The Madness And Fear Of Endurance Sports

“Every endurance challenge scares me just a little.” ~ Dean Karnazes

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon. Everyone has left the house so I escaped to my fav coffee cave to write, reflect and think about the week in front of me. It’s hard not to think about the fact that next week on this day, at the time I’m sitting here writing, I will be in the church watching my oldest son get married.

I’m also aware 2 months from today is my first duathlon. Heck, it’s my first ever race on a bike. It’s also listed as the toughest duathlon in the state AND the championship race.

What… on earth.. am I doing in it ?

I decided a while back that there is a certain amount of madness involved with endurance sports.  Some part of the brain has to change that allows you to accept physically hard and challenging things as normal.

As in, sharing with some ladies in my yoga class last week that I hadn’t ridden far the day before, just 16 miles, to which they started laughing and informed me that 16 miles was a lot.

I really don’t think so anymore. I don’t think my 20 mile rides are long either.  This is where the madness might be setting in 😉

I will be the first to admit, sometimes it’s not just the distance, it’s also what’s IN those miles that carves out something new in me. Obviously, riding flat roads is usually a piece of cake, throwing in hills and inclines that challenge my body is always a game changer.

It’s definitely a love/hate relationship.

There’s a crazy madness in training my body, learning it’s limits, and then pushing past those limits that’s exhilarating… yeah… we’ll just go with that word for now 😉 Exhilarating.

Endurance is built on hours and hours of consistent training, constant change, and a large part of stubbornness.

When someone laughs and tells me I’m “crazy” based on my current athletic goals, I do believe they are right. There has to be some sort of madness that makes an otherwise sane person believe that riding and running miles on end is somehow… normal.

But alongside the madness is another parallel attribute which is fear.

The quote I opened with is so true and so perfect. And it comes from without a doubt, the strongest, most fit, endurance athlete on the planet.

I feel like I’m in good company if Dean Karnazes admits he gets a bit scared with a new endurance challenge. Admittedly, he does far larger, longer, crazier and insane endurance challenges than I will ever face but at the same time, if someone like that admits to a healthy fear of new endurance events, then I’m in good company.

When I use the word fear I don’t mean like, sitting in a corner shaking and helpless. If that were the case, I’d never be doing what I do. This fear, in my opinion, is one of perhaps a healthy respect of what I’m up against. A recognition that this new challenge has the potential to eat my lunch, and me too for good measure.

There is respect for the miles, the terrain, the elevation, climate, everything.

There is a healthy fear for new territory that has never been physically traveled. Each time I’ve set out to do something new athletically, there’s that “fear” of the unknown.

The “what if’s”……

What if I can’t do it? What if I don’t have what it takes? What if I’m not as good as someone else? ( does that even matter?) What if I haven’t trained enough? Long enough? Hard enough? What if I didn’t prepare in the right way? Am I going to be able to ride such a tough course and then get off and run those last few miles strong?

All of the “what if’s” are related to fear.

Even now, on my training rides, knowing how tough they will be, I usually have that in the pit of my stomach. That fearful respect of knowing how hard it really will be, and wondering again, if I have all that’s required to take on this new endurance challenge.

Somehow, things always seem to change the minute I’m out on the road.  In my gear, clipped in, the miles settling in under me, my mental gears shift along with the ones under my hands.

I focus on the mile I’m in, the road that’s in front of me. I know and have already mentally apprehended the hills and mountains I’ll be riding and remind myself that I’ve already done them before, the challenge is to keep taking them stronger and faster. The fear begins to give way to what I know I’m capable of.

Fear gives way to strength and power. Fear gives way to me understanding that although it’s not easy, it will begin to feel that way the stronger my body gets doing it over and over again.

And then it happens.

I finish a long hard session and feel victorious, empowered and strong. I also feel dirty, sweaty, and hungry.

But the overarching feeling is one of accomplishment. I did it again. The hard workout that planted a healthy fear of respect in me, reminds me I can do whatever I put myself to and that my body is capable of being pushed, and then pushed again, well out of it’s original comfort zone.

By the time some of you are reading this I’ll be out riding the entire course this morning, or will have finished it, another notch in my belt.  This will be my first full and complete ride on it. Last week I did it but the mileage came up a bit short from what the race was. A quick message to race director and I learned the turn point was farther down than I thought. So knowing the exact layout this morning, I’m taking it on.

I know it won’t be easy. I know there will be that niggling fear of the toughness in front of me. I know what the outcome will feel like, so I will press on and push myself into the realm of discomfort, because that is where change occurs.

Endurance sports. ..an odd mixture of madness and fear.  I seem to have both in spades which will help me well in my upcoming race.

The madness will keep me going, building longer training sessions and adding more miles. The fear won’t stop me. I will train, I will prepare, and I will go out and do the best I’m capable of.

And I when I cross that finish line it will be a sweet victory knowing all I stomped down to get to that moment, and it will be worth it.

Do you have something you want to pursue but feel a bit of fear with it? Do you embrace that or shy away from it?  If you do endurance sports, can you relate to a bit of the madness?

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Getting those miles in……
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Published by

Sassyfitnesschick

8 years ago I began what I now refer to as my "journey into lifestyle fitness". After a yearly check in with my Dr he said I looked "really good on paper, but I might consider losing a few pounds" I wasn't offended... I knew I needed to but it seemed like to much work at the time. In that year we had adopted 2 girls out of foster care, plus caring for my 3 sons & husband sort of left me on the back burner taking care of "me". I told him I "used to" walk & he encouraged me to at least get back to that. I left his office that day, started, & never quit. As time moved on my walks increased in length & speed. I started mingling some jogging into it...then after more time some short sprints. One day I realized I was doing more running than anything else. I learned to run longer and farther. I constantly challenged myself to do more. I realized I had turned into a runner & was loving it. I have since run 6 half marathons, 2 full marathons, and my first 50K scheduled for March 1,2015. Not bad for a girl who just started off walking not quite 2 miles! My body was now beginning to show the results of my work as weight & inches dropped off. I began to add in boxing & weights on days I wasn't running. Over time as the fat left, my new muscles were waiting underneath =) Obviously, I also made some food changes. Nothing drastic..just started eating less and trying to eat better.. I hated diets and how they made me feel....deprived & left out of all the fun...so adjusting & eating less of what I liked and moving more.. I found myself getting in decent physical shape. It began my thinking of lifestyle and not "dieting". As I got stronger,healthier & more fit it was an easier process to "let go" of some of the foods I had enjoyed. I had more energy, strength and confidence in what I could do. It was empowering. It made me realize that I probably wasn't the only one who wanted to lose weight, be healthy & strong but not always be on some sort of "diet". Maybe my journey & what I had learned & been doing might possibly help others to success in their lives... I consider myself to be rather normal and ordinary ( meaning I haven't always been into fitness and healthy eating) it has been a steady, daily, learned process with good days and bad days and my hope is that you too, will see the greatness in you, and that you have the ability and power to change and do anything you put your mind to. If you want change, you can make it happen. It's just one day at a time, making smart moves and better choices, and before you know it, things are happening. Get started on your journey, really, what do you have to lose ? And yet, so much to gain =)

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