As I’d noticed earlier in the year, it’s the mind, as much as the body, that determines what you can do. Now that I’m less than 100 kms shy of my year-end 1,700-km target, disaster has struck. I stopped halfway last week but then restarted. Yesterday, after only one kilometre, the insidious thoughts began: “nearly there, why don’t you take it easy” and “surely you deserve a break.” Particularly horrid was a thought that arose after 5-6 kms. As background, my year’s total stood at 1,615 – if I jogged 9 more times, as was scheduled, I’d end up at 1,705 kms, 5 kms ahead of my goal. Clever, nasty mind: “You can stop now and still hit 1,700 kms.” I channelled Pedal Pete, imagining how he’d tackle loss of willpower, and somehow I completed yesterday’s run, but I was wrecked for the remainder of the day.
None of that made any sense. Today I headed off again. It was hot but none too tough with shade to run under. Then, quite unexpectedly, up a hill halfway through the distance, bang! Crash! The same words rose up unbidden and without hesitating, I halted.
At least this time I didn’t cheat. I stopped Strava at 5 kms and walked home. I’m now at 1,930 and have 7 more runs in store, so in theory I’m still on for the target. But I know I need to do something to boost motivation. The question is: what?
A few days ago, ascending my most prolonged hill among my four jogging routes, I got to a hundred metres of the top and suddenly stopped. I walked a hundred metres. Other than once in Darwin’s crippling heat, I’ve never stopped once in 2016. Why on earth did I do so now, so close to the end of the year? I’d donated blood for the first time the day before, but felt fine at the start of the outing. The weather is warming up for summer but was still mild that day. I can’t come up with a reason. Suddenly I felt tired somewhere deep inside my bones.
But that’s the first part of the story. You need to know that in January I set a rule: if ever I stop, I wind up my Strava recording and walk home. If I stop, I stop for good. Well, I was almost halfway on this particular run, so a return walk would have taken an hour. Also, I’d have needed to do a make-up run or miss my annual target. So I broke my hard rule and at the crest of the hill, resumed running. To my credit, I guess, there were no more halts.
But I felt guilty afterwards. I still do.
Yesterday’s bike ride, what I call “training for next year’s Big Year,” was speedier than the earlier ones, courtesy of Pam setting a cracking pace. My quads pulled up sore but this morning, heading off on one of my tougher jogging routes, I found myself storming the Yarra paths. Wow: a final pace of 6:02 mins/km, a good 6 seconds faster than my previous best. Can I understand why my legs just seemed swifter? Not really, but I like to think the bike ride made all the difference.
Isolation, dirt roads, cold head winds, undulations, reluctance. I needed to jog 10 kms three times. The first was tough but satisfying: 6:12 mins/km. The second had twice the elevation gains of my hilly route back home: 6:25. The third was marvellous, involving an inexplicable desire to run faster towards the end: 6:05
Over 2016’s 1,500 kilometers, I’ve hankered to “improve” at the mechanical task of jogging. I’m so slow that I struggle to overtake walkers (a slight exaggeration). In January and February, my 10-kilometer pace was between 6:12 and 6:22 mins/km, depending on route hilliness and traffic. By mid-year it had improved to 6:05 to 6:15 mins/km. That’s an improvement of about 7 secs/km or 2%. In October, for a brief fast week, I fantasized about a week in which I’d beat 6 mins/km on all four of my routes. I’ve done 6:00 on three of the four routes, but randomly, almost as flukes – might I not be able to try harder for one week and prove to myself I’m not a sub-six-minuter?
Well, it’s not to be. With the end of this Big Year approaching, my motivation dims. I’m enjoying running quite fast but with a sense of control, not as much puffing as was the case in January. Let me be satisfied with steadiness.
Jogged down an empty dirt road, farms on both sides, 3 kms, to the main road heading towards Mount Field National Park, went 2 kms on this flat stretch, watching for cars. Turned around to reverse and of course that involved 3 kms uphill, something that normally fills me with terror. I coped good, as they say, just slogging up slowly. I do believe this big year is improving me. And the overall pace of 6:20 wasn’t unsatisfactory.
Tired after a day of travel and city walking, didn’t want to jog, but had to. I set off late afternoon and found myself under the impressive Tasman Bridge in Hobart. The alternative didn’t impress, so up I climbed. My slowest 10-km time for the year, partly due to stopping on the narrow footway, next to pouring traffic, numerous times to make way for bikes. The wind! Exhilarating!
1,500 kms done, coupla hunnerd left to do. Strange, stray emotions hit me every time I lace up my joggers. The other day I experienced a longing to be done with the whole damned thing: “I am just so sick of subjecting myself to this again and again.” Another day, slogging up a hill, I felt almost weepy: “How can I stop doing this sublime thing?” The only other time I’ve been as rigorously disciplined was in my corporate years, and that was different, an all-consuming “career.” This geeky, self-imposed discipline sits on my shoulders as a burden, yes, but I have always felt, since January 1, that it’s also a godsend, something in this uncertain life that I can cling to.
Is there any hobby so low cost and adaptable? Shoes, socks, keys, iPhone (for Strava), a Ziplock in case of rain, cheap tee shirt and shorts . . . I’m at 1,400 kms, 300 kms to go. Minor foot niggles have abated. Some days feel rough, others almost routine. All I need be is steadfast.