Get Uncomfortable

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At a certain point, I lost count of the times something didn’t go right. Navigating three feet of powder on a mountain side with cross-country skis strapped to numb feet seven miles from the nearest road; losing footing while trying to cross a river in waist-deep, snowmelt raging water; finishing your last water bottle in 104F heat 17 miles from the car on a bike. You know, those sorts of things. If I had known I’d be in those situations before leaving the comfort of my house, would I still go? You bet.

Being uncomfortable is what drives us all to explore more. I watched a video last year about a concept that has stuck with me–I think it was a TED talk with Tommy Caldwell, but I could be mistaken (and probably too lazy to check). Adventure isn’t an adventure without adversity. Something needs to go awry. Plans need to be changed. You need to question why you’re out there.

Biking the Hungry Bear 100 this year is an example that’s still clear in my mind. It was planned to be a 60ish-mile ride in Northern Wisconsin on a beautiful May Saturday. Then we underestimated how long it would take to get to the starting line and arrived 20 minutes late and had to play catch-up with the rest of the field. A riding partner wasn’t feeling well and had to drop out. Resident forest gnats would swarm by the dozens if you stopped your bike for a break. A typo on the course card led to two extra miles of singletrack and a lost (but soon-after recovered) phone. I also didn’t eat enough food during the race and bonked in a section of the course with never-ending punchy hills of loose gravel. But even when things were shit and I was reconsidering my decision to ride–and believe me, it was often–I found a smile on my face and knew I’d be laughing at that type-two fun over a beer when the day was done.

The bike race as an example, I do these things to escape my comfort zone. I know something won’t go as planned and I’ll question myself for being in that spot and I’ll have to adapt, but that’s the best part. That’s the reason to try something new.

If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re doing it wrong.