“Insanity: Doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
So Saturday was the Donadea 50k (Also the AAI Irish 50k Championship) which basically consisted of 10 laps of 5k in length around a lovely wee forest just outside Dublin. I was here for one thing though, and that was to cross the line in a haze of glorious victoriousness by going sub-4 hour for the distance. What actually transpired was very different and is best summed up by a wise man I spend most of my Saturday mornings with, aimlessly running around forests & up big lumps in the ground…
“If this were a story, it would be a tale of pain and broken dreams!”
– Matty Hewitt Feb 2014
No, neither of us died. Nor did we contract some crazy tropical disease. Or get bitten by a spider.
To put it in agricultural terms (For absolutely no reason at all), I would say I was shovelling dung in the yard and while walking to chuck it to the side, I stood on the end of a rake and got smacked in the face, then proceeded to fall head first into the dung I had been shovelling…
You see, the dung I have been shovelling this last 3 months has been good quality dung. My dung has been fresh. My dung has been quick. And my dung has been lasting the distance consistently. Sorry, When I say dung. I mean training.
My training coming up to this race had pretty much been like this (Rocky IV training montage)…
Normally, I just want to finish an Ultra and that is enough for me. Not this time though, sure 50k is really just a badly measured marathon isn’t it!? My 3.19 in Dublin would make sure that I could squeeze below 4 hours without too much problem. The legs were definitely telling me this was more than just a possibility. So I started to really believe it. I changed my diet, no bread anymore. No Sugar. No crap. I have to say I have felt pretty awesome as a result, although I have been told on several occasions that I bear a passing resemblance to Skeletor. To be properly cringey about it, I’d say I’m at good ‘racing weight’.
So the training went great, plenty of speed sessions, hill sessions, long runs, back to backs. Plenty of variety. All good big lad.
Then the phantom heel injury.
The week before the race I felt a wee pull on my right heel when I got out of bed. I often imagine injuries just before a race but this one was real unfortunately. The wee hallion reminded me of it everytime I put my foot down. Then I started to ache from holding myself differently trying to protect it. Ah, damn you Mr injury and your injury ways! I didn’t run on it in the last week to be sure and just hoped it wouldn’t give me any jip during the race. I think it’s a running form thing or something so maybe need a wee touch more support in my shoes but in the meantime I just taped my leg up in Rocktape. Luminous Pink Rocktape. This upgraded the injury to ‘Sexy Running Injury’*.
So onto race day.
I picked Matty up and we made it to Donadea in good time to get our numbers & chip timing etc. The heel was feeling better now after the weeks rest but I was still feeling a tiny twinge. Matty had also been suffering with some craziness going on in his knee this past 4 weeks, it had hampered his training but onwards we went, we were getting on this start line regardless.
One thing I can’t stand is when folk start listing whats wrong with them before they start a race. It’s almost like a ‘Get Out of jail card’, ie. ‘Oh, I would have broke the 50k world record if I hadn’t have been so horribly injured.’
I was dangerously close to becoming this person.
So let me just say if I didn’t think I was capable of completing the race in a decent time I could easily just not have bothered starting. I had no excuses today, yes I had a couple of niggles but so what? I would say the majority of runners on that line will have had something that was not 100% with them, they all put in the training just like me & while we all have different targets, they will all have had the same significance to each individual whether it being just finishing the 10 laps or achieving a new PB.
The race started at 10am with a short run up at the start of the first lap to make up the 50k. There was a great wee buzz about at this stage as everyone caught up with friends and had the craic & it was great to get a chat with some of the lads.
Ah yes, the race. The story you are about to hear is true. Names have been changed to protect the innocent..
Loop 1 – 0:23:15
It was mucky. It was cool. It was bright. It was Beautiful. My heel was twinging. But I felt good.
Loop 2 – 0:21:43
Heel? What heel? I’m the king of the world! Sure I’m practically flying here!
Loop 3 – 0:22:25
What a race! What a day! Howdy fellow runners, you all look amazing. I love you all. Life is fantastic!
Loop 4 – 0:22:35
“Great running form!” shouts a spectator. Good form? I have good form? I HAVE GOOD FORM!! You have fantastic form Mr. Spectator. I love you.
Loop 5 – 0:25:20
What just bit me in the arse?…
Loop 6 – 0:28:30
OW OW OW! My poor wee bum. Maybe Deep heat will help…
Loop 7 – 0:31:26
AHHHHHHH!!! MUMMY! I am in hell. I am in the deepest world of pain and up to my neck in dirt. I can’t move in this muck. I’m walking. I have to pull the plug. No, I’ll try another one…
Loop 8 – 0:30:40
I’m a Gazelle. In the Serengeti. That has been speared. In the arse.
Loop 9 – 0:31:08
This’ll teach ye for all your lofty ambitions ye boy ye. My rear-end is now numb. This is better. But not for running. Oh hey, Matty. Not you too!?
Loop 10 – 0:29:24
I can’t believe I’m finishing. I can’t believe how sore that was. This better not happen in UTMB.
Finish : 4:26:26 (Avg – 8.32 min/miles)
So that was what happened.
Something went in my backend after a great start that just stopped me in my tracks (Thanks to Richard for giving me a bit of a lift at the end of that 7th lap to keep going!) I will get it looked at this week & see what steps I need to take to make sure I don’t get a recurrence…UTMB is coming up in August this year so after a day of licking my wounds, I’ve realised that I really need to look after myself. I’ve never really been injured before, I’ve been very lucky. But UTMB is a dream of mine, I want to do it right.
I won’t be doing as many races this year as we have bambino No.2 coming at the beginning of April, so at least that will train me for the sleep deprivation! I’ll just be trying to get into the hills for good long days as much as I possibly can & probably throw the Mourne Ultra into the mix.
In relation to the race itself, I can’t speak highly enough for Anto & his team. This is a wee gem of a race, I will definitely be coming back. It has the atmosphere of a low key race but it is managed immaculately with no fuss. As usual within the Ultra community, everyone is there for one another supporting and cheering each other on. I couldn’t stop for 2 seconds during my bad spots without someone making sure I was ok, sure it’d warm the cockles of your heart! The marshalls out on the course were also heros, big massive smiles loop after loop and always shouting encouragement. This is why I love doing this. Not for times or bragging rights.
The guys at the front of the field were truly awesome with Gary O’Hanlon winning in 2.59…what the heck like!? Special mention to Justin Maxwell who finished in 5th in 3.17, cracking running as usual.
One of the front runners summed it up nicely what it is to take part in these races.
The etiquette on a looped course is to make sure the front runners have plenty of room to come through when they are lapping the other competitors. This is usually signalled by someone shouting “Runner!”
On one such occasion, as one of these top 5 runners was flying through, he heard this shout to which he responded in a quality Southern accent “Not a bit o’ ye! I’ll be fine, everyone here is running their own race. I’ll find my way through.”
I liked that.
* Sexy Running Injury tape not very sexy on removal. Ouch.