May 21, 2017 by Soo Ee
My body went rogue today at the KL SCM and decided to take over control of my legs. The insurgent forces took turns to send cramp signals to the different parts of my legs, like a symphony- to the left leg then to the right leg and then back to the left again. Holy f monkeys.
I have never followed pacers in races before but today, my plan was to try running with them and let them lead me to a home run.
Everything looked good at the onset. I followed the 4:30 pacers closely. When I fell behind, I increased my cadence. I kept my focus on the guys and lady with the balloons at the front of the group. I made sure I was not more than a person’s distance away. I was delighted I managed to keep up with their pace for more than two hours. On average, I was covering about 9 km per hour. My guts told me it was physiologically possible to continue the third hour in that pace.
At 22 km, the body insurgent forces showed signs of rebellion. It started with a slight pain in my left ankle. The pain was uncomfortable but still manageable at that point in time. I stopped to stretch and walked it out a little before I continued my run.
I have never experienced leg cramps during races before so this was all very new to me. I mentally recounted the past hours to try and figure out what went wrong and to see if there was anything I could do to rectify the situation. I was sure I was hydrating and refuelling according to plan the whole time. I only had the missed training mileage to blame. I hadn’t been diligent with my run trainings the past couple of weeks. Damn. That was going to be tough to ease. My muscles might be undergoing extreme fatigue and now, it was in vengeance mode. I reckoned I must be one with the pain, not fight it. My only way out of this was to put all my mental training to use and hopefully be able to ride out the pain.
After the first onset of pain, I tried several times to catch up with the 4:30 pacers but every time I caught up behind them, I had a difficult time trying to keep pace. After falling back a couple of time, I decided to leave. My time with them was over.
Soon, they were out of sight.
After that ankle, the other parts started to hurt- the left big toe, the ankle, both the calves, the right ACL, and the pain even extended to the bottom of my feet. Wth. They took turns to deliver the pain. They came non-stop and relentless.
In between the painful moments were small nuggets of time I could jog-run along a little. When I felt a leg part starting the cramp cycle, I stopped to massage and sooth the affected area. I talked my way out of the mental shut down. I did not want to walk all the way back to the finish line. It was too long a way to walk. That motivated me to keep calm and carry on. The second motivation was breakfast. I really wanted to have that nice artisan toast and some arabica in my system before flying back to Singapore in the afternoon.
The 5:00 pacers soon caught up with me. That got me anxious. I still wanted to finish at sub 5 even though I couldn’t make 4:30. I did not want to finish past 5:00.
I told myself to stay ahead of the new group and use them as my time marker. I wanted to know where I stood from the five hour mark.
Shit hit the fan at 28 km. The cramp intervals got shorter and more painful with each episode. I couldn’t finish one km without a cramp happening either on the left or the right leg. My mental capacity was hitting the red zone. Whenever I picked up speed, the cramps came back with full force and ‘crippled’ me. Argh. From past experiences with pain, I know I have the mental capacity to push past it. But I know too that by doing so, I might push the already fatigued muscles over the edge. I might not even be able to reach the finish line then. It was emotionally very painful for me to recalibrate my goal but there was no other way around this. I had to abandon my plan to finish at 4:45.
It finally came down to the last 10 km, my longest 10 km up to date. I was dangerously close to giving up. The sharp pain made every step I took agonising. It was getting easier to throw in the towel and ride the ambulance back to the finish line.
I decided to throw in one last tactic- to play hide and seek with the pain. By now, I recognised the pre-cramp signals. I picked up my running speed whenever the pain temporarily subsided (I know it was lurking, just waiting in the dark corner to hop right back), to cover as much distance as I could. I stopped to stretch when I felt the first signs of the pain tremors. I did not want to give it any chance to bloom. I speed walked when it got too painful to run and continued when it seemed peaceful to run.
I almost kissed the ground when I crossed the finish line at 5:16. The 42 km was finally done.
Though I am disappointed that I had a whiff of what could be my 2017 sub 5 and then watch helplessly as it got taken away from me, I take comfort in the fact that:
1. I still have another shot at pb 2017 at the GCAM in July.
2. My timing was reasonably okay taking into consideration I speed walked a lot and stopped running many times.
3. I ran the last 1 km, ignoring the pain, to the finish line to collect my finisher medal and tee.
4. I did not get transported back to the finish line in an ambulance. I have no damaged parts, only painful parts.
5. I’ve come face to face with the race cramps I have heard so much of. Experience gained, one level up as a coach.
I am in a good place.
There is always mental capacity for a selfie at the finishing line.
Breakfast at Toasts & Co. Chicken pesto on toast with side salad.
My final score.