Last summer, 36-year-old Josh Sanders set a new world climbing record after taking on ten 14,000-foot Colorado peaks in one day.
It was an achievement years in the making for the endurance athlete and marketing exec from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
He'd tried and failed in 2017, realizing he didn't plan the best possible route. That year, he made just five of the peaks needed for the record.
Even last summer, after 21 hours of hiking and climbing in the mountains above 11,000 feet, Sanders reached a false summit, discovered he had a half mile more to climb and nearly lost hope.
"My body was destroyed," Sanders said. "My mind was defeated, my 15-minute lead on record pace had evaporated." All he could see was "an insurmountable mountain fading into the darkness."
"You find out who you really are in those moments," he said. He decided to "rage until midnight" and push forward, letting "the chips fall where they may."
"I'm proud of that response. The fact it all worked out and the record was achieved is just icing on the cake."
In the end, he finished his challenge in a full calendar day as opposed to a 24-hour period like the previous record holder, according to WWMT.com.
Moments like these take dedication and planning but are the truest test of your capabilities. In an interview with CNBC Make It, Sanders shared his tips for anyone looking to reach ambitious goals.
Finding ways to maintain both mental and physical focus is critical, Sanders said. To stay focused and stay on track, plan for tough moments when you are tired and more likely to make bad decisions and abandon your best instincts.
Sanders learned this hard lesson in 2017 when he over-exerted himself on an early attempt to climb ten mountains in just one day. Learning from this mistake, he wore a heart rate monitor in 2018 and never let his heart rate get over 145.
"Your heart rate is a true indicator of intensity and I let that dictate my effort level the entire day," Sanders said. "It allowed me to be consistent and pace myself without leaving time on the table."
The monitor helped him stay calm and steady. "It's so easy to get caught up in the moment."
Living in Michigan, his training conditions weren't exactly ideal for a high-altitude ultra-marathon mountain run, he explained to the Denver Post last July. As a result, creativity was key.
To get in the best shape possible for last summer's attempt, Sanders paired 20 mile-runs with hour-long stints on a StairMaster. Some weeks he'd run between 80 and 100 miles a week.
Sanders said he'd often cap a training day with a power hike up sand dunes near Lake Michigan. "I've had a few beach goers ask me if everything was okay," Sanders said. "Apparently normal people don't hike up huge sand dunes all day."
This blend of resourcefulness and consistency was essential to ensuring he kept moving forward and met his potential, he said. "We tend to underestimate what we can do in a day and overestimate what we can do in a year. It's not 'just' a day and you can waste an entire year really easily if you're not careful."
While big goals can be satisfying, they can also be daunting to achieve. He says that people attacking a tough goal should remind themselves that goal-setting is a process and it's essential to celebrate little victories.
For instance, he said, there's no reason why people new to running shouldn't attempt to run a full marathon. But before they reach that goal, they should also plan to run and celebrate their first 5K, 10K and half marathon as they train. This approach will help them stay motivated and encouraged.
These small milestones will help you hit big goals — the kind you should always be setting for yourself, Sanders advised. "Life is short. Your goal shouldn't be to brush your teeth every day. Find what you love, dream big, go after it like crazy."
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