Over the past week or so I have come to decision to end my attempt to do the Arch to Arc in July 2020. I know it is the right decision because I only feel relief and happiness right now.
Why did I enter the Arch to Arc?
I wanted to do something big. Something that would stretch the limits of my fitness and become an achievement that was more than the generic ultra. I wanted to use my swimming ability to swim the channel again but this time be legitimately warm and floaty in a wetsuit!
How did I see myself succeeding?
I felt the Arch to Arc was very doable. Not easy, but doable. The swimming would require dedication but I had swum a channel relay in 2019 and a 24mile/24 hour swim. I had swum the channel before so knew how it felt to succeed. The running just needed to become more efficient- I had run 100 miles in October 2019 plus lots of other ultras so I had the confidence that I could do the 87 miles to Dover. The bike would come later. Again, I had completed 180 miles around the loop at Brands Hatch in a 12 hour event… I felt that once I got to the end of the swim, I would be fit enough to cycle to Paris.
Why did I change my mind?
I had a blast in 2019 doing events that were sociable but tough. I got some injuries(but had so much fun doing it!) and felt like I could go into winter fighting for and ready to train.
As it got closer to December, I found that I was struggling to motivate myself to train. I couldn’t be bothered and instead thought that I would drink lots of red wine and do very little exercise in an attempt to get everything out of my system before training started ‘proper’ in January.
December was fun 🙂 but January didn’t really get going. A hip/knee niggle had stopped me from running after I had limped across Scotland in 2 days in November; I developed a bad stomach and presumed I had developed a food intolerance, which was odd as I’ve never had any issues before.
I slightly resented not being able to enter events in 2020. I love events. It’s how I do most of my training. I am not a ‘training’ kind of person. I’ve never created a spreadsheet or particularly followed a plan… my exercise usually revolves around a sociable club session or the need to make a journey where I can run or cycle. I do get myself on a turbo or a solitary swim but ultimately I like going somewhere or being with people.
The SOLO Arch to Arc was something I thought I could deal with- solo events include the camaraderie of fellow challengers and the ‘team’ you create around yourself but ultimately they ask you to dive deep into your inner being and be comfortable with being by yourself for long periods of time.
I realised that, although I’m comfortable spending time in my own company, I don’t really want to be there for long periods of time! I want to be with people. I want to be with my husband and my kids. I don’t WANT to sacrifice that precious time for a hobby.
What was the breaking point?
I had been at the Enduroman Lanzarote swim camp. I had a fantastic time and Eddie and Rachel who run Enduroman are the most wonderful people that I think I can safely call friends. I had completed a 6 hour swim with really positive thoughts the whole way and the whole week just felt great(other than a bad stomach for a few of the days). I hadn’t felt homesick and, although I had some major panics about leaving the boys for 4 nights before I went, the time went by relatively easily.
When I got back I suddenly regressed back to being upset by training, panicking about organising daily life and just generally being a bit of a stress bag at home.
One evening I burst out with ‘I don’t want to do the Arch to Arc’. I expected Mark to tell me that it would all be ok and I was just having a moment but instead he did the best thing that anyone could ever have done and told me the truth; he thought I hadn’t been happy since I signed up for it. It wasn’t something that happened straight away but it was a pressure that had built up over the months to the point where I was actually unhappy.
The next few days were filled with emails and phone calls with Enduroman. Eddie and Rachel were both so supportive- they know me and they know the event very well; Rachel is an A2A athlete amongst many other achievements and Eddie was the very first to complete the A2A- both are the most humble and kind people I’ve known and I really treasure their support.
I am so excited but I mustn’t enter everything!! I already have a 24 hour track race in April and a 300km bike ride in June. I’m thinking of a local Ironman and maybe a marathon swim. I doesn’t really matter what events I enter, what matters is that I’m very happy and motivated again- all thanks to my amazing husband.
I’ve learnt that I don’t want to do solo events(at the moment)
I’ve learnt that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
I’ve learnt how important my family really are to me (but that it’s still important to be ‘me’ and do the things I love doing).
I’ve learnt that it is ok to admit when something is too much.
I’ve learnt that I stress can present itself in many different ways.
I’ve learnt that an event doesn’t define you- it’s just a hobby and the enjoyment of that hobby has got to be the main factor.