Tag Archives: obstacles

Obstacles Are Not As Tough As We Think

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when-obstacles-are-not-as-tough-as-we-think

I think the featured image for this post is hysterical. My family’s three dogs, Thor, Nugget, and Zeus from left to right, believe they are stuck in the kitchen. You’ll notice a barely perceptible metal fence going from one wall to the edge of the kitchen counter. This fence weights half a pound and is about three feet tall, but to my three dogs it is more impenetrable than the Bellagio vault that the Ocean’s Eleven team broke into.

I remember being a young kid and wondering why everything was so hard. When I look back on how I reacted to tough times I see that the obstacles I had to overcome as a child were not nearly as bad as I made them out to be.

The most difficult obstacle I had to overcome before I turned eighteen was failing French junior year. I didn’t put in the work and by mid-terms I had a big fat “F” staring back at me along with a meeting with my class dean. I had zero reasons for failing French. My home life was good and I did not have too many extra curricular activities taking up my time. I just thought that French wasn’t worth studying, and I wasn’t very good at it to begin with. My French teacher and my class dean begged to differ. They informed me that if I didn’t pull up my grades I definitely wouldn’t be playing lacrosse and I would likely be repeating my junior year.

The older I get the more I believe in the motto “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome“. I knew that I had zero motivation to become fluent in French, but I had a lot of reasons to pass. With the exception of HTML code, languages do not come easily to me, but I am pretty good at memorizing. So I adapted to this obstacle that I created and started studying French vocabulary. While I did horribly on the audio portions of our weekly tests, I started acing the vocabulary recall sections. Eventually those scores averaged out and by the end of my junior year I had a “B-” in French. Even though I still cannot speak a lick of French, I managed to overcome my obstacle that I thought was insurmountable, but it turned out to be completely doable.

There is no growth without adversity. There is no advancement without failure. There is no success without obstacles.

How shallow would success be if you decided you wanted to get somewhere and then you were suddenly there without any work in between?

I received my third stripe on my white belt when I was sixteen years old after a year of training jiu-jitsu. In front of the whole class my instructor asked me how I got my third stripe. I said, “You gave it to me Sifu.” He sternly replied, “I didn’t give you anything, you earned that stripe.” That one sentence changed my perspective on everything. When I received my blue belt a year later my instructor asked me how I got my blue belt. I replied, “I earned it,” and he nodded sagely. I earned it by committing my time, my energy, my sweat, and even a little bit of my blood to pursue a goal that meant something to me.

I believe that it is our job as adults in youth sports to present young kids with adversity, with failure, and with obstacles. We give them those three challenges in a controlled setting and then slowly prod them to grow, to advance, and to earn the level of success that they want to reach. If we do that our young adults will come to see that the obstacles they will face every day of their lives are not so insurmountable. If we don’t, then our young adults will spend their lives stuck in the kitchen like my three dogs, wondering why they can’t get past what is right in front of them.

Cheers,
Gordon

My Tough Mudder

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Mud Covered Shoes

Mud Covered Shoes

I competed in the most physically challenging event of my life on Sunday – the Georgia Tough Mudder. This event lived up to it’s billing as Tough with a capital “T”. I got cold, wet, muddy, dirty, sprayed with a fire hose, rope burned from cargo nets, and electrocuted during the Tough Mudder.

I started off in the 10:00am group with about 300 other Mudders. After a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, and reciting the Tough Mudder Pledge we were sent on our adventure to the sound of loud air horns. Two minutes later I plunged into freezing cold water in the Slippery Slope obstacle that was made extra cold with the addition of multiple pallets of ice cubes. When I got out I was numb from the waist down.

After the Slippery Slope I went through the Boa Constrictor. Crawling through two pitch black tubes in more chilled water numbed my entire upper body so at least I couldn’t feel all the pain I was in. After crawling, stomping, and wading through more mud I reached the Motocross Loop, which I would hit twice during the entire event. Todd, a fellow Mudder who ran the whole thing with me, and I chased the hills and burned through the early obstacles as quickly as we could to avoid bottlenecks at the obstacles.

We reached the first trail run and it beat me down big time. Hill after hill pummeled my legs into submission. These hills were so steep Todd and I were taking running starts just to get up the first quarter of the incline. I slipped on one steep decline, grabbed a slim tree branch and threw myself into a pile of leaves. Got up laughing and kept running forward. I stopped laughing went I saw the last hill of the trail section.

Oh, sorry. I said hill when I meant to say vertical face of dirt and roots. Imagine the front of Stone Mountain slightly tilted backwards and you have a good idea of what I crawled up. No one could run up this face. In fact, everyone, myself included, was on all fours grabbing rocks and trees to physically pull themselves up to the ridge line. Halfway up the face six deer crashed through the forest and the biggest one ran straight into a tree about thirty yards away before leading the rest of the family down to the bottom. All of us were holding on praying this giant buck wasn’t going to run us over.

Todd and I reached the top and ran fifty yards to the equally steep decline. I seriously wished I had mountain goat DNA in my system because that decline was treacherous and I nearly bit the ground hard on one misstep. Fortunately though, I made it through only to reach the swamp stomp! Two hundred yards of sloshing through chest high cold and muddy water and I was at the Mystery Obstacle.

The Mystery Obstacle, like many of the obstacles, requires teamwork. We had to scale a 12 foot wall using a rope and only our upper body, no legs at all, with zero running start since the ground was too muddy to get any traction. A former Army man on the top of the obstacle helped Todd and me up the wall – it helped that he had arms the size of watermelons. We thanked the man and stayed behind to help other Mudders up the wall.

After the wall it we ran into the Moonshine Hill Run. Halfway through even more brutal hills than the first series, I wondered why anyone would take such a slow route to traffic moonshine. But, by then I was slightly delirious and only focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. A the top of the Moonshine Run was the “Hold Your Wood” obstacle. Todd and I had to carry half a telephone pole about six hundred yards over more hilly terrain. Remarkably, that challenge was not as bad as it sounds. We finished quickly and made our way to the third water station at the bottom of the trail.

Barefoot at Mile 8

Barefoot at Mile 8

We were past the halfway point and making great time when we came to the Monkey Bars. I am very pleased to report that I crushed that obstacle. I think all of the tree climbing I did as a kid finally paid off, but after that obstacle was deep mud and my shoes were so caked in mud I was sliding all over the place. I stopped for a moment, kicked my shoes off and went forward barefoot.

A quarter mile after the Monkey Bars Todd and I ran through the Fire Walker. We ran blind through fifty yards of smoke filled air and fire. One volunteer stood on the far side and called out to us every few seconds so we knew where to run to.

After the Fire Walker we ran back through the Motocross Loop where started the race. Todd and I were exhausted and we were walking the last two miles over the hills and declines. Eventually, we reached the final aid station before the last two obstacles.

Three hundred yards later and I vaulted up a ramp to the top of a platform about twenty feet above an ice-cold lake. After twelve miles vertigo hit me like a hammer and I paused for a moment while I considered why I paid money to do this. I yelled to the crowd for a count-down – “3, 2 1, JUMP!” I plunged into water so cold I lost my breath and my muscles seized up. I reached the surface and immediately started side swimming to shore one painful yard at a time. Halfway there I honestly thought I would not make it, but I kept swimming and I finally reached the shore. Exhausted, beat up, cold, and sore I had one final obstacle left: Electroshock Therapy.

Electroshock Therapy on the Right

Electroshock Therapy on the Right

A short explanation is required for this obstacle. Ten yards before the finish line there is a thirty yard space about six yards wide where tiny wires hang in the breeze. Some of these wires contain 10,000 volts of live electricity. I took a deep breath and charged into the wires. I made it a quarter of the way through before I blacked out. I woke up a second later face down in the mud wondering where I was. That fog quickly lifted and I tried getting up to finish. I hit another wire and blacked out again. This time I learned from my mistake and crawled under the wires until out of the danger zone. I got up shakily and made my way the last ten yards and punched the sky with my hands in triumph.

Final finish time – 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Now, what is the moral of this story? Probably that I am a foolish individual who has a warped idea of what passes for a good time on a Sunday afternoon. But the second moral is never stop moving forward. Remember, I got electrocuted twice and kept going so I don’t want to hear any “I’m tired coach” at practice for the rest of the season.

Cheers,
Gordon