Emotional resilience

I had another terrible run. Although calling it terrible really does depend on how you look at it. Yes, I went out to run the Six Inch course to the conveyor belt bridge, which is about 28km. Yes, I only managed 18km of that.

I hit the wall; the first time ever while running. I’ve had unrelenting hunger, and I’ve had tiredness, but this time was different.

My body rebelled. I could walk, but when I went to run it just wasn’t happening.

We had stopped at an intersection to regroup, and when we set off across the road to the next trail entrance I was the third runner up the hill, I stumbled a bit, and stepped aside to let the others past. Jeremy had been last because he had been directing Paul to the next meet point – Caroline was running with us, and Paul was meeting us at stops along the course, like Chase Service at a car rally. I asked Jeremy as he went up the hill if Paul would still be at the roadside. Jeremy squinted and said he could see him through the trees. I told Jeremy that I was going to catch a lift to the end with Paul, as my goose was cooked.

I made my way down the hill, and as I was getting close to the road I heard Paul drive off. I’m not ashamed to say at that point I swore. I was low on fuel, my intended saviour had sailed off down the road and everyone that I had been running with had gone off up ahead and I didn’t have the energy to even try and chase them down.

I stopped, bent over and hugged my knees for a second. In that second I decided that when Jeremy got to the next meet point he would see that I wasn’t with Paul and would double back to find me, and Paul would wait for me. Also, I had the course mapped out on my Garmin and it was set at a scale of 300m so I was unlikely to take a wrong turn at walking speed. While I was carrying less fuel than would be ideal I also was not going to be running, so I would require less energy from food. I was low on water, but the course is on the Mundabiddi mountain bike trail, which goes all the way from Perth to Albany and I had seen signs pointing to water sources along the way, so chance was that I would see more. Also, the track is relatively well used, so I would probably come across other people.

I started the trudge up the hill, and I don’t know how far I managed, but I heard a call, a cooee. I returned it, and after a pause got another call, a different one. I called back again. Then Jeremy yelled out “Kelly! Walk up the hill!”.

I yelled back “I am! It sucks!” and a couple of seconds later I saw a most welcome sight. I hadn’t realised, but the course cut through and met up with the road again. Jeremy had seen Paul, immediately realised I wouldn’t have made the car as I am not Usain Bolt and had waved Paul down. When I got to the top of the hill I remember smiling at them both and saying “Computer said no”.

We waved everyone off and I got into the car. The lovely lovely car. I had remembered to stop my Garmin, but I hadn’t stopped the course directions, so we followed the course via my Garmin 910XT, Paul’s iPhone and iPad which were showing the livetracking from Caroline’s Garmin, and the map on the car’s satnav system. We tracked the runners to the next meet point, and they were making good time. Then we drove down to where the Mundabiddi runs alongside the ALCOA refinery conveyor belt.  This section is the only straight bit on the Six Inch course. We also found out that despite being a mountain bike track this particular section was very drivable – then we passed the enormous Telstra telecommunications tower and worked out precisely why this part of the track is so wide and has very defined wheel tracks!

I realised two things on Sunday. One is that while I have been following the 12WBT meal plan, I hadn’t really been thinking about my day-to-day nutritional needs as I build up my running. We don’t tend to swap out many meals – I tend to do my own thing for breakfast, but that is Weetbix and milk with a cup of tea and my snacks are usually fruit or yoghurt. We put the weekly meal plan on the fridge and often will on a whim just pick what to have that night for dinner, so sometimes we are left with meal like chargrilled beef with avocado and corn salsa and we’ll spectacularly cleverly have that for Saturday night dinner (we rejigged the plan so Sunday is my long run day and Monday is a rest day) when it has a total of 11.2 grams of carbohydrate. Don’t get me wrong – it tastes amazing, but if you are heading out on a long run you want to have had a couple of days of chunky carbohydrate load in your body! So now we’ll be rejigging the plan and searching the meal database for words like ‘potato’, ‘pasta’ or ‘bread’.

Jeremy is fine with this sort of thing – he’s still trying to lose a bit of weight but has been riding a bike excessively long distances since 2007 – over 2011 and 2012 he cycled a total of 50,000km – before he discovered running. All this means endurance and fatigue training are second nature to him, whereas I haven’t been nearly as mean to my body in the past! I still have to develop the endurance to run these sort of distances easily. I have worked out that (normally) a half marathon doesn’t take too much effort – more often than not I don’t need a nap after a long run (not a race) if that long run is around 20km.

The second thing that I learnt was that I probably have pretty good emotional resilience. I could see everything going south very fast for me, and I allowed myself a good swear, then I sucked it up and kept going. It bodes well for me – at some point in the race I think I will probably have a “quiet pity party for one, table by the window please” moment, but then I will get on and get it done.

Best thing about all of this? Actually there are two. One is that there is another run coming up in a week or so that is essentially a repeat of what we were trying to do last Sunday, so I get a do-over. Second one is that because it was Jeremy and my anniversary yesterday we made pizza in celebration which gave me an excellent excuse to eat more carbohydrate. Homemade chick magnet pizza anyone?

Endorphin supplied flavouring

All food after serious exertion tastes amazing. It doesn’t matter what that meal is, it just tastes extraordinary. After my last triathlon I had the best sausage in a bun that I’d ever had. After my first half marathon I ate the most incredible watermelon slices, and the pizza I had that evening was perfection.

Jeremy finished a duathlon (I was spectating on the run course, and came in a couple of minutes behind him). He got a finishers bag and it had an energy bar that he was already halfway through when I finally caught up with him to order post-event coffees (priorities, people). When he saw me he exclaimed “Oh this bar is great! We have to buy some!” About two months later I found them in a supermarket and bought a few. When Jeremy got to eat one a second time he wasn’t as impressed, but after a solid training run for the Six Inch Trail Ultramarathon he had one and they were rated as “Amazing!” again.

I’ve absolutely no scientific or medical training but judging by what I’ve experienced, and what I’ve seen when Jeremy or friends finish sporting events and activities like endurance training sessions, “endorphin supplied flavouring” is a thing. I’m the first to admit that Rotary Clubs are well practiced when it comes to the sausage sizzle (I’m a solid supporter of the local sausage sizzle), and farmers market quality watermelon is always going to beat the mass grown version from the supermarket, but I think exercise adds a flavour to food that monosodium glutamate just can’t compete with.

It’s probably partly why people will go for a run and burn 600 calories and sit down and eat 1200 calories in replacement.

Does anyone else find this happens to them?