Fear is the path to the Dark Side

A race to overcome fear

A race to overcome fear

Yesterday I was having a conversation with someone I’d just met. We were talking about the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I have been a massive fan of Star Wars since I first saw ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ with my dad at the iconic Luxurama cinema in Wynberg, Cape Town. Going to ‘bioscope‘ was always a major treat and this one stands out in my memory. It may have been the start of my love of fantasy and sci-fi.

I was a bit frightened at the start of the sequence in the swamps of Dagobah. It looked creepy and scary. But this is also where we first meet Master Yoda, who, despite his size is one of the biggest icons of the Star Wars franchise and possibly had the strongest connection to the Force. Master Yoda is also the main source of wisdom throughout the series. His guidance always in the form of short, memorable pearls of insight. One of the more famous he delivers to Anakin Skywalker: ‘Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.’

I thought about that line this morning as I contemplated my failure in the 7 day #YourTurnChallenge. I didn’t post anything yesterday – day 6. I missed a day and I was trying to figure out my next step. Do I bother with day 7? Is this failure final? Did anyone miss my daily post? Much of my responses to the above questions were initially quite negative. I didn’t want to bother today. I had failed and should give up blogging. Nobody would miss me.

Then I thought about Yoda’s words and I realised that I was giving in to fear. I was fearful that my blog isn’t good enough. That I don’t know what I’m doing. That people don’t care what I have to say so I shouldn’t say anything. I also spent much of yesterday angry. So fear did lead to anger :-). I’m writing today to ensure it doesn’t lead to hate because I want to do this regularly. I want to record my thoughts about things I find remarkable. I hope that people find these thoughts worthy reading but that is not the main motivator behind recording them. I’ve found that recording them in this way actually brings further insight and understanding. It’s helping me learn more about the world. About myself.

So, thanks, Winnie Kao for the challenge. It’s been a journey I’ve enjoyed and a journey I’ll continue.

Fatigue and Fitness

Sussex Triathlon 3rd July  2011‘Fatigue always precedes fitness’ – Joe Friel

I read this tweet from endurance coach Mr. Joe Friel in late November. At the time I was feeling pretty demotivated because I’d been training for a few months. Training hard and regularly. Despite the training, I didn’t feel as if I was making any progress. I had entered a half marathon and was planning to go after my personal best. I was still so slow. I was still feeling tired after every run. I couldn’t understand it.

Then I read this tweet and I changed my mindset. I figured that I would Trust the Tweet. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s had years of experience. I decided that the fatigue I was feeling was just a prelude to greater fitness. My next run would be epic! Except it wasn’t.

I struggled as much as before with one difference. At the end of the run, instead of feeling frustrated about my seeming stagnation, I told myself that I was on the way to fitness. On the way to speed. I told myself I was going to smash my PB. It was tough though. I wasn’t sure I believed it. I’ve never worked with a running coach. Could I really trust an isolated tweet? Even if it was from a legend in the coaching business? Well, it was either that or give in to the fear of failure. I told failure to get lost! And it seemed to work. I didn’t feel as terrible at the end of my training runs. I started feeling more motivated about my plan.

The day of the race dawned cold and bright. I was pretty nervous. I had been making all sorts of bargains with myself about my finish time but deep down I knew I was going to go for it. I wanted to get a new PB. Unfortunately, at the start of the race, there was an announcement that the course was shortened. A drunk driver had hit a pole during the night and part of the course was affected because the pole was lying across the road and there were downed electrical cables. Damn! My plans for a PB would have to wait. I decided I was going to go all out anyway. I decided I would aim to maintain a pace in line with a new PB. And that’s when it all seemed to come together…

From start to finish, I pushed hard. But my legs took it. I was going faster than I had been in training. I felt good. I was able to maintain the pace. I kept thinking, ‘Joe was right. Joe was right. I am fit now. The fatigue did precede the fitness. Thanks, Joe.’ I finished the race strong and with a solid average pace. An average pace which would have lead to a PB if I had been able to keep it going for about 5.5km more. All-in-all, a fantastic run by my standards. Woohoo!

So what did I learn from this experience?

  1. Trust the Tweet. If an acknowledged expert in a field says something, it is worth listening. I’m not saying you should just follow things blindly. I’m saying you should take the time to understand what’s being said and apply it if appropriate. It’s awesome that we have access to the greatest minds on the planet through social media. I was coached by Joe Friel without ever having met him. How cool is that?
  2. Think positive. But put in the work. I changed my mindset to a more positive one. But I still put in the miles. I made sure I stuck to my training program as far as possible. Positive thinking alone won’t get you there but it will optimise your results. At the very least, it leaves you feeling better than negative thinking does.
  3. Have a plan B. You can’t control everything. Despite all my training, despite my new mindset, despite getting to the race on time, I had no control over the drunk driver who caused the race to be shortened. There was another runner in the starting chute with me who had been training for his first half marathon. He was planning to cross that off his bucket list. He was visibly disappointed but he had a plan B. He decided that he would look for another race and combine it with a holiday somewhere he’d never been. ‘Why waste the training and the fitness?’ he said. ‘I’ll just use this as a training run.’ Great thinking.

I’m still looking for my next race. Still planning for a new PB. In the meantime, I’ll keep running and scouring Twitter for my next inspirational coaching tip.

Watch this space for updates and other things I find remarkable.

For more in depth information about Fatigue and Fitness and how they trend together, check out Joe Friel’s blog post here.