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Training and mantras

I’m now officially back on the horse and training for a 30K on September 1st.  I’ve mapped out my training schedule and have planned how I’ll reach my max. a few weeks before.  Granted there will be a sudden climate change when I move, but it’s nice to follow a routine again.  The race is a trail run that will take place in the evening/night in an attempt to avoid the extreme temperatures common in Texas this time of year.  Besides Cruce I haven’t done an “off-road” event and I’ve never participated in an evening run besides training.  It’ll be a good change of scenery and fun experience to spice things up.

As I’ve been running, I’ve taken time to think about different mantras or the phrase(s) one says to themselves to keep going.  It might be based on internal motivation, fear or something that reminds you of why you get out there and run.  Thinking of using fear might sound weird, but have you ever imagined you were running from a pack of rabid dogs?  I don’t really have one that I use every time I get out there, but on those days when my legs are especially heavy I’ve been resorting to one in particular: “It can’t be worse than climbing a volcano.”  And it’s absolutely true.

It’s not that climbing El Mocho was a horrible experience by any means.  I use it to remind me that if we made it to the top (and back again) then I really can do just about anything.  I say ‘just about’ as I realize I still can’t fly, but maybe one day.  The first time I crossed the finish line after a marathon it was a sensation that is hard to put into words.  You really do feel like you can face anything.  The world is at your mercy as you have put your body to the limits and came out standing (even if the legs feel a bit like jelly).

“You finished a marathon and you believe, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything.” – Grete Waitz & Gloria Averbuch

I use my mantra at different times and for various reasons, but it helps me to reach my next goal whatever it may be.  And more than likely this mantra won’t work for many other people out there.  The key is that it’s something personal and it’s what keeps me moving.

What about you?  What’s your mantra?

M&MRC Cruce Story #3: Lean on me

Maria and I woke up that next morning to the sounds of people zipping up running leggings, filling running packs with energy gels, brushing their teeth.

“How long do these people need to get ready?” It had sounded as if they had been up for hours.

Equipo 86 laughed at us as we emerged, doe-eyed to the morning. “Bird, there are some people out here with their packs on already,” I said.

Well, that’s just not our style. We pulled on our running gear and set off for breakfast. Breakfast in Argentina consists of little more than a cracker or two and a bucket load of coffee. We went for neither, but had our secret ingredient: peanut butter. A whole jar of the stuff had made it with us, and we devoured tea along with bread and peanut butter. I then sat in the tent and made a huge mess while making peanut butter and lettuce (for the crunch) sandwiches with salad we’d saved from last night’s dinner.

“Do you want slug as well?” I asked Maria, of the companion we had unknowingly had in our salad stash. “Nutritious and delicious!”

After the queue for the toilet and another last-minute toilet stop (birds will be birds), we were off. It was 2km to the starting line. The sun was already shining and there in front of us, as we walked through the village, was the volcano we were heading up. At that moment, we were at about 600m above sea level. We would go to 2200m. How this was going to be possible running, we didn’t know.

It seems others had the same thoughts as some runners dived into the tiny church on their way to the starting line.

The starting line was on the other side of a bridge that the organisers had had to construct for the event. We had to wait a while in order to even get to the bridge and the chip timer at the start, as there was no room for all 1,500 of us to go over at once. There was a nervous energy in the air; calves were bouncing up and down, shoulders were being stretched. We heard the helicopter and immediately all hands went to the sky.

And then we were on the other side. I hadn’t even noticed the chip until Maria shouted at me, “That’s it!” And we were off. There was a sudden jolt in the body and we bounced along through the grassy paths until, after about 50 seconds, Uh, Hill. “What, already?!” we exclaimed. Still, we knew the first half of today was going to be all about going up.

The first couple of hours slowly drove us upwards, through the trees, but with spectacular views as climbed. No one was running the uphills. This was encouraging. We were with normal runners! One lady saw we were hiking without poles. “They really help,” she told us, “you should get some.” Soon, eagle-eyed Maria spotted a good bit of thick bamboo and we snapped it in half. Our walking sticks had been born out of the mountain we climbed.

The further we climbed, the more the volcano revealed itself to us. It was beautiful, majestic and… far away. Still, we kept going. Over our shoulders to our right we could see the volcano Villarrica, and behind us sat the perfectly-coned and snow-capped volcano Lanin. We were in a special place.

We joked with the people they had at turning points. We knew where to turn, it was always up. “Seriously?” we would say to them, astounded the path could be so. And, as if they hadn’t heard the joke a million times already they laughed. “Yeah, sorry about that!”

Above the tree line we could see the path ahead: a track of stones and rocks climbing up and up until there was a line of tiny ants in the white. The snow. We ploughed on. There were photo and Gatorade (Lucozade) stops and we chatted to those we passed and who passed us. Our friends from the previous day asked how we were. There were only three words. This. Is. Brilliant.

Getting to the snow line, people were stopping for lunch, a toilet break and clothing changes. I don’t know how far we had already climbed at that point, but we were going higher still and the wind was going to show its face. Time to put on another top, top up the sun cream and eat a banana. It was also time to sing.

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…”

We had our sticks, we had our voices, we had each other.

We hit the snow.

Volcanic ash

Since June of last year (wow we really are in 2012 now), the Puyehue volcano has been erupting in Chile. Unfortunately, over the months it hasn’t let up and ash continues to be rained over Chile and Argentina. The organizers of Cruce have made a point to mention that this ash will not affect our experience. After my recent trip to the South, I’m afraid to say I don’t agree with them.

We arrived with gorgeous blue skies and no sign of ash in the sky. Certain areas of the mountains were dusted with ash, but besides that you would have assumed everyone was exaggerating about the ash. Let’s just say we got lucky. Day 2 was ashy, but nothing compared to the day we left. Below is a picture I took as we drove out of town. Normally, there our mountains on the other side of this lake. It was a thick fog that made you teary-eyed and covered your feet as you walked along.

The volcano is located between Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes, our meeting place and finishing line. This means that depending on the direction of the wind the first week of February we could be ash covered or provided with clear blue skies to see the beautiful scenery that will surround us. Let’s cross our fingers for the latter.