Category Archives: General Musings

Accepting Defeat

The subject of this post is not something I’m well versed in. Once I’m driven to accomplish a task, the more challenges I face, the more determined I’m likely to become. This can work in my favour in times when I need to dig deep and find the strength to continue. But it can also be detrimental to my health because my mind tends to push my body further than it can or wants to go.

On the PCT, I was so determined to finish the trail I pushed through injury, pain, and weather conditions I’d never face again to cross the border. On the Yukon River Quest, when the foot pedal of my kayak snapped off, and I lost steering for half the race, determination saw me through to the finish line.

My latest challenge has been training to run a marathon, despite the fact I don’t actually like running. The furthest I’ve ever run was 21km when I was at the peak of my fitness in 2016. But after listening to a very inspiring interview with ultra-marathon runner David Goggins, I signed up to run the Vancouver Marathon on May 5th, believing not only could I finish with only two months lead time, but after listening to this powerful podcast, I was confident I could win the race on mind power alone.

This is where reality and my ambition began to collide.

On my first training run, I decided I would go for an hour and push as far as I could. One of Goggin’s quotes that struck me was that people often quit at 40%. So every time I started to feel tired I would ask myself what percentage I was at, and if it weren’t 100%, I’d keep going. Basically, I was convinced if I hadn’t vomited by the end of the run I wasn’t pushing hard enough, a statement that horrified my poor mother!

On that first day I ran 11km, sprinting up the last hill to pass another runner across my make believe finish line. I did almost vomit, but I was elated, grinning triumphantly because I’d successfully pushed past my 40%.

However, the next day I ran, I started to feel pain in my hips. Over the next four days, I continued training, but afterwards, I was struggling to walk and found staircases excruciating. I saw a physio back in Australia who prescribed me orthotics because my left leg is shorter than my right, and according to him, was the cause for throwing my pelvis off balance. He told me to take a week off running, get used to the new insoles and take it from there.

Cut to a week later, after paying an exorbitant amount of money I ran 8km and experienced even worse pain in my hips within the first few minutes. I was crushed, but assuming it might be the last time I would ever run, I ran the full 8km I’d intended, tearing up my feet on the useless orthotics in the process and limping home in defeat.

I spent the next two weeks on an exercise bike attempting to maintain some kind of fitness until I arrived back in Vancouver to visit my trusty chiropractor, Dr. Sam. I essentially went straight from the airport to his practice and after a descent readjustment, he told me to take two days off with no running before seeing him again.

On the second visit a week ago, he gave me the all clear to run, so naturally, I went straight to the gym, signed up with a personal trainer, invested in a concoction of protein powders, supplements, and electrolytes and hit the treadmill.

Kyle my trainer told me what I was attempting was ambitious, to say the least, but for the first few days, I think I had us both fooled. I transformed my diet, went to the gym for at least three hours each day, and walked out with a huge grin knowing I was moving one step closer towards my goal.

Then yesterday I did my first 10km run since my initial training, and within the first few minutes my hips flared up again. Of course, I ran the entire 10km, but I went straight back to my chiropractor who merely shook his head and asked if there was any way I could get a refund for the race.

Somehow I was not prepared for this response and had to hold back tears while Dr. Sam completed his treatment. At the end, he told me to rest for the weekend and see him next week, and by the time I left his practice I was an emotional wreck, crying the entire way back to my friend Sue’s house while biking through Vancouver’s persistent rain.

At that point, I had to question why this race is so important to me.

The truthful answer is something far deeper than my conscience drives me. Whether it comes from a place of fear or insecurity or a desire for attention, I don’t know, but it’s in my nature to follow through on things I say I’m going to do. It’s a part of an identity I pride myself on, and when something goes against the grain, it throws my entire sense of character into chaos.

The other answer is the marathon is the only concrete element in my life right now. I’m homeless, jobless, and have just moved back to a city I’m not even sure I want to make my home in. I want to be self-employed and set up a business in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and in the midst of searching for accommodation, considering living out of a van, and debating part-time dog walking jobs, I’m spending my savings on personal trainers and protein powder, trying to gauge whether I’ve completely lost my mind.

Compared to my other objectives, the marathon is a rather straightforward affair. It has a specific date, a set distance, a defined course, a cut-off time, and I have a nutrition and training plan to follow. It would almost seem ‘easy’ if my body would just cooperate.

So as I sit here with an icepack on my hip having waddled up the staircase of Sue’s apartment, I’m still holding onto a small thread of hope that somehow in twenty-four days I’ll be ready to run 42km. Though it seems unlikely as I can barely scuttle across the road to beat traffic, if I do have to accept defeat on this particular challenge, at least I’ll be satisfied I didn’t quit at 40%.

The Doughnut Dilemma

I found myself in an intriguing psychological conundrum this morning as I walked home from Starbucks with a coffee and doughnut in hand. The doughnut was from the supermarket, and the only reason I had this jam-filled, caramel-coated, sprinkle-dusted treat, was because I received an instant win token from the store the previous day and was collecting my delectable prize.

Now, as I exited the store, I debated about when to take my first bite. There were seats outside facing the parking lot, but my pastry deserved a better view than that. I began walking home with my doughnut in a napkin, salivating at the thought of biting into its colourful, sugar-glazed flesh. But halfway home, when I figured a view wasn’t necessary, and I didn’t need my feet up to enjoy my delicious treat, my heavy-handed conscience stepped in and chastised me for my lack of restraint.

There’s an insightful TED Talk called, Don’t eat the marshmallow! from a few years back, which presents research conducted on a group of young children. The experiment was aimed at measuring each child’s ability to exercise delayed gratification, meaning, to see if they were prepared to ‘suffer’ in the short term for future gain. In summary, from what I remember, the kids are left in a room with a marshmallow on a plate and are told if they hold off eating the sweet for fifteen minutes, they’ll be given another marshmallow as a reward.

Some kids eat the marshmallow before the time is up and some don’t. The ones who display self-control and wait, are proven to have experienced greater success in their later years compared to the ones who ate the marshmallow straight off. Take this evidence with a grain of salt, but if I were one of those kids, not only would I have left the marshmallow on the plate, when a second marshmallow was offered to me, I would have stuffed it in my pocket, and taken them both home for dessert.

During Easter, when I was a kid, I used to save my chocolate eggs like a squirrel preparing for winter. At times, I kept them for so long the chocolate turned white and became inedible. So here’s a question for you TED, is it possible to delay gratification for so long it actually turns out to be negative?

Most of us are terrible at celebrating success and enjoying what’s in front of us in the present. When we reach a milestone, we shift the goalposts and focus our attention on the new target before even taking a breath. I wondered if this principle applied to my doughnut. Should I be enjoying a bite while the desire is there, or would the temptation destroy my self-discipline for the future?

I know I have a tendency to overthink things, but it’s my nature to be curious and regimented. At least now I’m home I can put my feet up and look out the window because my doughnut’s still waiting to be eaten.