The Must-Have skill for mental strength


I came into the 50-mile turnaround at the Leadville 100, and a volunteer said, “You’re only 15 minutes ahead of cut off.”

I’d never been close to cutoff before.

I turned and looked up at 12,500 ft Hope Pass. 

“I’ll never make it,” I thought. “Why bother? I’ll drop here.”

Entry fee, training hours, effort, travel time, hotel room, gas money, and the 50 miles I’d already run...all out the window.

The next year, I trained harder and paid more attention to acclimatization.

And the EXACT same thing happened.

Same circumstances, same aid station, same “15 minutes head of cutoff” (a little suspicious), same thought, same feeling of futility, and same results.

I’ve spent the ensuing decades studying how to prevent mindset problems like this, and every solution starts with the same simple.concept.

It’s so simple, in fact, it’s easy to skip over or discount, but basic can be powerful:

You are not your thoughts.

Easy to understand intellectually, but you have to get it - feel it - for any other mindset strategy to work.

How to do that? Try this: What are you thinking right now? 

Don’t dress it up - just jot down the sentence.

Now...who observed that thought and wrote it down?

Feel that shift? 

You can’t be your thoughts AND watch them from outside.

The one who looks at the thoughts (you) is not the one thinking them (your mind).

Why does the difference matter? Because it puts you in control when you hear the voice in your head say you should quit.

Not only that, the voice isn’t true. 

And you don’t have to believe it - it only has the power you give it.

Distinguishing between you and your mind is skill you can develop. If it’s awkward, you keep forgetting it, or you don’t get it yet, don’t despair. You will. If you want help getting there faster, we can do that in 1:1 coaching. 

Whatever you do, don’t skip over this. You'll keep reacting to the voice in your head - dropping, procrastinating, giving into fears, doubting yourself - no matter how hard you try.

When you get that you aren’t your thoughts, you have control over what you think and what you choose to do.

Which is exactly what happened my third time at Leadville. I was ready to hear, “only 15 minutes ahead,” and ready to see that I still had a chance and take it.

I don’t even remember what the volunteer said that year because it didn’t matter. Since they hadn’t pulled me and I was in control of my thoughts, I decided that I had a shot and started back over Hope Pass.

And that year, I finished. 

Susan Donnelly’s signature

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