When I signed up to do the Wye Valley challenge, part of my reason for it was to take some life lessons away that could be applied to real life. Of course, I wanted to raise money for charity, and I’m glad to say that I did. But I also wanted to come out of this experience a better person than when I started. Thankfully, I believe that’s the case. So here are a few things I learned from attempting, and ultimately failing, an ultra challenge.
Lessons Learned from Attempting an Ultra Challenge
1. Don’t Allow Your Ego to Take Over
As soon as the Wye Valley challenge started I wanted to keep up with those who were going for it. I’ll be honest, I allowed my ego to get the better of me. I had no business trying to keep up with joggers, but I wanted to do this ultra challenge as fast as I could. Not only that but I didn’t want anyone to overtake me. Stopping to enjoy a scenic moment, grab something from my bag or stay too long at a check point was time being wasted. In short, I was an idiot.
Just like everything else in life, you need to do things at your own pace without looking over at what others are doing. I learned that lesson not long ago when it comes to the blog. But for some reason I didn’t take that lesson and apply it here. If I ever attempt an ultra challenge again – and there’s a strong chance that I will, sorry Rachel – I’ll learn to take my time and not let my ego trip me up.
2. Everyone Struggles
What doing something like an ultra challenge does is very plainly show you that everyone struggles. I quit at the 74km mark because I was struggling to put too much weight on my right foot. It was blistered, swollen, sore as hell and seemingly incapable of doing another 26km. But I’m positive that I wasn’t the only person who that statement was true for.
Seeing other people visibly struggle puts your own struggle into perspective. It prevents the “woe is me” feeling and you know that you’re not alone. This is something that can easily translate to every day life. I know I’ve not been the only person who’s struggled with depression. Obviously. But I know, if I’m in a bad way, I can look back on something like an ultra challenge and remind myself that it’s not just me finding something difficult. There are others out there too going through a very similar thing.
3. Reduce Your Time frame when struggling
When you find yourself confronted with an immense amount of struggle, it’s very hard to try and look too far into the future. I started to have a lot of pain around my ankles somewhere around the 20km mark of this challenge. I had worn shoes that better suited jogging or a shorter distance, so was unprepared for a drawn out, arduous terrain that the challenge presented. Again, as mentioned above, I’m an idiot. There’s a theme here.
But all I did was reduce my time frame. I didn’t allow myself to contemplate the finish line, and instead reduced it down to the next check point. Eventually that dropped down to the next kilometre. And eventually, I simply focused on counting my breaths and using long, deep breathing as a form of pain relief – I had lost my medical bag, and with it my painkillers, around the 45k mark, another example of me being an idiot.
This is something you can take into everyday life. When you’re struggling, don’t look too far ahead. Try and find something else to focus on. Think about how you might be able to get through the day, embrace the next hour, or even the next five minutes. And whilst I’m on the topic of embracing five minutes:
4. Take 5 Minutes to Embrace a Moment
This is something I wish I did more of during this challenge. At one point, whilst the path was meandering it’s way through the forest, there came a clearing that looked out for miles to the towns and valleys below. It was stunning. Instead of taking five to rest my feet and embrace the view, I simply put my foot down to get in front of those who were ‘dawdling’. Ironically those same people likely passed me when I quit. There’s a reason the tortoise wins the race, and something like this is part of that reason.
There were countless times when I saw something during this challenge worthy of my time and attention. Take for example these two moments:
One is just a tree in the middle of a field, and the other is me seemingly sat in the middle of the Wye river. The first photo actually holds a much deeper meaning than you’d expect, and I’ll talk about that on a blog post of it’s own for a #MySundayPhoto – that’s what you call a tease.
But the other was me trying to enjoy a moment amidst the chaos of the challenge. Rather than actually sit there for five minutes and enjoy the scenic place I found myself in, I just used the time to change my socks and sort my feet out. It wasn’t necessarily a bad use of my time, but a check point was literally two minutes away. I should’ve just enjoyed the moment and took five minutes to sit down and do nothing.
That’s one of my bigger takeaways from all of this. It doesn’t matter how bad the struggle you find yourself in actually is, you can find five minutes to embrace a single moment. Whether that’s sitting out in the garden at night looking up at the stars, just feeling the warmth of the sun on your face or simply playing with a dog or a cat for a few minutes.
5. There’s Nothing Wrong with Failure
I’m going to talk a bit more about this in the upcoming Dad Diaries post – another excellent tease – so I’ll keep this point short. At the end of the day I failed this challenge. Yes it was good getting to 74km, but I still fell short of the finish line. Either way you cut it, that’s a failure.But it’s ok to fail.
I would much rather fail at trying a challenge that was too difficult than easily succeed at one that was too easy.
It’s not a nice feeling when you fall short of something you wanted to achieve, but it shouldn’t put you off from trying. I’ve failed a good number of times throughout my life, but that’s never put me off giving something a go. As long as you reflect on what happened and you’re honest with yourself, you’ll always be able to take failure and use it as fuel to improve. Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be talking about how I succeeded in finishing what I started. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
Thanks for reading this. I’m not sure if there’s anything you can personally take away from any of this. But I certainly learned something from this experience. Also, if you want to donate to this challenge, which fair enough if you don’t – I did fail after all – then you can donate here.