Generally, that is the question that I ask myself whenever the opportunity to step up to something arises.
I had to ask myself that question a few times recently. My running confidence has taken a big dip, and I had a massive ultra trail run coming at me. I had given about 70% of my coached training programme my all, and only a handful of those runs had felt right. My energy levels were low, my motivation lower, and I had been doing that thing that we humans do a lot; planning for failure. I was aware that the shift needed to come from me, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. Circles of self-doubt are dangerous things. Then, two things happened. I went on my first mountain scramble, and ocean adventurer Chris Bertish published a video clip.
I’ve been watching the growing interest in “scrambling” amongst friends. By watching, I mean via Instagram posts and some Facebook stories with scary pics of some of my most-loved people hugging exposed ridges at sunrise. It looked great in a tummy-flipping sort of way, and the kind of activity bound to take mountain running to another level. I’ve already proven to myself that I’m pretty brave, but heights and rocks and a large helping of the unknown is cause for hesitation. I have agreed to, then backed out from, a few scrambling missions over the past few months.
My friend Lance offered to take me on a relatively easy one, and another friend and regular on trail podiums, Meg, joined us. At 5:30am last Wednesday morning I found myself enjoying one of the many personalities of Table Mountain, climbing the lower contour up towards Mowbray Ridge from Tafelberg road. We were chasing sunrise, but needed our headlamps for the first hour or so.
We went up Mowbray Ridge which in all is an 800m climb. Once you reach the top of this ridge, Knife Edge appears, which I had heard plenty about. This tricky little outcrop of rocks and boulders falls away pretty dramatically on either side, but if you’re smart about where you put your feet it’s quite fun. The sun was rising, and the city was waking up far, far below us. Too beautiful. You cross Knife Edge to reach a cliff at the base of Minor Peak. That was the most challenging element for me. Only a 6 metre climb, but it is exposed and requires careful foot and hand placement. Not terrifying though, and very satisfying. Lance was a patient teacher, and rewarded us with coffee in a flask at the top, when the hard yards were done. Meg is a regular climber and scrambling guru, so this was a picnic for her.
What did it take? It took a humble request for help from friends, and a committment to do more of it in future. It took some bravery, and an open mind. All completely worth it, and I floated off the mountain that day, ready for the serious race prep required for the weekend’s Addo 76km race in the Eastern Cape.
I need a few more days to process the Addo journey and then I’ll write about it. It was long, and the toughest physical challenge of my life to date. Temperatures of 40 degrees (and higher) brought almost all of us to our knees… literally… in every small murky puddle we could find. But I’d watched this great video clip by Chris Bertish just before we left for Port Elizabeth, and it stayed with me. He had just made history by becoming the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a solo stand-up paddleboard and he was videoed on arrival. In the video, Bertish stands there with his sea-dog beard, ripped arms (93 days of paddling will do that to you) and breaks it down for those gathered around him. One night at a time, one day at a time, never think about the end goal. He said, if he had thought about the end goal, he would not have made it there. He just focussed on getting through one moment after another. Then he asks the audience if it’s not too much to please find him a beer. It’s classic.
See it here or on the Carrick Wealth Facebook page:
And that, is really all it will take.