This Motivation Type Gives You the Power to Summit Mountains

Banner Photo By Nathan Anderson


Podcast Script Below

By Dave Nelson, Founder at Milestone Mind

June 28, 2017

The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.
— Norman Vincent Peale

There is one form of motivation that will give you the power to push way past your perceived limits of yourself. 

Hint: it is not intrinsic motivation; which I often talk about with reference to the motivation continuum and a key motivation type that sustains long-term desire for an activity.

It's actually an external motivator, but the only motivator type outside of yourself that gives you more sustained motivation than the internal motivation type of intrinsic.

What could possible motivate us more than an activity that is intrinsically interesting to us?

Let's find out.

There Stu and I were this past weekend. It was the night before the Sea2Summit race (1.5 mile swim, 95-mile bike from the ocean, to a 5-mile run to the summit of Mt. Washington), and we were meeting as a small race group to review the details of the course, and take a look at the swim.

The race was very bare-bones; and lacked a lot of details, including not having the bike route marked at all.

In fact, the only directions we got about the bike route, less than 12-hours away from the race start was, "however you want to get to Mount Washington from here is up to you. Just get there."

Me, "huh?"

Stu and I looked at each other and laughed, and not sure about him, but my heart sank. 

It was definitely a gut-check moment of, "We didn't plan for the route, can I still do this?"

This was choice number one where this external motivator type thrust me ahead despite the confusion, fear and lack of details of how to get from point A, the ocean, to Point B, Mount Washington, 90+ miles away, and would later find, straight uphill the entire race. More on that later.

This type of external motivation gave me the power I needed to push forwards.

We would then walk from the swim area, which was about 1/2 mile from the bike transition, and buried in the woods down a rocky and rooted path, to return to the start line to talk about the sherpa plan of attack.

Stu, my father-in-law, was the sherpa for the weekend.

After we gave the sherpas a round of applause thanking them for joining us, and things quieted down, the race director went on to describe the proper use of the sherpa for the race.

He exclaimed, "just make sure your sherpa doesn't hand anything to you outside of their window, but make sure they are stopping every 10-20 miles to give you what you need, be it fluids or fuel."

Me, "huh?"

I totally misread the website, and thought the sherpa was to have no contact with the riders at all during the bike, and that the racer had to carry their own fluids and fuel. That's what I had planned for.

This was my second gut check in 10-minutes, that this external motivator gave me the power to thrust ahead, despite not being as prepared as I thought I was.

Stu was going to just have to go ahead to the mountain, and I was going to have to carry my heavy backpack for the ride. Hopefully I'm not the only one.

They then went on to say we were going to Summit as the weather was looking good. Stu and I looked at each other with two-shit eating grins, grabbed our race schwag and went back to our AirBnB (of which the couple we were staying with were in the room sleeping next to us), to unpack, eat, and go to sleep.

I am lucky to have Stu in my life, and in particular with me at the race.

He is always generous with his time, and always up for a challenge that will push his limits.

When we got back to the house, we had a moment of panic, thinking about how I had screwed up around using the sherpa, and questioned if we should write out a plan of attack for stops along the route.

I decided against this because it was already getting late into the night, and I still had to manually input my bike route details into mapmyrun with the hopes this would be my navigation for the morning. 

I finished up this manual process around 8:30p, ate my usual dinner of bone broth with sprouts and coconut oil, and chicken thighs with greens, and headed up for my correctives from Jenna and a cold shower.

I'm in bed by 9p, which should give me plenty to sleep before 3:30a.

Lots of unknowns and challenges facing us in the morning. 

Challenge one of the race was getting up at 3:30a to be to the race by 4:30 for a 5a start. There is no doubt this external motivation type is what got both him and I out of bed at this time the next morning to embark upon this great unknown of a race.

And I needed this motivation. I didn't sleep at all. My adrenaline was pumping so hard, I was getting up every 30-minutes to go to the bathroom. I maybe slept 60-minutes.

My alarm goes off at 3:30a.

I perform thirty deep breaths, followed by the correctives Jenna gave me from Milestone Fitness, and take another cold shower - my morning ritual to wake it up. 

I make a quick green tea, and we head out. 

We arrive tired but ready to go.

At this point, I am fully internally motivated, and psyched for the event, despite the several unknowns and terrible night's sleep.

As we exit the car, we are informed that the swim had been cancelled due to thunderstorms in the area, and I was immediately intrinsically disappointed.

Swimming used to be a huge weakness of mine, that I've now turned into a strength, and I was excited to perform it in this race.

Not today.

We quickly move on, and get ready for the bike. To make up for the lack of swim, we were informed that it was going to downpour for the next 90-miles to the summit of Mount Washington.

A nice little wrinkle to make the race more interesting.

I grab my huge sack of fluids and fuel, and had another 'oh shit,' gut check moment when I threw it on my back realizing this was not light - it was going to be a good 20+lbs for the next 90 miles.

I get to the start-line, look around, and sure enough, I'm the only one that has a traveling pack on - everyone else got the memo about the sherpas. 

Well, I'm still intrinsically motivated to do this race, despite the gear in tow, and excited for the added challenge in a weird way. 

I thought, 'hey, if I do well, especially with a backpack on, that would be gnarly and cool."

I hop on my bike, and we're off. 

10-miles and I am in the top 5% of the pack, moving along nicely, and drinking and fueling properly. 

20-miles in, and still in the top 5-10% of the pack, but beginning to realize, this is an entirely uphill race.

30-miles in, I finish my first water bottle, and ate my first banana. 

I should have enough for the next 60-miles, right? 

35-miles in, I am still humming along, but beginning to run much lower than I thought I would at this point on fluids and fuel.

40-miles in, and the incline just keeps increasing.

Mile 41 came much slower, and I am powering through my fluids and fuel.

43-miles in, I give Stu a call to see if maybe he's close - he's not, he's already at the mountain, as we had planned.

45-miles in, I am down to one water bottle and a small bag of plantain chips for the next 45-miles, and it is down pouring.

45.5-miles in, I turn the corner, change the gears to tackle another incline, and within an instant, my legs lock up completely.

The group I was with pulls way ahead, and I am now alone in the back country of New Hampshire.

I am at a dead-stop.

I unlock my shoes from the pedals, and bring myself immediately to one knee to attempt to stretch.

I'd go one way, and the opposite muscle would cramp.

The only noise I could hear was the pouring rain on my helmet and the trees around me.

I got off of my knee, my legs in excruciating pain, and looked to the sky with the rain showering onto my face.

The first thought that came through was, "I've worked so hard, and it's ending not even 1/2 way through the bike, let alone running up the mountain?"

I couldn't believe this was happening, and I was tempted to turn angry.

This was no longer intrinsically enjoyable, and me feeling sorry for myself was not getting me moving forward at this point. I was faced with a decision. Quit, or find a way to get back on my bike, and persist.

And then I had the moment that changed everything.

Thoughts on my wife Jenna and my two sons Henry and Luke came to mind, and I saw them cheering me on, wishing for me to continue. 

I saw all of the people that put in so much hard work at our facility, Stu who had come up to join me, and how much this race meant to our community, not just myself.

I thought of my brother Chris and how if he could've had just one more day, that he'd forge ahead.

And then I made a decision that had nothing to do with the race necessarily. And that was deciding on, in that instant, what type the of husband, dad, leader, son-in-law, brother and friend I wanted to be in this moment, and that would be required of me right now. 

I decided I was going to be a man that didn't quit for them, who was going to be strong for them, and to put aside my pain for them.

It was no longer about me. It was what was required of me for my tribe.

This type of motivation? It's called integration motivation, it's an external motivation, and it is driven almost purely because of all of your loved ones, and not your enjoyment necessarily. 

I all of a sudden had a shared sense of purpose, as I envisioned my tribe needing me to finish the race just as badly for them, as it was for me.

They wanted me to finish, cheered me on, fought for me, and now, I was going to fight for them back.

After almost getting emotional over the site of these people, my body warmed with strength, and my pain suddenly started to subside. 

I had something to ride for now. No pain was going to stop that.

I was riding for my tribe.

I scrounged up fuel and fluids for the next 45-miles, and became resourceful where I could, even borrowing from someone else's sherpa.

I continued to the mountain 45-miles later, drenched in rain and in immense pain. I gave the bike to Stu, threw on my Hoka running shoes, and ran 3-miles up that mountain, and 3-miles back down.

The mountain proved to be challenging, but I would just think of my tribe, and my pain would go away, and I became powerful again.

I finished, and gave Stu a big hug, and although wanted to cry because of the strength I derived from my tribe from afar, I just bent down and said 'thank you', as if I didn't have them in my mind cheering me on, I wouldn't have finished.

That moment, 45-miles in, was truly that challenging. It was a choice I had to make - quit, or find a way to move forward.

I moved forward because I moved from being internally and intrinsically motivated up until that point, to being externally and integrated motivated - seeing sites of my family and tribe - and that these were people I wanted to fight for, gaining the power I needed to forge ahead.

So, the next time you have that real gut check, a moment where you are brought to your knees, and you have the chance to decide to either quit or move ahead, become externally motivated, and think about the people that would fight for you, and that in that moment, you are being asked to fight for them. 

I think you might just get the power you need to summit whatever mountain you are climbing.