In less than 13 days, I'll be in Lake Las Vegas running around an obstacle course filled with endless mud, freezing water and ten-thousand volt wires that shock you unconscious. I know because I've been knocked out by them 13 times. And did I mention I'll be running the course for over 24 hours?
World's Toughest Mudder (WTM) is a Tough Mudder event taken to the extreme. Extreme cold. Extreme obstacles. Extreme endurance. As nine out of ten participants mentally break on the course, extreme motivation might be the real key. I broke during year one. Year two I was Casper the Friendly Ghost. This will be my third year running WTM.
During the first two years of my training I was so full of passion. Nagging injuries and living with a broken heart didn't slow me down. Actually, they probably did, but I chose to look past all that and focus strictly on my training efforts. It was enough to get me through the day. I was REALLY good at my training.
For most of this year however, I've been lackadaisical towards WTM. I've had a whirlwind year around work, family and friends. Being stressed would be an understatement as I'm dealing with divorce-level, Steve Jobs-Apple-like problems. And somehow I'm suppose to train for a twenty-four hour race?
The truth is I'm burned out. I've had enough of WTM and I'm ready to walk away. What was once passion is now work. Where I was once excited, I'm now full of dread. Even worse, I'm afraid. I'm afraid I'll break again.
This was made abundantly clear this past weekend as I embarked on a 50 mile run at 2AM from the streets of Mountain View to San Francisco International Airport. My run was cut short at mile five, as a rock the size of my pinky toe caused me to roll my ankle and go crashing to the asphalt. I yelled like a ferocious lion - more out of disbelief than pain. "Not another ankle roll." When I couldn't walk on my ankle, I knew I was in trouble. Over the next four minutes, as Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" played on my ipod shuffle, all I could do was cry alone in the dark on my knees. "I can't believe I'm here again."
During my first WTM in 2012, I severely rolled my ankle at mile one of the race - yes, mile one. Two years later, I'm right back where I started. All my hard work, time and effort negated again in a fraction of a second with one mis-step. It's like I'm trapped in a time loop.
To add insult to injury, I have a couple of engineering problems. First, stabbing plantar fasciitis pain while I walk, sit and sleep. Oddly enough, the pain is tolerable while I run. Secondly, I cough up mucus uncontrollably anytime I run outdoors. I'm talking King Longshanks from Braveheart quality coughs that make me wonder if I can get lung cancer without smoking. All this plagues my mind. Is my body trying to keep me from running? "You're flat feet were meant to fly or swim," my friend Jean likes to remind me. And yet, these little piggies are showing up on race day to cover as much distance as possible. If I have to hobble as I run, I will. If I have to walk, I will. And if I have to crawl for 24 hours, that's exactly what I'll do because I'm lightning on my feet. Believe me, "I wish I knew how to quit you [WTM]."
Why do this? The easy answer is "promises made, promises kept." I said I'm going to do it and I'm a man of my word. The hard answer is that the training and race are a journey of myself, to myself, through myself. It's how I've been coping with gripping grief. Don't worry, I'm writing a second memoir, "Two Bad Wheels" to better explain the hard answer.
And what does Taylor Swift have to do with WTM? Everything. You know how they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" Well go check out one of the polaroid pictures inside her new 1989 album and tell me you don't walk away with words like "lovely", "carefree", "happy", "captivating", "fun", "stunning", "humble" or "brave" on the mind. Her smile is what can REALLY break the internet. She has a fiery heart and a wicked mind. Taylor Swift is a brilliant badass. Period.
Few can argue that Taylor Swift isn't one of the most methodical, intelligent, hard working, passionate and genuinely loving people alive today. You know what the best part about Taylor is? That's who she is. Despite all the heartbreak, disappointment and negative BS she's had to put up with since embarking on her career, she's handled it with such poise and grace, I can't help but marvel at her character and core values. Although the world may try to make her hard, she stays soft. All the pain she's endured doesn't leave her with a hint of hate. Instead of being bitter, she chooses to be sweet. The naysayers and haters may try to break her down, but she finds a way to shine bright the love of the world and for it too.
Who else does that so easily and naturally? That's "beauty" defined. It's what I admire the most about Taylor. She shows me there's a better way to deal with your emotions than anger. It's love. Love for yourself. Love for your passions. Love for helping people.
I'm trying to get that love back. I may have temporarily misplaced it, but I'm on the road to finding it again. I may not place in the top 13 at this year's WTM, but you know what? At least I'll walk away "Clean." That part of me thats been weighing me down for too long is going to die on the course. I'm going to let him die and leave him in Lake Las Vegas. And I won't look back.
Thank you Taylor. Your spark brings out the best of me.
- Juan Antonio
Saul Juan Antonio Lionheart Cuautle is a writer, entrepreneur and coach living in Palo Alto, CA. He believes in healing people through training. When he's not training, he can be found writing short stories and reading personal development non-fiction books. He's the author of the upcoming book, "Tell Me Something" and is currently working on his second memoir "Two Bad Wheels." You can learn about his active projects at www.13fortyalor.com, www.longliverobin.com and www.bringbackfit.com.