Yesterday I wrote a bit about the Ragnar Relay race I competed in this past weekend, and a strange sense of peace or clarity I achieved through being a crazy asshole and running 30-some miles in 20-some hours. It took me three whole days of talking it out with people and answering questions like "Um, so why did you do that again?", "are you nuts?" and "you're one of those masochists aren't you?" to realize I had done something rather profound, at least for me. I'm not just talking about physical accomplishment here. I'm talking about participating in an activity that created in me a new mindset about how to approach life and challenges. I experienced a sense of clarity through crazy on my runs. For most of my miles, I had very little energy to keep me going. I did the best I could to fuel appropriately before and after each leg, but I did not do a very good job of stretching, sleeping or otherwise resting between each leg. Also, the fueling I did really wasn't enough. That combination of soreness, tiredness and hunger meant each run became a battle. This meant ridding my mind of any sign of weakness, and small inkling of failure of "I can't do this" had to disappear. This meant playing bad cop with myself (as it turns out, my bad cop likes to swear quite a bit and spew motivational insults - most of which I'm not sure are even legal to print).
Once you get over the mental hurdles, you're just running, pain and simple. You just…go. Once your mind has said, "Yep. We're doing this," your body will follow along - especially if you've done any training at all for something like this. It dawned on me in the past few days, that the same is true in activities that aren't running as well.
How do you accomplish something? You set your mind to it and you do it.
Now, I'm gonna throw an asterisk on that statement. It's not meant as one of those "you can be anything you want" type statements you hear in motivational speeches. No. You can't. But most of us aren't trying to go from being 35 years old and 300+ pounds, eating bulk bags of Cheetos on the couch to starting 3rd baseman for the Cubs. Why would we try that? No one wants to be playing for the Cubs. *cough* Joke aside, that scenario is in a realm I consider obviously unrealistic. What's in the realm of realism is learning new disciplines & developing new habits and routines that will improve our lives.
I noticed sometime during my 3rd leg - a tough 8.8 miles at 10:30pm that began with a steady stream of snow (yes, snow) - that my body not only accepted what I was doing to it, it got on board. It adjusted to the concept that I was making it run stupid amounts in silly intervals. It found a way to give my mind the support it needed to finish, to muster up strength and energy to keep running. This happened because I wasn't giving up. I wasn't going to stop. Instead of fighting my mind and spirit, my body said, "Welp, I guess we're doing this now. Let's go, you crazy bastard."
The lesson here involves our capability to push ourselves, to keep driving toward a goal, and our ability to make adjustments to get there. We're pretty amazing creations in that sense. Think about it. Humanity's history is littered with examples of making adjustments to get there. It took a long time to get places, so we started harnessing the speed of animals like horses and dragons (probably). Eventually we built things with wheels. Water was in our way, so we built things that floated. Then bigger things that floated faster. Then we took to the skies. The American West has numerous man-made passes that were dynamited in order to put a road through them. Seriously. We needed to get from here to there but a mountain was in the way. So we blew a giant hole in the side of a mountain. We made adjustments to get there.
Want to get in better shape? Tweak your diet and exercise routine. Make adjustments and get there.
Want to get to a better place financially? Review your spending. Seek advice from experts. Read blogs about it. Make adjustments and get there.
Want to fix a bad habit? Devote yourself to that. Read about it. Talk to people who have conquered bad habits of their own. Make adjustments and get there.
Want to do a Ragnar Relay in Colorado next year? You're crazy.