Sunday, 11 October 2009

Pain, suffering and enjoyment

Well, it was as I predicted (in fact quite a bit worse than I was predicting in even my most pessimistic scenario!): 1:41:xx. Something about this weekend in October always seems to bring out poor performances in me:P At least it was better than last year though. And in spite of it all, I did end up enjoying the bulk of the run (start and finish excluded).


Carbo-loaded it up the night before and lined up at the start line feeling ok. I did need to take a pee rather urgently but the lines were far too long, so I just hoped it would cease to be an issue once blood flow was shunted away from my kidneys. The other issue was my calves, which were still feeling strained from the workout on Wednesday. That too I hoped would not prove to be a problem. Surely my Linebreak compression tights would overcome the soreness..;)

As it turned out, the latter issue ruined my race. I set out at 3:35/k according to my plan (I knew I didn't have a chance of holding that, but felt a positive split would be the only option given how trashed my legs were feeling) and immediately felt something was wrong. The effort was just too great and I couldn't maintain it. The 90 minute pacer went past me within 500m, and while I was sure he was going way too fast, it definitely was not a good sign.

For the next five km, I basically watched as the whole field went past me. I was unable to respond, breathing hard at 4:00/k. Not only that, but my quads started to burn after just 2km. It was a really horrible experience, and I started to have awful thoughts that my weight loss regime had resulted in major catabolism of my running muscles.

I felt an overwhelming urge to walk and was really not feeling confident about my ability to finish the race. My quads were getting more and more painful and I'd only gone five km! When I spotted a row of portaloos, I took the opportunity to not only relieve my bladder, but to collect my thoughts and think about what I should do. I could pull out now and just take a tram back down St Kilda road. Something was obviously seriously wrong with me and it might be quite a bad move to keep on running. I didn't want to pull out though. The Melbourne half is a pretty special event for me and I didn't want to break my streak.

There was a drink station right near the loos, and I walked over and grabbed a cup of powerade and drank it down. I immediately felt quite a bit better. Buoyed by that, I decided to walk for a bit and see whether things improved. Thankfully they did, and after the two hour pacer went past me, I started running again and found I was able to maintain 3:35/k comfortably. I had obviously been quite dehydrated, despite having made a conscious effort to super-hydrate the night before.

For about 4k I was able to keep up a pretty decent pace, but my quads were really not happy with my running that fast, and it got so bad that I stopped to walk again at the 11k mark. It was pretty embarrassing really and I wished that I hadn't worn my vegan runners singlet. Not exactly a good advertisement of health when you're walking only halfway in!

I started to run again when the 1:50 pacer came past again and this time tried to take it slow, not accelerating hard like I had last time. I'd had a think about it, and worked out that I'd probably subjected my fast twitch muscle fibres to some pretty heavy damage during the workout on Wednesday with the result that they were unable to be recruited to help out with running at faster paces today. I found that when I gently increased the pace, my quads were not too bad at all, and it was perfectly possible for me to maintain 4:15/k.

Comfort restored and no longer worried that I'd lost a heap of fitness overnight, I really enjoyed the next 8km. It was a beautiful day for running: sunny, but not too hot, and with no wind whatsoever:) A fellow vegan noticed my singlet and we ran together for a bit. He was running the full 42.2k and was still looking very strong with 8k to go, but I fear I did a rotten job as a 3:00 pacer:P I was feeling better and better as the race went on (in complete contrast to how HMs usually go for me!) and I think I was constantly upping the pace without realising it. When I unknowingly dropped him up a hill, I decided it would be better for both of our races to go separately, so wished him good luck and moved off.

The final 5k of the race felt so good. I was passing hundreds of people, running 3:35/k and feeling great. The quads were hurting, but I pushed through it. The MCG was visible in the distance now and I could visualise finishing. It was almost a perfect end to the race, but when two marathon runners came past (I think possibly 2nd and 3rd) with incredible suffering on their faces, breathing like they were on their death beds, it felt only fair to push myself in sympathy and I ran with them for most of the last 2km.

It was a downhill finish, and unfortunately that was the last straw for my quads. With 500m to go, I found myself almost unable to run. It was just too painful and I actually couldn't seem to recruit enough muscle fibres to run at even a gentle pace. My whole body was asking, begging, imploring me to walk, but I wouldn't do it and so half limped, half ran to the entrance to the G before finding that finishing spark that allowed me to sprint that lap on the *************** (cliched phrase regarding the artificial grass in the stadium deleted:P).

I crossed the line in 1:41, just avoiding slipping on the stupidly slippery finishing mat (I don't even understand why it was slippery:S It looked like it was anti slip matting!), legs so sore that I had to hobble crab-like down the finishing ramp.


I think it took my dad and I about half an hour to walk the 1.5km back to the car. Cannot believe how destroyed my legs are! I'm glad I finished it though and earned another medal to add to my collection. It hurt, but that will only make me value it more. Plus it was actually quite a decent training run. I think I did something like an 8 minute negative split:P

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