Deep in the Pain Cave

Photo: Deep in the Pain Cave

Thank you for all of the encouraging notes after last week's newsletter. The race went very well and was packed full of lessons. I had a goal of nine hours; I got it done in seven hours and sixteen minutes.

There were many moments during the race when I was in trouble. At times an old knee injury was screaming; at one point, my quads cramped and seized, my heart was pumped, and I felt like I had nothing left to give. I went deep inside the pain cave.

In those moments, I would lose sight of the finish line. Thinking about climbing two more mountains was inconceivable - at times, thinking about pushing on for the next 30 minutes was inconceivable.

But I could think forward about 2-3 seconds. That was manageable. So in those moments, I would set a goal every 2-3 seconds. I could pick up my right foot and then my left foot. Then I would try it again. Pick up the right foot, then pick up the left foot. We did it. Ok, again. Again. Again.

The pain cave was dark, and many times I felt defeated. But even in my worst state, I could always go for another 2-3 seconds.

Life is like that. It will always be like that.

When I was 20 years old, I became a personal trainer. I was fascinated by exercise physiology. After working in a corporate gym for a few months, I launched my first entrepreneurial venture - ABC Fitness, in Kamloops, BC. ABC was an acronym for Athletic Balance and Conditioning - I figured I would build my niche in movement-specific training - meaning breaking down movements to their most basic form. I believed that every movement, when broken down to its simplest patterns, was just a balancing act. Running is nothing more than a series of one-legged hops. So I built a curriculum around balance-based strength training. All of my courses used some element of instability, whether Bosu’s, stability balls, balance boards, or at times just lifting one foot off the ground.

Some of my first clients from back then are still on this email list - and they will remember seeing posters around the Tournament Capital Centre in Kamloops with pictures of me balancing on a stability ball with the caption: “Come Get Tipsy with Mr. Balance”…

It was a blast. Every young person should start a business before realizing they have no idea how to run a business….

Sports taught me about the relationship between work and results. It also taught me that life is a marathon run inch by inch. Sometimes when we are deep in the grind, it doesn’t feel like we are making progress - but inch by inch, we can move forward, and over time, those micro goals compound.

When I feel strong - I can predict how great my future will be. But when I am suffering - there is no future to consider. There are no steps to take. I would expend energy digging my own grave before taking a step forward. Inertia is powerful.

I had the opportunity to watch my Dad build something from nothing. He was a true entrepreneur - somebody who could sell Raid to a bug. I watched him sweat through the pain of being unemployed and ride the high of building a brand that carried respect across the country. I’ve never seen a harder worker.

When I got older, he was kind enough to share some of his darkest moments- those moments when a gambler has run out of options, has no prospects, and can’t even see a fight - let alone pick one he can win—the raw stuff. I’m eternally grateful for the raw stuff. I’ve always known that life can go south. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are sharks in the water.

It’s good to spend time with the sharks. Because, like it or not, they will come and visit you from time to time.

That's why I run Ultra. To spend time with the sharks. Guaranteed after running five hours, over two mountains, with more than two hours and another mountain still to go, the sharks will appear - ready to tell you that you can’t. Ready to tell you that you will fail. Ready to tell you that you are not what you think you are.

But I am friends with the sharks. So when life darkens, I know I am in good company.

Because life is like that. It will always be like that.