I must begin with an apology. Sorry for neglecting my blog and not updating you with a post Longhorn Marathon report. There have been many contributing factors to my absence – work, other hobbies, holidays etc. But I’m back and I will try to keep you guys up to date over the next few weeks as things are really moving fast (unlike me).
So…The Longhorn Marathon on the 23rd April 2017 – Heading into this race I felt composed both physically and mentally. My preparation was complete, I was now in my usual tapering so to feel fresh and eager come race day. Soon my alarm was sounding and race day had arrived. The usual routine of shower and fuel ensued and at 6:45am we loaded up the camper ( I will fill you in about this later) and on our way.
Arriving an hour and a half before my start, I wandered the ¼ of a mile to the registration to relax after the drive, readied my hydration vest, had another bowl of porridge, (note to self: This was the best porridge I’d ever had) hydrated, then took a brisk walk down to the starting area.
The weather was shaping up nicely, bright and with a light breeze. I was my usual relaxed self and felt no apprehension of the task ahead – what probably described my inner thoughts were that of a Labrador…I was just pleased to be out. Soon after, my fellow marathoners and I gathered on the start line eager to begin.
After a few miles I settled into a happy pace along side a bloke called Jon from the North West. We exchanged running tales which made the first lap fly by. My body felt great and I was loving the undulating train amongst the trees. On the exposed parts of the course the sun was starting to warm up and I just remember thinking how much I love running in the sun. A winters worth of cold wet runs all seemed worth it now to be here. On lap two we caught up with two other lads Jon knew who had already completed a 100 marathons each! I though to myself “I feel comfortable here so lets just go with it” and the chatter continued up until a mile from the half way point.
I suddenly felt a little tightening of my quads just above my right knee, I didn’t panic, I just gave my knee an extra bend on my next few strides. Further down the trail it happened again then on my left quad too. Fuck! I thought, this is cramp – I started to question what had gone wrong and why of all bloody days, it chose now to rear its ugly head? I have never once suffered from cramp on any of my runs. It wasn’t like I was overly fast or at a distance that was new territory for me. As I approach the aid station I was glad to see my crew and immediately requested for my diluted salts and gulped them down. I was pretty certain that my body was suffering from salt depletion and I knew that it was a battle I couldn’t win for the remaining half marathon.
Jon and I left together and covered the next mile side by side. Jon looked good but commented on how hot it was. I was suffering, and now cramping on every stride. On an exposed section of the trail I gave in and slowed to a power walk. Acknowledging the loss of his buddy, Jon turned and called out “Everything OK mate?” “Yeah, all good mate – you carry on and I’ll catch you back up”
This was the last I saw of Jon.
It soon became apparent that I was physically unable to run up hill. Power walking was my only option when I came up against an incline. I could run/shuffle my way down the declines but this opportunity was few and far between. I managed to make it back to my crew but by this point I was seriously pissed off at my lack of ability to run. My crew rallied round stuffing handfuls of salted peanuts in to every available pocked on my vest – judging by the state on my top and hydration vest you could have stuck unsalted ones in as I had more than enough salt stuck on my person from sweat. There is no way you are retiring. This message repeated over and over in my head.
With my supplies replenished and a wave of encouragement I set off on my final lap. I made a simple rule to focus on. “You run every decline and you power walk the inclines. You do not stop moving unless you have to piss” This got me through the next six and a half miles. Before long I began catching and passing other runners in a similar or worse state than myself. This didn’t make me feel any better, just more of the same frustration that I had made a mistake in my preparation and was now suffering for it. I followed my rule to the exact word and ticked off the miles. I crossed the finish line happy it was over and proud I had dug in when everything physically and mentally was screaming at me to stop.
On reflection, I’m happy with my achievement that day. I could not have done it with out the support and encouragement of my crew, you guys were incredible and I will happily return the favour for you. I finally got to experience my version of the “questions” other runners had spoke about before. Yes I did have to ask myself what I really wanted and how much I was willing to go through in order to succeed. No it wasn’t pretty but I kind of liked it because I had to push more. The salt depletion is a lesson learnt, I now know this will become a show stopper for me if not controlled properly and I will for future races. But the biggest lesson of all… I can reach what I thought was my limit and then push beyond – This is the satisfaction I wanted.
I’m a running junkie and I got the fix I crave the most.