Wow – it has been a day since the Spitfire Scramble. My first ever running event. I was told by my experienced runners and team mates, that there is no such thing as a race. It is an event. You do it for yourself, the team, but not to race but to enjoy. And, a bit surprisingly, I did. As you might remember from my last post, one of my biggest challenges was the camping, believe it or not. The camping itself I really enjoyed. I loved the camaraderie. Maybe it was because I had little to organise, no tents to put up myself or take down myself – I tried to help more or less successfully, and the whole cooking and meals were organised by a fantastic and very experienced team. I was welcomed into the arms of a functioning group of people who have done those events before. Thanks once again!
But how were my laps? What happened?
So I finally got to go out around 4.30 in the afternoon. Adrenaline kicked in big time. I was off to a far too fast start, raced around the track and it took me until mile 4 out of 6 to find my pace. Once I did, I finished in a reasonable time of around 46 minutes for the just under 6 mile course. Far too quickly to sustain it I thought. And I walked a bit in between due to getting side stitches, being off too quickly.
My next round, just about 3 and a bit hours later, still light, was better paced, no walking, and I came in at a similar time. Interesting enough this round I found hardest of all the ones I did. Mentally and physically. I noticed my head playing tricks on me, my legs being really tired, and you work yourself into a pace and just run. I then managed to sleep about an hour before setting off at midnight again.
This time it was dark. With a head torch and a flash light, some glow sticks put down by the organisers, I made my way around the course. Mentally not as hard, as you concentrate on not falling over. Some drunk teenagers on one part of the route made it interesting and with the runners field spread wide apart, it was lonely at times. But it was fun, enjoyable. Then my left hip and ITB started to seize up a bit and my knee started to hurt. Not pleasant at all, I came in just around 53 minutes. Still happy enough.
Now, so far I enjoyed it. Really loved it. The third lap seemed easier than the second and mentally I was in a good shape. My left hand site would relax again, wouldn’t it? I saw one of the on site massage therapists and he taped my knee, stretched my glutes and said that my left upper leg muscles were just far too tight. He tried loosing them, suggested others had exactly the same problem. I figured with his help and the following 2.5 hours of sleep I should be fine. I didn’t get a great rest, and woke up in pain a couple of times. When it was time to get up I meditated first. My head was in a very good place, and despite the exhaustion I think my brain was more relaxed than I have seen it in a long time. I was ready. I didn’t even feel tired.
With doubts I made it out into the early morning, around 5. Luckily it was warm, and the little rain we encountered throughout the day was neglectable. But as soon as I set off I knew this time, the leg won’t last. I managed to run around 3 miles without stopping too often, ran with the pain and continued. It felt to me that if I get to the half way point, I make it through to the end. It reminded me of my long night walks and trainings when I was at the navy over 20 years ago. I felt strong, and I felt mentally in a very strong place. I loved the fresh air, the views across London, the lights of the early morning. It was my 5 am time, my usually running time.
But then the pain set in more and I had to start walking a bit more. From there on it was running a bit, longer stretches of walking, running. I spoke to some solo runners who only functioned on ibuprofen. Was I willing to do that? Does that make sense? For what? But I was determined to finish in a good-ish time to not let the team down. I am not going to fail in this lap, even though I knew this lap might well be my last one. Whilst in a combination of walking and running I got up the last hill, I had to be careful to go downhill. My knee pain alternated between the pain I knew and other ligaments wanting to join the party. It wasn’t nice. I finished in just over an hour and that was me done.
My first event. My first wall. I was looking forward to doing that for a long time. Whilst some team members went on to do a 5th and 6th lap, I couldn’t. I am very proud of their achievements. I was afraid of damaging my knee.
So what is the post mortem? Was I not prepared enough? I felt very well, my fitness felt great, mentally I was ready. Maybe I should have stretched more? Maybe more massages in preparation? Or is my body which isn’t used to running longer distances? Should I train a few half marathons or do a marathon before attempting an event like that again?
You can hear from my voice, that I am already thinking about the next event. The next wall in my life. Will it be this event in a year’s time, or something similar. I love the endurance challenges, but maybe I need a different preparation? No, not maybe, I have to work on strength and distance. More focus. I wondered what the point of solo running for this event was and why people end up walking. Some people explained it to me, that this is all about the mental and physical challenge and not about winning, but about having a platform to compete against your natural limits. Solo running. Solo walking. This sounds appealing… or does it?
Whatever my wall will be for next year, I think preparation needs to be better planned. Last year, before I pulled out, I was fitter. I weighted 3 kg less which can make a difference, and I was better prepared. But you don’t know until the day of the race. The day of the event I mean. It made me understand my wife better and her drive to do another marathon. And it made me acknowledge the effort and preparation that goes into a marathon. And maybe I just need to do that. A better preparation, a more planned approach. A marathon? As I keep preaching about, a habit, routine or system, based on the event you are doing. And maybe this comes with experience, yet the main part is to prepare your body for it. Systematically.
My thanks goes to my team mates. The ones that kept up my spirit. The ones that guided me to and from the event track. The ones that cheered for me, and put up with my mood and my dead brain the next day. The one that was awake driving home whilst my body just shut down. Thank you, and maybe, just maybe I see you again next year.
And my knee? I think it will be ok. With some more taping, some TLC, some cooling, lots of Ibuprofen, a sports massage and some rest. I am certain there was no long term damage done. So yes, I am sure I will be ok. My calfs, my abdominal muscles, my brain and all other parts of my body will comply. They always do 🙂
Thank you team!