I was sitting at a party last weekend, eavesdropping on the conversations around me. Most of them did little to spark my interest. Over the years I have coined the term “asshole conversation” to describe this meaningless banter. The asshole conversation went on for some time until the New York City Marathon came up, and with this my ears immediately tuned in. This was finally a topic that was worth talking about and, more importantly, could keep my interest. I continued to listen keeping my mouth closed, until I heard a plethora of phrases that drives me and other athletes nuts: “I could never...,” “I don’t know how they do it,” and my personal favorite “I can’t.”
It's all about the mind set. If you tell yourself you can do it, you can and will. Professional triathletes train tirelessly for that one chance to qualify for that coveted Kona spot; they will be the first to tell you that the mental game is half the battle. Once they fail in their heads, they fail on the course. Olympic Triathlete Sara Groff blamed her fourth place finish at the London games entirely on her mental state saying, “The difference between me getting a medal and me not getting a medal was completely mind-set.”
I'm a pretty straight shooter and tend not to sugar coat much, if anything at all. But as full of s*** as it sounds, it is all about believing it can be done. I frequently find myself reassuring athletes and non-athletes alike that they actually can do it if they believe that they can. While thumbing through Joe Friel’s "The Triathlete’s Training Bible", I found his analogy of the flight of the bumblebee to speak very clearly about the importance of avoiding negative verbiage, such as “I can’t.” He tells the story of scientists coming to the conclusion that the bumblebee lacks the capacity to fly, yet no one informs the bumblebee so he continues to go on flying. He states “the single most critical piece of the multi-sport puzzle is believing in yourself and your capacity to succeed.” I and a friend of mine whom I frequently train with have this same conversation (it's like deja vu), yet for some reason it took this story for her to believe that what I was telling her was in fact true.
I typically do not get inside my own head, but the last half marathon I did I felt like s***-- literally. I had just gotten over what I swear was the black plague, had a broken rib, and was mildly hung-over. I figured it was only 13.1 miles and I could do that with my eyes closed. I swear I almost died at mile 8. I have never felt so terrible. My friend turned to me and told me to walk for a bit; with that, I looked at her and said “It’s 13.1 f****** miles. I refuse to walk any part of this.” Instead, I downed a few Clif Shot Bloks, took some ibuprofen and a puff on the inhaler, and continued to run. I finished the race with one of my better times. I am confident that if I had let myself say “I can’t” that I would have failed miserably.
The human mind is a complex device. It can make or break you at any time. When you think you are down, it can drag you down further. When you are flying high, you become unstoppable. If you have the drive and believe you can do it, you can accomplish it; hangover or not.