Unknown and Unknowable

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“I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I’m really good at suffering.” – Amelia Boone

I’ve said a version of this for the past five-plus years. I am good at tolerating discomfort. I don’t know exactly how I made it to this point or why, but I do know when. When I am scared, it makes me question my capabilities.

img_7929In 2011, I signed up for the Peak Death Race through a website called www.youmaydie.com. I read an article about it in Outside magazine in a doctor’s office and I thought, “Can I do this?” The race was described as a weekend-long event with unknown timelines, events and outcomes. That year, the race experienced a registration boom of more than 150 people. The race required us to create a video waiver, stating that we were aware of the serious risks and potential for injury.

There were a slew of certifiable badasses: The Guinness Book of Records holders and Worlds Fittest Man – Joe Decker, along with multiple athletes who conquered the most arduous road races like the Badwater Ultramarathon – a 135-mile race that goes through Death Valley where ground gets so hot your shoes melt – and The Western States 100 – a 100-mile race with thousands and thousands of feet of elevation change.

There was a guy who completed a triple Ironman. That means that he swam more than 6 miles, biked more than 330 miles and ran more than 75 miles. Back to back! There was a guy who was an Army Ranger – a dude that would spend days and weeks in isolation from his support team to carry out missions. There was a drill instructor – aka professional ass-kicker whose everyday jobs was to beat people down in order to build them back up.

img_7926In the months leading up to this race, competitors discussed their grueling training sessions and methods of preparation on a dedicated Facebook page. I would often look at this and think, “I can’t do that…what have I done…I don’t know if I can do this.”

Those people, for the most part, knew. They knew what they were going to do, they knew how it would feel and they knew exactly how long it would take them. This was the difference. This is the only reason I was one of 34 finishers. Of all of the people I listed above, only the Ranger finished. The others all dropped out at some point during the race.  My goal was simple: Keep moving forward.

I try to teach this every day. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter if someone is bigger, stronger, faster, taller, shorter, younger and/or older. It really doesn’t. What matters is you and your effort.  It doesn’t matter who is next to you. If anything, it should just motivate you to be better. It doesn’t matter if you know the workout prior to working out or your partners score. What matters is your effort. What would you do if there was no one else around? No counter, no crowd, no cheers, no clock?  How fast would you go then?

Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop wishing for what others have. Stop hoping to be something else. You are you and only you. Be the best you that you can because of your gifts, rather than in spite of your supposed shortcomings.

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