As part of my HTL training plan, I’m reading books about people who exhibit extreme mental toughness. The first one I’ve completed is Lynne Cox’s Swimming to Antarctica – Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer.
Cox is an extraordinary athlete and her resume is stunning. By age 16 she had broken ALL the world records (male and female) for swimming the English Chanel. Eventually, she would go on to swim in the Bering Strait between the US & the Soviet Union, swimming 5 miles in 38-degree water. Swim after swim Cox shares in the efforts that went into preparing for the swim (her Bering Strait swim took her 12 years to plan and prepare for) and walks you through the mental and physical battles she faced.
There are three things that stood out to me in Cox’s stories that I believe are helpful when preparing for a GORUCK HTL.
1. It is about more than you. It is about your team.
While swimming is a solo event, Cox constantly reminds the readers that everything she accomplishes is because she has a team of people around her that believe in her and, for better or worse, are there with her to the end.
This comes across in every story Cox tells and is a helpful reminder. In your GORUCK event look to your right and left in your events. The people around you are giving up as much as you are and it isn’t about you. Team above self.
2. Focus on what’s right in front of you.
Long distance swims can take 10-12 hours (kind of like a GORUCK Tough). The conditions in the water constantly change. Things go wrong and you have to adjust. Cox was great about sharing how in the midst of such long swims she would focus on small goals, like “sprint for 1000 strokes.”
48 hours of an HTL is a long time. Focusing on each evolution within each event is going to go a long way in making it through to the end.
3. Enjoy the moment.
Cox did a great job of reminding herself in the midst of really challenging times to enjoy the experience. Even though she experienced great pain in some of her swims (32 degree water anyone?) and, at times, was frustrated by circumstances, she was able to look around and find the beauty of the moment.
An HTL is going to hurt. But, I will be surrounded by a great environment (DC) and great people. I think it is important to remember to enjoy what I’m doing.
Cox’s life in swimming is really amazing. Swimming isn’t a world I know anything about. But, GRT and DFQ are not relegated to our own little corner of the world. Cox is a great example of what both of those acronyms stand for. Reading her story is worth your time and it has given me fuel for the fire during my training.
NOTE – I also realized that this was my biggest takeaway.