A couple of days ago I watched the England football team lamely exit the world cup by getting thrashed by a far superior German team. As is the style in England there will be cries that it is really not their fault. The ball was too round, the altitude was sickening, we had a goal disallowed etc. It has been 4 years since England last played in a World Cup and felt the disappointment of being knocked out by Portugal on penalties. Whatever the reason for their exit this time it will be 4 years till they can try and put it right. 4 years is a long time.
4 years ago I was unsure of what I really wanted to do in running. I was training for an autumn marathon, doing the odd half, 10k, relay race and event a triathlon. I did not really know where I wanted to "go" with running. I knew there was something not right about chasing faster times and though I thoroughly enjoyed my first spandex experience I realised that triathlons were not my thing. Then one day that summer when it was a blistering 27 degrees or something I was sent a link by a friend about some ridiculous race in Death Valley. 135 miles in the hottest place on earth in the summer. It sounded so ridiculous as for me to want to do it. But not now, or even soon. I gave myself 5 years.
Things have moved slightly quicker than that and now 4 years later I find myself staring down that valley. I am not there yet but I am now fully aware of what I have to do although I don't know how.
In 8 days I fly to the USA, in 10 days I head for the valley and in 13 days I line up at the start line of a race that has obsessed me since before I started running ultras. I have enjoyed my last 4 years more than can be put into words (though I try with this blog). My canals runs, Alpine treks, Canadian forests, Saharan wilderness, English mud and the historic paths to Sparta have given me so much I can look back on as magical. However they have all been leading up until this point. If I had never had hear of Badwater I could still be out there running road marathons, or worse still triathlons.
It's funny how your feelings towards a race change the closer you get. For 3 and a half years I looked at this and though it sounded stupid. Then as it draws closer, you get more prepared and more confident in your ability it seems quite realistic. And now that it is up upon me and all the training has been done it's gone back to being stupid again. There is nothing I can do about it now. It's already happening.
This weekend I had a great time training in Spain with a couple of other Badwater Brits Mark Woolley and Tim Welch. We ran through the Sierra Nevada mountains on road and on trail, slept out under the stars and covered about 140k in 3 days of running. I was so pleased that my knee held up fine. I realised that I really need to use salt, something I never do. I learned a few things and now am feeling better about the journey ahead. I still have a lot to sort out in terms of crew, logistics, food etc but now there is nothing to do but stretch, yoga and build a shopping list for the Walmart in Vegas.
This leaves me with plenty of thinking time ahead of the race. Plenty of time to think about what I might want to think about during the race, how I might deal with situations as they come. I am nervous but very excited about completing what I set out to do 4 years ago. I can't even contemplate not finishing for that would mean effective disqualification from the next few Badwater races. With so many now applying and so few spaces it would be hard to justify giving a space to a previous quitter rather than a promising looking rookie. For me this is a finish or die race. I don't want to have to wait 4 years to correct my mistake and make up for a poor performance. As I said, 4 years is a long time.