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“M” Day

Ok, you know me enough by now to know that I am a seriously crap liar….

I’m going to level with you here… seeing the “M” word laid out in my run plan terrified me, in fact, it pretty much made me poop my pants (every runner’s nightmare I know….). It is a far less scary word when it is accompanied by another one starting with “H”. Ironically, I read that and remember a little too clearly when that combination of words terrified me as well.

If you haven’t worked it out yet, I am talking about a Marathon distance yep the entire 42.2 (or if you are being super fussy 42.195 something or other km’s versus a Half Marathon.

Yet as much as it terrified me there was that word staring back at me from my plan. I couldn’t escape it.

The worst part is I shouldn’t have been surprised. With the entire run goal for me being to see how far I can run in one stint and not die it was kind of inevitable. However, there it was in print and it filled me with that sick, butterflies in the gut, super odd fascination and dread feeling. I can’t explain it. Other than saying it was the sheer distance that freaked me. Time doesn’t bother me. If someone said you must go out and run for 8 hours I would be like ok, take it slow and steady you’ve got this. For some reason though the thought of actually making a prescribed distance that I haven’t run before kind of chills me to the core.

They (including my coach) say that you should set goals so big it terrifies you, well this certainly fits with that. So, it must have been the right thing for me to set my sights on.

Taking a deep breath and just taking it one training session at a time was what was going through my head. This was only after my freak out mind you. It’s totally ok to freak out, reboot and tackle the elephant one bite at a time. If you are like me sometimes you need to remind yourself of that.

My longest distance prior to this training plan in one stint was around 25kms and it filled me with such a super buzz that the goal was born. That little voice on my shoulder kept saying, that was awesome, how much further can you go?

In putting my trust in my coach (Chris, Go Run Australia) (let’s face it he is a top bloke, he likes ice cream and is just as crazy as I am, so how could I not), myself (a little harder to do) and the plan I set off on one hell of an adventure!

Some sessions seriously sucked. You must keep in mind that I am a serious diesel engine (I very frequently refer to my standard pace as Turtle pace). It takes me a while to warm up, I run for the pure joy of it and this body is not built for serious speed (think hare like). I am ok with that and have become exceptionally ok with that fact. I have learned not only is this a weakness for some it is one of my greatest strengths. I don’t give up easily and I have a lot of mental arsenals to work with.

I also love to run hills, a lot. Yep sometimes I hike them, but that’s awesome too. I just want to get to the top in the best shape I can. I also enjoy those sessions where you are hurting more than you thought you could and your heart and lungs want to land on the pavement (or in my case trail) in front of you. Pain makes me wary, it doesn’t scare me. One of my favourite Ultra Runner quotes is “It only hurts up to a point” and for me, it’s spot on. You can only experience so much physical pain then things change. The psychology behind this is super interesting, but so not what this blog is about.

So as the sessions stretched on, the general training runs got longer, my excitement growing in tandem with my frustration. You see a lot of the training was done one semi-flat ground and not super big hills (which I LOVE the challenge of). A LOT, no scrap that, most of this cycle and build was completed using a very low heart rate. What did this mean? Basically, I had to run and keep my heart rate at, but preferably below, a predetermined rate. These sessions seriously killed me. They were just so amazingly frustrating!!! My head was screaming at me the entire time to RUN and my watch was beeping at me the whole freakin time telling me to slow my heart rate meaning my pace needed to decrease.

That was tough with a capital T. To get my head around this was one of the hardest things about my training. To trust this process at times was pretty much impossible. Sometimes I even questioned what the hell I was doing. I just wanted to run….

One run though it seemed to just click, one of those super rare, magical, run forever sets. This diesel engine wasn’t fast by most runner standards but, the ah-ha moment happened. It felt easier… It felt easier to keep my heart rate down, to take each step, to keep a good pace. Low and behold Mr Garmin even agreed with me! It was marginal, but there was a clear increase in my pace per kilometre. This was my turning point. I could trust the process again, why? Because I could start to see my body responding. When I had that breakthrough, my mind responded too and with renewed vigour, we tackled each set, some good, some super ugly, but all with purpose, and most with a triumphant grin from ear to ear. That little voice continued to talk to me tempting me on, eager to push, some sessions sated it, but it would always come back.

Wobbles, yep I had multiple, the worst being at the end of my seriously tough 30km training run. Yep, that crappy milestone…. Longest run to date and this little Diesel Turtle couldn’t celebrate I just felt empty depleted and that is where the little voice turned. It turned NASTY. With only a few weeks to go until “M” day, my mind started to let me down. I put it out there in the big wide world and you know what? The support I got from my run family was AMAZING!! Every single one of them had been at this point before and each one had the wisdom to give me and I was in awe of every single one of them! This was what spurred me on and kicked that shit voice off my shoulder, this amazing network of support, of people I consider my family, this thawed me out and melted my heart in such an amazing way. With renewed bounce (not too bouncy we can’t waste energy when we run with too much height 😉). This venting and talking through also enabled me to formulate a mental plan and a game plan for the day.

This week was the week my little Diesel Turtle voice and I had an in-person catch up with the coach. This was the serious icing on the cake from the talk through a few days earlier with everyone else. I got to get rid of my demons. Together we laughed, talked about the process, what was good, what was improving, interesting things of note and best of all a solid game plan for “M” day.

Armed with all this knowledge and serious game plan I threw myself into the last couple of weeks of training (gently of course, couldn’t risk an injury!).

This is when my inner voice and the little shoulder voice started to get excited. We knew with the amazing amount of support we had we were going to do it. This is where my mind shifted, and, in my head, I knew it would be achieved that the entire 42.2km’s would be done. It was also at this point I could hear that little voice over my shoulder starting to ask, “What’s next?”. Note to self this is not the best point to start asking your coach that same exact question lol.

I smashed out the longest run in the plan of 34kms and was just seriously excited. This was my icing on the training and I couldn’t wait for the event. I was tired when I finished the 34km, I mean who wouldn’t be that’s a hell of a long way when you haven’t run that far before! But I was happy, excited, feeling strong and seriously driven!

As per the coach’s wise words and awesome knowledge we “freshened me up” before the event with a real-life taper! What a crazy space of time that is!

Then I blinked and “M” day was here! I was so super excited!!! With a few of my buddies running Western States in the US the same day, I was seriously pumped. I think I even managed about 3 hours sleep.

I was so happy it was with my Trail Family in Trails Plus the Tan Ultra event. We got there early to help set up and get organized and all I wanted to do was run. I literally felt like I was jumping out of my skin! As the day started to buzz and runners started to arrive the adrenaline and internal excitement grew. So many runner friends and family starting to arrive, say hello and help keep the pump up going it was AWESOME!

Before I knew it was pre-race briefing and then seriously shortly after that it was line up time and then GO!

And my Diesel Turtle legs and I were off! The funny part…. The race plan was to run the entire event with a low heart rate as much as possible! I could increase it as I ran up Anderson Street, yep up it not down. So very quickly I proudly took up the position at the back of the pack. Remembering that my strategy was to walk at two points in each loop (yep I ran 11 consecutive loops of Melbourne’s Tan Track, plus a little bit to make up the official distance 😉) for a minute to recover, take on nutrition and tackle the next segment.

Steadily and surely each segment was tackled. With each loop I saw more and more of my run family out on course and around the track cheering, laughing, encouraging and just being awesome. At the end of each loop at party table central (also known as aid stations!) my nearest and dearest, including my coach, who we know is just as nuts as I am, were there to cheer, support, feed and refuel me then give me a swift kick up the butt to get me going again. I was only allowed to stop for what seemed like the blink of an eye.

On and on I went, and round and round. Somewhere after loop 2 (yeah on loop 3) I totally forgot how many laps I had done! I am sure it isn’t just me that can’t keep track! I think I drove everyone nuts asking each loop what number I had just done, but seriously 10 meters after that, I had already forgotten!

The middle three laps sucked. I just couldn’t get my heart rate down. It was erratic and high and this stressed me. I got to speak to Chirs (aka Coach) at the end of these laps and he just looked at me and said it’s all good. Just Breathe!

Serious words of wisdom. Next lap and from then on, my heart rate was under control. I new in my head, my heart and my freakin toes I had this.

I had some amazingly dear people join me out on course for laps and little bits and was looped and lapped more times than I could keep count of but each time the cheer, excitement and encouragement was AMAZING!! With each interaction my smile grew, my head buzzed (or maybe that was the caffeine and sugar), and my feet moved easier.

One of my dearest run buddies (another member of the S Team) came into town specially to run parts of the loops with me and my heart swelled. My run twin joined me on one of the later laps proclaiming that for the rest of the event I was going to be stuck with herself or the awesome George for the rest of the run, this made me happy right down to my toes.

I laughed, cried (I swear they weren’t sad tears!!), talked, ran, walked, ate, drank, frowned, sighed and just excitedly continued to put one foot in front of the other for each one of those darn 42.2kms.

As I rounded that last corner and saw the crowd of people (seriously there was a crowd!!! Just for me!!!) I turned to mush! I swear my heart exploded with joy and the stupid grin on my face grew wider and wider. As the cheer started to emerge from these amazing people that have waited for me to finish, that have supported me and helped me get there this Diesel Turtle managed to find some Turbo Turtle pace to finish with a famous Team George sprint finish!

They say the emotions you feel through a marathon are wide and varied. They are right. But EVERYTHING pales in comparison to that buzz and joy of crossing that line. To the pure heart warming specialness of my run family that cheered, joined me out on course, encouraged, coached, inspired and just plain out helped me get there I am in awe of every single one of you and each and every one of you means the world to me, thank you!

The fact that all those (well almost everyone) that are special to me could be there. That I could do this at a Trails Plus event, for those that I spoke with in the build up and on the day that couldn’t be there in person, with my coach on site and my run family, my seriously supportive but long-suffering hubby, I couldn’t ask for more you guys are amazing and mean the world to me! THANK YOU!!!

They also say that you will always remember your first. They are right. I won’t forget this one.

The interesting part…. The most amusing part…. That little voice over my shoulder is already there asking the question…. What’s next?

This leaves one question for me. Who’s in for the next adventure?

Sa x

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