Musings on Bicycling and Buddhism

Monday, May 20, 2013

Training the Never Defeated Spirit

In approximately 12 days, depending on how you count it - The Bandit Man, my cousin Watson, my brother, a friend of his, and I will take to the sides of Gunstock Mountain in NH and run into the jaws of a Tough Mudder. This will be my second Mudder (and Watson's as well). The rest of the team are newbies. My brother is, however the veteran of many a Spartan and Warrior Dash.

I ran my first Mudder solo last October, I learned an awful lot about what I'm made of inside and out. (More on that here.) But Tough Mudder is meant to be a team. It's designed for that, and while participating solo has its own rewards, a team is well, just that - the right approach for the challenge at hand.

Our team is named "Never Defeated".

Never Defeated: What's In a Name

This isn't a competition. Tough Mudder Pledge, Part 1 - Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge.  And parts 2 and  4 - This is about teamwork and camaraderie, helping fellow Mudders comes before course time.

So it's not as though we each all win competitions all the time, well maybe my brother does, but that's another story. The idea behind the name is that as a team we have what it takes to never be defeated by anything; mud, heights, distance, electricity, water, cold, heat - all of these things cannot claim to have trodden us down. But more so than the physical is the heart.

Tough Mudder talks about mental grit. Yes, your physical strength gets you over and through, but it is what you carry in your heart and mind that determines if you really win.

And that is something we put to the test in 12 days.

Training the Never Defeated Spirit

We all have been preparing in different ways, as team Never Defeated gathers from more than one state. But being only myself, here I will share my part of this tale.

Last Monday I ran ten and a half miles. I hadn't run in a month due to a foot injury. It was wonderful to run again.

During that month, while I couldn't run I could ride.

Ride a bike, you see.

Boston Populaire

The Bandit Man and I took part in a parcel of the NER's Boston Populaire but made our own route.

Day 1, 70 miles, a longer winding route to my mother's house than last November. This time sun, sunburns, and still the always dependable hills. Left the randonneur route in Sterling, and went to my childhood home. It meant a DNF (did not finish), but our journeys never fit into molds very well.

Day 2, 65 miles back to Somerville.

A two-day century, well more than a century actually, it was 130 miles+ by the end.

The most I've ever ridden in a day, and in consecutive days.

The goal of the century draws near.

Run On

And since the foot has been back in action - what then?

Also the Bandit Man and I, and he has been able to partake more-so than I (early morning work hours call one in), of the wonderful November Project. Morning people, being active, joyous and pushing the limits year-round outdoors. Such a lovely invention. I am very new - only twice so far- but this is a group of people I look forward to seeing even on many a cold morning to come when one's breath is in the air.

Here we find exemplified the spirit of never defeated in daily life. Self-motivated, but also team/tribe motivated, and not because someone's wallet is saying "Well, you paid for this, so you'd better show up!". Each one pushing to beat their best, to beat fatigue, self doubt, maybe fear. I see no signs of begrudging life anywhere here.

Small things matter. It is important never to forget how simple a smile and a hug can be in the morning. Especially when it took everything you had to get there. We run up and down Harvard Stadium stairs, we run up hills, we find new places to strengthen our hearts, minds, bodies, spirits, friendships.

We come back again and again because each time we break through we realize the only limits are those we came in with, those we brought with us - so frequently our limitations are those we set for ourselves because of fear. Maybe fear of failing. But the never defeated spirit knows no fear of failing, or at least cowers not before it.

The Tough Mudder itself is one brilliant moment to shine with the never defeated spirit. And training for events like this can take us onto the road of growth and change, to confront the self and develop courage. But it is only one day. The truly never defeated spirit lives in our daily lives, is shown each day. To get up early and run and strive as November Project does, is one way to train and practice, to nurture the never defeated spirit in our daily lives. (There are other ways and many stories one can tell about this kind of development, but for now this is the story I am telling.)

And having company on this journey to the better self is surely one of the finest experiences one can ask for.

From all of this I will learn anew and re-solidify in my life, down to the depths of my being what it is to be truly fearless. Not reckless and crass, not overly cautious and filled with excuses as I once was. But truly free to be and fail and win and laugh and fall and get up again. To dance in my pedals, to dance on my feet. To rise up when I fall and help someone else do the same - whether it's literal mud or the muck of life.

We make mistakes in this lifetime. I'm transforming mine.

I overcome all fears.

And next?

The day after the Mudder, Team Falcor (so far the Bandit Man, and I (and maybe some recruits?)) will ride the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon. 65 miles. We'll talk more about that later.

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Tour de What You Will by Jessie Calkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License