It was a normal race morning; there was a line up at the washrooms, runners were jumping up and down, others were finalizing their bags. The morning was slightly cold and there was an enormous amount of optimism in the air. But it's not a normal race morning because it is 4:45am and I am lining up to run the Zane Grey 50 miler. It's still dark, and I was hoping my food remains inside me, as I could feel I was getting jittery!
The Race Director called everyone together with his micro-phone, but no one was really listening. Everyone was in their own world. Mentally preparing for the next few hours.
A short count down and we are off, running an out and back course through the beautiful Tonga National Park in Arizona. I set off at a reasonably steady pace, slower than my friends. No one talks, everyone one is self absorbed.
The first downhill is completed and I run into the Aid Station I. Grabbing some food, I quickly moved on. 11k done. Now I can think of my next 11km. But I soon feel frustrated that I am being passed by other runners and they seem to run off quickly and then head out of sight. I am alone again; suddenly fighting with my head.
"You can stop at the next Aid Station, it just isn't your day."
"It's ok, you had a tough week as you were injured."
"Don't push too hard, remember you have a long way to go."
"Your body hurts, you can stop, it's ok."
I allowed my mind to take over and it made the first two legs hard. I kept trying the gratitude thing, thankful that I can run etc. But I wanted to quit, I really wanted to stop. This was just too much effort. Although I kept going, just fighting with my brain to reach the next Aid Station.
I made it and sorted the hot spots on my feet, well actually a really great volunteer sorted my feet, poor thing! Then I was good to go again. This time I was going to be out for a good 3 hours.
I took some salt tablets and fairly soon, my mood changed. I felt good, I ran with someone for a great 5-10k. Life was feeling great. I took some photos and was enjoying myself. I started to work out that I would be eventually be passed by the lead runners as it was an out and back course. Sure enough the lead runner flew past me, running back up the hill and looking so smooth and comfortable. I was envious of them, as they were heading back to the finish.
I dunked my buff and head band in a cold stream, cooling off immediately. Ran past the volunteers and asked how far to the next Aid Station. "4.5 miles" came the answer. And then I proceeded to pass runners who all claimed the next stop was 4.5miles away.
I ran into one of my friends and we laughed together, particularly when I said I was not enjoying myself and wanted this to be over. Only another 45k to go and it would be!!!
Then a rock jumped into my way and I twisted my ankle. I think I swore and hobbled on for a bit. Within another 10 minutes a rock jumped into my way again and my ankle went over and it hurt.
Now my brain was on top form.
"It's ok, stop at this aid station. You've done well. 40k. That's a good training run."
I literally caught my other friend, soon after this, as she had put her head up to see me and missed her footing. We exchanged quick words of support and we were off again in opposite directions.
Finally reaching the turnaround, I took my time and a sweet runner said, "you can do it." And somehow I did. I turned it around. I went over on my ankle again and this time it really hurt. But I pushed on through. I started to overtake runners and I knew that on that last hill, I would over take the two ladies that had been playing tag with me the whole return journey.
I won't bore you the details of the last 40k, but I got stronger and I was really enjoying myself out there. I chatted and joked with all the volunteers and my body felt great (with the exception of my ankle) and I had to walk the second to last leg, however, I powered up that last hill and ran / walked to the finish line in just over 13 hours. My poor friends had been waiting for me for a while, but I had finished, with a rather swollen ankle! (I only realized this once I had taken my shoes and socks off at the end!!)
My learnings from this race as you do learn from all races:
1. Take salt slightly earlier.
2. Stop any negative attitude by taking salt and eating regularly.
3. Use Tiger Balm to help with sore or tight muscles.
4. Forget the first part of a race and ignore my brain. Accept it wants to take over and get me to quit. Just ignore me for the first 40-60k.
5. Believe I can more, and I know I can.
6. Keep working on understanding my "why".
7. Practice thinking about the first part of a race and my brain negativity. Do not allow my brain to have the luxury of taking over.
8. Have fun out there.
My "why" for this race was to run an easy, steady pace so that I would not get injured for the season. I wanted to get some distance in my legs and I wanted to work on my mental attitude. All boxes were ticked quite successfully!
Call for comments. What are your thoughts on your "Why" and how do you overcome them?