Two years ago I was a part of the Australia / New Zealand Skyrunning team in Chamonix at the Mont Blanc Marathon; completing year 12 and finding my feet in the running world. Fast forward and this time last weekend I was competing in the Pyrenees, the BUFF epic sky marathon, but with expectations; from others but particularly from within.
Last year I decided that it wasn’t just enough to simply run, and then run some more in training. Everyone’s getting faster and stronger and I felt as though I was getting left behind somewhat. Ever since I started running, it has been a steady increase in fitness and ability. But last year I felt the effects of a plateau, so I changed my training and as the old saying goes, “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.”
I built upon my strengths and focused on my weaknesses. I had success and I felt confident in myself. I won Bogong2Hotham, Shotover Moonlight Marathon, Northburn 50km, Buffalo Stampede and runner-up in The Hillary 34km and UTA 22km. The form was there, now it was time to deliver.
Flying overseas, I found myself as a small fish in a big pond, fighting for top 10 at the Mont Blanc marathon. I wasn’t disappointed with this run as I had some issues early, but I realised the true strength of the body and mind even when it’s tough. I can still finish strong and even smile!
Prior to the championships, I spent some time training in Chamonix with the Salomon team, looking for some good feelings on the crazy trails; little did I know these trails were roads compared to those in the Catalan country. I went to Spain, happy with my preparation and excited to see how I would stack up this time around. For the first time in a long time I had belief in myself.
With the ANZ team it was a relaxed atmosphere, it was lazy in the small town and I had a lot of time to rest, but not enough time or transport to see any of the course. I don’t mind not seeing the route before the race, I think it’s exciting to take new steps on race day.
As the gun went off we did a small loop of the town. I felt good but that was the end of the running for the next 16km. Uphill wasn’t a problem, everyone was reduced to a hike and since my days in the French alps a hiker is probably what I would call myself more than a runner. It was the downhill that broke my heart. Never in a race would I consider stepping off the track and letting people pass but that’s exactly what I did as I struggled to find any rhythm, any flow and any enjoyment from the terrain that was so far from my comfort zone.
At 26km it became runnable and I was able to do some faster running, which felt like magic. On the final technical descent, I put my foot onto a rock which nailed straight into my arch, this then began to swell, making my shoe get very tight and creating a shooting pain into my calf causing a cramp. To explain how quickly I wanted to finish this race, I had a caffeinated gel with 1km to go because I wasn’t sure I’d get there otherwise. I finished 18th, far from my expectations, hopes and dreams.
“You have to have the bad days to appreciate the good ones” this is my final quote that I have to keep repeating to myself. I am happy to have completed something I was so unfamiliar with and I am only a stronger runner for conquering this. I am proud of myself, proud of the team and proud to have represented two countries that provide so much support.
Now to wait for the next two years!
Feature image credit: @jordisaragossa