Saturday, January 14, 2012

Narrabeen all-nighter: Motivation

It doesn't really come into play in the first few hours, before the real pain has set in.

From the start of this 12 hour event, I jogged along in third place behind Darren and Jo, with first place female, Sharon, right on my tail. She kept surging to catch up and I kept surging to lose her; I had to occupy myself somehow to while away the 3.3km laps!

After a couple of hours I let her get away and just tried to fall into some sort of rhythm. This was rendered rather difficult by the flat and concrete of the course, and by my pre-mashed quads. It turns out that a 90-minute mountain run the day before wasn't the best way to taper! When in Rome; or rather, the Blue Mountains...

By this time Nat had been recruited as my crew member for the night, having returned from the supermarket with a bag full of food. At the end of each lap she'd give me whatever food she thought fit as well as a warm smile and some much-needed encouragement. This, along with the Spanish couple with whom I kept up a consistent stream of banter, really kept me going.

Especially as the 50km mark approached and I slowed considerably. I'd expected to hit it in under 4:30 comfortably - I went through in about 4:50. It was frustrating; the effort that I'd put in for that measly split felt worthy of a much faster time. Couple that with the fact that I was starting to feel like rubbish, and you have the first significant low-point of the race.

And that's where motivation came into play. I realised that my reason for entering the race was rather superficial, so I had to use other methods to keep myself going.

This event actually marked the middle of a 12-day road trip with Nick T and Erika. The most commonly used expression over the previous week had been "Yeah dog". "Yeah dog" for everything:
Ascend a death-scramble - Yeah dog
"Pass me a tent peg" - Yeah dog
Eat some beans - Yeah dog.
So for a large portion of the next few hours, I was thinking of Nick and Erika exclaiming "Yeah dog" into my ear.

Otherwise, we'd found out on the second day of the trip, to Erika's displeasure, that Nick and I could both sing almost all of Ben Folds' classic album "Rocking the Suburbs". I then reintroduced him to the song "My Philosophy"...the live version in particular, and it became our anthem.



"I see that there is evil
and I know that there is good
and the inbetweens I never understood

So would you look at me I'm crazy
but I get the job done
yeah I'm crazy but I get the job done"

Between catching up with Nat and the Spaniards, and encouraging the other runners, these two verses were on a never-ending loop either inside my head or outside of my mouth. And I never once got bored of them.

The low point ended definitively when I came in from a particularly rough lap, and complained to Nat that I wasn't moving as quickly as I should be. Andrew Vize, whose previous comments had amounted to nothing more than cheap-shots at my ragged attire, stepped in and proclaimed firmly "One lap at a time".

That was it; we were back in business. No sleep monsters, no walking. All that I had to do was to watch the full moon throw light onto the mist above the lake, sigh, and embrace the world.

And so it went until about 4am, when the distance really started to catch up with me and I dropped many a placing. It was frustrating to be putting in a considerable effort but running about 10km behind where I'd expected to be, and where my body said that I was.

Let sunrise come! The kookaburras had assembled on the powerlines, perched stoically above us, refusing to greet the new day with their glorious laugh. And when they did begin to call, it was to taunt the fools who'd thought that the sun was soon to crest the horizon.

Just after 5am, grey gave way to gold, the lake was illuminated. I waited for the inevitable boost.
Ok Zac, sun's up, you're going to automatically pick it up right now.
Or now.
Or now.
And so the usual self-doubts surfaced: still haven't recovered from Glasshouse; taper was too short; hamstrings aren't up to the task; whatever "it" is, I've lost it.

Mal came past at one point, running strongly, and muttered "Dig in". I really wanted to, but just wasn't feeling it. Come on Zac, run faster!

And then I was tempted to call it a day at 100km...

6:20am - Crew to the rescue!
"Zac, let's talk about caffeine"
We decided that an energy drink wouldn't be a good idea, so Nat rustled up a strong cup of black coffee. I sculled it and waited.

After ten minutes I felt a huge boost, and was back on track.
Time to bust a move. What was my motivation this time?

Just Because.


And so the last 80 minutes were a blur of pain and ecstasy without indecision.



After a considerable surge in the last ten minutes, and a 4:30 for the final kilometre, it was over.



111.4km: a somewhat underwhelming total, but I'm really happy that I brought it home with gusto.
And I'm incredibly grateful for the help that Joaquin, Maria, Andrew and all of the other spectators/organisers/runners gave me.
But thanks especially Nat, who sacrificed a night of sleep to dote on my every wish, and who was entirely responsible for the 11-or-so km that I ran in the final hour.

The main lesson that I've taken away from this race is that motivation is dynamic, and sometimes even unnecessary. It can be really empowering to run hard "just because".