35 miles of running. 10,000 feet of climbing.  9.5 hours of one foot in front of the other.   

For the first time since the Rio Olympics, I wanted to be tested again physically. That’s why I signed up for an ultramarathon in Whistler B.C. When I first committed to this race, running four miles felt like hard work. I had no idea how it would go. Here’s my story: 

I first started formally training my mind in the four years leading up to the Rio Olympics. To be honest, I initially committed to investing in mindset because I thought it would help me win a gold medal. What I realized over the next four years was that while it helped me play better than I ever had, it fundamentally changed the experience of pursuing my best.   

I started having fun again. Moments and circumstances that were previously stressful for me started to become enjoyable, and I couldn’t wait to be in moments of challenge to see how I could show up a little better than the previous time. I cared about the outcome as much as I had before, but I now knew the cost of holding on “too tightly.”  I was locked into the process and committed to bringing all of me to each moment. This gave me a sense of freedom while competing I had never felt before, and I was hooked.   

Since retiring from volleyball, I’ve been using these mindset skills while navigating a new career as well as encountering the changes that come with retiring from a sport I played for 20 years. Every day at work with Compete to Create I have been inspired by hearing the stories of people who are continuing to push what’s possible for themselves at work and in their home lives. That inspiration is what drove me to reconnect with the feeling of pushing my own boundaries. 

How would my mental skills show up — or not — for me while attempting to run farther than I ever had? This is what I went to explore. 

The race was everything we hoped it would be. We got uncomfortable, we laughed, we worked together, we felt new “pain,” and we learned what it takes to keep pushing when my body was screaming for me to stop. What I appreciate most about really being exhausted is that it tends to bring out a more honest connection with yourself, with others, and the world around you. This was the greatest joy I felt in this race. Exploring new edges within myself, while having an overwhelming support of volunteers, as well as the natural connection that comes with being “in it” with other runners giving it their all. It was an incredible reminder of how much stronger we can be when we’re connected to others, and this is what has stuck with me more than anything else.  

Our race time didn’t matter, the hours of training felt forgotten. What I was left with was a sense of community and connection. Since that ultra, I find more joy in supporting my friends and family in their own pursuits and am much more intentional about seeking out opportunities to do so. There is so much more within us when we are connected to others, it still fires me up when reflecting on those moments in the race. The moments when I felt like I had nothing left, and one look, one comment, helped me dig deeper and push through. The simple reminder that we all have much more strength within than we often give ourselves credit for.   

Reconnecting to myself in this extreme way helped me to tap into that more in my everyday life, and fired me up to continue training my mind so I can fully experience the richness of each moment.  

My hope is that everyone we work with at Compete to Create can find their own way to reconnect — to themselves, to their communities, and the rhythm of the world that fires them up.  It’s in this place that the pursuit of what’s possible becomes really, really fun.  

With fire,

Courtney Thompson

Training mindset principles is important for anyone looking to improve personal performance. These principles are covered in the Finding Your Best course. Apply today to join the next cohort.