Out of the comfort zone, into the fire

“You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.”
― Scott Jurek

Featured image courtesy of Gemma.

“Risk averse” is my middle name. Or it certainly used to be.

I’m a planner. An over-preparer. Any risks that I take are carefully calculated, though running is definitely teaching me to do otherwise. Out of the 70 odd races I’ve done to date, I’ve DNF’d (the dreaded Did Not Finish) one. And that was due to mild concussion and whiplash. I’ve never got cramp in a race, very rarely had blisters, never had stomach issues. Of course I’m wildly lucky with these things too.

But how many races have I signed up for then DNS’d (Did Not Start)? A few…all down to injury and illness… How many did I say I’d do then didn’t feel up for it, wasn’t in PB condition, couldn’t be bothered? A lot more. How many do I secretly want to do but am afraid of failure? I’m not a perfectionist, I’m insecure. Afraid of failure.

Of course none of this is uncommon. We all struggle with motivation sometimes, and I don’t know many people who don’t run from failure. I hear the “over-preparing” is more common among women, which could be why you get a lot more men taking part in the most ludicrous races like Barkley Marathons, The Tunnel and The Spine…

So I’ve realised that the races I’ve signed up for this year are leading me away from this. The theme seems to be Out Of The Comfort Zone. I’ve got my longest race in the diary for April 2020, so this year is about cutting back (a bit) on the distance and getting stronger and faster. More hills. Less walking. It’s only occurred to me in the last month or so that this is going to be Pretty Damn Difficult. Well done me. So it’s certainly not just about the physical, but about the mental too.

Artwork courtesy of the glorious Kate Sutton

Here are the comfort zones I’m running from and the races I’m doing to combat them:

Flattish/runnable hills: Kielder Dark Skies Marathon – the only one I’ve done so far. I like hills because they give me an excuse to walk, downhill feels like a rest and the muscles used vary a bit. My legs are certainly not used to running for over four hours; in fact I’m fairly certain I would have walked some of those hills had they been on a short fell race. I drew a line in the sand (some of which unfortunately ended up in my shoes) and decided not to walk, which I’m pretty chuffed with, making the 43km the furthest I’ve ever fully run, and my fastest marathon time. Oddly this also boosted my confidence for parkrun the following week, as I knew I could run up a steep but short hill (three damn times…)

Fast and flat: A couple more eyeballs-out, wanting-to-vomit parkruns and cross country races should do it.

Tough cutoffs: Three Peaks Fell Race (first goal race of the season). Tight cutoffs and the prospect of being swept are hugely intimidating to me, so I’ll have to dig deep for this one. I’m fairly confident I can make it round, so it’ll be about keeping an eye on the clock, minimising faff time and not freaking out…

Unrecce’d: Pennine 39. It’s dawned on me that out of 10 ultras, I only went into 2 of them completely blind. The unknown can be pretty scary, so this will be an exercise in keeping an eye on the map and, fingers crossed, enjoying some stunning views.

Uphill training will require more digging deep like this. Pic courtesy of James of Sugarbird Photography

Uphill: Snowdon VK (another goal race). Gulp. Hills, and general aerobic fitness, have always been my weakness, so I’ve committed to weekly hill work (thanks Lisa) and more strengthening to train for this beast. 5km uphill, 1000m of ascent. No biggie.

Mountainous long distance with probably horrible weather: Lakes in a Day. I’m fairly sure I enjoy misery… If the last two years are anything to go by, the weather in October will put that theory to the test! (Wading through flooded lakes etc). Lakes 5 Passes last year was super scary as I didn’t bring quiiiite enough clothes, so I intend not to make that mistake again, as well as being much stronger on the uphill.

Grim weather training: not staying inside when you want to

So there we are. Those are my scary 2019 plans.

How do you control the fear? What are your comfort zones you’re trying to get out of?




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