I've had an interesting experience of late, and it relates to how another person(s) and their perceptions of what you do can affect your own reflections.
I recently ran the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon for the second year in a row.
Brutal, beautiful, technical, scenic, rugged, meditative. There are any number of words I could juxtapose and still not come close to accurately describing the combination of harshness and beauty contained within the course. You'll just have to run it. Or take my word for it.
In any case, being my second go at it I got the inevitable
"How did you go? Better than last year?"
I'll start by providing the facts:
2016 - 5:42:47 (
2015 - 5:40:30 (
So looking at that, I was 0:02:17 slower this year. Not much in it really - but definitely slower, right?
Judging by the reactions I receive when I speak to people about it, they are both extremely disappointed for me and concerned for my mental state after such a disappointment.
Would I have liked to have gone faster than last year? Sure - I'm a naturally competitive little bugger.
Do I reckon I can go quicker over that course? Absolutely.
Am I disappointed? Not in the slightest.
2016 is a completely different year to 2015: my focus in 2016 is a strong result at UTA100. Period. Shotover was an opportunity to run in the NZ mountains again, and to get a gauge on where I'm sitting fitness wise.
In 2015 I focussed on Shotover as an "A" race. I was running 3000mD+ most weeks, with lots of technical trail mixed in - really specific training for that race. This year, I spent the 3 months leading in to Shotover building a strong aerobic base for UTA - I haven't hit 3000mD+ once yet in my training, and I've been doing lots of runnable, relatively untechnical trail. It's been easy distance, not gnarly climbing - not great specificity for a brutal mountain run.
Comparing 2015 and 2016 is like comparing apples and oranges. Sure, I ran the same event, but the circumstances are completely different. I will go back to Shotover in the future and give it a red-hot-crack. I just didn't do it this year.
WHAT'S YOUR POINT?
Hold on - I'm getting to it.
I'm OK with the reaction people are giving me - I completely understand the natural assumption that we want to be better versions of ourselves. Thankfully, I also happen to have pretty thick skin given I seem to hang around with "friends" who like to frequently remind me of my shortcomings and failures. Nevertheless, it has still made me ponder the question:
"Should I be disappointed, and could I have done better?"
And if it has made me question that (given I consider myself pretty confident and relatively unaffected by others opinions) I hold concerns for what it might do for the confidence or self-esteem of people who put more weight on other's opinions (and that's simply a natural reaction for some).
I guess all I'm asking is that instead of questioning
"What was your time/placing/result?"
, try asking
"How did it feel?".
And then let the runner fill in the gaps for you. They'll tell you if they were disappointed or not.
Having simply the worst time in the mountains.
I will be running Mt Solitary Ultra in April as my final hit-out pre-UTA (this will be a "C" race, so don't expect much), and I don't want a single sympathetic, commiserative nod from anyone who assumes I must be disappointed with my effort. I won't be, I promise.
The only time you can be disappointed for me in 2016 is if I DNF at UTA100 due to injury, or if Tim Clarke beats me - both those circumstances would disappoint me, but anything else is good. Sure, I have goals for that event - I'm certainly not saying that - but the result will still ultimately be whatever it is on the day. If all goes to plan I'll be stoked, if I cross the finish line beaten up I'll still be content - 100km is a long way to run in any circumstance.
And if I DNF for no legitimate reason you have every right to punch me in the abdomen. And in this case, you can be disappointed IN me, not FOR me.