Once you’ve made some audacious plans and you’ve actually gone through with it, what’s next?
I’ve just finished the White Rose Ultra in Yorkshire, a 60 mile race. In the scheme of what other people do, that’s not that crazy, but my longest training run in the 2 months leading up to the event was 10km. I felt a little bit audacious when I showed up and was very much surprised at how calm I was and how ready I felt for this. I made it, but it was hard. Very hard actually. And because I didn’t do enough training runs, my tendons took a bit of a beating and a week on I’m still hobbling a bit. But before I could even properly walk again, I was already looking up new races, some of them way more extreme than the one I had just finished. What’s wrong with me? Maybe it’s because the last race felt surprisingly easy considering the amount of training I’d done. Maybe it’s because once you’ve done something fairly big where you maybe weren’t 100% sure you could do it, you want to find out where the limit actually is. Maybe you don’t really believe in limits anymore. Whatever it is, is it gonna get dangerous?
I mean the last race really wasn’t fun towards the end. Not. At. All. Definitely type 2 fun. So why do it again? Do I feel now that just because I managed to complete the race with relatively little training that I’d be able to do pretty well if I was to actually put effort into the preparation? Train enough. Condition my tendons and joints and lungs and muscles.
And then I started watching videos on YouTube. Somehow the Marathon des Sables always always pops up somewhere, and I find it highly fascinating. I don’t even like heat. In fact I hate the heat. I’m constantly too warm. In England. In November. Why am I even considering the Marathon des Sables for some time in the distant future? Even watching some of the videos should put you off an undertaking like that. Pretty much everybody seems to have massive painful blisters. One guy was airlifted to the nearest hospital with multiple organ failure and ended up in a coma for two weeks. That’s serious. What makes me think I’d be ok? Would I be ok?
The amazing thing about long distance running (or any ultra endurance challenge) is the interplay of body and mind. The longer the race, the harder it is to get this right. Your ability to make good reasonable decisions definitely decreases as the race progresses. Your body tells you pretty early on that it’s time to stop, call it a day. But you keep on pushing. And at some point you’ll feel fine again. For a while. Then it’ll be awful again. But if you just keep on pushing through, it’ll feel fine again at some point. You hope.
A day after the White Rose Ultra I was worried I might have caused permanent damage to my tendons by not giving up. Today, a week on, I’m thinking about training plans to prepare myself in a way that makes injury less likely in the future. I definitely need to be a bit smarter about these things. For the sake of my health.
So what is it that drives me to sign up to these challenges? What do I have to prove? I’m not sure. At the moment I’m really fascinated by multi-stage races, so we’ll see what’s next.
It’s funny writing about this now, a week on, because I can still remember how hard it was at times, but it doesn’t feel hard anymore. It’s funny how our brains work. How, over time, we suppress the memories of the bad times and only remember the good times.
Maybe it all just boils down to this: being audacious is awesome. It gets shit done. It makes you feel awesome (especially if it works out). It proves that (almost) anything is possible if you just believe in yourself and just don’t give up. Be more audacious!