Saturday, 28 September 2013

Dublin half marathon race report!

This race started no too dissimilar to previous races, my thought were consumed with negativity and self doubt. I hadn't been training particularly well over the past weeks and I woke up the morning of the race with slightly swollen glands and ache in all my muscles.

I sat on the edge of my bed before packing my gear and honestly contemplated not running. My wife was racing too and had it not been for her participation I'd have hit snooze on the alarm and rolled over. 

The weather on race day was perfect, blue skies, warm but slightly humid. I love racing in the heat, I'd prefer that to racing in the cold. As I set off I kept with my original plan of tucking in behind the 1hr30min pacers and trying to have a good performance. I should have been chasing down a PB but in the early stages of the race I felt content trying to hold pace with the 1hr30 crew. 
2km in I felt awful, my muscles ached with every step and it felt like I was using all my energy to put one foot in front of the other. My mind was racing and all my thoughts were consumed with pulling out. I had a gel in my hand, I never take gels, I took this one with me that morning because I was feeling so tired and I hoped it might give me a boost. At the 4km point I was so lethargic I took the gel, it made me feel worse, now not only was I tired, consumed with muscle ache but now I felt sick too. I stepped to the side of the road and tried to puke, I couldn't. I started running again but realised those pacers were 200m ahead and I wasn't going to catch them. 

I made a decision to carry on, to at least get to the 12km point. This was were the bag drop was, I would collect my bag and get changed. I settled into a nicer pace, I let the pacers go and ran at a pace that suited me. I didn't feel any better but the negative thoughts and doubts about my training subsided. I continued on for a few more kilometers and slowly began to enjoy the race. I was pushing myself through, up until this point all my thoughts were on stopping. Step by step I felt better, my muscles weren't aching now but my energy was till draining. 

By the time I reached the 12km point, I still wanted to stop but I didn't! I convinced myself to get to the 15km mark, at least that would be a decent training distance. I was using lateral thinking, breaking the race up into much smaller segments just trying to get finished. "Only 9km to go, that's nothing!" 
As the remaining kilometres passed by my energy levels plateaued and I felt ok. My muscles no longer ached and each step seemed to energise me. I was genuinely surprised that I was still going. The last few kilometers of the race consisted of a long slow drag uphill, I love running uphill. I started to overtake people ahead of me, I recognised some of the people by their rig out and remember them passing me earlier, when I felt awful. I re-learned the valuable lesson in never giving up. I felt good now and picked up the pace.
I put in a few fast remaining kilometers and finished with a negative split. I was happy with how it played out. I finished in a not too bad 1hr32min57sec. It wasn't my best performance by any stretch but in retrospect it was good to revisit some of the lessons I learned in that race:

Listen to your body
Don't give up too easy
Some of the lows you experience on the road are followed by some of the highs

The day was marred by the death of a fellow competitor. It seems he had some cardiac trouble and emergency response units were unable to save him. There were more than one cardiac traumas that day and there were many people collapsing under the unusual heat and humidity. St Johns Ambulance should be applauded for their quick action and work on the day. Fortunately there was only one fatality. My thoughts are with the family and friends of the man who lost his life.

If you've never ran a distance race before, if you are carrying a few extra pounds, or if you experience any chest pain or tightness you should get some medical screening before attempting a distance race. 

Run long, run fast but most of all RunSensible! 

Neil