“TIME! 7 minutes. How fast did you say you could run the mile, Wolf?” Instructor Price scowled at me. “Uhhh, like 6:30?” I blubbered out. “Nope, it was 6:14,” called out Instructor Wornham, reading from a notepad, “I have it right here.”
Dammit, why did I put my best ever mile time on my application?? I should have known they would hold me to that.
“Line it up again, guys! Most of you didn’t make your time.”
Of course we didn’t, they just made us do like 300 burpees for all the infractions we had during check-in. They’re not going to really make us run the timed mile again right now…
8 minutes later, my fellow candidates and I struggled back across the finish line. “TIME!” yelled Instructor Price again. “You guys actually got worse! Line it up again!”
This has got to be a joke…
This was just one hour into my experience at SEALFIT Kokoro Camp, and in my mind it was obviously not going well. As we ran the mile for the third time, my mind started racing. Is this how the entire 50 hours is going to be? If so, I don’t think I can hack it. I should have trained more in the heat. I should have timed my mile run when I was already beat down from push-ups and duck walks on the grinder. I thought I was prepared for this? I’m going to have to quit.
“TIME! I don’t even have to tell you guys, you know what to do. We’re going to keep on doing this until somebody makes their time,” growled Instructor Price. Nobody moved toward the line; some were vomiting – my body was trying to but I had been so nervous in the morning before we started that I hadn’t eaten anything since last night’s carb-loading pizza. Big mistake!
“It looks like this isn’t working, D,” said Instructor Wornham, “I got something though. Everybody follow the truck!” And with that he started at a jog behind a pickup that had just begun to lumber down a dirt road, right toward a long, slow uphill…
A few minutes into the run, one of the intern coaches sidled up beside me and started running with me. His name was Andy, and I’ve come to see him as my guardian angel at that time. A year later as I was interviewing to be a SEALFIT intern coach, I used this example as what I wanted to be for future candidates.
I was physically hurting, and still not feeling very good about my performance thus far or my prospects for finishing this now monumental event.
“What’s up, Wolf? How ya feelin’?”
“Not good. My legs are cramping, my throat is dry, I can’t breathe,” I listed all of my body’s current complaints.
“Are you gonna QUIT?”
I turned my head to face him. “No!” I said defiantly. At the time I thought he wanted me to.
“I knew you would say that. Good. Why?” asked Andy, fishing for what my internal reason to keep going was, no matter what.
After a second I realized that my Why wasn’t to prove something to myself, or to advance my coaching career. I had a chance to make myself either a good example for my two boys at home, who I imagined right then wondering how I was doing, or a bad example. “I want my kids to know that I did what I said I was going to do, and that you don’t quit.”
“YES! That’s powerful. Remember that, and stay in the fight. Stay in the fight. Say it!” Andy coached me to solidify that mantra.
“Stay in the fight,” I repeated, still out of breath but now starting to turn the corner emotionally.
“HELL yeah,” said Andy in his surfer dude accent, and sprinted up to the next candidate in line, ready to coax some more internal motivation from the depths of his soul.
Lack of physical preparation had nothing to do with my feeling sorry for myself and choosing to experience the physical pain of the moment so acutely. It was my lack of emotional control and resilience that was starting to shine through. Coach Andy’s reminder to come back to my Why, or even to figure out what my Why was in the first place, was a gamechanger that I fell back on so many times during the remainder of the event, and turned a very rough start into a hugely successful mental, emotional, and spiritual experience for me. Physically? I was an absolute trainwreck when I got home and Denee had to nurse me back to health for a week or more. But in the moment, after my initial pity party, I honestly didn’t feel it and I was able to finish the weekend standing tall when many others had quit along the way.
So as we begin the year and we line up some personal challenges or a goal we’d like to take on, I’ll echo some advice from Andy, and you’ve all heard it before but it’s worth hearing again.
Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. What is going to prevent you from quitting, or veering from the path you’ve committed to?
As a quick exercise if you’re not sure, imagine yourself actually quitting. What makes this hurt so badly on a deep level? If your reason is externally motivated like my being a good example to my kids, don’t imagine how they would feel (you don’t really know), imagine how YOU will feel when you’re faced with that person or organization and you’ve let them down. And if it doesn’t hurt, then you have some more thinking to do, or you might need to pick another goal that means something to you!
And if you know the challenge you’ve chosen is worthwhile and you’re solid on Why you’re doing it and Why you’ll never stop, then repeat after me when times get tough. STAY IN THE FIGHT.