Quitting is a Habit

There’s a poster hung up on the wall right next to my computer monitor. It has a Vince Lombardi quote- “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing!”

Because when work gets stressful, you need to remind yourself that you've jumped over fire and ran through electricity.
Because when work gets stressful, you need to remind yourself that you’ve jumped over fire and ran through electricity.

Walt Disney also said “the difference in winning and losing is most often… not quitting.”

Thinking back on my races, I realize that I have developed the bad habit of quitting.

 

Backstory

Several years ago, I signed up for a 50k in Big Bear, California. It was a beautiful race, I was keeping a good pace, and then everything started becoming very painful. My legs were hurting, and although I was still moving, I was walking incredibly slow. At one of the checkpoints, maybe about 16 miles in, I told one of the attendants that I was dropping out. She directed me to the trail that would take me back to base. It was a ten mile trip (but she didn’t tell me that). So basically, I covered 26 miles that day. Approximately 5 miles shy of the total distance of the race.

When I finished, I convinced myself that I didn’t like running that much after all. In fact, I didn’t do any running at all for several years.

Fast forward to October 2014: I crewed for my brothers at EC100 for the third year in a row. They DNF’d the first two attempts but this time they finished! I was with them from start to finish, and even rode alongside them on bike for 50 miles (read about this race here). Their victory inspired me to train for my own ultramarathon.

So I began training. I went from zero running to a lot of running. I started hitting the trails a lot. I loved trails so much that I really didn’t do much regular running. This made me an excellent hiker and powerwalker.

My trail running came in really handy when I did Tough Mudder this year and I completed it in my fastest time ever (that story’s here). My brother and I celebrated the following weekend by taking a 20 mile hike into the Grand Canyon to the river and back (read about that adventure here).

So far, so good, right?

It’s been a pretty eventful year and I have done more running this year than I have in a very long time. I’ve seen more trails and gone on more adventures this year than I probably have in my entire life. I even ran a 10k in December and came in 3rd (out of 3 but still a good run).

Then I kind of hit a slump in my training. I wasn’t running or hitting the trails very much anymore, I wasn’t hitting the gym anymore, and I definitely wasn’t watching my diet. Which isn’t a good thing because I had signed up for a 100 mile race, my first 100 mile race, in May.

May 2015: Born to Run Ultramarathon (that story here)– I dropped out at 40 miles. Not because I was tired or exhausted, not because I had pushed myself to the limit, not because I was sleepy, drained, or injured; I quit because my feet hurt…a little. (I should’ve trained for pain..read here)

I know I could’ve kept going- at the very least, I could have finished one more ten mile lap to round out the fifty, but I didn’t.

Present Day

My most recent example of quitting was in June, during a training run for the Los Pinos 50k-which I signed up to do on September 5, 2015.

The Los Pinos 50k is billed as “Southern California’s Toughest 50k race.” It has also been described as the 50k that feels like a 50 miler, and features over 9,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Everywhere I looked, all I saw was more mountain to climb.
Everywhere I looked, all I saw was more mountain to climb.

I showed up to the 10 mile training run still living off of my Tough Mudder and Grand Canyon victories, and the 40 miles I had recently done at Born to Run. Well, as Babe Ruth said, “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” Boy, was he right.

I was pretty much huffing and puffing the whole time, and quickly ended up at the back of the pack. Of course, that’s not much of a surprise because everybody there was a seasoned ultrarunner. My strategy was just to keep moving.

More climbing
More climbing

As I was climbing, all the thoughts of quitting started flooding my head. I wasn’t injured, I didn’t feel like I was TOO tired, and my muscles didn’t hurt. But it was a hard climb and I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

Seriously, the climbing never stopped
Seriously, the climbing never stopped

The race director, who was carrying a heavy pack (about 50lbs at least) full of supplies, caught up to me. I felt like a wimp for wanting to drop out when I wasn’t carrying anything and he was carrying the giant backpack, so I kept walking and climbing. I gained some distance but he eventually caught up to me again and passed me. That’s when I grew discouraged. I was told that if I kept going up just a little more, the trail would eventually start flattening out a little.

Mentally though, I didn’t want to keep climbing anymore.

Even with all the motivational quotes posted along the trail
Even with all the motivational quotes posted along the trail

That’s when I started feeling really tired. That’s when I wanted to start sitting and take a few breaks. But then the flies would swarm on me and I couldn’t rest because I kept swatting them away. This tore me down mentally too. At least at the Grand Canyon, when I would sit, I had the time to mentally build myself up again. Here, it was nonstop mentally and physically.

Finally, I made the decision to turn back, and that’s how I know that it’s all mental (Read here about Mental Hurdles): As soon as I turned back, and I knew it was literally all downhill from here, I was filled with a new energy and I was flying down the trail back to the parking lot (where I almost ran into a rattlesnake).

Now, here I am, 4 weeks away from race day. Mentally, I’m scared. I want to quit. I’m tempted to not show up. But, the reason why I sign up for these races is because then I’ll be forced to train. The race date is like a court date, an appointment. It’s a commitment, and I never skip out on a commitment.

I’ll be there.

It’s do or die now. I have to train hard, eat right, but most importantly I need to get my mind right. I need to commit to myself that no matter what, I can’t quit, I need to keep moving.

 

Breaking a bad habit

It has been said that it takes 21 days to break a bad habit. I have 27 days left until Race day.

27 days to get into the habit of eating healthy food. (I already calculated my macros and planned out my meals)

27 days to train and make sure that I complete each workout. (to quit during training only makes it easier to quit during race day)

27 days to set the pace for the rest of my life.

Conclusion

I’ll wrap it up with one final quote-“I don’t know if I can beat Apollo, all I wanna do is go the distance”- Rocky Balboa.

If I fail or miss a cutoff, that’s one thing, but the true victory for me will be in knowing that no matter what, I didn’t quit…I went the distance.

 

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