At the end of 2005 I teetered on one leg, wondering how I was ever going to return to my competitive dreams. An ankle reconstruction threatened my future sporting career. Following this, life threw even more curve balls my way and I felt like I was stuck in a hole. But what kept me alive was a big, hairy, audacious dream. I wanted to be a World Champion!
When the day of the Junior World Titles in Lithuania arrived, I knew I would win. This was an ego-aside moment. Rather, there was simply no alternative. I was so prepared, mentally, physically and even spiritually, that the result was inevitable. I had done the work, tested my tools, and mentally rehearsed through all the challenges that might hit me in the race. I had stood on the tops of mountains and said my silent prayers, run through the moments of doubt, and through all of it, I had found utter joy in the journey to be there in that World Championship moment. Yep, I was so damn ready to be a World Champion.
I want this sure-fire confidence for you too. I want you to be your own champion! Damn it, I want it for me again too because there is no greater feeling than running along a wilder trail with self-confidence fuelling your engines.
In around 6-months many of the trail running competitions in Australia kick-off again. Run Larapinta is in August, Surf Coast Century is in September, Ultra Trail Australia in October… just to name a few. But for some of us, racing isn’t the rocket-fuel our systems need right now. Rather, some of us feel a desire to hatch lonelier pursuits and that is also brilliant! So, whatever makes your toes tingle, let’s make sure that when we stand on the beginning of that muddy, winding trail we feel OH-SO-READY to be there!
Here are my tips to get you started.
WRITE DOWN THE A-DREAM:
What dream is in your heart? What do you find yourself thinking about when you are running alone, or sitting on the loo, or making a cup of tea at lunchtime? What makes your toes tingle? Whether a race, a crazy mission or an adventure with your children… WRITE IT DOWN! Stick this scrawled note on the fridge in pride of place. Never, ever let it out of your sight. For this is your A-Dream!
BEGIN THE BUCKET LIST TO KEEP MOJO HIGH
One toe-tingling goal at the end of the year is not enough to keep your mojo elevated. What other missions are calling to you? Start the bucket list and begin plotting and scheming these into your calendar. Aim for 1 mission every 3 weeks, allowing plenty of recuperation time before and after. Start with the more do-able ones and as the months progress, aim to explore wilder. Remember, these missions are a gift to yourself, a time to head out and take a precious moment for you to be the best version of you. They are also an opportunity to remind yourself of the A-Dream and prepare your toolbox for the big day that is still to come.
CLEAN OUT THE ROUTINES HANGING IN YOUR CLOSET
What once served you then, doesn’t necessarily serve you now. The daily actions that got you this far may now be holey, thread-worn and in need of renewal. Write down all the daily routines that you have – from the morning run to skipping breakfast, the 4am starts and the plant-based meals? Which of these routines assist you – highlight in green? Which have you outgrown or put holes in – highlight in red? Then pick one or two red-highlighted areas to substitute or let-go. Pick two to three green-highlighted areas to optimize. Clean out that closet!
WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESSES, CELEBRATE YOUR WINS
Learning to love the hills? Run more hills! Fear of the flats? Run more flats. Never tried a tempo run – start with a 5-minute tempo. Wary of running in the dark? Purchase a great headtorch and give it a try! As you take small steps to empower yourself, you will feel your confidence growing, building like a tiger’s roar deep inside you. From your running ‘training’ to your recovery routines, your nutritional habits to the simple art of getting to bed earlier, work on your weaknesses and find ways to celebrate your wins. Let us not downplay our successes and avoid small moments to slip past us without acknowledgement! Remember what it was like to run your school cross-country race when all our peers cheered us on? Remember how their encouragement lifted us? Let us be our own cheer squad on this journey. Let us work on our weaknesses and celebrate our wins.
GET THE BEST KIT FOR WINTER-READINESS
There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong gear. I remember when I ran my World Championship race in 2006, my race kit felt as comfortable and as familiar to me as my pajamas. From my shoes to my compass, my socks right down to my undies, I was intimately close with my racing equipment & apparel. Now is the time to ready yourself for the journey ahead and these items below are my initial suggestions for your winter adventures ahead:
What I use
No shoe will do every terrain perfectly. So, choose a shoe that will do 75% of your running really well and that will chew up the terrain of your A-Dream when the big day arrives! Fall in love with these shoes, make them your slippers and be prepared to get a second pair in a few months’ time. This is because no shoe is designed to last under continuous play for months and kilometers on end. You will use your older pair on the day of your A-Dream, leaving a newer pair to slip seamlessly into afterwards.
S-Lab Trail Running Shoes AND The North Face Trail Running Shoes
Choose a 5-8L capacity pack for anything up to 50km, then an 8-12L pack for anything over 50km.
The North Face Flight Trail Vestpack OR Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set
3. Dry Bag
A small, waterproof drybag will prevent the items in your vestpack gettering soggy from sweat or the weather. I use an 8L dry bag for my main kit, and a 1L dry bag for my phone and valuables.
Sea 2 Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Bag – 8L OR Sea 2 Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Bag – 1L
4. Head Torch
Don’t let the dark mornings and evenings stop you. I would recommend a USB rechargeable head torch with a brightness of 200 lumens or more.
Petzl Bindi Headlamp OR Biolite Rechargeable Headlamp
For under your head torch I highly recommend using a headband or buff. Not only does it keep you a little warmer, but your head torch will feel so much more comfortable! Getting too hot? Simply take it off and wrap it around your wrist.
Find Your Feet Headbands OR Find Your Feet Necktubes
6. Rain Jacket
As my mother would say, buy once! It needs to have a hood, have the seams of the jacket taped, and for comfort on the trails it does need to be breathable.
The North Face Flight Futurelight Rain Jacket
7. A long-sleeved thermal
I love synthetic thermals because they don’t hold the moisture when they get wet or sweaty. But if you are a cold frog them I suggest a merino base layer.
The North Face Thermals
My husband would testify that I have the coldest fingers and toes! The only thing that works for me is a synthetic fleece glove.
The North Face ETIP Gloves
9. Trail running socks
Dust, mud-splatters and sand entering your shoes? Try a longer sock in winter. It will also make you feel warmer.
Find Your Feet Trail Running Socks OR Find Your Feet Trail Running Scrub Socks
Learn the art of fueling yourself for the trails NOW. Do not wait to learn how to keep your head, heart and legs firing optimally. Optimizing your nutrition and hydration could have an even more profound effect on your ultimate performance than your fitness.
Koda Sports Nutrition
SELF-REGULATE FOR RECOVERY
Play hard. I mean it. Find joy on those wilder trails and daily routines because if we want to thrive on A-Dream Day then we need to do the work. But the work includes recovery. It requires us to check in with ourselves constantly, asking ourselves, ‘What do you need right now, Han?’ I have found that the more I include quietness and introspection in my day, the readier I feel to play hard when the opportunity arises. Yin-yoga, a 10-minute meditation in bed before sleep, a cuddle with my husband or swapping a caffeinated tea for a decaf one, these small daily actions are helping me to self-regulate, recoup and recharge. We all know how to go hard, sometimes we need to be reminded to practice going easier.
Need a further hand: These resources might help!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.