Considering Past Pain While Taking a Break

Over the past few days I’ve been taking a break. No doubt, I needed a rest. The past six months have been fairly intense. Days have been filled with fitness and archery training.

That training consisted of two to six hours a day of archery. The archery was supplemented with another 8 to 10 hours a week of running, cycling, swimming and weight lifting. Granted, there were small breaks, a day off every 7 to 10 days and time off for holidays. The target of those efforts was an indoor archery tournament held in Snellville, GA. Now, that it’s behind me, I’ll enjoy this break and move into my 3D season.

While on this break I’ve been thinking about some of the hardest sporting events where I competed. Archery and racing are very different disciplines. In sports, they are about as opposite as possible.

If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know it is not just heading out to take a leisurely run. Even if you’re not a fast runner, the miles take a toll. At the 2011 Tokyo Marathon I was prepared and very fit. Then, in Japan, on race day, the temperature plunged to freezing with pouring rain. The conditions became the force driving in every runners’ head urging them to drop out. At around mile 18 the rain stopped but it never did warm up. It was not the hardest sporting event ever for me.

Of the Ironman events I raced, not one of them reaches the peak of pain. At 2008 Ironman in Hawaii with around six miles left to run (the race is 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike, and 26.2 run) I was pacing with an ex-professional athlete. But, not an ex-pro triathlete, he was Jeff Conine, member of two Baseball World Championship teams. The conversation was pleasant and baseball never came up although a camera crew in a convertible Ford drove slowly next to us asking related questions. It was quite cool.  Still, I mostly listened – I’d didn’t have enough breathe for a conversation. It’s amazing how much communication can come from grunts.  Still, not near the most difficult physical / mental effort of my life.

The most difficult was a race where everyone shared the pain. All runners watched out for one another. Everyone gave encouragement to his or her opponents. It even seemed the other athletes were far less the opponent. The opponent for us all was the racecourse. The race was the Mt. Evans Ascent.

The run up to the peak of Mt. Evans, over 14,000 feet, was on North America’s highest paved road. We started the race in near 60°F temperature surrounded by trees and finished on a barren mountaintop being snowed upon at 26°F. It stands out as the most difficult sports event of my life. It was as much a physical strain as a mental strain. The higher we got, the lower our oxygen saturation.(1) The thought to stop never once entered my head. I thought I might die did, which would have been a good reason to have stopped running.

Archery is very different. There’s a massive degree of mental exercise along with the physical elements that makes the sport difficult to frustrating. One little mental error and that 10 becomes an 8. But, it’s not physically painful. Still, over months containing many long hours of practice it’s best broken by a bit if rest.