It was a little after 4 AM when I got to the starting line. It was freezing cold — barely 20 degrees outside. I was wearing Nike running tights, a compression shirt, and a light running jacket.
It was my last race of the year — a 50 miler through horse trails in beautiful North Carolina. It was early and cold, and I was nervous — which makes everything a little more frustrating than it needs to be.
I needed help.
I was wearing a hat and gloves and struggling to get water in my running bottle without getting myself wet. I wanted to ditch the water bottle and just run empty-handed — but I wondered if that would be a mistake 10 miles it.
As I was fumbling around trying to figure this out, I heard a bit of wisdom from the runner standing next to me: “I’m not taking any water with me. It’s too cold right now to get dehydrated.”
That seemed to make sense to me.
It was 4 AM and cold. This guy was an expert. You don’t need water when its cold outside.
I turned my head lamp on and headed to the starting line, waiting for the gun to go off. When the race started, I joined a pack of runners who jumped ahead of the rest of the athletes. As we stumbled around in the darkness, trying not to miss the trail, we chatted a little bit about who we were and where we were from.
Taking our minds off the run.
My new friend with the advice about not needing to drink any water shared a little more information with the rest of us: “This is my first ultra-marathon,” he commented, “I’m just hoping I can finish in 13 hours.”
If it wasn’t so cold I would have punched myself right in the face. I had just accepted advice from an idiot. And that’s just me being mean because he wasn’t really an idiot. He was just a newbie with a lot of excitement.
I was the idiot.
Why? Because I bought into his advice — simply because I was confused at the moment and he sounded confident. I was willing to buy into this theory that “you don’t need water when it’s cold outside”.
What sounded logical to me at the time is something that you know is absolutely dead wrong. I believed it. I wanted to believe it. I accepted it as truth.
Because I got intellectually lazy.
Ten miles later into my ultra-marathon I grabbed a water bottle and finished running. I finished in second place overall. A few minutes behind the winner. My friend, with a great advice, finished 8 hours later. (Good for him. I’m glad he had the guts to stick it out when things get tough.)
I learned a lesson about accepting advice. It’s easy to assume that the person telling you what to do knows more than you. But maybe they’re just as confused as you are. Maybe what you’re hearing isn’t what you need to be doing.
Take the time to find the right answers.
Don’t automatically accept what is quick or easy.
When you feel most vulnerable you want to believe what seems most comforting at the time — which is most likely the wrong advice for you.
Remember that. Dig deep. Think for yourself.
Have an edgy conversation with yourself.
Push past easy or quick to find answers that truly get you closer to where you want to be in the long run.
And, if you decide to go running at 4 AM for 50 miles, you definitely should bring some water with you.