Thursday, September 15, 2011

GH100 DNF part 2: sluggish

The first 80km (and possibly the entireity of) my race can only really be understood in the context of the four weeks leading up to the event.
After peaking at 167km in one week, I was reasonably destroyed for the entirety of the fourth week out.
The third week out began with three 11.3km runs in about 1:20 each with 450m of climb. By the third of these, on Wednesday morning, the spring had returned to my step, and it felt like a training effect west beginning to kick in. So, grasping this apparent window of opportunity, I went for a 50km long run (in 5:20, 900-1000m climb), on which I only had one banana, one gel, and some powerade powder for sustenance. Jogging up Boundary street for home, it felt like the tail-end of a race-gone-wrong, and by the time I had bent over to untie my shoelaces in front of the door, I was dangerously close to passing out.
The next morning, in an attempt to put together a back-to-back, I ran 20kms of rolling road. By the end of this run, the right quad felt close to injured, but that didn't stop me from running 10km that night, and another 10km the next morning. Up to Wild Horse that night for the final 20km of Glasshouse 100 training, and you have a suitably exhausted runner. The two-week taper was really all about injury rehab, lack of sleep, and anxiety at the prospect of not lining up at the start for whatever reason. Never have I invested so much emotional energy in one day.

So by the time I was standing in front of Delina wondering out loud where Dave was, and the other 100 people around me started running, I felt mentally spent.

Anyways, the first 10km loop and subsequent uping and downing of Beerburrum was conducted at a pinch above comfortable. Had a good chat and laugh with Dave C, Ollie, Kevin and others, and watched Cozmo annihilate his quads down the steep pavement of the mountain. Arriving at the bottom, Dave C caught up, and we stuck together around the back of the twins, although I had to stop multiple times to retie the shoelaces, and consequently run hard to catch up. At some point, Dave W caught up to and passed us, and maintained a 100-metre lead until man-mountain-Mike pulled up alongside and we started to reel him in. Eventually, Dave E materialised out of nowhere, and we had a jovial pack of five running at a wildly unsustainable pace, especially on the uphills. After about 5km of this, on a steep downhill, Coombs and I got dropped, and then Dave started running away from me. It wasn't a conscious effort to slow down, my quads just literally couldn't go any faster.
At this point came the realisation that we were in for a tough day at the office, and I started to take stock of just how rubbish everything felt. There was an uncharacteristically low level of enjoyment, and when the problem left quad started to flare, it was reduced again. So somewhere on the steep rolling hills to Checkpoint 5, the race for a top-4 spot ended for me, both within my mind and out in the real world.
I arrived at the checkpoint, took two new bottles from Dad (who had been fantastically smooth in his crewing so far), got confused about which way to go, and was sluggishly on my way.

That's the one word that I would use to define those first 80km: sluggish.

I had to constantly remind myself that by 70km I'd warm up and start feeling good.
And so it went to checkpoint six, where I asked the volunteers which way to go.
"Well, it says on the map that..."
"No no, I mean do I turn left, right, or go straight ahead?"
After trying the first two, wasting about 7 minutes and being caught by Spud, Mal and others, we realised that straight ahead was the way to go.
Mal and I yo-yoed at the head of this small group, before I pulled away on the approach to the powerlines. Dad handed me a cap (good idea), rotated the bottles, and I plunged downhill into that beautiful meat-grinder of ruts, puddles and 40% inclines.
Had a bit of fun bombing and sliding the downs on this section, running with Dick (100k), getting sprayed by motorbikes and pissed off by 4-wders.
Dick dropped me right at the end of this section, before mal started gaining on the rollers out to 8. We yo-yoed a bit more in the last two ks, and my quick transition through the checkpoint created a gap of about 5 minutes pretty quickly. On these two great loops, I focused on running as much as possible, only walking when the calves started to really burn. I started to panic at one point, as the heart rate was really high, and I was afraid of causing some serious damage.

Just get to 70km.

Well, pretty soon I was being chided by a random for the ripped shorts and accepting an awesome gluten-free egg sandwich from Susannah on the way out of 8, and 70km had rolled around. Luckily, I was focusing too hard on running all of those hot, wide, rolling abominations on the way to 7 to notice that I hadn't started to feel better. Nic and Mallani came past looking pretty happy, which was really encouraging.
In the three ks to CP 7, I entertained some serious thoughts of dropping out. I was bummed at not having hit my stride yet and fed up with not enjoying something that I'd usually love.
The loop at 7 was even worse - a really deep mental and physical low. I was counting down the metres left till the checkpoint.

It has to get better.

Through 7 again, aided by Dad's impeccable crewing, I was off into the now-sinking sun along an unfamiliar section of the course. A high five as I passed Spud and Gordi.
Somewhere in the previous 30km, the top of my left foot had started to flare up, and I was altering my stride and taking Ibuprofen to mitigate the pain - it was manageable.
This was where it started to turn around. The shady and sandy section on the way back to 6 was just beautiful, and the body started to loosen.
The Beerwah loop was much the same; an enjoyable exercise in running as much of the terrain as possible, keeping the blood-sugar high with a steady intake of gels, and contemplating existential questions.
Through Checkpoint 5, the last before the school, feeling fine, and just focusing on getting to 109km in good spirits. Soon after leaving, I realised that I had missed a crucial part of the race-plan; to spend a good while at 5 recouping, so that upon arriving at the school I would feel like continuing. This caused a minor panic, but when I realised that everything was alright, I was once again able to settle in to the quiet grace of the forest.
There's something indefinably great about watching the sun move up and over and down again while propelling yourself through a beautiful natural landscape.
Anyways, about 7km out from the school, I started to feel really, really sleepy, and it was quite a struggle to keep awake. By the time I arrived at Steve Irwin Way, that had faded, and I cruised the footpath at 6 minute kms, in good shape.
Into the registration area - 109km in 11:28 - "looking good", smile for the camera, get weighed, eat lots of cheese, pick up new bottles, and away we go.
I'm feeling great. Just 53km to go. We'll just keep running until we can't, and then walk it in if necessary. 19 hours? 18:30? 17:30? Anything could happen.
I rolled back along the footpath, passing Mal (coming in the opposite direction), who also looked fantastic, and before long I'd passed the turnoff to Caves Road.
50km to go. How many times have I run 50km? This is awesome. Piece of cake. I'm going to finish this thing. There was no feeling of joy or elation, just a quiet knowledge.
I ran off into the setting sun, thinking about nothing but the wind on my back and the next step forward.

Obviously all of this was rendered irrelevant by the breakdown and DNF, but I think that many lessons can be learned from this bad day at the office.
1. Do not take Ibuprofen. I took 5 tablets on the day, in a consistent stream, beginning at 5am. Apparently, it slows the nerves down. This was probably one factor responsible in making me feel so lethargic throughout the race, and stopping me from realising how far gone the quads were before it was too late.
- Take drugs only at the tail-end, if absolutely necessary.
2. Do not care. I had placed way too much stock in this race, spending most of my waking hours thinking about it in the two weeks proceeding, so that by the time September 10 had rolled around I was mentally exhausted and really couldn't care less.
- Relax, it's only a race.
3. Do not rely mainly on gels. The thick consistency of them really destroyed my stomach, so that by 15 hours in, I didn't even want to look at another Gu.
- Eat more solid food.
4. Do not overtrain. I was starting to freshen two and a half weeks out, but pushed myself over the edge again with little reason.
- Maintain consistentcy in the weeks proceeding.
5. Do not go out so hard. What's the point?
- Start of slower to warm up.
6. Do not miss sleep. As fun as it is to chat with your housemates until 12am, it detracts from your performance in every area, mental clarity, and overall enjoyment of life.
- Go to bed early.

The disappointment of missing out on a 100 mile finish and the series win is growing on me a little, but I'm still pretty indifferent to everything that happened, possibly due to a bad case of burn out.

From an objective viewpoint, it was an overwhelmingly positive, enriching experience.
I still have much to run for.


  1. Hi mate,
    Sorry to hear about your DNF but remember - If you haven't DNF'ed you haven't tried hard enough! :)

    BTW, check out Hammer Nutrition and their Perpetuem, I used it for the 50k and was strong and ccnsistent throughout. :)

  2. bad luck zac, sounds like a tough day out