Mentally Overcome Your Obstacles
GA Marathon 2018
I recently ran the Georgia Marathon as part of a running challenge in the Atlanta. I had just completed a 48-mile series about 8 weeks prior so I felt that, while challenging, the race would be doable. The race had other ideas and it turned into one of the most challenging events of my life. At mile 14 I felt a little tired. By mile 19 both of my calves had severe cramps, both sides of my hips were burning and I had a pulled muscle in my lower backside. One of these can knock you out of a race and I had seven at once! I eventually went on to conquer the course and was reminded of some good life lessons along the way.
When you are holding someone back: Let them go.
I have a running partner that runs the vast majority of races with me. We have been through thick and thin together on and off the course. There is a difference between helping and supporting someone through their challenges and them dragging you down. I knew that day that I had turned from needing help to a liability. Finishing the last 6 miles was going to be even more challenging alone, but I had to cut her loose. It was a bittersweet moment with a few tears shed, but she eventually went on without me. In the business world, this may be holding someone back from a promotion because they are so essential to you. Let them go. In your personal life, it may be someone that continues to take from the relationship and offers nothing in return. Let them go. Have the self-awareness to know when you are dragging someone down and the courage to break away from those that drag you down.
When everything in your head tells you to stop: Keep moving.
We all hit rough patches in life and work. I was certainly in a rough patch mentally for those final six miles. There were times I just wanted to stop, call my wife and tell her to come get me. Instead of focusing on the mental battle and the physical challenges I was having, I chose to instead focus on just getting a little further. Let me get down this hill. Let me just get to that light pole. Sometimes you have to focus solely on whats right ahead of you. It’s too overwhelming to take in the everything at once and you’ll mentally break. The same mentality is often found in the first responder field. A firefighter doesn’t look at a highrise fire and take in the distance, the weight of the equipment, the heat, the danger, and pain. They focus on getting up the steps, then to the door and then clearing a room. When you are in that tough spot, narrow in your focus to just keep moving forward. If you become overwhelmed, narrow your focus to help you get an edge and get back in the game.
When temptation arises to take a shortcut: Hold to your integrity.
There were two out and backs on the course at the exact wrong time. One at mile 22 and another at mile 25. All I had to do to cut some length off of the course was to step over a cone and go back the other way. Extremely easy to do and no one would have stopped me. At the end of the day remember that how you got there is just as important as actually getting to the finish line. Avoid taking those tempting shortcuts in work and life if it means compromising your integrity or ethics. Your sense of accomplishment will be less and it lingers on you longer than the joy of completing the project.
When pain dominates your story: Remember why you are on this journey.
Sometimes physical pain, grief, depression, or hopelessness tries to dictate our story. Remember why you are there and why you need to push ahead and finish. My mind was trying to remind me of the pain constantly. I had to remember and hold on to the reason I was there: to finish this 50+ mile challenge. I only had 6 miles to go and if I didn’t complete it that day, I would just have to come back and do it all over again. I wasn’t coming back! You are the author of your story, not your pain, not your guilt, not your grief and not your hopelessness. Remember the journey.
Never give up on yourself. You are capable of so much more than your mind lets you believe…. and don’t forget to smile.
Make a better tomorrow.
I’ve said in the past how I would never run a half marathon. I spent a few years doing really well on the obstacle course racing circuit, but the thought of straight running for a long distance was not appealing at all. The pull of running all the Disney races in a year got me into half marathons and even a full marathon. I rationalized it by meeting the rare characters on the course. (I have still only run one non-Disney half marathon.) I just didn’t have an active interest in long distance running.
Then Chris Steele happened.
Chris is a good friend that I’ve made while running the Disney races. We are on the same running team (WDW Radio Running Team) and it turned out that we live pretty close to each other. Our families get along really well and we enjoy hanging out outside of race weekends.
Chris hit me up last summer about doing a local 12hr race with him. It’s right down the road from my house and we could run an ultra marathon together. It takes him a while to wear me down, but I eventually say yes. My bad ideas/competitiveness creeps in and then the next thing he knows, I’m trying to convince him to do the 24hr option instead.
It’s now January 2017 at Disney marathon weekend. I finally convince Chris to do the 24hr option by literally registering for it in front of him at our lunch table. I remember one of the team members coming up to us.
Them: “What are ya’ll doing?”
Chris: “I guess we are signing up for a 24 hr race.?.?”
The word spreads quickly and then we turn into salesmen trying to recruit some other poor unfortunate souls to make some dumb decisions with us. We find sucker #1 and #2 in Luke and Nicki.
Luke and I did an infamous round out west together where we were race famous during the weekend because of our shenanigans. Then we actually coordinated costumes for the races in January. Some say it’s a bromance, I just say it took our whole lives to find each other. We are running brothers from other mothers.
Nicki has shown up fast in our team. She’s been on an inspiring story of health and exercise and is now one of, in not the, fastest person on our team. She’s up for crazy, so I thought that she would be down.
In a matter of an hour we had assembled the first ever WDW Radio Ultra Marathon Team.
It’s hip to be injured
Fast Forward a week and Nicki and I are out west running at the Star Wars Lightside race weekend.
I was feeling great for the 5k out there and was somewhere in the top 10-20 when I hit the castle. I decided I would get a great running jump shot. Well it turned out good, but my hip hated it. I was in off and on pain for the rest of the weekend.
I think, “Surely rest would make it better. I’ve also got 3 months until the ultra so plenty of time right??”
Princess weekend comes in Feb and I injure it again during the half marathon there.
Again I think, “Surely rest would make it better. I’ve got 2 months until the ultra so plenty of time right??”
Well there was no discernible change from mid February to April. I was now at the point that I had gone every day for the past 15 months with some kind of pain in my body. My only runs were with Sharon as she was continuing on her new running goals.
At the end of the day, I had trained a total of 6 times for a mileage total of 17 miles. The longest run was 6 miles. That’s all well and good for a 10k plan, but this was for a 50k plus.
I’m a planner, not a quitter
If there is one thing my experience in life has taught me is that it pays to be a good strategic thinker. If my body wasn’t ready for this race at least I could plan and prepare for all the variables. My list included:
- An hour by hour plan of running, pace, breaks, sleep and clothing changes
- Tent, pads, sleeping bags, chairs and a lantern
- Clothes for weather from 30-80 degrees, separated and clearly marked
- 4 pair of shoes
- Medical and sports aid of all kinds
- Solar shower
- Multi layer goals- marathon, ultra marathon, 50K, 75K, 50 miles, double marathon, 100k, 75 miles
Heres a copy of the schedule with the top tier goal of 75 miles.
The weekend had arrived. I wasn’t scared or nervous. I’d done events with GoRuck at night and I knew that I would be facing some inner demons at some point. Most of all I knew it was going to hurt and I needed to get my mind ready to embrace that new reality when it came.
Luke and Nicki came in town and we did the tourists deal, having a blast in downtown Atlanta. It was time to do this.
Next up: The 24hr Race
Anytime you face a setback or disappointment, put your head down and plow ahead.
I recently had a pretty big setback personally that put me in urgent care.
As many of you know, I’m trying to do all the Disney races this year with only two other people in the US that are also trying to complete the task. I’ve been planning this for almost four years and saving money for over two years. It would require me to do 24 races in 8 series on both coasts of the US this year. My first two series were back to back in January. During the first series I ran a 5k, 10k, half marathon and a marathon in 4 days. I was tired after the fourth day, but was ready to fly out to California three days later for three more races. The morning I traveled home from FL I had a tickle in my throat. By the time I made it back home, I had a 102.5 fever and was miserable.
The next morning I went to urgent care, where the doctor told me I had destroyed my immune system and I had a bad case of bronchitis. He said I shouldn’t go to California, and if I did I would be risking getting pneumonia and possibly being put in the hospital out there. I was devastated. I remember sitting on the patient table crying in my wife’s shoulder because I felt four years just went out the window. I had just completed what .00002% of the yearly US population accomplishes just a few days prior and I felt like I had failed. This was a setback, and it hurt.
So what do we do when we have a setback?
You really only have two choices, no matter what the setback is or the circumstances of how it happened. You can let it define you and dictate your future, or you can push through it. Satan wants nothing more than for us to wrap ourselves up in our setbacks and take home defeat. It’s the easier path for sure. I could stop signing up for races. I could punt the last half of my season and save a lot of money. The Lord gives us strength to rise above our disappointments and setbacks. Sure, its harder, but we must push through tough times.
If you’ve had a setback recently, be encouraged and don’t let it define you. The people that work with you care for you, you have family that loves you and the sun will rise again in the morning. You get to chose what defines you. Don’t let these things be among them.
The time from the Wine and Dine half to the Disney Marathon weekend has flown by. I’ve walked, run and biked right at 600 miles since August 12th and I’m looking forward to next week. I know I said at the beginning that I didn’t consider myself a runner, but several things came together for me to work through my self imposed obstacles.
Just a week before the big event!
1) My training pushed me to do things that I would not have done otherwise.
I never cared for no frills races as an adult. That’s why I got into obstacle racing. I needed something to break up the monotony and something to convince myself I was doing something besides running. Still today, I’m a race snob. If it doesn’t have some kind of twist and/or some rad medal I’m probably going to opt out unless it’s one a friend wants to do. The flipside is that if it’s a unique course with a good medal, I’ll kill myself to reach that goal.
Fast-forward to my training. I’m pulling half marathons+ in the Atlanta hills and there is no medal. No support team. No water/snack stops. There’s just me, my thoughts to keep me occupied and my legs to get me home. Literally. Sharon drives me up into the mountains and dumps me out, so the only way home is to run. Two years ago I would have called you crazy if you said that I was going to be doing 13-20 miles at a time just for kicks. Now it’s just called the weekend.
2) The gear. All the gear.
I have more shoes than my wife. I’ll be wearing four to five different pairs just for marathon weekend. I have winter outfits, rain outfits, fall outfits, and different levels of hot outfits. I’ve got the running watch, the running belt and about 567 pairs of sunglasses. I now stress out about it being 53 degrees because it falls in between outfit types. Stupid? You betcha!
I’ve also tried so many different combos of snacks/protein bars/gummies/gels its ridiculous. Right now my jam is a pack of Clif bar shot blocks and some iced oatmeal cookies on long runs. I have also really enjoyed those soft peppermints that you can suck on.
3) I stopped hating it and embraced the suck.
You know it doesn’t matter how far I go, the first mile is always the worst. Once you’ve suppressed the demons telling you to stay home and your body wrestles them away as it gets going, it’s actually not bad. The majority of time the biggest battle was just getting out the door. I never regretted going out for a run(even when I got injured) but I always regretted not going.
The joys of long runs!
4) I adjusted to running life.
Chaffed nipples is a real thing. I now own a large box of Band-Aids to pre-emptively treat before runs. I also started to heal much quicker. Typically I can be jacked up physically from a long run, but be fine for the most part the next day. I also started getting blisters in weird spots on my toes on long runs.
There is no magical racing moment when you consider yourself a runner.
If you get out and move your body in a forward motion with intention, congrats! You are a runner! Placing in a race or making a certain distance doesn’t magically make you a runner. If you run/jog you are a runner. It’s a simple as that. Honestly the most “magical” moment I had when I realized I was a runner was when I went to the store to buy that big box of band-aids. Sometimes it’s the odd moments in life that show you how far you’ve come.
A quick update on my health. Several people have asked how I’ve been managing my knee and leg/back pain since my injury and the Wine and Dine races that followed. The Dr. told me that I would be living with a good amount of pain that would not go away until my running break in May. I’m very happy to say that through some PT, a bit of medicine and adjustment in my own expectations, I’m now pretty much pain free!
The Disney Marathon was supposed to be my first event. I’d saved up for the Runner’s World Challenge. It’s a get treated like a king experience and you get to hang out with the Runners World Crew which I thought was pretty fun.
To make it through this ridiculous challenge of doing all the races I have to overcome the first obstacle….not getting shut out of any registrations all year. My wife and I had heard some of the crazy stories of how quickly some of the races sell out; especially the challenges. We are talking minutes. We watched the Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare sell out super quick. I remember sitting in a parking lot in North Miami while she clocked the percentage for me. This was going to be harder than I thought.
The next race registration was for the 2015 Wine and Dine half marathon and 5k that happen on the same day. The 5k is 7am and the half marathon is 10 pm. This time we did a dry run to see if we could get in. I had a CPU up and Ipad and Sharon had her Ipad and CPU going. We loaded up right at the opening and got in pretty easy……and then the “I live life to enjoy it” part of me kicked in and the next thing I know, I had signed up for both races and my daughter for the one-miler. We hadn’t planned it, nor talked about it, but here I was with a confirmation printout in my hand.
I’m thankful for a wife that puts up with me.
We looked at it as a good opportunity as a warm up for what we are about to get ourselves into. I started plugging away at the Runners World training plan and everything was going well. I was knocking mileage out and enjoying life. I guess that their plan assumes that you live in a normal terrain area… on one of the weekly runs it says to run the hilliest route to grow your strength. Well I live in Atlanta where even the hills come with a side of hills. If you know me, you know where this is going. I think to myself, “Alright run all the toughest hills then.” It was a good idea until something tweaked in my knee one day. The pain eventually took over my whole knee and by the next week both knees were in extreme pain.
….It was my body.
Again, my lovely wife comes to the rescue and gets me a DR. appointment (sports medicine) the week of the race. It was a bit comical to tell him about what I was planning to do. After I acknowledged that it was not a great idea, he agreed. He then dropped a little DR. wisdom on me. “I need you to know that after you get back from that first trip to California, your body is going to be broken.” Something to look forward to! He also said that I’ll likely have to live with this pain until May when I can take 6-8 weeks off before the second half of the season.
So here I am today, injured and about to do two races that I originally had no intention of doing. It’s not all bad. I have this weird track record for doing really well right after a big injury. I finished third at a mud run when I had a back injury the week before that was so bad that I couldn’t walk. After another back injury I finished in the top 4% in two back to back Spartan races. Here’s hoping that I can make it through this weekend!
20th Anniversary of the Food and Wine Festival