Month: April 2014

Runners Tell All Link-up: Bad Experiences


This post was inspired by the “Runners Tell All” linkup (details below). Check out my About Me page if you like, my first post in this series on how I caught the running bug, my favourite running stuff, or read on for this month’s topic…

“Runners Tell All” is a monthly linkup for runners of all ages, skill levels, and experience hosted by Sunshine to the Square Inch and The Lady Okie. Each month will feature a different topic, and you can find all the topics listed here.

Lessons learned from bad race experiences

Another month, another ‘Runners Tell All’ link up! This month’s theme is ‘lessons learned from bad race/training experiences’.

Breakfasts and Hills

I have now participated in five 10k races (amazingly enough only two of which were in heavy rain!). I lucked out with a gorgeous sunny day for the Loch Katrine 10k in March, and a mostly dry and gusty day for the Glenlivet 10k on my birthday a few weeks ago. Loch Katrine looked likely to be my worst race experience to date, because a certain monthly bane decided to wait until race day to make an appearance. However, as it turns out, popping some cramp-pain killers before a race is a genius idea and I managed to PB on a hilly course and felt fantastic.

The birthday run was a very different experience! *ominous dun-dun-duuuuun music*

I don’t tend to think of the 10ks as ‘races’ – for me, that means racing against other people. The only thing I am ‘racing’ against is my last 10k time, and even then beating that time is just the icing on the cake. Running the whole distance without walking is usually my main goal! If I ‘fail’ on these fronts, as I did at the Glenlivet 10k, then it is my brain that gives me the ‘bad’ experience.

The first 4k of the Glenlivet route (on small backroads in the Cairngorms National Park) is uphill. But… I was prepared! The Loch Katrine route had a similar total ascent and descent, and I’d gone for training runs in other areas with similar total ascent/descent. However, what I failed to realise was that Loch Katrine’s total ascent was over a number of small hills (so it was really easy to push hard up the hill, then enjoy the downhill, several times). Glenlivet’s ascent was all at once, over the first 4k of the route, fondly referred to by the race organisers as the “steady incline”. In addition, as I was staying in a B&B the night before the race, I indulged in a slightly larger breakfast than my normal pre-race porridge ration. Don’t worry – I resisted the lure of the great Scottish fryup, but decided that to supplement my porridge I would also have one slice of toast and a poached egg. I was the epitome of calculated restraint.

Two hours later, my stomach was not.

A warm, churning belly, seemingly wobbling along under its own separate centre of gravity, manifested as soon as I started doing my warmup, and continued into the race itself. That was when I really realised that the “steady incline” and head-on gusts were going to result in me failing my base goal (to run the whole way).

At Loch Katrine, I went up hills rhythmically chanting “1-2-3-4-SCONE; 1-2-3-4-SCONE!”, and sometimes the little train song – “I think I can I know I can I think I can I know I can”. Not so at Glenlivet – my hill mantras did not work. I walked after about 2km, my stomach still churning away. I allowed myself a few minutes of walking, until some kindly soul running past panted “Keep going!!” at me, giving me just enough motivation to start running again. Once the route levelled out and then shifted into a very welcome downhill stretch, the churning sensation turned into a stitch, which was slightly more bearable, and I managed to keep running until the end.

I look back now and regret allowing my brain to beat me up about walking and for making me feel like a failure on my birthday. I mean, overall it was a great day, an excellently organised event, there was hardly any rain (although the sight of some very black rainclouds obliterating the hills beyond the finish line was quite motivational), and I got to the end of my fifth race! If only I could have cheered myself on at the time.

Lessons learned?

  1. Don’t mess with breakfast, man.
  2. Don’t allow that snippy little brain voice to diminish your experience!
  3. It’s OK to walk.

I’m really enjoying reading and learning from the other experiences shared through this link-up – you should check them all out via the links at the bottom of Amanda’s blog entry or Beka’s blog entry. And feel free to scold me for my breakfasting faux pas in the comments…