At the finish of the Cape Wrath Ultra is this iconic lighthouse.
It marks not only the end of the 8 day 400km adventure, the most north westerly point of the United Kingdom, but is also a symbol. A symbol of safety, but also warning, a symbol of hope, but also of danger and risk ahead. I have thought of this lighthouse many times in training. How I will feel when I reach it. Seeing myself there, no doubt feeling the enormous satisfaction of finishing such a route, but also huge relieve that Im there, I made it, that all the work, sacrifices, time and money were worth the investment. But the lighthouse to me also symbolises many other things. I often call my husband my lighthouse (he loves that!!). He is the one person who gets it. Who understands this life we lead with three feral kids, in the mountains. Facing the weather, the challenges, the obstacles together. But its really him who we turn to when we question our path, are scared or not sure what or how to do something next. My kids are part of that lighthouse too. Drawing me back home, to sanity and rest when it all gets too much. Making me laugh, making me cry, showing such tenacity and gumption themselves. Its no doubt without my family I just dont think I would be as motivated to get up and get out every day. In someways it seems crazy that the busier life has got the more training, the longer races I have undertaken, but in other ways it all makes perfect sense. This sort of running requires total focus and planning, you just cant wing it, you have to follow the light and trust in the path. Sometimes that line is a bit wonky or requires re-navigation but thats all part of the journey, part of the process that makes life challenging and motivating.
I’ve just finished my last big block of training for this crazy race. Its been totally different to how I have trained before due to a number of factors. The main ones being I have trained throughout winter both on skis and running, meaning Ive done slightly less running than normal and nearly all of it up to the beginning of April was on snow, sometimes deep, sometimes pisted, always cold!
I have limited and differing every week child care, no week is ever the same, but my week is always broken up with the fact the kids dont have school on a Wednesday, but instead a host of activities which means essentially I get two days training, then an easier day, then two days training and so the cycle is repeated. Taking into account within this cycle the fact recovery is limited sessions have to be spot on. Quality it key. I dont have time for waste of time sessions or not to do sessions. When Im out training, I’m out training and the minute I’m home I’m Mum. Its a difficult balance and one I’m still working on.
Throughout the winter I managed about 8-10 hrs skiing a week, sometimes more sometimes less, some uphill, some downhill. I did quite a lot of runs then straight onto skis for a few hours which was good cross training practice. By March I was feeling the fatigue really set in and was enjoying the skiing less and less as I was running more and more and finding they were’nt complimenting themselves anymore. I definitely wiped myself out a few times trying to do both too much, but I have come out of the winter with really strong legs (and butt!) which was the aim, injury free and gunning to be out on the trails.
With the putting away of the skis I have ramped up the training for the last 4-6 weeks. The aim being to get my legs as tired as possible and then carry on running day after day, to learn and train both the body and brain that when it thinks its done, its not. I cant tell you how many times I woke up and thought, no I cant do it today or as I hobbled off up the road thought there is no way I’m running for 20 miles today. But the amazing thing is I did. I did every session. I always want to post a realistic picture of what it is like balancing the juggling act of life. It is bloody tough. It requires a super human effort to stay committed, to stay focused. It requires a husband who is totally understanding and backs you more than you do yourself. It takes all your extra energy, life has to be narrowed down to a very dull and repetitive existence. Groundhog day everyday; doing nothing but train, eat, look after the kids and repeat. Within these weeks I lost the ability to hold a conversation or stand for periods of time, open my eyes past 7pm, I was as selfish as you can be when you are looking after three kids by yourself most of the time. Though I loved following my training programme and seeing my fitness and most of all strength come through, I cant say I enjoyed that total feeling of being blasted most days. It made parenting really tough and I know I snapped a few times when I normally wouldn’t because I was so tired. Would I want to do this all the time? No way, physically and mentally I dont think its sustainable, but for a short period of time I think it has taught me a lot about myself and mental strength and my families ability to have the same meal five times a week!
The lighthouse is there now waiting for me. Another 10 days or so of training, but really the hard work is all in the bank now. Ive paid my dues to that match box and have a whole stack of matches ready to light when needed. Now I need to just follow that light, stay on the path and trust in the process.
Are you in the middle of hard training block? Or juggling life, work and kids? Who or what is your lighthouse? Who keeps you on the path to your dreams? Hold on tight to them, anyone who doesnt shine the light towards you isnt worth following, staying positive and moving forward is key to all adventures till you get to your lighthouse whoever or whatever it may be.