I received an email yesterday from Josh, an acquaintance of mine up north of the border asking advice on training for an event he recently signed up for–the winter Death Race. The event represents a significantly bigger effort than anything he’s attempted before and he’s wondering how to go about preparing for it.
Wow. Where to start…
Pondering what advice I might possibly give reminds me of a something I heard somewhere, from someone (pretty vague, I know) that goes like this: just because someone told you what to do when you’re being charged by a grizzly bear doesn’t mean you’ll be able to avoid being eaten if/when it actually happens.
In other words–knowing something intellectually is very different than knowing it viscerally.
Until you face that grizzly, you really won’t know what you’re made of–whether you’ll be able to act rationally, control your fear, or even whether you’ll remember what you’re ‘supposed’ to do.
At some point during that winter death race, Josh is going to come face to face with his first (of possibly many) grizzly bears and regardless of what I tell him, the most relevant factors that determine his chance of ‘survival’ are parts of his character that I have no access too. The fascinating truth is that based on the fact that he’s asking for advice in the first place, he probably doesn’t have access to that information either.
But since he asked for advice, this is what I’ve got: there is no way to prepare for an event like the one in question. Big events are meant to take you to dark places–the stomping grounds of Grizzlies. Embrace this chance to come face to face with them and see what happens. Expect to be afraid and destroyed and be confronted with more self-doubt than you’ve ever known. Expect it to be really, really hard. But beyond that, do your best to remove all your expectations–they can only be used against you during your lowest points. And your idea of really really hard will probably pale in comparison to how hard it actually is. For most of us, our lives are so sheltered from true hardship that we can only extend our minds so far down the road of suffering. From what I’ve read of the Death Race, which is pretty much designed to break everyone, I gather that it’s road goes on for miles and miles beyond that personal horizon. Your best hope is that you have some innate and deep seated (and possibly disturbing to the general public) fascination with the primal spaces of your mind–the places that you can only access when everything else beyond the exact moment which you inhabit is forcibly stripped away.
The bottom line is that Josh has signed up to do battle with Grizzlies, and because he’s never really fought them before, anything I can say is going to be pretty irrelevant. Until he lock eyes with that 1000 lbs of fur and muscle he just won’t know what it is going to be like for him.
Good luck Josh, I’ll wait anxiously for the race report!