Trevor: “Hey, here’s an idea: Would you like to run 44kms with 2,500m of elevation gain, up, over and around Table Mountain next month?”
Me: “Ummm…. sure.”
I have always had a strong mind, but sometimes – actually pretty often – I have found it working hard against me. For example, when I believe wholeheartedly that someone dislikes me, I tend to act according to what I think to be true instead of what I know. When it comes to my physical capabilities, when I believed that I couldn’t do something, or if the climb on a trail run was too hard, or the swimming distance was further than I had attempted before – past Jamie wouldn’t have even give it a bash for fear of failure.
Isn’t life just so limiting when we set such rigid boundaries for ourselves?
Anyway, a number of crucial moments, encouraging humans in my life, and significant events forced me to acknowledge that the only thing that has ever been in my way… EVER… was me and my ridiculously strong, and, more often than not, wrong mindset.
For a couple of years I had been enjoying my trail running. I probably entered a 10km -15km vineyard trail run monthly, mostly because of the promise of free wine at the end of the feat, and then the odd 21km race – more to go along with the crowd I was with than for any other reason. I did pretty well in those races and enjoyed having events to train for, but in 2017, something changed. I had been through a rough couple of years, with my running being pretty much the only consistent thing I had control over, and I felt like I needed something to remind me that I was capable of more than I thought I was.
I needed my next challenge.
Shortly after coming to this conclusion, I was scrolling through the most recent updates on Facebook when I was targeted by an ad notifying me of the Bastille Day run that all my friends were “interested in”. My first thought was “Nope. Na uh, no way, not me – I cannot run 25kms in the mountains – no.”
Well, thanks for the vote of confidence mind! Because just a few short months and a few kilometers later, I did it!
Franschhoek in July 2018 was freezing cold, and wet, and in terms of the running race, no one mentioned the compulsory swim across the frigid river just 500 meters before the finish line. But, nonetheless, I absolutely loved every kilometer. The Franschhoek trails are simply indescribable – you just have to get out there and run or walk them for yourself to experience it! I was absolutely blown away and totally taken with the beauty, but to be honest, I was even more impressed with how my body coped with the distance.
So as I crossed the finish line in 6th position and took a sip of my first post-race beer, I was certain that the Bastille Day Trail Run would be penned into my calendar as an annual event featuring in the wintry month of my July.
But the next Bastille event was a year from now, and I was hyper-aware of the fact that I couldn’t wait that long for this feeling of elation to come around again. I needed another event between then and July 2019 to feed my high and keep me motivated.
or all of us, the events that we choose to take part in require three essential components:
- A “sick” crew
- Epic routes that challenge us either physically or mentally (or both)
- A post-race jol and banter about our racing “war stories”
I knew HBTC would have all three, so I promptly entered, but what contributed to my lack of hesitation was the knowledge that the event would be organised by Energy Events. Having worked for a number of different companies involved in the sports events industry, I am fully aware of how challenging it can be. So, armed with that knowledge, I am always blown away by how Energy Events just seem to get it so right. Their trail runs are always tough enough, inclusive enough, fun enough and generally hit the mark when it comes to a GEES day out playing in the mountains.
And as I expected, HBTC was no exception.
Running the third leg, picking my way along the technical route from Constantia Neck to Hout Bay Harbour, set my heart on fire. How had I lived in Cape Town for a good 24 years and never seen the city from that perspective? It was just breathtaking…
The HBTC was never about the three of us stepping up onto that podium. It was more about having a good time together and trying our personal bests, which just so happened to lead to a successful result… and as the second place goodie bag was placed in our hands, there was no denying it…
I was hooked: What next? Where would I find my next challenge? What more was I capable of?
Well, with friends like mine, not too many minute hands circumnavigate the clock before the next epic adventure is introduced to the crew and set in motion. So after a successful 25km trail run in Franschhoek and podium finish at the HBTC, I found myself entered into the Torpedo SwimRun’s 26km adventure race in the Wilderness.
Torpedo SwimRun Wild was a totally different event!
It was a weekend getaway up the Garden Route, camping along the Ebb & Flow river with a crew of sixteen like-minded adventure seekers.
What could be better?
On Friday we were given a small taster of what to expect the following day, with a prologue race consisting of 3 runs and 4 swims adding up to 6kms. It was a nice way to test out the gear we wanted to use and to figure out the best strategy for how to work well together.
After a fulling dinner and a good nights sleep, we were up early on Saturday morning to get the main event underway. The 26kms of epic adventure racing was made up of 5 runs (17kms), 4 swims (4kms) and 1 swamble, which was 5kms of navigating our way down the icy Kaaimans River – rock hopping, sliding into little pools and crawling under small trees.
After a good 3 hours and 36 minutes playing in the Wilderness, my partner and I were thrilled to walk away from TorpedoWild with a 1st place. But, despite the intensity of the adventure, I had gayfully skipped over the line in the sand I had drawn for myself.
Once again I was left baffled about where my limit was.
Fortunately for me, Energy Events didn’t let me stress about my dilemma for too long. Their early bird special advertisement for the 35km Bastille Day Trail Run (10 more kms than I have run before!) quickly landed in my inbox.
Upon opening the mail, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. The answer was: “Yes! Let me give it a go!”
It is the most amazing feeling setting a challenge for yourself, working towards your goal and then conquering it. Thinking you knew all that you were capable of, only to discover the untapped potential seething below the surface. It’s exhilarating.
Finding my self-inflicted limits with my running, and then totally eradicating them has shown me that I don’t have to accept anything at face value. I can test, and try new things, and fail, and learn, and it’s all okay. It’s been incredible to watch the benefits of this mental shift filter through into all other spheres of my life. In January 2019 I decided it was time to move out of my parent’s home and find my own space, and by the 1st of February I did; in March, I plucked up the courage to resign from my job and apply for my dream position in another company, and I got it; at the beginning of the year, I set a goal to be entirely self-sufficient by the middle of 2019, and I was comfortably living without financial support by February; over the last couple of months I have been looking at the people in my life, identifying both the gems and the more toxic influences, and made the hard decision to cut ties with the people who were bringing me down.
Basically, it seemed that whenever I wrote down the current position I was in, and next to it, how I wanted that situation to change, I would work hard to make it happen…
And that’s what the 35km Bastille Run was for me: Another challenge, another hunt for my limit, and another way to prove myself wrong.
So there I was, a year later, a little braver, a little crazier, shivering on the start line to the 35km trail run, and waiting for the 5 second countdown from one comedic Napoleon with a microphone: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and you’re off!”
Leading up to the race, I wasn’t quite as prepared as I had planned to be. I had all these hopes and dreams about being stronger from all the gym I have always been too lazy to do, and being lighter from all the healthy and mindful eating I have been meaning to get back into – whoops… I guess you are never as prepared as you would like to be. But despite all of that, I really wasn’t nervous. I actually hardly even slept the night before the run because of all the excitement.
It was 2 degrees on the start line at the race village, but it didn’t take too long to warm up. That’s the thing about Energy Events and their trail races – they kindly place a hill at the start of a race to “quickly defrost your frozen limbs” and then throw in a cheeky incline at the end to remind you to stay humble as you cross the finish. So the climb in the begining meant that the first few kilometers were definitely the toughest, but once I got over the hill and hit the singletrack, it was the loudest reminder of why I do this.
Setting my legs free running along the forest floor, I remember being unable to wipe the smile from my face. Even when we hit the next climb followed by the crazy descent down the rocky mountain face – I was reaching the kind of high even narcotics would fail to achieve. But I knew I had a lot of race left, so with my good friend’s advice to “keep up with your nutrition or you are going to bomb out!” running through my mind, I came up with a strategy that really seemed to work for me. Every time I felt like I could run forever, I grabbed a bar from my hydration pack and took a bite. And when I found myself losing concentration and tripping over small obstacles in my path, I would reach for my water pipe and take a long sip.
I really believe that I made it through that race with no dark patches and no potential “bombing out” episodes because of that strategy. But I guess I’ll have to try it again in another race to really be sure…
By the time I had 25kms of race in my legs, I felt fresher than ever. In hindsight, I recognise that it was definitely the wrong move to pick up the pace at that point – with a good 11kms still to go (my total distance ended up being 36.5kms) – but I couldn’t hold myself back. I looked down at my watch and saw that I could beat the time I had set for myself AND break 4 hours if I just picked up the pace I was running ever so slightly. So natually my competitive side took over all previous promises to “take it chilled” and “just run it to finish it” and I crossed the finish line in third place.
My friends were shocked to see me walking through the finish area a half hour before they expected me to, but I was just too stoked. I had proven to myself I could do it – and what’s more – I had felt better than I ever could have hoped to feel on my first relatively long distance trail run! I guess I still haven’t quite found my limit…
So, next up is the #TMC2019… time to find a new finish line!