Another One Bites The Dust 2019:
Sometimes life feels like a constant grinding against mind, body and dramas competing to take you to the edge! How do you take this on? How do you get up every morning to start the process of doing the grind over and over again?
My last blog was twelve months ago and during the twelve months absence these are the questions I have been asking myself. Life to say the least hasn’t been the easiest this last year as we seem to go from one drama to another where the pressure doesn’t seem let up.
I began the twelve month absence by competing in event called “another one bites the dust”. A simple explanation of this event would be that you need to run a 5.9km (actually 6.3km) loop each hour and be ready at the start of the next hour to repeat this process again. The aim is to keep going until there is only one runner left. Coming into the 2018 event I had unfortunately picked up an overuse injury 2 weeks before the start, regardless I proceeded to take on the challenge and lasted 18hours. Looking back this was mind boggling as I was quite injured at the time and I pushed through the pain for 115km. The result of this was the destabilizing of my hip region and I have been battling back and groin injuries since.
One thing that really annoys me with my brain at times is that I have stress when something is unknown and I have not experienced it before making it tough to function normally. Taking on Ultra events are a huge source of unknown as anything can happen when pushing the body to such extremes. I can be overwhelmed from about two weeks before an Ultra as to be honest it is a scary thought. This year in particular there was more weight behind it as I had a point to prove to myself with the year that I have had since the last time I tried (and failed).
My mum also decided to take on this event in the 2019 edition and flew halfway around the world to do some loops with me. So how did we go?
Challenge 1: Time pressure
Race day proved to be a logistical nightmare as I had last minute appointments to be done before we could leave for Belgium. This meant we arrived with 20mins to get ready. Such a sort time after a 3.5hr drive creates an obstacle because you get no rest before you start. The start is at 8pm therefore I had already been awake for twelve hours and my appointments that day were to say the least, quite emotionally draining.
Challenge 2: Settling in
We were off, 100+ similar minded people starting the first lap in what would be a really long day out. The beauty of this event is that you are in complete control of how you want to go about completing the loop. This meant I could relax and run with my mum for the first 4hours. We set a pace of 55 minute loops meaning 5 minutes rest before we started again. Running at a relaxed slow pace really helped settle the nerves and prepare my mind for what was to come.
Challenge 3: Loneliness
I remember from last year that the toughest part was the hours 1am to 5am. The majority of the runners are from Belgium, nothing against them but I find it so hard to understand what is being said through their thick accent. I always joke to myself that this must be how I must sound to the Dutchie’s with my kiwi accent. Not having someone to talk to means that your only company is your mind and at this time of the morning your mind isn’t your best friend. All it asks is why? Why am I doing this? Why am I not in bed? Why is this fun? Thankfully I came prepared and had Armin van Buuren in my music mix to listen to.
Challenge 4: The lies
By the 12th hour (24hours awake) the lies started, by lies I mean that the body lies to you and I started to feel pain and discomfort in the injury area from last year. Disappointed and ready to call it a day I came into the rest area and started to check out the damage through various exercises. To my surprise there was nothing there, it was just mental damage. It was at this time that I found a Dutchy and we began to run together. His pace was a little higher and this helped me set a different running pattern to rewire the brain.
Challenge 5: Bring on the heat
By 12pm, 60% of the runners had pulled out before the real challenge had even began. The forecast for the day was a toasty 33° and being aware of this I had been hydrating faithfully through the night. Those who hadn’t were dealt with swiftly by the elements. It surprised me how many people misjudged this or simply weren’t mentally prepared to take on the heat but then again we had now been running for more then 18hours and awake for 30.
Challenge 6: The sledgehammer
My biggest question I had for this challenge was what would give out first, the body succumbing to exhaustion or tiredness and stress catching up with me. Well that answer was answered during the 24th hour! Taking off I knew something was not ok and while passing my folks out on a walk, I muttered to them that I was on borrowed time. It came like a sledgehammer, the head exploded and my eyes felt like they were popping out. Tiredness would be my nemesis. The weight of it was incredible. I was angry, frustrated and miserable but I was here to prove a point so I must go on! Pulling myself together I started to count the laps down.
Challenge 7: Letting go
What would satisfy me? I came to conquer, but deep down I feared that I wouldn’t even make it through the first night let alone approach the second. As I neared the end of the minimum 28laps needed to get the finishers medal I started to perk up. The body was good but I came to a surprising conclusion that even though I could push to fight for first place, getting the finishers medal was all I actually wanted. I have pushed myself so hard this last year striving for podiums and yes I have made them, but they have always come at a price. Physically and mentally I have to change my approach for my own health and now was the time to make that statement. I made the decision in lap 27 that 28 would be the last. I felt that the legs could keep going, but at what cost as I was starting to get some shakes. I let it go.
Challenge 8: Soaking it in
On the finishing lap I just enjoyed myself, hours of discipline had payed off and I had plenty of energy to spare. Coming into the 178th km I just let the legs go and finished with a sprint. Crossing the line I turn off then watch, walked away and with difficulty I said no to keeping on going. My wife rang and I just said “done!”
What now? What does the next 12months bring? Can I turn my injury plagued year around and enjoy running again? I don’t know, but what I do know is that taking on a challenge like this has taught me so more about discipline, the physical body, mental toughness and the love of a great support crew. Highly recommended!