Yesterday was the commemoration of D-Day. Every Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, September 11th, and D-Day commemoration, it forces me to reflect on my time at war. The men who fought on D-Day are the epitome of the American hero and we are truly indebted to them. I cannot imagine what those men were going through on those beaches.Right before my evening run last night, I paused for a moment, a moment of silence for those who fought on D-Day.
Because I run unplugged, I get a chance to really think about things. I thought about my time at war. I arrived in the Middle East in May 2003, first in Kuwait, then a 26 hour all-night drive in a military convoy up to Baghdad, Iraq. I had just turned 20 a little over a month before. I was scared, I tried to play "tough guy" but it was a front, I was scared. Everyone else was "tough" too, but I constantly wondered if they were scared like me.
It was hot, brutal hot, sweltering. Temperatures would climb above 130 degrees. Wearing a uniform and heavy gear while carrying a weapon didn't help either. Walking around in the mid-day heat that summer was torture. No air conditioning in our living quarters. Our living quarters were on dirt. Constantly being uncomfortable. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. I did not know it back in 2003, but from my wandering around in the hot desert miserable, I would draw strength later in life.
I haven't physically been in this desert in many years, but mentally I visit often. Endurance races are tough, even miserable at times. When I get to the dark place during a race, I go back to Iraq. I go back to the sweltering heat of the desert, I have all the gear on again, I see all the sand. I am not scared this time, but I still feel the misery. I am uncomfortable but once again I grow accustom to it. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have made this trip to the desert mentally many times: in both my marathons, Muncie 70.3, Ironman Louisville, New Olreans 70.3, and I plan on making many more trips back throughout my life.
Somehow making a trip back to the desert in my mind has worked as a great coping mechanism. The physical trip to the desert built up my tolerance for suffering. In endurance sports learning how to suffer is key. Wandering around in the desert is my idea of true suffering. I suffered more in that desert than the 14 hour I was on the Ironman Louisville course. In my tough races, I pull strength from that suffering.