“I was thinking about all of these races and events that are designed to test you, and realising that when you do reach that point and you do break, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s not a failure in any way, but more an acknowledgment that this is your breaking point.” Gavin Bussey
Introducing Giles Ruck and Gavin Bussey. I have so many superlatives; two of the kindest guys you will meet; but also strong, resilient, honest and vulnerable in equal parts. This is a story not to miss, and not one that is really even about running, although I warn you now it may plant the seed that signing up for a crazy hard endurance adventure with a friend is a good idea….possibly.
I’ve been looking forward to talking to these two for months, since they finished the mighty Petit Trot de Leon (PTL) event last August. Where to start with the PTL? It’s the big daddy of the UTMB race festival, with 25,000 metres of height gain over 300km and 7 days. Technical, demanding trail with rock faces so steep that climbing gear wouldn’t look out of place. Extreme sleep deprivation. Challenging cut offs. Storms.
Gavin and Giles set off on Monday morning and returned to Chamonix on Sunday afternoon; 151 hours of moving and just 12 hours of snatched sleep in freezing sheds and packed refuges. Back home, friends and family were glued to the GPS live tracker all week, watching them slowly edge up yet another mountain pass and wondering how they were feeling, what was going on inside.
I was intrigued. What inspired them to sign up to this? What kept them moving forward in the toughest of moments? Did they have any tense words or tension? How did they keep going at the same pace when undoubtedly they experienced highs and lows at different points? Did the experience just challenge them in the moment or did it change them? Our conversation digs into all of this, and it’s a monster recording that I decided to split into two episodes. We talk about:
- How they prepared for an event as huge as the PTL
- Working as a team; different roles and strengths
- Continuing on through a lightning storm in the mountains
- What happened when the race organisation has to alter the route at last minute
- Encountering an accident
- The toughest points for each of them and reaching perceived breaking point
- Nutrition on the trail
- Chasing cut offs and what that incredible finish actually felt like
- What they have learnt and gained since the PTL
Showing the rough edges
The biggest message I take from their experience? That their success lies not so much in the fact they pushed through to finish before the cut off (which was certainly impressive!) but what they have both taken away from this in terms of the value of vulnerability for deepening friendship and connection. It reminded me again that a big part of what brings us back to running long distance events is connection to others; going through tough times with friends can connect and bond us together and create memories remembered and shared for years. When you’ve pooped, thrown up and cried in the mountains together you have a relationship in which you can talk about pretty much anything.
So I agree with Mark Manson, who said there is great power in vulnerability: “Humans are attracted to each other’s rough edges. Show your rough edges. Stop trying to be perfect. Expose yourself and share yourself without inhibition”.
It’s essentially being yourself, standing strong in your own skin, which is exactly what Giles and Gavin modelled through their PTL week.
Gavin talks about this. About understanding his own vulnerability and his relationships with others. For him, the PTL started out as a mountain adventure and finished as an exploration of himself. Giles too reflects on what he has taken away; the unique experience of being in the moment for 151 hours, being present, and how different that is to his usual planning-focused operating system.
I love these two and after listening to their stories I am quite certain you will too. There are so many take-away’s for all of us: that we can continue to move forward despite discomfort, face problems calmly and in the moment as they come up, communicate with each other without tension and with respect, and that letting your emotions run free is ok whatever gender you are.
Listen to Part One from 8am on 22 March and Part Two from 8am on 29 March on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and most Android apps. As ever, show us some love with a share on social and I would love to hear any feedback and how Giles and Gavin’s experienced has influenced or inspired you. Enjoy it!