was 40 hours in to a very hot and humid Florida Adventure Race. We were competing
for fourth place and pushing beyond our limits. We had been moving non-stop for
what seemed like days in temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees. We had trekked,
mountain biked, paddled, trekked and paddled again. It was about 2am when I stood
at the second to last check point. This was it. The last leg, a 5-mile beach run
in the darkness of the night.
I stood calmly for a
few seconds trying to gather up what energy I had left in me to finish the race.
I knew I had to run well. I knew I had to dig deep. I knew my MIND had to carry
my body to the finish line.
Minute by minute my body
was screaming for a walk break. My legs were cramping and I was getting nauseous
from the heat. But my mind would calmly negotiate with my body for a few more
minutes. They were a team, my mind and my body. It was my mind that pushed on
the beach. It was my mind that controlled every step I ran. It was my mind that
kept assuring me the finish was getting closer. Ultimately, as we crossed the
finish, I realized it was the strength of my mind that carried me past my limits.
I always walk away from a race a much wiser person. Sometimes I learn the hard
way and sometimes the knowledge presents itself calmly. It was hard to ignore
the lesson in this experience. It was the first time I realized I could do what
ever I put my mind to.
The power of the mind is an
amazing thing. It is said that we only ever tap into about 10% of our mental capabilities.
The state of the mind will determine the outcome of every experience. If you begin
the race thinking about all of the negative things that could happenâ€¦they will.
But on the flipside, if your mind is ready to get through any experience, it will.
When your mind and body work together as a team your limits become distant and
every experience becomes a part of the journey.
do you tap into your mental strengths? How can you apply your mind when your body
runs out? How can your mind affect your teammates? Keep reading and fill your
mind with skills that will help improve your adventurous journeys.
The first step in becoming a more mentally strong racer is to lay the groundwork,
the foundation. Tell your mind going into the experience that anything can happen.
Good and bad, anything can happen. Roll with the change. Flat tires, sick teammates,
lost maps, lost people, broken gear, sticker bushes, hypothermiaâ€¦it can and will
happen. If the mind is prepared for anything, it will graciously accept anything
that crosses its path. If the mind is so focused on reaching the finish without
adversity, the first glimpse of a wrong turn will set it on a negative downspin
taking you and your teammates with it.
mind for everything. Keep it open to the experience. When adversity strikes, stay
calm and focus on solving the right problem. That reminds me of an incident in
a race in West Virginia last spring. We had been lost for several hours on the
bike course. We were frustrated and tired and just wanted to be done with the
bike leg. I took a break and when I got back on my bike the chain ring was locked.
I took a brief moment to see what could be causing the lock but could not find
anything. I got on the bike and rode it, coasting and peddling, coasting and peddling.
It was a very inefficient way to ride not to mention dangerous. When the race
was finished our support crew noticed there was a rubber piece from my rack stuck
in the chain ring. Had I kept my mental focus and not reacted impatiently to the
experience, I would have solved the right problem and saved a ton of energy in
Keeping a positive mind will also help
with your reactionary skills. You can't control what happens on the course but,
you can control how you react to every situation. Part of mental training includes
developing positive reaction skills. Meaning, you can train your mind to be calm
and focused in almost any situation. It will not only pay off for you but your
teammates will love you for it too.
Racers that go
the distance have the ability to see the positive in every experience and never
let anything drag them down. It is a little like seeing the glass half empty or
half full. Teach your mind to think positively and it will be your best friend
when the chips are down. You will lift the team to greater heights. Someone who
is continually negative can drain the team of all its energy. It is like driving
with a flat tire. It takes too much fuel to move the car and it is damaging. In
time, you begin to look forward to solving the mystery of the race.
Don't get me wrong, you can lose your wits just as easily as your body. It is
critical to eat, drink and sleep to maintain your mental strength in the race.
Just as with the body if you take your mind past the point of no return you will
bonk. Watch for signs and symptoms that it is time to take a nap. Some of the
more obvious ones are falling asleep on your bike, seeing the Michelin Man on
the course, and looking at the numbers on a digital watch and not being able to
figure out what time it is. This happened to me in Borneo. I was so tired I forgot
how many iodine pills to put in the jungle river water. The minute I began to
feel sick I knew. This is a dangerous place to get to. Take care of your mind.
Eat frequently to keep your sugar level up, drink to stay hydrated and take short,
frequent 20-minute naps to refresh yourself. All of these things will keep you
Be at one with the course. There was a point
in the Eco-Challenge when I was fighting with knee-deep mud and my bike. I was
expending so much energy in my anger I couldn't get my bike up the hill. At the
moment I chose to go with it rather than fight it everything became easier and
I made it to the top of the mud hill. I learned if you fight the elements the
resistance will require twice as much energy to get the job done.
Adventure racing challenges your body and mind. Train your mind to teach the body.
You will reach new heights and go beyond your limits.