I wrote this on the plane coming home from New Zealand. The sting of disappointment was still flowing through my veins. Muscles are more sore after failure. Even the food does not taste as good. I don’t like it.
I will start with what I knew pre race. The race was on a synthetic track. In lane one. 400 meters each lap. I found Centurion success on the track in Australia. I was well trained. I had a great taper and was fully rested. I am well experienced with Centurion walks. I have travelled internationally four times and found success at each race. I slept more pre race than I ever have. I had developed a sinus infection almost exactly one week before the race. I was on an antibiotic. I was better but not recovered.
What I know during the race. I started out strong. My intended pace was to walk each lap in 3 minutes 20 seconds. I was a little ahead of my intended pace. I felt very good. At the first direction change at four hours the judge told me I had a left lean. At the eight hour direction change I was out of gas. I drank a Coke and got a nice boost. Only thing hurting was my left big toe. I will lose that toe nail. I have always had this problem in long races. When tired my toe bends upward. Hits the top of my shoe. Boom kills the nail. I just walk through the pain. I ate good and drank regularly during the race. By the twelve hour mark it had been raining for two hours. I was struggling to hold a sub 3 minute 50 second pace. After two hours in the rain I put on my rain jacket. Our race judge told us no break in the rain was expected all night. At eighteen hours I was still on pace to make centurion. I would have to maintain 3 minute 55 second splits to just beat the 24 hour clock. I was able to hold that pace till hour nineteen. Just into my next hour I was shocked to see 4 minutes 10 seconds on my watch after a lap. Same hard fought effort but slower result. I had nothing left physically to walk any faster. If I could not hold pace there was a zero chance I could pick up any lost time.
What happened next is something I have never done before. Never considered before. I pulled the plug. Five hours is a long time to play the fall behind pace, catch up pace game. I Walked a very slow stiff lap and told the timing tent I was done. I just could not go on. Not for five hours. After I quit so did my body. I suffered from mild hypothermia, body aches and cramps. I laid on the floor completely spent and violently shaking. With medical advice my Wife was able to get me to a point where I could at least leave for a warm bed. Knowing what I know now. The smart move would have been to pull out earlier in the race. Tough call when you have so much invested in training and a strong desire for success. I need to learn how to read the warning signs. Some races you are not going to be able to finish. Save your body for another day. There will always be another race. Something you can only learn through experience.
So what happened? Could the sinus infection have been my undoing? I have leaned at several long races over the years. Never as early as in this race. Is leaning our bodies way of telling us something is not right? I had not recovered from my sinus infection. While better it had not run its course. Post race it has been the worst ever. Making the fourteen hour flight home almost unbearable. Without a doubt the race did not help it. I had no energy after eight hours. The back of my legs felt unusually tight and I had no drive. I never got cold even when wet. I tend to race hot. The rain had little affect on my race. Even wet socks caused no blisters. I did have bad shaffing between my thighs.
In summary. I had never thought of a Centurion race as being hard. That is till I had a hard Centurion race. I had early and often Centurion success. I realize now I was very lucky. These races are hard. They are very hard. You must be trained. You must properly recover from training. You must be mentally strong. You must be healthy. You must be rested. You are going to need a little outside luck (weather, course, no blisters, good support). If there is a break down in any of these your Centurion will be in jeopardy.
I was not healthy. My sinus infection left me weak. This weakness showed up early as a lean. Leaning starts to have an affect on your bio mechanics. You are working harder. Makes holding the pace harder. Working harder burns through your energy supply. A chain reaction that leads to failure. Success was doomed.
Going forward. For several years now I have raced and tracked Centurion races all over the world. I have walked with and met many Centurions. We have a good network for staying in touch. Many I am able to follow some of their training. It is a great Sisterhood/Brotherhood. I was always amazed when any Centurion walker pulled the plug on a new qualifier with enough time left to finish. I just could not imagine a scenario where I would not be able to finish late in the race. It has been the messages and personal notes received from these racers that has brought me the most comfort. As bad as this stings. As disappointed as I am. I now know much more about the race. I know much more about the people that attempt the race. This knowledge will make me better. It will make me more compassionate.
I am not quitting my goal. I still want to earn a number at every Centurion qualifier. New Zealand 2018. Maybe. I have a busy race year planned for 2018. A January marathon in Louisiana. 50K at Cowtown in February. March and April Marathons in Oklahoma. A return to the FANS 24 hour United States Centurion qualifier in June. If that all goes to suit me I will turn my eyes toward Auckland. Going to be fun.