Spartan Blues

Earlier this year, I mentioned that I’ll be running the spartan death race.  Despite the fact that it’s taken up a rather large share of my time since then, I’ve been fairly “mum” about it on the site.  I’m not exactly sure why I havent written much about it, other than the fact that as of right now, my training is simply working out every day.  Mostly, I didnt want this to turn into a death race blog, because there are tons of those out there already (I read them on friday nights – for real).  However, I’ve lately been feeling like the workouts that I do are not going to be enough, and it’s starting to bother me.

This race is meant to be a physical, mental challenge and mindfuck.  They publicly tout the fact that only about 15% of the entrants finish the race each year.  When I signed up for the race, I pretty much knew where I’d stand – in the 85% that would get their race packet stamped with DNF (Did Not Finish).  I’m dont think I’m some sort of workout god or anything like that, nor do I think that I’m some sort of superhuman, so I simply trained for 5 months, resigned to the fact that even though I was training, I wasnt going to finish.  The worst part about that is that there was most likely nothing that I would be able to do about it either.

Unfortunately, this developed a poisonous attitude within me during my training.  All of the sudden I began to make excuses about skipping certain exercises while at the gym, in the interest of “time”.  I told myself that I’d do the sit ups and push ups at home, so that I could get out of the gym on time and get to work.  I mean, what difference did it make anyway?  It’s a virtual certainty that I wasnt going to finish the race, so skipping out on a few sit ups wasnt really going to matter in the long run, right?  That logic has been very pervasive, as well as very damaging to my training.  With the results pre-ordained, it gets difficult on a down day to even bother trying.  As I’ve been noticing, this is very common with large, seemingly insurmountable tasks.

This race isnt about finishing or about getting to the top and checking something off of a bucket list.  This is about life.  How you handle adversity, what you do when you’re unsure of things, and breaking limits that you never thought existed or have never bothered to test.  Knowing that I’ll come out of this with something that I cant get anywhere else is assuring, but isnt going to change my attitude now.  Lately, I’ve been pushing myself even more as the race is getting closer, and I’m still having trouble breaking out of the attitude.  Somedays it goes well, and others not so, but still I keep going.  After a while, it hit me – this is just like getting out of debt.

At the beginning, I was very gung ho, and was able to pay off all of my credit card debts and one of my student loans.  From there though, the initial excitement and “can-do” attitude waned, and I fell into a few year long slup with my debt repayment.  I never added new consumer debt  (not counting mortgage) but I didnt make significant progress on the debt that I had already.  After a long spell of not doing much, I slowly started to focus on student loan number two, and was able to get a few wins and feel successful after that.  Once that happened, I decided to make one last push and get it paid off once and for all.

That taste of victory continued, and after a quick slowdown because of cash flowing our wedding expenses, H and I got back on the wagon and started hammering down the truck, which I paid off at the beginning of the month.  This win has ignited both H and I, and we will begin to attack the student loan with the vigor that we attacked the truck, and that I attacked the credit cards with back in 2009 and 2010.

With the race, I’ve been conditioned to fail.  I dont know what’s going to happen during or after – all I know is what’s happening before the race, and I dont mind it so much at all.  It’s easier to stick with what I know than push myself outside my boundaries, which could be fraught with risk, uncertainty and potential failure.  Who wants to experience that, right? No one likes to fail.

The same thing happened with my debt repayment.  Everyone told me at the beginning that debt was just something you lived with and tried to manage.  You couldnt be totally free of debt, you just had to watch the amount that you had and try and keep a lid on it.  You needed debt to buy a house (not totally true, but it helps), you need debt to buy a car (not true) to live your day-to-day life (not true).  I’d been conditioned to accept debt, but to try and keep it at a manageable level.  My dad even told me this when I told him that I was trying to pay off all my debt.  On the side of well managed debt, I was conditioned to find it acceptable, because changing that would take a lot of hard work, and uncertainty and sacrifice during the debt payoff period, and fear about what was going to come after.  Then again, I’d made my wishes of being debt free so public, I’d have to come back and explain to everyone that I failed, and they were right and living debt free was not possible.

While I dont know the outcome of the death race just yet (but I can guess) – it’s nothing more than that at this moment – a guess.  I can absolutely go there and tear it up, or I can break my ankle getting off the plane in vermont and not even start.  But there’s one thing that I do know: No one can stop me from trying but myself.

The same goes for you and your debt.  You may be facing a mountain of debt yourself, living paycheck to paycheck and feeling comfortable about your situation.  If you are, and you feel like debt is something that you can never completely eradicate, then go ahead and keep doing what you’re doing – that’s more than fine.  However, if you’re willing to sacrifice and work hard the common logic of debt needing to be managed does not apply to you.  You can be one of the many that is afraid to try, content with the way things are going for you or you can be one of the few that is curious about what’s on the other side of debt, and do anything in your power to get there.  No one but you can stop you from trying to pay off your debt.  You also dont need anyone’s permission to pay off your debt, you just need  a plan and some spare cash to start.

You most likely cant pay off all of your debt in 1 day, 1 month or even 1 year – it took you a lot longer to build it up than that.  Get ready for a long, hard slog and a lot of sacrifice.  But I promise you, it will be worth it in the end.  I am not even finished with my debt repayment yet, but I’m close enough now that I can taste it.  I didnt make much progress for the better part of 2 years, but I didnt stop trying and my balances kept going down.  When I started, I had 55,000+ in consumer debt, and I made about 32,000 per year.  Things have changed since then, and now I’ve got just $8,800 in non mortgage debt left to pay off.  Despite what everyone says about debt, I’m closer to being debt free (without the mortgage) than I have been since I was probably 19 years old, and it feels swell.

Remember, the things that always make you feel the best (and the best about yourself) require an effort that you’ve never put forth before that point.  I had never made more than $6,600 in 1 year when I started trying to pay off my debt.  I didnt let it stop me and right now, I’m almost out of the woods.  Use the hardest thing that you’ve ever done in your life for motivation, but know this will be more challenging – just not in the same way.  Grab on to the chair you’re sitting in and it’ll be a rough ride, but you’ll get through it, and you’ll be so happy with yourself on the other side.  You’ll also be ready to take on a task that you never would have dreamed of starting before you paid off your debt.  What will it be?

The death race may get the best of me, but it wont be for lack of me trying.

Readers: Have you been talking yourself out of debt repayment for one reason or another?  If not – congrats, if so, how can you get yourself back on track?  How do you treat the naysayers in your life, and how do you deal with yourself when you join them?  

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