Bring Me Them Thar' Hills

Dreams of Comrades Silver slipped by me some time ago. It was a swift smack-in-the-face-realisation that you can't fit the Silver Plan mould to suit every runner. Coming from a soccer background where you are taught to run-off-the-injury I kept on going when I should have held back. Alas, I should have placed more trust in myself. But I didn't. And so I have been schooled.

Respect to the warriors out there that were able to merely complete their plans. I have ended up on 836k's from January 1 to Race Day, thereby missing the volume of 2,000k by some margin. The missing chunk was due to a dodgy Achilles, which has now been sorted. Sort of.

This past Sunday, the Bedfordview Athletics club were kind enough (you could also add in desperate enough) to ask me to talk to the 90 Comrades runners about the mental side of ultra racing. People seem to have enjoyed the talk. Especially the reference to the Mr Sensible (think angel) and Mr Incredible (think devil), that we carry on our shoulders at every race.

Here are my notes:

The Mind

• how nothing actually happens
• how nothing new is added to the body
• but somehow we manage to react physically

Everything that comes to us via our senses

• i.e. we sweat or panic when we think there’s threat;
• we get goosies at National Anthems;
• nothing actually happens in Joburg and we emigrate to Australia
• any number of phobias including pre-race paranoia: Pre-Comraphobia
• How the expo gets into your head: I am not wearing the right gear or taking the correct nutritional supplements. There is a shortcut. All I need to buy is the miracle energy drink.
• Feelings of inadequacy because of our battered youth. My family will love me more if I run faster.
• Mystery ailments. Inventions of the mind to prevent us from attempting the task at hand.
• Seeing Polly Shorts for the first time. How the body reacts to what the mind sees.
• Thoughts of “I am Special”/“I am the Chosen One” and having you're a$$ handed to you before you get to Inchanga.

Oh what to do?!

For artists and daydreamers no problem. Doesn’t work for you accountants out there. So writing it down and repeating it to yourself is a must.

Include how you will react to everything, adverse weather conditions, cramping, negative spells, doldrums.

You can always trick the mind. Positivity is imperative.

Ultimate Intention Statement
• Write down exactly how you wish the race to unfold.
• Read it twice a day from now until race day.
• Believe it. Only when you strongly believe it, will the body and mind align.
• Repeat – repetition creates habit

What to think about during the race?
• Practise
• Mr Sensible v Mr Incredible (difference being a 30mins split difference between 1st 44km and 2nd 44km and a 2hr split difference, because you gone out the blocks too quickly)
• Taking energy from spectators and keeping it for the 60k mark.
• Focus on the present. Not what you did badly yesterday, not the finish line, only the present. (think every step is a step closer to the finish line. You stop, the finish line stays where it is)
• Composure of the jaw, shoulders, elbows, fingers. Removing tension.
• The family. Your loved ones. Get someone to write you something for the half way mark or 60k’s which you can read.
• Choose your one reason why you are doing this: a bet? A promise? To see how fast this thing goes? Remember the answer because you will ask yourself this question several times during the day.
• Richard Laskey having only trained 106km’s from Jan to Race day which includes only Om Die Dam and Two Oceans, in a cow suit, is certainly suffering more than me.

Stupid Things People Do
• Sticking to Plan A for as long as possible. Taking in calories based on a chart which you carry and stick to like religion until you eventually hooch.
• Break your mile PB on a treadmill at the Comrades expo to win a pair of shoelaces and matching Powerband!
• Having a celebratory drink in Durbs on the Thursday before the race. Too much adrenaline mixed with alcohol leads to you thinking you are bulletproof. Ring bells for you 

• No such thing as too much Vaseline. Toes, under the arms, between the thighs, geel, goos, everywhere. A little bit above the eye brow helps keep sweat out of your eyes.
• Go out easy until about 60k’s and then hold on.
• Aim for each water table, make that your next goal.
• Newbies – absorb every single step in that stadium until you cross that line. No other country has an ultra-marathon as an “acceptance” as an athlete amongst peers.

"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body would never tire. You've always got to make the mind take over and keep going."
- George S. Patton, United States Army officer.

The pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret.

Thanks to Keeto too for adding his wisdoms which worked into the talk.

3 days and counting,

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