Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chasing Confidence

I know its been a while since the last post.  In fact it's been way too long.  Those of you that know me know I have a lot to say and never shut the hell up, which is part of the reason it takes me so long in between blog post.  I can't decide where I want to go next.  I need to find a time each week to just sit down and write because when I do that the best material seems to come out.  Since my last posting I have finally taken that first step on the track.  It was a whirlwind of a weekend filled with a plethora of emotions.  Anyone that has lined up for a race knows many of these emotions: fear, doubt, anxiety, nervousness, excitement, joy, etc...  All of these generally combine into the fuel that helps come race time.  But some of these emotions can be utter devastating to performance.

Doubt and fear are the enemies of distance runners and athletes everywhere.  They defeat you before the gun ever goes off.  We all have had these emotions at one time or another but how you control them shapes your performance.  I have throughout my career as an athlete always welcomed these emotions.  They mean that racing is important and is a reminder of what is on the line.  If there is no fear or nerves then you are not competing, you are out for a fun stroll on a beautiful morning.  Competing to better yourself or your opponents, is why we all race.  I have to be honest with myself and everyone.  Over the last few years I have slowly lost bits and pieces of any self confidence I had in my abilities as an athlete.  This is akin to a boxer getting in the ring thinking is going to lose.  And if that is his mentality then he will surely get his ass handed to him by his opponent.  Which is absolutely what happened to me at the JDL Camel City 3k and many races over the past few years.  

Each of my relapses with my Wegener's Granulomatosis (and subsequent comebacks over the past 2 years) have proven both callousing and devastating to my confidence and ego.  On one hand I have traveled and crawled back from the darkest depths of my own inner hell.  Naturally a guy that has stared the possibility of death in the face 3 times now and told him to f**k off, would have loads of self-confidence.  This resolve and hard-headedness has given me the knowledge that I can survive whatever dark places my life and goals take me, but has also chipped away at my risk taking skills on the track.  Each time I feel like I have put more and more on the line to get back and in turn makes me feel I have much more to lose by failure.  I have become so cautious to really putting myself out there like I have been capable of so many times over the years.  I was never too afraid to put myself in races and in situations where I might fail, but over the last 2 seasons I have been truly afraid to try and fail because of what I feel I have invested.  Realizing and admitting this to myself has been just as equally devastating and destructive to my confidence on the track.  In high school and college I thrived on competition.  I was never satisfied, always wanted to win and was willing to make you or myself reach your limits to beat me.  Some of my fondest memories of my entire career are chasing down people in relays, or doubling or tripling at meets to score big points, which helped change the tides of meets.  I wanted to win, not just for me but for my teammates, coaches, family, friends, and fans.  I wanted the baton when it matter and the meet or race was on the line.  The thrill of winning cannot be matched by any other feeling I know.

So now I have to put myself back together piece by piece.  The physical part is slowly coming with training, but my mental edge has a long way to go.  I know I have all the pieces somewhere inside my head, but like a puzzle they have to be put back together piece by piece.  Several things have begun to help me on my journey.  Just like an addict, the first step was truly admitting to myself I had a problem.  For me, that took me finding rock bottom again mentally in December and January.  The mind is a wonderful and dangerous place.  It's funny that during this time I was able to find a darker place emotionally than 2 of my trips through chemotherapy.  Here I am chasing my dream, in the place I love, yet I had lost almost all of my sanity and confidence.  It took talking to my awesome chemo infusion nurse, when down for a check up, to realize that I really needed help emotionally if I was going to get out of this spiral.  I had to not just want to change but had to find the help to change.

All of us have doubt's at times.  Especially during times of struggle, stress, heartache and injury.  So how do you get it back or develop it?  Over the years I have been around a lot of elite athletes.  One thing I have noticed is all of the super successful athletes have extreme confidence in their abilities.  Which is what we all need to learn.  It starts with baby steps.  Finding words or phrases that can get you through a tough day or a tough workout can be one way to kick start the program.  My recent phrases have been "don't puss out" and "unleash."  One run at a time, one day at a time, one interval at a time.  You keep fighting like hell and before you know it you will begin to trust your abilities.  If I aim to tell a story with my running and my life, being weak and fearful on race day isn't what want to say. That's one of the points of this blog. There is more to me (and many other athletes) than a person that runs in circles with big dreams and goals.  I want to be a testament to what talent and will power in each of us can achieve.  We can't be afraid to unlock those desires and talents and chase them to the edge of our sanity.  If you can find that mental edge and desire anything is possible.  You have to be the one that wants to find out how bad you really want something and how far you are willing to go to get it! So dream big and chase hard because All Hope is Gone!

B....