DIARY: A birthday race

20130620_193933Birthday time is almost upon me as a man finds himself turning 34 tomorrow. I’ve decided to give myself a race for my birthday. A little present in the form of the “Race the Rock” 11km mountain race in Aughrim, on Cushbawn, a hill I haven’t run since 2007.

Apart from the fact that I’ll be old(er) by race start, I know I lack endurance, competitive practice and race specific training. No matter. It fits well into one of my goals at the moment: attainment of what I have dubbed “the unassailable mind”.

Feeding the beasts

Fears are like beasts that we too easily feed until they grow big and strong and take up room in our heads. Every time I went to a physio and was told “plantar fasciitis” or “posterior tibialis” it fed these beasts. When I was told “weak core” it fed these beasts. When I look at a rough trail and say “I can’t run that without protection”, I feed these beasts. Our modern world is full of these sources of fear.

These days when I wake up in the morning and feel inflammation in a joint or soreness I can’t explain, I laugh to myself inside. Then I get moving. I haven’t visited a doctor or a physiotherapist since October 2011 and I think I will live out my life never visiting a physiotherapist or similar professional again. Because for me going and getting “a diagnosis” is feeding the beasts, feeding the fear, creating tension, creating pain and perpetuating the chronic injury circle. I’ve seen the inside of that wheel and I never plan to crawl back into it. I’m lucky. I met a guy who filled in the blanks for me and showed me that there’s another way, that you can literally “move your way out of trouble” as long as you are taught how.DSCF0003

-> “Bouncy plank” on the kitchen floor. Educating postural muscles is just one of the small things necessary for the big pictures to come together

But this is only the intellectual battle that I have won. I have the biggest battle yet ahead of me. It’s all well and good thinking: “I’m fearless” or “I’m not afraid of that pain, I know where it comes from,” but the subconscious mind cannot be convinced by words or reasoning. It does not care about debates on message boards or the opinions of researchers. It reacts to the experiences it is exposed to – real or imagined (there is no difference, if you think there’s an armed man downstairs you will react the same whether he’s there or not).“

“He’s beginning to believe.”

So I try to egg myself on to always break out of my comfort zone. But sometimes I need a nudge. As a coach, you often end up without a coach, or someone to serve that role for you. Thankfully, I have fellow runners (you know who you are) and a mentor in Tony Riddle. The other night an opportunity came up to do a race in a number of weeks. Tony told me in know uncertain terms what I needed to do for that race (that’s another story, coming soon). It’s worth surrounding yourself with people who constantly push you. The “can do” people: you know who they are – they are the guys and gals who don’t wait for peer-researched reviews.


<- A coach to “egg you on”. these lucky buggers had Arthur Lydiard

So tomorrow, while not extreme by any means, will be a nice little spin for me. It will allow me to face one of my greatest fears: I hate racing when I’m unfit because I offends my personal sense of pride. When I cross a finish-line knowing that “that should have been better”, I feel a disgust in myself*. This is something to get over – because not every race needs to be perfect if it serves a purpose. Tomorrow serves a purpose – to test some theories, to have a bit of fun and to learn some lessons that I can go back and apply in refining my “master plan” (also to be revealed soon!).

* If this sounds obsessed and you’re surprised, you haven’t been reading this blog long enough! My belief is that those of us born with obsessive personalities need one obsession to keep us from going off the rocks. I’m happy to have ended up choosing running although I’m sure the publicans of Dublin mourn the loss of my previous obsession…

A heart full of hate?

How will I tow the starting line? tomorrow. Percy Cerutty would say that before an 800m race he would “fill his heart with hate”. Perfectly sensible advice: the pain of an 800m race is such that you are best in the mindset of a gladiator – someone ready to do anything and everything to succeed.

You cannot race a mountain race with a heart full of hate from the start, however, it is too long and you need to befriend the hill, not hate it. Relaxation is my friend on the uphill. On the descent it is different, control is always necessary, but it has to be mixed with just a tiny dose of fury – just the same dose that a race car driver needs to go from “safe” to “champ”. It is very difficult to bring out this in training or in non-important races, because again, you cannot trick the subconscious mind. It knows what’s truly important to you and what is not. But again this can be cultivated. A true professional can “turn up the heat” on demand and that’s another little thing I hope to practice tomorrow.