The high of a good race
When I started ultra running everything was a buzz. Actually, when I started running everything was a buzz. It was high after high and for a bipolar gal like myself, well what was not to love about this new addiction?
The first time I crossed a half marathon finish line, well that high brought me to tears. Then there was my first marathon! Then the PBs (because when you’re a newby, it’s pretty easy to make improvements. Every PB is another high).
My first ultra marathon and I was bordering into mania, I was hooked.
But like any good state of hyper-mania – the high just before you start hallucinating. The one that makes a bipolar patient highly efficient. Anything is achievable. You’re in-destructible. The world loves you cause you’re “getting things done” and you can hide your madness enough to not be locked up. Well like any good state of hyper-mania, a downer must follow.
There are the unfulfilled goals, the “bad” races, the shocking training weeks, the times you know you aren’t performing at your best and instead of just relishing in what you’ve achieved, you beat yourself up. Focus on where you failed, rather than where you succeeded.
Now into my second year of ultra running and five years into the sport of running, I never really know how my race day will go. I can’t help but set myself goals. Sometimes I achieve them. Usually, that’s followed by a high, but not always. If I fail at achieving my time goal, well that’s usually a given downer, but the highs and lows can be more subtle and unpredictable than that.
For example, a fabulously organised event will make me very happy. A friendly sense of camaraderie out on the course will also fill me with joy.
These were things that Tarawera Ultra, my last ultra event certainly had and it is fair to say that the event has left me in an utter state of pure hyper-mania.
I arrived in Rotorua on Thursday night. Friday morning was to be the official race welcome.
I was a little nervous when I got to the welcome ceremony. I had travelled to Rotorua on my own. Lots of runners were in big groups. I didn’t see any familiar faces. Those nerves were unnecessary though. Within moments, I was surrounded by new friends. If you were in running shoes, then you were automatically part of the club so it seemed.
So it turns out there was this little issue of a cyclone later in the day which meant at the last minute, the course had to be modified for safety reasons. The original 60, 85 and 100km events were modified to a 60 and 70 (something)km course. It made me happy to know that the race director gave a shit enough about my safety to make these last minute changes.
Later I was asked by a friend whether I considered not running given the cyclone. Her question took me by surprise and I realised that not for one moment had I even entertained the idea of not running in a cyclone – in fact the whole idea was very exciting. I’d never seen a cyclone before.
This made me realise that us ultra runners are a bunch of nutters with no sense of our own safety so I for one am very grateful that the race director of Tarawera was able to step in and play “mum” when us nutters couldn’t sense the dangers for ourselves.
In any ultra, you go through highs and lows, but in all honesty, I was having the absolute time of my life out on the Tarawera course. I found the cyclone to be very refreshing. Anytime I got a bit tired I would think to myself “You’re in New Zealand!” and that thought alone would make me so friggin happy I’d continue on…..
That is until the 48th km….
The rain was pelting down and the mud was so slippery. I was so close to the end yet so far.
I got to a point in the track that was a steep descent. It was incredibly slippery and there was nothing to grab onto for support. I had no idea how I was going to get down that part of the track and I was frozen in fear. I must have stood there, still motionless for what felt like a good few minutes before another runner approached.
She yelled out “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” before riding her imaginary skate board down the descent sideways, down the mud with a loud burst of laughter and a shrill scream of joy.
I didn’t give my mind a chance to reconsider, I just copied her. Straight down the imaginary half pipe. She hooted again in joy and I burst out laughing and squealed myself.
All of a sudden, I had gone from being a woman in distress wondering what the hell was I doing out in the forest in a cyclone to a woman who was ecstatic at the opportunity to play in the forest and splash in the mud and puddles.
My perspective had changed. I still had the same gruelling task ahead of me, but by altering the way I was looking at the next 12km, I was able to alter the way I approached and ultimately succeeded at the task at hand.
When I got to the finish line I was so overwhelmed with joy. There was Paul, the race director standing out in the rain handing every finisher their finishing medal. I started babbling and crying to him “thank you, thank you, thank you.” He looked me straight in the eye and gave me a smile that went straight from heart to heart and then gave me a great big bear hug.
There are highs and there are HIGHS. This race was definitely higher than HIGH 🙂