The mid plan wobble….we have all been there and it's where I am right now. 5 weeks into a plan, still 3-4 weeks to go to a start line and everyday the call to show up, put kit on and get out the door for more running feels endless. And right now that call is so hard to listen to as the world seems to be conspiring against us and it's so hard to know what to do that is right. All I can say is you need to do what feels best for you and right now, for me, carrying on with as much ‘normality’ as I can muster is what is keeping me sane and generally exhausted enough that I can cope with all the rising stress levels!
So here I am mid training block, in the middle of a pandemic, with constant moving goal posts and finish lines. Us runners thrive on the tedium of our days. We thrive on there being a start and a finish. We love the process in between. But I am finding that process exceptionally hard to maintain focus on and also to enjoy. It's taking strong will power and a real lazer like mindset. Not allowing the what ifs...the little don't bothers to creep in. You see running and I are best friends, and often I can't get enough of her. I know she is the best thing for me, but right now in this block I feel the need for a little space and perhaps a little time out from her incessant calling to run faster, stronger, harder, to do better, Eddie you can always do better. But I need her right now to stick with me. I need to suck up the tiredness, the relentness of this relationship and keep moving forward. This is where the fitness gains are made, but its also where the biggest mistakes can be made, don't ignore that niggle, don't push through the pain, but do embrace the feeling of fatigue and allow yourself some slack in other areas of your lives to compensate for this focus you are demanding of yourself.
It's groundhog day. Get out of bed every morning and my legs feel sore, something else hurts, but most of all mentally I feel a bit stretched to capacity. If I think about what I have to do that day it seems such a mountain to climb, I'm tempted to just crawl back under the duvet. Killian Jornet was asked how he coped with the mental fatigue of day in day out sessions and he said (and I paraphrase) he didn't think about them. Didn't think about them and just put his head down and did the work. So I try not to dwell on what I have ahead and try and literally live in that moment, in that day. Start the watch, start moving and see what the day brings. Be kind. And every day once the body starts moving, the legs warm up, my brain switches from...do this...do that...to total immersion in the activity and more often than not I feel great...well maybe not great...but I am fine, get it done and most importantly get to enjoy that post run cup of tea! It's another run ticked, another step forward, another moment on the path and for me a huge comfort that whilst the rest of our lives are so distorted and uncontrollable, this relationship is the same and will always be there for us.
Handling this ‘hump’ in my training plan is normal, I've experienced it many times, in some ways I am already deep into the ‘race,’ this showing up every day is what gives me both physical and mental confidence at the start line that I can complete what I have ahead. The compartmentalisation of every step, of minutes, hours, of working through highs and lows I'm practising that every day.
This week has been especially hard. The news from the UK is especially depressing. I cry watching the news. I miss my family terribly, normally I cope with this by having flights booked for half terms. Plans are normally being hatched already about the reunions, trips to M and S (I know sadness), just having time together and being ‘home.’ But there is none of that. I don't know when Ill see mum and dad again. Im not even sure I can get over to UK to actually do this race. The temptation to throw in the towel, sit back and put 2020 in the trash bin is huge. But then I feel 2020 would have won. And I know if I let myself sink into that pit it isn't going to make me a happy runner or mum/wife/coach. So many clients and friends are struggling with the uncertainty of the future, the knee jerks reactions of the government painting the country with doom and gloom. I think we are all struggling with facing the fact that what we thought was the beginning of a return to ‘normal’ life is far from it and there is a long journey ahead of us.
So what can I do? I am determined to continue as if I am racing, not just for my own livelihood, but I also feel a strong need to set a good example to both my family and athletes. If the race doesn't happen for whatever reason, I will still be able to look back on a great block, how I handled myself, what worked, what didn't, in many ways this is more important right now than actually pinning that number on at the start line.
As I climb up the last bit of this hump...this is what I focus on and I hope some of this might ring true with others...I focus on what I can control...eating, drinking, resting, making life outside running (I know there is one!) as simple as possible. Saying ‘No’ to other ‘things’. Let a few things slide. Focus really hard on that finish line, even if it keeps moving. Focus on doing your best on the journey there. Even if sometimes the journey there is messy, chaotic, exhausting, it can also be exhilarating, powerful and to me right now it is keeping my head up, my smile on and the ponytail swishing. That sense of normality, going out for a run everyday is something I can control, the outside is my safe space, nature, the mountains, the stillness.
So if you are mid training block, keep that focus, remind yourself of your purpose and goals, try to tune out outside noise and distraction, even if races are cancelled, or life as we know it continues to change, keep thinking of how you are handling yourself, one foot in front of another. At the end of this block if there is no medal or sweaty crew hugs I know that this day to day grind isn't wasted both for my future athletic aspirations, but also for keeping my head above the water, when somedays I feel like I'm going to be dragged down into the what ifs….I concentrate on what I can control….the world will keep turning...the leaves will soon turn...the snow will come and we have to carry on living.
Be brave. We got this.