So there is a famous German author by the name of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; he wrote a very well known (in German circles, anyway) book called Faust about a century ago which I read last year and he became a fav of mine as well as lots of other kick-arse guys that I like reading. Faust is the story of a man who sold his soul to the devil and then goes though hell (literally, in a sense) to get it back. I guess we can all liken ourselves in someway to this story but the basis of me telling you this is simply that I really like Goethe. I found a quote of his early last week and have been trying to use it as a little bit of a motto as sometimes I lack the confidence I need to perform as well as I can.
"In order to achieve all that is demanded of us we must regard ourselves as greater than we are."
This somehow sat well with me and gave me an air of playful confidence that I thought I might take onto the track. I've been training well and should be confident, and I thought this idea in my head may take me closer to what my normal limitations and barriers of confidence limit me to do. I would never ever say I am arrogant and never plan to be, but I would say I tried to hold my head high this week and enjoy being in great shape and look forward to seeing the results speak for themselves on the track.
And then I raced.
Oh, 400m hurdles! You humbler of false hope. You cruel mistress of irony and devilish humor. I've once again fallen victim (as I tend to do, more than others its seems!) to the swift strike of this event's blade of realism. All very dramatic, I know ;-) But I simply have to look at such an event with an air of theatrical lightness. I can get drawn in very easily to thinking about this kind of thing way too much and submersing myself beneath a sea of doubt, so I need to keep my wits about me and realise how trivial what I do over here can be!
So here are the facts:
I came 4th in a very disappointing 51.7 seconds. I've not run that slow in a very long time. I really really really hate making excuses for poor performances; I don't like being around people who tell me that little things like the weather and the track are why I ran shit. My coach Matty is not too happy with me and justifiably told me via text after the race that all things considered that I have enough experience to be able to not run that slow, not matter what the circumstances. But I simply must tell you what happened in the warm up...
The weather wasn't great. It was cold, windy and wet. Pretty much like Canberra has been with maybe a few extra mm of red on the thermometer. As I started warming up I found out that the meet was running 45 mins late, so I stopped and assessed how long it would be till I ran. I adjusted my warm up accordingly as the events rolled out. What I have been trying to do recently is be really diligent with the process of my warm up lately. Making sure I have focus and investment into preparing my body for the race. Good intention with all aspects of the warm up, and going through the process in full that I need to be ready to run fast. Knowing what I need in this regard has taken me the full 10 years my athletics career.
I'd like to think of myself as an adaptable person to most aspects of my life. Maybe not, its seems. As I went to the toilet and get into my racing bodysuit during my warm up, I expected from the timetable that I had about another 20 mins before my race. When I got back, the first heat (mine) was setting up blocks and getting ready to go! I had no idea this was happening and from all reports previously I understood the race was a fair way off. I would normally have 4 runs over hurdles and another flat run before I raced. As it panned out I did one short run over 3 hurdles and a short start out of blocks. This may not sound much of an issue, but it is by far the most important part of my warm up. This freaked me out more than I'd like to admit and meant that I was really really lacking confidence that I was ready to race. I had a super positive mindset, however, and tried to calm myself enough to get round the track well.
Technically (for those who know what the shit I am talking about) I ran 14 strides to hurdle 5, cut down to 15s a hurdle early which put me on my non-preferred lead leg. I then cut down again too early, doing 16 strides from hurdle 7-10. This is pretty much the stride pattern of my female training partner, Loz. And no offense to her, but it's f*&^ing disgraceful for an elite male 400m hurdler. I got beaten by guys I shouldn't have, and I missed out on an opportunity to run in what ended up being quite a reasonable standard competition.
But, these are the trials and tribulations of subjecting myself to the torment of the 400m hurdles, coupled with a head that thinks too much and that needs a good slapping every now and then. It's not done wonders to my confidence, but as I have continued saying; I know i am in great shape and I'm still ready to run really bloody fast. I head off to Croatia on Tuesday, this is a big race on Wednesday and a bigger one on the weekend. No fucking around with this trip. I need to find my balls and show the world that I am ready to take them on and beat them. This is what I have believed in and what I have sacrificed so many things for.