Friday, 17 June 2016

Classic Quitter - my first DNF

This year's Classic Quarter - a race I'd completed twice before - was one I'd trained hard for. In fact the last six months I've trained harder and more consistently than ever before. I did speed work, hill reps, tempo runs. I ran every section of the course. I also, crucially, lost weight. This really seemed to have an effect on the kind of pace I could run and I was suddenly making huge gains.

So when race day came around the last thing I expected to do was DNF.

Worse still I wasn't expecting to quit so easily. I've never even considered quitting a race before but the end to this one came remarkably quick and is something I've been regretting ever since.

Ever since I rang my wife and said "I'm done" and she came to collect me from the side of the road in Penzance I've been in a right old grump. But the truth is I knew this was a possibility; I'd got myself so convinced that this year not only could I complete this run I could set a fast time that when things started to go wrong I didn't really have a plan B. In fact the night before I'd said to myself that I'd go out with my most optimistic goal in mind and if I blew up at least I could say I'd tried. Well that's exactly what happened.

The thing is though I didn't run out of energy or get injured, I got cramp. And boy did I get cramp. From mile 16 I was getting little warning shots in my calves. By half way I was adjusting my stride to relieve occasionally cramped calves and stepping up onto high rocks or steps was as likely as not to deliver a nice pain in my hamstrings.

When I hit the flat along Mounts Bay things really deteriorated until I was pretty much unable to run at all without cramping up severely. And that's how it ended; at mile 29, fed up and hamstrung - literally - not willing to walk the next 15 miles just to get a finishers medal I sat down in the sun and called home.

So many runners stopped and asked if they could help, offering salt and electrolytes (I'd been taking salt pills to no avail and had gratefully accepted some electrolyte several miles back from another runner). Some I knew, like Loyd, tried to encourage me to keep it going. Another friend Paul even offered to walk with me a while but I was having none of it; I was done.

Maybe this is just the price I have to pay for racing an ultra rather than just running it. Maybe aiming high means you have to be prepared to fail in spectacular fashion and maybe its just as well to drop rather than risk serious injury when the race isn't going your way.

But for me, next time I think about dropping I'll be looking back at this week and remembering how crappy I felt. Next time I'll crawl to the finish if I have to.