Don't read this on a weak stomach. You have been warned.
Try as you might, I could not fall asleep. Be it that I had overeaten at dinner, or the fact that I never sleep well before a race, or the strange bed, by 1 am I had still not slept a wink. Then Shea woke up and promptly vomited all over the floor. Niamh and me spent the next 30 minutes cleaning up the mess, then we unsuccessfully tried to sleep again. Then Maia threw up in bed. We cleaned that up. Then Cian threw up. At least he had managed to get to the toilet in time, so there was no cleaning up to do. Then Maia threw up a second time. By now it was 4 am, I still had not slept for a minute, we were running out of clothes for Maia and sheets for the bed. Niamh and me actually had a cup of tea at that stage, because Maia was wide awake, very happy (babies can vomit and be happy at the same time) and in no mood to go back to sleep. Meanwhile Shea and Lola continued to moan in their beds, which caused us to jump up and check on them each time, but eventually we managed to get a little bit of sleep. I guess I might have got about 2 hours, but that might be overly optimistic. The bigger problem was that my own stomach started acting up. I hoped this was caused by the lack of sleep and the way I had spent cleaning up after the kids all night, but in reality I already knew that the stomach bug had caught up with me as well.
I could not stomach any breakfast in the morning, but eventually forced myself to down some yoghurt, even though it nearly made me gag. I also could not drink any of the sports drink I had brought along, the sickly sweet taste almost made me throw up from only looking at it. I did not dare to drink unboiled water, because they had had a cryptospiridium scare not long ago, and apparently the advice was still to boil water before consumption. As a result I was really dehydrated, and I hadn't even left my room yet. Niamh kept asking how I felt and if running the race was really such a good idea. I basically lied to her and said I was merely tired from lack of sleep, because I knew that if she had known how bad I was really feeling she would have stopped me from running.
Now, guess how the race went. I jogged the 2 miles from our hotel to the start, and my heart rate was close to 150 for 9:00 pace. I wasn't able to run any strides, because that was too much effort. I was still hoping for a miracle. Maybe digesting the yoghurt took too much energy, which I would get back once my stomach was empty?
The goal for the race had been “to suffer as much as possible” (you'll have to read the Brain training book to get more details), and boy, was I going to get some of that. Be careful what you wish for, it might come true. I actually set off at some reasonable pace. After the early pushing and shoving had succumbed I ran about 6:30 pace, which was slower than the 6:20 I would need to equal my PR but a lot faster than I had imagined I would be able to run only 5 minutes ago. I managed to keep that up for about 1.5 miles, but I was already spent. I told myself that the first quarter is often the hardest part of a run, then you're warmed up, but I was just kidding myself. From mile 2 on I got slower with each step. I was also fighting nausea, which kept coming in waves, and on several occasions I was about to throw up, but just about managed to contain it.
The course was reasonably flat, there was some wind but not much, and it had been raining a few drops at the start but had stopped by now. The conditions would have been good, but I was running on empty. Unlike every other race I had ever done, I started to fall behind in the field. Niamh and the kids were waiting just after the halfway mark. They cheered, Shea shouted out "you came 66th, Daddy". I gave Niamh a thumbs down signal to show that things were not going according to plan. Around the 6k mark we got some water, which was great for me because I was massively dehydrated, but it also increased the nausea which had started to recede a bit beforehand. I still kept falling behind, which annoyed me no end. I thought about pulling out, but I really did not want to have a DNF to my name. If that had been a marathon there would have been no question about me being unable to run, but this was a mere 10k, and I should always be able to finish those, no matter what condition I'm in. With about 2 km to go I managed to push on a bit harder again, constantly being overtaken had spurred me into action. My pace had been constantly dropping, and I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to push any harder. A few days ago I had run 7:46 pace at 143 heart rate, and had felt great. Now I was running the same pace, with a HR of over 20 beats higher, and felt like dying. But with the finish within earshot (I heard them cheering a finisher, about 35 minutes into the run) I finally found another gear. At first the overtaking stopped, which was already a major plus, and then I managed to catch 2 runner ahead of me to restore a minimum of pride. The course had been flat but the finish is tough, and I eventually crossed the line way behind schedule at 43:12.
I can run a 10k 4 minutes faster than that!
This was not me. This was me fighting nausea, diarrhoea and a temperature (I got the chills in the shower afterwards, and felt like crap, but we didn't have a thermometer to confirm), and the pace had only been marginally faster than at the Cork marathon 26 days earlier. In fact, I'm sure I ran the final 10k in Cork faster than that. Time to forget and move on.
Before the race I had dared to dream of a podium finish. Last year, the winner of the men's O35 age group had won in 40:22 which is a minute slower than my PR. I suspected that this would cause a lot of O35 runners to raise their hopes and today's race would be a lot more competitive, but a man can still dream. However, there was nothing I could have done today anyway. Let's move on.
We didn't drive home straight away, we spent almost 2 hours in Cragganowen, because that had been the entire purpose of the trip, according to Niamh (this remark did cause me to raise my eyebrows, I have to say). The kids, even in their exhausted state, utterly loved it there. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who happens to be around Ennis or Limerick. How I managed to survive the walks I'm not quite sure, but at least I managed to sleep a lot on the way home. Maybe I'll feel human again soon.
In retrospect, I learned two things today. Lesson one, you cannot run a race if you've got issues with nausea and diarrhoea, after a sleepless night and with a temperature about to hit. Lesson two, I'm an idiot.
Neither lesson comes as a big surprise.
- 27 Jun
- 6 miles, 50:53, 8:29 pace, HR 146
- 28 Jun
- 10 miles, including the Clare 10k in 43:12
sick, exhausted, felt like death