It’s all in the mind…….isn’t it?

So last weekend 27th February I peaked my cycle training for the Big A (Argus Cycle Tour) with my longest ever distance and time on a bike. A whopping 125km simulation ride/tour around the Peninsula with my good friend and training partner Jason. It seemed like quite a lot to get under our belts that day as there would be plenty of climbs and it was looking like it was going to be a hot day.

All you need is a bike!

We had a good chuckle when we started out that morning as we piggybacked with some of the pelotons competing in a cycle race that morning. It was a blast tailing the first group, the elites as they eased down Spaanschemat Road at a relaxed 45km/h. We kept this going towards Westlake until a marshal on a motorbike eventually told us to drop off the back, spoilsport. Shortly thereafter we indicated to take the Stonehurst turnoff towards Boyes Drive. The problem was that the race marshals’ on the road started screaming at us to get back on the race course whilst we explained that we were not racing. As this was taking place the next group of about 40 riders just happened to arrive as we began taking the turn, ooops! Cue the race marshals’’ frenetic flag waving, shouting and gesticulating to get these riders to carry on straight and not follow us. It was hilarious and like something out of a slapstick movie as general mayhem ensued as some cyclists made the turn others stopped and shouted at the marshals’ and others carried on straight! You would think that people would check up on the race route or map beforehand or at least obey the marshals’.

So our journey continued as we took in the sights and sounds of the Peninsula that morning. Its mornings like those I love living in Cape Town. Life is so good to us in the Mother City and sitting on my bike whilst cruising around the peninsula was a great way to see our little piece of heaven. With having so much time on my hands that morning my mind began to wander and wonder as it always does. I began thinking about when I started 6 months ago and how crazy it would have seemed back then to consider cycling 125km today. Finishing my ride that morning with still plenty left in the engine I began thinking about how much a role the mind does play in getting you through physical exercise or endurance events. I was soon enough going to put that to the test the following week!

So my training took a backseat a little after the weekend as I attended an Ironman Seminar at the Sports Science Institute on Tuesday 1st March with my friend Jeremy (a double Ironman and great runner too). I thought a little motivation, inspiration and preparation was in order for my own Ironman journey I plan to undertake in 2012. That evening we had some great guest speakers and in particular Professor Tim Noakes. He touched on the power of the mind and the positive effect it can have on achieving extraordinary feats during training and on raceday. From the talk there were many things that stuck in my head but in particular how we can use our brain/mind to improve our performances. His words really struck a chord with me as I have always believed that the mind can be as powerful a tool as the body itself when it comes to training, racing or taking part in sport in general. I felt so inspired after his talk that I decided to test my own mind power at my next race. Of course two other very valid points from his talk about having the right genetics and training made me realise that I was never going to be the next Usain Bolt or Haile Gebresalassie and that I should ensure that my goals were realistic and measurable.

So Wednesday 2nd March came and the annual 10km Lighthouse Run in Mouille Point was being run. I figured here was the perfect opportunity to not only have a crack at my 10km PB but also see how my mind would measure up in improving my athletic performance. So my 10km PB stood at 47 minutes set at the recently completed 11 Global Triathlon so the question was how much could I improve. The race was busy with close to 2000 people taking part and the starting chute was packed tighter than a tin of sardines! Thankfully I saw a friend’s sister halfway up the chute and decided to hop over and join her to improve my chances of a good start. Now my friend’s sister is a speed demon on the bike so I figured she was likely to be so on foot too so I tempted fate by asking her what time she was aiming for. She casually mentioned a sub 45 min 10km and so not wanting to be outdone I then said that I would try for that too. I thought I was crazy to have even said it out loud or considered it as I had only a week and a half ago beat my previous PB by nearly 2 minutes. It sounded unrealistic and impossible but I thought what the hell let’s just believe I will do it!

The race started and I literally flew out of the chute to get away from the masses and get into an early rhythm. The first couple of km’s went by and although I was feeling a bit heavy in the legs I was on track according to the group of guys behind me using me as a pacer. At the halfway mark I was a little concerned as I was well outside my 5km PB and started to worry about running too slowly. I also started to feel tired and quite dehydrated but couldn’t figure out why. From that point on I began playing mind games with myself mentally visualising running smoothly and effortlessly and pretending to reel in the runner in front of me. In those moments (that felt like an age) all I could hear was each footstrike and every breath I took. It was like I shut the world out around me and I was the only one running the race.

My mental visualisation worked well until the last km when I got distracted by the group of guys in front of me that I couldn’t get past and seemed to be slowing me down. I could hear the commentator and see the finish now but as he made a timecheck I realised that I needed to get past the group and run hard to the finish. At that moment two juniors from Adidas flew past possibly aware that 45 minutes was getting too close, I broke through the group and chased after them. They were running so quickly that it was hard to keep up but as we hit the grass with just over 100m to go and with the commentator urging us all on I thought you are going to do this now pick up your feet and let’s finish this race and celebrate! I crossed the line in 44:53 and claimed my new PB by nearly 3 minutes. It was a great day and I was so overjoyed at achieving something I had thought pretty impossible at the start! It felt like my mind won that battle over that small matter of tar and grass even if it was only for 10kms.

This unfortunately is not the end of my story as with every victory there is sometimes a small price to pay. Herein is a cautionary tale to all to listen to your body, look after it and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it!

After staying until the race and prize giving finished I eventually left for home but decided to go to Cavendish Square on the way to get something to eat as I had eaten little all day and had drank even less. I arrived at Cavendish after 9pm and began to feel lightheaded and a little nauseous. I figured I was just hungry and headed for the restaurants but realised that they were all closed. My overwhelming nausea continued and went into overdrive as my temperature suddenly soared, I began shaking and sweating profusely and felt as though I was going to pass out. I managed to get to McDonalds and mumble my order of Coke and Water before my nausea and delirium caused me to head to the bathrooms. I locked myself in a cubicle and sat down and tried to drink my coke and water. I don’t remember much but recall being too weak to lift the cups and let them drop to the floor. Feeling as though I was about to pass out I went into a mild panic (stupidly) and sms Help to my wife (in Joburg!). She called me immediately and just hearing her voice helped me enormously as I eventually managed to drink something and drag my sorry butt back to McDonalds (only place open) and order a large chocolate milkshake and fries. I sat for a while until I finished my food and drink and began to feel at least semi normal again. I admittedly stupidly and stubbornly refused an offer of a lift home from a friend that called to check on me and chose to drive myself instead.

In short and after some investigation into my condition it seems that I had my first (and hopefully last) serious case of hypoglycaemic shock. It was a rather scary experience and one that I would not want to repeat. Thursday and Friday was a write off as it laid me low for the next two days and took me sometime to get over. Thankfully I feel 100% now and am rather glad that this week is a cut back week before Argus Cycletour so that I can regroup and give race day everything.

Remember your body is like an engine and how you treat it will determine how you function. Your mind as Professor Noakes put it is like a governor for your engine. You can therefore have control over your engine but whatever you put into that engine is what you will ultimately get out. Eat, drink, respect your body and never be afraid or too stubborn to ask for help when you need it most.

Know your limits but have belief that you can beat them!

Best Scotty


About scotttait

Cape Town guy living and loving life under the African Sun. I blog about my passions outside of work. These are Running (trail running particularly), Triathlon, Surfing, life in South Africa and the sporting challenges and races I take part in. If you want to learn more about me go to
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