Posts Tagged ‘Training’

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I don’t always love it. Sometimes it’s cold, raining, windy and easily the last thing on earth I want to be doing. Yesterday was no different. I procrastinated in the car for an extra song working up the nerve to get out there and get it done. The first half mile was cold and the wind seemed to go right through me. I finally warmed up somewhere around mile 2, and by 3.5 I was committed. At mile five I thought, it’s only five miles back, that’s nothin.

It’s been hard for me to get motivated over the last couple weeks. Cold weather, rain and some pain has made running not a thing I’ve been super interested in. I’m not proud of it but it’s the truth. The thing that makes me suck it up, step outside and run the miles is that for the last eight weeks, every long run has been the longest run since my accident. That accomplishment reminds me that even though it sucks sometimes, I’m not dead, and I’m not quitting.

Monthly Totals for 2016 not including cross training:

January: 6.22
February: 24.57
March: 36.76
April: 57.70
May (to date): 17.11

I hit double digits yesterday with the ten miler coming in just a little under target time. Four weeks to go. I just might be able to pull this off after all.

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So as I understand things, every four years we get an extra day in February. My first thought on this is, why can’t we get an extra day in a month that doesn’t suck? Like July. Who doesn’t want one more day of July? Does this seem wrong to anyone else?

But I digress. Today is February 29 which happens to coincide with the first long run of my training program. It was on the schedule as a five miler, and since I’ve been running this winter more than most I wasn’t feeling too intimidated when I set out. The mercury was reading a balmy (for February in New England) 54 degrees when I stepped outside, so there was no need to layer up. The air was chilly but comfortable and the only issue I had working against me was a line of weather pushing in from the west. I knew when I left the house I was likely going to get rained on.

I’ve been doing some reading this winter about how to better train for half marathons, incuding the concept of running slow or taking walk breaks on long runs. I’ve never really done this before. My approach has always been to run a faster pace early and slow down towards the end. I didn’t really care as long as my average pace was a number I was happy with. I’m getting to understand that this isn’t really the most efficient way to train. Since I’m pretty intent on not getting injured in the next eleven weeks, I decided to make a change. My last 5k came in at roughly a 9:00/mile pace so I set the pace for the five miler at 10:00/mile, a goal of an even fifty minutes. I didn’t realize how difficult this was actually going to be. Rather than just putting my head down and going, I had to keep a close eye on my pace and when I felt myself getting too fast, make the conscious decision to slow down. I found this to be completely counterintuitive to what I’m used to. I’m usually pushing myself to go faster.

A couple miles in the wind picked up and the rain started. It wasn’t a monsoon by any means, but the rain was steady enough, and as you might expect, being cold and wet was pretty awesome. All I wanted to do was pick up the pace, get the run over with and get into the hot shower I had waiting for me at home. Is that what I did? Nope. I watched my pace and ran slow, even though it was uncomfortable to be outside. I got back to the house in 49:35.

So its the end of February, and in the last two weeks I’ve logged 20.57 miles with a couple days in the gym for some cross training. Not so bad for winter and I’d say a pretty good start to 2016.

Here comes week two.

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I hate when the phone rings when I’m on call. Can you blame me? On a beautiful early fall afternoon, the last thing I want to do is go to work. In the airline world, September and October are well known to be the “slow season.” The schedule slows down a bit after the summer rush and gives everyone time to catch their breath before the holidays and the grind that is winter ops. As a reserve pilot you’re programmed to expect to never get called. You think, “it’s September, I’m gonna have the whole month off.” This is total fantasy.

On this particular day, I checked the open trips and since there were none, I thought it was a safe bet to tackle the garage reorganization project I had been looking forward to. Yeah, I love reorganizing things. I know, it’s weird. After a summer of working on cars, motorcycles and other various things the garage was looking kind of like something out of an episode of Cops. Whatcha gonna do? I had been thinking about working on this for a while so since there seemed to be little chance of going to work, I took everything, yes everything, out of the garage and put it in the driveway so I could clean it out. And what do you suppose happened next? The phone rang. It’s scheduling and they have a trip for me. Son. Of. A. B…

The assignment I got made little sense in terms of duty time, so I asked what the deal was and after putting me on hold they came back to say that another guy had been assigned the trip but didn’t answer his phone, so I was up. Awesome. So some dude didn’t want to work and I had to go do his flying for him. This is a rant for another day.

In great haste I threw everything back in the garage, took a fast shower and ran out the door to get to work. I had four legs that day ending late in Washington, Dulles. The next day had a late afternoon report, so I decided that I would make the best out of a crappy assignment and get a good long run in the next morning. Lemons = Lemonade, right?

We got in late after a thoroughly uneventful day of flying and the next morning I mapped out my route. The half marathon I was supposed to run was a couple weeks away, and after hosting Johnny for a week of motorcycle riding and eating out, I needed to get back on track with a long run. A few days earlier I had run a 10k so today I was committed to seven miles or better. I slept well, and after a series of phone calls, and some delaying YouTube, was ready to go. The route I had chosen was something of a loop that looked like about 7.5 miles. Nice. Being completely unfamiliar with the area I memorized the street names of each turn and set out.

Google maps is a funny thing. It showed me a route that made sense but gave shockingly little in terms of actual detail. For example, the beginning, and consequently the end of this run were under construction, including a bridge that said very clearly “NO PEDESTRIANS.” That doesn’t mean me, right? I’m a runner, not a “pedestrian.” Uh, sure. Then there was the elevation. Yeah man, hills. I’ve been running on a flat rail trail for months and this run was ALL hill. Of the 7.5 miles I would say at least five of those miles were uphill. Yeah, I didn’t know that. What I also couldn’t tell we’re how few sidewalks were available. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but these small country roads were narrow, with almost no shoulder, and full of blind corners and hills. Good thing I was wearing a dark shirt that blended right in to the background.

And then, my favorite part: the freeway crossing. On the map it looks like just a big intersection with stop light. I assumed I could just wait for a crossing signal and be on my way. What I found when I got there was just slightly different than what I saw on the map. There were stop lights but it seemed they were just for turning traffic, and never actually changed. I stood there for a minute watching the sixty plus mph traffic thinking, “This is a bad idea.” I waited a few more minutes and finally the traffic broke. I sprinted across and the driver on the opposite side of the road gave me that look that said, “That was pretty dumb dude.” Yeah, it wasn’t super smart, and yes, I could have just turned around. But you know, I had a loop to run. I figured the risk would be worth what I hoped would be fewer hills and more sidewalks on the other side. I’m pretty sure my mother would have been disappointed in my decision making process.

While I did indeed find more sidewalks, I also found more hills. I made it a little over 10k before I had to start walking. Ooof, I hate that. I know there’s nothing wrong with it, but I’m kinda stubborn in my training and really wanted to run the whole thing. I ran back across the bridge in the construction zone and tried to hit the last giant hill hard, but I crashed, and ran/walked the rest of the way back to the hotel.

By no means did I consider this run a failure. It actually turned out to be quite an adventure. Having spent the whole summer running the same trail, it was good to run someplace else and actually have to think about what was going on around me. I love my rail trail but the change of scenery was a welcome departure from what I was used to. Next season, when I start training again, I’m going to make more of an effort to see some different places. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that.

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Smith & Wesson M&P Shield.

The process of finding a quality single stack 9mm concealed carry gun has been surprisingly difficult. But I think I’ve (again) come to a well thought out decision. Let’s recap.

After a couple weeks of research, and irritating my wife in endless conversations, I bought the Springfield XDs. Im still shocked at what a complete failure this gun was. Countless reviews said an equal amount of glowing things about the XDs, and to have it fail so miserably was nothing short of a surprise. Undeterred, I went back to the drawing board. There was one option remaining and that was the Glock 43. As a self disclosed Glock “fan boy” I knew I couldn’t make a complete decision until I had shot it. Fortunately, the public rental range had one in stock, so after dinner a few nights ago, Beth and I went to go try it out.

My impression was this: the Glock 43 is a fine pistol purpose built for the job of concealed carry. We only ran 50 rounds through it, but it never failed and I could shoot one ragged hole at seven yards. My complaints about the pistol are small, but I think important. First, magazine capacity. This has long been the reason I’ve avoided the G43. The six round magazine is just too limiting. Since my initial post, I’ve learned that there are aftermarket extended base plates available which would alleviate this issue, but I have some concerns about the reliability of those parts. Regardless, it’s a solution. Additionally, I noticed that because of its slim profile and light weight, I found the G43 to be snappy. This means that, to me, there was more felt recoil, making it less comfortable to shoot. I think this contests my requirement that my defensive carry gun should be shootable. Could I run it in a 3-400 round class? Sure, but would I love it? Meh, I’m not sure. Lastly, it’s simply more expensive. This isn’t as serious of an issue, but when you’re committing to buying a gun, upgraded sights, at least one extra magazine, and now base plates for those mags, the cost adds up quickly. It’s not a make or break part of the decision making process, just something to consider.

So why the Shield? The gun I shot had two stoppages in two magazines with of shooting, both of them stove pipes. I can’t explain why that happened, but it did. After those two malfunctions, the pistol ran just fine. There are two things I liked more about the Shield than the G43. First, I found the ergonomics of the pistol to be much more comfortable. As I have evolved as a shooter, smaller guns bother me less than they did a few years ago. Having circus freak small hands aids in this, as does a much better grip. The Shield is only 2 oz heavier than the Glock but that little bit of added weight and just slightly larger frame made the gun feel like a softer shooter. Less felt recoil = more shootability. And then there’s the magazine capacity. The Shield ships with a seven and eight round magazine which means no aftermarket parts to bring it up to a more acceptable level. Again, I’m sure those parts work fine, but for a defensive pistol, I’d rather not introduce any possible weakness into the system. The extra round capacity gives the Shield a slightly longer grip than the G43. That means I am able to get a nearly full grip on the gun, which I could not do with the Glock.

So what sucks about the Shield? The trigger. Holy crap that trigger. The free state version isn’t that awful, but I had the extreme misfortune of testing the Massachusetts compliant version. I didn’t have a trigger scale but having owned a Mass compliant M&P trigger in the past, I can tell you it was pulling upwards of ten pounds. That much weight in the trigger adversely affects accuracy, and that is a problem. Of course I wouldn’t buy that model, but it does mean that even the free state version is going to need the Apex trigger kit to get it under control. If I did nothing else, that would still put it ahead of the Glock. That, and I think an upgrade to Trijicon HD Night Sights would be a welcome improvement to its three dot sight picture.

So yeah, about that trigger. It’s not great. I found myself pushing rounds to the right with some degree of flinch. This is mostly me, but I think it’s im some part a result of the heavier trigger. I know, I know Smith says 6.5 pounds, but I don’t buy it. Unlike my short experience shooting the Glock 43, my groups at seven and ten yards were not great. However, after I started to get a feel for the trigger they did tighten up. I had to ask myself today, what is this gun for: bullseye shooting or self defense. These are two very different things. The stock trigger, paired with short sight radius is not going to afford you award winning accuracy over distance. This is just fact. However, inside ten yards in a defensive application, it will serve just fine. My groups at 15 and 20 yards weren’t what you would call spectacular either, but for the first time getting to know this small pistol and its stout trigger, I was relatively pleased.

Having now completed initial testing of the Shield I can draw some conclusions. This afternoons range practice involved 275 rounds of ammunition varying from the super cheap to super expensive. Here’s what I found. One hundred percent reliability. That’s great. Considering the epic failure that was the XDs I was more than happy to see this gun cycle everything I put through it. I say initial testing because I’m a firm believer of at least 500 rounds through a gun before putting it in a holster. So, while I wait on my holster to ship, I’ll get it out to the range a few more times to put it to work.

The only thing left to do is integrate the Shield into my everyday carry system. Updates to follow.

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Ive been giving a great deal of thought lately to changing my every day carry system. That’s right folks, it’s 2am and you know what that means: time buckle up for another EDC blog. I know you’ve probably read like, eleventy billion of them just this morning, but here it is. Prepare to be amazed.

So right, changes to my EDC load out. Like any good system it has evolved a bit over the years from its initial inception. In fact, as I go back and read my previous post about my EDC items it is apparent to me that nearly everything has changed except the clicky pen, my defensive firearm, and of course the mints. Part of the reason for keeping tabs on my system is to see how my thinking has changed from year to year. What worked for me in 2013 may be obsolete in 2015. Ah, evolution.

I believe in being flexible and accepting of new ideas when they present themselves. Additionally, as I’ve gotten older (maybe not wiser) I have learned to never say never. I mean, never is absolute, right? Why would we want to back ourselves into some ideological corner by refusing to change because, ‘reasons’? Mostly this equates to keeping an open mind. One piece of kit may work great, but as circumstances change there might be a logical reason to update the system. So where do we stand for 2015? Clicky pen and Sharpie, of course. What else?

Spyderco Tenacious – Black
5.11 TMTplx Penlight
Leatherman Juice S2 – Orange
Glock 19 plus extra magazine
Crossbreed Supertuck

The tools have changed considerably. I had no problems with my Kershaw Skyline folding knife, and the only reason it got replaced was simply because I thought I lost it. I was pretty bummed out about that by the way. I mean, seriously. I almost dedicated an entire blog to the crushing loss I felt and the ridiculous amount of research that went into choosing the Spyderco. Aren’t you glad I’m in therapy? Fortunately, in a fit of spring cleaning I found the Skyline again under a dresser and voila, extra knife FTW! The Spyderco is a fantastic blade, and while it is a little heavier, it’s not noticeable and I’ve been happy to have it along.

I tried hard to love the Preon 2. Primarily because it was stupidly expensive for what it did. The tailcap was finicky, and even though it had all these cool functions, I never actually used them. Then, at some point in its life, I made the mistake of dropping it and it never functioned properly again. I kept it for a while after that but whenever I’d talk about my kit and show it to the unsuspecting individual who made the unenviable mistake of engaging me in an EDC conversation, it wouldn’t work. Yeah, there’s nothing more awesome than sounding like you know what you’re talking about only to have your gear not work. So the Preon 2 was out on its ass. It wasn’t a total waste though. Because of the Preon 2 I discovered how well the penlight format works from a size and weight perspective. My search for finding a reasonable replacement was running pretty much in circles when, one afternoon in a gun shop, I came upon the TMTplx. Half the price of the Preon 2 and from 5.11, I figured it was worth a shot. I am pleased to report that it has been a reliable addition to the system and I think a great example of how you don’t have to spend absurd amounts of money for a quality EDC purposed light.

The Leatherman Juice S2. Oh, man. I’m a little embarrassed at how much I like this thing. So much so that when I left it at the range one evening, I got up extra early the next morning to make the 45 minute drive back to retrieve it before someone picked it up. The Juice has all the function of a full size Leatherman in a much smaller, more portable package. It rides in the coin pocket of my jeans, and I simply can’t tell you how many times it has saved the day. As a gift from my inlaws, it is one of my most cherished pieces.

And that brings us to firearms. You might want to sit down, this is gonna get stupid.

I have spoken, and written at great length about my Glock 19. It is hands down one of the finest, all purpose firearms ever made. Concealed carry, duty carry, home defense, competition, it can do, and excels at whatever mission you throw at it. I have put literally thousands upon thousands or rounds through it with 100 percent reliability. Why on earth would I ever consider changing it? First, I’ll be clear about this, I will never sell it. I made that mistake many years ago and regretted it. This one is here to stay. It might just find a new job. As much as I love this gun, I have been giving some thought lately to replacing it in my EDC load out. It started this summer when I purchased Sturm & Ruger’s new Lc9s for backpacking/motorcycle carry. The G19 is a little too big and heavy for those purposes and the new striker fired version of the Lc9s fit the bill pretty well. It’s a nice little gun for specific missions, but I don’t think up to the task of every day carry.

Choosing a concealed carry firearm is all about compromise. The G19 carries 15+1 rounds in a relatively compact platform, but to get that capacity you need a double stack magazine. What that equates to is the overall width of the gun. When you’re carrying IWB (inside the waistband) width can be a real issue. Carrying the Crossbreed Supertuck at the 7-8:00 position (because lefty) it’s not a huge issue if you’re willing to wear a slightly larger pair of pants to accommodate it. But, it you want to wear something that actually fits, you might run into problems. I know female shooters run into this issue quite a bit. Here’s the deal, you want your concealed carry system to be comfortable so you actually carry. Having the permit and the gun is useless if your carry system makes you feel like you’ve got a cinder block tucked in your pants. So that begs the question: what’s more important, having a gun with slightly fewer rounds you carry every day because it’s comfortable, or no gun at all because you can’t stand to put it on? Hold that thought.

My thoughts of changing EDC guns started with my thoughts of changing my carry position to the appendix, or centerline position after I picked up the Lc9s. From a tactical standpoint, appendix carry allows you more control of the gun in terms of retention, and equally important, makes it much easier to access from any position other than standing at the range. I’ve been experimenting with the G19 in this new position, and it works. It’s not super comfortable in fitting pants, but it works. There are, however, some other options that might fit this new carry position better. Remember we said width was the controlling measurement for IWB carry? So that means finding a gun with a single stack magazine. And what that really means, is giving up rounds for comfort. Compromise.

Like the last guy to show up to your party and not bring beer, this year Glock released the G43 single stack 9mm pistol after nearly every other manufacturer had one on the market. What makes less sense than not bringing beer to a party is that they did it with the smaller 6+1 magazine capacity. Yadda Yadda Yadda, I’m not really impressed. The Lc9s has a 7+1 capacity as does the 9mm offerings from Springfield’s XDs and Smith & Wesson’s Shield. So why, when choosing comfort over round capacity, would I choose a gun that’s even more limited than its competitors? Because Glock? No. I love my Glocks, but their addition to the single stack market has missed the mark for me. That pretty much leaves me with the Shield and XDs. I’ve shot the Shield and while it’s not a bad gun, I didn’t love it. I also had the opportunity to shoot the XDs .45. That gun, is ridiculous. Much like my S&W Pro 3″ 1911, it’s a beast to shoot and I struggled to make accurate follow up shots. All that for the placebo effect of having a .45? Not worth it. So that brings me to the XDs in 9mm.

I wrote once that a primary requirement for my carry gun is shootability. I have to want to shoot it, practice with it, and train with it. I have to be able to shoot it so much that I feel proficient with it, because if the day ever comes that I need it, I will be better prepared. A gun you hate shooting and only take to the range occasionally but carry every day is more a liability than insurance.

What about limited round capacity? No doubt, that is an important issue. 7+1 isn’t nearly as comforting as 15+1. What I think it means is now carrying an extra magazine is a requirement. I maintain that for the responsibly armed citizen carrying the spare mag is mostly about fixing malfunctions than it is about more rounds. However, if you’re running a single stack gun with limited capacity, you may find yourself in the position of actually needing those extra 7 rounds. So, carry a spare magazine and be able to perform reloads under stress. And what does that mean? Training. We all talk so much about the physical tools. What doesn’t get nearly as much attention is training and mindset. All the cool gadgets and fancy guns are useless if you don’t know how to use them. I have said it so any times, training is mandatory for those who choose to legally carry concealed firearms. Mandatory. It is expensive, but like the quality gear you spend money on, its worth it.

Lastly, in talking about mindset, I think we all can agree that situational awareness is something so many people lack in the world. I’m not suggesting living life as though you’re hoping the next mall shooter is going to kick down the door at the Yankee Candle while you’re picking out your fall scents. I submit that we as people living amongst other people should simply be aware of our surroundings and enter into those environments with proper tools and mindset. There are a few exercises I do that help keep me engaged in my environment. For example, I watch the people around me; look for avenues of escape when I walk in a room or store; I read license plates as cars go by and try to pick out the description of the driver, and never ever walk with my eyes down in my smartphone. These are just a few things that keep my mind working. Most of the time life is pleasantly mundane, but keeping up your head up and eyes out just may help you pick out that person in the room that isn’t quite right. This isn’t black ops, secret squirrel, ninja stuff, just a few things I try to do to stay plugged into the world around me. No, I’m not perfect at this, and I don’t always do it right, but I make an effort to stay engaged.

I understand that this may seem long winded and perhaps a bit repetitive, but my goal here is to show the thought process that goes into choosing tools that may save your life, or simply help jumpstart your mom’s Prius in a snowy parking lot. The kit you take with you out into the world doesn’t have to be a combat load out, but a few well thought out tools that do their jobs when you need them too. As for my choice of firearms, I remain on the fence pending future testing. There is much to consider.

And so ends the EDC update for the near end of 2015. If you’re still here, I’ve got a great therapist I can recommend.

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I stumbled on this quote a couple years ago while reading a book about GySgt. Carlos Hathcock. The Gunnery Sergeant served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, and in the course of his multiple tours of duty, became one of the most lethal snipers in military history. If you’re into shooting, it’s a good read.

Anyway, the quote is actually by Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbltes, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It’s obviously a pretty famous quote, and simple Google search will show that it’s pretty much all over the interwebs. I’ve been trying to work it into the blog for a while, and just now it occurred to me to let it stand on its own. Maybe, just one person reading this little blog of mine hasn’t seen it before and will find some value in it, as I did.

Enjoy.

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Recently, I read a book about the space race in the 1960’s. As one might expect, no account of those events are complete without referencing President Kennedy’s speech at Rice University in 1962. You know the one I mean:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

Like so many, I found those words inspiring, but realized that while I had heard this sound byte dozens of times, I had never actually heard the full speech. So, through the magic of YouTube, I sat down and listened to the 17 minute speech that talked about why it was important to take on the challenge of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to the earth. I know, I know, to raise funding and get there before the damned dirty Soviets (just kidding Putin, you da man). Still, I felt that I was missing something. So I read and reread the transcript, and I found this:

“All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”
– William Bradford; Plymouth Bay Colony 1630

Thats interesting. Anything worth doing is hard, and greatness lies in the courage to endure the difficulty. We might be onto something here.

Much in the way Kennedy challenged the american people to develop the means to land a man on the moon, using materials and technology that had yet to be invented, (which I’m sure at the time seemed a daunting task) we must challenge ourselves to do great things. Things that are difficult, and sometimes scary, and things we are absolutely certain we can’t do… Until we do them. It took me a long time to figure this out. I have spent a great deal of my life avoiding challenges that seemed too hard, or in my opinion, certain to fail. Until recently, I had positively identified my comfort zone and set up shop.

The comfort zone… Yeah, you know, that place under the blanket, on the couch curled up with the dog and the remote control. I love that place. It’s warm and cozy, requires no effort to enjoy. The dog looks up at me, wags her tail, and gets an approving scratch behind the ears for her trouble. Everyone is happy. Sounds great, right? Totally. Here’s the problem: What good are we doing ourselves by letting life pass by on the couch surfing daytime tv? Are we alive? Of course. But, are we living? This is debatable. Staying in our everyday routines, on the proverbial couch with the pooch, is safe and we know we cant screw it up. Getting outside the comfort zone means being willing to risk failure. This is obviously undesirable. Which begs the question: why? Why are we so afraid to fail? Vanity? Insecurity? Low self esteem? All would seem good reasons to stay ensconced in the relative safety of an epic dog hug, Seinfeld reruns and video games. To some degree, I struggle with all of these issues, and it’s not always easy to put them aside.

Notably, no endeavor worth doing is without risk of failure. It can’t be. We have to accept that, and more importantly, learn to embrace it. Failure isnt something to be feared, its something to learn from. With that in mind, locate the nearest emergency exit out of your comfort zone, and exit that mofo like its on fire. It’s making that choice, the choice to look uncertainty in the eye and take on a challenge, that defines us.

It starts with a choice. That’s the hardest part, choosing to go. Once committed to the challenge, less energy can be spent on focusing on how hard the thing is, and more on the overall goal. Thats not to say that I’m always confident. It occurs to me that if I cant be the very image of brimming self confidence, I can at least try to prepare as much as possible… And then fake it. Often times this translates to researching gear, techniques for completing the task at hand, and the experience of others. Part of my own insecurity lies in the unknown. But, if I develop a general idea of what I’m about to get into, I can mentally prepare. So, I pour over maps, read endless gear reviews to choose the right equipment, read and watch testimonials of those who have gone before me. Every adventure is unique, and one can’t possibly prepare for every eventuality but by laying the groundwork ahead of time, we can remove some of the unknowns. However, if and when we are faced with something we’re not prepared for, a simple, “Screw it, lets go,” may just be the answer.

That mental toughness is not innate. It has to be learned through experience. The first step is doing the thing that you’re absolutely certain you can’t do. “The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of and get the courage after you do it, not before you do it.” (This was actually a George Clooney quote from a mediocre movie, but the point is no less valid.)

I submit the following short narrative of my wife’s (to this point) previously undiscovered inner badass. I like to refer to it as Warrior-Beth. It’s quite possibly one of my favorite things.

In July of this year, my wife and I took at trip to Sedona to celebrate our fifth anniversary with some outdoor adventuring. She thought I would really enjoy renting atvs and trekking out in the desert to see some Native American ruins. She was right. It was a blast. This anecdote isn’t so much about me. We are both motorcycle riders and didn’t give much consideration to the fact that riding a street bike has absolutely nothing to do with off road atv-ing. We get the quads, and I can tell she’s nervous. “How bad can it be?” I tell her. I promptly received the look husbands get when they say such stupid things to their wives… Who usually know better.

Undeterred, we head off into the Arizona desert. The large dirt road we were both expecting quickly turns into a rutted trail full of rocks. This trail eventually winds its way to the first of two “obstacles.” The obstacle in question is a steep, slick, rocky hill who’s grade is matched only by the size and number of the rocks found in it. We are going to have negotiate this treacherous slope on atvs we have never ridden before. Awesome. I look over to my wife to find that she’s less nervous now, and more freaking out. I couldn’t blame her. I wasnt sure how it was going to work out either. “Screw it….” I head down first and it’s uncomfortable and rocky and I have no idea what I’m doing, but somehow, manage to arrive safely at the bottom of the hill. I look up and I see she’s gotten around the bend, part way down, but I can tell she’s not going to be able to get it down the super steep part of the trail. I head back up to help, hop on her atv and just as before, slowly and awkwardly negotiate it down the hill. I felt bad that she was scared, but we had long since been committed to the adventure, and had to find a way to press on. We had plenty of time, so we took few minutes at the bottom to rest up and have a snack and some water. When she was ready, we got rolling towards the ruins

The vista was amazing, red rocks and plains for as far as the eye could see. When our engines were shut down we heard…. Nothing. Total silence. We could see the ruins off in the distance as we finally arrived at the second obstacle which was similar to the first in its grade and rockiness. The difference here is that there’s a slightly less steep way down. We take a look at it, and I tell her that just like before, ill ride down first and then come back up to bring hers down. I get the thumbs up and head down the hill. Just as I reach the bottom, I turn around to see her working her way down the obstacle with a huge smile on her face. She looked her fear in the eye, gave it the finger, and did it on her own. I asked her how she did it, and she said,”I just got angry at it, got it done.” I could not have been more proud.

This is the moment we should strive for. The moment where we overcome the fear, say some insulting things to an inanimate object, and accomplish something awesome, if for no other reason than to say we did it. My wife did exactly that. She did the thing that scared the hell out of her, only to discover that she was capable of more than she gave herself credit for. We should all be so lucky.

“But why, some say…. Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?”

In part, the answer, as George Mallory so aptly put it is, “Because it’s there.” While I understand what Mr. Mallory is getting at, I think there’s more to it. The purpose of choosing the challenge, be it climbing a mountain, running a marathon or landing on the moon is to discover something in ourselves. To become better people as a result of our endeavors. The pictures of us triumphantly standing at the summit marker or crossing the finish line signify not just the physical accomplishment, but the mental strength and determination it took to get there. It’s about finding out what you really can do if you simply choose to do it.

We are all capable of great things. It’s up to us to step outside the box and make it happen.