It’s a marathon running cliché – to ‘hit the wall’. In forty marathons and ultras I don’t think I’ve much more than glimpsed the wall once or twice. I’ve certainly had races that haven’t gone well, where I’ve dragged my sorry ass home determined to take up an easier hobby, but I’ve really only nudged into the wall on a couple of occasions. All that changed in Portumna last week. I’d had some hopes of running fairly well in the 50km there. Training hadn’t been spectacular, but I’ve been enjoying myself and getting some good solid runs in. Two week before the 50km I’d paced the Cork Marathon and before that the Limerick Marathon, but then again perhaps I shouldn’t even mention Limerick. One week before Portumna I had run the Wicklow Way relay race, after which I felt like I’d been run over by a small but heavily laden truck. After Wicklow I had immediately flown out to Boston for work and that’s when I think my trouble really started.
My week in Boston was heavy on the coffee and long on desk-time, but decidedly light on training. I thought that was fine as I wanted to recover fully from the mountain race. I flew back to Dublin on Thursday night into Friday morning, missing out a night’s sleep in the process. The plan was to crash early on Friday evening and to get a good kip before the 50km and that’s exactly what happened. I arrived in fairly optimistic form at the race and thought I had a chance to go well. I wanted to run twenty-minute 5km loops and set off with that intent. Portumna was, as it usually is, beautiful and inspiring. Seb Locteau has created something wonderful there with the marathon/50km/100km format, all happening on the same 5km loop. He deserves great credit for having created this event because it wasn’t either easy or straightforward to establish these races. Seb is to my mind a creative genius where event organisation is concerned. His generosity and vision in creating these races in this space will be to his eternal credit and of benefit to many.
Surrounded by all of this positivity and beauty I set about trying to run 10 20-minute 5km loops. The first few were very straightforward, they always are I suppose. It wasn’t long though before the arse started to fall out of it. I began to sink into exhaustion, slowly at first but then much more quickly. By mid-way through the seventh lap I felt like I was towing the truck that ran over me in Wicklow the previous week. I was finding it hard to steer a straight course and so when I came to the start-finish area I stopped for a brief ‘rest’. I lay down on the ground in one of the tents and slept like a baby for around 15 minutes. I got up then, tried to snap out of it, and carried on down the road. I thought I was making some sort of progress but in retrospect I probably wasn’t. A meat waggon appeared and I was ‘disappeared’ into the back of it. I was well looked after, but my goose was well and truly cooked.
I was delivered back to the Shannon Oaks Hotel where I chilled before making my way home to lick my metaphorical wounds. A lot of people were very kind to me, very caring and gentle, and I’m genuinely very grateful for the help I was given. As to why I crashed so much and so badly, I’m not really sure. A combination of tiredness from the flight, dehydration from the flight and not having recovered from the other races is the most likely explanation, but I suppose I’ll never know.
The great thing about this sport is having the chance to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and fuck up just as badly the next time.
Onwards and upwards (through the fog).