Good evening toastmaster of the evening, fellow toastmasters, guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am Sandip and today, I’ll be embarking on my second project with a speech titled Rule #5: Harden the F Up! For those of us who know how to ride a bicycle, I think you would agree with me that you do it for the feeling of the wind across your face, the smell of the air and the freedom of exploration. And for those of us who are more serious sportives who enjoy the pain of the sport, may be aware of the sacred rules by a website called Velominati. Among them is probably the most important one, Rule #5: Harden the F Up!
This is a story how I learned to mediate on this sacred rule. In Oct 2011, after a short run, I realised I had a little pain in my left foot. So I do what every runner does – ignore. During a race the following week, from the first step, the pain struck me hard, but I kept going and hoped it would disappear. After enduring the pain for an hour and a half, I realised it was game over. My left foot was swollen to twice its size and hurt like a thousand devils. The fate was sealed for this race but I was worried more about the marathon in 3 months’ time. After a night of excruciating pain, the next day, I went for an X-ray. I saw a thin black line on the image and it broke my heart. A stress fracture. So doctor’s orders were no walking for a week, no cycling for 4 weeks and no running for 6. I asked her if I can run the marathon in 8 weeks’ time and she said yes, if you are mad. And just like the different stages of grief, I went through different emotions, week after week.
Week 0: Denial. Feelings of this can’t be happening to me! I do not deserve this! How I am going to deal with this? Ran through my head. I had been in training for 6 months for the marathon and I was in the best shape I’ve been in years for a personal best and now it’s gone down the drain. So what does one do when they feel bad? Stuff your face with junk food.
Week 1: Anger. Time to go back to work after sitting on my butt for a week. My foot hurt so badly while getting my shoe on, that it felt like an achievement when I was done. Walking to the MRT, which usually takes me 5 mins, took me 25. I received annoyed stares from people because I was getting in their way. I reached work 45mins late and could barely move once I got to my seat. But like the 9gag meme goes, people brought me whatever I needed, which I had going for me, which is nice.
Week 2: Bargaining. I tried to find means to deal with the situation by sacrificing something else. Maybe if I go for a morning walk, it will help. Or maybe if I pray harder it’ll heal faster. Maybe this, maybe that. Of course, nature takes it course and there is no way to accelerate biology, I could not stop myself from bargaining that if you give up something, the foot will fix itself. Of course, its does not.
Week 3: Depression. And when you realise, there is no bargaining with biology, you get upset as the situation is not in control. For many nights, I cried to sleep because all my friends were carrying on their usual runs and they seemed to be having a good time and I felt left out. I did join them from breakfast a few times to catch up, but when they were discussing what races they would go for, I could only listen in envy and then feel sorry for myself.
Week 4: Acceptance. The worst moment came when I went for a routine medical check-up. Weight was up – 4 kgs. I realised that I had not only ignored to adjust my diet to my sedentary lifestyle but I had also consumed a ton of junk food. Though the whole roller coaster of emotions little did I realise that it was the 4th week. I was able to walk normally, so why not head to the chin up bar and do a few chin ups to try to get back into shape. Not being able to haul myself up, I hung like a bat before giving out a few seconds later.
Week 5: Meditation. This is where it all changed. Time to pump the tyres, clean the chain, check the brakes and bring my bike out for a spin. It was a sufferfest. I got passed so many times on the usual route where I used to kick butt, I felt sorry for myself. I slugged it out for an hour, came back, completed my bat training. After one these terrible rides, I was lazing at home when I came across a Youtube video of a cycling legend called Jen Voigt. He was talking about how painful climbing up the mountains in Tour de France was. He said that when his legs are about to give up in pain, he talks to them and tell them, ‘’Shut up Legs!’’. As I read up on him his theory of self-inflicted pain revolved around Rule #5 – ‘’Harden the F Up’’. So every week, for 3 times a week, I took my bike for a spin on the slopes of Mandai. It has a fantastic 15km loop which is of slopes good enough to make an adult cry in pain. So every week, I made sure I suffered like a dog on every single slope, and when I my legs and lungs were about to go bust, I sighed at myself, ‘Harden the F Up!’ On some days, just to intensify the suffering, I used to set off after the sun was up and ride well into the day in the heat. I was able to start off with one loop and by the end of 3 weeks of lung bursting and mind numbing training, I had not only lost the 4 kgs, I was stronger than I was before my injury. I remember I was so strong on those slopes that once I overtook a pack of riders, on an upslope at 40kph on my 4th loop reminding me to – Harden the F Up.
Week 9: Recovery. After many weeks on 2 wheels, I planned to go for a 10km run at an easy pace. After just 10 mins, I was so motivated that I committed to the full 17km route. I was hard as nails and I set such a blistering pace that I beat my personal best, by 10 mins. I knew I was back, stronger not just physically but mentally and emotionally. From the time 10 weeks back when I was groaning and moaning about my injury, to beating my personal best. I knew had Hardened the F Up!
So when I had my cycling accident in early August this year, after week of moaning and grumbling, I realised that I shouldn’t slide back to where I was 3 years ago. I was patient, ate right, try my best not be upset with a situation I cannot change, and tell myself that when the time to train comes, get into mediation mode with Rule #5. So since my injury, I haven’t gained a single kilo of weight and when I went for a run in Germany in mid-September, I set myself a hellish pace and I suffered through the training by reminding myself to obey Rule #5: Harden the F Up! Since then it’s been a meditation session every run and ride and although I’m not fully physically recovered yet, I’m sure meditation on this sacred rule get me there in due time. So ladies and gentlemen, when you come across moments that test you physically, mentally or emotionally, remember, when the going gets tough, Harden the F Up and you’ll be tough enough to going.
Thank you! Toastmaster of the evening