Saturday, February 9, 2013

Life Lesson: Never Give Up, Never Surrender

This morning I did a duathlon, a race combining both running and cycling (3-mile run, 24-mile bike, and another 3-mile run). I'm training for a long triathlon so I thought this would be good practice. Several times today, the temptation to quit crossed my mind.

The first temptation came before I even left my house. When prepping to leave, it started snowing. I didn't want to ride with the roads being wet, especially when I can hit 30 miles per hour PLUS on a good downhill. Also, I questioned why I left my hot, comfortable bed to torture myself in the cold and the wet. A quick confirmation on the Internet showed that it shouldn't get too wet and I knew if I went to bed I'd regret it later. To the race I went.

Overall, I had fun. My intention was never to break any speed records, only to finish and get a good workout. Was it cold? Actually, it wasn't. It was freezing! I did the first three-mile run in my warmup clothes and pondered my sanity when I took them off to hit the cycling stage.

After the cycling ended, I transitioned into the second run, and things went downhill in a hurry. About a half mile into the run my right leg cramped. It hit mid-step and I cried out in surprise. What muscle was that? I did a series of stretches, trying to work it out, but nothing I did seemed to isolate that muscle. Running was impossible and walking hurt like crazy. I turned around and started my walk-of-shame back to the transition area, which was also the finish line.

I took a few steps and stopped myself. I knew, deep down, that if I quit then I would be extremely upset. So I did another 180 and continued the running route. After limping for a bit the pain dulled and my steps turned into a walk. After about 100 yards the cramp went away completely and I kind of laughed at myself. Close call, I almost quit over nothing. I started running again, but within a quarter of a mile it cramped all over again.

I tried to isolate the muscle through a series of stretches again, but couldn't find it. I considered turning around, but I was doing two 1 1/2-mile loops and figured that if I continued I'd only have to go a little further than if I turned around then. Another 100 yards of limping and walking got me running again.

And about a half mile later it hit again.

I thought of every excuse in the book to finish off this one loop and call it a day. Continuing this run was downright irresponsible of me; I could do some permanent injury if I kept this up. I already got a good workout and I already had the race shirt, so the only thing I'd be missing is the finisher's medal. Heck, this one lap was taking longer than the first two times I ran it; I could easily skip the turnaround spot and run (or limp or crawl or whatever I had left) into the finish line, collect my medal, have a better finish, and nobody would be the wiser.

Nobody, but me--I wasn't going to claim a medal I didn't deserve. When I got to the turnaround spot I turned around for my second loop. I lost track of how many times that shooting pain hit, but I would guess it was six or seven times. It turned into a routine: run (okay, let's be honest--slowly jog), pain, yelp in surprise, limp, walk it off, and start all over again.

I finished that race! I can look myself in the mirror and know I didn't cut any corners and that I deserved that finishing medal. And the guy who ran it twice as fast as me and left everybody else in the dust? He got the exact same medal. Ha!

Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy. Feelings and thoughts of self-doubt can stop us from doing the best we can. Yeah, I didn't win first place, but I did the best I could and I'm happy with that. Cheating or giving in to the negative impulses is a huge setback when trying to achieve goals. Why? Because the next time it is easier to quit. Easier to give in. Easier to surrender. Easier to cheat yourself of being the best you can be.

We all have goals in life. Whether it is to run a certain distance, have a book published, play for Notre Dame Football for two plays, or any number of things, these feelings and impulses seem to always strike when the finishing point is just a little bit further down the road. Usually, the temptation to quit isn't because of what remains of the journey. If you've done it right then you've nearly killed yourself to get as far as you did. It is when we are tired, worn out, and beaten up that we wonder if it is all worth it.

If it is important to you, then it is totally worth it!

Here is an inspiring video of other people who didn't give up. I think it is safe to say that we've all been blessed because of several people in this video.

Edit: One more thing...