One day, right after the end of UTMB, I was watching a video on Twitter, that showed Jim Walmsley struggling through the course. At the same time, I received a text message, from an athlete that I coach, asking about their training. The connection between the two may not have appeared right away, but it reminded me that this stuff is hard.
In that moment, the best in the world was struggling and the every day athlete was concerned about training. These sports, regardless of ability, are hard on the body and mind. Whether you race triathlons or ultra marathons, there will come a time when you ask yourself why. Why do you keep going? Having a strong why will be the first place to start but then being able to look inside yourself would be the next best step.
I think about responses I have gotten when the conversation turns to hobbies and inevitably endurance sports. I tell them that I am an endurance athlete. Why the vague response? Because I am trying to avoid the responses I know I’m going to get. The conversation evolves. Eventually, I’ll respond that it spend time swimming, cycling and running. Sometimes for hours upon hours and sometimes days.
The comments that follow are:
- ‘I don’t like driving that far’
- ‘Do you sleep?’
- ‘Are you eating the entire time?’
This Is Where The Magic Is
Very rarely does somebody ask me why I’m participating in these events. To me, that is where the magic is. The magic is in the why and for me, the why is: Because this stuff is hard.
In a world where everything is becoming more and more convenient, I’m searching for the hard. It can cause me stress and anxiety but I know I can overcome it. Sometimes I overcome it in 10 minutes and other times it may take 10 days or 10 months. Regardless of how long it takes, I am of the mindset that I will overcome.
I believe this is because I am able to do hard things and push myself. No, not every day is unicorns and rainbows but every day I have a chance. I have an opportunity to do something great and I don’t want to let that pass.
I Get Anxious, Nervous And Stressed
When I jump in the open water I have to overcome the fear and anxiety I had at the 2019 Ironman Wisconsin swim where I DNF’d. Throwing one leg over the bike to prepare to ride and chase better cyclists around town, I have to overcome the fear and anxiety of getting dropped and lost. Throw on a pair of running shoes and head out on the trail? I have to overcome the desire to quit and not take another step. This stuff is hard.
We battle and we scrap to train and then to race. The fight starts the moment you press the registration button. That is when the race is real. It doesn’t become real when the athlete guide comes out. It’s real the day you submit your name and realize that it is going to be hard.
I have cried, and will cry, at finish lines. Sure the body is sore and in pain but it’s more about having overcome. Taking the chance to stare hard things in the face and let them know that I will not be beat. Then when I cross the finish line, I know I was tougher than the training and the course. This stuff is hard, but I won.
I Didn’t Fail. I Learned.
And on those occasions when I don’t win, I’m not a failure. Those hard things beat me in that moment but I’m not down for the count. I will collect my thoughts and myself and work on what didn’t go as planned. I will adjust to my training so I am in a better position to succeed at the next event. Address and adjust and give myself a shot at being better than the course that day.
This stuff is hard. I know it and yet I still lean into it. I know that I’ll be better from it and that is why I keep going back.