Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Peaks and Troughs

This could be me - Fitzwilliam tennis club is right across the road from my house

It’s not fun writing about running badly.

After the disappointment of failing to perform in the London marathon, I recovered quickly and was ready and able to train again only ten days later. Having built up a solid marathon base over the winter, I decided to decrease the mileage to 100km per week for a while and focus on track work to improve the speed for the summer. By the third week of May I was running better than ever in training, and things looked promising. The idea that I might salvage something from my winter training efforts was comforting, and I began lining up some races for the summer.

But just as the Santry stadium opened its gates for the first graded track meet of the season in late may, I fell sick with a nasty unidentified virus. This problem arose during an aborted IMRA race attempt in Ballinastoe (first ever race abort), where the harsh climb was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

After a few days in bed, I took a risk and dragged myself over to Berlin on a Friday evening to meet with a friend from NZ, on the hope that I would come right. Instead, my condition went from bad to worse, and I was admitted to hospital in East Berlin the following day suspected of having contracted E Coli. All manner of testing was carried out, and with no conclusive diagnosis I was released later in the week after some relief in the symptoms. Pain had subsided and I was finally eating again (I won’t go into the other details). I was still weak and queasy, so training was still a way off.

I flew home to Dublin and spent the next few days resting up on the couch, not able for much else. I tentatively got back into the jogging over the following couple of weeks, because my body was resisting anything more demanding. Finally, last week I managed my first full week of training, including two track sessions and one of hill repeats. Then a 25km long run on Sunday. Generally the sessions went fairly well, and I felt ok during. But I must admit they took a lot out of me each time, and left me feeling queasy in between.

Having managed the sessions ok, last night I decided to test my body by running the Docklands 8k race in Dublin city centre. The first 2km felt ok but then I felt the energy levels drain and the lungs tighten, similar to the Ballinastoe incident four weeks ago. It’s a bizarre and deflating experience to running at training pace (tempo) yet hurting as if in the latter stages of a race. It feels like being a novice runner again i.e. running is hard. That would quite acceptable if I trained like a novice, but unfortunately that is not the case.

I kept plugging away, passing the 4km mark at about 13:20. 5km passed at 16:50, which would have been ok except that my body had given up, and my head had gone with it. I stuck at it until the 6k mark, at which point I pulled out and jogged home (second aborted race). So then... test failed.

The last couple of months have been mentally tough. It’s hard to continually motivate myself to train hard when I’m going backwards. As runners, we invest a sheer amount of gut-busting effort, day-in day-out, into training. This level of effort is difficult to justify on an ongoing basis, in the absence of tangible achievements. Hard work has been aplenty, but so far this year achievements have been few and far between.

At this point I’m about ready to throw in the towel, and take up a more forgiving and leisurely sport like Tennis or lawn bowls. Ahhh now that's the life. Probably better to just toughen up though.