Fear, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of change, all these can drive and at the same time hold us back. Fear can be a motivator, this I know first hand. Fear guided me through my training for my first Tough Mudder and fear drove my training for the Spartan Beast here in Killington. Success can be achieved when driven by fear however it is a short-lived motivator; in the end fear alone cannot drive us.
Fear drove me into training for the Tough Mudder in May. I had never run a ten-mile race before and as I spent time in the woods prior tothe race, I was in the woods not because I loved it but because I was scared. I was scared I would not finish the race. Each step I took was driven by the fear of failure. How would I be able to tell my athletes and other friends this once athlete could not finish a ten-mile obstacle race. Is fear the best motivator, no but in this instance it was all that I had. I remember on race day totally unsure as to if I would be able to do this. That day my anxiety was at an all time high at the start. In the end once I the race started and I was in go mode, I just went, still fueled by the fear that I would be an embarrassment to myself and those around me. Fear worked in this instance and propelled me to qualify for World’s Toughest Mudder.
My next race propelled by fear was the Spartan Beast here in Killington. Yes, I had trained, yes, I knew the mountain, and yes I had put in the work, but the whole time I was propelled by the fear of letting all the people around me down and failing on my home turf, failing in front of my co-workers, my fire department, and around the many friends at the event. Each day I was propelled again by fear. I had no confidence in my abilities in this race. It took the encouragement of a good friend Carrie Adams and calming words from training partner Jason Jaksetic to pretty much get me over the starting line. As I raced that fear again never left me, I felt I needed to prove myself in my town and in front of my people. Again the outcome all worked out and as most know in the end I was on the podium. This race was a bit of a turning point as it showed me I could toe the line with some of the best and succeed. It propelled me from an obscure fan into a person that people started to knowin the obstacle-racing world.
At this point the fear changed, no longer was it if I could do it, the fear became if I could sustain it. And this fear is much more dangerous than the first. For fear of sustaining success will drive you to extremes, and imbalances, it consumes you; it engulfs every aspect of your being. You seek perfection in all parts of life even when perfection is unattainable. Fear of failure is a heavy burden to carry; it feels as if the weight of the world is upon you. At all times you are waiting for it all to drop, wake up and realize it was an illusion and you are still where you were before, left with nothing. The thing about this fear that is the most dangerous is that is in no way sustainable. At some point if fear is your only motivating factor you will hit a plateau or worse a wall and collapse.
Every athlete when they hit a certain level goes through ups and downs and it is not a secret that I battled with a pretty dark time this Fall. Fear had been my main motivating factor, I had forgotten about the fun. The noise of everything around me had gotten to my head. The Facebook Groups, the people betting on me winning upcoming races, the noise from the outside and fear from within took over every aspect of my being. My sleep suffered, my work suffered, my training went to hell, each day I went out I questioned what the hell I was doing this for and more importantly who I was doing this for! The fear of the uncontrollable took over; my competitors, outsider’s expectations, and proving to the naysayers this was not just a passing fad in my life, took afirm hold of me. In short, I lost the fun and lost reasons behind doing this in the first place.
What happens now, when you get to the point where you think you have hit a bottom where the things that once brought you joy are now something you dread. When all the inspiration around you makes you cringe and it all seems to be bullshit. Well in short it takes a support team. It takes a friend like Carrie Adams to listen to your full meltdown and spend the time to remind you that the reason you do this is because it is fun. It takes a training partner, Jason Jaksetic to call you out on the fear and to not let you use the uncontrollable as a crutch. It takes these things and most of all it takes a something deep in your gut, some call it moxie, to keep you going when quitting is the easy option.
It is when we are in our darkest moments, when it seems that all else is gone and lost that I think we truly see what we are made of. The hard part is not lifting sandbags or weights at the end of the day the truly hard part is transcending the fear, because fear can only motivate you so far. It is not sustainable and will not breed success overtime. It is when we are at our darkest and when all hope is lost, that is when we see who we are and see whether fear has won forever and we quit afraid of what lies ahead or we soldier on into the darkness, not knowing how long the tunnel is but knowing atthe end there is light. Once we find that light we can begin to heal and move on and transcend.
Some big races are coming up in my life, the biggest to date in any sport for when you add money into the mix the stakes change. For the first time in my life people care how I finish. Sponsors have been added to the mix, and I only hope to not let people down around me. I have competed against some of the best and had some good days; my recent race in Maryland showed that the bad days will happen. It has been a rocky last two months from most I have kept this fact but I think it is an important part of my journey and path of self-discovery.
Would I love to win and finish this season out on a high note, of course! I know no one who wouldn’t want to win. Am I still in some senses struggling with this fear, Yes. But the one thing I know is I cannot control the uncontrolables. This is a truth. All I can do is show up on raceday, have a plan for myself, toe the line and then let the chips fall where they may. If I do my best I will be successful. But for now, sorry all the Facebook groups, if you have noticed I have gone silent. It’s time to shut off all the noise focus on myself and put myself in the best place I can mentally and physically.