For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson(- photo taken from the Stratton Brook Pond hut at sunrise)
The only thing I hate more than failing is not trying. In fact, I have little tolerance for excuses. I know most people are well-intentioned, but find it infinitely frustrating when people feign passion for something but flake out on game day. "I don't have time to train." "I have an injury that I don't want to aggravate." "I don't have the money." What all of these things have in common is that they indicate a failure to commit: an unwillingness to be vulnerable to the possibility of failure.
One thing I have learned about myself is that I am a little stubborn and tend to swim upstream. While most people fear vulnerability, exhaustion and failure, I embrace it. When most people consider quitting, I push through. While others wonder why someone would want to suffer needlessly, I seek ways to push a little harder. And I love it. I care very little about boundaries. Boundaries are only set by those who want an excuse to quit. I worry less about what I can't do and focus more on what I can.
Going into this fall's Spartan World Championship Ultrabeast, I felt confident. I had trained hard over the summer and knew I was well-prepared. Having completed the event in 2012 successfully, I knew where I needed to be stronger and how to improve my stamina for the 10-11 hour effort that surely would be required for the event. My dad and I planned the details of our trip to Vermont together, which would be the first time he had watched me race since college. I was beyond excited.
Then, in an instant, things changed.
Two weeks before the event, a simple unsuspecting hit in a strong hydraulic on a rafting trip led to a collision with two other helmets: one to the front of my bright yellow helmet and the other to the back. In the immediate aftermath of the collision, I didn't feel all that bad: a little angry at the tactics of the guide, but otherwise OK. It wasn't until hours later when I arrived at home that I knew that I had taken more than just a little hit and that something was very wrong.
The days that followed are a bit of a blur. I slept for hours upon hours, fumbled through the workday taking naps whenever I could sneak away. I avoided lights, loud spaces, TV's and computers. After 4 or 5 days, holding out hope that I would be able to return to play in time for the World Championships, I began to take short walks in the afternoons. It was not until the 7th day that I was forced to wrestle with a decision where I would have to consider the possibility of what seemed unthinkable: quitting the race.
Completely paralyzed by the notion of quitting something I knew I was fully capable of, I began to panic. I considered racing with 1/2 effort (after all, I had been injured before and always found a way to work around it). I considered putting off the decision longer allowing for a possible recovery in the final days before the race. In the end, I was not capable of making the decision. Instead, I turned to a friend with a lot of experience coaching elite-level athletes. I pretended that I needed his advice. As I knew he probably would, he reminded me of the seriousness of a brain injury and helped me to put into perspective the gravity of taking a risk with my brain. He was also the first in 7 days to tell me that I looked like shit. I know now what he knew then: what I needed was permission to be weak. He let me off the hook. I needed permission to quit.
In the weeks that followed, I stayed home while the races went on without me. I watched the fall go by while I disconnected from my family, work and the community of obstacle racers that had become a regular part of my daily life. Six full weeks went by without a workout, hike, or run. Suffice to say, I have had some
|I make a mean salsa. Who knew?|
For so many days after this accident I felt unlucky. Wrong place, wrong time I told myself. Today, I realize how lucky I am that I will recover from my accident while so many other people don't. I have now returned to my workouts with renewed vigor and enthusiasm simply for the love of sport and a lifestyle of fitness.
Although there are many reasons I am drawn to endurance obstacle racing, probably the most profound is that I learn something new from each race I do. The Ultrabeast was no exception, just delivered in a different way. I know now that I am even strong enough to quit.
|Stan, always grateful for a good walk.|