hacking the process.

Sometimes life has to literally knock you off your feet to teach you a lesson you’ve been avoiding learning. That’s what happened to me yesterday. I should have started training for the Big Sur Marathon in December – but I didn’t.

I hate the cold and getting my ass out to run in the cold while trying to recover from a hell of a year, emotionally and physically, well – it didn’t go smoothly. January came. I ran several times, then stopped again. February came, I put in some solid runs, then stopped again. March came, I made one last half assed attempt to train… My furthest run was 9 miles.

Yesterday was an 18 mile trail race and I figured I’d run this race, gut it out, and it would count as a solid training run that would give me the mental confidence I need to finish Big Sur. I shit you not – not even 1/2 mile into the race, running on a super technical trail in the dark, my left ankle rolled out on a loose rock and my body gave way. I figured it was just a crappy ankle roll, so I got up and kept running. It took me another 1/2 mile to realize it wasn’t my ankle, but my foot that was hurt, and every step I took on the trail rocks sent excruciating pain through my body.

I stopped running. I stood in the middle of the trail and pondered what to do. Light slowly crept onto the trail as the sun rose. I was a mile into a 6 mile loop. I could suffer through 5 more miles so I could at least get 10k in, or I could turn around, walk the mile back, and call it quits.

I knew the answer, but I was frustrated. So I stood there for a moment, staring at the rocks, gathering my thoughts. I almost cried, then I laughed – at myself. I realized how silly I was being. This ankle roll was the reality check that had been waiting for me. It was bound to happen at some point. Better now than on the hills of Big Sur.

I thought I could hack the process. I planned to rely on my fitness from training for a race that was 7 months ago (that’s now how it works, people). I didn’t want to put in the work but I still wanted to reap the reward. So I gave half-baked effort. On and off. Inconsistent.

Inconsistent. That word is jarring to see written out. My chosen word of the year was Consistent. The word I wanted to guide my thoughts and actions. How bad had I F’ed that one up? How did I end up here? Not even done with Q1 and one of my biggest goals of the year just went out the window because I’m not living the word I chose.

I just read Mindset by Carol Dweck. If you’ve ever heard the terms growth mindset vs fixed mindset – this book is where those terms come from. If you’ve never heard the terms, I suggest you order this book on Amazon stat. I already knew the premise of growth vs fixed mindset, and like so many people who read a few articles about something without getting the full context, I assumed incorrectly. I figured, “Of course I have a growth mindset. It’s not like I’m stuck in my life. I take feedback. I’m always trying to improve. That means I have a growth mindset.” But it doesn’t. And I didn’t.

I’ve had a fixed mindset about most things most of my life. Writing, running, working. My fear of failure and complete shame surrounding failure are what have driven me for a long time. Instead of being open to failure and the learning it brings, I’ve closed myself off from any opportunity to fail in so many areas of my life. I haven’t started a blog because it might be a dismal failure. I haven’t set any ambitious PR race goals just in case I can’t hit them. I haven’t tried to get faster on the off chance it might not work. I’m so scared of failure, I refuse to even try.

In a way, it might seem like that’s what I’m doing with Big Sur. I’m not starting because then I can’t fail and DNF. But I’m dropping out not because I’m afraid to fail – DNS is a worse failure than DNF in my mind – but because I’m afraid to get injured. Could I run 26.2 miles on the minimal training I’ve done? Probably. Is that the smart thing to do to my body? Definitely not.

I failed. I refused to put in the work because I was uncomfortable. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s the truth simplified. So, rather than admit I’d failed to train, I decided to try and hack it. And in my attempt to hack the training process, I failed again.

Am I upset? Of course. Do I have regrets? Most definitely. But I’m learning what drove those failures, what I can do better next time, and how to succeed when I get back after it for the NYC Marathon in November. Because the saddest thing about all of this is I forgot how much I love the process. In the midst of my fears, I forgot what it is about training I love so much. It’s not the race, though that does bring an incredible few minutes of euphoria. It’s the process. Doing the work. Having that feeling of accomplishment after you suffer through a run you didn’t want to get out of bed for. Pounding out a solid 20 miler and gaining the confidence you weren’t sure you had. Looking back on a 40 mile week and feeling strong as hell. It’s the work that’s the most rewarding piece of the training process, and that’s the part I failed to do.

When it comes to the annual calendar, I think in quarters. Today is the beginning of Q2 – and I’ve got a lot of work to do. Mentally, physically, emotionally. I’m excited to see where it all takes me and a little nervous that I might fail again. But if we’re being honest, I know I will. Hopefully not miss-a-big-race fail, but fail nonetheless. And I’m learning to be okay with that. I just need to trust the process, because real satisfaction doesn’t come from the hack. It comes from the work.

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