Stepping into the unknown again – this time at the Endure 24hr Trail Race

Less than a year ago I was stepping onto the starting line for the North Downs Way 50 (NDW50) mile trail race – what I referred to (at that time) as the ‘impossible.’

I can still remember how in the weeks leading up to that event my mind was totally consumed with the event. I was nervous and scared – especially the scared aspect, and I remember that I was scared, not of the actual event, but of failing the event. In particular, whether my body was strong enough to complete a 50-mile non-stop endurance event.

If you’ve read my previous articles, you’ll know that I did complete the event – and more importantly, I enjoyed completing the event, so much so that I made sure I entered another one (the South Downs Way 50) for the following Spring.

However, the most important accomplishment for me personally was being able to quash the ‘demons’ inside of me, the ones that kept telling me that there was no way I could do this.

That was the best part of the entire experience.

Then came the SDW50…

Wind forward to the Spring of this year and the South Downs Way 50 (SDW50) was upon me. This time around I wasn’t nervous at all, I just felt very relaxed.

In short, I knew I could do this now, so the fear of the unknown had evaporated, but also I now knew how to prepare myself mentally and physically.

I remember, even whilst running the NDW50, I was appraising my performance – not judging or criticising it, just appraising it in a very constructive manner. When I finished the race, and for days after, I continued that process – sometimes consciously, other times sub-consciously.

I evaluated all the aspects of what made up my performance on the day: training, equipment, nutrition, hydration and race day strategy.

I mulled them over and looked to make small improvements, actually refinements, to each aspect, knowing that if I could improve each of those areas by 5 – 10%, then my overall performance would be substantially better next time around.

Over the Winter I was able to implement, test and further refine these new learning’s, and with each application I added to my skills and experience, which in turn gave me confidence.

So, when I lined up at SDW50, it just felt like another training run – and that proved to be incredibly important, as it enabled me to make a decision on that day that I don’t think I would have just six short months before.

We were warned that we were going to be facing wet running conditions once we reached the trails that run along the crest of the South Downs, however, the extent to which to storms hit shocked every runner, even those with a mass of experience.

By the time I reached mile 35, I could feel my core temperature dropping rapidly. I’d already witnessed numerous runners drop out due to the hypothermic conditions, so when I reached this point I did a quick assessment of how I felt, what the conditions were, how much more exposure I would face, the aid station locations and my clothing options.

It was already 5pm, I had 3 more hours on the course, the temperature was dropping and the wind chill and rain were getting even heavier. I was soaked through and only had similar (light) clothing to replace my existing.

I made the decision to pull out, based on not believing that I could maintain my core temperature for the 3 more hours of exposure that I would face.

Could I have pressed on – probably yes, at least for another hour or so, before things would have become a little more concerning, but I would not have finished in a healthy condition, that’s for sure. 6 months earlier, I would have been so obsessed with the finish, or the thought of failing, I would have pushed on regardless.

Now, my opinion is that ‘it’s better to live, learn and fight another day.’

I didn’t achieve the outcome I desired, on this occasion, but I quickly realised how I could have avoided this (to ensure I don’t repeat the issue). I’d made too many assumptions about the conditions and had packed too light. As I had a support team available, I should have packed additional (warmer) clothing with them (ie. my Winter training gear). If I’d had that to change into I could have continued. The lesson is simple – if you have the facility / room to take additional back up gear (food, clothing, drinks, first aid), utilise it.

Now we’ve arrived at Endure 24…

So, how do I feel about Endure 24 and the thought of attempting to chase down a 100mile target in 24hours of continuous activity?

Excited.

Not scared, calm or nervous – just genuinely excited at the prospect of stepping into the complete unknown (again).

Is it because my preparation is helping me to get my head more comfortably around these targets? Possibly, but I genuinely think that I’m learning that the most important part of this whole experience is (cliché I know) the taking part – not the finish or the outcome.

I think both of my previous ultra’s have shown me that things NEVER go to plan, well, not to the plan that I’ve played out in my mind.

Now that I learnt to accept that it won’t look, sound or feel the same as the movie playing through in my mind, I’ve learnt to stop trying to second-guess what’s going to happen and just go with the moment.

Do I have a gameplan and race strategy? Absolutely.

So, does that mean I’m contradicting myself with the ‘going with the moment’ statement?

I don’t think so. I think the difference with my approach this time is that although I’ve set myself up to (hopefully) reach a target, my focus is much more on the actual event, rather than just the reaching finish line.

I’ve learnt that it’s very easy to focus so much on the reaching the finish that you end up missing the experience of the actual race / journey / experience.

With Endure24, I’ve been excited about chatting through plans with friends, training for it, choosing my nutrition, packing my clothing and connecting with people who are running the event too. I’m looking forward to arriving at the event on Saturday morning and saying hi to old and new friends, even running a lap or two with them.

I want to experience the whole event, not just become caught up in the bubble of my own run.

Will I achieve 100miles? I have no idea.

My gameplan is set-up to give me a good chance, but as a good friend said (who is running the event too) “I’d prefer to not hit any specific mileage target and want to come back to do another, rather than go all out but end up hating the experience.”

True words.

I’ll let you all know how I get on!

by Kevin Matthews, Producer of the Maximise Your Potential Podcast

About the Author

Hi, I'm Tom Burkinshaw, I co-produce the Maximise Your Potential Podcast and Website and my goal is to help as many people as possible be successful in life, careers and business, by offering free coaching and mentoring through a series of unique interviews from inspiring people who all display exceptional self-belief, mental toughness and desire to achieve. Thank you for taking the time to visit Maximise Your Potential!