Tricks of the trade

Posted on August 1, 2013

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postivethinking-300x300It is totally normal for me to have race wobblies. In the days or weeks prior to any event, I suddenly have a breakdown in confidence … wonder whether I can finish, ask myself why I didn’t train with a little more discipline and structure, berate myself for succumbing to that extra glass of vino or enjoying one too many lie ins.

In the case of last weekends Lakeland 50, I was only three weeks out of the Dodo Trail in Mauritius beginning July and had done little since, what with Dubai’s oven-like temps, the start of Ramadan and then a few late nights with my family back in bonnie Scotland.

But … a little mind work came to the rescue thanks to a guy called Andy Mouncey. Andy is a runner, performance coach and speaker who, in exchange for contributing to his book earlier this year, gave me some of his coaching time.

This was all new to me. I’ve never had a coach and from a physical training standpoint, don’t think I’d respond that well to one. My life to date has generally entailed doing precisely the opposite of what I’m told to do. I guess I’m just a free spirit who likes to do things in my own unconventional way.

Andy’s coaching session, however, was a long phone call to whip my mind into tip-top shape. Despite having done my own Sports Psychology diploma and often supporting others with their mindset and mental strategies, it seems I sometimes forget to deliver the same advice to myself.

He started out by asking me what my objective in signing up for the race was … to ensure that my objective still remained achievable and relevant. My reply? Just for fun … and because the date coincided with a jolly with my family … and because I love the Lake District … and because I like to push myself and experience new things. A good start …

He then asked me to recall a successful race in the past. To be honest, I’d say every race has been successful but I picked the lovely Beaujolais Village Trail, run earlier this year and we discussed the three biggest factors that had made it a success. These were:

1) I’d gone in with no expectations. The trip was a running come retail come wining & dining sejourne with my dear friends Saz, Ronnie and Gary. I wanted to just enjoy a beautiful day on the trails in a stunning part of the world and then celebrate the experience (and my birthday) afterwards.

2) I had managed to execute all the practical stuff well. All ran smoothly with my nutrition, hydration and electrolytes etc and my regular internal checks showed green lights all the way.

3) And finally, my mindset was stellar at the time. I’d had a few months prior enjoying wonderful work successes and felt strong and invincible. I remained totally in the present throughout.

Andy then shared his own thoughts:

  • He said that running with friends is clearly important to me but this time, I had no friends running so I should ask a few favourites to text me at different times with motivating words. Thank you Mum, Ronnie, Gill, Saz, Alex, Claire and Deon X
  • And he said to write a ‘List of Good Shit’ … to recall all the great things that have happened of late, be they relating to work, play, home, running, friends, family, lovers or others. This can’t help but instil self-belief and courage
  • He told me to focus hard on what I want … to remember that I can and I will … and to use our conversation points to quash all doubts

I honestly got off the phone feeling ready to conquer the race, own the day and take every challenge in my stride. (literally!) I felt empowered, re-energised and the race itself was an absolute beauty … a gorgeous little trip to a stunning part of the world and a fantastic 11.5 hours of enjoying quintessential British countryside at its best.

I’ve no doubt that come my next race, in just a few weeks time around the volcanoes of Indonesia, my wobblies will return but I’ll revisit my call with Andy and (inshallah) be ready to rock come race day. Perhaps such feelings are no bad thing either, as they’re a reminder that we should never get complacent. Each and every race has its own challenges and crossing the finish line is never a given. And this is exactly why many of us are lured in. In our digitally-driven, over-controlled, precision-planned lives, we find in a race, the perfect antidote … a chance to escape the predictable and leap into the unknown, push boundaries and learn so much about ourselves along the way.

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