I am not panicking. Deep breath, I tell myself. But my stomach hurts in a queasy sort of way. I’ve just spent the last hour scouring the North Face 50km race maps and course descriptions. Five pages of maps and three pages of details about what tracks to run on, roads to cross, waterfalls to skip across, creeks to ford. Trying to get my head around this massive undertaking while trying not to scare the bejesus out of myself is tricky.
I’ve done the training. Five months of greater than 50km per weeks. Long runs increasing from 27, 30, 35, 38, and 43 km. Hill training. Interval training. Training to get the hydration and fuel right, to make sure my pack will carry all my gear, and that I can carry my pack for 7 or 8 hours. I’ve gotten up every Friday at 5 am and driven an hour to the woods, sometimes to run with friends, sometimes to clock up the distance all alone. I’ve navigated, cursed, laughed, sung out loud, got lost, got found, and marvelled at the beauty of the Dandenongs as summer has shifted to Autumn. I’ve run through bushfire-ravaged forest after planned burnoffs, climbed over washed-out tracks, seen at least seven wallabees, one goanna lizard, hundreds of sulphur-crested cockatoos, scores of magpies, and lots of fast-moving skinks. I’ve felt very blessed that my body has held out through all this training. Sure, I have a couple of black toenails, but a little extra length in my newest pair of Inov-8 TrailRocs has sorted out the pain. My hips have been grumbling loudly with the longest of runs, and afterwards I’ve been walking like an 85-year-old for several days. But I’ve done the training.
Still, my brain seizes up when I consider the magnitude of what I have chosen to undertake. I’ve never run in real mountains. Hills, I think I’d have to call them. Though Mount Dandenong sounds kind of mountain-like, and Wikipedia calls it a mountain, so that is reassuring. And there was the 700m climb I did once on Lantau Island off of Hong Kong. Here’s what I’m afraid of: hypothermia; of my training perhaps not being enough; of something going terribly wrong with my body; of not being sure how to use my head torch. I could go on but I’m scaring myself more.
So. Deep breath. It is only fear. I have felt fear before, many times. At the start of each and every adventure and trail race. At talks about my books, like last year at the Bayside Literary Festival Opening Gala, where I stood on the highest stage I’d ever been on, and spoke to hundreds of people. That was fear. Even driving to remote locations to race scared me. Getting lost alone on a trail at dusk. Having a bamboo snake slide across our path on an outlying island. Facing the fact that trails have snakes and still running them.
Fear is my friend. It is the wise part of me saying, hey, be careful, this is not a joke. Still, I know I can rely on myself because I have before so many times. I know I do not go into events half-heartedly, or half-trained. Because this fear makes me prepare myself very well. The race is now nineteen days away. Plenty of time to get comfortable with this fear, to let it be, to let it rest.
For now, I will study the maps and make myself a mental picture of the easy bits, the harder bits, and the bits where I will run like the wind. It would be foolish to be unafraid right now. Disrespectful. But under this fear, I must dig into the deeper layer of self-belief that I am sure is there.
And I will ponder the glory of what I will get to see.
All will be well. I am off now to warm my slightly cold hands! And if I’m brave enough, to watch the North Face 100 DVD that just arrived in the mail…