Friday, July 11, 2014

Rule #10: It Doesn't Suck, It's a Challenge, It's an Opportunity

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion.'" - Muhammad Ali

"Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records." - William A. Ward

"Embrace the suck." - Chris "Macca" McCormack


After work the other day I headed down the street to LA Fitness to knock off one of my three weekly swim sessions. After changing into my jammers I entered the pool area to see two of the three lanes filled with floaters. No, not the kind of floater from Caddyshack, but the kind who take a lane while not really exercising. You know, just floating around. Third lane was available, but I had to share it with a woman doing breast stroke. Not the best person to share a lane with, but at least she could swim a straight line and we could stay out of each others way.

Anyway, I sat on the side of the pool really wanting to just go home and watch some TV. It didn't get any better when I started my warm-up. Still, I invoked the 20-minute rule (Rule #4) and carried on. After my warm up, still not feeling good, I started my main set of 15x100 on 1:35. The first 100 really, really sucked. I hit the wall, feeling like hell, knowing if I continued on it probably wasn't going to get any better. For about 3 seconds I contemplated calling it a day.

Well, maybe a bit more than 3 seconds ...

My Garmin showed it was time to push off so off I went. As I pushed off the wall three words entered my mind - f#$k this $hit.  Instantly my mindset changed.

Jon Soden - The Complex Triathlete
Sometimes, this is what the final 10k of an
Ironman can look like. At least the scenery
was nice to look at.
Grind it out, one at a time became my mantra. Don't think ahead. Stay in the present.

Hundred by hundred I was able to hit my times, even a few seconds faster for the last three reps.

It sucked, but I got through it.

Train for an endurance sport and you are bound to encounter something that sucks - a set of intervals, a freezing cold pool, injury, the last 6 miles of the Ironman run - on a fairly regular basis. How successful you are in reaching your potential at sport (or in life) can be attributed to how you handle those moments that absolutely suck. Anyone who has trained for an marathon can drop the hammer for 26.2 miles with blue skies and a light cool breeze. Putting out your best when it's 38 degrees and raining ... that's something you really have to embrace.

Those moments when things suck, when you just want to hang it up, when you feel like you are at the very end of the rope ... those are the moments that make you strong, physically, and probably more importantly, mentally. Yes, that 15x100 did my body some good. What I took from that workout, however, was that I could do the work, continue to push forward, at a time I clearly wanted to be doing something much less stressful on the body. Mentally I made it to the other side.

This goes beyond pushing through some intervals or those low moments in a race. What is your reaction in the days/weeks after suffering an injury? How do you handle a flat tire at mile 47 of an Ironman? Don't think that can ruin your day if you let it? Ask Norman Stadler.

Something that sucks - adversity - will show up when you least expect it. How you deal with it will determine your fate. Do you give in and call it a day? Or do you take whatever is happening as a challenge, an opportunity?

This rule is both different than and an extension of Rule #5. It is different in that Rule #5 is about more than fear to push the limits (harden the f#$k up and do it). Rule #10 is about the understanding of those moments, embracing them, then dealing with it in a business-like fashion. Rule #10 is about how you develop and, ultimately, how you put it together on race day. Rule #10 is impossible without fully embracing Rule #5.

The essence of Rule #10 is this: the moments that determine who you are, what you are made of, how you perform on race day, come not from the moments when things are going good, but when things are going bad. These are the times you have the opportunity to create personal greatness.

Handle these moments with grace and determination? You're a champion. Wilt like an unwatered Florida lawn in July? Never gonna happen.


Train hard. Stay Focused.
Jon


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1 comment:

  1. They also say what does not kill you makes you stronger ;-) Loved reading this as I go through this on a regular basis too...you are so right about advising to stay focused on the present...and Loved the quote about the Florida lawns in July!!!

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