Monday Musings: on giving up too easily

I never thought the day would come when I would whine more on a golf course than Jordan Spieth. I have nothing against him. In fact, I was happy enough that he won the Open Championship (though probably I would have been even happier if Kuchar had won), but my boyfriend and I often make fun of Spieth’s antics on the golf course. When things aren’t going his way he talks to his ball, or his club, or to himself. He looks dismayed at the fact that he hasn’t hit a perfect shot. He can get in his head and his game falls apart. In other words, he can give up.

Yesterday, I went about twelve steps beyond Spieth-level antics. After two holes of a nine-hole round, I declared: “That’s IT. I’m DONE.” Then I tried another shot on the third hole with equally horrific results. I carried my ball to the other side of the water hazard. I threw my pitching wedge on the ground when I hit a (hideously bad) chip shot that sailed all the way across the green. I walked an entire hole without hitting a single ball, silently, and pouting all the while. I continued to give up hole after hole. Completely.

I could easily view yesterday’s tantrum as a one-off, but the reality is that my past is littered with examples of me giving up. In no particular order, here are just a few of the things I have given up on without a fight:

  • learning to play guitar
  • getting my money back from Air Canada when a $300 item was stolen from my suitcase (I am still bitter about that one, even though I have no one to blame but myself)
  • writing two other blogs before starting this one
  • my last job
  • launching a consultancy

This list doesn’t even touch on the many things I would have given up on had someone else not intervened and urged/forced me to forge ahead. That list is even more troubling and includes: my undergraduate degree, grad school, and getting the $100 tow fee back from a mistakenly towed vehicle (okay, that last one’s less serious but my boyfriend did not let me get out of that!).

When things get tough, when I’m not attached or committed to the idea, when I get ultra frustrated, or when the benefit to me doesn’t seem to outweigh the effort, that’s when I’m most likely to throw in the towel. As much as I like to think that I’m ultra resilient, time has shown that’s not always the case.  It’s certainly not easy to admit that I sometimes give up too easily, but there it is: I am a big, old, quitter…at least occasionally.

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Training Tuesdays: Upping my Mental Game

I continue to underestimate the mental fortitude required while recovering from an injury.  It is hard to keep working at building physical strength when the results are not instant and miraculous. No matter how often I try to remind myself that the speed and endurance will come if I keep working hard, when I have a bad workout or play the comparison game it’s hard not to want to throw in the towel.

This weekend, I hiked Saturday and Sunday on actual trails, which I’ve not done since my initial injury. Sunday was eye opening for me.  On that second consecutive day of hiking, I was brutally reminded of just how far I still have to go.  As I dragged my sorry and tired butt up what used to be my “I’m-feeling-beyond-lazy-and-want-the-illusion-of-hiking-without-actually-hiking” trail–a 9 km return with only 450 m of elevation gain–I couldn’t help but feel discouraged.

It is a tough pill to swallow.  I’ve been making great gains lately with hiking and running.  Instead of feeling proud of my progress to date, I beat myself up over and over as my tracking app announced my per kilometre hiking times and the times only continued to get bigger and bigger.I told myself to move faster.  I told myself I used to hike this trail at least 2 minutest per kilometre faster. I told myself that I’m strong enough that I should be able to push through the discomfort.  No matter what I told myself, my legs remained at the same slow, steady pace.

This time last year,  I was rocking multiple days of consecutive hiking on 25+ km trails with at least 1000 m of elevation gain. And it felt easy. It’s hard to constantly be reminded I’m nowhere near where I used to be in terms of fitness and endurance.  It was a lot easier to be kind to myself when I was still suffering from injury pain but, now that the pain is pretty much gone, I have little patience for needing to build up endurance and fitness.

Comparison is a dangerous game, even when it’s comparison with former versions of yourself. I’m not yet sure how to keep things in perspective, how to keep my eye on the progress prize, nor how to dig deeper when I want to give up, but I do know that I need to work on my mental game just as much as my physical game. If I have any hope of running this ultra, my mental game will be everything.

 

Monday Musings: I just watched the Barkley Marathons and I loved it

I just watched the Barkley Marathons.  I know, I know. I’m late to the game on this one.  I’m genetically pre-disposed to not watching things just because people tell me I should watch them.  But I have found that I have infinitely more time for Netflix now that I’m injured, so I finally caved to the social pressure.

And I loved it.

I didn’t love it because I want to run that type of race. In fact, I spent most of the documentary thinking that the participants were slightly off their rockers…and imagining how my map-reading ineptitude would lead to my certain death after I became hopelessly lost in the Tennessee wilderness. I didn’t love the race itself. What I love is how the race highlights the best parts of the human spirit and running community, how it redefines how runners view success and failure, and how it demonstrates just how far tenacity can carry you.

Community:

In the road races I’ve been a part of (and even the mountain marathon to a large extent), there’s such a competitive spirit at play that there’s little interaction during the race.  Everyone’s in it to win it.  It seemed as though in the Barkley Marathons, there’s a heightened sense of camaraderie and interdependence.

It’s not that there isn’t competition, but there is also a healthy respect for other runners and a clear community of support that is created among the runners. Laz comments:  “They want to beat each other and they will race their guts out, but as failure for one reason or another takes each one of those top guys they become like a de facto crew of the people who are left and when it whittles down to that single runner who’s surviving he’s got an A crew who’s like a who’s who–the amount of knowledge and experience and accomplishments in that group helping him to go on so that someone can succeed.”   The event is itself is bigger than any one runner. Runners lend their expertise to other runners, veterans pair up with and stick by race “virgins”, and just like that a community is formed.

Redefining Failure:

Conventional definitions of failure lose their meaning in the Barkley.  In a typical race, it’s about finishing the course and as fast as possible. It’s about PRs and getting ROI for your training.  The Barkley is fundamentally different.  It took 10 years before anyone finished the Barkley and another 6 years before a second person finished. There are still many years where no one finishes all five loops. Even those who tap out before the fun run see the massive accomplishment in persevering for as long as they could.

It’s not about the finish as much as pushing personal boundaries and discovering what you’re capable of.  Laz describes it rather eloquently: “people have their own concepts of success and failure and they–a lot of them–by the time they’ve been through the ordeal really are not concerned with how other people evaluate their performance…they make their own judgments about success and failure.”  There’s a beauty to an event that isn’t about the finish in and of itself, but instead is about the journey to get there.

Grit & Tenacity:

The role of mental fortitude far surpasses physical strength in this race.  Sure, these runners are fit and trained, but they’re also able to grind through the exhaustion, the physical pain, the self-doubt, the voice that is telling them to stop.  It shows just how far the mind can carry a battered human body.  I love the moment where one of the runners about to start his fifth loop on blister-covered feet says “I just need to muscle through it for twelve more hours.”  That is grit, pure and simple. I have trouble digging deep to muscle through another mile just to finish a 10-mile run! That same runner went on to finish and perfectly described the role that grit and tenacity play in this race: “so many people told me…you have to be super elite to finish Barkley. I just refused to believe that.  I think if you really want it bad enough a joe shmo like me could finish. It’s not going to be pretty, it’s not going to be fun, but it’s gonna be possible.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

So while I won’t be throwing my hat in the ring for this particular race any time soon–or ever for that matter–I am totally on board for what it stands for and tip my hat to anyone who’s taken part whether for one loop or for all five.

Monday Musings: Refusing to Accept the “Inevitable”

I am surrounded by people telling me my injury will take a long time to heal, that it will take me maybe months to get back to running or even back to hiking on trails, that I need to be patient and take my time to heal. I understand that there is an element to truth to that. I fully recognize, for instance, that at this moment in time I am not physically able to run or hike. My body is telling me with sharp, stabbing pain.

On the flipside, I absolutely refuse to believe that I’ll actually be out of commission for months.  I’m fairly certain that most people around me think I’m wrong, think I’m being needlessly stubborn, think that I’m bound to rush back to activities only to re-injure myself.  What they fail to realize is that, while stubborn, I’m also the idealist.

I actually believe that I can will myself back to faster recovery. It’s my own version of the “if you build it, they will come” school of thought. Okay, let’s take a step back because I realize that likely sounds crazy.  I don’t mean that I’ll just think about getting better, but never take action, and somehow see massively accelerated improvements. That would be lunacy.

What I’m talking about is maintaining the firm belief that faster recovery is possible and letting that belief fuel my actions in a way that gets me to infinitely faster recovery. It’s sort of the fake it til you make it idea–but on hyper speed. My belief: I will be back on the trails in May. They may not be the steepest or the longest trails, and I don’t imagine myself running on them, but I will hike in May. To do that, I’m going to have to train smart and slow. I’m going to have to discount a lot of voices telling me not to. I’m going to have to balance professional medical advice with listening to my own body. I will not let this SI issue defeat me or ruin my summer hiking plans.

This week’s step towards making my belief a reality: integrate some form of lower body activity (strength training or non-impact cardio) & meet with personal trainer.

Some might say the road to recovery is long and, while I think some injuries warrant this, I also think we discount the huge role that our mental state plays in recovery. So I’m going to buck the trend and prove everyone else wrong (which, as an added benefit, is one of my favourite things to do). I got this.