I wanted to be left with just my shell. To get to the root of it all. My fears. My joys. My sadnesses. Some people do this through meditation, yoga, going on a walk about. Many never do it all. As for me, I take every long expedition races as an opportunity to “de-layer,” dig deep and get to the core of my being.
An Expedition Race is a non-stop race, 3-10 days in length, where teams of four race across a large distance by bike, kayak and foot finding their way between check points via map and compass. A large part of November was spent preparing and racing in the Adventure Race World Championships in Ecuador, a 6 day race that started at 15,000 feet and ended at the coast. For nearly a week we battled sleep monsters, aches and pains, desires to quit after capsizing our boats and even an episode of insanity!
My sole mantra for this race was “Dig Deep.” During times where all I wanted to do was slow my pace to a crawl or beg the team to sleep an extra hour, I repeated the mantra in my head and even out loud to the rest of the team. I amazed myself at the strength these simple yet powerful words gave me. Physically I was wasted, but mentally I had so much fire (sometimes even too much!) which kept my pace and passion to continue high.
One of the hardest sections for me personally was a 30km trek through knee and thigh deep mud that lasted for 20 hours. In the middle of the trek Daniel, our biggest and strongest teammate, went literally insane for 6-7 hours. His voice changed into a cross between a 6-year-old and scruffy 70-year-old smoker, he fell into a deep depression where all he could do was follow our foot steps – at a snails pace. If you got ahead three steps he would stop and complain, saying that we had no sympathy for him. It was a dark and confusing time for our team as we trudged forward giving words of support for every step he took. During this time we all could have gone insane with him. However there was no room for anybody else to go down that hole – we had to pool our strengths together and dig even deeper into our personal wells to get through this challenge.
I personally sloughed off not only physical pounds during that leg (I ran out of food half way through) but also emotional layers. With each step and breath through the heavy mud, I imagined the layers of worry, stress and fear melting off of me. By the time I reached the end of the trek, I felt lighter, brighter and ready for the last celebratory leg of the race – a 15-hour paddle with speakers, a kick ass playlist, and a normal Daniel!
What surprised me the most about this month of digging deep was that the race was the easiest time for me to put this into practice because well, I had no other option! When in need of more internal strength, there was no other choice but to dig deeper until I found it! However, after crossing the finish line and getting my first real sleep I found it harder than ever to keep up with my mantra. I was like a toddler, if I didn’t eat enough or get enough sleep the littlest thing would send me into a state of irritation or even mild depression. The real world of email, social media, the logistics of getting home all came flooding back during the first day of being back on my feet! This lasted well into the week after completing our race until I realized that I was battling “Post Race Depression”.
After a huge physical and/or mental accomplishment, many people slip into a mild depressive state for a week or more until they get back into their routine and on to the next goal. And it makes sense, after spending months training and preparing physically for the race, and then spending six non-stop days expelling all of my energy to cross the finish line, I had nothing left for simple day to day existence! Now that I am at home and the dirty gear and laundry is all dealt with and sorted, I am slowly getting back into balance. I am focusing on recovering, sleeping and eating a lot during this holiday season, which thankfully leaves little room for stress. Whenever I get the least bit overwhelmed, I say my mantra and it reminds me to breath and keep those layers of stress, worry and fear (that I worked so hard to get rid of!) at bay.
For the month of December, I am going to be focusing on “Be Here Now”. During this month of holiday parties, time with friends and family, and snow, I want to fully take it all in and be present with each moment. In the last couple of years December has signified the ending of the year which means hustling and bustling to get all of our plans solidified. However, this time around, I would like to change that. I want to focus on fully enjoying and celebrating the last month of the year so I can be ready and recharged for the new year to come!!! So bring it December, I am here with you.