The Hengill Ultra
50kms, 2300 metres of accumulated elevation, an 810 metre summit, 8 hours, 12 minutes and 25 seconds later, I had completed my first ultra marathon—and a definitive tick off the bucket list!
This past July 30th I raced the Hengill Ultra in Reykjavik, Iceland. Iceland is renowned for its “fire and ice” and this run epitomized those two elements with a route scaling a still active, smoking volcano and crossing the snow capped summit.
Hengill was mentally and physically the toughest feat I have completed to date. I am someone who is constantly seeking that next challenge, that something that feeds my soul in an “I’m-not-sure-I-can-complete-that” sort of way. I love the grit of racing: the walls your mind and body put up that you are forced to scale and the ultimate euphoria of crossing the finish line. In my mind, in my world, nothing compares to that.
In the days following the race, the power of three key elements became evident as I attempted to sum up what I learned during those 8 hours 12 minutes and 25 seconds.
1. Meditation – Meditation can assume many forms. For me it was scaling an Icelandic mountain for the better half of a day. This experience made me realize how distracting everyday life can be, how rare it is to be alone with your thoughts for more than thirty minutes and how truly relaxed and clear you can feel by focusing on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking monopolizes the day to day and it is beyond refreshing when your sole focus is putting one foot in front of the other. (Pun intended.) There is absolute beauty in simplicity and I found that on Mount Hengill.
2. Positive thought – I am a positive thinker by nature, and during my years of experience as a national level athlete, I accumulated various tools in my mental toughness tool box. The psychology of racing is just as important as the physicality. You must train the mind with the same discipline as the body. That being said, I was not prepared nor expecting the amount of times I would be dipping into that box in one race. Your mind is powerful, which can work for you and against you. There were points I wanted to stop: physically my muscles hurt, my head said “slow down” and towards the last few kilometers it even told me I wouldn’t finish. Whenever these thoughts entered my head I reminded myself of two things:
- You trained, you’re ready and you’re strong. Confidence.
- It is a privilege and a blessing to be able to compete. Enjoy this moment.
Switch your psyche, shift your perspective.
3. Preparation – Put time in training at the gym to ultimately enjoy your passion. I don’t necessarily LOVE lifting weights, doing band exercises and stability work but I love how they make me feel, how strong my body becomes and what it allows me to do. I absolutely could not have completed the race injury-free without the winter and spring resistance training I did. It made me a stronger runner and protected my body when it was in its more fatigued state. The terrain was rough, often unpredictable, the incline steep and the footing unstable. Recruiting all my small stabilizer muscles was critical to keep me safe and strong.
Pivotal life lessons, self reflection and perseverance were served up and tested on that mountain. Until next time, Iceland.
What IF you could?
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