Tag Archives: ultrarunner

Don’t You Get Scared?

It’s a common question. When people find out where I run and that I do so alone there are usually a few standard responses, either “I wish I could do that” (you totally can), “Your husband lets you do that?” (Seriously? WTF? That’s a WHOLE other blog post) and “But, don’t you get scared?”.

The answer is yes, I do get scared. We all get scared, don’t we? There are things that create fear in our hearts and minds, but it’s a choice as to what we do about that fear. How much power we give the fear and how we listen to it.

I run alone and at the moment I try and run every long run somewhere new, in an effort to mimic what will happen on race day where I will be running on ‘new to me’ trails and needing to navigate along the way. This can be scary, there is a chance I will get lost, or hurt, but I can’t let that fear dictate my life. I am a planner and I mitigate the danger as much as I can. I have a planned route. I tell at least two people where I am planning to run, how long I should take and when to start worrying if they haven’t heard from me. On every mountain or long run I take a full pack of gear, I always have, whether it be here in New Zealand or back in the subtropical National Parks of NSW and South East Queensland. In my pack I have dry thermals, a raincoat, beanie, spare food, water, a bivvy sac (think sleeping bag made out of space blanket material), first aid and a headlamp.

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Planning for any situation helps mitigate the fear.

Knowing I have these things in place helps me manage the fear. I usually have more fear before a new run than during. I will stress about running in a new place or if I know the conditions aren’t going to be the best, but nine times out ten, once I am underway the fears drop away.

But this doesn’t mean I blatantly ignore that fear. A month ago during training I decided to take on a particular trail near Lake Hawea called the Breast Hill Track. It gets a bit scrambly up the top and anyone who knows me will know I have a fear of heights. It was a cold and windy day, there were showers forecast, but I thought I would give it a go. As I got to the start of the first short scramble the wind came up the face of the mountain and hit me. I sat and calmed myself, willing myself to keep going. Yes, I was scared. This willing myself forward, getting beaten back, trying to quell my fears went on for about a kilometre. Then I reached my point of “no more”. The fear was too great. The wind was too hard, the trail too slick and my heart could find no joy, no reason to continue. Why? Because I no longer felt safe. Not just scared but also not safe. So I listened and went home and found a different trail to finish my run on.

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Rain, wind and fear on Breast Hill

Running alone as a woman also brings a special fear, one that is instilled in us from a young age. That fear that we shouldn’t do something because of what other people might do to us. There is, unfortunately, a culture of telling women to adjust their activities to keep themselves safe from men who may be out to do them harm. There have been many posts written about this, many debates about victim blaming and putting the onus on victims instead of perpetrators. It is also one of the main reasons many women who find out I run alone tell me they don’t feel safe to do the same. In five years of running, predominantly alone, on trails I have only felt unsafe twice because of the people I met on the trail. The first, I believe, was unfounded fear. I was doing my first solo night run and toward the end of it, when I was tired and already stressed, I crossed paths a group of men in their early twenties who were bush walking. They did and said nothing that would warrant fear, but still I was scared and put as much distance between them and me as I could. The second time, is the one time I feel something could have happened, but I listened to my gut and took steps to make myself safe. As I came off the trail at Mt Barney, a young guy pulled up in his ute and hopped out and approached myself and a man I had been chatting to about sport watches as we had made the final descent to the carpark. As I set about doing my cool down at my car, thinking about my snack waiting for me on the front seat, they had a short conversation and the you guy called out to me a comment about me looking super fit and threw me a look. Alarm bells went off, so instead of getting my snack and sitting at the picnic table like usual I hopped in my car and drove down the road to a spot where I could eat in the car. Less than 5 min later the ute pulled up beside my car, so I packed up and left to drive to the nearest town. But I didn’t let that fear control me. I was out on the trails again the next day.

So yes, I do get scared and when I get scared I try and work out if that fear is a socially instilled fear (women should not run alone), a fear fed by a phobia (this is too high) or a fear stemming from something I need to listen to for my own safety. I get scared. Sometimes terrified. I will have tears running down my face. Then, I will stop, take a deep breath and try and look at the fear, where is it coming from? Do I really have something to fear? And what should I do about it? I try to keep a level head and make sure I’m not letting irrational fear or fear caused by the unknown or worst case scenario thinking, stop me from having the adventures and experiences that I crave, whilst being mindful that fear is useful tool and we feel it for a reason, to keep us safe.

 

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I won’t let fear stop me from experiencing things like this!

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Are You Mad?

In January, I shared how I was going to start chasing points to get into the lottery for the UltraTrail Mont Blanc 100miler (UTMB) – you can read that post here: Big Scary Goals.

I had already accrued 5 points from my run at UltraTrail Australia 2016, but to gain entry to the lottery I required a further 10 points from a maximum of two more races by the end of 2017. After scouring through the racing calendar and working out what races were doable for me, I settled upon the Northburn 100km in March (5 points) and the Alpine Challenge100km in November (5 points).

About 4 weeks before I was due to run Northburn, which still to this minute has not had its point status confirmed, Alpine Challenge announced that their UTMB points had changed and you would now only qualify for 4 points when running the 100km. This kinda set a spanner in the works, along with Northburn not yet receiving its points status, I was a little worried my plans were going to be thwarted. I was already committed to running Northburn and truth be told, I was rather excited about taking on this tough course, so I put the thoughts of UTMB points aside and concentrated on completing Northburn. I figured, worst come to worst it would be good practice for the future, plus I was getting to run in New Zealand mountains, I was hardly about to start complaining.

At Northburn registration, Terry the RD, confirmed they would definitely have UTMB points and that it was just an administration issue which would be sorted in time for the lottery. You can read my full Northburn account here: One Good Day – Northburn 100k

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Northburn was amazing

About two weeks after running Northburn, I travelled up to the Gold Coast to speak to my coach, Matt from Judd Adventures, with the plan of discussing how Northburn went and then where I would go from here. I left home early that morning to light rain, the creeks were low and both hubby and I figured I would be back well before expected rain from Cyclone Debbie hit.

I had pretty much settled on sticking with the current plan (Alpine Challenge 100km in November) and then possibly doing Northburn 100mile the next year to get my required 15 points from 3 races, whilst applying for the CCC (UTMB’s little sister covering 100km) using my current points. As we sat talking, Matt surprised me and suggested that I do the miler at Alpine Challenge, worst case scenario I would DNF and still have the points to apply for the CCC regardless. I was a little stunned to be honest. At the same time though, the thought of doing that distance excited and ….. well….. terrified me. After chatting about Northburn, a bit more about UTMB points and future training we parted ways. I was excited to get home and share the news with my hubby, Sim, but mother nature had other plans.

I rang hubby to let him know I was on my way home and he told me that the creeks were rapidly rising and it was doubtful I would get home, he was about to leave to go get our kids from school and was unsure if he would make it back himself. He was in a panic and had to leave so I told him I would head to a friends and talk to him later.

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A wee bit stuck

So, I was stranded at a friends and I had this big exciting news to share. I told my friends Jill, Claire (who had lovingly given me a place to stay) and her partner Pat (who said he already knew that was going to happen) along my super support crew from Northburn, Sarah and Maz (who both confirmed I was crazy but that they were excited for me). I still hadn’t had a chance to tell hubby due to him having low battery power on his phone and communication being strictly crucial info only (he was also stranded at a friends house, closer to home). I also hadn’t done my usual “look what I’m doing next!!” on social media, mostly because the idea was and is still really terrifying. Then, when it became apparent that I was going to spend a second night at Pat and Claire’s I sent him a text telling him about moving up to miler distance. The convo was hilarious, mostly as he didn’t read the whole message the first time (a regular occurrence for Sim).

 

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So, now, a few days later, I am home, the clean up from Cyclone Debbie is in full swing, I am finally sharing what’s next and hubby has come around to the idea. He says he is excited for me, but thinks I’m crazy. And me? I am ridiculously excited (how unusual, right?) but I am also terrified out of my mind, to attempt to go for an extra 60km past what I have previously done. It is going to be such a long 2 days. I only have this life though and if nothing else I know its something I want to attempt, so why not now? Its just a little sooner than I thought it would be. I have all sorts of imposter syndrome and not good enough going on, but hey, as I said to Matt in my meeting, in for a penny, in for a pound. I may as well go the whole hog now and see what happens. If you never try, you never know.

Yes, I probably am mad, but in a good way. Right?