In 2006 I was part of a team of 12 people that ran in a 197 mile relay race in Portland OR called Hood to Coast. I was one of the more experienced distance runners on our team which meant I was going to take on some of the most challenging legs of the race. Hood to Coast starts at the base of Mount Hood in Portland and ends at the beach at Sea Side, there are 36 legs and each runner on the team runs 3 legs.
Leg 29, here is how Leg 29 is described on the Hood to Coast website.
LEG DESCRIPTION: Very challenging up and downhills through winding wooded section of HWY 202.
Leg 29 was also my last leg, I had already ran 15 miles in under 24 hours, slept in a van, and consumed more Gatorade and Clif bars than you ever should. Image the most difficult endurance challenge you have ever endured, then run 15 miles less than 24 hours before you start the real challenge.
The first 4 miles are running straight up a mountain. It starts at 700 ft and climbs to 1,400 ft in the first 4 miles, and at the steepest part of this climb, it goes straight up 300 ft in less than 1 mile. There were switch backs on the steepest part that felt like running up a flat ladder.
This was my mountain, and in 2006 during my first Hood to Coast, I conquered it. I ran the relay race again in 2008, and I ran Leg 29 again, this time the mountain won. I still completed the leg, but I had to stop several times and walk.
The difference between the first time I faced Leg 29 and the second time? I knew where the top of the mountain was. The first time I ran the race, I had no sense of where the top of the mountain was, without knowing where it was, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.
In 2008 I knew exactly where I was and how far I had to go to get to the top of the mountain. It was easier to pull back and walk for 30 seconds and then start running again, especially in the steepest parts.
Yes you need to know where you are going, you need to know what the finish line looks like, but in the middle of the event, activity and/or project sometimes it’s better to not know where the top of the mountain is. Sometimes in the middle of the project it’s best to keep your head down and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.