“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” – Otto Von Bismarck
It’s been almost four weeks since my trot on the Old Ghost Road.
My feet have healed, my ego callused and the paint has dried enough on my post race emotions to begin to dissect and rebuild.
Here’s some of the lessons I’ve learnt which hopefully we all can take something from.
1. Start line placement matters
I always prided myself on the well worn running mantra “run your own race”. For me, the embodiment of that ethos was to find my rightful position at the back so I don’t go out too fast. Turns out being stuck in a pace too slow for you on a single track is just as detrimental on your race plan as being stuck in a pace too fast.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask to pass
If you do find yourself stuck on a single track conga line, don’t be afraid of asking to pass. Politely asking to pass one or two people when there’s an opportunity is not the same as that race wanker we’ve all experienced who got to the race late or was stuck in the porter potty and thinks he can bolt past all the back and middle packers on his way to the front. Don’t be that guy, but don’t be afraid of upsetting anyone by passing them either.
3. Streamline your aid stations
Do not piss fart around in aid stations. If there is 5 aid stations and you spend 5-10 minutes at each one, you are adding 25 minutes to an hour to your overall time! Get organised! Have a plan going into each station and execute. Don’t stand (do not sit! That’s a story for another day) around eating or drinking something that you could be walking down the trail with.
4. Embrace the hills
I used to both love and hate any “hill”. I use the little talking marks because my definition of a hill may differ from yours. To me, anything with a gradient of more than 3% (ie not flat) is a “hill” and an excuse to walk. I would bitch and complain from the bottom to the top and reward myself at the top with whatever snacks I had handy. But then a chick much smarter than I said the view was like Christmas morning and every step was one step closer to Christmas. This one sentence changed my whole perspective. Now I embrace each step and each switchback, knowing that the view at the top will be worth it. At the top I stop for a selfie and pano and keep plodding along until the next one.
5. Expect the unexpected
In any run of any distance, you can pretty much guarantee that something new will go wrong. You can be wearing the same old gear but different weather or conditions can make your old faithful chafe you in places that have never seen the sun. For Old Ghost, it was the addition of 3kg of mandatory gear on my back that rubbed my shoulders and chest raw. Not ideal but if you carry your favourite lube with you, maybe you can nip it in the but before that nasty next morning shower.
The entire second half I cursed the existence of my feet. I’ve never had such sore feet in a race before. I cursed every rock and ballast I came across and there were many. My legs said run but my feet just wouldn’t allow it.
I think the moral of the story here is that if I had prepared for the course maybe these things might not be the “unexpected”. I could have run more with all my gear and trained on rocky substrates. I’ll know for next time!