Step by Step… [The Emotional and Mental Memoir from Ultra Beast Spartan Race]

This is not a recap of an Ultra Beast Race. You can read those elsewhere. This is a mental and emotional piece about somebody’s inner world.

This is not a blog with ideas and tips on how to train. It is not about how to eat and prepare for one of the toughest obstacle endurance races. This is an expression of a soul screaming after facing an unknown field of defeat and disqualification.

The “Ultra Beast Spartan Race” is one of the longest obstacle races in the OCR series. What does that mean for an overachieving athlete like me? It means there is going to be a mental challenge. It inevitably leads to the question of “to be or not be” in the game.

 

Weeks before….

In the weeks leading up to that moment, I often found myself overthinking and over-analyzing the upcoming race. Of course, this would be interspersed with moments of calmness, and times of not thinking about the race at all. As a professional athlete, business owner, and life coach, I have learned firsthand how overthinking will never result in anything good. It only leads to fear, stress and demotivation. Overanalyzing is even worse; it creates an overpowering fear of losing control. I am the last one to predict the weather, the course, the obstacles, and most importantly: to predict my own body’s reaction and feelings.

I find it very relaxing to not think about the race at all. Yes, “spacing out” can irritate the ones who love you most. But guess what? I love spacing out. I bask in the moments when I allow the universe to think on my behalf. I love not knowing what the future may hold. I love to be at peace, doing what I do every day: eat healthy, train hard, stretch, rest, and sleep.

 

The night before….

That day before the Ultra Beast was one of the most serene days of my life. All my work was done. I was up to date on updating my clients’ plans. Everything was taken care of. The trip was planned, I had checked the weather. Even the last-minute gels had been purchased and packed. I was ready.

I decided to go on a walk. I was fully present. I looked up at the sky to see the stars, ever grateful for that precious moment! Silence is the best medicine for me before such a race.

Every professional athlete takes time to just sit with their own thoughts.

I shut down all the voices and all the stress.  This is the best anyone can do the night before a big race!

 

On race day….

Morning brought silence. With a carbed-up breakfast and mental focus, I knew what I wanted most in that moment. I thought: There is nothing else but me.

Me, the way I am now. Completely present, two hours before the start. Me, the most athletic, the best prepared, the healthiest person. I can face the unknown. All will be good, because I will take it step by step.

I did everything within my power, right? I am the strongest I could possibly be, right? I prepared every single detail for this race, right? Yes, I did.

Let’s do this!

 

The Race….

Start, slow start…

I relinquished my inner-will to chase the rest of the competitors. I kept repeating: “Pace yourself”. It soon became my mantra for the race.

“When the breathing peaks up, all I do is pace myself.”

Suddenly, I recalled everything I ever read or heard about the importance of breathing. How successful of a tool it is for stress management. Was I stressed? Not particularly, but I was very focused. I wasn’t going to let any breathing struggles get in my way. “You got this” and “keep going” was mentioned frequently by those passing me.

Yes, my legs keep moving step by step. “There is no other way but forward” my mind exclaims. “You got this, beYOUtiful!” I said to myself, as I approached a steep hill.

Step by step. I removed any thoughts about the obstacles that were ahead of me.

“That is the next step, let me focus on the uphill right now.”

I relinquished all care about the future. I knew that all I had to focus on was my next step. I had brief bursts of energy, helping me refocus, recharge.

Suddenly, I was battling an obstacle. My mind went blank. I swiftly reminded myself that I was moving forward. In my mind, “burpee” became synonymous with “obstacle”. I thought: “I will not allow ‘burpees’ to disturb my stubborn Taurus personality.”

Do you remember saying from the movie, “Dori”?

“Just keep swimming.”

Exactly. Keep moving. Keep swimming. Keep running!

 

Suddenly, my body was telling me something….

Was it a pinch in the knee? I tried to decipher the feeling. “Listen knee, we have a second lap to do. We’ve got this. Just cooperate with me and stop fighting, ok?”

As the miles added up, I felt my body in places I wasn’t expecting. I tried to reassure myself. I had never had issues with my ankles and knees before.

“Let me change the way I run. Let’s try to slow down and let refocus on the course. I know my body, all will be fine.”

As I made it through another obstacle, I thought, “That was easy, which means I’m a badass! Even the cold doesn’t bother me as much as others that I am slowly passing. Wow, I prepared really well.”

I had just finished facing the biggest fear of my life. Swimming didn’t kill me physically, but it broke me mentally.

As I plunged in to the icy water, I tried to my best to have a positive mindset. But, unfortunately, the panic attack was stronger.

“That’s ok, it’s in the past. Let’s do burpees and move on. I’ve got a second lap to do and I need to have a serious conversation with my body parts.”

 

Downhill…

I know the difference between pain and discomfort. I have an incredibly high pain tolerance. But this pain was excruciating.

“Knee, please, please don’t do this to me now. Why are you actually hurting? I’ve been so kind to you. I’ve been pacing myself this entire time.”

My pace began to slow.

Still, I moved on, step by step. But I felt it. No, it wasn’t pain. It was fear, creeping in to my thoughts. I had worked so hard on letting my fear go, just days before the race.

“Go away!!!!”

As I pictured my ligaments tearing and visualized tripping and rolling down this hill, my inner self shouted “NO, NO, NO!!!”

But I’m stubborn. The overachiever, the badass, the winner.

 

I had to decide….

The pain became unbearable. Do you know those pain scales in the hospital, with “1” being the best and “10” being the worst? I was at a 9, maybe 10, and it brought tears to my eyes. It was so intense that I could barely hold my focus as I limped. A fight between my inner-worlds ensued.

“Didn’t you accomplish 12 hours of the brutal Hurricane Heat event? Do you remember what you were telling yourself there? Yes, so keep repeating: step, step, step, step. Don’t think about giving up. Just: step, step, step, step. Shut up and move on. Step, step, step. This is your dream. Step, step, step. This is your life. Step, step, step.”

I couldn’t take another.

“Please don’t do that to me! Don’t fade, please. I can go, I can move….”

Having to give away your inner power hurts more than any knee ever could. I had to decide to let my partner continue through the race without me. I felt like I let myself down, and I had never envisioned this would happen!

 

Afterwards….   

I felt empty, I felt lost, I felt disempowered. I had lost myself somewhere on the 15-mile mark.

Someone else must have decided to DNF on my behalf. It was not the Izabela I know. She never gives up. She never whines. She never uses pain as an excuse! The Izabela I know lives by the saying: “be comfortable with uncomfortable”. It was someone other than me that decided to quit. I know I could’ve gone on and finished it!

But no, continuing with that pain wouldn’t have been possible.

The Izabela I know is also caring of herself and others. She is supportive. She inspires and motivates herself and other. She might be unstoppable, but she also knows when it’s time to practice self-care. She may have the strength to break ice, but she also knows how to melt ice with self-love. She knows that dreams do come true. They just come true during the right time, at the right place.

 

Everything happens for a reason.

 

You got this beYOUtiful! ❤

….. step by step ……

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