Life can grind away at you at times and that can have a direct effect on your training, motivation and morale. This entry is about how I experienced that phenomena over the last few weeks.
I went to Lugano and watched an incredible display of walking. I was lucky enough to travel and stay with the UK teams. Lots of people recognised the three legs on my clothes and some remembered the Lugano Trophy in 1985. That was a wonderful feeling. The sheer athleticism of most of the competitors was incredible. The heat was intense - 24 degrees in the shade on race day.
While out there, I was informed of the passing of a family member. It was difficult to be away from the family in those circumstances. It put a taint on the trip. I lost my way a little, struggled to find any motivation or pace and pulled out of the race after 11km.
The week following the trip I was feeling heavy and slow. In my training sessions I was struggling to maintain any pace and felt breathless and it felt a real struggle. I cut a few sessions short, simply not enjoying myself. I experienced dark thoughts about it all being too much and that 85 miles simply seemed a mountain too high for me. I had serious conversations with myself about failure.
Then I read Jock Waddington's blog entry. Jock described a 10km race he had done that weekend. He described how, contrary to expectations, the fitter you get, the harder it becomes. That is SO true. He came out with a line in his blog that stood out for me, like a neon flashing sign:
"Without mental strength and a willingness to succeed, it is very easy to give in and either slow down (because it doesn't hurt and you will be more comfortable) or quit altogether. For those wishing to achieve their target, neither is an option."
Here is a man who won the Parish Walk 4 times in a row - a unique achievement. He knows what he is talking about.
This was a bit of a wake up call for me. You only fail once you stop trying.
So I decided to go for a walk with Jock.
I arranged to meet Jock, Richard Gerrard and Dave Walker at the NSC last Saturday at 0730. They very kindly agreed to let me tag along. I felt like a Domestique in a cycle team. These are seriously tough guys. Between these three they have a phenomenal pedigree:
5 Parish Walk wins
The Parish Walk record time
18 Parish Walk finishes
What's more, each of them has completed the Roubaix 28hour race. The week after Roubaix 28, Dave went on to do the End to End walk (39miles) and came 3rd!
We set off down the quay at a sensible pace to warm up and got into a good rhythm. Richard explained that they would go "steady" for the first half and then "pick it up" later once they had some miles done. We went along Marine Drive to Port Soderick and then along the Old Casteltown Road.
The pace was conversational and I felt relatively comfortable. There was lots of banter and joking which made the time pass really quickly. Before I knew it we were in Ballasalla refilling water bottles at the shop.
I guessed this might have been the end of the first half and felt a little nervous and not sure of the route when I got dropped. I was right - at some unseen signal Jock changed two gears and flew up the hill towards St Marks. The others also changed gears and went with him. I was left standing even though I was half expecting it to happen and had been warned. I didn't actually have two gears left to change up!
I found going up that hill to St Marks very hard. I was doing 5:25/km and they were going away from me. As we still had 20km to go and that is my 20km race pace I wasn't sure what to do. What was I doing there? Who was I with?vvJocks words came back to haunt me...
"it is very easy to give in and either slow down (because it doesn't hurt and you will be more comfortable) or quit altogether "
My body was screaming at me to slow down. What the hell, I knew I had no option. I had to speed up. I didn't think I could sustain it but decided I was going to push at all costs. By St Marks the gap was only 10 metres and then they slowed up and had a drink and a snack. I could hardly speak, drenched and gasping for air.
Off we went again towards Crosby. There is another climb up that road and exactly the same thing happened again. They just flew up it - so I gave it my all. We regrouped and dropped down the very steep descent into Crosby, then up the other along the Mt Rule Road heading back through Strang. During the steep climb out of Crosby the three experienced guys spoke to me about nutrition and pacing on hills during the parish. I was given some great advice about what to expect and how to react. Some real wisdom.
I also knew what was coming next! I took the advice and fuelled up on the steep section of the climb, estimating we had 6km to go. Richard then injected some really serious pace again and off we went. I decided I was going to see how long I could hold on and stuck to him. We did the final 5km back the the NSC considerably faster than my 5km personal best - yet we were still chatting all the way back. I was fatigued though and told Richard this. His reply was "yes I am feeling a bit peckish myself"...
At over 35 kilometres (22 miles) it was the second longest race walk I've ever done and it was brilliant! Great experience, completely exhilarating and I learned a lot, mainly about myself but also about endurance walking.
I also realised I had found my mojo.
Since then my training has felt great. Quite a contrast to how I felt a week ago - and I still managed a weekly total of 85km (53 miles)
Thank you guys!
My advice this week is two fold.
1. If you lose you mojo, it isn't gone, you will find it again
2. If you can, get out and walk with people better than you. It will push you to do things you didn't realise you could do or won't do on your own