It's never nice to go into something I care about knowing I'm not ready, but it is a thousand times worse to go into a race feeling positive only to have it come crashing down around you.
That's what happened on Sunday.
The thing is, I still can't pinpoint what went wrong. I don't know why it didn't come together like I'd hoped, and like I'd really thought was possible.
I went in thinking I could hit 2:55. I finished in 3:00:46. Yes, not even sub-3, and that hurt even more.
The nerves were out in force, as they always are. It begins days before the race and is something I simply can not get a handle on - I feel physically sick and don't want to be there at all. I don't know what causes it but I really wish I knew how to control it.
|Talking to Magda and Jenny at the start.|
First kilometre was 3:46, which is pretty standard for me. Too fast.
I was looking to go through halfway in 1:26. I'd done this in Melbourne, although Melbourne isn't as tough as the first part of M7.
By 8.5k I had that terrible feeling that I know too well. I had taken specific steps to try and avoid this (read further in the blog) but it was all for nought. I had to go to the toilet. At 9.5k I jumped off the course, down into a ditch (which ended up being much steeper than I thought) and took care of it. This upset me, because I really thought I'd addressed the problem this time (read on for details).
At about 10.5k I got the shock of my life when the three hour pacer turned up on my shoulder. What the hell? I pushed on and got away from him, but the mental damage was done. I was officially running like shit. I wanted the three hour pace bus to run over me if I wasn't going to stay ahead of it.
Still, onwards, onwards, onwards. I knew from last year a negative split was possible for me on this course. Hit halfway in 1:28:20. Too slow, too slow.
21.1k - 1:28:20 - pace 4:11 min/k
32.5k - 2:18:57 - pace 4:16 min/k
42.2k - 3:00:46 - pace 4:22 min/k
Something went seriously wrong in that last 10k.
The disappointment cut deep and all I wanted to do was get in the car and go home - get away from all things running related. However I didn't want to be thought of as a bad sport, so I hung around and made small talk with my friends (who are wonderful), drank my protein drink, watched the presentation (I was fifth woman overall and second in 30-39 division) all the while wanting to go and bury myself under my doona and cry.
There are a number of things that really upset me about this race. One important thing I'd done was completely change my nutrition - not only in the days before the race but for four weeks prior to race day. The main purpose of this was to try and avoid the toilet stop that has become a regular part of my racing these days. Someone had told me that their stomach played up when they had eaten too much sugar. Given that I am a sugar addict I thought this might be a factor in my problems, so I made the conscious decision to remove 'superfluous' sugar from my diet. Basically, this meant getting rid of lollies and replacing them with something that actually had nutritional value.
This complete change deserves its own entry on this blog, because it turned out to be a huge change that required an enormous effort on my part. I actually went through physical detox symptoms and I realised how much grabbing a handful of the sweet stuff had become a habit that I didn't even think about. I'll do a post on it in the next couple of days - it'll make you look at excess sugar differently, I tell you.
Anyway, the banning of lollies meant that my traditional snacking (read: overloading) on them the day before a race needed to be replaced. First thing on Saturday morning I made containers of porridge, rice, nuts, dried fruit and a couple of bananas and had them available for me to snack on all day. I was once advised that eating lots of small meals leading up to a race is far better than eating bigger main meals because your body was able to better store the energy - I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what I did. I ate dinner as usual and went to bed feeling I had fueled my body well and I had avoided excess 'junk' sugar so my stomach would behave itself during the race.
After this latest effort to overcome the problem, I now really do think it comes down to my excessive nerves. I never have these issues in day-to-day life, only when racing. And I'm sorry if this is too much information for anyone reading this, but surely I'm not the only one it happens to. Wait until we get to Ironman time, and I start asking questions about how to go to the bathroom then!
I am baffled that I went into this in better shape than I was before Canberra, yet I ran worse. I don't know what I did wrong. Having said that, I also don't know what I did right in Melbourne last October to run 2:54.
So, with my emotions still raw and needing to take some sort of action to avoid falling into a pit of depression, I sat at my computer that Sunday afternoon and sent an email that has now started something that will hopefully help me achieve what I'm capable of. I just hope it's something good.
One lesson I have learned in all my years of running is that it is better to use a negative experience to create a positive one. It is one way of keeping control and telling yourself just because things didn't go to plan you are still able to take charge and navigate your path.