Lately I have been running A LOT. Well, having declared myself ‘not a runner’ for about 27 years, to now be running 6 days a week it seems like a lot to me. For those of you freaking out at 6 days a week don’t worry, they aren’t all long runs and definitely not all hard runs. I must admit when I see “easy run” on my program it does still make me smile, once upon a time (not very long ago) I would have argued that there’s no such thing as an easy run.
The thing I have realised by running so frequently is how different your body can feel between one session and the next. Some of my long runs have been fabulous, I feel like I’m floating on air, literally grinning ear to ear as I run along. Then the next week I feel so terrible I am questioning my ability to double the distance and run a marathon in Cairns next month (especially after swimming 3.8km and cycling 180km). These huge differences aren’t just in my long runs either, I also feel them when I am swimming, as my fatigue levels build up from running and cycling I notice it in the pool. It’s like no matter how hard I try, I struggle to hit the wall on times that usually I can achieve almost effortlessly.
I know it’s all part of the big picture goal so understand these highs and lows and generally try not to beat myself up about them. In the lead up to my last Ironman I was in the same situation and was told that come race day your body will be fresh and rested from the taper, so you will be fitter and faster than ever. When you’ve had a shocker of a training ride or run believing that you will actually be ok can be difficult. It’s only human to feel frustrated at times, especially when you feel like you should be stronger than you’ve ever been, yet the opposite seems true.
For those people who are running purely for fitness or health and not with a specific race goal in mind I can understand how a couple of bad runs may turn you off. Don’t give up there, if you get a flat tyre do you slash the other one? No, you use it as a great photo opportunity and post it to Instagram. Just kidding, you change it and get on with the ride, likewise one bad run doesn’t mean you’re not ever going to be a runner, so don’t throw the towel in just yet.
I know first hand that getting fit is way harder than staying fit, so if you’re just starting out running or getting back on the fitness bandwagon and feeling like every run is a struggle, don’t give up just yet, good days are ahead I promise. My coach keeps telling me to “trust the process” and yes sometimes I hate the process, sometimes I love it, but I do trust it. I know that every session doesn’t have to be a personal best to be a great one.
Whilst there are days where I feel tired and every muscle in my body feels sore, most days I go to work with a spring in my step and a smile on my dial. On Wednesdays when I get up at 4am, do a killer endurance swim set with the T:Zero crew then bound into work full of energy at 8am my colleagues and customers sometimes ask what drug I am on. I can honestly tell them I’m just high on life, oh and a bit of coffee with a side chlorine for breakfast does help.
A while ago I had dinner with some friends of my Mum’s, being the proud parent she is we got talking about triathlon training and fitness. I know I don’t look like your stereotypical triathlete so when I’m asked how long/far I run in training and racing it surprises most people. The next question that nearly always follows is “how do you do it?” I’m still working on how to best answer that, as I have no idea, I literally just enjoy the challenge so do it. I did tell them one of the best quotes/lessons that I heard somewhere along the line that has really helped me when I have been struggling is “when your mind gives up, your body still has 40% more to give.”
At the time I didn’t realise this conversation was having any effect on these lovely people, I could talk triathlon all day long if I had the opportunity. Unless you love the sport, most people aren’t really that interested, they smile politely and give you that ‘you are crazy’ look. But a couple of weeks later I ran into one of the ladies we had dinner with, Gill on the street and she stopped me to say thank you. Something I said had resonated with her and suddenly she was running hills, telling me that she has always been someone who avoided hills at all costs, but I had made her realise that it was mind over matter. Her mind was saying stop but she now knew her body still had 40% more to give so she pushed on and was surprising herself with the results.
I leave you with this video of my gorgeous nephew Arlo, for a little person this is a big jump. Watch him size it up, take a leap of faith, struggle for a few seconds, then stand tall with satisfaction when he makes it. Probably a pretty similar feeling to what Gill felt at the top of the hills she ran, and what we will feel on the finish line of Ironman Cairns in 4 short weeks. Take the chance, trust the process, know there’s 40% more to give when your body says stop and you can have the same feeling as Arlo.
Until next time remember, sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.