I read Rebecca Rusch’s book a while ago called “Rusch to Glory”. I knew of her and little about her accomplishments, but it wasn’t until I read the book that I found this newfound respect for a different breed of endurance athlete. She’s not just a badass mountain biker, she’s a world class paddler and rafter, a big wall climber, and all around amazing athlete. She’s not just the Queen of the Mountain, she’s the Queen of Pain. She can grit through situations that would break most people and that’s something I respect far more than actual accolade. I respect the ability to succeed but I respect it more when it is connected to the ability to suffer. And not just the typical suffering that a road cyclist has during a century race, and not just the suffering that a triathlete has at the tail end of an ironman. I mean the kind of suffering where you feel like you’re playing with the edge of the universe. Where the weather, the world, your body, the elements and the challenge are all beating down on you with the fury of a lifetime of track meets and thru hikes. Where your hair hurts, your eyes want to close and you want to sleep, but instead, you dig deep and perform instead. Grit, to me, is true greatness. Toughness is not something easily taught. I believe it’s something inside of you–the ability to not crumble like the weight of the world is coming down on you, when the weight of the world is actually coming down on you. Yes, there is a way to gain toughness, but it has to come from within. I know some pretty amazing athletes who aren’t mentally strong. Maybe they’ll get there, or maybe they’ll never have to in order to succeed doing what they want to do. For me, a challenge isn’t a true challenge unless it’s testing both my physical and my mental strength. I want to put myself into situations that test my ability to stay mentally strong. Because just like any muscle, you have to keep it active if you want it to be there for you when it counts.