My last few races reports have been lengthy and to be honest so was this one going to be until I started writing it and realized what you really need to know can be summed up in the below five points. (If you want the full version with all the gore give me a shout and we can tee that up another time.) So here you have it. The five most important things about my recent “Ultra X” 250km race through Sri Lanka.
- “Multistage”. It’s important that if you enter a multistage race that you google multistage and find out that it means the distance is split across the number of days specified which in this case was 5. The fact that you feel strong on day 1 or 2 or hit the wall on day 3 mean nothing. The race is 5 days and it’s your performance over the 5 days that’s measured. The beauty of multistage racing is that you go through ups and downs but as long as at the end of the 5 days you are still up then you are a winner in my eyes. Sri Lanka was this entirely. People went out guns blazing on day one resulting on one athlete having an IV drip at the end replica watch fo the stage. By day 2 I lost count of how many IV drips had been administered. We were in for a belter of a race.
- “Management”. This point could be labeled as ownership. It’s about being fully responsible for the variables you can control. Those of you that have heard my stuff before will have heard me talk a lot about this. Sri Lanka exposed poor managers and those who were not taking ownership of their race. The simplicity of a lot of this race was managing your core temp and your nutrition. Some days I put pretty much every ounce of energy into those two things. Overheating? Find a stream to swim in! Never miss a feeding window. The smallest mistakes ended people’s races. There was no way I was going to have my race ruined by a rookie mistake but so many did and that is a tough lesson I hope they learn from. If you mess these things up in the early part of these races it is hard to get your form back.
- “You have special gears”. In the hardest of situations we find these special gears if we want it enough. For me these situations become primal, we need to strip everything back to basics. The disconnection from the world in the Sri Lankan jungle helped me get very primal at times and find my special gears. My race plan was to attack day 4 (the long day) and day 5 and when they came I was ready. It’s not a light switch but when you create space in your mind you can find your special gears and enter an amazing state of “flow” which is just unreal and I found it again in Sri Lanka.
- “Sri Lanka Jungle”. Did I know what it would serve up? No. Did it serve up more than I expected? Yes. Wildlife. Terrain. Rivers when I most needed a swim. Swamps and heavy underfoot when all I needed was easy running. It was the full kitchen sink. However one thing about the jungle stood out more than anything for me and that was the unreal humans that I found there. Villagers living hundreds of miles from any form of civilization, some without real roofs over their heads, most with limited clothes and all without shoes. These people lined the trail, cheered, threw buckets of magazzu watch water on us and most importantly during times of deep struggle offered up smiles that in those instances changed my world. It’s deep, it’s emotional but it’s real and it made me feel like one of the most privileged humans on the planet to actually be wearing shoes and being able to run through this amazing jungle.
- “Attitude”. This race will be remembered by many for the brutal temperatures, muddy campsites, heat exhaustion and checkpoints that never seemed to come to name a few. To me my memories will be different and that’s simply down to my attitude towards certain situations. Having a poor or negative attitude to any of the hardship we faced during this race would have made absolutely zero difference to the situation so every time things got mayhem I laughed, joked and loved it. Did it make the temperature cool, the mud go away or the check point arrive sooner? Not at all but it kept my mind strong and happy which I think ultimately has a huge impact on performance and enjoyment.