Day 44: Joe De Sena

Breakfast: BP Coffee
Lunch: Chicken salad; ½ avocado
Dinner: Chilango pork salad; 60g macadamias

Exercise: Jog to work

I was working late again today so I ate at work. I went for a Chilango pork salad and some macadamias. That’s about as healthy as you can eat in the city at this time of night.


Last night I decided to jog into work. I used to do it, but I haven’t done it recently. I have a new gym bag that goes across my shoulders, unlike a backpack. It’s kinda uncomfortable when I run because it bounces around. Running into work would be quite useful though. It means I get some exercise while I’m fasted, I don’t have to take time out from work to exercise, and it’s cheaper.

Anyway I was listening to this podcast last night. There are a couple of outrageous stories in it, and even if you don’t read the rest of this post, the stories are worth a listen. It’s an interview with Joe De Sena, who created Spartan Races. At the start of the podcast I thought he was an ultra-endurance guy. He had done an Ironman, a 100km run in the desert and some other mental race, all in the space of a week. He sounded kinda dull, but I figured I could learn something about grit and endurance from him.

It turns out he doesn’t just run Spartan races. He also created Death races. Entrants sign a waver declaring that they can’t hold Joe responsible if they die during the race. One part of a race involved standing in freezing water (they had to cut a hole in the ice to get people in) for 20 mins. When they get out they have to shoot a gun at a target. If they hit they go to the next stage. If they miss, they get back in the water for another 20 mins. But it’s OK, the entrants needn’t worry about whether they hit the target or not. The target is tiny; they have no chance of hitting it. They’ll surely be getting back in the water :) In another race they had to collect their race bibs before getting to the start line. Unfortunately the bibs were left in a bull ring. With a bull, obviously. You can see a short clip of it here.

When you’re faced with a life and death experience, it changes your perspective. When you are pushed beyond where you thought your limits were, you realise you’re capable of so much more. Joe isn’t just a masochist, his message is that when we step out of our comfort zone, our comfort zone grows. The more time we spend outside it, the more we are capable of. It ties in to the theory of hormesis. A small amount hurts us, but we become stronger in response to it, like a vaccine. Taleb calls it “antifragility”.

I was familiar with the ideas already, but it was only after listening to this podcast (and others that he had been on) that the idea was seared into my consciousness. When I heard about all the insane things that this guy did, I couldn’t really justify not running into work just because my bag was “uncomfortable” or because it made running “inconvenient”. I just needed to grow some balls, pack my bag and start running. Shut up and do it.

On the back of all that, I applied to go on The Island with Bear Grylls. If selected, I would go to an island for 6 weeks with 13 others and have to survive by whatever means. I made it to the last 50 (out of 70,000). Unfortunately I wasn’t selected. I was gutted. I knew what a life-changing experience it could have been. I was also pissed off because I have a feeling they selected some really banal people to go instead. We’ll see. Anyway, on the back of that disappointment I started thinking about Kokoro Camp. I don’t know when, but I want to get there soon.

It also reminds me how useful it is to have inspirational stuff handy. If you can find a way of keeping inspirational books, images, podcasts around they can be a small kick in the arse just when you need them. Seriously download this podcast now!