22 Feb To get through tough times, be your own best friend
Rebecca Rusch — a.k.a., the “queen of pain” — is arguably the best adventure athlete alive. She’s won a wide range of world championships, including in whitewater rafting, mountain-biking, and cross-country skiing. She’s also dominated preeminent events in orienteering, a sport in which someone is dropped off in the middle of nowhere, oftentimes in the middle of the night, and must navigate their way back to a specified point. Rusch has even ridden her bike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. In other words, she’s an extreme outlier in a small community of extreme outliers. Surely, her body must be in tip-top shape. But her mind must be, too; a large part of Rusch’s success lies in her ability to remain levelheaded in incontestably fraught circumstances.
It’s not unusual for Rusch to find herself in dark spots; perhaps she’s lost on an unmarked trail at the halfway point of a 200-mile hike, or running out of food in the guts of a forest at two in the morning. Last year, for example, Rusch found herself bone-cold, sleep-deprived, and all alone on a mountain ridge in the middle of a 500-mile bike race through the Italian Alps.
She told me:
“I was shivering uncontrollably despite wearing a down jacket, rain gear and all of my spare clothing. I was pedaling with all the energy I could muster, but only moving about five miles an hour on easy terrain. I was fumbling the navigation because my brain was so numb from sleep deprivation. I was throwing up because my body would no longer accept food. I had been in this state for hours as I stubbornly trudged forward and spiraled downward.”
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