One Athlete's Mind
Let's start this one off with a theme of the week: The limits you place on yourself are a direct reflection of the outcome that is to come. In other words, if you can convince yourself that you can do something, with enough practice and dedication, it can happen. And conversely, if you convince yourself that something is just too far out of reach, there's no way you could get there, then there's a good chance you'll be right, and you won't get there. There's a great quote about this and I can't remember it exactly off the top of my head, but essentially it goes something like this:
Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right.
I'm going to delve into something I've never really put into words before now, because like a lot of people I never used to like admitting when I did something wrong or made a mistake. In 2011 I was 1 of 5 Junior Men who were selected to compete for Canada at the World Junior Championships in Otepaa Estonia (it's south of Finland) for cross country skiing. I had dreamed of making this team for years; words really can't express how excited I was to go over there and represent my country for the first time! The only problem was, I spent so much time and energy thinking about just QUALIFYING for this event, that I had gotten the idea in my head that MAYBE I'd be fast enough to make the team, but medal? Place in the top 10? Absolutely not! Somehow without really thinking about it, I had convinced myself that I wasn't fast enough to compete with the best in the world. And because of this, my focus wasn't where it should have been during my races. Instead I was literally taking in the sights around the race course, DURING MY RACE! My coach called me out on it afterwards. I'm not sure that I'll ever forget that. Talk about the feeling of missed opportunities. But, while it is a bit of a sore spot for me and I'm sure will always be, it taught me the power of confidence and how whatever you think of yourself will likely be displayed in what you do.
So that was a big lesson that took me a while to uncover from that experience, but now let's look at the other side of the coin. Two years later I ran my second half marathon to date. It was a small fundraiser race in my hometown that just happened to take place while I was visiting my parents on my rest month, so I figured why not jump in and have some fun. Despite my plan of just running with the front group and then seeing what happened 10km or so into the race, I started it like it was a 5km. Literally 30 seconds after discussing my chill race plan with my Dad, I was sprinting (somewhat figuratively) away from the start line. Not even 1km into that race I thought to myself 'how could you possibly think you could hold this pace? You don't even run this fast in short distance races.' But then I thought 'hey, why not? Let's see how long I can keep this up for.' I ended up holding that pace for the next 21km, and CRUSHING my old half marathon PB by over 5 and a half minutes!
It's been since this race in April 2013 that I've stopped putting limits on my potential, both in sports and in life. Today I had a one mile repeat workout, and after literally letting out a chuckle at how fast I started my first mile, thinking I was an idiot, I just kept the hammer down and ran a 5:01, probably one of the fastest miles I've ever ran off a track. Then on the next one, I ran 4:58... It's safe to say I'm excited for race season!
Before I wrap this post up I want to tie this into what's become more important to me recently than any of my own personal athletic goals, and that's being healthy and fit. For some people these are things we take for granted, but for others these are things we feel like we can only dream about. So for anyone reading this who has made countless New Year's resolutions to get in shape, or feels that running 5km is an insurmountable feat, or maybe even that just being happy with yourself doesn't seem possible (trust me I've been there) please keep this in mind. Nothing is beyond your reach if you want it bad enough, and there are always people out there who want to help. As soon as you stop telling yourself you can't do something, it'll be like someone flipped a switch and anything can be possible!
I've picked up a few things in my years of pretty extensive endurance training and racing, but this has got to be one the most significant lessons I've learned, and continue to learn along the way. There's another quote I once heard from one of the best ski coaches out there, Jack Sasseville, that sums this all up perfectly, so I'll wrap this up with that.
"Allow yourself to surprise yourself."
Jordan Cascagnette, Student-Athlete, Ski Coach