Pillars of the Process

Looking up, I see a false summit and a massive rock garden separating me from the summit of Mt. Tallac. It’s a near-perfect Tahoe day and I have 1700 feet of vertical to go. All I can do is put one foot in front of the other with all of my mental energy focused on the summit. I am deep in the pain cave and calling this Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempt Type 2 fun is definitely a stretch. I love to dig deep and push my limits, but on this day, all I can think about is getting up and down in a matter of time. Big time spoiler alert: I was immensely relieved once I made it to the summit, I sprinted down and got the female unsupported FKT. But the whole time I was focused on the outcome. I was stoked to accomplish this, though I often wonder if it would have been more fulfilled and faster if I fully engulfed myself in the process.

Photo: Sav Cummins

The process is essentially everything that is in your control prior to a race, competition, hard workout, FKT attempt, or project. This includes but is not limited to all of your training, performance specific choices, past learning experiences, your warm-up, daily habits, nutrition strategy, and how you construct your mindset. Trusting the process is trusting the preparation and hard work that brought you to the starting line. By emphasizing the process, you take your mind away from the result and the time. This opens the door to fully engulfing yourself in the pursuit because you know you did everything you could to prepare for this moment. There’s little room to focus on the outcome in this headspace because you are in the zone, executing your plan, and capitalizing on every little move.

Competitive people often place significant value on the outcome as it takes form as a result, a measurement, an abbreviation (QOM, KOM, FKT, PR), or a finish line. The paradox is that when you place all of your eggs in the outcome basket, you lose sight of the process and each stride towards your desired outcome goes unnoticed. Although the outcome can motivate you in the short term, it is important to let the outcome live alongside the process in the long term. Instead of dwelling on the finish line or the end of a project, tune in to what you are doing in the present moment. 

Photo: Matt Burbach

Sometimes you need an outcome-based mentality to persevere through the pain cave, but I encourage you to try and embrace the sufferfest so you do not overlook all of the steps it took to get to where you are now. Especially when competitions are up in the air or happening at a limited capacity, try going for a Funnest Known Time instead of a FKT.


This will look different for everyone, but welcome the opportunity to find maximum enjoyment in what you are doing in both the short term and the long term!

Photo: Will Saunders
Lizzie Larkins

Lizzie Larkins

Lizzie Larkins is a recent graduate from the University of Vermont where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and Food Science. She raced all four years on the UVM Nordic Ski Team and is now transitioning into a full-time ski coaching position. Lizzie is a coffee connoisseur, runner, backcountry skier, and type 2 fun enthusiast who thrives on gratitude and positivity!

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