
- Fear and avoidance suck. Freedom rocks. (Playing it safe only insures a slow, painful death.)
- Don’t just try. Do. Conquer!
Want to be happy?
Waiting for that special someone or something that will magically change your world and make you happy?
It ain’t gonna happen.
Happiness is not “out there.”
It’s inside you… under your control at all times.
Today’s tip is about shifting your mindset to happiness.
It’s one more simple step toward a better you.
When we are kids, we form all sorts of ideas about we can and cannot do… what is fun and what is not… where there are limits and where we are limitless.
Sometimes those ideas need to be revisited.
Tomorrow is one of those days for me.