There comes the point in any session, event, an adventure where all you want to do is curl up in the foetal position, cry, and make it all stop. This is the section I like to semi-affectionately call the middle third. It is always the suckiest, most painful, most gut-wrenching (sometimes literally) part. Simply it’s the most challenging, soul-destroying part. The part where you are so far from the start you can’t even see it in the rear vision mirror, and you are so far from the finish that reaching it seems impossible, and it feels like you will never get there.
Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Melbourne went into its super long lockdown, I found it fantastic mental preparation and training for endurance events. Creating that mental fortitude, toughness, resilience and determination to make it through to the finish line.
This time around, in Melbourne’s Lockdown 70gazillionand6, I feel firmly stuck in the middle third. I feel stuck, beaten and destroyed, unable to move. It feels like this display of Mother Nature will never end. To me, it feels like you are walking down a tunnel, and there is a light at the end, but in some sick joke, that light feels like it is a freight train hurtling towards you at some crazy speed. Other days it feels like you are in complete darkness, and the light has been firmly cemented to off.
Right now, all I want to do is crumple into the foetal position in the corner and give up. Have it all stop and go away. I miss the face to face interaction with our incredible customers. I miss being able to see my best friend Wifey in person. I miss our family dinners, hugs and human contact. I miss long cruisy trail runs with my best friends and running and training the way I used to. I miss my drive and determination to complete Ultras.
I am finding it exceptionally hard to get out of bed each morning, which is a sure sign that my depression is taking hold again. I am angry, frustrated and finding the negative a lot – I am also finding that my normal outlet of training extra hard isn’t hitting the spot. I suspect this is mainly because my motivation to train right now is at an all-time low. So freakin low, in fact, I don’t like the way my body feels right now.
Welcome to my version of the middle third. The suckiest, darkest, gnarliest part of the journey. I want this roller coaster to end. I want to get off. I want to have family dinners, long cruisy trail runs with my best friend, and travel to where I want without restriction.
The flip side to all of this darkness is that I am even more terrified of what happens at the finish line. Will I be able to stand up? Will I collapse? Will I feel elated? Will it be worth it?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, and honestly, that really terrifies me. I don’t like the unknown, I don’t like change, or at least I don’t like change that I feel I have no control over. But, unfortunately, this is one of those situations. I don’t know what the final third will look like. I don’t know what the finish line will look like. I don’t know if that light at the end of the tunnel is a train headed towards me or actual daylight. And to be honest, that kills me. It paralyses me. It makes me feel like I don’t know where or how to move. I don’t know what decision to make.
It feels like the ground is constantly moving beneath me and shifting in position (oh yeah, that happened here in Melbourne too…); the only things I know for sure are simple.
It is ok to be in a dark mindset in the middle gnarly horrible third. It is part of the process. Well, at least it is part of my process. The best advice I can give to myself is to give in to the gnarly third – allow myself to fall apart, which I have done multiple times now; it lets me reboot, clear my mindset, even if it is just for a little while. It allows me to briefly focus, and right now, that is all I can get. I have to keep some form of focus and move forward. What’s that saying – “if you are going through hell, keep going”? That really does apply here. I really believe that the only way to make it out of the crappy middle third to the final third is to keep moving. Sometimes there are giant steps backwards and teeny tiny baby crawling steps forward. Some days there will be no movement. Others it will feel like I have ticked all the boxes on the to-do list. One day this middle third will be behind me.
Until then, I will endeavour to be kind to myself and cut myself some slack. I will endeavour not to beat myself up, to tick off the training sessions as best I can. I will keep reminding myself that some imperfect sessions are better than perfect sessions. I will attempt to focus on those things that I can control in the now. I will try not to be overwhelmed by what the finish line may or may not look like. Some days I will win; others, I will fall apart and be unable to get out of bed. Until then, in this massive display of Mother Natures power, I just have to keep putting one little foot in front of the other as you do in any event, ultra, session to make it out of the super crappy soul-destroying middle third.
One day when I am firmly over the finish line, my biggest hope is that I can use this for fuel. That I can find my mojo again and get back out there taking part in the endurance events that I love without them feeling like they are destroying my soul. I long to feel that cup filling determination and achievement again.