I was invited to the GSK Human Performance Lab in London earlier in the year for some baseline physical testing. It was through my close friend Dr. Barry O'Neill. He asked me to also do a judgement test via a company called Peak Dynamics. I had just arrived back from Canada after the Yukon Arctic Ultra - a 300 Mile winter ultra marathon and I had 3 weeks before heading to Siberia to cross Lake Baikal. I took the test before I went to London, then when I was at the lab, I sat down with Sandy Loder of Peak Dynamics to have a chat about the results.
The test wasn't really a test, it was two sets of bizarre phrases that you arrange in what you think is the most important to the least important. The creator of it won a noble prize. It can't be gamed and it will give you a full and uncanny breakdown of your strengths and weaknesses in relation decision making. The index helps to identify blind spots and biases. I believe this process was the defining factor for my success in completing the Lake Baikal expedition. I sucessfully traversed the entire frozen lake on foot solo over 17 days covering over 700km.
From my initial test I scored very highly on being self driven/self motivated but scored below par in self concept/role satisfaction. Which means that my balance of judgement was way off. In my sort of situations this could mean life or death. As an example I could be climbing a mountain and I could be so focused on reaching the summit that i'd ignore the warnings of avalanche or weather risk. This was also due to fact that I just coming from a race organised Ultra Marathon where I could push very hard and still be very close to help should things get bad. Going to Siberia was 100% on my own and I had to make good decisions in order to complete the expedition safely.
When i was in Siberia both my stoves broke. I had to ask for help and get replacements early on in the expedition. I lost my unsupported status but it didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. I was safe and I had taken a step back and made a good decision. The next defining moment came when I reached about the half way mark after a very hard 8 days on the ice. I had been putting in multiple 60km days in extreme winds to make up ground for when I was stalled getting the stoves sorted. I was also low on trail snacks, I was eating more to deal with the demands i was putting on my body and everything was compounding. So I made the decision to take a night off the ice in a home stay to gather myself and dry some kit. My sleeping bag and tent were frozen solid. Beyond the half way point on the lake there was no towns or villages until the very end of the lake in the north. So I was going to be hundred's of kilometers from any assistance.
This was a key vital decision I had to make. All the testing that Sandy does on other athletes and extreme adventurers leads to poor judgement under fatigue. So to make this good decision was important and it helped me move on the next day slighty refreshed but in a much better position mentally to finish the expedition. Most people take the easy route in life, endurance athletes want to do hard things, to suffer and be pushed to their limit, but this can be our down fall. Going off the ice for one night I somehow rationalised that I was taking the easy route, but in fact it was the smart thing to do. Learning this balance is key for me especially for the upcoming row.
I have always defined myself as an all or nothing kind of guy, go hard or go home sort of mentality. But I'm having to redefine all this. Learning to redirect my efforts in potentially life or death situations is of the upmost importance. Again this was tested last week on a training row off the west coast of Ireland. I spilled boiling water on my foot, in a bad spot that was affected when I rowed. I had to call a friend of a friend to come tow me into the island I was headed for a few miles away. I initially cursed myself for my stupid mistake. In the past I've always allowed myself a sort of grace period when a mistake is made, but thats even under review now. I am trying to be less reactionary, so i can make good decisions. Burning up energy foolishly giving myself a hard time achieves nothing.
Project managing the row has been one of the most challenging things i've ever done. The whole thing is so involved. From the paperwork admin to the boat and equipment on it to having 90 days of food broken down into 5,000 calories a day. All the PR work I'm doing to gain sponsorship. Then juggling all that with training up to 3 times a day. It's probably been the most stressful time of my life. In the last review of the judgement index I have tried to gain more structure over my day to take away the stress of being in constant reaction. To make a better plan of my day and allocate my time efficiently. So far I'm not doing very good with that to be honest. I like to go with flow and do things as they come up. But with the amount of cogs in this wheel I need to have a better picture of where I'm at. Otherwise I'm just spinning plates and not getting a clear picture of where I'm at, therefore causing more stress.
Lesson for the week - 'Listen to all feedback, but take action selectively' - One of my other blind spots that came from the judgement index that I've been working on was that I was not inclined to listen to others and I still don't! But I do receive feedback and comments from many people here and there. I am extremely grateful for anyones advice, input or opinion surrounding anything be it the row or personal. But I can't take action on everything or else I'd be a right mess. I look to myself ultimately to make the right decision but I selectively will seek out those I trust to guide me in the right way. A good example of this is my tattoos, I have several and one extremely large one that covers alot of the right hand side of my body. I have never asked anyone what they thought of them, nor did I ask someones opinion on what to get and where. These sorts of decisions are the easy ones for me, but I have to wisely recognise situations where I need help and not be afraid to ask for it.