In my 'spare' time I write coaching plans for athletes wishing to normally accomplish something that scares them. They all come to me for different reasons, but underneath the different backgrounds, running experience and life commitments is one shared goal. They want to achieve the best they can do on that day or over that series of races. I am often astounded how 'amateurs' like this who are paid no money, receive no accolades for their performances apart from maybe a medal, a t shirt and a plate of chilli at the finish are so dedicated to their training and commitment to their goal and dreams. No stone is left unturned, I write plans which are hard, they are challenging, but they are also realistic and I am realistic with what you can do with balancing work,family, training whilst still trying to have a resemblance of a small social life and not burn out 12 weeks into a plan. Its a tricky combination to balance, they have to trust me with their dreams and in return I hope I give them the tools to carve their dreams, toeing that start line with no excuses, but the one mantra that they did everything they did to get here here and they will give their absolute best on the day.
I'm just adding the icing to my first winter training in the Alps as I race The Highland Fling next weekend. I'm super excited to race as it seems an age since I last put a number on and this winter has seemed a very very long time of lonely miles. But I have no excuses. Running here in Winter is the hardest thing I have ever done; the cold, the snow, the dark, the ice, the black ice, the slushy ice, the monotony of running the same trail day in day out, sometimes the same patch of trail for 400m for 10 miles, the treadmill miles, the loneliness. Next season I will do things differently, but the reality of living here is that conditions are hard, for the breathtaking beauty of the mountains comes the harshness of the seasons, the frozen eyelashes, the white fingers, the constant stream of snot. I questioned myself many times (as did quite a few skiers!), but in a strange sort of masochist way I enjoyed running through Winter. I enjoyed ploughing uphill in thigh deep snow, cutting my legs on razor sharp ice, slipping and sliding along trails and for the first time in my life feeling what proper cold feels like on your heart and lungs. It was exhausting, but also so exhilarating. You come through that, you run, you hike, you go out day in day out when its dark,cold, every single run is an effort and you come out stronger. Stronger in the mind and body. No excuses.
My clients know I don't have time for excuses, I have time for juggling work, life, family with goals and dreams, I have time for illness and injury and resetting expectations and conquering fears. I have Last year I had excuses, I had just had my third baby, we moved house, we moved country, I was busy, I didn't have time. I'm not making any excuses this year. I have worked as hard as I could in some of the worse conditions I have ever faced this winter. My husband has helped me tirelessly juggled, family, school, ski school, childcare, jobs, life and alongside that the exhaustion that comes with training and young kids. Ive dug myself into a few winter training 'pits,' not respecting the effect of the cold, the effort it takes to run in snow/on ice/on the treadmill plus the pull of my little family. But instead of getting frustrated or just ploughing through, I have tried instead to reset the frame, look at the picture of my life and training at a different angle, take a breath, not make an excuse, but see all the little setbacks as part of the process and part of what will make me stronger in the end.
Here I am, ready to race, with just a handful of runs to complete till I see that if running through snow and ice for 5 months really does make you stronger. I think I already know the answer. So, if races and life don't go quite as planned this year, well just how its meant to be. As long as I stand on that start line or put my kids to bed every night knowing I did the best I could on that given day that is all I can ask. Sometimes its just not going to work out and I'm good with that now.
So out on the trails this season when the going gets tough, don't make excuses, think of everything you HAVE done to get there; the suffering, the sacrifices, the day in day out grind. Answer the doubts head on, draw on their power and fling it back down the mountain. For me, when the going gets tough I will close my eyes for a second and imagine myself back on the icy trail, eyelashes frozen, heart pounding, silence all around apart from my footsteps. No-one out there, but me. I have left my excuses somewhere high up in the hills. You do the same. Go out there with nothing but a heart full of thankfulness and your spirit full of life.
Don't let races determine who you are, results do not give you a value as a person, you determine who you are, you are your destiny. Instead race with honesty, respect and resilience, we are a lucky few that get to do what we love day in day out. Make every moment count, do your best and you will get the result you deserve. Don't make excuses go out there and make them proud, those that believe in you, make them proud.