After last weeks rather heavy blog post you’ll be pleased to hear this one is much lighter…almost as many tears but of the happy kind.
Although, to be fair the week leading up to this weekend had its fair share of unhappy tears with what was supposed to be my race of the year…solo run in a 12 hour race at Ultra 12 (which changed its name to Endure 12/50 since entering it but still gets referred to as Ultra 12!).
I had a few wobbles thinking about what should/could/would have been this weekend. I was surprised at how much it still bothered me that I wouldn’t be running it solo but with words along the lines of ‘snap out of it’ from the person who got me into this ultra malarkey in the first place and knowing that I would be part of a great team, I pulled myself together to look forward to what the weekend would bring.
It was a dusk til dawn event (7pm Saturday until 7am Sunday) involving a 5 mile course that we basically just ran round and round as many times as we could as a team with little or no sleep, at night…sounds completely crazy when you say it like that…and I want to do this solo??!
I was in a team of 4 girls and third in the order to run so my first lap was just before 9pm. At Endure 24 last month my best time on a course of the same length was 47 minutes including the ‘bastard hill’ whereas the Ultra 12 course was flat. With this in mind I wanted to do my first lap this weekend in under 45 minutes…44:59 would have been acceptable!
But then people started coming back saying the course was only 4.9 not 5 miles long…granted this is minimal but my target then shifted to sub-44.
Although the course was flat it had a variety of terrains…grass, gravel, tarmac, bumpy grass with bunny holes and wooded areas with fairy lights…all of which added to it being an enjoyable course albeit one to keep an eye on your your footing.
I was therefore thrilled to finish my first lap in a very respectable 42:28.
I was down to do three laps so I did wonder whether my need for speed would maybe affect my next two laps but given the second one would be around midnight I knew it wouldn’t be as fast due to it being dark by then so was just happy to have got one fast lap in and take the rest as it came.
Lap two was much more enjoyable but given the aforementioned terrain and just a head torch to find my way, the effort I was putting in certainly felt like I was running much faster but was happy with 46:32, especially as this was still quicker than both of my laps at Endure.
I got back just after 1am, grabbed something to eat and drink, stretched a bit and then got my head down for about an hour. The alarm was set for 3am…not only to give me about an hour to wake up, eat something and get ready for my final lap, but to also make sure I was awake in time to wish good luck to one of my friends (incidentally the one I mentioned earlier that I am blaming for these crazy ideas) before he set off to start his first Ironman (I also swore he would not be influencing me to do one of these….).
After I woke up I overheard one of my teammates saying that she couldn’t do her last lap due to a reoccurring injury. I knew she would be feeling pretty unhappy about this and I really felt for her. She was the one I should have been handing over to so I started thinking…could I just carry on running and do a double lap in place of the one she couldn’t do??
I got up, was pleasantly surprised to feel my legs didn’t even ache let alone hurt, discussed the double lap possibility with my teammates and set about preparing to run 10 miles. It only partially dawned on me that I hadn’t run further than 9 miles non stop since returning from injury let alone after a previous two 5 mile runs just three and 6 hours previously but I felt good and wanted to see what I could do.
The first lap was hard and on a couple of occasions I did wonder if I could do another one but as I headed back to start my second lap and passed the camp where the rest of the club were cheering me on I just grabbed some sweets and a drink and carried on not giving it a second thought.
At about 7 miles my hip started aching and I started to panic ever so slightly. My pace was about right but I felt like was plodding so I shifted the way I ran to keep my speed the same but stretch my stride out a little. This helped and by the time I was about a mile and a half from the finish my hip had settled completely. I felt good and I picked up the pace a little going into the last mile.
It was light again by this point and it was lovely running through the trees listening to the birds singing at that time of the morning. I got to the 7k point and knew I had about 5 minutes left of running which was enough to set the emotions off…this was the furthest I had run non stop since February. I got to a gravel track that I knew was only a few hundred metres from the finish and just stretched it out.
I turned the corner into the field where the finish was and I could feel the tears starting to come. I ran strong past where the others from the club were cheering me on, through the finish and handed over to the next person on my team. I walked off the track and just burst into tears.
As I walked back to the rest of the team I was trying, unsuccessfully, to control my emotions and seeing them was enough to set me off good and proper. A hug from a couple of the girls who knew how much that meant to me calmed me down enough to actually give a huge smile…I had not just run 10 miles in one go, I had also run 20 miles in the space of 9 hours.
I hadn’t realised until that point just how much this running malarkey really means to me and each medal I receive reminds me how far I have come.
As a team we came third in our category (out of three…shhh!) and I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend.
During my time there this weekend I was planning my solo run next year…what pace I should run, where would be good places to walk and take on nutrition, as well as working out how many laps I would potentially need to do to place in the top three female solos!
Then I came home and tracked one the most (annoyingly) influential people I know to an awesome finish in his Ironman UK race. I am 90% sure that next year will be my solo year but I don’t think it will be too many years before I prove him right and do an ironman myself.