but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes

Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, 1789

July 15 became Tax Day in 2020. As you may know, I do taxes seasonally, and finished my regular contract April 15. Since then I had been on the sideline – but 2020 is a year like no other, so I got the call to come back and help at the beginning of July.

People always ask how crazy April 15 gets in the tax office; the truth is in our location it’s not particularly busy. This, however, is 2020 – and July 15 (and the whole week leading up to it) was beyond insane in the tax office. We estimated that in our office alone, there were 250 returns dropped off in the last week of the season.

I did taxes in a hotel room, answered emails and worked on returns remotely at my day job, worked in the office into the night… That deadline at the end never moves, after all. As I steeled myself for the last couple days, trying to figure how I was going to get all my assigned work completed, I was reminded by a friend that I’m only one person; there’s only so much I can do. She also used a phrase I have seen before:

It’s a fun thing to think, and even say out loud. (Seriously – try it the next time someone dumps a rush project on you!) The truth, though, is that I’m hardwired not to say “No”. Generally, I tend to take on whatever is put in front of me, and volunteer for more.

I know I’m not the only one – many of my friends are infected with the same disease, and we all have something that pokes our crazy. Goal-driven is one thing – physically unable to resist a new challenge is quite another. (Ahem… I’m looking at you, Nell.)

Goal Races

Running any goal race, doing something that will fundamentally change how you think about yourself, is a huge step. (Whoa – hard left turn of topic! Hang with me now…) Exactly what that looks like changes for each person, and changes over time. You may start with a 5k and realize you can do this. Then the goal race becomes a 10k, or a half, or whatever it may be for you. Spartan racing, and obstacle course racing (OCR) in general, is often a goal race because of the mud, the mentality, and the different physical challenges involved. I often see people at the start line who literally look like they woke up today and decided to go do a race.

Again, that’s not how I’m wired. I want to, no need to prepare myself the best I can. The first 5k I ever did, I didn’t know how it would feel to run with all those people around me – but I knew how it would feel to run 3.1 miles. My first Spartan, however, I only marginally knew what to expect. I talked to some people, watched Youtube videos – but not knowing what obstacles and what order and what they would be like was a little scary. Which, after all, was the point – get out of a comfort zone and challenge yourself.

In the end I prepared the best I knew how for that day in Chicago, and have fine tuned my race prep since then. Every OCR is a little different, but the same key factors come into play at some level: endurance, core, grip, and mental strength. So I do the work and challenge myself every day to get better – Progress not Perfection, as we say.

That’s how I try to approach life in general these days. Especially in 2020, Spartan mimics life. You don’t know what’s coming next, you get one shot to get it right, and win or lose, you move on to the next challenge after paying whatever penalty is needed. If I’m being truthful, I regretted saying yes and going back to the tax office while I was doing it. The volume of stress I felt was a bit of a soul crush. Same time, I got to see and spend time with some of my prior clients and coworkers.

In the end, this is what I have been preparing for the last few years. Was it always fun? No. Was it inevitable? Well, once I said yes it sure seems like it…

No, Mr. Chow – I didn’t die, and I helped some people. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to make it worthwhile and bring you back for the next challenge.

If you are chasing after a goal race, or want to help someone achieve theirs, check out Richard’s Racers. This arm of the 1DOS Foundation works to help people reach their goals by taking money off the table.

Cover Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay