Friday, 30 November 2012

A trail tale

I dragged Tidus around my 'tiny trail treat' loop in D'Aguilar National Park (formerly known as Brisbane Forest Park) yesterday. We hammered out the first 10 km but after that we slowed down and by 14 km Tidus fully remembered why the loop hurts so much. You can check out the trail with photos on Garmin Adventures, but here's a teaser:

When others say it better

Sometimes other people say things better than I ever could—like ultra runner Tim Olsen, in this wise blog post entitled #WhatWouldiDo. His words capture my thoughts so perfectly:
I love giving my opinions, but I am not an expert on what will work best for you. I think it is wise to hear other people’s opinions and see if they work into your lifestyle or maybe an idea you have not thought of.
Tim goes on to describe the power of the body to look after itself, if we give it the chance:
The body is smart and it is wise to listen. I see many people including myself push their bodies just a wee too much, resulting in injuries that take months or longer to get back. I would love to see less people get injured and enjoy the activities they love. 

So instead of following what this person or that person is doing, listen to your body, experiment and see what works best for you. Maybe a paleo diet or fruit diet or running 200 miles a week works for some people, but before you decide to follow what so and so does, check in with yourself and listen to yourself. I think it’s great to get pointers from people who have had positive outcomes from ideas they have researched and tried out. But before you decide that’s how you are going to improve in your sport or health make sure it’s not giving you negative results.
And his conclusion?
My hope is that people can become more conscious, mindful and body aware. The more you understand what works for you the more you can enjoy life and be happy! Lets all be self-aware, think #wwid [what would I do?], thank the volunteers, encourage all the runners, and celebrate the day.
Smart guy—or, at least, a guy whose thinking I totally agree with.

Read more on Tim's blog. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Why I think you can do it (even if they say you can't)

In this sport of ultramarathon running, people are going to tell you what you can't do. Sometimes it's petty, like saying you can't wear the race shirt because you entered the 100 mile but only finished the 100 km—even though the 100 km runners got an identical shirt. Sometimes it's the rules, like when you miss a checkpoint cut-off and the officials say you can't continue. That's a bummer, especially when you feel strong enough to finish, but you get over it.

Then there's those other times when it cuts deeper, like when you're told you can't continue because you're too sick or sore, even though you don't feel all that bad, or when someone says you can't even start because you're not good enough to finish or even to qualify. When these words get fired at you in quick succession, it can be hard to tell whether it's being said with good or malicious intent.

I like to think that ultra runners are a friendly and generally encouraging lot. When I was starting out, I received so much encouragement that I genuinely believed there was nothing I couldn't do, so long as I had time to prepare for it and the good sense to accept my fitness and work within it. This feeling has grown over time and blended with the awareness that I'm not unique nor special; I now believe that anyone can do these things we do, given those same conditions.

But there have been times when I've doubted the goodwill of other runners, times when I thought maybe they said I can't because they weren't sure they could. Maybe they didn't want me to do it first, or maybe they wanted to feel better about their own decisions to quit, or maybe they wanted something they could only gain if I pulled out. Or maybe they just genuinely didn't think I could do it.

But even if what's said is said with good intent, where is the harm in encouraging someone to try? Why tell them they can't? I see no harm in instead saying, 'That is a very big task you've set yourself; I'm not sure you yet know how big. You will need to train very hard, and be very sensible, and I wish you the best and hope it all works out for you.'

Sometimes being told you can't spurs you on to great success, but it can also lead you astray, striving after goals that won't make you happy simply to prove someone wrong. It can be hard to stay true to yourself if you're a fighter by nature. Sometimes, just having one person believe in you is all you need to achieve great things—things that bring you joy—in the face of all that negativity.

Doubt me? I've seen some of my friends undergo remarkable transformations this year to the amazement of others—women who have gone faster and further than they ever dreamed they would. But not faster nor further than I dreamed, because I knew they wanted it and were determined to get it, and all that remained was for them to do it.

So I'm going to put it out there today: whoever you are, I believe you can train, qualify and finish that ultra, simply because the desire to do so burns in your belly. Finishing an ultra did not make me special or different; you are just like me. The only thing that separates ultra runners from the rest is that we've finished an ultra and, once you've done that, you will see that is really no difference at all.