5 Ultra Life Lessons

I ran a 100K on New Year’s Eve: Here’s 5 lesson I learned to take with you to the workplace this year.

1.       Don’t let the fear of DNFing keep you from starting.

In the weeks leading up to the longest race I have ever attempted, I was constantly second-guessing myself. My wife and I debated the pros and cons of traveling out of state during the holiday season to participate in a race we had already paid for, but not thoroughly trained for, and so on. In the end, I toed the starting line. I wasn’t convinced I had what it took to make it to the finish line, but I sure as hell wasn’t going home without trying. Whatever it is that you’re afraid to start, or try, or create, because you’re not sure how it will turn out – take the journey and see where it ends.

2.       Take regular check-ins

Our bodies tell us a lot if we take the time to listen to them. Somewhere between mile 45 and 50, I intentionally did a head-to-toe check-in. I consciously zeroed in on every muscle group, every joint, and decided whether it was in danger or if it could go another few miles. What I realized is that everything hurt. But slowly down, stopping, walking, none of that would make it hurt any less. So I kept going. Regular mental and physical check-ins, individually or team-based, are crucial to continued health and productivity in every part of life. They allow you to determine if you’re moving forward at a healthy pace, if you need to throttle back, hit the gas, or throw on the brakes altogether.

3.       Proactively pursue a healthy R&R cadence

In October, I made the classic mistake of many a newbie-ultrarunner: I hydrated and refueled reactively. When I felt thirsty, I drank. When I felt hungry, I ate. This led to a massive crash and burn, and a much-too-long recovery process afterward. During my 100K on New Year’s Eve, I was hyper-sensitive to maintaining a regular nutrition and hydration cadence. This intentionality is probably the only reason I was able to finish the race. Don’t wait until you’re sick to take a day off. Don’t wait until you’ve gone postal to turn in your notice. Don’t wait until you’re tense to get a massage. Schedule a regular massage. Pick up a hobby and pursue it religiously. Take up yoga. Proactively pursue a healthy mental and physical rhythm.

4.       Eventually, new speeds become normal

Like I mentioned above, somewhere in the final fourth of the race, I realized that speeding up or slowing down didn’t affect how much my legs and joints hurt. Everything hurt as much as it could possibly hurt – and I was still running. Similarly, at work recently, my team and I have been working faster, harder, and longer than ever before to grow a new division. Last time we checked in, we all agreed that we never knew before that we could work that hard, and still be okay. Don’t be afraid to take on another project. Beat the deadline by a week. Come in 20 minutes earlier. Skip your Facebook break. Whatever it is, start to push yourself, and pretty soon you just might realize that what you previously thought was an unattainable level of productivity is now the new normal, and it feels okay.

5.       Finish on purpose

If I’m honest with myself and all of you, I enjoy the spotlight. There’s enough of a freak-factor to running ultramarathons that I ended up having quite the real-time Facebook following by the end of the twelve and a half hour race. I also knew going into the last mile that my mother was going to get my finish on video. So what did I do? Thanks to my wife running beside me and barking orders at me like a coach, I kicked it in. I gave everything I had left, picked up my pace, burned every ounce of fuel I had left and sprinted to the finish line. And that’s not all… when I got there, I jumped and slapped the “FINISH” banner. Whatever you’re working on, finish it strong, and go out with a bang. It matters. People remember.