Everyone is faced with challenges, but it’s how you handle those challenges that makes a difference. Last weekend was a true test for me. I ran the Kodiak 50 Mile Ultra at Big Bear. Of course, that distance alone is a challenge, but this course was difficult. It started at 7000 feet of elevation. We climbed over 9,000 feet during the course. One climb was 6 miles long and another, at about mile 43 when your legs and mind can hardly handle any more, was so steep that most people I saw were stopping numerous times while climbing it.
So how does one manage a race like this? First, you have to train for it. It took effort just to schedule the training and drive to locations that would give me the right kind of elevation training. Practice not only gives you strength physically, but it prepares you mentally. I also took the time to train with others that have more experience than me. That time taught me what NOT to do. I asked questions. I paid attention to my body. And I worked with my brain.
All the training imaginable is helpful, but in the end, it is your brain– your mental toughness that gets you through and it happens before the race even starts. We have the option to CHOOSE our effort level. Sometimes, and most often, if we choose to persevere and make wise decisions along the way, we find success. There are some instances when things just don’t go as planned, but it all starts with CHOOSING your plan of action, then DOING it.
While out on that course, I had many moments when I thought about stopping, but they were fleeting moments. I knew I wasn’t going to stop. Notice how life can be like this? Life throws all sorts of things our way and it is easy to quit. But it is CHOOSING to push through that makes the difference. When those moments popped into my head, I said “No way! I am going to pass that person in front me. Come on! Let’s go!” and I did just that. I used my mental side to make me tougher because I knew I was strong enough; I just had to pull out my mental fitness to make me even stronger.
While it may sound easy, it wasn’t; but it made it easier. On that last climb, I knew how hard it was because I had done it during training. I decided I was going to push up it like it was mile number one on fresh legs and I did. I was surprised that I did it the entire time– 2 straight miles of super steep climbing as fast as I could. It felt amazing! The best part is that it taught me that I am capable. We ALL are capable of way more than we think.
Life holds the same opportunities. We can use our mental toughness to push through those moments when we want to scream or cry or walk away and give up. DON’T EVER GIVE UP. I can tell you, through the loss of my 4 1/2month old son, that I spent much of my life near choosing to give up. CHOOSE to find your mental toughness. It will make your stronger and help you find peacefulness in your life.