Victory in the Face of Adversity
We have all been challenged throughout life, both physically and mentally. The way we handle those obstacles define us. Anyone can be positive when everything is going their way but how do you respond when everything is going against you? In 2014 I ran the Spartan Beast in Hawaii and it tested me more than I had expected. I am sharing this story with you so that you can see how people can change their mindset when odds are against them.
The race is a 13-mile run is expected to take about 2+ hours with 26 obstacles to include water, mud, memorization, wall scaling, and the list goes on. I completed this race with my best friend. We had been training hard and were ready to tackle the event. The day of the race came and we were prepared to tackle this thing. As we were packing our water bags and taking inventory of what energy foods we had with us, I could not believe I had left the house and forgot my honey wafer, energy gels and protein bars. Fortunately, my friend had remembered his. I felt that I was already at a loss with not having the right nutrients to stay hydrated and keep my electrolyte levels up.
The race starts, we are powering through obstacles and miles. Until mistake number 2 happens. I had to urinate alongside the trail and I confused the proper direction of the course. My wife will vouch that I am directionally challenged. I ended up taking a wrong turn which routed us in the opposite direction. We were now running back through miles of what we had already accomplished. Not realizing this until we had already run for a while, turning around was not the best option at that point. Already feeling the toll on the body from the race and now mentally stunned that we had just added about 90 mins and a few miles to our original 13, it was time to dig deep. We had been in the top ranks of our heat, which was no longer possible at this point. I had no time for internal dialogue of complaining, it would not help the situation. I had to focus on one step at a time and the first step was getting back to where we veered off and that was it. It was a mental struggle but you can eliminate thoughts from your internal dialogue easily if you practice.
We finally returned to the point where we had gotten mixed up and were making progress. The electrolyte levels were decreasing in my body which was giving me a massive headache. My friend and I split a honey wafer that he had brought with him, good friend, right? However, the split honey wafer did not suffice. Headache, exhaustion, and now pouring rain were sure to be the recipe for failure. Of course, it was overcast that day so the rain and lack of sun did not heat my body in anyway. Fortunately, this was within a few miles of the finish, the obstacles became harder as the rain made them slippery. I can remember running in the pouring rain and just thinking to myself, “it will end at some point, nothing lasts forever”. I embraced the feeling of discomfort, a technique I feel many others should adopt. I became at peace with all the mistakes I had made and stayed in the moment, listening to my breath as my soaked shoes were smacking the dirt and mud. The rain stopped and in the distance was the 15-foot rope climb with about 4 feet of muddy water at the bottom. The previous year I had run the Spartan sprint and only got halfway before I deemed it unsafe for me to continue and climbed back down. I told myself this year that “I will get to the top or fall off trying”. Well, with the muddy slippery rope I managed to be about 2 feet from the top when I slipped and fell into the water. Even though I fell, I was proud that I had pushed myself to that point.
The final obstacle was crawling over muddy sharp rocks under barbed wire. The lack of proper nutrition and electrolytes at this point had caused a cramp in my legs with every crawl, with a cramp, came a jerk and a stab from the barbed wire. This lasted for about ten minutes until I had reached the end and could barely stand up. The finish line was in sight, after about 4 hours and 15 miles it was finally over!
No matter how many obstacles you may face there is always a different way to look at it. Stoicism is a great philosophical concept that can help bring this strength out in people. Everyone has challenges throughout life. I encourage all of you to attack the challenges with positivity and rewire the way your brain handles each difficult situation.