Back in February, I came clean and announced to the world that I had been really struggling with some horrible gremlins that were essentially putting me off my stride. I was really touched with the amount of support I received and made it my mission since then to run for enjoyment’s sake and remember what it is I love about this hobby. I have had some really lovely runs and have completely embraced life without a training plan – something I never thought I would be motivated to do. My passion and enjoyment well and truly rediscovered I started to turn my thoughts to entering events (I never call them races as the only person I am ever good enough to race is myself!) and hit upon another stumbling block… One which saw myself getting into a right tizzy about what my next event should be.
I have no idea why we (I) do this ourselves. We are going along quite nicely, enjoying things, staying fit and active and then from some unknown location a sudden feeling of pressure descends and it’s like a reset button has been pressed. Firstly, why did I feel I needed to find an event to enter when I clearly was happy doing what I was doing? Secondly, why was I getting in such a state about not finding one I wanted to do?
To this day, I still do not have the answer to the first question and really, the answer doesn’t matter because the itch was there and needed scratching. As for question two, the simple answer is because I am mental. Though delving a little deeper, I think I can probably figure out what was happening…
October was the last time I had entered an event and it was the biggest challenge I have ever completed. I finished that marathon whilst in a lot of pain and discomfort and consequently had to have a month off all training that would affect my knee. That sent me bonkers. I was having a tough time in work and I had no outlet and I ended up having a bit of a breakdown about it all – lots of tears, panicked moments and struggles to get out of bed. After rest, a readdress of my training programme and some support in work I was firmly on the recovery road and I think the fear of committing to a training programme took hold. I desperately do not want to put myself in a situation where I can’t do these things that I have come to love. So there in was the underlying concern about entering an event.
I decided to try and overcome this by doing something I knew was not an excessive distance and had a lovely atmosphere and entered the 6th Trail that takes place in Portmeirion. The entry was eased by the fact that two friends were also due to take part and we could probably stick together; however, the weather gods had other plans in mind and the race was postponed on safety grounds – thanks for that, Storm Freya! So I was back at the drawing board. In the meantime, I had been to two of the Run Coed y Brenin trail sessions that Jude leads for women who want to get in to trail running and those Sundays have been really lovely. A safe, non-competitive plod around the beautiful landscape at Coed y Brenin that I have shared with two of my lovely running friends, Jayne and Fiona. Whilst on the second session the Goldrush event was mentioned and the seed was planted. One thing to note about running in Coed y Brenin is the fact that it’s hard! There’s a combination of forest roads, off-piste trail and lots of hills. I went home to check out the route on Strava and started to think things through. I knew that I could get myself round the 8.5 mile course, I knew there would be no pressure time wise and I knew that I had already covered sections of the route in our Sunday sessions so what was stopping me? Nothing, I put my entry in before I could start doubting myself. And then I did something I have never done before… I told no one! I decided that I needed to do this little thing for me, not go doing my usual thing of broadcasting it to the world but go, get my head down and complete this route. I also wanted to have an escape route should I suddenly feel like I couldn’t go through with it and the fewer people who knew the less pressure I had on myself. I even wasn’t going to have my usual support crew as Owen was away with work so this was going to be a really new experience!
The morning of the event (still refusing to acknowledge race status) came and with an afternoon start time I found myself wide awake with nothing to distract me. I decided to have a go at baking flapjacks, as you do, as I figured they would be useful fuel and also enjoyed a hearty breakfast (starting a run at lunchtime makes for tricky fuel planning).
The Goldrush was going to be my fourth event at Coed y Brenin having done the Trail 10K and the Buff Winter Trail Half (one year as a runner and this year as a volunteer) and these events never disappoint. The location really is stunning but on race day we were also blessed with glorious sunshine though a slightly chilly temperature. It had also not rained for days so the conditions were actually ideal! I then tried to figure out what would be a nice time to finish in – I’m not overly bothered with things like this and my mantra is finish line not time but it’s good to have a little goal in mind. 8.5 miles is a funny distance really so I figured, given the nature of the course, that I could aim for 2 hours but finishing in an hour and fifty would be ace. Off we set and the running felt good, I was so glad I had ditched my long sleeve top and opted to run in my vest as I quickly warmed up and I was just really loving being in the woods – trail is such fun! I had a chat with a few folk along the way and kept in mind to leave something in the tank for the final climb at the end. It was on this final climb towards the finish that I caught sight of the clock – 1:49:49 – on my God, I was so close to my ideal target that I put a final burst of speed in to make sure I crossed that line in time – gun 01:49:59; chip 01:49:32 – I bloody did it!
Run Coed y Brenin events are always so well organised and come with a very welcoming and special atmosphere that the journey is always worth making. I’m really chuffed with this as the first event of the year! I’m not sure I am quite over the entering event apprehension I seem to have developed but at least I know I still have it in me to turn up to a start line and have a good go!