Controlling Controllables

16 APRIL 2013

Eleven days to go. It’s almost impossible to believe that there’s not even two weeks to go before race day. Four or five (depending on how I feel next week) runs left, and none of them difficult – in my dad’s words, anything after this Wednesday is too late to do anything but damage.

For all the tough runs I’ve had lately, I’ve actually had a pretty lucky training season over the last four months. I haven’t had any runs I’ve had to pull out of, though I can think of at least two that I really should have. I haven’t sustained any major injuries, though I’ve got enough aches and pains (and scars on my left ankle) to add up to the pain of something major. My feet don’t feel overly upset at the mileage they’ve clocked up, my chiropractor hasn’t had to do anything too significantly different to my back as far as I know.

I like the idea that it’s too late to do anything different now. I don’t have enough race experience under my belt (because why not make your fifth race something as significant as the Routeburn?) to keep from getting nervous, but I like the idea that I have to rely on some past version of myself for next Saturday to leave me anything short of absolutely slaughtered. (After all, if everything goes terribly wrong, I can always blame past Fleur!)

In the weekend I had my first above three hour run that actually felt okay. My long runs tend to motivated by an intricate combination of bribery, pride and obsessive compulsion, but for the first time, this one just flew by. I didn’t run particularly quickly, I didn’t do anything different to the three hour two weeks earlier that left me feeling like some sort of plague victim at the end, I just felt good about the whole thing. I ended up running an extra fifteen minutes to get to a distance milestone and even my legs didn’t mind overly much. I ran up the hill to my house (usually a laboured ten minute walk) feeling like I could easily have run at least another hour (which is great news given that next weekend it’ll be another hour and then another hour on top of that, even with all things going perfectly well).

I’d love to think that this means that I’ve peaked my training at the right time and with a good taper everything will be perfect on the 27th, and not that good runs happen completely unrelated to any external factor in the same way that bad ones do. And really, I’m hoping that it means exactly that. In fact, I’m hoping that so very much that I’m trying not to consider that there’s any other option, in an elaborate effort to trick the rest of my body into believing that this will be the case and thereby influencing the result. Sounds like a legitimate race technique.

One thing I’m genuinely looking forward to is seeing what the weather will be on the day. Some masochistic corner of my brain is hoping there’ll somehow be snow, unlikely as I know that is. I’d started to worry a few weeks ago (because I apparently consider myself to have been more badly affected by the NZ drought than anyone else) that the permanent sunshine would mean I was out of practise when it came to running in horrible weather. I love bad weather running, though my parents gave me a beautiful seam-sealed North Face jacket for Christmas and I joked about the fact the Routeburn would probably be my only opportunity to wear it. Come this morning when I ran in a genuine rain, wind, parts of trees falling on my head storm, I realised it’s maybe an idiotic thing to wish for bad weather. (And to anyone doubting that the drought has started to break, I literally had to wring 5kg of water out of my shirt, pants and jackets after finishing my run this morning.)

So the only things left for anyone are total uncontrollables. If anyone out there’s trying to rush and get in a last long run before they rest, it’s better to just leave it. I like that. Taper time is the time, psychologically, to rest as much as you do physically, and understand that everything that’s left is totally out of your hands. And that’s really okay. After all, there’s only eleven days left to wait to find out how they’re all going to turn out.

But on another note, like most runners (and people in general) today, I’m thinking about the incredibly tragic events at the end of the Boston marathon, and especially the New Zealanders registered to the event. A senseless and horrible end to what should have been a triumphant, beautiful day, and I hope everyone’s as safe as they can be.