Mental Toughness And Being Honest

Calaveras Big Trees, South Grove, Arnold CACalaveras Big Trees, Sequoia’s of the South Grove, Arnold CA

“Fuck. This hurts.”

“Stop. Just stop.”

“I can’t do this.”

“Lets go home.”

“This sucks.”

“Dude. I am truly suffering. You have to stop. Or give me a REALLY good reason to keep going.”

Oh, the voices from within and the private psychological battles that are waged during any given endurance race. And similar battles that await during any given training day. Are you a quitter? Do you push through? If you do, why? Why do you push through? Wouldn’t it just be easier to go home? It fuckin’ hurts, after all.

Where does mental toughness come from?

Perseverance. Grit. Determination. Strength.  One is not born with these traits. Mental toughness is developed just as endurance base training is developed. Showing up everyday, even when it sucks the most, and getting it done. Mental toughness is a skill that needs to be developed just like an efficient swim stroke needs to be perfected over time.

Calaveras Big Trees, Sequoia’s of the South Grove, Arnold CA

“If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule: Never lie to yourself.”

~Paulo Coelho, Brazilian novelist

Your body will fight it and will rebel and will question you. No matter how tough you are, no matter how strong you are, no matter how physically fit you are, the voices will come. And it’s always during the run. And you HAVE to expect it. You have to prepare for it. Once you get over or just plain accept the monsters at the bottom of the open body of water, the swim is easy. Okay. It doesn’t hurt. Then you get on the bike. One can fake the bike. No. Really. You can. Ah. but then there is the run. You can not, you 100% absolutely can not fake the run. This is where your body will call your bluff and expose you. When you get off the bike after 55 miles, on shaky legs, and begin your Half Marathon, this is where it becomes a no-bullshit-zone, out there you can not lie to yourself. This is pivotal, this is the one place where you must, you simply must respect one rule – do not lie to yourself.

Mental toughness comes from a place of pure, raw, truth.

The run is where you reach into your invisible pocket and take out the reason, the why of what’s behind the motivation of you putting your body through this.

Really. No bullshit. Your why may be for a “PR” (personal record),  or to qualify for another race, or to simply finish this race. And all of those are great reasons. Great, clear-cut goals that will get you to the finish. But I am going to take it up a notch and ask why do you need to do better than last time? Why do you need to get to a more challenging race? Why do you need to finish?

The answers may surprise you.

My answers brought me to my knees.

This where you become raw, this is where you expose yourself to yourself. And it’s not an easy thing to do.

Calaveras Big Trees, Sequoia’s of the South Grove, Arnold CA

Honesty and frankness makes everyone vulnerable. Not only in racing, but in every aspect of life.

While I am very well aware that only 1% of the population has completed a marathon, only 1/3 of 1% have completed a triathlon of any distance. Further, only 1/1000 of 1% of the population has completed an Ironman So I realize that this is a small population I am preaching to. But trust me, this is a truth of life. Look at any goal you may have, look at what’s behind it, and be truthful with yourself. Look at your actions, do they contradict what you say? There is no place for excuses when it comes to mental toughness. Only honesty. So you quit? Who cares. Did you get back up? Without excuses? So you didn’t finish a race, I don’t care. What I care about is if you showed up for second race, and I could care less is you had a panic attack in the water? Did you go on to finish? Yeah? Great! Did you have a third race? Yeah? And you did awesome? Oh how awesome is that!

That. That is mental toughness. That is how mental toughness is developed.

The key to mental toughness is working-out the mental toughness muscle. It is not developed over night. It is showing up day in and day out, most especially when you don’t feel like showing up. When it sucks bad, and you are there, working it. This is where confidence to finish, to reach your goal, comes from. This is where when you’re on the run and your body says “Dude. I am truly suffering. You have to stop. Or give me a REALLY good reason to keep going”  You will be prepared with a reason, with a why, that will get you to the finish line. In all the races of life.

Calaveras Big Trees, Sequoia’s of the South Grove, Arnold CA

The use of the pictures of Sequoia’s is not random or coincidental.

All the pictures are of the Sequoia’s in the South grove of Calaveras Big Trees.

And my “big race” is in seven weeks. For those that are curious. Lake Stevens, Washington 70.3


  1. OMG, so great to hear from you. Always live your blog AND your awesome pictures. Please keep your race updates coming? Also curious…are you still working for a travel nursing agency? Are you liking working in California better than other places? You can private email me, I don’t have yours or I would have emailed a long time ago lol!!

    • Thank you, Kathy. For your continued support and always for your kind words. I know I don’t make it easy for folks to stay in touch. Well. “Easy” in this day & age (Facebook, etc) but I do appreciate you keeping up with the blog. xoxo, Tahira (and I just sent you an email)

  2. Nice to “see you”! I’ve been checking for news from time to time, and happy to hear the preparations are in full swing for the important race in mid August. As you say, mental toughness and honesty to oneself will be useful in life – anywhere, anytime. I wish you the best in your continued preparations and will root for you on August 16! Hugs, Tiny

  3. Gosh, I’ve missed your posts! As you know, mental toughness is a work in progress for me. Pushing through those tough runs, like my most recent 13.1, are what hones that skill. Mental toughness is more important than any physical training you can do.

    You got this, Tahira! Sharing your post because it is so awesome…

    • Thank you so much, Wendy. Not only for sharing but for you continued amazing support. Pushing through on the “little” things day in and day out is what makes the 13.1 possible (and man oh man that WAS a tough 13.1 for you – most anyone else would of given up and gone home!) You are my hero, for real. Xoxo

  4. The images, once again in familiar territory… the iron-man thing – huge admiration and wishing you great luck and endurance and all the other stuff you need. Still hoping to have you stop by???

    • The Ironman “nonsense” (as a good friend calls it) Feel free to use it. It makes me laugh! For some days, I do indeed feel very nonsensical! And yes! I would love to stop by on the way back from Washington State. I will be in touch. And thank you, my friend for all your support, always!

  5. The mental toughness muscle is a great term, Tahira, and the lessons you just shared are important all through life.I believe you have “the right stuff” for the big race on Aug. 16th. My thoughts are with you. I agree with Wendy. You got this!!

    • Thank you so much, Lynne. I wear a couple of bracelets with motivational words or phrases on them. I think my next one will be “the right stuff” – Not because I myself feel I have the right stuff, but because this journey has opened my eyes to the possibility of achieving, of earning that title. Thank you for your words and inspiration and always for your support. Xoxo

  6. Tahira, your mental toughness muscle must be like a bridge cable now. I had never thought to compare what I do, to what you do, but you’re right: any self discipline commitment process where you turn up for yourself no matter what builds mental toughness. You don’t have to train for a triathlon thank goodness. I really enjoyed the insight into what goes on in your mind, and the conversations you’re having with yourself. It’s just you and the truth isn’t it?

    • Oh Sara, just “you and the truth”, how appropriately put. Triathlon has this way of striping people of their BS, it’s been a raw, tough, but at the same time amazing journey. And absolutely, it is THE perfect metaphor for life. Like going back to Univ? That is an endeavor of Ironman caliber! Thank you for continued support, it truly means the world to me. Xoxo

  7. You are so right: if you don’t have a why, it’s easy to quit.

    You may have just given me a blog post, as well. I finished my last half marathon, but did I quit on it? Did my why allow me to quit?

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

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