The Man in the Mirror
Why am I standing here? How the hell is it me who is standing here?
“Dan, you have such a soft voice, we can barely hear you,” one teammate interrupted me to say.
How did I wind up in this predicament? Why me of all people?
“Sorry,” I replied as my voice got admittedly quieter.
I should not be here. What am I doing here? I should not be leading this team. The thoughts became more frequent as each minute passed. Apparently I was not as okay as I thought I would be when I got on that plane the day before.
But I was there. Standing front and center of my 41 teammates the evening before Mudder, attempting to hold it together as I did my best to rally the team for what was coming. Inside, my heart was pounding ferociously against my rib cage. My mind was spinning. And my anxiety was building much faster than I was comfortable with. I have stood giving discourses in front of audiences a hundred times that big, and barely batted an eyelash. Public speaking has always been not just doable, but fun for me. Yet there I was, falling apart by the second, feeling like I had very little to offer anyone at all. I wonder how many of them saw that. I’m completely sure the answer is: nearly all of them.
We were in a sectioned off room at Buca di Beppo, loading up on carbs and protein while the leaders gave team speeches and answered questions about the next day. Most of us were meeting each other for the first time that night.
I should not be here. What the hell am I doing here? How did life take me here of all places?
Those three thoughts specifically made laps through my mind as if they were each competing to win some damned Nascar race.
The dinner actually went pretty well.
I had two goals during my speech that night. First, for everyone to commit to safety the next day. I re-emphasized to them all the trouble I had gotten into at the London Tough Mudder and stressed how crucial it was that each one of us admit when we need help before little things become much bigger things. My second goal was for everyone in that room to tell all of their teammates that they would show up. And that they would finish with the team.
My time up in front included an activity where everyone in the room passed around the headband I had earned when I finished my first Tough Mudder, and verbally admitted to something in particular they might need help with the next day. One by one, they each held up that headband, and followed-up with the words, “AND TOMORROW I’M GOING TO GET ONE OF THESE!”
Oh, those headbands. They’re everything.
They are the trophy you get when you finish a Tough Mudder.
With each Tough Mudder you finish, you get a new color headband to represent just how crazy bad ass you are. The first time you finish it’s bright orange. Then green. Then baby blue. Then yellow. Then pink. Then the truly crazy people get the 10x or more headband. Black with orange stripes.
That was me, wearing my new headband the night I somehow finished the London Tough Mudder last October. It was getting that headband that drove me to keep (literally) baby-stepping the last three miles with excruciating head-to-toe cramps and hypothermia. It was getting that headband that pushed me to do the stupidest and most amazing (I’m still not sure which) thing I’ve ever done, and finish. As you’ll remember, the very moment I got my headband, my mind and body gave out on me, I collapsed, and I blacked-out as medical personnel rushed to help me.
That is how important that headband was to me. That is how important these headbands are to almost all Tough Mudder participants.
And I wanted everyone on my team to hold one, and feel one, and envision getting a headband of their own when this whole thing was done.
Some members of the team threw their entire hearts into their declarations and screamed their own variations such as, “TOMORROW I’M GOING TO FUCKING GET ONE OF THESE!!!!”
Other members declared it more quietly and with a hint of doubt. “Tomorrow I’m gonna get one of these.”
And some members struggled to get the words out at all. “Tomorrow, I’ll do my best to get one of these.”
Loudly or quietly, by the time it was done, everyone on the team had made the declaration one way or the other. And I promised them that their words and their declarations would not be in vain.
I should not be here. What the hell am I doing here? How did life bring me here of all places?
Oh, whoops. Did you think for a minute there that I was being all awesome, and strong, and motivating, and confident?
I was a good actor though.