Friday, 16 November 2012

Your walk talks louder than your talk talks. However…………

This post has been two or three months in the making with the previous two as deliberate prequels. It is hoped that these three posts together can be pigeon holed into my first two pillars of ultimate performance i.e. motivation and mental strength; only time will tell.

Originally it started as another proclamation – something along the lines of “at next years Highland Fling, I’m going to go under 9 hours”. What do I mean by another proclamation?

Well, most of my life I’ve had an urge to prove people wrong and then do everything I can to get my next win - including being vocal about how I intend to do it. Anyone who’s ever worked with me will vouch for what I mean but here are a few examples to illustrate my point;
·         Getting Highers at school when my start looked so bleak – I said I’d do it and I did, I even predicted what I was going to get and was right.
·         Leaving home (and university) to join the Army at the expense of an already frayed relationship with my father. I always said that I was going to be a soldier one day and no amount of dictatorial vigour prevented me.
·         I did a hell of a lot of walking and talking when I was in the Army and was both loved and hated for it - in equal measure. There are too many things to mention which is the fantastic thing about the forces – it gives you so many opportunities/challenges. They’re there for the taking, if that’s what floats your boat.
·         Leaving the Army. I was flying and all those close to me said I was mad to leave when I had it all going for me but I told them they were wrong because I WAS going to be a success on the outside. Materially - that might seem like it’s yet to happen but inside, where it matters, I’m the biggest winner.
·         My Bob Graham Round - in spite of my naivety.
·         Last years WHW.
·         But most of all – still being here….

Its not all been ‘i’m fricken awesome’ though - when I was in the Army I talked a fair bit about going on the All Arms Commando Course (to get a green beret) and that never happened!

Yes it would be great if we all shared the principles found within that short film. But alas, life is full of characters; some simply exist, some do a lot, others talk the talk but few walk their talk. And a short time ago I pressed the self destruct button………………
Those who are used to reading this blog will know that I’ve been spending a large portion of my recent spare time studying towards a distance learning honours degree in Building Surveying. Well, within the last two years, a couple of blokes that I work with recently completed theirs too; Bill got a 2:1 (day release) and Ben - a first (distance learning).
Before I go on I must describe to anyone who doesn’t have the foggiest what the difference is between distance learning and day release – night and day. For example, I’ve got a mate who sat the same course as me at the College of Estate Management (distance learning) and failed his 1st year – twice! His employer then relented and sent him to Glasgow Caledionian Uni’ on day release – and 4 yrs later he got a first.
Now, until Ben achieved his first he was massively overlooked by our colleagues and management. I don’t really know why to be honest, perhaps because he is English he seen himself as an outsider but that would only have been in his head if that was the case. He was certainly perceived as having difficulties expressing himself in a positive manner. Consequently, I often found myself telling people that they were wrong about him.  
Why? Well in my eyes, Ben had been written off for too long; he was wounded. This hons degree was his chance to prove he wasn’t a victim anymore. He began to take responsibility for changing his own life through the qualification; he knew that anything except a first would’ve simply reinforced his position as a nobody. He left no stone unturned in his quest. And it paid off – he was the only student in his year to be awarded a first!
So just as I was entering the final year of studies (12 months ago) someone at work (the G-Man) reminded me that I would have to get a first because “Ben managed it”. Hang on (I thought), this guy had more reason to do it than me – was more motivated. And besides, he didn’t have any kids and he certainly didn’t train, even a fraction of what I did.
In fact, Ben lived in the office and burnt the midnight oil practically every night for his entire final year. Privately I thought, “You can’t compare us that would be totally unfair”. But of course that’s the nature of folk; we make up ours minds with what we can see and are entirely ignorant of the things going on behind the scenes.
I had hated every minute of my studies so it should come as no surprise that I wasn’t exactly ‘top of the class’. In fact, every day I wanted to give up. But my fallback is always what is in my gut – that the right thing to do is often the hardest!
So instinctively, I knew that G-Man was right. For me anything other than a first would just have been a waste of the last 8 years – since leaving the Army. And so, I agreed with him and went a step further by announcing that a first was already in the bag!
I got a 2:1.
I failed (to get a first). I’m now no longer walking my talk and could even be called delusional! I say that taking nothing away from the 2:1 though because the truth is I couldn’t have worked any harder. In fact, until I opened that email I was still convinced I had got a first.
The thing is a lot has happened during the last 8yrs. I could go on and it might seem like I’m making excuses but in short LIFE has sidetracked me so thank goodness for the joy my wife and kids have brought me.
You see failure can have some positives. I’m oddly rather relieved for one. I now feel as though I’ve had a burden removed – one which drives me to prove myself. To who? Well that is the million dollar question because no-one would’ve batted an eyelid had I got a first. In fact, I dare say, I’d have been as satisfied with that as I am with what I’ve got now!
This has ramifications for my running too. In fact, I had this stuff pre-prepared on the assumption that I was going to get a first. The story was going to be about how I got a first but it came at a cost - the pressure I put on myself. Well the pressure was still there regardless of the final outcome - and I’ve still learnt from it.
What the hell am I talking about? Here’s what I mean;
From my teens through to my late 20’s I was very outgoing, socialised a lot and was everybody’s friend. Looking back now, I’m always amazed at the confidence I had. I’m not making this up. I’ve had people who knew me back then tell me that I’m a completely different person now – couldn’t be more different in fact! I was once known as a joker; the life of the party, very popular with girls, in with lads of all age groups (which is important when you’re a young lad) and sometimes the leader of a certain pack. People used to want to pass the time of day with me. When I was young, Dumfries for me was like a permanent episode of ‘Cheers’
However, in the here and now I can’t remember what it’s like to socialise, in fact I get nervous if I go out – even if it’s for a family meal!  I’m anxious in social groups of people unless there is a task to undertake. So much so you’d be lucky to see me out with a beer in my hand twice a year, tops; I now understand why some people need a drink or two before they can settle into a group on a night out!  
I’m very different from the young man I used to be. I don’t know if this is just what happens when you grow up? I mean, I thought I’d had a fair bit of being humbled already (compared to others my age). I honestly think, I’ve put too much pressure on myself – and taken on too much – some of which was completely unavoidable.
But gobbing off about getting a first was entirely my own doing - as would’ve been me saying that I’m going to run a sub 9hrs at the fling next year.
Perhaps the last few years has taught me that there’s maybe a different goal worth aiming for and I have a number of people to thank for helping me realise this; namely, Allie Wilson and of course, Rob Kennedy – though for entirely different reasons – one directly and one indirectly. They’ll both know what I mean.
Although time is a good indication of what level you’re at, perhaps focussing too much on it can have a negative impact. Maybe the real victory is quite simply – satisfaction, regardless of what time you get.
Maybe I should just try to focus on training as best I can up to the day and then let the rest take care of itself. I mean it would be tragic for me to go under 9 hours and come away unhappy with the way the day went.
Put another way, if I train properly and avoid injury and illness then whatever happens will be a direct result of what I’ve put in. There’s no point in stressing about something that can be altered by so many variables. Just train and do. The maths will take care of the rest. If I train as well as I’ve ever trained and run the fling in 10 or 11hrs then that will be what I’m capable of. It’s as simple as that.
Although I’ve loved walking my talk in the past; I think the time has come to be a bit more humble. I hope that I may be turning a corner - in 2013 – for the better. And having more or less dealt with my ‘issues’ (for now) it is my intention to put an end to these stories and follow with some specifics. So here are some quick thoughts for future posts;
·         Food; the basics
·         My new training regime – it’s nearly the same as what I was doing but with one major difference.
·         Consistency should be everyone’s top priority.
·         Glycogen.
·         Injury prevention and maintenance.
·         My long run nutrition strategy.
·         Strengthening your mindset.
·         Tapering nutrition strategy.
·         The super carb!
·         Should you train with a cold?
·         Running economy training.
To be continued……………


  1. I won't do a sub 9 hour Fling mate but i'll do a Fling and buy you a beer.x

  2. Everybody gets surprised when I tell them I am a complete and total introvert. I am. It takes a lot out of me to prepare to be social, then be social, then recover. When I started getting interested in psychology (4th year med school, when I took a test and learned that I am not an extravert I thought I was), I figured it could be a way of my self-defense. And, like you, I lived most of my life trying to prove something (lots of it goes back to abusive, even if loving in their own way, parents, for whom nothing had ever being good enough). Only recently do I come out as someone who does things that matter to me. One day it could be to run well. Another - to run free.
    As for your training - don't be hard on yourself, yet be honest. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and say you gave a day your full attention and best shot, you did. Control what you can, and accept what you can't. Don't overdo it just to "do" it. Be smart. And like yourself a little, truly like:)