You Have A Decision To Make
There I was, with a mountain bike across my shoulder and mud past my knees.
The deep sucking muck made the effort of trudging up the steep bank a challenge, and arduously slow. Two fellow racers were at my side. All three of us were marvelling at the sadistic nature of the race directors in creating such a brilliantly frustrating course. It was trying in every way possible.
By the time I climbed to the top of the that mudslide my entire lower body was not only soaked but so mud-encrusted I couldn't make out details. This meant I couldn't clip back into my mountain bike pedals to ride.
Shit. I needed a fire hose.
Using my water sparingly, I sprayed just enough on there to hop back on and go. Every minute in a race like this counts, as many lose their time dawdling with such details. Maintain your sense of urgency even in confused exhaustion and you will likely place well in the end.
I hopped back on my bike, shoving a Power Gel into my mouth as I rode. Fueling in an endurance race is paramount, as is timing. When you're tired, cold and focused on other things, it's a hassle you need to force yourself to complete. Another challenge of endurance racing. Eat and drink when you don't feel like it. If you wait until you're hungry, you're going to hurt. Badly.
Transition. Drop the bike, change the shoes. Take a swig of water.
Get up, and run.
As I set out on foot, sore from the saddle and eager to use a different muscle group, reality set in. I wasn't going to make it.
Racing over miles of wilderness require that you come in under the wire for two reasons; its a race, yo! and you also don't want to be stuck in the middle of who-knows-where snuggling a grizzly bear while search and rescue comes to collect you. There are predetermined cut-off times in place.
From where I stood, I wasn't going to make the 2:00pm checkpoint. I ran, double checking my map as I went. I couldn't afford to waste any time on wrong turns or bad decisions.
As the kilometres behind me grew, the time ahead of me shrank. I was reduced to a slow, struggled walk up yet another steep, sandy embankment. I contemplated the frustration of not finishing a race for the first time. I envisioned a DNF (Did Not Finish) next to my name on the results list.
I realized then that I had a decision to make. It was a decision that I would carry with me for the rest of my life, and that has served me well ever since.
I realized that I could quit. I could take advantage of this premature 'finish line' and ease off a little, taking the strain off my body and getting a little more comfortable. What any sane and normal person would have done, quite frankly.
Or, I could pretend there was no cut-off time at all. I could push myself just as hard as i would have had I not already lost the race.
Never having been a sane and normal person, I chose the latter. In fact, I pushed even harder. I decided then and there to have the mentality of 'only a mac truck will stop me' mentailty. I wouldn't count my chickens before they hatch, and I would not quit this race until I saw rock solid evidence that I absolutely could go no further.
Finally, I rounded a curve in the trail. There it was, my final checkpoint, and the end of my race. Except, it wasn't. I arrived four minutes before the new, extended cut-off time, and I was good to go.
FUCK YES. I had a race to finish. And finish I did.
To this day, DNR has never appeared in my race results.
Never Give Up
I learned a powerful lesson that day. The decision I made wasn't for the race, it was for my life. I inadvertently decided how I was going to approach the rest of my life that day, in that single moment.
I decided then I would never give. I would stop only two minutes after I absolutely had no other choice.
I challenge you to approach your life with the same mentality. You may see evidence of impending doom, of imminent failure all around you. It may seem like the direction you are headed has nothing else for you.
There is always something you can't see, something that isn't quite on your awareness screen yet, and this something can change everything in one moment.
As long as you don't slow down.
If you can't run, recalibrate and walk. If you can't walk, recalibrate and sit. If you have to lie down and it takes everything you have in your heart and soul just to lift a finger, lift that fucking finger and move it towards what you want most. It's in that moment, right there, that whatever is holding you down releases that hold and, changing course, you realize you did it of your very own volition.
You're that person that didn't give up, even when you everyone else around you thought you were done.