I think I’ve started to lose my mind. I had a good 25 years, made it to my quarter century birthday, did a few bucket list things, dyed my hair blonde…by any standard, I had a good run – but I’m afraid my voice of reason has left the building. You know that little voice, the one in your head that tells you not to do certain things because they’re dangerous/could cause you bodily harm or physical damage/overall death (i.e. jumping off buildings, setting yourself on fire, etc.)? Yeah, well, I think it’s gone missing. I know for sure it used to be there, but that was before all the half marathons. Before the sky diving. Before the zip lining. Before eating Uni. I haven’t heard from it in a while and I’m getting a little concerned. Especially after this past weekend. The weekend that I VOLUNTARILY participated in a little running event called the Ragnar Relay Race.
Now before I start & for those who do not know me – I am a passionately avid runner. I love everything about it – the silence, the clarity, the pain, the cramps, the runners high…I’m all about it. I embrace, I live for it. So when my friend asked if I wanted to “do Ragnar”, I figured why not? – I had done Reach the Beach, a couple half marathons, a few dozen 5Ks, so of course I can run THIS. People, please please please do not assume that “of course” you can do anything (this course or any course for that matter). What’s happened in the past, was in the past, don’t take it as Bible. This is the perfect example of what not to assume because if this wasn’t a test of stamina, endurance, mental toughness and overall grit… I don’t know what is.
Quick Background: Unlike a typical race/tough mudder/spartan/etc. this is a stop start, 24 hour, multi distance race, up a futher muckin mountain. This is not something you start, bust ass for a couple miles and obstacles & then it’s done. I mean I guess it is, but then you do it again. And again. And if you’re really lucky, AGAIN. It’s like torture for a full day and 1 sleepless night.
Looking back on the past 48 hours, aside from exhausted and sore (current status: immobile. If walking – envision new born baby calf finding out they have legs), I learned a few incredible things about my mind, my body and my friends. I’ve been able to take a step back and realize what truly matters, aside from the every day bullshit and nitty gritty that I’ve become so engrossed in. My intention with this post isn’t to preach or solve anyones problems, I just hope that by sharing, it will resonate with you&help you through whatever obstacle is dominating your life. Take what you want, ignore what you don’t, but I hope you can read with an open mind.
6 Radnar Realizations
1. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking
During my 4th leg of the race (6.8 miles total, 4 of while were uphill..after 2 pre dawn runs and one mid day run), I was absolutely gassed. It was something I’d never ever experienced before (literally and mentally), I could actually feel my body failing. I could feel my feet get slower, my legs get heavier. I had almost no control over where my feet went – I would go to step over roots and despite my best efforts…I’d run through them. And by through, I mean I stumbled over a couple hundred of them. It was as if my body wasn’t mine and there was nothing I could do besides let the momentum of the mountain carry me to the finish line. But between the uncoordinated jogging and tripping over everything in my way, I realized something life changing. I actually felt it in my core. It was the notion that no matter what happens, my mind is the only thing I can control. The thoughts flooding my brain are MINE. Positive or negative I am the one putting them there.
On mile 3, I made a CHOICE: To only allow myself to think positive thoughts. I was so close to physically giving up, I’ve run enough to know when my body has just about had it. But here I am, 3 miles up a mountain – I can either pass out and get eaten by a bear OR I can run, run towards water. Run towards bananas. Bananas and peanut butter. Bananas and peanut butter and Quest bars. I can DO this because I am too stubborn to give up. I can do this because my MIND is telling me I can. I read somewhere that you can choose to make yourself miserable or you can choose to lift yourself up, the amount of work is the same – so I ask you the same question, because it’s no one’s choice besides yours.
2. Don’t stress about what lies ahead or behind
Listen – when you start that terrifying new journey (be it a race, new life adventure, new job, new relationship), you have NO IDEA what lies ahead. Is it a complete uphill? Is it all downhill? Is a barracuda waiting to eat me? What am I leaving behind? Why on earth am I leaving my safe space? Do yourself a favor and just stop. Throw all those questions out the window because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. In life, in running, in anything, you just start. You put one foot in front of the other and you begin a journey. There is no point in giving yourself an anxiety attack wondering if it was the right decision or what you will encounter. You will never enjoy it if you’re too busy worrying about what might happen, you can never appreciate the beauty in newness if all you see is unknown. As cliche as it is, enjoy where you are because you will never be here as you are again.
3. Let yourself be exactly where you are
On a similar note, let yourself be where you are. As an athlete (and an incredibly competitive one at that), I was convinced I would run each leg in its entirety. But listen, until you get past that first hill – you nearly kill yourself in the first quarter mile – you never ever know. Don’t get so hung up on what you think you should be doing or who you think you should be that you forget to BE. “Should” should be removed from our vocabulary when talking about ourselves. Imagine if we didn’t worry about “should” and instead immersed ourselves in where we ARE and where we WILL go – not where we should be and should go? How freeing that must feel? In my opinion, “should” should suck it.
4. Sometimes you need someone to tell you that you’re amazing.
Somethings that person is YOU.
Being a part of a team is amazing – whether it’s your family, your friends, your coworkers – it’s incredible. There are times when you just need someone to tell you that you are a kick ass person. You can climb mountains, you can run at 3 in the morning and you can push yourself past your breaking point without actually breaking. Sometimes though, the world is asleep and you’re alone, and MAN that silence can be deafening. What’s important to remember is that sometimes you need to be your own cheerleader. You need to be able to build yourself up when you’re at your lowest point. Guess what? You’re a badass and that’s OK. But you can be scared and that’s OK too. I can’t tell you how many affirmations I told myself in the wee hours of the morning (after a nice 20 minute nap) as I went for my third run in 13 hours. I just kept saying: “You are good enough. You’re more than that in fact. You are running while the world sleeps. You can do this. You’re a freaking animal. You can do this”
…and like I said, sometimes you need that extra push and just as I ran out of affirmations with a half a mile left, I felt my FitBit buzz – I’d reached my step goal for the day…before 6am.
When your eyes are open, there is a support team all around you, no matter where you are, all you have to do is look.
5. Fuel your body
Drink water. Drink a shitload of water. Drink so much you feel like your eyeballs are swimming. Hydrate. Before you run, after you run, while you run. If you never run a day in your life. Drink water. You will be absolutely amazed how much hydrating can change your life. I know it seems simple, but it’s truly astonishing. On a similar note – fuel your body. Running is not a time to calorie count. Shove your face with Quest bars, drink a protein shake, eat real food if you have time to digest. Add carbs. You need it. And when you’re not running – do they same! You’re body is a machine and it needs fuel to run, don’t deprive yourself of too much, but don’t indulge too much either. Life is a balance – find what works for you and WORK IT.
6. Use it to lose it
Listen, it’s TOUGH. Mountains are really freaking difficult (literal and metaphorical) But you know what else is? Life. Everyone is going through something, getting over something, or searching for something. Use this time to figure out where you are and which “something” you’re “something-ing”. It’s going to be hard, but you know what? It started which means it has to stop. It goes up which means it has to go down. It gets harder which means it gets easier. Like the red trail (the hardest run of my life) – eventually it will end. It may be 4 miles of uphill. It may involve stumbles, falls and bruises, but eventually you turn that corner – you can hear people cheering and just like it started – it ends.
In the words of my new favorite book: Carry on Warrior. You’re doing a badass job of being You.