“You have to speculate to accumulate…”
Or so they say.
Anyone who knows me well will be aware that every autumn, my immune system decides to go on a break, sometimes not returning until well into the next year. I’ve tried pretty much all sorts, but the doctors have told me I’m “unlucky”.
This isn’t great when there are races to be run. I’ve missed out on the Leicester Half for the last few years, because of illness. This year, I hoped that with more outdoor running, my immune system might be shocked into actually working, but I was wrong. I fell ill during the Robin Hood Half.
In the two weeks following, I’ve fluctuated between good and bad days. If my Mother is reading this, and starts thinking of telling me off, the general consensus is you’re okay to run, as long as it’s above the neck, and you feel able to. This illness has been a heady cold, with some irritated tonsils (above the neck, as far as I’m concerned). I’ve been able to run one day, and had to rest the next. I’ve actually had some really good, quality runs. You know, ones that test my pace, and make me think, “actually, I might be able to reach my goals!”? But it has been annoying that this bug hasn’t shifted.
You might be reading this, and thinking, “well, if you rested properly, then maybe the bug would go”. That might be good for some people, but I’ve tried the complete rest thing in the last, and I still take ages to get over a bug. I figure that as long as I’m okay to run, I will run. Okay?
This is where it all goes to pot…
I needed to make a decision about the Daventry 10, which I was keen to have a go at. I’d got a respectable time at the John Fraser 10, whilst injured, and using it as a training run, and I’d gone through the first 10 miles of the Robin Hood Half almost 3 minutes quicker than that, and I was struggling during the latter part of that. I waited until as late as possible before entering, and I gave myself two clear days of rest to hopefully recover. I was pretty confident of breaking 1:20, and get club gold standard.
The morning of the race, I awoke with very sore tonsils, and a niggly, dry cough, which needed a good dose of Symbicort. I put it down to the fog, which always irritates my sensitive airways. The forecast was for good weather, so I was optimistic that the conditions would improve. The wooshy head, I put down to tiredness, having had a bad nights sleep.
I travelled to the race with a couple of fellow Westies, Sam and Gary, and another club runner, Phoenix. Another Westie was also taking part, Adey, so not a bad turnout for another county’s championship road race! By the time we arrived, the fog had cleared, but it was still cold. I didn’t relish having to ditch the trackies; I’d chosen to race in vest and shorts, knowing I’d warm up later, but it would be freezing waiting at the start line, and it was.
We started on time, and it was a nice downhill, but we soon started to climb. I was running with Sam at this point, but I didn’t feel right. I wasn’t running as quickly as at the start of Robin Hood, and it felt like it was harder work. I didn’t have that flying feeling of the first few miles a fortnight before. Whilst the hills at the start didn’t seem too arduous, they were taking their toll, and even at the first mile, I felt as though I was running through treacle. At mile three, Sam had gone on ahead, and I was barely on target for my aim for this race. The route appeared to be going up, and I hoped for some down hills to get some momentum back, and claw back some of those precious seconds. As if by magic, one appeared, but it was short-lived, and we were soon back on the up again. As I continued to run up, my times were steadily coming down. I certainly didn’t appreciate the spiral ramp to a footbridge; I was struggling enough as it was!
I managed to claw back some time, after the five mile water station. I think that may have been down to frustration. I had caught up a young man, who was running really slowly, but every time I looked like I was going to go past him, he would surge ahead a few feet. This unnecessary cat and mouse went on for at least a mile before he sprinted off into the distance, where I could see Sam was having a great race. By now, I was running on my own, and instead of enjoying the run (blue sky, sunshine, and perfect running conditions), every hill was now burning my quads, and zapping even more of the little energy I had. My head felt foggy, pretty much like the early morning weather. Every time I saw a marshal in the distance, I wondered if it would be long before a tail car would pick them up. Then I wondered how I’d let my club-mates know where I was, and that I had less than half the race to go, and I ploughed on. I heard church bells in the distance. The only other noises came from me; my heavy breathing, sniffling, and footsteps. As I passed each mile marker, I mentally calculated how much time I’d have to knock off for the remainder of the race, to reach 1:20 – it wasn’t going to happen.
It still felt like the route was going up. I looked ahead, and just saw more hills. Sam had run out of view, and in fact, there was nobody in front or behind now. At least nobody was witnessing my suffering. The last hill, as it turned out, between eight and nine miles almost destroyed me, mentally and physically. I came close to just plonking myself down on the curb, I was that broken. I kept thinking, “pump those arms, raise those knees”, but I hadn’t the energy to do it. I almost had an out of body experience, where I could see myself struggling up that hill, looking like the most sluggish runner, all in glorious slow mo. Worse still, well for me, I had to cross a T-junction, where cars were waiting to move, but they patiently waited for me to cross first. It felt like ages, they had plenty of time to move, but far from abuse, I got waved at, and someone shouted, “well done, keep going”. I had less than a mile to go, by now, and it was only when I looked at my splits afterwards, I had regained my speed. This was, however, helped by the fact the last mile was a much welcomed downhill.
Then I saw the finish line, and I could hear my name. I saw the clock, and I raced it to at least try and beat my John Fraser time, but I was in a state when I crossed the finish line. I could feel my BP drop as soon as I stopped, and I had to fight the urge to puke. One of the volunteers was far more interested in taking my chip timer, which looked like an ankle tag, and making sure I got my t-shirt than in my distress. I was glad of the water, and staggered to my friends.
It was one of those mixed feelings moments; Sam, Gary, and Phoenix had smashed their PBs, and Adey had a great race too. Meanwhile, I’d failed in reaching my target, and took no comfort in what I thought was about a 9 second PB. It’s not like me to mess up my timings, and the official result was an 18 second PB. Out of 123 runners, I finished 77th, and was the 14th female out of 35 women runners. I could take comfort out of the fact I was 2nd in my age category, but there were only 9 of us! I am my own worst enemy, though. Rather than taking the positives out of a bad run, I have been too caught up in the fact I didn’t do what I set out to do. Again. Setting myself goals is all well and good, but it doesn’t do me any good if I then use them as an excuse to self-flagellate if I don’t achieve them, especially at a time when I’ve enough “bad luck” and feelings of underachievement.
By the time I got home, I was losing my voice, and the top of my chest had that funny feeling I can’t describe, other than a “hollow tightness”. Yeah, I know.
Later that afternoon, I went swimming with my sister and her family, as the younger niece wanted to show off her new swimming skills, but the pool was way too cold, and so I went off to the sauna and steam room, which was still too cold. By the time I got home, I had a proper chill, and was ready for bed. Yesterday and today, I’ve felt awful, and I’ve looked it, too. I’m hoping that this means this disease is finally getting out of my system. With 12 days until Leicester Half, I’d like to be in full fitness, thanks!