What to do about fear.

Lookout from the DandenongsLast Friday I took myself for a run – a 27 km run in the Dandenongs, to be exact, along the Roller Coaster Run course, to relive the joy of the previous week’s event.  I’m pleased to report there was no repeat of my Superman move, though with a storm the night before, the footing was treacherous.  I learned a few new things from this training run:

1.  Do not step on twigs that lie perpendicular to the path on a downhill slope.  They roll, and take you with them.  I had a few near disasters learning that one.  And there were lots of twigs down.

2.  If a trail looks markedly different from a week ago, there is a reason for it.  In one case, it was because Parks Victoria had come along and dumped a heap of yellow dirt on my favorite track (Zig Zag Track) and left it unrecognisable.  I ran down it anyway, using the three foot piles of pebbles mid-trail to test my stability – and they were slippery!  In the other case, grass had appeared where there was none the week before.  This made me pause.  I was sure the trail had been dark dirt and rocks, not grass.  I ran down it anyway for a little bit, but then had to backtrack.  Grass does not grow in a week – learned that lesson with an extra kilometre!

3.  Do not get distracted by signs.  One trail had a sign prohibiting cycling, baby strollers, frisbee and any sort of fun (I might have made a few of those up).  It also said, “Limbs May Fall”, so of course I looked up at the massive Mountain Ashes to see what sort of limbs we were talking about (while moving).  My limbs nearly fell.

Enough about learning though.

Looking back from lookout

A typical section of trail

The wonder of this trail run on a Friday morning was how empty it was.  I saw a total of five people in four hours.  And I forgot to be scared of the things I’m usually scared of, for long periods of time, until it occurred to me to think of them, be scared, and then forget them again!

The hills seemed even steeper without the thrill of the race I’d run the week before, but the real hard part was I had planned an extra 6km to keep growing my distance in preparation for the North Face 50km race in May.  Silly me, though – I added them at the end!  I was so very close to my car, but I forced myself to run out a further 3km and back down the same route.  I was swearing and hating trail running for that section, so I will not do that again.  I’ve got to trick myself a bit to go that far.

The only one there besides meAnd here’s the only real company I had all morning.  I met this fellow at the top of the lookout pictured above.  I waited ages to see him take off, thinking what a glorious thing it would be to witness.  But he insisted on staying on the ground, hopping around among the rocks.  It was sort of like he was trail running too, but that might have been my delirium kicking in from too many GU gels.

So, the North Face is closing in on me fast.  It is just about 8 weeks away.  Thinking about that makes me feel sick to my stomach.  I’ve spoken to a professional coach, Hanny Allston, who was excellent, and did her level best to convince me I can do this event.  I hung up from our phone call elated, shouting to my husband, “She says I can do it!””

But of course, I then panicked.  What if she was wrong?  What if I needed to run further in training than she thought I did?  What if I’d misrepresented myself somehow?  What if, what if, what if…

Today, I printed off the terrifying range of maps of the race (there were four of them), along with the elevation profile.  I read about the starting waves, and about the 1700 metres of elevation we will ascend.  That was really scary.  So I went back to my Garmin records, and found out I climbed 1125 metres in training last Friday.  I’m not too far off it, though our hills only go to 600 metres in Melbourne and Sydney’s Blue Mountains are, well, mountains.

Am I still scared?  Sure.  Someone asked me at a talk I did for Mentone Public Library last weekend (all about my books – and that was scarier than any race!) what I did about fear,  how I managed fear.  The question made me pause.

I don’t manage fear.  I feel fear.  I know it is going to be there, but somehow it doesn’t really matter.  I do what I have set out to do anyway.  Good question, I thought.

The other thing I do is plan.  And that’s what I’m off to do now.  To plan away as much of this fear as I can, and to just live with the rest.


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