“You should walk a little faster. In the end, every lap counts.”
“Well, I tried, but I can’t,” I wanted to shout. But I couldn’t.
I could hardly hold my tears.
Feeling defeated and deflated, a “yes” was all I could get across my lips.
I checked my watch. It was 14:58 on a scorching Saturday afternoon. I had been moving for the past 5 hours.
In 1 hour, the race would end.
And I would have failed.
Earlier this morning, I thought about not starting the race at all. As I packed my stuff, I felt a sense of dread.
I slept poorly the night before, with dreams repeatedly waking me up. And the thought of traveling 2 hours by train was utterly unappealing.
Still, I went.
After all, I wanted to use this race as a long training run. Nothing more and nothing less. Still, I set myself a target of how many kilometers I wanted to collect in the 6-hour ultramarathon race.
I was off to a great start...
When the race started at 10:00, I felt optimistic. The company of my running club members who also participated in the race cheered me up. I told myself I would have a great day.
The first lap was hard. It was 32°C, and only a slight shade was available on the loop. We also had to climb a few stairs in every lap 😆.
But I settled into a comfortable pace by the 3rd lap and was in good spirits.
The slight headache that was coming on didn’t bother me (at first).
Today, however, it was different. I tried to relax my shoulders, drink water after every lap, and slow my pace.
But the pain intensified.
Stumbling and emotional turmoil.
Then I stumbled and stubbed the index toe on both of my feet. I was starting to get pissed with myself. I walked a few steps to calm myself down and ensure my feet were ok.
“You’re ok, Nicole?” my teammate asked as he breezed past me. “Yeah,” I replied. “Just a little hot.”
I resumed running but had to walk again before completing this lap. A glance at my watch revealed that I had completed 35 kilometers.
When I reached the tree where I parked my bag, I took a short break to drink some zero-sugar coke and to send my girlfriend a message if she would come to pick me up. She felt sick the day before, and we decided she wouldn’t drive me to the start like we had planned. However, there was still a chance that she would come and pick me up.
I ran another loop. I could at least run slowly. That would still be better than walking.
My body decided otherwise.
During loop number 37, I knew something was seriously wrong, and there was no way I would be able to complete at least 50 kilometers 😐.
I felt a sharp cramp-like pain in my upper abdomen, making running impossible. Since I couldn’t breathe properly, I also couldn’t walk fast.
It was the same pain I had experienced quite regularly two years ago. It’s still unclear what this pain means. Except that my liver enzymes have been elevated – and sometimes drastically – nothing seems wrong with my body.
Feeling defeated, I walked the next lap.
And the next.
And the next.
I tried to resume running slowly but to no avail. I was spent. Physically and mentally. I walked two final laps and finished with 43 kilometers.
I knew already that my girlfriend wouldn’t come to pick me up, so going any further would mean I would risk not getting home safely.
Reflection and preparing for the next challenge.
At first, I was disappointed that I didn’t properly plan for the heat and didn’t tough it out and walked the rest of the race.
However, in hindsight, it was the right decision to drop out.
Due to train delays, it took me almost 3 hours to return home. I was dizzy and extremely exhausted when I finally stepped into my flat.
I took the next day off and resumed regular training for the rest of the week.
I would have hampered my ability to recover quickly if I had overextended myself. I would have missed valuable training time for the 24-hour race I will participate in in September.