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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

“Well you probably needed a good butt kicking in your prep for Antartica.  Better to struggle out here than down there!  Now we know where we need to focus the next three months,” said my running coach and mentor Ray Zahab.

He would know. He has crossed most of the world’s deserts and poles on serious expeditions. In the spring he recently completed back to back treks–through the Canadian Arctic and right after across the Atacama Desert in Chile–in over 40 days.

This three day race was short, compact and the terrain was difficult. It was great to be back on home soil in Canada and see the challenge it presented for me and other competitors in all its beauty…and it kicked my butt!

My hydration was off in the sweltering 97F heat the first day and it impacted me the rest of the race.

I was was able to gut out a decent run over 53KM on day one, but when you forget to change the oil often enough on your car, it will start to clunk down the road…and man did I clunk!

Day Two was 72KM through some nasty terrain and heat and what should have taken me 9-11 hours ended up in an all day 16 hour affair that would have me chugging through the bush in darkness and rain. One stretch was 2KM straight up a Canyon wall and that took us over an hour…and I lied flat on my back at the top chugging for air.

As Ray had said in our briefing that morning “when you get to the top of the Canyon, your  veins are going to feel like they’re popping straight out of your legs!”  Also, when you are getting beat up by the heat, holding your water and breakfast down feels awful. With no gas in the car, it breaks down on the side of the road!

Not to far after the top of the hill, I threw up on the side of the trail!  Not pretty.

Many times, that will knock you right out of a race. I was experienced enough to know what I needed to do with my fluids (get a lot down after the stomach settled) and adjust my pace and expectations for when I would finish. When you get in that state I can tell you there is nothing more you want to do then get off the course, lie down and quit.  It’s gut wrenching.

However, I remembered my intention for this race: a milestone run in training for Antartica in November.  Work out the kinks in my training approach, work on my suffer quotient (check) and grind out by any means necessary to the finish line. Check!

One of the biggest challenges for Antartica will be getting to the start of the race across the Drake Passage (and potential 30-40 foot swells) without tossing your lunch. So this may have been the best training after all!

It was a great and needed reminder to me to be hyper focused on the fundamentals!

There are so many variables that can affect the outcomes of these challenges and you need to have all dialed in at the right time in order to finish.

Small adjustments over time to the fundamentals leads to mastery.

The kick in the pants you need. Sign-up for a better start to your work day.