Putting our self-worth in a number

“The road is long. The mountain is steep. There is one thing this race can’t keep. Back on the Road to Leadville.”

For over 3 years I have thought about, focused and been beyond obsessed with the Leadville Trail 100… From the moment I knew what it was, I had to run it. From the moment I found out there was an award for finishing the race in under 25 hours, I knew I had to run it faster. I knew if I could just run 100 miles through the mountains of Leadville, I would finally be able to get something I have longed for for so long… a feeling of achievement… an understanding of self-worth… a feeling of love and pride from the people I love the most…

I’m now less than two weeks away and I finally came to the realization that nothing I want to feel is going to happen. I won’t be any prouder of myself… my self-worth won’t be any stronger… the people I love still won’t be able to make me feel the love and pride I have dreamed about for so long…

The sad part is I recognized this fact a long time ago… when I first lost 200 pounds… then again when I ran my first marathon then when I finished my first hundred mile race… then again the July before I attempted Leadville for the first time.

The feeling of shame and embarrassment I felt in 2017 nearly killed me… with the gut wrenching feeling of always coming up short mixed with emotional and spiritual turmoil I was going through plus the weight of the world I was carrying on my shoulders it really is no wonder a half a bottle of Fireball Whiskey a day wasn’t enough to numb the pain… I just hoped when I could prove to myself and others that I could really accomplish something huge, I would find this feeling of pride and love I had longed for…

In 2017, I had built the idea of the race and my soon to be accomplishment so big that I was destined to fail from the beginning. I thought I had worked hard enough. I trusted I was mentally tough enough. I believed I was ready to take on the mountain that disrupted my entire life. I was somewhere between mile 40 and 60 when I realized I was no longer working toward my dream but against my worst nightmare… I was stumbling and struggling to make cutoffs and stay afloat. I was wobbling and wandering lost in the woods just hoping I could make it to the next aid station… until the worst happened… I quit.

In that moment my life flashed before my eyes as fast as the quite view of the Pine Trees sweeping beside the car as my crew rushed me to the house to clean up and go to bed.

I was dead inside.

There was no pleasure to feel.

For the first time in months I didn’t feel pain anymore.

I was lost… with no idea of what I had to do to find myself again…

I stood under the showerhead for what seemed like hours in wonderment and disarray. My entire world had been dropped and shattered in a matter of hours… Everything I dreamed of came to a screeching halt in an instant. I was forced to start all over again from that moment…

A week later I made a poor decision and decided to sober up. A short time after I started a new job. I worked on mending relationships with friends and family. I lost many of the people I had been closest too. I started from scratch running again. A mile a day to two miles a day to three miles a day just to get myself into a positive groove again. I started everyday fresh with a cup of coffee in hand and a smile on my face knowing if I just took a positive step forward today, tomorrow would be better and I would eventually dig myself out of the hole I had buried myself in for so long.

When the time to enter the Leadville lottery came, I wondered if I should even go back and show my face in a place I had embarrassed myself in just a few month before. With one day left, I figured I would leave it up to fate and if I got a spot, it was meant to be… so I entered the lottery.

I was in Louisiana for a marathon when I got the news… I read my name on the entry list and broke down crying in the middle of the sidewalk. I laid face down for 10 minutes before I could regain my composure to stand up and accept what was about to happen. I was blessed to know my fresh start had led me to a true second chance at a race I would not soon forget.

I knew 2018 was going to be different. I understood the hard work and dedication it would take to be physically ready to conquer the mountains of Leadville. I had a feeling I was after and I knew what it would take to feel that way. A long road ahead led me through some highs and lows in running and in life. I improved my training by nearly 50% year over year. I was in the best shape of my life. I knew I physically had what it took to finish LT100 in less than 25 hours. I focused for what I wanted for so long and I worked so hard to get it… but the one thing I never took the time to understand was the feeling I expected to receive when I accomplished my goal. I didn’t take the time to think about what I wanted. I didn’t stop to wonder what I was really hoping to gain out of a sub 25-hour finish. I never thought about what I was hoping for at the end… I just had this idea in my head that when I achieved my time goal, I would have achieved a goal I focused on for over two years and I was bound and determined to go after it.

When times got tough as they are sure to do, I lost my composure and stopped moving. When I came through mile 75 and noticed I was short on time I panicked and lost my will to continue. I let 15 minutes destroy my race… I gave up on myself because I didn’t understand what the universe had been trying to teach me. It wasn’t until almost a year later that I would finally understand the lesson…

I was having coffee with a friend and fellow ultra-runner when he asked me what I felt at mile 75 that caused me to fall apart. In the moment he asked the question, it was like a rush of thoughts that had been sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for the moment to be released…

Shame.

Although I had been quieter and expressed my lofty goal to less people that year, I still had many people I had announced my goal to. Worse yet, I had become even more obsessed with the time goal. I knew I was in better physical and mental shape… I know I put in the hard work and dedication over the past year to clean up my act and over the past several years to have the physical fitness I needed to have in order to accomplish such a huge goal. I was still full of shame.

Until that moment in time, I had never realized how much self-worth I put in numbers. Every goal I set, every goal I was working toward and every accomplishment I had achieved had to be justified with something tangible like a number… The number on the scale… The number of miles I ran in a day, a week, a month, the year… How fast I ran… How many workouts I had done… My whole world had become wrapped up in numbers and when one number wasn’t good enough, I would start working toward the next number. No matter how much I accomplish, there was another number to work toward. No matter how fast or far I would run, I had to keep pushing because there was always someone who was going to be faster than me or run rather…

The amount of money I wasn’t making at the time… I could barely buy food, let alone running gear to keep me going. The amount of time I spent with the people I love. Every aspect of my life became a measurement and I could never seem to keep up with the expectations other people would set. As I look back now, it really is no wonder I was so stressed out and full of shame… I had set myself up to fail from the beginning. I was always counting and no matter what number I came up with, it was never good enough.

As I’ve looked at 2019 and reflected on everything that has gotten me to where I am today… I am starting to realize numbers are great goals to work for but we must learn the goal is really what we expect to feel when we reach the number. As I get to work with people every day, one of the biggest causes of stress is the feeling we need to improve our numbers… but why are we so focused on numbers when we should really be focused on what matters…

Us… on the inside…

We should be working on improving ourselves and the numbers will naturally take care of themselves. The hard part is this takes some realization we aren’t perfect, a lot of hard work and more time than we generally care to wait for… so we put our self-worth in the number we are working toward and we try to force the number… knowing most of the time we’re going to come up short… and on the rare occasion we do achieve the number… we get that feeling of emptiness and self-loathing we weren’t expecting.

Take a lesson from my mistakes if you will.

Don’t put your self-worth in a number…

Becoming a millionaire isn’t about the money… it’s about the person you must become in the process. Once you learn to earn a million dollars you can give it all away because you will now have everything you hoped a million dollars could buy.

Losing weight isn’t about the number on the scale… it’s about the person you become in the process. Once you become and see yourself as an athlete or a healthy person, you can throw away the scale or the GPS watch or the calorie tracker because you are now living the life you hope all the numbers would justify and provide.

I have gone from 400 pounds to a 100-mile ultra runner. I have starved myself to lose weight. I have rushed my training and become injured trying to push past distances and times. I have lost all my money trying to force business ideas that naturally take time to grow and mature…. Each time I lost out on what I was hoping to accomplish, I woke up shameful and devasted… because every time I failed to achieve the “number” I internally felt like I had failed myself. I had to reframe and retrain my thinking… My self-worth doesn’t come from a number but from the person I have become in the process of pursuing even the biggest and most impossible goals.

Today I realized that what happens in two weeks ultimately doesn’t matter. I know whether I finish or fail the Leadville Trail 100 I have learned two important lessons I will use for the rest of my life.

  1. I have become the person I wanted to become and crossing the finish line under a certain time will not degrade me or add value to me as a person.
  2. I will not receive the feeling I have longed for for so long… Why? Because I have been dreaming about a feeling, I would receive from everyone else… and when it comes time to be excited and celebrate, no one will ever be able to give me the love and attention I need. I must learn to find that feeling from the inside.

The road is long and the mountain is steep but the one thing this race can’t keep is my self-worth. Whether I succeed or fail in 2019 I have become the person I dreamed of becoming and nothing can ever take that away.

What are Gary’s steps to success?

  • Define your desire.
  • What do you want?
  • What do you want to feel when you get what you want?
  • Why do you want what you want?
  • Set a focused and direct goal.
  • Find out what type of person you need to become to achieve the goal.
  • Visualize you becoming the type of person who can take the necessary action.
  • Learn and model the best and brightest people who have achieved the goal/success you want.
  • Design a personalized action plan that will move you toward your goal with checkpoints along the way.
  • Take action in small and big ways in the direction of your goal and desires.
  • Keep taking action through the highs and lows, the wins and losses, and the adversity and setbacks.
  • Be positive, patient and persistent.
Categories Running

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