STRUGGLE STREET

MARCH 4 2013

Last year I listened to Sarah Ulmer and Hamish Carter speak at Lakes Leisure during their Olympic road tour, both gold medal winning athletes; the cream of the crop in their sports. I took great comfort in hearing that they both, at times during their training or the night before race day have that moment or moments when they think… “What am I doing? I’m not good enough or fast enough for what lies ahead”.
I had one of those training weeks last week, the type that when your alarm goes at stupid o’clock you lie there looking at the ceiling, body aching thinking “why on earth am I doing this”. When you do haul yourself from bed and tie your laces it’s not clockwork. Breathing is shallow, legs hurt, pace is down and when you finish your run that usual sense of accomplishment is fogged by the sense of self doubt. 90% of the time deep down you know this is normal but still it lingers and plays on my mind. I remember the first ever half marathon I ran, one of my last training runs of about 16km was absolutely dreadful. I remember thinking how on earth was I going to do another 5km in 10 days time? I rang my Dad, who has done a fair amount of running in his time, and he simply replied, “That’s great news, you’ve had your bad run now you’re set for race day”. It’s funny how the human brain works because as soon as you hear something like that come from someone else’s mouth you automatically believe it. I did and I ran my first half in 1 hour 53 minutes.
I guess you need to have those bad runs and the bad weeks like I had last week to appreciate when training is going like clockwork, the kind of clockwork moments like Julie Andrews running down the avenue in The Sound of Music clicking her heels.
For me it’s important not to let it become the norm, I know when I start to get in those kind of ‘ruts’ I need to have a ‘confidence run’ – basically a challenging run to boost my confidence. So, on Saturday in possibly the best running conditions that we’ve had in a while (Queenstown has been having a blisteringly hot summer in recent weeks) I filled up my camel pack, grabbed some leppins and drove to the bottom of the Remarkables Ski Field access road. I forced myself not to think about what I was about to do, put in some head phones and away I went with a mindset that mirrored the road sign saying “No stopping for the next 13km”. It felt like I’d been going for some time when I came upon the first road signing stating I’d been 1km……a curse word crossed my mind. I carried on and slowly but surely the km signs started to rise as did my altitude and attitude. About 2km from the top I had a welcomed break when a couple of friends returning from walk to Lake Alta came past me; this was fantastic for two reasons:
1- I had a small break to stop and speak with them and gain some encouraging words
2- I had proof and witnesses that I was going to make it to the top
There really is something rather ‘remarkable’ about running up a road looking out at aeroplanes lower than you coming in to land. I knew the run down was doing to be faster but just as challenging as the run up and with 1km to the bottom I just wanted to be at the car, I felt like crying; my legs were burning, I was soaked in my own sweat, I wanted my mum….all of those exhausted emotions flooded over me; then I saw the car and I forgot about everything else, I felt my confidence tanks refuel, a large smile wrapped it’s self around my face, I knew I was in a good place because I even took the time to stretch!
It’s a funny old sport this running; it’s such an individual, personal thing. You can get all the advice in the World; have the best shoes, best nutrition, best coaches, basically the best of everything but at the end of the day it comes down to just yourself, your ability to put one foot in front of another and push through both the mental and physical barriers!
As I drove back to Arrowtown with a stupid wee grin on my face one thing did occur to me, I had taken away ‘Surprise Remarkables’ from my friends/coaches whom had provided me with such a great trek up ‘Surprise Coronet’, the consequences of my solo run only time will tell…..But I suspect they will be swift and devastating !