Monday, July 19, 2010

WHW 2010 - a tale of failure, and of success

The 2010 WHW race was ages ago - more than 4 weeks now - and I'm only just getting round to writing a few words about it. Sorry for the delay - work and holidays have got in the way, as well as a lack of motivation to sit down and put together a few words.

First, my result. I didn't finish the race, pulling out after 62 miles at the Inveroran Hotel. So another DNF. That's 8 goblets and 3 DNFs in my 11 attempts.

I knew things weren't right when I arrived at registration. I wandered around a bit getting various cheques signed, and was one of the last to register. I listened to the briefing, and when I went back to the car told Alison that I wasn't up for it. She gave me one of those looks - I'm sure she knew then that it was going to be a long day.

The first section to Drymen was ok. I managed to avoid falling - one of my main objectives on this section after a heavy fall a few weeks before - and my body felt fine as I arrived at Drymen after just over 2 hours. Despite that, I was already having thoughts of pulling out. As I told George, my legs were fine but my head wasn't in it. The backup team told me I'd be fine, I felt a bit better, and I headed off towards Balmaha having had my first Complan.

The next bit was ok too. The sun rose really early, and the views from the top of Conic Hill were wonderful. A quick stop at Balmaha and I was on my way. I met Andy Cole and chatted for a while, but I was finding it tough as we approached Rowardennan. By the time I arrived there I was feeling really low. I didn't feel like going on, but the backup team didn't give me any choice and had me back out on the course before I could think too much about it. I then struggled all the way to Inversnaid, being passed by around 20 runners. If I could have pulled out at Inversnaid I would have done so, but the only option seemed to be to head to Beinglas farm. Ellen came in to Inversnaid just as I was leaving and said she would run with me for a while; that seemed to give me a boost and I head along the tricky section feeling a lot better, expecting her to catch up with me. Around Doune Bothy she still hadn't caught me and I was surprised to see George. He had heard from a number of runners that i was struggling, and realising I was so late thought he should run in to check I wasn't injured. I was actually in good spirits then, and feeling much more positive, so had decided to keep going beyond Beinglas.

Beinglas to Auchtertyre wasn't too bad, and even though I was a lot slower than previous years I felt happy enough to be plodding on. I met George and Phil at Bogle Glen, where I was in reasonable spirits, then met them all again at the Auchtertyre checkpoint. My weight was fine and on I ran, meeting the backup team briefly again at Tyndrum. At that stage I was still doing ok. Shortly afterwards, however, the wheels feel off completely, on what is normally one of the easiest bits of the trail. I just couldn't get moving at all, and took an eternity to reach Bridge of Orchy. By the time I arrived at the checkpoint my mind had pretty much given up, although George and Alison persuaded me to try going over the hill to Inveroran and see how things were after that. It was no better. By the time I saw Murdo at the top of the hill I had decided to call it a day, and no amount of persuasion could convince me otherwise. I walked down to the Inveroran Hotel, jumped in the car, and we headed to Fort William. Race over.

So, with the benefit of hindsight, what went wrong? I don't want this to sound like a series of excuses, but I think there were a few things that affected me. It was difficult to combine being part of the organisation with running in the race. I think I was more focused on the race as a whole than I was on my own race. That doesn't really work - when things get tough during the race (as they always do) you have to have the desire to get that goblet. I was more concerned about the race as a whole being a success than I was about getting that 9th goblet. I don't think I had the necessary hunger and desire this year to complete it. A few months earlier, after my poor Fling run, I had been having serious doubts about whether I should take part. Geraldine made a very apt comment - she said that she could understand why I was struggling, as I was "covering old ground more slowly than I had covered it before". On the day it turned out she was right.

Perhaps Dario's death had more impact on my run that I thought it would. I found it very difficult at the start when Adrian gave the tribute to Dario and Davie, both of whom were very good friends. I know others were affected in a similar way.

So from a personal running perspective, it was a failure. From an organisational perspective, it was a big success. I was delighted with the way it all went, and believe we managed to put on a race of which Dario would have been proud. Certainly the feedback so far has been very positive; most importantly, the camaraderie that makes this race so special has continued and I'm sure will continue in future years.

What now for my running? I'm going to have a break from running ultras for a while and try and get a bit faster over some of the shorter distances, such as 10k, half marathon and even the marathon. I've done a lot of ultra running over the last few years and suspect that my body is crying out for a bit of a rest. It has been very frustrating to see my times get slower and slower, despite doing the same or similar training. It would be nice to get back below 40 minutes for a 10k and 1 hour 30 for a half marathon - these were times I achieved with relative ease up to 3 years ago, but I haven't been able to get near them recently. I am not going to enter next year's WHW race but will get more involved in the organisation side of things (assuming the rest of the committee will let me!)

Congratulations to all of those who completed this year's race - there were some fantastic performances, too many to mention individually - and better luck next time to those who didn't make it. Finally, a huge thank you to my back-up team of Alison, George and Phil. As ever, you looked after me superbly well and could have done no more. From a running perspective, it just wasn't my year.


Peter Duggan said...

All read and (hopefully) understood, Ian, but perhaps we could rearrange your closing words and some of your earlier ones to suggest that, as part of the successful organising committee, it just *was* your year?

Well done! :-)


WHW Runner said...

Fair point Pete - I've added a few extra words at the end which hopefully make it clearer :-)

Peter Duggan said...

'Twas obvious what you meant, but still a little self-critical...

Think that bit of a change will do you good, and hoping to talk myself into treating the roads seriously enough for a bit (so maybe actually need to run on some?) to nab those times for myself!

John Kynaston said...

Hi Ian.

Reading this from a hot hot Thailand!! I've just finished my book and Katrina is still reading so thought I'd have a look on the blogs!!

Thanks for sharing about your race. I think it's really important to share the tough ones as well as good ones.

I think you will benefit from a break from ultras and I know the race will continue to benefit from having you even more involved!

Andy Cole said...

Ian, the race was a great success, I'm sure in no small part due to your contribution. I'm also sure that if you take the pressure off yourself for a year the old enthusiasm will return and you'll be back for at least another couple of goblets. Good luck with the road running, I think I'm fading out of that now (can't go fast enough...).

Debbie Martin-Consani said...

You gotta love JK's commitment to the cause :-)

Great report, Ian.

Why not try training for something completely different, like a Triathlon? Well' that's what I'm going to do when I'm sick of ultras.

Marco Consani said...

Hey Ian,

The race was a complete success and you and the committee should be proud of what you guys have done. Dario certainly would be proud of you all.

Reading your blog, not just today but also in the last few months it really does sound like you need a rest from ultras. Not just physically but mentally. It has been a demanding year for you, losing Dario and also your work commitments too. To be honest I really don't know how you do it. Like Debbie said a new challenge would be ideal or even back to the road running for a bit like you said. Still organising the race will mean you won't lose touch with it.

I have no doubt that you will come back to running ultras in the future. Whether that is next year or in 5 years. And you will be strong again.
Jk will have to watch out... ;-)

Take care Ian and see you at the Devils.


Keith Hughes said...

Nice one mate - so much going on, just change the focus for the next little while and come back with the hunger.. Cheers KH

Brian Mc said...

Just read this post Ian and have come to similar conclusion. I've had a mixed year this year with some very good times (better than ever) and some very poor times and DNFs. I've concluded that I need to refresh my mojo for a while and will (i) probably only do short ultras for while (30-40 milers) and (ii) diversify into triathlon to keep my interest up.

Hope you find the next year satisfying!