Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Post Race Trauma

A few days have passed since my run in Connemara, and as usual I've had plenty of time to reflect on the race. In all honesty, there are not many things I would change. I certainly feel I raced well; the target was realistic yet challenging and the execution went pretty well.

I did not mention it in the race report and only remembered it afterwards, but I was actually dealing with a side stitch between miles 5 and 10. It was quite uncomfortable but not bad enough to slow the pace. It came and went but I eventually managed to overcome the problem by concentrating on exhaling fully with each breath. I have no idea why I would get a stitch from running 7:15 - 7:20 pace. I felt really comfortable at that effort otherwise.

Interestingly enough, both Ray and Liam mention in their race reports how we all suffered up the hill out of Leenane. Liam said he was barely hanging on to us (funny, I thought I was barely hanging on to them) and Ray seriously contemplated quitting with a busted ankle. Each of us was convinced the other 2 were in much better shape than themselves. Interesting.

That's the way ultras work, I suppose. You never get the perfect race. Instead you will encounter various problems and deal with them as they come, and the way you deal with them will define your race.

My biggest problem was of course the cramping, and I still think it was a dehydration issue. Grellan had similar problems and suspects the same cause, though we don't know for sure, and both of us thought that we had hydrated well enough all throughout the race. I can see in the HR graph that the "crash" happened between miles 31 and 32, obviously the point where the calves started cramping. It did cost me a couple of minutes, but after setting a new PB of 22 minutes despite of it I have no real cause for complaints.

As for in-race nutrition, I had 6 servings of Orbana (1107 calories, 265g carbs) and 5 Hi5 gels (460 calories, 115g carbs) and two tiny sips of the provided Lucozade sports drink (very little cals or carbs), which adds up to about 1600 calories and about 400 grams of carbs in just under 5 hours, at the upper end of what I thought I can ingest. Of course I also drank plenty of water, but didn't count them all. It still was not enough, apparently.

One "interesting" fact is that I had blood in my urine after the race. While this can be a sign of a very serious problem, in this case it was almost certainly related to dehydration. The walls of the empty bladder rub against each other as you run, causing blood to seep into it. It's completely harmless and pain free, and in fact by far the most frequent cause for bloody urine in ultra runners.

On Monday, my quads were aching like they hadn't done since my first marathon. Walking down staircases was an interesting exercise; dignity went right out of the window.

Slightly more dramatically, I got violently sick during the night from Monday to Tuesday and spent virtually all night wrapped around the toilet. Niamh attributed it to the after effects of my race, but before she could tell me not to do it again we got words that her sister had the same problem. We struggled to figure out what the cause was (dodgy water in the coffee machine?). Once my stomach settled down, some 12 hours later, I spent almost 20 hours of the next 24 asleep, which did wonders for my aching quads and made me feel almost human again, apart from a splitting headache that was still with me for another day. I also did not have any appetite, a first following a race. I do wonder if that alone might prolong recovery a bit.

I managed to drug myself up sufficiently to drag myself out of bed to see Shea perform the violin in the National Concert Hall, together with the rest of the Kerry School of Music orchestra. It helps bringing things into perspective. As pleased as I am with Sunday's performance, being a proud parent tops being an ultra runner.


  1. your body went through quite a bit during and after the race. 39.3 miles isn't just another 13.1 miles tacked onto a 26.2 distance - it can really shake the body up quite a bit. no info on resting heart rate? just curious. well done to shea by the way. i see you are going to do that 24 hour run in co down after all... that will be some race report ;-

  2. Great race and a 22 min p.b. impressive!