Yes ok so it turned to shit and I didn’t finish my race. I think everyone got that memo. And yes I’ve also reached the anger stage of the 5 Stages of Grief so bare with me here.
In sorting through the emotions of falling short on such a big goal, I’ve been reflecting on the things that worked and the things that didn’t in the hopes of understanding what happened and why everything was cut so dramatically short.
The injury thing aside (which I have some theories on but will wait until I actually speak to a professional about), here are some of the learnings from my attempt at the Tarawera 100 miler.
Things that went well
- The hero piece of kit from this race was 100% my new prescription running glasses. I cannot believe I have been running on trails for so long with stretches in the dark and didn’t have running glasses. After struggling at the end of UTK, constantly rolling my ankles and being so unsure on my feet because I couldn’t judge the terrain, I went out and got a pair of transition running glasses from Eye Sports. I got a pair of Under Armour sports glasses with my prescription and got them as a transition pair. They cost me a small fortune (some of which I could get back on Private Health Insurance) but were worth every penny. I was so much more confident in the dark, especially the single track at the start of the race on the western Okatainia walkway. I actually think I could have gone faster (not that it would have been a good idea at the start of 100 miles) if not for the conga line at the start.
- I stuck with my fuelling plan right up to the last 10km that I tried to “walk out” my injury situation. I had my watch set to alert me every 20 minutes and had a single clif blok each time. I promised myself to take something from each aid station and it was watermelon each time. I’m sure if I had lasted longer into the race I could have enjoyed the Tarawera banquet aid stations a lot more. Surprisingly I actually really enjoyed the lemon Pure hydration mix that was at the aid stations. I was carrying little tail wind packs with me but it’s just so much easier to use the race mix than mess around with powders when your fingers don’t work very well and the bottles are so hard to open. I think I’ll actually invest in some for my next races as I really enjoyed it and it worked great. I usually hate those type of drinks as they are way too sweet but the lemon one was good. I sadly didn’t touch my Vafels so they are coming back home with me to Australia.
- I think the fact that I had trained with all my gear in the lead up to this event made the learnings so much less. If it wasn’t for the hip/hamstring situation, I had no reason to not keep going. I felt great otherwise. No blisters, no chafing, no tummy issues. Also having Ultra Trail Kosciusko in December with that crazy weather meant I had been training with a lot more gear, so my pack felt light, my clothing felt light.
Things to improve on
- This is a bit hard because the course changed the week before the race. We were already in New Zealand when the course quickly changed from a single loop with certain checkpoints, drop bags and crew support to a completely different event. Instead of embracing that, I stuck my head in the sand. I didn’t re plan my strategy, I defaulted to winging it, just shoved different things in the two drop bags and threw my spreadsheet out the window. I still used the bags at the checkpoints because I needed to collect my nutrition but I didn’t know how much and just grabbed and went. I also mistakenly thought my poles were in a drop bag at like 70k when they were actually in the one at 40k. I should have grabbed them at the 40k point. Not sure it would have helped but hey. I should have re-evaluated the plan when the course changed.
- I had a few things happen between my last race and this race that kind of deflated my excitement for the race. I got ‘dropped’ by my new coach because she didn’t have the time or bandwidth to do it anymore (I have absolutely no hard feelings and nothing but understanding but it still felt like I got dumped) and then I got sick, after spending the best part of three years avoiding all germs. The whole thing just gave me the “meh” leading into the event. Even when I got to the start line, I wasn’t excited, I wasn’t even nervous. I just didn’t really care that much and I felt like I was going through the motions. I thought maybe it was my brain trying to minimise the size of the task at hand or protect myself from disappointment. I’m not sure to be honest. It didn’t help at the end of the day, I was still devastated, still sat and cried at the aid station (I’m so sorry to that volunteer) even though I had spent 10km knowing what was about to happen when I got there. I don’t know what I can do to improve for next time, but the mental component is so important that it’s worth noting so I can improve on it next time.