For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Graeme Crouchley (aged 16) and I nearing the end of a one day "run"
up and down Mt. Titaroa from Manapouri (NZ), including swimming the
river.  We were told it couldn't be done.  It took us just over 8 hours.
Ok, so now lets assume one is confident in their own abilities and doesn't need to rely on externally received notions of what is possible. What else stands in the way of 'athletic greatness' in the world of endurance sports based on a three hour a week training schedule? Suffering, of course.
Endurance events, for everyone (at least those performing near their limit) involved, require suffering. Sounds horrible, but in all honesty, suffering is just, at its bottom, a state of being like any other. it doesn't last any more than happiness does, and like happiness, as we get accustomed to it, it's effects seem to fade. As humans we're amazingly capable of adapting to things, if given time. the problem these days is that for many of us, we are lucky not to have to take that time if we don't want to - in other words there is very rarely (in modern society) any situation that REQUIRES protracted endurement of physical discomfort. Most people, even athletic people - have brief run-ins with it - an all out sprint in a soccer match for example - when they encounter it at all. Many people even tolerate it well during these limited exposures. Unfortunately, if you're planning on running an IM, swimming the english channel, or pushing through an ultra, your going to be on much more intimate terms with pain.

This is the bow-out point for many. During the primal quest (a 10 day adventure race) in 2006 i saw teams of far better athletes than myself fold. Blisters suck whenever you get them - but when your feet are bleeding and you're still faced with 50 miles of walking? Almost everyone (and remember now we're in the subset of people who actually thought they could 'do' this in the first place) quits. My feet were bleeding 8 hour into the race, but I ended up being lucky - i had a pair of flip-flops i'd brought along for transition areas. I spent the next 8 and a half days racing in these, and when they wore through, borrowed another pair from a teammate. If i hadn't had this option - i'd have quit too. I'm not familiar enough with this particular brand of suffering to always keep going - Blisters stopped my attempt at the Arrowhead 135 ultramarathon in 2008 (although at the time i blamed many other things). But i'm 'immune' to many other things that serve as roadblocks to most: Fatigue, hunger, extreme soreness, cold, heat, and lack of sleep. I've made my peace here and am able to acknowledge the experience of these things as simply another sensory state of existence that will be transient too. This helps me proceed during trying times.
The more experiences an ambitious athlete/adventurer has with suffering, particularly positive ones (ie suffering that enables success), the more likely they will be to see suffering as an important tool that needs to be embraced, not avoided, in the pursuit of their goals.

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