Tuesday 31 December 2013

The Beaten Track

I suppose I’ve been long overdue a “sh*t happens” themed race report.  I’m always the first to tut at race excuses.  But after running a grand total of 12.5km at the Barcelona 24 hour track race - one of my A-races for the year - I better explain myself.

The reasoning: Although this a stark contrast to Sonic’s 24-hour debut in Tooting, the reason why I signed up for Barcelona 24 was because I was so inspired by the event that I wanted to have a crack at a track race.

I’ve only ever run a 24-hour with an international vest - One for Scotland and two for Great Britain.  And with that comes a whole lot of pressure and expectation.   I’ve always come away from the events with an armful of ideas and tips on how to improve.  I don’t think I’ve ever got a 24 hour right and wanted to use Barcelona test some things in an open race.  So, for those who didn’t understand why I’d want to put myself through when I have already run above the qualifying distance for the Great Britain team (twice), that was my reason. 

Plus, I had bit ambitions that I was really confident that I could back up on the day. If I could feel like I did during the Lakeland 100 or the Glencoe Marathon, then I’d be on to a sure thing.

Testing:  This was the list of new things to try during training, taper and the race. Most which, of course, remain untested.

1) I gave up caffeine for a month prior to the race.  From eight cups of two-spoons coffee per day to nothing.  This was probably the most heart-breaking aspect of the DNF.  No coffee. For a month. For nothing.

2) Two-runs-per-day.    For the last six months, I have used my easy/steady run days to run twice.  So, on a Wednesday and Friday I ran to and from work.  It’s only five miles each way, but I really think it helped build endurance.  As well as an effective use of time and saves me battling rush hour traffic.

3) Training with a heart-rate monitor.  This was new to me, but after reading Dr Maffetone’s book on Endurance Training and Racing. I followed the plan of running below my maximum aerobic heart rate for six weeks (NB, it should be eight weeks) following the Lakeland.  Not only did my pace improve within that zone, but I got my resting heart rate down to 37 (from 42) prior to the race.

4) Track training.  And I don’t mean proper track sessions, I mean just jogging around for hours and hours.  It didn’t bore or frustrate me and it really helped me get my head into it. Plus, I got through a few audiobooks too.  The best thing was that I never count the laps.  That’s usually the first to break me in looped courses.

5)  In the run up to the race, I did more hill training.  It was easier on the back of training for the Lakeland 100 and Glencoe Marathon, but I didn’t do any long road/flat run.  Plus, I ran on the hills and didn’t use them as an excuse to walk/skive.

6)  Following a five year break, I started Yoga classes.  That was a shock to the system as I didn’t realise how tight my hamstrings were.  I’m not exactly bendy, but a few months later and things are improving.  I’ve even started a Bikram yoga class in the hope that it might stop me unravelling in the heat.

7) My feet problems have been well-documented on this blog. In other 24-hour races I’ve been too nervous to try anything different, but for Barcelona I was going to use some of my steps with only Drymax socks.  It’s work during training and stopped the “burning”.

8) After reading Andy Milroy’s Trainingfor Ultra Running and taking on board some of the traditional techniques used by sport’s greatest, I binned expensive foot and chaffing cream in favour of good ol’ Lanolin.   Yep, a £5 tube of the wonder stuff – marketed to feeding Mothers as a cure for cracked for nipples – is working a treat.

9)  My nutritional plan was to take in more protein (but mixed with carbs) in the early stages.  And in the latter stages take in more gels, but with water only. No sports drink.  Tips I’d picked up from Matt Fitzgerald’s New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition to eliminate stomach issues.

So, there you have it.  There was method to my madness.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.  I started vomiting before I arrived at the airport.  The day before the race was a complete write-off.  I kept thinking it would pass, but after redecorating the hotel bathroom the night before the race, - with the GM holding my hair like a flashback from our youth -  I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  

I shouldn’t have even have got on the plane, let alone start the race.  But it’s a long way to go, not the cheapest of trips and Sonic had endured an epic journey – via London – to be there on the Saturday morning. 

I gave it a shot, but I was hanging over the railings vomiting within the first hour.  There was nothing in me. I really had to give it everything to get to 12.5km.  And do you know why?  Because I all I could think about was how much I’ve mocked the Crazy German since his 5K bail-out at the CCC in 2010!!

Once I’d mopped up the tears, I tried (probably unsuccessfully) to put the disappointed to one side to help Jen Salter and Karen Salter (1st and 2nd lady) reach the qualification for the GB 24 hour team.  They ran 217km and 210km respectively and were by far the best runners on the track. 

After the race, Karen collapsed and needed medical attention.  After seeing the same thing happen to many ultra-runners we all knew she would be fine, but the medics were adamant she went to hospital.  I volunteered to go with her, so at least I got a tour of the city – blue-light style.  It was a little concerning that the 12-year-old ambulance driver was using the sat nav on his phone to find the hospital.  And then had to circle the car park to find the entrance!

Of course, she was fine with a few hours but the hospital was a riot.  It was like a scene from a war movie with bodies lying everywhere. At one point, Karen was dozing off when a nurse came along and snapped an oxygen mask on her face.  Then after being shouted at by a doctor came along took it off Karen and put it on the patient next to her.  Who was male and about 80!

But the drama hadn’t ended.  Sonic was then spewing on the way home…Thankfully dispelling the pregnancy questions.  And I kindly passed it round the rest of my family.

Not the best end to 2013’s races, but as I’ve heard a thousand times since “better to happen in that race, than in one that matters”.

Even though we don’t know the date or the venue of the World 24 hour and cannot plan any other races, I know for sure Barcelona 24-hour in 2014 with be on my hit list.

Happy New Year J