At some point in our lives, we look back and begin to question if we are following the path that we had envisioned. Introspection is a normal and necessary part of growth, and the answers it uncovers often lead to new questions. Have you challenged yourself to prove that you are capable of more than what you thought possible?
Most people are comfortable with who they are and what they are doing in life, as a result of complacency rather than self actualization. I am not one to criticize who or what a person does with their life. However, I think it's with examining our own existence and pushing through self-imposed barriers. I think we could all use that as we move into the new year.
Comfort Zone? What Comfort Zone?
Hi, I'm George Briones. If you had asked me last year if I would have seen myself out there running 50 miles, I would have laughed and said “Ya, OK!!” I had 5 athletes competing at the American Open in Weightlifting. I had even qualified for the National event myself. I was a firm believer that running bred cowardice and that the relentless pursuit of strength was life.
This isn’t a blog convincing you to go out and run 50 miles. I get it: some don’t have the will or mindset to endure that kind of pain. I can’t even explain the pain that comes with running, let alone being on your feet for almost 14 hours.
Most Western humans don’t care to walk, much less run. I look at it like this: we were given a survival skill in running. If you look back, our ancestors used to run for miles and it was an everyday thing for them. As time has passed, we have lost that skill, and in some ways it’s leading us to our very death. I realized that I was preaching to people as a coach about health, but I wasn't certain that I was even BEING healthy myself.
Fast forward a year later and I am lacing up my Altra Lone Peaks 3.0 getting ready for my first 50-mile race. These became my first trail running shoes since I started running again. I hadn’t ran more than 400 meters in almost 4 years. Wait, I am lying, I did a 10k Ruck Run the year prior to prove to myself I was still mentally tough. It’s funny how all this comes full circle, because we ran constantly in Recon, and once I got out I just chose not to run as part of my fitness regime.
But this time around, I wasn’t looking to see if I was mentally tough. I was resolved, but I hadn’t ever been challenged in this kind of way. The last time I had done something even remotely close to this distance was back in 2013 when I ran the Recon Challenge, which consisted of a 2k open ocean fin with all your gear, a 24-mile ruck run, and had eleven combat skill oriented events throughout the course. Note, there was no 50 mile run in there.
My prep for the 50-mile race was only 6 weeks long. I had completed a sprint triathlon 3 weeks prior to the 50-miler. It was actually really fun. I also recorded a podcast with Lion Heart Radio about my training process leading up to it. But I still just had to get miles under my feet. I approached this with guidance from my buddy Rick, as he had just completed his first ever 200 mile race, along with additional help from my mentor/coach, Dennis.
What we as athletes don’t realize is that we have the ability to do anything we set our minds to. We have the ability to push our bodies to places it has never been and that we have never imagine for it to go. If we stop listening to our bodies and resolve to push our limits, we can discover amazing things, as each new experience is just another opportunity to explore the undiscovered you!
Enduring Pain In Order To Succeed
And boom, I’ve started the clock that I can't influence, because it doesn’t stop for anyone or anything. It just keeps going until I cross the finish line. It doesn't care what my body feels like. I knew that I had 14 hours to complete 50 miles that was on an unmarked and unsupported course. You had to use whatever you had on your person to get from mile zero to mile 50.
If running a race like this is something that interests you, develop some map reading skills. There were 35 of us registered to run the race, 20 of them were doing 100 miles, and I was the only one doing 50 miles. The other 14 had either ran the shorter course or pulled out due to cut off times.
Honestly, the first 32 miles felt great. Yes, my feet hurt a bit, but nothing I hadn't felt during training. And I won’t lie, I had no idea what time I wanted to finish. All I knew is that I wanted to complete it under the cut off time, to not die or get hurt, to remain present, and to have fun doing it. I was on that track, and I knew it.
Then the pain cave appeared. The last 18 miles dragged on and the suffering just kept increasing. This is where it goes back to why I wanted to do this, because I wasn't sure that I could. That uncertainty left me addicted to this unexplainable pain that I was enduring in those last 18 miles.Call it masochism, but it made me happy, it was my way to unplug, and it was therapy for me mentally and physically to know that every step forward took me closer to this uncertain goal I had set.
With six miles remaining in the race, I knew that this was no longer about me. I had used up most of my internal motivation that helped me along the last 44 miles. I had set up some external motivation by raising money to help buy bikes for Christmas for kids under Project Motivate. I knew that if I was wanting to quit each footfall would remind me that I was delivering bikes to those kids. I used the motivation of the thought of letting those kids down to bring me to that finishing point. I wasn’t going to fail no matter what.
Motivation to Achieve Our Life’s Goals
This is a small look into my mind and what motivates me to keep waking up every morning, climbing that mountain of life that is never ending. It comes with lows and highs, sometimes with the lows lasting a lot longer, but it is all about how we process that low and turn it into a high by not wallowing in our trials. We let it build up our next effort; guiding accomplishments in life that we never thought were possible.
So why did I run 50 miles?
To have the ability to be present in an experience like this. To be able to speak personally as a coach to those who want to tackle a goal bigger than they can imagine. To be an example for those who have told themselves they can’t do something. Leading from the front is not always easy. My why isn’t just a self-congratulatory personal victory, but a quest for the unknown experiences that we get to learn and grow from on a deeper level.
I will continue to chase the impossible, till my last breath! I would love it if you joined me in 2018. Pick something you aren't good at and develop a plan to get better at it, then challenge yourself to test that in the crucible of competition. It's going to be a kick ass year!