Monday, March 2, 2015

Tales from the front - Racing, The Crossfit Open - its all about the unknown

"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."

Mark Twain

I know, its been a while. But instead of wondering why its been so long since I wrote, let me bring you up to speed and get right to the underlying theme of this post.

I raced. Yes, I went to the desert, Scottsdale, AZ, and raced a serious bitch of a course - Powerman Arizona. As a first year race, it had some hiccups, but in terms of difficulty, the race delivered. In a big way. A bike course that was nothing but climbing and descending on chipped asphalt, and a legit trail run, single track nastiness the went from 10 feet wide to 2 feet, making passing a skill itself, not wanting to end up in cactus.

I did well. In some ways, better than I expected, in others, not as much. The biggest hurdle was mental. The desire to suffer, and to go to the dark for an extended period this early in the season, it was a lot to ponder. But once I got to check out the course, I realized - "If you don't do this, what the fuck have you been training for? What are you so scared of, not doing well? How will you possibly know if you don't race, and race hard? Toughen the fuck up and get after it." And that's what I did. It landed me a second place finish, and some sore legs, but a big smile. A smile and a sense of relief. Knowing that I was still able to suffer mightily, and press on, harder and harder, till there was nothing left. And that felt good. It made me want more.

But the race was only the beginning of a long season, one filled with lots of new challenges, lots of opportunities to step out into the unknown. That first step was signing up for the Crossfit Open. Its been on my mind for a while, and as I watched a close friend prepare for her first crack at the Games, I realized, this was something I needed to do. Because it was an unknown, and most likely an opportunity to get humbled. Which is exactly what happened in the first event 15.1. 15 minutes of hell, that went way too fast, left me a bit beat up, but with more hunger and more smiling.

How are these things connected? I forced myself to embrace the unknown, to embrace my fear, and push forward. These were moments of the greatest opportunity of growth, self awareness, and satisfaction I have felt in a long time. Was there fear? Of course. Fear is normal. But letting fear win, well, that keeps you comfortable and closed off to living.

Over the last couple months I've had some extremely insightful conversations with friends and family about facing the unknown, why some cannot embrace the notion, why fear is so over-powering. The common theme among all of them - not sure how to take that first step. The fear of taking the first step into the unknown is the most fearful, stressful, heart racing, hand shaking thing that they could think of. It was so palpable, that these emotions started to take on an almost physical form - a presence that followed them, sometimes hung over them when they approached the threshold of stepping out of the norm. Even if the norm is bad, it is still a known factor, and it makes it easier to stay in a awful place. They have allowed the unknown to become scarier than staying in a situation that is uncomfortable or unpleasant because the fear of the unknown has manifested into this giant monster waiting to swallow them up if they go too far from the door. At some point, they forgot that they did or had embraced the unknown in some fashion in life. They had been beaten down by fear, which turned into complacency.

I know what that's like. I spent the last 5 months training, but doubting, almost daily, my ability to do anything in my sport. I worked hard, extremely hard, but second guessed too much. The only way to get out of my own head, my own way, was to do something I knew would be unpleasant, possibly failing in a very public setting, and to acknowledge it, own it, and go forward, head first into the darkness of the unknown. I realized the worst that could happen was a bit of public humiliation, but no one would lose their life, no crime would be committed. The only crime would be not trying, just playing it safe. Well, fuck that. How can I speak about embracing the unknown if I'm not willing to do it? If I'm not willing to push the limits? I needed to speak from a place of understanding, real experience. I realized I had the tools to make it, and all I had to do was take the leap.

What I did wasn't magic, or special, or overly awesome. It is the same thing that people who are looking to grow, to live, really live, do every day. I'm not special. Facing fear - that's nothing that deserves awards. Its simply a way of life. It takes breaking down the fear into exactly what it is - an emotion, that, once owned, can be overcome, and then the faith that you have what it takes to go forward. Even if that means not knowing the outcome. Because we can't always control the outcome. And I know in our pre-packaged, social media universe, we love knowing outcome. We hate the loss of control - just ask anyone who has lost their cell phone recently - the amount of panic is almost frightening. What you have to remember though, is you control how you handle it, you control how you will react. And you have the ability to make it through. Even if the unknown is hard, you will survive. That instinct lies within all of us. You just need to reach down and pull it out of you.

I can say this - once you take the first step, every subsequent step is easier. More fulfilling, more satisfying. Less stressful. Less apprehensive. More of an opportunity to discover who you really are. You owe it to yourself to discover who that person really is.

Stay strong,