How do you get over a shitty race?
I’ve been mulling this one over in my mind for a few days now, wondering whether to write it up or not.
I never bothered to write up my DNF at Two Bays. It was too depressing to think about. My first and only DNF and I still don’t even know why it happened.
My heart rate suddenly spiked after eating an on course gel I’d never tried before, then, 20 minutes later when it dropped back down to normal, I was left exhausted and shivering in 30 degree heat only to have to battle on for another 8kms to get to Boneo road so I could pull out.
The volunteer I notified before leaving didn’t even try to talk me into continuing. She took one look at the goosebumps on my arm and said ‘you shouldn’t be cold on a day like this, go home’.
I chalked it up to the stress of my marriage ending, having to find a new place to live and the fact that I’d slept less than 4 hours per night for the past 3 nights.
But Surf Coast? That was going to be great.
I had my cheer squad (who were apparently a bit chilly)
And waaaay more excited than me
I was going to – at the very least – beat last years’ time by 10 minutes, maybe more. Who knew? The sky was the limit.
Yeah well it wasn’t. I started off feeling crap that morning when I woke with not much energy.
I’d been worried all week that I was going to have a repeat of Two Bays’ mysterious heart rate issue. Yet my sleeping had been fine, 7-8ish hours, every night. I wasn’t stressing about the race, or getting packed and down to Fairhaven.
I just…wasn’t very excited about it all.
Maybe it was my subconscious’ way of ignoring the worry about a repeat of Two Bays, or maybe I was overtrained, or fighting off a bug.
I’ll probably never know.
Friday night I got another 7 hours good sleep. Unheard of for me the night before a race.
I felt slow and sluggish but sometimes I do feel like that right before it all starts. As though I’m underwater, floating. Just suspended, resting mentally and physically for what’s to come…
After a week of horrendous winter weather, including snow at nearby Lorne, our luck turned and the day dawned sunny and wind-free.
You can’t really ask for better than this in the middle of winter…
I had a good start – at the back, out of the way, keeping to my planned pace of 7:00 p/km along the sand and trails, 6:30 on the boardwalk and pavement. I was stiff though, and not comfortable. Around the 50 minute mark I felt a surge of good cheer and thought ‘oooh, here we go, this is how I remember feeling last year!’ but it only lasted about half an hour.
Meeting with my sister, her family and my daughter at Point Addis (the halfway point) I was confused to find them in an unexpected spot and got grumpy about having to rearrange my plans. Cue a little bit of walking after that to text my sister an apology for being a pain in the arse.
And to take a few photos of what was, after all, a glorious day
At the halfway aid station I began to cramp in the calves. The lovely vollies suggested I try the Tailwind drink and a handful of Pringles.
Man did those chips taste good!
Tailwind, I’m afraid, tastes like lemon flavoured seawater, but that’s exactly what I needed and it worked really well.
That, and the fact I was wearing new compression tights AND knee high socks was, I think, what enabled me to keep going.
Entering the Pain Cave extra early in a race is never fun, but once you’re in there you don’t get to leave til the finish line.
The cramps never got to that debilitating point where your muscles won’t do as they’re told, but my strength on the uphills was completely gone.
Funnily enough I was still able to run on the sand and had no problems in the middle third which takes you through the Jarosite Mine and the tricky downhills of the Ironbark section. But it was so demoralising to pass 5 to 10 people on the downhill only to have them overtake me on super easy uphill sections, over and over again!
Luckily I had my patient sister join me at the 35k mark and, to our surprise, my 6 year old nephew Matty joined us at the Aireys Inlet Light house to run the entire 2km to the finish.
It was really something to be soooo so done with this whole marathon thing yet hear his little voice saying ‘are we there yet? My legs are tired’!! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
So that was all a big help mentally, but physically, I don’t know what was going on.
I did the O’Donogues-Urquhart’s Beach section (3.5k of sand running, towards the end of the race) over 5 minutes faster than last year, and yet still, every time I tried to run up hills I just…couldn’t.
The last 200 metre stretch before the finish line. I was also about 5 seconds away from getting my feet completely drenched by a rogue wave that attacked me JUST as I was about to climb the final flight of stairs to the finish. Kinda felt good actually…
This kind of outcome is almost always from not having done enough hill training. And, while I certainly did zero sand running in the lead up, I really did do lots of hills in training. I swear.
But I can’t argue with what happened, so it must be the reason.
Don’t I look just totally stoked to be finished? Well Matty was pretty happy with himself too, he’s going to run marathons and he wants a hydration pack like mine for Christmas please.
I felt terrible for a week or so after the race. It was so demoralising to get slower and slower over the course of the day, after such a great round of training.
I kept thinking I should have been able to give it more, but I know – I knew at the time – that I was giving it my all.
I briefly considered chucking it all in. Who am I to think I can run ultras? Me – a 42 year old slow-as-molasses amateur?
And there’s no real reason why I didn’t give up, then and there except…well, see there’s a little voice in my head that keeps saying ‘don’t stop, you’re almost there’.
Where? I don’t know. But that’s what it’s telling me. Stay on the bus. You’re nearly there.
Not many people will argue with you if you say ‘You know what? I don’t think I will run 50 kilometres after all’.
Most people just nod and think you’re being quite reasonable to stop training for 10+ hours a week.
So you have to be able to do it yourself.
That’s why I spend so much time reading about running, researching and writing motivational posts, and seeking out ways to keep that enthusiasm alive.
It’s to make sure that the optimism that little voice represents never gets dulled by defeat and the hard grind of everyday life.
You can run when you’re tired. You can run when you’re sore and you can run when it’s 5am, pitch black and pouring with rain.
But you cannot run without that little voice telling you anything is possible if you just try.