by Johnny Waite, originally published on his blog, Living Myself to Death.

“I wonder how long before Joe realizes this is impossible, and changes the plan?”

That was my thought an hour into pushing a 200 pound tractor tire up the mountain. Sooner or later, I assumed, he would have to figure out that we had taken on a Sisyphean task. That just shows you how little I knew Joe Desena.  I had met Joe about 30 minutes earlier. I was in town for a training camp for this summer’s Spartan Death Race, having driven 10 hours with only these instructions: “Bring an axe, a maul, snowshoes, food and warm clothing to the General Store in Pittsfield for 8pm”.

A picture was snapped of the six of us setting out with the 200 pound tire, a 16 foot canoe, and a 38 pound brick. The only thing these three items had in common was that none of them served any purpose atop the mountain.  As we rolled the tire up the road, pulling the canoe and passing the brick around, a Supermoon rose overhead in the crisp Vermont night.

After leaving the road for a snowpacked trail, we were soon deep in the woods winding our way up a steep path. Two were pulling the canoe by rope, three were trying to roll the tire, and one was carrying the brick. If you have never carried a 38 pound brick up a slippery hill in the middle of the night, you may not fully appreciate the observation that it was the easiest job by an astonishing margin. The canoe was just straightforward hard work – lean in, plant your toes and climb while pulling the rope. The inevitable three steps forward one slide back was par for the course. The tire, though, was another matter altogether. Refusing to roll in the snow, it also constantly threatened to roll back down the hill – crushing us in its path. The only occasional break from the kneedeep snow was where the spring melt had washed sections of the trail out entirely, involving us slogging “upstream” through mud and numbing water. This was going to take all night.

I won’t attempt to get the chronology right for the next several hours but what I can say is that we did not stop. We ran down the mountain. We ran back up the mountain doing interval sprints carrying the brick overhead. We did 100 impromptu burpees on a wet section of ground (this was where I came very close to puking).  By now it was somewhere between 4am and 5am as we trudged back.  Closing my eyes back at the barn had never felt so good.  “Alright campers! Let’s get this day started!!  “What? DID I even get to sleep?? The answer was “NO”.  Putting our wet clothes back on seemed unnecessarily cruel. At least I had packed some dry socks.

Matt Sroka, our new guide for the day, struck out first, stopping every so often to make sure we would recognize the trail back should anyone get lost. Matt pointed out landmarks to remember as navigation points in June. And he didn’t stop smiling once. I believe this route took us about 4 miles to climb the 2000′ to the same peak. By the time we arrived it was full, glorious morning. Descending was a whole different experience – part running, part sliding.

We each grabbed one of the eight wheelbarrows and headed across the street to the gorgeous Amee Farm Lodge, to load up with wood to be split. Walk, load, walk, split, load, walk, stack, repeat, walk, load, walk, split, load, walk, stack, repeat…With the wood split and stacked (awesome practice for a novice like me), most of us headed up to the General Store for food.

As I drove home, sore and tired but very happy, I reflected on the most valuable lessons from my Death Race training camp. Here is the most important thing I learned…

Joe did NOT say: “Let’s see if we can get this tire to the top of the mountain”.

He said: “Let’s get this tire to the top of the mountain.”

There is all the difference in the world between those two statements.  He did not know if it would take two hours or two days. He just knew we were going to do it.

Take a look at where you can apply that in your own life. Where do you say “I am going to try to…” or “Let’s see if we can…”. Because that will be where you fail. You have already given yourself the “out”.

“Do or do not … there is no try.” –Yoda

-        John D. Waite

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