Friday, September 27, 2019

Repetition as a way to notice improvement. ( And salvaging positives from disappointment)

I haven't blogged about my last race. I can't think of anything to blog about. We raced, nothing went too wrong, we came third. Only 3 teams finished the whole course, so we joked that we actually came last. I criticised the last event run by the same organiser for being a shambles. This event went smoothly and the course was interesting incorporating some local features like Obi Obi gorge and Kondallila Falls. The swim/run up the gorge was an absolute treat. If you're in the area I highly recommend checking them out. And if the weather report says 7 degrees and windy and you start the paddle leg at 3am, I also highly recommend layering up. The race finish dash continued under the arch to the van where the heater was turned up to maximum and there we stayed until we stopped shivering enough to make it to the McDonalds drive-thru for coffee and breakfast.

Finally stopped shivering 

After a short recovery I went back to run training in earnest. John and I had planned to attempt the Ramsay Round in Scotland in conjunction with a holiday. It's a 80k-ish grovel over 24 mountains in the north of the country to be completed in under 24 hours to be recognised as meeting the challenge. So in between a full time job, part time business and study, I tried to fit in 4 hour runs in the mountains and 16km foot commutes to the office. There are many times I did not want to do these. But it's part of committing to a project - you get the preparation done. Full stop. And I did get to see some incredible sunrises, and run in the snow and it made me grateful to have the opportunity to do these things. And then I got to the office, and struggled through the day wondering if everyone was as tired as I was. If studying until 11pm and getting up at 5.30am to run was really worth it. If I didn't have the challenge to aim for I would have taken the sleep in. I never realised how important having a goal was to simply getting out the door. I could manage a 5k jog each day to stave off cardiac disease without much trouble. But to really push myself, that takes a bigger carrot. It was easy when there was always the next race. When sponsors expected podiums and I was on an upward trajectory. But on the gentle slope to middle age, if I didn't race again no one would care and I have no one to answer to. My clients are in this position all the time. It's bloody hard!

Ran through plenty of this over winter. Still chuffed with snow after being a Queenslander for 39 years.

One thing I think is important to being successful - not just in sport but in life - is having a high tolerance for repetition. Learning anything new takes repetition. Judging the effectiveness of an intervention takes repetition, and time. John and I don't get to run together often, but when we did he would always ask what route we were doing. And I'd say "the same one as last time". Boring hey? But repeating the same route meant less thinking about where we were going, more focus on the running and generally improves the efficiency of the whole process. And when I'm really busy, I value efficiency above novelty. Although it's hard to be bored running on the mountain which ranges from waterfalls, moss and fern trees to dolerite and alpine scrub over a 1000m ascent. Another benefit of repetition is noticing improvement. I was doing an endurance run so kept my heart rate under 160 on the climbs and ticked over about 130 on the easy flats. Nowhere near flat out but enough to be tired and sore (damn you downhill running) after 4 hours. Over the course of a couple of months, I noticed I was running up hills I'd previously walked. I started getting back to my car earlier so I'd have to run up the road for a bit to make up the 4 hours. And a bit further each time. I wasn't as sore or tired and could muster the energy for a family ride in the afternoon. I felt like a runner again.

Saw plenty of sunrises. Am always blown away by their beauty.

As is the way with running, injuries bring things to a screaming halt. Not me, but John with a torn calf. I could have done the run by myself, but that wasn't the point. I've done a lot of challenges by myself. This was something we wanted to share. And, with my sense of direction, I would have got hopelessly lost. I was disappointed. All those tired, early mornings would be for nothing. I had no 'result' or release. But what I did have was that experience of adaptation. The experience of sucking at something and finding it difficult, but persisting, repeating until I got stronger, and better. And that's why I do most things and why I'll never stop trying new things. "He who stops being better, stops being good". Apparently that's Oliver Cromwell but I first saw it on a running program my coach sent me. It's always stuck with me as an attitude to sport and life in general. If we stop trying to be better, we may as well curl up and die. I'm reading the hot book of the moment by Jordan Peterson. It's hard going. But rule 4 is "compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today". It urges people to think of small ways they can make life better, be better, each day. In coaching we talk about outcome goals and process goals. The outcome is what you want to ultimately achieve (eg. 40kph average for a race, under 3 hours for marathon). The process is how you get there. I WILL go to bed at 9.30 each night so I can wake up at 5.30am and train. I WILL get out for at least one hour of exercise each day, no matter what other obligations present themselves. I WILL prepare a nutritious meal to support my body even though I'd rather spend that time watching Game Of Thrones (or whatever people watch. I don't even have a TV nor time to watch it). If we compared ourselves to professional sports people every day, we'd never get out of bed. But if we can notice the improvements, the outcomes, of our commitment to the process, then we can be satisfied that it is 'good'. 

One more shot of my running route. Yes I'm showing off now. Get out there and find the awesome spots around you!


  1. Hey Jodie, loved this blog. Rule 4 is brilliant. Making decisions tires our brain so same ole routes make sense, most of the time. Can't wait to ride in that snow....