Continued from “A glance back, and a look ahead”
I had 10 days off before leaving to tackle another 250 km stage running race in Egypt – the Sahara Race. This race left me with the realization that 1) the human body is an amazing machine that I will never understand (breaks down when you think you’re golden, or holds together when all hope is lost), and 2) that if you can find somewhere shady to hang out from about 11 am – 3 pm instead of running across the open desert, that is a pretty good idea.
I reluctantly toed the starting line for the Sahara Race, a 250 km staged ultra through the white desert of Egypt, as I expected to fail. It was 2 weeks since Utah and I hadn’t run since the Kenya. My prediction was to maybe survive a stage and then withdraw due to knee pain on the second day. I told the film crew that if my knee blew up in this race, that I wouldn’t be racing the 230 km race in Cambodia, let alone the Laguna Phuket Ironman 70.3 one week post-Cambodia. I was depressed, scared, and had totally lost my confidence. I feared the worst for my body, and the show.
However, as fate would have it, my body held together for both Egypt and the Ancient Khmer Path ultra in Cambodia (mostly). I was amazed and overjoyed. Those two months were both simultaneously incredible and dread-filled, as I expected the worst, but continued to soldier on despite it. In hindsight, soldiering on was what I needed to do to rebuild my confidence (although if it went the other way, I’m sure I’d be cursing the decision not to rest the injury). By the last stage of the Cambodian race, I was fully amped to race my heart out and did, for the 16 km run to the famous Ankor Wat temple complex. By the time I finished that final stage, I knew that I was ready for my first triathlon – the Ironman 70.3 in Laguna Phuket Thailand.
As I scrunched beach sand with my toes, anxiously waiting for the starters pistol, I reflected on my triathlon training in 2012: four pool swims and five road rides. However, I was naively confident because I was still amped from Cambodia so I started the race with a smile. During the week leading up to the race, I spent two days climbing deep-water free solo routes near Railay Thailand, pre-rode the 90 km bike route, and swam the 1.9 km swim course (my first ever ocean swim). Was it a restful week? No, but it was fun, and acted like a reset button for my battle worn spirit and mind. Ultimately, I had a total blast in the 70.3: swimming with hundreds of surging athletes, riding through a twisting and undulating bike course in the rain, and running – well, that was more an exercise in survival at that point. Crossing the finish line meant that I had survived this crazy experiment (1000+ km of racing in 18 weeks) and I was elated, but I was also aware that this amazing journey had come to an end, possibly for good, so it was a bittersweet moment.
An experience like this is worth nothing without learning some life lessons along the way. Filming this show was the hardest challenge I have ever undertaken. The toll it took on my body, spirit, and mind cannot be summed in 600 words. While I learned much about racing, different cultures, and pushing yourself past your limits, my greatest learning was this: I couldn’t do it on my own. When I struggled and my will faded, I leaned on my film crew, Turbo, fellow competitors, race volunteers, and friends and family for strength. Ultimately, I raced for them – I had to, because I would have quit if I were only racing for myself. In the end, these people helped me realize that Boundless was more than a job; it was metaphor for life. It was filled with highs and lows, triumphs and failures, satisfaction and regret, but as with life, it came down to one simple, daily decision – Do I stand still or move forward? While consciously making this daily decision may not be a measure of achievement for all of us, it certainly was for me. I don’t know what 2013 will look like for me, but I do know that I will be running towards, not away from every opportunity or challenge.