It’s funny how thoughts grow. They appear as if from nowhere, a spark in the mayhem of all the other thoughts but some sparks of ideas or concepts or memories are actually seeds which grow and grow until they become all consuming distractions which trump rational argument and prevent you making sensible decisions.
I realise this sounds like someone describing the onset of depression or a similar mental health problem. It’s actually what happened to me during today’s race – and fortunately it wasn’t a depressing thought, but having experienced the way it grew I can see how depression starts.
The first half of the course went reasonably well. I was happy with my routes and while I was feeling a little sluggish and perhaps lacking a little bit of aggression through the terrain I knew I was going OK. Just before the arena I met my 1- and 2- minute men on an in-out leg so I knew I was catching them. At the arena I heard I was in 2nd, 16s behind Chris Smithard. Great, I thought, the rest of the course is in the housing estate - just like I’m used to. Lets pick up the intensity and close that gap down.
The next control after the arena was #11, down the edge of some buildings and turn left. As I was running down the buildings I picked my route to the 12th – carry on past 11 all the way down the road – the straighter route looks fractionally shorter but my route is simpler, so I can really open up the taps. As I’m running down the road I see the Finnish top of my 1-minute man ahead of me. Cool, I’m definitely catching him.
The spark first appears as I turn off the road. “Wouldn’t it be funny if I’d forgotten to punch the 11th”. Haha, yes, that would be funny. I carry on towards the 12th.
Then it grows. I can’t remember punching the 11th. Can I? I wouldn’t have run right past it, would I?
I look at the map again. I think I ran straight to the road. I’ve done this before – start navigating the next leg before punching the current one. I saw the Finn – I got ahead of myself. I’ve got no way of checking – we’re on screenless EMIT cards. In that 30 seconds from the first spark this negative thought has grown to be 100% certainty that I ran right past 11. I pause for a second. If this was WOC, a one-off race, I’d chance it and carry on but this is the first of five races this week. A DSQ today would really spoil the rest of the series, particularly the chase on the final day.
I turn away from 12 and back to 11. As I get there I become slightly less certain. I know my race is over but I still have to get round the rest of the course. I can’t say I was pushing 100% or really focussing on the best routes. Another spark – in my heart and legs – was gone.
So I traipsed in 67th, 3:25 behind the best time of Mathias Kyburz and 3:00 behind the outstanding run by Chris Smithard in 4th. I don’t know what I could have done today but I do know I’ve let myself down. Fortunately there are still four races left this week. Today could be just the spark I needed.