Friday, 21 August 2015

The shock, pain and tears of my first 100 mile ultra-marathon

I'm sick and I have a headache. I've spent two days resting with my feet in the air. One of my toes is missing all of it's skin on one side and looks like rotting road-kill. My left hip is jutting out a good inch, my left ankle is making a scratching sound and when I close my eyes I'm seeing lucid fast-moving shapes that keep me awake at night. Oh and to top it off I've broken out in hundreds of spots on my back, chest, neck and face.

I'd like to honestly make a joke of it and say that I won't ever do another race, and then to do the ol' switch-er-roo and be telling you about my next one before the end of this post. But the truth is I'm in shock. It's not the injuries or illness though, it's the sheer supreme effort I had to muster to get myself to the finish line.

I know that I could do it again, I'm just not sure whether I'd want to. In fact, I'm not 100% sure whether I want to run any ultras again.

Teary eyed and near beaten

As I walked to the finish line I held back my tears. Those tears were not because I had completed an epic run across the North Downs, over 10,000 feet and 104 miles, it was because it was finally over. I could stop. I could lay down. I wouldn't have to fight, dig deep or push on. I could rest.

A good few times had I wished serious injury on myself along the trail. A solid justification to share with friends and family as to why I didn't complete the full event. And I'd believe it for a little while too. But soon after I'd know my own shame and lack of conviction and it would haunt me.

I told myself that if you don't want to do it, then stop. It's only a race and no one will care either way. Heck, I think my wife would appreciate me bailing out early. But why then did I sign up? Why was I even out there? Why did I even start to have a hope of getting in under 24 hours?

Why did I run the 100?

Was I simply showing off? I've always loved the phrase 'your ego is writing cheques that you're body can't cash', but never found someone to use it on. Ironically, I can now use it on myself. It goes without saying that I didn't train properly. Logging into my Garmin account it shows that in the past 2 months I'd run 135 miles (a lot for me) and that was over 18 runs with an average of 7.5 miles a run. The longest being 17.12 miles. That's actually not as bad as I was thinking it was, though I certainly wasn't ready to complete the race and to finish it in good condition.

I wonder perhaps whether I was simply just naive? I'd done the Ridgeway at 86 miles and I had very little training done before that. I'd survived and did a good time under the circumstances. Surely the NDW100 couldn't be that much harder? I'd run the NDW50 in just over 10 hours in May. Surely another 50 won't need more than an extra 10 + 4 hours? 10,000 feet isn't that much elevation over 100 miles, right?

Did I allow myself to get side-tracked and too busy? Work is always full-on, training takes time and there's a million and one things to get done. I don't know how people fit so much into their lives.

Did I follow others too easily? Did I really know what I was getting myself into?

And as I type this, I don't know. I'm emotionally drained and throwing words into this blog to help me make sense of what just happened and how I feel about it. I'm in shock.

Three days later

I'm sat in bed with my feet up. I feel calmer, less emotional, but I'm still not clear on how I feel about running another 100 or even running at all. Originally I had planned to sign up for the four 50 mile runs from Centurion Running next year. I even went to fill in the form, but something stopped me and I just backed away.

On reflection, I wonder whether it's mostly because I came up against my limits. I've always wanted to meet my limits, but now that I've gotten close, I'm not sure whether I like its company.

Seven days later

I'm OK now. The shock has passed, I'm sleeping better and I'm starting to think more clearly. I feel almost silly on how much the run has affected me this past week. I don't like the weakness, but I honestly have no one to blame but myself.

I certainly don't want to repeat the feelings I felt, so if I do run another ultra, and especially a 100 miler, then in order to not feel that crappy again I need to train and prepare properly.