So, so far the majority of our conversations among my Spartan Death Race Team (www.youmaydie.com) have been about gear and physical prep, that's of course important, but just as (if not more than) important is a conversation about the mental aspect. Upon registration, we all wrote essays to the race director as to why we wanted do the DR, and that was valuable, but not enough. It is vital to our mental prepartion to take a pencil and paper and write about our "mission". If there's one thing I know about this kind of stuff, whether it's in an event like the Death Race, during the first 3 days of RAP week at Ranger School or the mass exodus opportunity right before the Start of HELL WEEK at BUD/S; it's that most people quit when when they finally have some time to think and let the fear or doubt creep in...i.e. it's not during the 3-mile hike back up the mountain through the 42 degree river for the 3rd time b/c u spilled some water out of your bucket, or on mile 10.5 of the 15.5 mile FM, or enduring SURF TORTURE during hour 103 of 132 of HELL WEEK;  but while you're standing there, at rest, not physically doing anything yet and just thinking about the misery about to come when the fear/doubt overwhelms....so it's very important to have a firm grasp of the "why" or your individual mission. Gavin de  Becker wrote in "The Gift of Fear" that if you afraid of something, that's good because it hasn't actually happened yet. Think about it, when a new rrecruit is standing on the edge of a 40-foot repel tower, he's not afraid of being that high off the ground anymore, he's afraid of falling. If he were to fall off the tower, well then he's certainly not fearful of falling anymore, he's more concerned with landing....you get the idea, right? So when we think about it like that, why is just a thought enough to make us quit and what can we do about it. It is at these time that you have to have some "rules" in place that you can go to immediatley to replace those cancerous thoughts of fear and doubt. SO here's just a few suggestions of some "rules" that have been helpful in the past

1)Quitting is NOT an option.
Pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever. There will be times, particularly late at night when you will be totally depleted both physically and mentally and in a highly vulnerable state where it will be tough to stay on course, the hot shower and meal will sound very enticing. Never, ever make a decision to fold up your tent at night, EVER! Force yourself to continue on until sunrise, once the sun comes up chances are you will not even remember why you felt so bad at 03:00.  At this stage of exhaustion an outcome focus, rather than process focus, may be important.  Keep your original goal/objective in the forefront of your mind, instead of dwelling on the obstacles associated with your current situation.

2)It’s OK to suffer, accept your fate and do not express the negative. During extreme endurance activities everyone is going to feel awful. Under no circumstances should you ever vocalize these feelings to others. Rather, if someone asks you how you are doing say “great”. If you talk about how bad you are feeling to others, you will now have created a very powerful negative thought/image that your mind will latch onto and you will have a very tough time staying in game.

3) There will be an end and you will not die. Understand that no matter how bad things are going out there, no matter what it is, it will come to an end. It is so important that you never lose sight of this and just keep putting one foot in front of the other, before you know it, it will be over.

4) Train Hard and have confidence/believe that you will succeed. Confidence comes from proper preparation, training, dedication, hard work and desire. Knowing that you have put in the time to prepare allows you to be confident and rely upon the fact that all of your training and hard work will empower you to finish your goal. Preparation is the key to success!  I carry a laminated card in my wallet, my car and have it taped on the ceiling over my bed that says "I train hard and do what you won't do today, so I can do what you can't do tomorrow". I look at that everytime I don't feel like training. 

5) Adapt to any situation, improvise and be flexible. During extreme endurance events nothing ever goes as you had planned, be very flexible and be ready to react and adapt to whatever gets thrown your way out there. Expect the unexpected and never dwell on the negative. Gen Hal Moore always says "three strikes and you're not out. There's always something you can do to influence a situation in your behalk, and then another, and another."  If that's one of the rules you already have in place, you won't waste valuable time worrying or feeling sorry for yourself. You'll just immediatly start looking for a new solution.

6) Be Mindful & Keep yourself in the present, never think too far ahead. I like to call this concept Baby Steps and it is a very powerful tool. Instead of focusing on long term goal/objective of the event you break up the event into smaller pieces with short intermediate goals and keep your focus on the present/here and now. Examples of Baby Steps would be approaching it at one mile at a time, one evolution at a time, making it to the next meal or the next sunrise. If you think too far ahead the enormity of what you are facing can be overwhelming and demoralizing and make it very hard to stay in the game when things start unraveling.

7)Pre-Hab & Be kind to yourself.  You need to learn how best to assist your body in recovering during periods of rest. This is an extremely important concept and you should spend time trying to figure out what works best for you. This encompasses the full spectrum of recovery techniques ranging from yoga, stretching, meditation, ice baths to nutrition. Anything you can do to help your body recover will pay huge dividends as the hours, days and weeks start adding up.

8)Loose all preconceived notions of what you think you are capable of and what you think is impossible.Two of my favorite quotes are “some of the most remarkable human achievements were accomplished by people too dumb to know they were impossible” and “It always seem impossible until someone does it”. The point is that you are capable of so much more than you ever dreamed, don’t limit your possibilities by what you may perceive to be impossible. Find examples of this concept in action in your own life. Write down the times you've done more than you ever thought you could and focus on them daily

9) How are you going to act?  This is a very important concept one which I rely upon all the time. Mark Devine talks about this in his camps and I've adopted his technique. I envision that I am being filmed and whatever my actions are, I will be forced to watch that film over and over again for the rest of my life. The point is, do you want to watch yourself spinning off and quitting or would you prefer to watch yourself gutting it out to the finish? This may sound silly, but it is NOT. If you quit it will last forever and you will constantly relive that moment as you watch your film over and over again. 

10) Transference. This is a powerful concept that absolutely works. No matter how bad you are feeling during an event if you transfer your thoughts and concern towards helping someone else who is struggling, in the act of trying to help that person your mind will become totally focused upon how best you can help that person and you will not think/dwell upon about how bad you are feeling. Trust me this concept is a very powerful tool that absolutely works. Once your mind is fully engaged upon an objective it is as if you enter a zone where you are so focused on the objective that your mind ignores your own physical condition. This concept may sound weird, but think about it, have you ever been engaged in a great conversation with someone only to realize that an hour just flew by and now you are late?

11) Beware of False Finish Lines. Imagine that you are climbing a very difficult mountain and you are pushing hard up a ridge line towards the summit. After many hours of difficult climbing you reach what you believed to be the summit only to realize that the true summit was out of sight, hidden behind the false summit and you are now facing many more hours of difficult climbing before you tag the true summit. When you realize your perceived summit was a false summit you are confronted by an epic mental beat down, if you are in a vulnerable state of mind this can take you right out of the game. When using the previously discussed topic of Baby Steps choose your summits wisely, this is very, very important, use words and phrases that have defined true summits, such as “I will make it to sunrise” or “I will make it to Friday”. There are no false summits associated with these well defined intermediate goals. 

12) Smile, Laugh, & Make Jokes. Humor is one of the most valuable tools you have in your kit. Use it! Laugh at the ridiculousness of what you're doing, imagine how silly you must look, think of funny movie lines, tell jokes, Eric Greitens talks about a fellow BUD/S candidates that would always joke about when he was going to quit. He'd say things in the morning like "I'm going to quit today after dinner. I'd quit sooner but it's taco night in the chow hall, and I love taco's so I have to wait until after dinner." He used humor to aknowledge the diesire to quit buy not really give it any power. It's a brilliant strategy (for some, not for all).

Anyways, the Spartan Death Race takes place over the weekend of June 15-17th (and maybe some of the 18th), so I'll keep you all informed about our prep and progress and then AAR (after action review) the whole party!
 
 


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