Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Lack of Mental Toughness

This is my story of the Saltburn Trail Half Marathon. Now before I begin my sad tale, let me first say the race is brutal, the course is tough, the marshall's and cameramen on the route are made of stern stuff to be out there in the weather we had and to still be cheering us on and supporting us. The organisers have created a course along the coast using public footpaths to really test even the toughest runners. It was enough to almost break me.

I am a fair weather runner, a flat track bully. I like to be out there in mild conditions, on the road, on the flat, not a puff of wind. That is where I enjoy myself, pushing my limits to go as fast as I can without mother nature or the course have too much say on my performance. I have shown in my 3 DNF's from a 100 or so races that I don't handle adversity too well. The Outlaw Iron Distance triathlon Part 2, the Thunder Run 24 and the Berlin Marathon. In any event I do, particularly in difficult conditions or over long distances I need a reason for being there.

In the Outlaw I had done it before, I had failed to train adequately again and couldn't find a reason to slog it out for another 8 hours to get the thing done. At the Thunder Run the heavy rain, the thunder, the lightening I couldn't find a reason to endure another 12 hours of that. At the Berlin Marathon I took the easy option, I had done more than 10 Marathons, I had failed to prepare adequately for this one, and so perhaps quite sensibly decided pulling the pin at halfway was the right option. A good training run done without too much damage to my body.

The Saltburn Trail Half Marathon could very easily have been my fourth DNF, the only things keeping me going were the fact I was raising the money for Sarcoma and not wanting to let Marcus down. The fact that if I did quit I would be cold, wet and in the middle of nowhere did also encourage me to get the thing done. The telephone calls to Lauren and Jan for some moral support were also a huge help to get me to the finish. So today I had my why, my reason to finish.

Even when I do manage to complete in these conditions, I still struggle to perform anywhere near my max, where as my brother Joe got 3 punctures on his first Ironman in appalling conditions he sucked it up and got it done and got it done well. I tend to throw my toys out the pram and once my A goal has gone I struggle to refocus. For this race I didn't particularly have an A goal, it was a race that was at the right time of the year in the right location and so I didn't start in the right mental place. When the weather was 45 mph winds, sleet hammering my face, once I had fallen twice, my recently healed broken bone and sprained wrist throbbing I was not in my happy place, I was a long way from it.

I had fallen on my butt and a guy asked me if I was ok and then told me to get out the way, which really got my back up. I was slip sliding all over the shop in the mud, keen not to fall again, only having eyes for the floor and the path in front of me. I had another guy ask to get past on a narrow section, for me the onus was on those guys to get past me. I had my own issues to worry about like staying upright, I didn't want to be looking over my shoulder and easing aside for every fella who wanted to race in the middle of the pack with me. I got a little rush of adrenaline and decided to go on a little burst and was hurdling brambles and taking over three of the guys who had recently passed me. The rush and anger soon subsided and I eased off, the 2 hours of trudging that still lay ahead of me were at the forefront of my mind.

The women I met on the course were totally different and as I was struggling we had some nice running chats and that kept my legs turning over. One of which I had met at the leisure centre before the start of the race and we then ended up running some of the last mile together which was great. I must have spoken to 3 or 4 guys or girls during the race and they were all having a lovely time, and I think they genuinely were. It just really brought home to me that this type of race isn't what I am about. In all the training goals, mileage targets, pace goals, you sometimes forget that you are actually meant to enjoy it. These cross country, trail races, mudfests, aren't enjoyable to me but cruel and unusual punishment. My race schedule is pretty booked up to October and it is predominantly road races with the one crazy 24 hour race. After that 24 hour race in July it is going to take one hell of a race or for me to have a total change of heart to get me back into these crazy races.

So I think I will leave my tale of Saltburn Half Marathon misery there.

The downsides:

- It was 15 Miles not 13.1 Miles
- There were 45mph winds, rain, sleet, I don't think there was snow.
- Mud, so much mud.
- Two falls.

The upsides:
- The donations that came in before I raced and since, they've brought home why I did it.
- I got it done. In just about 3 hours. Think the official time will have me just over.
- The phonecalls with Lauren, I would have been completely at a loss without them.
- The race schedule is now free of these crazy races.

Sorry for the downhearted race report. I am still on for a good mileage month in February it's my birthday Thursday and I have a nice flat 10 mile race round a race track on Sunday. I just need to hang in there for 2 or 3 more months and all being well should have a PB or two to my name and be in good shape to tackle my other PB's in the 2nd half of the year. I was one of the only half Marathon runners with my bare legs out and I'm sure Marcus would have been pleased I was part of the still in shorts brigade. Come back next week for a more upbeat blog.

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