Saturday, December 4, 2010

it's all in your head

Mental fortitude, mind over matter, courage of conviction.. it doesn't matter what you call it, if you don't have a vision of what you want, and if it doesn't sustain you on an existential level, you haven't a hope of reaching your goals. I am always interested in the pain of athletic endeavors, and what it takes to over-ride the incredible urge to quit and get out of the pain zone. Even in a 60 minute strength training workout with Ed on Friday evening, or in this mornings long run when my right forefoot was on fire and my hips were groaning in the 10th cold mile, I am constantly fighting the brain demons, the negative voices. Those little conversations in my head that bizzarely seem to have my voice, yet are trying to get me to quit, to finish early, to walk up that hill, to take the short cut home. Sometimes the counter voice is louder, stronger or more persistent, sometimes not.

When I give in, as I  have done on occasion now over decades of training and racing, I am invariably disappointed, as if I have eaten a full chocolate cake from the fridge in the middle of the night, or watched a beautiful plant die because I couldn't get off my arse to water it. It is this urge to avoid disappointment in myself that pushes me, that gives me strength to finish the appointed workout, and sometimes it is stories like this, that put my mind in a different place, imagining the pain, the difficulty and the suffering, and gaining perspective. Stories like Sam, and Nick never cease to inspire me, and I relish having painful limbs to feel, and feel grateful for the ability to push a mile more, to get another 3 reps done. I will always draw on my early experiences mountain bike racing, 24 hours of Snowshoe WV, in the middle of the night when I was whimpering through the "dark side of the moon" trail, towards the gnarly down hill. I was passed by a guy calling "on your left", and I pushed to the edge of the trail. In the light of my headlamp, I spotted a fella my age, riding by me with a carbon arm attached to his carbon handlebar. "On yer bike missus" he said, and that was enough. On my bike I got, and have kept going since.


Anonymous said...

What do you say to that voice that is trying to get you to quit?

Jens Voigt's brain says,"shut up legs"

With me it's usually the opposite, the are legs saying,
"shut up brain, we aren't quitting and neither are you!"
There will be plenty of time to rest when you're dead!


Anonymous said...

Nice post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Oh, by the way, I loved the "Mind over matter" shirt, so I tracked it down. It's a design made by a guy called Stijn van der Pol. If you want to, you can buy it here ( I was about to, but 30€ just seemed too much for me.

Have a great day/month/year/life.

A random stranger.