"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Sponge Bathing My Way to a CAN W45 6hr Record

I trained diligently and consistently for 12 weeks preparing for my second attempt at the AUS W45 100km record held by Lavinia Petrie. I needed to shave "only" about 5 minutes off my January time. That's the difference between running a 5.04 pace for 100k and a 5.01 pace (with no breaks). It's actually quite a bit. For me. For over 8 hours of running.

But I thought with cooler weather, calmer winds, the kind surface and precision-like nature of a track, plus 12 weeks of solid training, I might do it.

Lane 1-2: 24hr runners. Lane 3-4: 12hr runners (me included). Lane 5: 24hr walkers

A week before the Coburg 12hr, I saw the Melbourne forecast. "Oh, no, here we go again!" 25 degrees Celsius and a noon start. And heat radiates off a track surface. But I had to try. My back up race - the Sri Chinmoy 12 hr track in June - was out because I'm headed overseas by then.

I packed the sponges and arranged to borrow a Victorian-based esky.

Other than having mental angst along the lines of "Why do I do this to myself?!" and some pretty stand-out butterflies-in-stomach feelings the night before and morning of the race, all was well with last minute preparations.

Fifteen minutes after the start gun went off, the soaking began. If I didn't have Perpetuem or a pear in hand, I almost invariably had a sponge. My fingers got wrinkly from holding sponges so much. (I even had to do sewing repairs on one of my sponges post-event!)

Pace-wise, I tried to hold myself back a bit so I wouldn't burn out before the clouds came in. I went through 50km in 4h7m. That's 1min slower than at the ADU race in January. I could only hope that by being a bit more conservative in the heat, I'd have the ability to push in the last 3 hours. But the heat was actually worse than at ADU, as I was in full sun at 25C from the start, for hours. Who would have thought - the WA summer race weather was better than Melbourne in autumn! (Granted, the ADU ran from midnight and I was done by 8.30am.)

I fought back the voice that kept telling me how hopeless it was. I willed myself to give it a good crack and at least try to get to the 6hr mark, where I should set a new W45 CAN record. And, besides, we had another uncomfortable hotel and no desire to play tourist in Melbourne, so what else would we do with the rest of our Saturday night?

As 6 hours approached and I felt the 100k pace slipping further, I was tempted to run it out hard and leave it all on the track at that point. But I told myself "steady on." I couldn't toss away the 100k yet.

Clouds came in late, but still required soaking.
At the 6hr mark, I dropped a little sandbag on the track and kept running. The race director came around with a wheel to add up the extra metres I'd covered after crossing the timing mat. My total was 72.329km for 6 hours - I surpassed the former record by 2km (though I did better than that at ADU, they had no means to measure the 6hr split). I felt a welling up of emotion for a hard fought battle to that point. But there was no time to celebrate with my partner. I simply yelled out as I passed him next lap, "Well, at least we have THAT!" We both knew 100k time goal looked unlikely.

I pressed on for another hour. We both did the maths in different ways but came to the same conclusion. At my current pace, I'd pass 8hr22 with 2 laps to go. I needed to get my 2min10s laps back down to 2min2s. For each of the remaining 40+ laps. I had to go from 5:15min/k pace back below 5 min/k pace. But when I tried to push, I felt a wee bit nauseous. That means the stomach isn't going to take on fuel, as the body is working too hard contracting muscles and cooling itself. I could push like that for 20-30 minutes, maybe a bit more, but not for 80 minutes.

At 7 hours, I ran past Rolf and said, "I'm not sure why I'm still running." Truth was, I felt pretty good. I mean, I was stiffening up and utterly soaked from my all-day mobile sponge bath, but I felt all right for having run over 80km.

But there was no good reason to put any more load on my body - not to run another 8hr27 or 8hr28. I was time to hang up my shoes and start recovering.

The moment I chose to stop at 7 hours/~84km. I was happy I did my best, given the conditions and just had to concede.

Third time's a charm, right? I've got a few more training strategies up my sleeve - and reckon three sauna sessions might have helped.... But, really, I must get the venue-and-weather combination right to stand a chance.

An amazing race director, Tim Erickson. Oddly, I came away with 1st place in the 12hr, despite stopping at 7hr.

So... maybe.... If I don't run out of time and turn 50 before I find that perfect venue in perfect cool, calm weather! It's a strange feeling to break a record, but feel unfulfilled. The 100k challenge remains strong in me.

I'd like weather where it's not hot enough for spectators to sunbath in tank tops on the infield, please.