When the Malaysian Women’s Marathon Race was cancelled, everyone was disappointed. Thankfully, our running leader LK decided that she would not be thwarted from running. She organised our own private MWM Run.
In some ways, it was even more nerve-wracking for me because I was joining the fast team to do 21km. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but I let them convince me it was. Partly because I wanted to run the HM and partly because I was hopeful that I really could keep up.
“Don’t worry,” They said. “It’s not a race. We’ll run slower.” Um… yeah. They overestimated me and I underestimated their “slow” pace.
As with all races, I like to reflect on what went well and what went wrong. A lot of things went wrong on Sunday. It’s going to sound like a whole lot of excuses, but if I’m going to improve, I have to look at it critically and make sure I don’t make the same mistakes again.
The first mistake was not packing properly the night before and leaving everything by the front door where I would literally trip over it to get out of the house. As a result, I forgot to take my Jaybird headphones. That meant no empowering running music that I spent the last fortnight to a month organising. I spent a large part of the second loop counting the rhythm in my head to distract me. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…
I also forgot to take the extra bottle of water I packed to leave in the car. I left it on the counter where I keep my car keys thinking I would see it when I collected my car keys the next morning. Obviously, I thought wrong. If I don’t trip over it, I won’t remember it.
I normally make it a point to sleep early the night before a race. I only managed 5.5 hours (assuming I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow) because I had to pick up my son from a birthday party. 5.5 hours for me is not enough sleep. I don’t think it needs to be said that a lack of sleep diminishes performance. The worse part is that unless you’re really sleep-deprived, you don’t realise it.
The Carburettor Engine
In the last month of training, I have noticed that I have a lot of inertia getting started. Some days, it can take me up to 20 minutes to get warmed up for a run. Regardless of how long it actually takes, I need the warm-up. If I jump in too fast, I pump out before the end.
The problem with the fast group is that their warm-up pace is a lot faster than mine. It felt okay when we started, but as they picked up their pace, I was fizzling out. I could probably have survived 10KM with them without slowing them down too badly, but a half marathon was starting to look like a pie in the sky.
On a regular race day, this isn’t so much of a problem because I get to run at my own pace.
Poor Fueling and Water Supply
As I’ve said before, SIS – Science in Sports – makes a great energy gel. It’s easily consumable without water. It is also the one I should have stuck to for a running race. Unfortunately, once you wave “chocolate” flavour in front of me, I lose my head and all ability to think rationally. I decided to get the GU chocolate flavoured gels instead.
There is nothing wrong with GU gels, mind you. It’s just that it’s thick and you need to wash it down with water. Given that this was a race on our own, there were no water stops and no extra water to be had. My Nathan running belt carries 2 x 800ml which is usually more than I need for 10KM, but evidently not enough for 21KM without water stops. Since I used up half a bottle trying to wash down the gel, I ran out of water pretty quickly.
Since I was out of water, it also meant I couldn’t take the second energy gel I was carrying with me. No water, no energy gel, and I still had 6 clicks to go. This was a very costly mistake.
While I have been running on and off, I confess I haven’t been training seriously. Most of my running has been in the gym and let’s face it – running on a treadmill is hardly the same as running on the road. Additionally, I think I only managed one LSD run so there wasn’t much training by way of endurance.
By the time I hit 10KM, I was starting to slow down. Yes, I slowed down even more than I did when I left the fast group. Somewhere during the second loop, my left knee and right foot started hurting. Even my hip flexors were protesting. I tried to follow the run-walk rhythm until it was a struggle even to climb the curb.
When I arrived at my car, I’d hit 18KM. There was one final 3KM loop to go, but most of the HM and 10KM runners were already back. I contemplated pushing through the knee and foot discomfort to finish the last 3KM then thought better of it. It is one thing to persevere through difficulty and another thing completely if it leads you to injury. I decided to be the wiser person and set my ego aside.
If there’s anything I’ve learned after this run, it is that I have quite a ways to go before I will consider joining the fast runners on a “slow” day.
No more GU gels unless I bring more water.
Actually, just bring more water.
No more late nights before a race – but I already knew that.
No music during training. Music with a fast beat (170-190 bpm) and a heavy base has been shown (through some studies) to improve performance. If I train without music, it shouldn’t compromise my performance as much if I have to run without it.
To say that I wasn’t disappointed by my performance would be a lie. I am terribly disappointed. I had hoped to do better. But I guess this experience will provide motivation to train harder for the next round.