5 Aug 2013

616.32 - 626.34KM - Running on Empty (York 10K)

My 28th race of the year would see me head up North for the York 10K. As I entered the final third of the year, I was looking for a strong race that would give my challenge a well needed boost. The reality was somewhat different; after an emotionally and physically tiring week a 4am start was at the bottom of my agenda. 

At 9:30am, the York 10K had an unusually early start for a 10K. Taking into account my tendency to always make myself late, a potential two hour journey and road closures, on Saturday evening I despairingly set my alarm for 4am. When I woke on Sunday it almost felt like a dream, getting up when it's dark during the middle of Summer is a special level of horrible. My breakfast that morning would consist of a couple of weetabix, topped up with a small helping a Fruit 'n Fibre, a can of Energy Drink and a large portion of disbelief.

I arrived at the start little under two hours before the start of the race and, after a quick visit to the portaloo, I sat on the grass and began to psych myself up and more importantly to try and keep myself awake. Slowly the crowds began to gather and the pre race atmosphere began to arrive. Whilst just an hour earlier I was able to use the toilets without queueing, the line that had formed by half 8 had to be seen to be believed.

With about half an hour to go until race time runners began to be directed towards the start line, with the strong, experienced runners, and the foolishly overambitious runners, such as myself, ushered to the front ahead of time. The signs were there from the beginning that it would be a tough run, but as ever I chose to ignore them and still felt confident of running sub 40. Somehow I had got it into my head that the course was flat, after speaking to some runners after the race I wasn't the only one. Whilst it certainly wasn't hilly, the windy roads followed by mild ascents and a persistent headwind weren't ideal conditions.

This year I have become so engrossed in the idea of running a sub 40 10k, that I repeatedly run myself into trouble later on. Sunday's race was more of the same, a 6 minute 10 second opening mile put me in good stead for the rest of the race, or it would have had I not used pretty much all my energy up in that first mile.

Whilst my legs felt reasonably fresh (for a change) the rest of me felt 'empty'. It's a strange feeling to try and describe, but I felt completely void  physically and mentally and the rest of the race was a far greater struggle than it should have been. After a trying week, the last thing I needed was a bad race, but that's what I was facing as each mile became tougher, and slower, than the last before eventually stumbling over the line just under 44 minutes.

All smiles (on the outside)
This all brings me to the crux of my post; that for the first time so far this year, as the emotional, mental and physical strain began to become too much, I began to question whether I could continue.

Exactly why this week was so tiring though, I'm not sure, Jenny has certainly had worse weeks with her health. On Sunday however, after a tough week where I consistently felt like I was on the edge of a breakdown, there were various points throughout the race where I felt much closer to collapsing than finishing. I thought that my body (and mind) was about to buckle under all the pressure it has been under this year and I might actually have to stop and give up.

When I started signing up for races this year and began laying out the plans for 1000km of running I gave little thought to how physically demanding the running would be. I knew that given luck with injuries I would be able to cover the distance, even though I had yet to run a full marathon at the end of last year. However with a decent training plan and a strict diet I would have no issues with getting my fitness levels up to the required standard.

Whilst I could, and perhaps should, have predicted the physical toll this year would take, the emotional and mental toll has come as somewhat of a surprise. After a very tough couple months with Jenny's health last year we both hit rock bottom, emotionally and mentally. This was the motivation behind all my fundraising this year. Little did we know that this year we would reach all new lows. I never thought that her health would be able to deteriorate much further than it did last year, but after starting Topical Steroid Withdrawal a few months ago, I have begun to appreciate how 'easy' those times were.

This month it felt like it would become a matter of when, not if, I would finally crack under the pressure. Throughout this year the emotion of the situation has gotten the better of me and I've just had to sit there and let it all pour out, more times that I can even care to mention. The emotional, mental and physical pressure has been pulling me in different directions and I fear that sooner, rather than later they will pull too hard and I will not be able to recover. 

At the moment I'm spending every waking second when I'm not at work either running (race or training), researching potential future races, helping wash/feed/water and generally care for Jenny, hoovering every single day (her bed every night), doing endless amounts of washing every day, all manners of housework and then taking the odd minute here and there to feed myself. Most days I'm operating on between 4 and 5 hours sleep, either through stress or simply being too busy to go to bed.

In truth I feel like I'm running out of steam a little on the fundraising front. I, naively, half expected most of the fundraising this year to handle itself. I knew I would face a struggle convincing people that the cause was worthy, but that was why I chose the '1000KM Challenge'. I could have run just one, or a handful of races, but instead I chose to try and enter one (sometimes two or three) races every weekend to draw attention to myself, the cause and that there is a lot more to eczema than meets the eye. I felt that the extra efforts I am going to fundraise this year would make people look beyond their pre-existing knowledge of the condition and into why I'm go to such lengths. Unfortunately, for the most case so far this doesn't seem to have been true.

I just really feel like I need a break, to take just an entire month away from life to fully recharge, before coming back and tackling this all head on. Unfortunately I do not have that luxury. This weekend we are supposed to be going to Bloodstock Open Air Festival, a Heavy Metal festival that we both regularly attend, but for the first time in 8 years our attendance is very much in doubt. After a terrible year the only thing we've been looking forward to all year and only thing that we have that typically resembles a 'holiday' looks like being snatched away from us.

I hope next week to be able to recall how we were able to go, how Jenny recovered in time and we were both able to enjoy ourselves. However in truth, we both remain more than a little pessimistic about the situation.

For the next couple of races I plan to try and take a step back, run a comfortable race and just try and enjoy running again.

As always, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can and please share news of what I am doing with others.


Distance: 10.02km | 6.22 miles

Time: 00:43:53
Official Time: 00:43:51
Average Pace: 04:22 min/km | 7:03 min/mi
Playlist: Amon Amarth
Goody Bag: T-shirt, Medal, Bottle of Water, Energy Drink, Chocolate Bar and Energy Bar


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