Spartan blog

Did not finish, or did not fail?

Failure. That is the only feeling a felt as I got my phone out of my pocket and phoned my mum to pick me up from Barnsbridge Gate. Spartans never quit. We just keep going despite looking like death but I just couldn’t.

The race had been going perfectly. My only aim at the start of the race was to finish. After completing the London Marathon two weeks before, I had not specifically trained for this kind of race. My fitness was absolutely fine though so I knew I could finish and I just wanted a PB, even if it was just by one second.

I set off fast but the first 3-4 miles are flat and that is my strength. It was time in the bank. I quickly got into my stride and after Andy Whit had caught me up I just followed his pace. It felt comfortable and psychologically it was perfect for me as Andy is someone who I always believe to be a faster runner than I am. We progressed through the entire first section together. Even shouting abuse at two cheats together. When we reached the first checkpoint I really wanted to stick around and say hi to the Spartans but I was feeling so good that I just kept going. Sorry to all the brilliant Spartans the fact you made the progress through the check point so smooth is testament to how well organised you all were.

Check point 1 to 2. This was a slightly hilly section and a section I had not run since my last SST run two year ago. Still I could see a few people ahead of me and I just settled into a groove and kept ticking off the miles. I caught up with a Helsby runner called Lee before the scramble up the sandstone section and had a little chat with him but quickly realised I was faster than him and got going. I worked out by this point I was in eighth position. I couldn’t believe how well it was going and I wasn’t pushing myself too far. I was running within my limits.

Running down the hill to check point 2 I passed loads of walkers who cheered me on and I quickly tagged in at checkpoint 2 and kept going. I had enough food and water and wanted to keep the momentum going.

Check point 2 to 3. This is a brilliant section to run. So many little trails and the time seems to fly. By this point I was completely on my own. No one in front and from the slight glance back going over a stile no one behind. I was fine with that though as I often train alone with no music so I am happy in my own little mind. I reached the top of Beeston and checked my watch. I hadn’t really looked at it until this point but I had reached 13.45 miles in almost exactly two hours. I had 20 miles left and if I did them in an average of 10 min/miles I would beat my last PB by 30 minutes so I had 30 minutes in the bank as well. Brilliant. I just keep going, I didn’t need to push it too much and I would be fine.

I reached check point 3 and needed some water so topped up my water bottles but didn’t really fancy any of the food and I had plenty on me so I set off. I ran past some fellow Spartans supporters who cheered me on and off into the fields beyond Beeston. I don’t like this section. Whatever race I run, no matter what the distance, I do not like this section. It is boring and a complete slog but I soldiered on. I crossed the canal and hit the long boggy field. It was tough going in my 290’s which seemed to collect the mud rather than cut through it but despite some slight heavy breathing I was fine then my stomach retched, I thought it was a burp. That was immediately followed by vomit. Not good! But it happens, drink some water, walk for a minute and get going. At this point I got passed by the two cheats (see earlier), I’m glad they didn’t see me being sick though and I tagged onto the back of them the best I could be I was starting to feel a bit weak so gave myself a break and told myself it was about finishing. I got to the main road and watched the two cheats running off down the road. I did try and shout to them but they couldn’t hear and frankly it felt like karma. Karma came back to bite me with more vomit twice is quick succession. The last one hurt and was just bile. Not good at all! More fluids and food and I carried on. At this point Alex and Rob caught me. Alex looked in a bad way and despite wanting to chat to a friendly face I did not want to bring him down with how I felt so I let him go. Crossing the fields near wood farm was horrible, I had started hallucinating and saw peoples trainers in front of me when no one was there. More fluids! Andy Whit caught me just before we got to CP4 and I told him I felt bad and might have to drop out.

Andy was not having it. He told me I would be fine. Get more fluids. Rest for a minute at the next CP. Get some food and get going. I can’t thank him enough for that I needed that.

I took the advice and got going. Had it worked? I felt more normal, my pace was a bit slower but I was going to finish. I also had my headphones in. I don’t usually run with music but I wish I had done this earlier, add this to the fact I was entering home turf and I knew there would be plenty of people to cheer me on. I hit the top of Gresty’s feeling ok and then the top of old pale was fine. Bottom of old pale fine and the water and hula hoops were clearly the answer to the problem. Then vomit. Why? Hang on it is slightly red, why is it red. Nothing I had was red. It was blood. Game over.

I felt pathetic. How could I be pulling out of a race?

I have read before (I think it was something by Marcus Scotney) that you learn more when you DNF than when you finish. So what did I learn?

Well after speaking to a nurse friend apparently the blood will have been from excessive vomiting and is nothing to worry about and I have no had any after affects.

Why did I vomit? Apparently (and I am not saying this is gospel) when you are running your body sends more blood to your legs and organs like your lungs so you don’t get as much to your stomach/gut which makes digesting food harder. This might explain why you never feel like eating when running.

I thought I had my nutrition completely right for the race. I was going to follow what I had done in the London Marathon. It had worked so well then why wouldn’t it work well now. Apart from I didn’t keep to the same. As well as the gels I had loads of lucozade and high5 energy powder drink and Jelly Babies. That is A LOT of sugar. My body just rejected it. It probably explains why the hula hoops helped so much.

So what did I learn?

1. Every race is different.

2. Gels should be generally be saved for the end of a race.

3. Use checkpoints

4. Vary my nutrition.

5. For longer races use music to occupy your mind

6. The most important – no matter how much we all take the p**s out of each other when someone genuinely feels rubbish you can always rely on your Spartan mates to pick you up and make you feel better.

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Stephen Roberts's picture