The song I mainly have in my head right now is “no no, no no no no, no no no no, there’s no limits”
Why did you enter Cape Wrath? The answer is complex. I mean, I’ve stated many times that my reasons were to; see the beauty of that part of Scotland; to challenge myself; and find my limit.
The latter is the interesting one. Both complex and simple. It obviously depends on the context. Like if you ask someone who has drunk their fill of beer, “have you reached your limit?” The answer will depend on how drunk they were. But if you ask someone at the end of a challenge whether they have reached their limit, it will depend on how that challenge went and when you ask that question.
Immediately after Cape Wrath I felt a limit was reached. I felt that the distance and time period presented me with a limit that I don’t think I could better. I was hurting and I was exhausted. I don’t think I could have managed another day of it. I was relieved more than anything to have finished and with that I vowed not to do the Cape Wrath again, nor would I consider the Sister race, The Dragons Back. There are somethings in life that you just don’t want to do again.
Do not get me wrong, I would not change the experience one bit. Even the injuries. As it was the injuries that gave me my limit to reach. It gave me something I had to deal with and overcome, as if exhaustion from running wasn’t enough.
I believed from the start that I wouldn’t be able to get through 8 consecutive days without getting an injury. I’d been carrying several in the lead up so it was a matter of when, not if. Lasting until day 5 before they presented themselves was longer than I expected. During the next few days they would get worse and I would be using pain relief as a matter of course.
The mental struggle of pushing on through, even when I wanted to stop and I wanted the pain to go away, was tough. There were respites, but they would be few and far between the periods of pain.
I’ve read many an ultra runner write about the struggle to push on when it is tough, and in that moment I felt like an ultra runner. I felt like I belonged, that somehow I’d now earned my badge, a badge I, until then, didn’t think I had earned, even in my many previous single day ultras.
The limit I knew I’d reached came when on day 6 I broke down and thought it was all over. But with rest, sleep and a little food I was back up and going on day 7. The desire to finish, larger than the desire to stop.
So at the celebration meal on day 8 I was discussing what was next. The chatter was about the Dragons Back or Marathon de Sables. Neither of them would give me any satisfaction I thought. I didn’t know why I would do them when I’d completed 8 days of running before.
For some reason, I always think of the next challenge having to be bigger and better and harder than the last. I realise it does not and that each challenge is different. Especially when you take into account how you feel on the day as well as your preparedness. (Dragons back is much harder I have heard, even if it is shorter).
Take, for example, the City to Summit race where I think I reached limits in that. Cycling in that weather and pushing through exhaustion to reach Fort William. That day, I had reached my limit and was unable to make the Summit. That unfinished business still unfinished but the the desire to complete it has dissipated. The limit I had there still in tact.
Turn the clock 3 weeks forward after Cape Wrath and I am still thinking that I have reached a limit that I don’t want to exceed. Note the language I’ve used there is wanting to exceed. But perhaps, I think I could exceed given the right race and circumstances.
I’ve always talked about the fact I am not super human and that those who think I’m mental, those who think they couldn’t do what I do, could in fact do it. But only if they prepare and want to do it.
It is in that desire and want, that allows you to reach these goals, these perceived limits. To push the furthest you have gone before. It is a very subjective thing. And in that, I don’t currently desire to want to go any further. Or any harder than what I did on the Cape Wrath.
I’ve thought about what next. And I’m thinking I will do more running. But at a pace that allows me to experience the journey better and spend more time soaking in the surroundings. Not that I was particularly fast to start with.
So for now, I’m happy with my limit that I have got to. What’s yours?