I had a quick conversation this morning after a 5:00am workout with a good friend of mine. We’re both training together and share a lot of the same unique year end goals, Blackbelt test. We talked about how other folks have seen our workouts and say that we push too hard, because what we show during training will only ratchet up the level of expectation during that test.
I’m not in the gym and the dojo day in and day out for the purpose of the test itself. Yes, it’s a goal, it’s a target that i’m reaching for, but that is only for motivation. There is plenty of work to be done to get to the point of being able to actually test in a year, but the work I put in during training is for me. That was my response; “I’m doing this for me, not for a test.” I mean this 100%.
If I’m only doing this to get ready for a test then I feel like i’ve already failed myself. By the time next January gets here, I don’t want to be in a position where I really care one way or the other that I pass. I want to KNOW that i’ve given everything I can in training for my own personal gain and growth and that the test is just that, a test, to see how I stack up. With the goal being to have already passed before I get to that point. To train just for the test itself feels conceited and beyond the point. Isn’t true humility the act of internalizing what you learn today and then using it to grow into a better version of yourself tomorrow?
So after meditating about this conversation and while writing out these ideas i’m having, I did what I always do and researched warriors who have gone before me. I found this Viking quote which I now love:
A warrior feeds his body well; he trains it; works on it. Where he lacks knowledge, he studies. But above all he must believe. He must believe in his strength of will, of purpose, of heart and soul.
My single purpose in training is to be a better me. The test is just that, a test to see if I’m better than I am now. If I allow more than that into my mind, then I will fail because I will have lost the reason for doing it in the first place.
I was at my second Spartan Sprint at Ft. Bragg in 2016. Just as the year prior, and at most Spartan races, the teams from Operation Enduring Warrior were there. I always see them and they inspire me at every event. It amazes me to see them struggling and fighting through one of these tough races and all the people helping them along the way setting an example for everyone to see about sacrifice and honor. Truly inspiring. However there is a moment that happened to me today that will forever change how I see things and it’s really timely for me personally too.
There is a specific obstacle that has a fairly high wall and on top of it sits an even higher set of what ultimately forms a huge ladder, maybe going about 20 to 25 feet up high. It has two sides forming an “A” frame deal. As I approached this obstacle with my two race teammates we ran past a decent sized crew of the OEW folks. As I jogged by I saw that the person in the center had no legs, he was walking upright but had prosthetics and crutches. He was also dressed out in battle dress, just not a ruck or gas mask like the others. I thought to myself, man, that’s awesome, but continued on. This was roughly 2 miles into the race and I was starting to feel some fatigue and race pain, not good…
As each of my teammates jumped up and got to going over the obstacle and just before I went up on it myself, this crew of OEW people came up behind me. They started to attack it by hoisting up the guy with no legs, just on my heels. As I went over the top and was coming down the other side I was just about face to face with this gentleman and I noticed as I was looking into his eyes that he was completely blind and ALSO missing a hand. His team was communicating with him loudly and clearly while moving rather quickly over the obstacle together. I jumped off and just watched them work it together and my teammates came back to me and stood beside me and we just watched them together. We watched as one of his crew ran around the obstacle and jumped up to help him over from our side, then I noticed that this man climbing up was missing a leg and had a prosthetic as well.
This is when my chest tightened up and tears rolled down my face…
What moved me so much today was that in that instance when I saw this man was blind it changed my notion of LIMITS. This man’s idea of what his personal limits are go far, far, far beyond what my view of my own personal limits are. Here is this man that was likely blown up in a combat situation, a few thousand miles form his home and family, now missing both his legs, his eyesight and his hand (and god knows what else…) and is out here pushing and bravely going through this challenging and scary course. I simply could not contain my emotions as all this hit me.
As my own definition of what LIMITS are to me changed right before my eyes…
What gives you that sense of determination in your life?
I just saw that comedian and actor Eddie Izzard has run 27 marathons in 27 days, actually doubling up on the last day because of a rest day he was forced to take half way through his 27 days. Something that may go unnoticed to most people just seeing this headline/story today is that in 2009 he completed 43 marathons in just 51 days…
This gets me pretty excited to see him do this, maybe it’s because i’m 41 and trying to reach some pretty lofty goals myself over this coming year. It fuels me in a huge way and if I wasn’t really a fan of his before I am now.
Mr. Izzard says he chose 27 in 27 days to bring light to Nelson Mandela’s time in prison in South Africa. Speaking of Mandela, I’m reminded of this poem by William Henley that he has historically been cited as using to keep himself and other inmates sane during his 27 year incarceration. Which mind you, his “imprisonment” was what we would call “solitary confinement” here in the US. It has been said that he was allowed 1 day and 1 letter a year for communication with the outside world.
Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade,And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
I think of the unbelievable mental aspect to what Eddie Izzard has just accomplished. The mental strength you have to have in order to get through one marathon, much less 27 and to end with 2 in one day…