Four weeks until the big day
With four weeks to go until the Atacama Crossing begins, I realise it has been awhile between blogs. Life has been very busy and I literally have not had time to sit down and blog about what has been going on. So here is my update….
Training has been going very well. I have been averaging 80-110km a week running, three CrossFit classes and one Bikram class.
I found my training diary from the Big Red Run last year and I was really happy to discover that my training for this race has been much more solid. My weekly mileage is higher, my strength training has gone from two average sessions in the gym on my own to three to four intense CrossFit sessions and I have added yoga to the mix for a bit of prehab. Overall, I’m pretty happy with that.
What was also interesting comparing my Atacama Crossing training to Big Red Run was the comments I had made on rest days, energy levels, disruptions to training and general comments on mood and mojo.
It’s pretty evident that I really battled with the isolation and the depression that can follow from all the time I spent running solo in preparation for Big Red. Back then, I didn’t know any ultra runners. So all my training, all my miles were logged in isolation. Back to back to back runs of three plus hours were all logged on my lonesome. Those weekends I went out camping to test all my gear and run on a body that had slept on a hard floor – all done on my own.
In addition to training time done on my own, I became isolated from my friends and my social life. All my friends at the time were musicians. When you need to be in bed at 9pm so you can get up to train at 4.30am, your schedule doesn’t really work with the live band scene. As a result, I didn’t really see any of my friends for much of the six months I spent training for Big Red and toward the end I started to feel pretty bitter about that.
So let’s fast forward to Atacama Crossing training. The first few weeks of dedicated solid training were the hardest. I was a bit burned out from my very big first five months of the “Year of Whimsy” and following The North Face, I really struggled to get my mojo back.
Then I quit drinking and within a week or two, I was feeling on top of the world and really excited about the huge challenge I had set myself.
With four weeks to go until Atacama I can truly say I am the happiest I have ever been. I have really enjoyed the journey so far. I haven’t felt like I have made the same sacrifices as I did for Big Red. That is largely because running no longer detracts from my social life but has become my social life. I gave up working Friday’s and as a result, Friday has become my favourite day of the week. I have gone out running and hiking with old friends and new – day time and middle of the night (getting home at 3am after a night of hiking is so much more exhilarating than a night on the town!).
Saturday and Sunday runs have also been celebrated with company. Running with the Dandenong Trail Runners, celebrating ‘birthday ultras’ and getting up at 4am only to delay the start of our run hiding from ‘creepy creatures’ – well it certainly beats training for hours and hours and hours on your own.
Not all my runs are done in company. I still believe it is very necessary to go out for long runs and tough sessions on my own as when I am out racing in the desert, I will not have my social crew. However, having these new running friends makes me so happy and each and every one of them inspires me in new and different ways and that puts me in a great head space to go out and tackle 20, 30, 40 or even 50km out on my lonesome.
In the last couple weeks I also ran a few races.
The first race I did was Adelaide Marathon. I wanted to go home and visit my family before I fly out to Chile and as the Adelaide Marathon was on, I thought it would make a good training run. I had no intention of running fast. I just wanted to log the miles.
As I have never raced more than a half marathon in Adelaide, my family were pretty excited so Mum, Dad and Nanna came down to the finish line. Knowing they were waiting for me meant the world.
My Dad was a great athlete in his youth but injury and arthritis have impacted on his ability to enjoy the simplest of movements. Every race, every training run, every thought of running is always for my Dad as he is my inspiration. This race was special because knowing he was waiting at the finish line for me felt like I could really give him this race. The thought of running for my dad became that little bit more tangible.
As I ran along the Adelaide streets I felt at home, recalling memories associated with sights, smells and sounds. I was so happy when I crossed that finish line into the arms of my family and as a bonus, my second fastest road marathon time ever!
The next weekend was the Tan Ultra 50km. The day prior to this race I had gone out for three and a half hours in the Dandenongs with my big heavy pack. On race day, I decided it was best to run with 8-10kg in my pack in serious preparation for Atacama.
As the Tan is a loop track (the 50km being made up of 13 loops), I battled with the mental challenge of the course. I also battled with my ego. I knew I would be so much faster if I discarded my pack and every time I passed that aid station I battled with the urge to leave it there. But I knew that it was not my race and that if I finished the 50km with my pack, that that would give me the confidence I needed to go into Atacama knowing I was ready.
My dear friend Tay told me that the city folk at the Tan would think I was crazy. Well she was right, but what I hadn’t factored in was that crazy attracts crazy. On my third loop I had got myself a stalker. She wanted to come over, hang out, go running. She was ran with me for two laps and then started to badger me for my phone number (this was not a fellow competitor but just some city runner out for a jog). When we got to Anderson Hill I knew this was my chance to shake her so I ran up it as hard as I could and yelled out over my shoulder “nice to meet you!”
The other interesting note about the Tan was that the 10kg in my pack was made up of books. As a result I had gotten myself a reputation as the running librarian. So each time a competitor passed me, I was asked for my literary recommendations. It was a good way to pass the time
The best thing about the Tan however was having my partner Liam there. He doesn’t like to come to my events usually and that is understandable as ultra running is not really a spectator sport, but running loops like that meant he got to see me and chat with me each time I passed through the aid station. It was really motivating and helped lift me out of my mood.
After six hours and ten minutes, I was done. Special thanks to Dion for keeping me company on my final loop of pain, on which I got verbal diarrhoea and talked and talked and talked about God knows what. Dion just smiled and nodded and plodded along until I got over that finish line – that is good mental training (you will smash that 100km now Dion!)
I have one more week of training before I start my taper. I hope to hit around 110-120km this week. My, time flies when you are having fun!