2018: goals, visions, dreams and dissapointments

It is almost that time of year when we announce to the world (or anybody that will listen) our goals for 2018.Do you even remember what you promised yourself and your friends a year ago?

However come mid January every year these aspirations have often been long forgotten. Deemed unattainable.

What is going on?

Some of us have achieved the goal we set out only to fall into a slump afterwards. We are so used to this cycle that we come to expect it. But should it really be this way?

Rather than looking at the coming year (or any year for that matter) in isolation is it not more useful to see it as part of a continuum that we are on? If this is indeed the case is it not a good idea to have a common thread running through our actions (planned and otherwise).

So what is this common thread?

What is your common thread?

Is it not something greater than the individual parts? Perhaps a vision even?

Let me explain: If my vision is to be the best triathlete in the world then at some point I need to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. That has consequences like winning local races, getting a good training plan, watching my diet, buying a fast bike and finally getting sponsors to fund this whole lifestyle. I would need to do everything I can in order to improve for that is my vision. But I also have to start from where I am now and build from there. But more of that process here.

Contrast that to somebody who wants to have fun with friends and family. They might choose to drink that glass of wine, miss out on the intervals in winter to go on the group ride, support others in a race rather than win at all costs because those things are all important for their vision. They might even fit their family into their training sessions. They might get their kids to ride along on their bikes for their morning run…

Neither option is better or more desirable. What is very attractive though is seeing somebody follow through. We have all seen those people. I am not for a minute saying that you have to be one tracked all the time but being conscious of what you want out of a particular moment or day or year makes the difference. And how that fits into your overall plan or vision makes it super powerful.

Then the little goals that we set ourselves along the way are stepping stones on a deeper path. There is no reason to hit post ultra blues because it is one rung on the ladder. A ladder that continues until we die. So choose your vision wisely. Your vision will become the framework or lens you judge your actions and progress by.
This takes time. 

Life Coaching 101

I help people realise their potential.
I facilitate growth by helping people achieve their goals and dreams.

We all have goals and dreams right? But how many of us have the tools and skills to achieve these? That is where I come in.

We might even have things in our past that are holding us back. I can help you clear these up so that you can move forward with confidence.

Each one of us is unique and so my coaching is on an individual basis so that I can facilitate your highest truth.

How does it work?

The first session is free. This is a getting to know each other session. You and I work out if we want to work together. Then we schedule a few sessions and you present me with what is important in your life.

I believe life is simple. Often it is just us who complicate things. My sessions are simple. I stay away from jargon. My challenge is to meet you where you are at and walk beside you on your path. Maybe I am more of a guide or compass, giving pointers here and there. Ultimately it is your choice of how you implement these. Life happens outside of coaching and I have the biggest respect for that.

I coach in person in my office in Plumstead or over Skype if that is more convenient.

My background 

I am curious about the people around me. I am fascinated by how we tick. More importantly I am interested in how to help clients realise their potential.

I received great theoretical insight into human thought by completing a BSc in Psychology.

A Life Line course gave me more practical skills and insight.

Being invited to formal Life Coaching training solidified my understanding. Just as we continually develop so my learning continues.

Please call me on 072 285 9563 or email me to see how we can work together.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Below you will find some of my ideas and thoughts which might be of interest.

Broken

I remember it well. I was told I was no longer required. That she did not love me anymore. After many years. Years of being one. Now we were broken.The news hit hard.

I was angry. Just like that, after years together I was cast out. I packed my bags and walked out.

I swore under my breath, and sometimes not.

I wanted the whole world to know that I had been done wrong.

That I was right and you were wrong.

Of course I had a right to be, did I not?

But how useful was it for me to hold onto my rightness? How helpful was it? How did it help me to move on? I was stuck in a holding pattern of my own making.

The realisation came when a friend of mine said he was angry for me. “Wow” he was not even affected, hardly knew you and HE was angry!? Was that not my emotion? Was I not the one entitled to my anger?

It did not take me all that long to see this slightly differently. Maybe I had to use my emotion differently?

Emotions are very strong indicators. And so they should be. Anger is a strong emotion hence we better pay attention. But they are only indicators. Beyond that they are not very useful. Just like wishing the oil light to stop flashing is not very useful so is wishing that I was not so angry. Best use that indicator in a positive way and fix the problem and get to move on. That is maybe more helpful!

I came to realise that I was grateful. Grateful for being kicked out of the nest.

Grateful for being forced to fly.

The fit had not been right and we both knew it.

Two Trails, Three Runs – SPARC Trail Running Talk 12/12/17. My UTMB and TTR experience

Picture1

In 1991 I pitched my tent in the same spot as far more famous climber from South Africa had done 8 years before. Chamonix is the birth place of alpinism and modern mountain travel. The view from Snell’s Field camp site at sunset up the Mer du Glas to the Dru was and still is inspiring. I did not realise that I would come back to these mountains to run many years later.

Picture2Fast forward to 2010 and I was standing at the start of the world’s biggest 100 mile trail run. The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. This was by far the biggest thing I have ever tried.

I believed that I could circumnavigate the highest peak in Western Europe, traveling through 3 countries and climbing almost 9000m in altitude in under 46h.

My sister and Mel flew out with me to act as my roving support team.

Imagine Cycle Tour fever on steroids.

This is the start line 1h before kick off.

Picture3Chamonix goes big for this event. Even the local chocolatier joins in the action and makes the course profile in chocolate and the medals for hopeful finishers.

And to much fanfare and Vangelis “Conquest of Paradise” we set off through the streets on our 166km adventure… at 4 minutes a km.

When I say the locals go big imagine my amazement when about 20 minutes out from the second refreshment station I could hear cowbells and the announcers revving the crowds. Running into the streets of St Gervais it was like the parting of the seas on Alp du Huez. I could not help but high five spectators and push back a tear.

I had serious doubts if I would even see my seconding crew.

A few km later the first real climb done and it is raining and dark as we run towards the quaint little chapel of Notre Dam. Suddenly a runner comes towards us on the dark and rainy single track trail next to the river. The only words I understand are “arete” and “avalanche”, then “cancel”.

Now what the hell to do 30 km into the biggest adventure of my life in the rain, in the dark and not knowing what is going on?

We carry on to the next town.

And just like that my dreams went out the window. I had to reassess why I was doing this.

Why I was driven to be the first saffa to do the UTMB, why I wanted more, longer, faster, higher.

It took a while.

Picture4But mountains have a way of drawing us in.

The next day we took the telepherique up to the Aiguille du Midi

I realised that what attracted me to this race in the first place was not the hype, the banners or the crowds in the towns. There was another way to experience this trail and that was to explore on my own terms.

Picture5So one early morning in July many years later I found myself in the same town square in Chamonix, way before anybody had woken up and I started my trail.

I had no cut off times and only a rough plan to do the UTMB route over 4 days. I carried emergency gear and lunch and enough water for a few hours. My plan was to run to lunch time, resupply in a town and then head up towards a mountain hut for the afternoon stint.

Picture6And so I found myself at Notre Dam just after lunch on day 1.

A big climb lay ahead to the refuge in Italy where I would spend the night.

I slept in dorm style accommodation, dinner was a three course affair and I could not resist waiting for breakfast before setting off the next day. This comprised of fresh rolls, coffee, cereal and fruit. Not bad for a mountain hut at altitude.

Picture7Day 2 I started up the road before any of the other guests and I climbed over the col in the distance.

I was well into Italy by then and I had climbed 2 passes over 2000m en route and then it was down towards this lake.

Picture8The views were spectacular.

In fact talking about other guests The UTMB actually follows the Trail du Mont Blanc. A hiking route which normally takes people 10 -16 days to complete. It was down to Courmayeur after this and then on to the Refuge Bonatti. I was gunning down some flowing single track when a hiking group stood in my way. They would not budge and actually signalled for me to stop. I did and they asked where I had come from and where I was going. I was still a bit confused until they insisted that I stop and have some Swiss chocolate with them. And they say the Swiss are not hospitable?

Picture9The pink church in Trient, in Switzerland is a pretty big feature on the route and I overnighted here for my third night. The day before was long and hard with 50 km and a long stretch of tar. It was the biggest day of the trip so far. During the UTMB race this is where the action gets real and racers start taking strain. I was no exception.

Picture10On day four I suddenly came across these carvings in tree stumps in a lush forest. The care taken was astounding. They were magical. Not much further along the path I came across two retired gentlemen with rakes. Raking the trail. They were not rangers, they were Swiss. It blew me away how the three countries I travelled through were so different, in food, in culture, in friendliness. Not much further I got lost with less than 30 km to go on my way to Chamonix. My foot hurt from the effort of the day before and I was over it.

My mission had been to enjoy the trail, explore blank spaces on my map and enjoy moving lightly across terrain. I accomplished all three of these so I hopped on a bus and drove back to Chamonix. In the end I had run all the sections of the UTMB either in training or on my solo circumnavigation trip. I was happy and I did not feel I had to prove anything to anybody. I got on a plane and came home.

Last August I was in Jonkershoek with Mel and I got a frantic message from my buddy Jacques who lives in Dubai. We had done some running together many years ago.

Anyway Jacques’ message was about the 6 day TransRockies Trailrun in the USA. We were both unfit and needed something attainable to get us motivated. The by line of “Summer Camp for trail running adults” seemed to fit.

Picture14So in August we rolled into Bueno Vista in Colorado to start our adventure.

The format is the same as the Cape Epic in that you need to run in pairs each day and cover the 210 km over 6 days. Distances vary between 24 km to 38 km per day.

Altitude is the real issue as you do not dip below 2200m for the 6 days.

Recovery would be key. I locked my nutrition plan down 10 months ahead of the race.

My eating plan consisted of a huge amount off protein in very specific portions, some carbs and no fat. It worked incredibly well.

I would need to have this perfected come race week hence I decided to stick with the program rather than change to a potentially better plan and not have this new plan dialed in come race week. Just like you train your physiology you need to train your gut.

Gu was a sponsor so my carbs were taken care of. As a result I travelled to the US with a rather alarming amount of protein powder hoping that the K9 units would not show too much interest.

Back to the TransRockies: Accommodation is in tents and all food and drink is provided.

I realised that this would be a completely different undertaking to what I had done before, that our team dynamics and personal strengths (and weaknesses) would determine success or failure.

This is Camp Hale where the 10th Mountain Division of the US army trained for WW2. This was our overnight for two stages.

Picture15This run was not too unlike mountaineering in that we spent most nights well above 2500m in altitude.

In climbing there is a hierarchy of rules:

1) Come back alive,

2) Come back friends,

3) get to the top. That is certainly what we did. I knew that I would have to be able to cover 20+plus km per day. Day after day after day. And that is what I trained.

All my training consisted of keeping my heart rate under 140 bpm. So that meant no speed work what so ever. It took a while but my body did respond.

It was uncanny but the first day I knew we were running too hard, everybody was. It was day one after all. After that my HR hovered around the 140 mark for the majority of the run. Our training approaches were polar opposites. Jacques would run longer when he had the time and when temperatures dropped to the low 40C in Dubai whereas I tried the back to back to back runs approach with not many pure recovery days. There would be a fair amount of walking and that we would have to do it 6 days in a row.

Picture16This is us descending from the famous Hope Pass at 3800m on day 2. This is the same pass that the Leadville 100 goes over twice!

Our mission from the start was quite clear. We were going to have fun and do the best we could. We managed one training session together in the lead up and we both were running at sea level. Jacques is a dive instructor in Dubai so training camps were not that easy to organise. The usual sandbagging of not admitting to having done any training was the norm. Even more so we were going to experience this journey together.

Picture17Some minor blisters were dealt with.

Peter van Ketz says that on all his expeditions his partner’s welfare is his top priority. Like in any relationship you need to look after each other in order to get the best possible result.

Picture18And the race went incredibly well. The route took us over high mountain ridges and this obligatory 1 km river section which was heaven on tired and hot feet.

We ended on the podium every night only because there were only three teams in our category.

In fact we ran with Miss Canada for a while. Well she did not wear a crown but our pace was similar so we spent some time together. Miss Canada because I forgot her name and called her that instead. She eventually pulled away when I asked her to sing to us on one of the long winding up hills.

Picture19The second last day was 36km and we were confident we could close on second. Suddenly, on the only technical stretch of the route, 12km from the end my partner screams and we are reduced to a walk. One badly twisted ankle and cramps in both quads.

Our day changed just like that and potentially our race was on the brink. Jacques dug deep. We borrowed some hiking poles and continued. We were concerned about taking pain killers or anti inflammatory’ s at altitude so Jacques sucked it up like a trooper. We were reduced to walking @ 16min pace down a dirt road towards the ski town of Vail.

That night Third Eye Blind was playing in town. I went for a walk and found a bench outside the stadium to take in the whole experience.

There was serious debate about or plan for the next day. I assumed that we were in for a long painful walk. And I prepared accordingly. I even packed in an extra top in case it would get cold at altitude. Imagine my surprise when we set off like a rocket train on the longest 38km day of the event.

There were some big climbs and it was predicted to be hot. Completely unbeknownst to me it is amazing what some drugs and determination can do. I was hanging on for dear life. On the first climb out of Vail I asked Jacques what the doctor had said the night before. His response of “It’s ok” did not give anything away. Then it dawned on me that he had taken some drugs to dull the pain. Bastard I thought. You could have told me we were going to be working hard today. 5km from the end I was overheating. I had to stick my head into a stream to cool down. Actually it was more like a muddy puddle. And just like that our roles had reversed. Jacques was looking after me and making sure I was OK.

Fortunately I don’t have a picture of us at the finish line because my cap and face was black with mud. Many ice-creams later we were returning back to normal and I could think again.

Picture21These three runs were very very different.

I do not for a minute claim that one is better than the other.

However the objective determines the approach, training, nutrition, result and ultimately the learning.

Unless I am incredibly clear on what my desired outcome is I am in trouble.

Many of our trails are there to be run every day. We don’t always have to travel across the globe to have adventures.

Thanks to Mark Seuring and all at SPARC, Drifters Extreme and Spar for making this evening possible.

 

Insert catchy title here

I recently read this article by James Clear. 

So if success is linked to grit then why do we spend all this time wanting to find our passion?

Why not develop our grit? Why not spend time developing our staying power?

Well maybe because we believe the short cuts we are sold.

If only we have enough talent, if only we discover our talent, if only we find the magic pill, if only…

And it starts with small things. Daily rituals that lead to long term gains over short term potential losses. It starts with brushing our teeth. And then flossing! Ah here is already the rub. Who misses out on this part? Then we make our bed. Once we can do that we can try to do square breathing for 32 days continuously. Then maybe we can move onto the important stuff. Oh but hang on is the really important stuff not developing grit. So floss every day. 

And finally for those who want the full research article to back this all up:

“… these findings suggest that the achievement of difficult goals entails not only talent but the consistent application of talent over time” Angela Duckworth

Questions

Some of us have seen this article before. Either way it is worth paying attention to again.

What it illustrates is that we make assumptions all the time. We are wired that way. Our brain creates gaps in perception to free up space. We don’t notice the blanks because we fill them in. The problem is that these filled in blanks are sometime simply not true. Ultimately we make an assumption. A statement of sorts.

We assume a truth and do not consider for a moment that this might not accurately represent the situation. By stating “the road is clear” we must, on some level have asked “is the road clear?” However few of us consider that question. “Is it really clear?”

Actually we should be asking questions. Of our own reality and how others perceive theirs.

What a strange assumption to think that our “reality” is true for others too.

Without drifting too far from the cycling theme we could argue that the “gap” we require to navigate a given road safely may have completely different dimensions to that perceived by a driver.

Maybe instead of the statement: “The roads are unsafe”

We should rather ask: “How can we make roads safer”

Even better still: “What can I do to make my ride safer and more pleasant for all concerned”

That is taking responsibility and therein power.

STFD

Unlike HTFU the above acronym does not have its own line of clothing, incorporated into The Rules or being throw about on your average coffee ride. You won’t even find it on Google.

Meanwhile every magazine cover has their version of the “12 weeks to your best Ironman”. Completely unrealistic time lines and gradients to get a result out of yourself.  Beyond yourself.

In contrast Jiro Ono requires his apprentices to train for 10 years plus, go through 200 plus attempts at the simple egg sushi before the standard is reached. That is no mean feat and separates the men from the boys. It seems that your 10 000h is only the entry exam. Ultimately there are no short cuts.

The focus is on process. The struggle is real only if you lose focus and think of the end result.

Meticulous attention to what you are doing every day. In your training, relationships and life.

If you have to compare, compare yourself to yesterday. Compare yourself to the process.

A friend of mine recently did her first 5km, then 10km and now is steadily increasing mileage to complete her first half marathon. We have all been there. If we are honest we have all faced the inevitable collapse in some form or other. Some injury or other forced us to slow down. Or we have lost enthusiasm and taken up chess.

So why not Slow The F… Down?

Rather than building the highest sky scraper in town as quickly as possible build a solid foundation. Meticulous attention to every detail. Building an unshakeable base. Building something solid. Doing the best you can before moving on.

Why not try to run your best 10km before moving on?

Oh “Because it is hard!” you say. Well that is the point.

Maybe STFD does not mean take it easy, quite the opposite. It means do the work, all the work. You have a life of progress ahead of you.

Mentors

Thanks Rosemary for posting this on twitter. And thanks Linda for posting.

Running is a great leveler. We are stripped down to our takkies and running shorts and we are all equal. We start at the start line of a race and we are all one. Even after the gun goes off we are equal. And so it goes. Yes one person wins and others follow. In reality though there is always somebody who is faster (and by definition slower) than us. The title of winner is very fleeting. And in this realisation we are all equal. In this equality we have the opportunity to support.

I look up to those faster than me and support those behind me. Knowing full well that tomorrow the roles can be very different.

In the same way every teacher has a teacher who has a teacher.

Every mentor has a mentor has a mentor.

It matters not if the runner in front of me knows that I admire (and emulate) their style. It changes nothing for them. And so it should with mentors.

Knowing that others look up to us offers us a great responsibility though. To be the best we can be.

For ourselves.

To go the extra mile. To be the mentor we would like to be.

This is an opportunity given to each of us.

Grab it with both hands!

In a garden as in life

IMG_4839I walked in my garden yesterday. I noticed some early spring buds pushing through.

A tree grows a millimetre at a time. A leaf unfolds little by little. A great gardener trims a little here, a little there. All relative to what is in front of him. He deals with reality. Takes an action then steps back and observes the effect before deciding on the next step. To do it any other way would result in a mess.

We however set lofty goals. Goals that stretch us. (remember the slogan “If a goal does not scare you then it is not worth having as a goal” or something like that). Often these goals are just out of reach, just that little bit too far. We tell ourselves that this is cool. Certainly our friends applaud us for this.

We become over committed publically and personally, (sometimes financially even) and hence we resort to shortcuts. Take running races for example. We overtrain because race day is just around the corner. We take pain killers because we are not up to the task.

Is it not better to look at what is and consider the next step, whatever that may be.

Thanks to James Clear for your inspiration here

Thoughts on the dead and the living

I:

“I made endless cups of tea. 

for visitors

for me

faces familiar

names forgotten

should have remembered

they were not there for me but for him, for themselves?

a moment alone

I promised

to myself

to look after his youngest

not sure if he heard

it’s not about me. 

 

I made endless cups of tea for anybody who would drink

too polite to decline

they cried on my shoulder 

in the second row”

 

II:

“Do you live for the living or for the dead?” I asked myself.

We lit a candle instead of going to church to mourn with the others, left behind.

I said I should go, for them, not for him, not for me. Is that a good enough reason?

For me, for you?

I celebrate in my thoughts your life and the positive influence it has had. Has.

But when that is gone then maybe it is time to move on.

Not dwell on the past, the what if’s, the what could have been’s, the if only’s.

To celebrate what we have right now.

Sometimes that includes sorrow.

But that is fleeting.