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Ayesha Specker: Post-race blues

  • 5 min read

The one question anyone will ask themselves once achieving their goals: “What now? What do I do now that I have completed my goal?” My primary focus for the ‘first half’ of the year was to do theTwo Oceans Ultra andAfricanX (trail stage race). Usually, I would search the internet, ask around to anyone about what races are coming up. But this time I feel I deserve a little break…. for now.

It’s been two weeks since I did African X and wow, what an experience that was. 90km over three days with 3500m of climbing in the most spectacular mountains. You partner up for this event in two’s. I partnered up with my best friend Erni for this. The general vibe is one to experience. A bunch of frothing trail runners all about to conquer three days of running with laughs, wine (started and finished on a wine farm) and sore muscles in between. Will I do it again? Definitely! Meeting amazing new people and sharing such an experience with fellow running enthusiasts in the most beautiful surroundings was a highlight for me.

Let’s rewind to two days after African X. It wasn’t pretty. The high was starting to wear off. My body felt great, not too sore. It was my head. My brain felt foggy; I couldn’t quite explain it to people. Then the tears started. Over what, I have no idea. The smallest thing would set me off. Ok, now I was beginning to worry as well as my husband looking at me like ‘who are you and what have you done with my wife’? Is this what they call a ‘runners low’? Or was I generally losing the plot? After conversing with my friend Erni, I learnt she was experiencing the same thing. Phew, I’m not crazy, or maybe we were both crazy? I started to do some research in my desperate attempt to keep my brain busy and found that it’s quite normal.

Here’s what I was dealing with and how I overcame it:

  • Eating all the food – Well, while some people would experience a lack of appetite, mine grew. Yes, I was running intensely for three days, so this is something I allowed my body to feel. I gave it what it craved and needed but within reason. One the day of the third-day post race I inhaled a burger which I was craving (I don’t usually eat red meat), but my body wanted a burger, so that’s what I got.
  • The tears – for no reason. Randomly my eyes would water at the silliest, smallest most ridiculous things. Enter – a good friend or husband steps in to tell you you’re stupid, and all is ok. If neither of these work then write it all down, take a deep breath and drink some water, tea or maybe even a glass of wine.
  • Cabin fever from not running – Now, this was hard for me, as I know I needed to rest properly and give my body a break after what I had put it through leading up to Oceans and now AfricanX. But all I wanted to do was run. More running?? Like I said before, my body felt great. I had to get outdoors. I had just spent three magical days in the most stunning mountains, and now I am at home. Boring! So I got outdoors and walked. Got back into nature and filled my soul with what I had been craving. Fresh air and moving my body. It’s amazing how getting outside can change one’s perception of things. I highly recommend this even if it’s just a walk; a walk is enough to recharge those batteries.
  • Self-worth – Ok now we are getting deep. I had so much purpose, direction, focus leading up to these events that once it was all over it forced me to question myself. Why wasn’t I patting myself on the back for what I had just done? Instead, I was beating myself down. I was blind sighted by the fog hovering over my head that I couldn’t see how amazing my adventures had been. So, I tried reminding myself visually by looking through all of the fantastic pics that were bombarding my phone with the WhatsApp groups I was apart of. Looking at all of the GoPro clips I made and seeing that goofy smile made me feel at ease and content with myself.
  • Lack of direction – similar to the self-worth as discussed previously. I had this sense of feeling lost. I invested so much of my mental well-being into something like this that I lost sight of everything. It all becomes one big ball of nothing. I hope that makes sense. So, the only way that worked for me was getting back out there. I started looking ahead to see what epic outdoor races were coming up later on in the year. I continued with my daily routine of waking up early-ish (not like when I am training) and got stuck into my study as well as reading. I also kept up my mobility and strength work which helped the recovery process and gave me a massive sense of purpose and direction.

So, what now and what have I learnt? Well, I am feeling myself again. Back to running but not on a programme. Still running with my crew some mornings but if I want to sleep in and run later, I will. If I want to run early, I will. I have also started Sweat 1000 again which is an insanely awesome high-intensity workout with loud uplifting music that will have you leaving glowing and smiling ear to ear. I have a few overseas trips planned in the next few months to visit family in Germany and local trips which will enable me to pack my trail and road shoes to run and explore new territories. Regarding races? I will mainly be focusing on trail races for the rest of the year until around September/October when I start to get hungry for Marathons when my inner-competitive voice starts chomping at the bit.

What have I learnt? I now know this is a typical process. At least for next time, I have written everything down, and I have gained so much from this normal process. That it’s ok, it will pass and to be easy on yourself and give yourself the rewards and rest that you deserve. While I am a naturally competitive person when it comes to sports (mainly with myself and whoever is ahead of me) I learnt to remember that there is also more out there other than waking up, training, competing, eating, sleeping and repeat. Allow your mind and body to catch up with each other again to find that perfect balance of physical and mental harmony. Then get ready to kick ass again!

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