Trials and tribulations of the KSR trail running team.
Sometimes we have bad races. No doubt most of you have already read about an exceptionally great race from Moritz, so now’s your opportunity to insert those empathy chips as I take you through what I am now referring to as The Worst Race I Finished.
My lead-up to this race had been a bit sketchy, but with plenty of positive signs. On the negative side, despite being in some of the best hills form of my life up until December, I’ve spent the past few months on exceptionally flat terrain, sneaking away once a week at best to find some moderate hills. I’ve also just been through a stomach bug – nothing really severe, but it did hamper a few long training runs.
For the positives, my training has certainly been consistent. Flare-ups of old injuries are common for me, but until a couple of days before the race I’d enjoyed well over a month of daily running (with a couple of pre-planned cycle days thrown in). On top of this, my speed and flat work had been coming along exceptionally well, no doubt as a result of my new flat training conditions. So a 36km run seemed very doable, even with a big hill (Mirimbah to Buller Summit) at the start. With the 36km and 45km races sharing a start time and the first 21km of trail, it was Moritz who hit the single track first, with myself settling in behind (possibly because nobody else wanted to try and chase Mo up the hill!). My initial thoughts were very positive – I was full of energy, nicely rested and the quads seemed to remember what to do again. I stayed close on Moritz’s heels until one of the first steeper sections, as I’d made the decision to move my hike threshold right down just in case my quads decided to blow up. I immediately let another runner pass, and by just over halfway up the 8-ish kilometre hill I’d lost sight of both leaders, though I was feeling very comfortable.
Summiting at Buller and realising my quads had fared quite well, I resolved to use my flat speed to start weaving my way back through the field, though I figured catching Mo by his turn-off at Mt Stirling would now be out of the question. But moments after passing through the village I realised that my stomach’s aversion to food and liquid was getting worse – and that my quads simply weren’t recovering from the climb at all. Gentle descents, flat sections and ‘douch-grade’ hills all felt like extra vertical. Getting worried, I decided to ignore the fact I was being passed and walk towards the low point at Howqua Gap, with a focus on re-fuelling then trying to turn my race around.
I finished in Mirimbah at least 45 minutes slower than I had planned. Over 36km I’d drunk little more than a litre of water and eaten just a single packet of Gu chomps and a handful of watermelon. I cramped, vomited, cramped again and wasn’t able to eat or drink anything apart from soft drink till more than three hours after the race. Even after I finally started eating and drinking normally I weighed in at 65kg – probably the lightest I’ve been since high school.
While I know what went wrong, I have no idea why it happened. I’d worried about a few things before the race – most notably my lack of hill training and the heat – and had done all that I could to prepare for the prospect of them being a big issue on the day. But sometimes that’s not enough to stop you from having a really bad day on the trail.
Weird things happen during races. This is why race directors make sure we carry whistles, first aid kits and thermals in summer. It’s why they put huge amounts of water on the course and recruit armies of awesome volunteers to stand at remote aid stations. Because the longer we run, the more likely we are to have something really weird happen!