Al Alvarez defined feeding the rat as:

“the need to get out, to test yourself, to flush out the system, and, above all, to have some fun.”

To feed that gnawing sensation in the pit of your stomach that drives our motivation for getting out and challenging ourselves, testing our limits and to quell our fear of missing out.

This summer has been quite an eclectic mix of sports and activities, work and life balance but what has been apparent is that everything I have been doing has been enough. My rat has been fed and, after this weekend, is in a food coma snoring away.

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“You’ve just got to run for the enjoyment of it all; the views, the trails, the people..”, Seb Chaigneau’s words were rolling through my mind as I carried on pushing myself up the last major climb of the Cortina Trail, the middle distance course at The North Face Lavaredo Ultra Trail.

I felt good – sure, I was tired, but my legs felt ok, my breathing was heavy but maintainable and, most importantly, I felt really happy being there, in the moment. My mind was fully present for the entirety of the the 6 hours, 59 minutes and 30 seconds it took for me to cover 48km of wild mountain trails with over 2,600m of climbing and descent, and it was a whole new experience for me..

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As Mike left the first aid station, to say I was worried, is an understatement. Here he was, 33km into the 119km of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and he was suffering from food poisoning – I was unable to even get off the sofa when I had something similar yet here he was, with 86km to go –  more than two marathons to run.

This is the story of me supporting Mike Foote at the 2016 Lavaredo Ultra Trail. Part 1 of this awesome event can be read here.

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We’re 103km into the enormous 119km of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and Mike Foote crosses the brow of a hill with Rory Bosio and they jog their way into the last aid station. They both smile. It is clear they are still suffering but somehow they are both still smiling, both still cracking jokes, and both still positive. Mike and Rory are champion ultra runners, tipped to win this incredible race but food poisoning has knocked racing on the head, now they are just fighting to finish at all.

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David Göttler is an IFMGA mountain guide and professional athlete who splits his time between Spain and Chamonix, France. He has been on a massive 31 expeditions and is currently camped out at the South Face of Shisha Pangma with Ueli Steck, waiting for a weather window to attempt a bold new route. He kindly took a little time to answer my questions.

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The mind is a muscle

The mind is a muscle and, if you don’t use it, it atrophies.

I have taken the foot off the gas a little recently in all aspects of my life. I’ve needed to regroup and also just take it easy for a while. I’ve been focussing on fun things like skiing, moderate climbing, and just having fun. The New Year, as with everyone though, was a kick up the butt to get back onto things and start making progress on long-held goals.

But I keep failing, falling off the wagon, and getting angry that I’m not committing to things in ways I have before.

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It is not news that I have made massive changes in my life to pursue more adventures. These have been challenging, fun, exciting, scary, and more. I have pushed myself to my limits and set out into the unknown, savouring every moment of it. These have all been amazing adventures for me, new steps into my unknown. However, they have not necessarily all been into the unknown.

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Embracing change

I have experienced a lot of change over the last 12 months. In fact, looking back on where I was last March to today, it is hard to recognise the life I had as my own. For all the change I have embraced, it has not got any easier nor any less scary.

I have taken to quietly asking myself a short question when I find myself at a crossroads where change is inevitable; ‘Do I want to change today?’

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I first met John Ellison at the Chamonix Mountain Festival as both of us were giving a helping hand to the brands setting up their (somewhat complex) stands. We chatted away in the morning sun with me being none-the-wiser to who this happy go lucky and friendly man was. As we carried on chatting over a coffee he mentioned Climbers Agains Cancer and it all suddenly fell into place. Hints at his history, experiences, and, more recently, amazing stories all clicked and I realised who I had been chatting with for the last half hour.

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I love being in the mountains. That combination of the physical, mental, and emotional pressures make me feel truly alive. To make the most of it, and to stay safe there, I want to be a mountain athlete. The buzz, strength, and determination I have developed in the mountains has turned into a true asset in the rest of my life both professionally and personally and, with this foundation, I believe I will be better prepared for life as a whole.

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Sophie and I give each other a knowing look after dinner, saying ‘do we have any chocolate?’. I get up and find some stashed away for emergencies and we both smile guiltily. It’s well into 2015 and we are both trying to undo the inevitable Christmas indulgences but it is so easy to break when you’ve got a partner in crime.

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When I’m about to make a big decision, I often take the time to ask myself, What is the worst that can happen? I don’t mean this in a throw caution to the wind sort of way. I mean this as; based on my judgement, experience, and intuition, what are the consequences of my actions and am I willing to suffer the worst case scenario. I’m not always right but I trust myself to make the best decision I can at a given moment.

When Sophie and I moved to Chamonix we exposed ourselves to a number of risks: our security, our careers, even our reputations. Likewise, when I set off on an alpine climb in the high mountains I am exposing myself to risk, this time: injury, or worse.

With so much on the line for either of these paths, why would anyone voluntarily put themselves into these positions?

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