The Profile Dossier: Amelia Boone, The Queen of Pain
This is a special edition of The Profile. As a complement to the regular Sunday newsletter, this is a deep dive on an individual person. I hope you enjoy this one.
Dubbed “The Queen of Pain,” Amelia Boone is a corporate attorney at Apple by day and an obstacle endurance racer by night. She signed up for her first Tough Mudder race at age 28 when she realized she couldn’t do a single pull-up.
Since that day, she became obsessed with getting stronger and went on to become a 4-time world champion and one of the most decorated obstacle racers in history — all while working full-time at Apple.
Her morning routine involves waking up at 4 a.m, running for three hours, and then going into the office. Boone believes that conquering fear and mastering the art of suffering is where freedom lies.
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‘Mind, Sweat, and a Whole Lot of Tears:’ In this profile, you get a sense of why someone like Boone — a corporate attorney — would embrace adventure racing. "Perhaps I'm not as Type-A, control freak as I thought," she says. "Or perhaps adventure racing is teaching me how NOT to be like that.” But the real reason? Racing provides a mental escape "where everyone here can forget about all the fucked up shit in their lives." This one is a must-read. Read.
‘Meet the Apple Lawyer Who Also Crushes Spartan Races:’ Boone spoke at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women NextGen Summit in 2016 about her training schedule, the sport’s culture, and why she doesn’t just quit her day job to run through the mud full-time. Read.
‘Amelia Boone Is Stronger Than Ever:’ During one of her long runs in 2016, Boone felt a searing pain suddenly shoot up her quad. The next day, her leg buckled under her — she had fractured her femur. “As someone who constantly preaches ‘Pre-hab! Strengthening! Balance!’ to then crack the strongest bone in her body, I got swept up in feelings of shame and embarrassment.” Read.
On learning how to suffer: Boone explains how she fights physical and mental fatigue when most people quit (she shares a story of how she dealt with a vacant support station halfway through a 100 mile race) Listen.
On becoming a high-performer: This Tim Ferriss episode explores Boone’s routines, training, nutrition, rehab, and “pre-hab” in an effort to conquer obstacle course racing. Listen.
On building mental toughness: For a long period of time, Boone was largely naive to what could go wrong. She was a star in the obstacle racing community and she was winning race after race. But after she fractured her femur, all her plans came to an abrupt halt. “Hitting rock bottom forces you to really look inward and discover who you are,” she said. “It’s easy to ignore the hard things or push your problems aside. And then when you’re sitting there with just yourself, you have to confront that.” Watch.
On preparing for a 100K race: On Feb. 3, 2018, Boone competed in her first ultra-marathon at the Sean O'Brien 100K two years after her femur injury. This video chronicles the moments before, during, and after her race. Watch.
TECHNIQUES TO TRY TODAY.
Create more than one identity: Boone refuses to give up her day-job as an attorney to become a full-time athlete because of the realization that her identity can get wrapped up in a single activity. “I don’t like to identify myself as one thing,” she says. “I like having the different experiences because it makes me feel very well-rounded.”
Choose your priorities: As someone who works full-time yet still finds time to run 30 miles, time-management is clearly top-of-mind. So what about those of us who are time-strapped? “You have time,” Boone says. “It’s just not your priority.”
Do one thing every day that sucks: Boone enjoys running when it’s cold, dark, or raining. “It forces you to go through hard things in not-ideal conditions,” she says. Indirectly, that helps cultivate mental toughness in other areas of your life.
Practice “chunking:” One of Boone’s strategies during long, endurance events is to break the race up into little chunks. “If you look at the whole picture,” she says, “it gets overwhelming.” If she’s doing a 24-hour race, Boone will tell herself to just get through the next 10 minutes, or through the next hour, or to the next aid station. If you shift your focus, you can check off the small wins throughout the race.
Get off the merry-go-round of self-flagellation: Boone calls the vicious cycle of failing, getting upset about the failure, and then berating yourself for being upset the “merry-go-round of self-flagellation.” For Boone, it’s about detaching herself from the spiraling story and literally saying, “Stop.” “It’s really hard,” she says. “I’ve tried to de-personalize it, detach and talk to myself from a third-person perspective.” Her advice: Give yourself a tangible time limit to feel bad and wallow in the feelings, and then consciously detach.
WORDS TO REMEMBER.
“I like the quote from Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Brave Enough’ — ’Hello, fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.’”
“I make friends with pain. We spend so much time trying to avoid pain, yet it’s something that teaches us so many lessons.”
“I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I’m really good at suffering.”
Want more? Check out the following dossiers:
— Bryan Stevenson, the death row lawyer
— Amelia Boone, the queen of pain
— Annie Duke, the master of uncertainty
— Neil deGrasse Tyson, the curious starman