Three weeks ago today – almost to the minute as I type this (given the time difference) – I was just about to start the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Texas. That day went pretty well, and since then I have had a few podcasts, web interviews and a couple of other wee things to do on the back of the race. The price of fame, eh?
To me, the race itself was the end of a process. The competitive side of me enjoys racing, pitting my wits and training against fellow runners to see where I stand. But, I am intrigued by the process more than the outcome. Yet, the most often asked question I have had since RR100 has been “what is next?”. My answer has been invariably to recover first.
Right now I am deep in the process of recovery. The rehabilitation for me is both physical and mental. I put a lot of intensity into race preparation, from weeks and months out. It dominates my thoughts and removing them at the end is akin to a weight being lifted from my shoulders.
In a blog post around 18 months ago, after winning Glenmore 24, I wrote about the importance of being rested. That was focused on the physical side. Equally important to me now is the mental side. It is impossible to peak mentally all the time. There are inevitable dips in moods and energy in any training cycle and the mental well can dry up just as the physical one can.
Following RR100 I got a sense of just how much the burden of expectation could weigh on oneself. I had sooooo many messages of goodwill, both personal, public and private. It was almost overwhelming. A group of amazing friends recorded me a video that lasted 25 minutes and was incredible, funny and poignant. I wanted to do well for them as much as me. It was only after that I reflected how much this support can manifest as pressure, if you allow it to. Luckily, I didn’t and found this a key part of my late race armoury; I flipped my motivation to include these vibrant vibes. After the race, I couldn’t even piss near getting back to everyone who sent me a message or tagged me on Social Media. I felt bad about that for a wee while but I am sure folks understood.
Then a week or so later, as my legs were recovering, I noticed an ever so slight lift in my motivation and my mood. I was scanning ahead, beyond the next few months and into the next few years in fact. Not setting concrete goals, aims or races but instead thinking of possibilities. I am creating lines of probability for my future racing and also looking at some adventures I’d like to do.
I have no races booked of note – aside from a holiday half marathon to do in Toronto when over in Canada in July – and this has allowed my mind to lift itself from a singular focus to a wider lens of what could be instead of the what is going to be in and out rhythm of the last 18 months. I went from ACP to WHW to TB24 with RR100 to end the cycle. This is an intense period of thought and focus. And it is a litany of acronyms that would have a London Business School suit salvating over.
These last few weeks I have loved getting back to jogging easy and enjoying a steady rhythm of running for the sake of it and regaining fitness as I get back into it. Today, I got to run for fun with my mates, something I don’t do enough of. Instead of worrying about each step being part of a specific process, the steps since February 5th have been about being ready for the next process, or training cycle I go into. Right now, I am not sure what that will be – so don’t ask! – but I am pretty excited about the possibilities in the offing.
So, I guess I wanted to share this ramble to make the point, if you are not feeling it after an intense period (relative to you and no one else) of mental gymnastics, then try to take a step and allow the mind to recover the way you might do the same for the body. How you do that will be very personal to you. For me, it is has been three weeks of chilled body recovery with no looming pressures or races on the horizon, for you it could be the complete opposite.
As it is, the body is recovering and mind is getting frantic with thought and energy, I am about ready to start all over again and I am pretty stoked about what the future holds. Mind and body are in tandem once again!