If You Want To Grow: Seek Out Intimidating Life Experiences
by Kevin Purcell, D.C.
A breakthrough occurs when we learn something we didn’t know we didn’t know. Afterward, we view it as wisdom, but that connotation conjures up old chiefs, so for our purposes, let’s call it (an) experience. Not to underestimate what another 10 to 20 years of life experience will add up to in wisdom!
When I attended Epic Camp with Scott Molina and Gordo day 10 was notoriously tough. The nine days of mega training preceding day 10 made it rather cruel. Scott and Gordo planned it that way. It was a test day, mentally as much as physically. When I raced as an age grouper I knew I was being exposed to a breakthrough as an athlete when I got nervous before a specific training day.
At the January, 2006, New Zealand camp, we started the morning early under a steady rain. Not particularly cold at first when I went from my bed to the edge of Lake Brenner for an aquathon in 15 minutes time. Boom -- it's time to race. The lake swim was about 1600 meters followed by a hilly, beautiful trail run of about 8k. I went hard. We all ran the trails through deep standing water, up and down. The craziness of the race made me smile. Before the event started I said to myself, "The more insane the training, the funnier it will be to us later."
Afterward, we had a quick breakfast and it was time to pack and prepare for the real challenge: the ride over Arthur's Pass. The weather was ugly that day; so ugly there was question about whether the pass would be open. We started not knowing. More mystery, more nerves, more opportunity. It was at least two hours in steady rain to the base of the climb. The temperatures had dropped and I was getting cold.
We all stopped at the base of the climb where a warm store sat to our left. It was the spot where each of us decided to start the climb or go in the store to get warm. After a short meeting and an exchange about safety precautions, people stopped talking and started leaving. Just about everyone who was going up had started and I had to make a decision; go into the store, warm up and drive over the pass or get going. I got going.
Like so many things in life, the decision to go is often more frightening than the actual task at hand. I can tell you, I knew that I was physically unable to ride over the pass. So, starting itself was intimidating. I knew it was a long climb and that at some point I would be off the bike and on foot. Move out!
Half way up the pass I asked myself what the hell I was doing there. Answer: everybody has got to be someplace. I've done things equally tough at epic camp: Desert Road, The Chalet climb, and a few other excursions, but I've never had the angst about any of them that I did about this climb. The point is this: the pain in my mind was worse than the pain that came to my body.
About half way up, the only guy that started behind me because he was getting coffee was my good pal Brandon Del Campo. He came past at the steepest point, standing, cadence about 50, singing out loud while he pedaled. I don’t know if I ever told him but that made me feel okay. I wasn’t dieing and he was singing.
When I got to our accommodation I was wrecked, but smiling. Eyes swollen, some drool on my chin but as happy as I have ever been as a result of a training ride. In retrospect, it wasn't that tough. It was just very tough for me. We can make situations seem worse than they are by over thinking them. I almost talked myself into driving over the pass. I almost neglected to try. I've done it before. It's worse than failing.
Kevin Purcell, D.C., works with long course triathletes; from elite to those new to endurance sport. Coach KP has guided dozens of athletes to qualification to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, including over 15 IM age group championships. Dr. Purcell is certified in Active Release Technique (ART) and has completed a medical rotation at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. Coach KP retired from competition in 2006.