Success and the Art of Being Uncomfortable

I’m closing out my second week of taper.  Yeah, yeah, I do three weeks of taper back.  I run pretty damn hard during my training, and having that extra week to scale back and run for fun helps…uh…when I can get myself and my paces under control.

I’ll do a taper week recap later.  Today I want to talk about discomfort.

23 miles into a 24 mile hot and long training run for my first 50k, Pink’s first 100.  The suffer was deep on this one.

This week I have been watching a series of webinar lectures on the habits of successful people.

I mean, why not?  It’s free, I have the time…  and I’ll be honest, I feel like I am getting something out of it:  Inspiration to move forward.

One of the lectures talks about getting used to being outside of your comfort zone.  The guy leading this conversation talked about how you should “toughen up” if you want to be successful.  Get used to doing things that are uncomfortable, that you don’t want to do, in order to be able to get down to business when the time comes – whether you feel like doing it then or not.  Because successful people hyperfocus on the subject / task at hand, and pursue it to completion.

Being focused despite the millions of distractions is tough.  Getting to task and starting is tough.  But these are things you can train yourself mentally to get done.

So the recommendation was to get uncomfortable, and get used to being uncomfortable.  And in doing this, you see that the “suffering” will end, and that you can get through it.  It shows you that you can handle being uncomfortable…its not the end of the world.  It builds confidence in yourself, handling discomforts.  Proving to yourself that you are stronger than the situation around you.

Running is uncomfortable.  Inherently so.

These photos are from the toughest race I ever experienced: The Stone Steps 27k “fun run”.  Fun. My. Ass.  I fell hard, and slid, because I was moving that fast… and somehow, on a forward fall, managed to also bruise my ass.  My friend was suffering beside me.  She tripped on the grass but didn’t fall.  I pushed her down.  I fall, you fall, jerk.  This was a suffer-fest turned up to 11 for both of us, but we got through it.

One of my running friends thrives and puts his whole training /racing on the concept of “become uncomfortable”.

Our faces are uncomfortable….

He says its about pushing limits, and it is, but if you really think about it, its uncomfortable to push limits.  He and I have shared quite a few talks about how people have become too comfortable.  How people actually go out of their way to avoid a little discomfort:  Parking closer to the store so they don’t have to walk as far in the sun, cold, snow, rain…even just a pretty day, just to avoid the walk.   Seeking the “magic diet pill” for weight loss, rather than cutting portion size through the day.

Another friend, and a brilliant runner.  She did 87 miles the weekend before this marathon, and was shooting for a BQ in this race.  This is her post-marathon.  Tired, sore, bailed on the BQ goal because she was pushing so hard as it was (there is such a thing as too far outside comfort zone…that’s where injury lives).  She ran 4 miles the next day without issue.  Because she can’t be stopped, and she’s probably a masochist.  But really, its because she is hyper-focused on her goal: 100 miles.

The brain is funny, how it works.  It makes a decision and starts an action before the reason for doing it has been made, and we assign our reasoning after the action/decision has been made.  If given a dozen of different colored pens to choose from, and I choose the blue pen to take notes with over any other, it’s only after the fact that I’ll determine that they why is: “It’s easier to see on the paper”, “blue’s my favorite color”, “the pen itself looked interesting”, etc.

I couldn’t say for sure why exactly I decided I should do a marathon a month for 2016.

I was invited to be part of a fitness calendar shoot…  Even the function of doing the shoot was a workout, and this was the toughest part…holding a multi-person pushup

I vaguely remember going through a slump in my running when I came up with the idea. I recall thinking back on how great everything was the year prior:    I ran 8 marathons in 2014.  I PR’ed in multiple events, had a blast with my group, led training days, and had all manner of adventures.  Running was effortless that year.  I distinctly remember running a 14 mile run with the group one day because others were training for races, and I was in a point in the training cycle where I had no race coming up, and I felt phenomenal for it.  Versus 2015, where I ran only 2 marathons, skipped multiple races that I had signed up for, bailed on my running group almost every single day.

This group of people are too kind and too great to bail on.  I felt like shit all the time because of… well, everything that was going on…but bailing on these folks didn’t help.

I decided that I needed to get myself running more often to get that excitement for it back.

As this year goes on and I have to deal with extremely negate things in one aspect of life, I find that I assigned a new reasoning for the “why” of 12 in 2016:

To feel successful at something that is difficult.
To be better.
To be capable.
To feel capable.
To show I can.
To prove to myself that I am tougher than the BS around me.

To show myself and anyone who is paying attention that I am stronger than any discomfort this life is putting on me lately.

I’ve said it before here, that one marathon a month is nothing for some runners I know, and many famous runners I’ve read about.  I know people who knock down 110 miles or more a week, have serious speed in their legs, and who would easily knock out a marathon a day for a week (Ahem.  Superman Steve…).

But I’m not those people.

And we all have to start somewhere.

I’m injury-prone.  I can very easily become injured from monthly marathons….  hell, I am injured!  I started this year with an injury.  I’m sitting funny right now while I type because my hamstring is tight and hurting.

It’s also not a proper month between each marathon, even.  Realistically, I’m going about 2-3 weeks between most of these.  Next week I’ll be doing two marathons back to back in the same weekend!  So the challenge is a bit harder than going for one each month.

It’s also about fitting them in.  I work a full-time job, with a lot of overtime, and a second job that is more-or-less an, “on-call” and, “get task completed immediately” kind of thing.  Fitting training in is one thing.  Now I also have to fit in the races.  Every other month I have to work every weekend in the month, and for…uh..”reasons”.. I can’t take a day to run a marathon on a weekend.  So, like with February, and this coming June, I have to do the marathon distance on my own.  No medal.  No clock other than my honesty and my Garmin.  It wouldn’t count for some official thing, like Marathon Maniacs, and even for some of my friends.  But it counts for me.  Because it’s not about collecting the medal and running stats.  It’s about getting it done, no matter the tribulation to get there.  Luckily I have witnesses for those runs if I need them – my running group will have my back and run with me as they can.

A new PR (before my current one).  The run became hard, and boring, after I lost both my run-buddies.  But the success of a PR and a finish, that was beautiful feeling.

I’m not someone special.  I’m not super-star status in running.  I’m not sponsored.  I’m just a runner with a lot of heart.

I’m also a full believer in that great feeling when you make it through the discomfort and come out with a goal achieved.  Like my friend, I think I realize that I’m doing this kind of challenges because being comfortable makes it hard to deal with things when stuff goes wrong.

I agree with the webinar guy too.  You need to put yourself in discomfort and get practice in ‘getting through’ it. I feel like this makes us all better able to cope with life’s stresses and discomforts.

I do marathons for fun…and life wants to give me lemons now?  Pucker up, bitch (life), I’m ’bout to show you exactly what you can do with these lemons… after I make a mixed drink with some of them.  Because really, it’s a shame to let good lemons go to waste.

When people talk to me about the negative trappings going on in my life, the constantly repeated theme is: “I would have never lasted as long as you”; “I don’t know how you did it”; and a favorite, “Hearing about this thing stresses me out, how are you still standing?”   I’m standing because I run.  I run a lot, and the worse things got for me in that aspect, the more and farther and faster I ran.  I balanced the discomfort I didn’t control against a lot of experience in discomfort that I put myself through, and my body and mind learned how to cope.

Like I said.  I’m nothing special.  I’m not perfect.  But I know discomfort.  And rather than hide from it and avoid it and quit when things get tough, I put on my running shoes and prove to myself that no matter what, I will get through it.

Maybe you don’t need to take up running. I know running isn’t for everyone.
Maybe you don’t need fast 5ks and hill runs that leave your quads shaking for hours afterward.
Maybe you don’t need to try and keep up with the heavy-body building cross-fitters…

But maybe you should take a week and park far away from the door.  Maybe you should take cold showers.  Maybe you should not touch your phone for anything but an actual verbal conversation for hours each night.  Maybe give something up at times other than Lent.  Give up something real.  Challenge yourself and then tough it out.  And then, find a different discomfort and do that.

We could all benefit from discomfort.  Test yourselves.  Push yourselves.  Suck it up, get through your time, and see how amazing you feel when it’s over.



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