This month, I set out to tackle a new fitness challenge. I signed up for two half-marathons on consecutive weekends. Perhaps this doesn't sound like too crazy of a challenge, but as someone who averages a race a year, it was a pretty big deal.
I'm not really sure why I decided to embark on this challenge, to be honest. I had signed up for the Big Sur Trail half last year, but Envirosports was forced to cancel the race due to incessant wildfires in the Big Sur area. I received a credit for the fee and decided to use it on the same race this year. Nothing makes me happier than running in new, beautiful places, and as it's consistently voted one of the most beautiful runs in the country, the thought of running Big Sur was extremely appealing.
A couple of months later, I realized that our local half marathon, The Newport Half, was taking place the week before. A few friends were running it, and so I agreed to sign up, too. The course map was basically my long run route, anyhow, I figured. So, why not?
We only get stronger by pushing our own limits.
In my mind, at the time of sign-up, running two halves a week apart seemed like no big deal. I've been running for many years now, and "so what if I haven't done this particular challenge before?," said my mind when I first agreed to run Newport. But as I approached the race dates, my mind slowly began changing it's story.
"Who do you think you are? This was a crazy idea."
"You're going to hurt yourself! Don't do it."
"What if you burn yourself out on the first race and can't do the one you really want to do?"
Etc. Etc. Etc.
My mind, if I allow it to, can spiral out of control and make me believe things that simply aren't true. But luckily, I am realizing, through my study of Buddhism, yoga, and meditation, that I AM NOT MY MIND.
The mind is a very powerful tool, and it's "power" can go either way. My mind is normally pretty bright and realistically optimistic. So when my mind had the original thought of, "I'm going to run two back-to-back half marathons," it had reasoned, calculated, and confidently produced the decision of, "Yes. I will run these races." And why not? I am fit. I trained pretty well for these races. And I've run many races in the past. I have no major injuries, nor anything else preventing me from running. So, my mind, reasoned, quickly and largely unconsciously, "Yes. We will run."
But then...self-doubt began to set in, thanks to the ego. The ego does not like to get hurt and will protect itself to a fault. My ego can be very fragile at times, so much so that it can convince me of things that are completely false, especially as it relates to my skill and abilities. My ego wants to keep me safe, and will do so to my self-detriment. If I allow it.
Anyways. So, fast forward. I ran the Newport Half on the 17th. I finished strong and felt overall, really good about it. The ego tried to rock my nerves the day before, but I did my best to ignore it, and all was fine. My quads and calves were sore for a few days afterwards, but nothing foam-rolling, water, and yoga couldn't mend. As the following Saturday and Big Sur approached, I felt heavy. I felt a bit of fear. My ego's chatter got louder. "What are you, crazy?!," it chided. But my ticket was purchased. The AirBnB was booked. I was going to Big Sur. Suddenly race details that I hadn't paid much attention to came to forefront of my brain, "There's an elevation gain of 2880 feet during the race." "This is the most challenging race in the Envirosport's line-up." "We HIGHLY recommend you bring water." All of these statements that I'd brushed off before glared out at me from the final race email. Oy vey! I thought to myself. Whose idea was this?
Race day comes and I awake super early. I'm jittery as always, but overall feeling pretty good. We drive to Andrew Molera State Park, and after a warmly hilarious opening speech by the president of Envirosports, we walk up the across the road to the start. The start is announced and we take off. Immediately, we are ascending a giant hill. People start walking after a tenth of a mile. The hill keeps going. I've never run this race before and I couldn't see beyond the first couple of bends, so I have no idea what's in store for me. The hill doesn't stop. It's 80 degrees. The sun is beating down on me. I ignored the advice and did not bring water with me. And suddenly my ego voice yells inside my head, "YOU'RE NOT GONNA MAKE THIS!" This is the first time I've ever had that thought during a race. But I truly believed, during those few couple miles THAT WERE ALL UPHILL, that I might not finish the race. "Maybe I'll just turn around at the 2.5 mile mark and do the 5 miler," I thought to myself. But I knew I would be disappointed if I did that. So, I literally put one foot in front of the other. Soon, I found myself on gorgeous descents through shaded redwood forest. The smell of pine needles made me giddy (or was it the elevation change?) and I began to realize I was going to finish the race.
And sure enough, I did. I was very happy with my finish, too. Though I have never run to compete against anyone but myself, I was surprised to discover that I finished 34th overall, which is a testament to how much I embraced (i.e. sprinted) the downhills.
So, here's the thing: your mind can be your best friend or your own worst enemy, and it will tell you lies. But you don't have to listen. Take the action towards whatever it is you want, and gauge the results for yourself. And remember why you've made the goal(s) in the first place, before the ego has a chance to intervene.
(Coming down the final descent at the Big Sur Trail Half).
I'm already researching my next half-marathon. What's your next wellness goal?
In health & happiness,
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!