Shay and I 🙂
With any beginning of a story, it must commence with a start… my race journey began on Friday evening.
For the impending race, I desired a major change-up. With my hair being way longer than usual, I could not rely on the top knot this year. I’ve always wondered why people do braids, now I know… game changer 🙂
I initially asked the direct company around me… my daughter, my neighbours and my friend Mike. Mike stood as my reserve/backup if everything else failed before the day of the race – using his experience doing plaits from his fishing days. I’m not sure if that’s the same but whatever… Mike also kindly pegged my tent area on the day of the race next to his – fated to become the elite solo zone (with Hannah at the end). Anyways I decided to visit the hairdressers for the first time in over a year. My venture to the hairdressers ended up, in the end, exceeding my expectations. We arranged to exchange my fancy coffee machine for the trim and braids – I didn’t use the coffee maker anyways and I quit ingesting any caffeine for a week before the race, convinced that I will probably never drink it again, as it’s the hardest.
The day before:
The hairdresser’s son came in midway from an appointment at the hospital. They suspected he fractured some of his ribs. He had a horse riding competition the next day. I told him and his mum about the first time I met my friend Lauren. She came to my yoga class for the first time- as she had her first 100-mile race that weekend and had fallen over after a few drinks and broken some ribs. After my class, Lauren went and got her ribs taped up and subsequently won her race. We became instant friends. I just so happened to have my equi-box- pictured below – in the car and so to help out any way I could, I popped into my car to pick out some Kinesio-Tape for him to use. We cut off some tape for him to use during his competition.
The following morning I found myself wide awake a bit too early. I knew as soon as opened my eyes, there was no going back, so with my body wide awake and my eyes shut, I prayed it wasn’t 1 am and I vowed if it was anything like a morning hour, I would get up. The clock read 3.15 am. So instead of trying to go back to sleep, I decided to paint my nails in race colours and have a leisurely get-ready, rather than the usual rush. This early start, unbeknownst to me, was going to bite me back later. We set off around four hours later at 7.15 am.
Prepared for it all:
Highlights from the race:
I shared 3/4s of a lap with Gregg. During the first two laps, I socialised a bit but I was solo more than any other year. He had caught me up as we were going up “not that hill”. Gregg had set off with Mike but felt the pace was unsustainable so wanted to ease off. Gregg remarked what I have always said, it’s easy for Mike as he has these long legs. We agreed that was the case. Mike went on to win 3rd male with an insane 200km (20 laps) and a rare and much-coveted gold pin.
Sid was present once again this year in his morph suit (a reference to last year’s race) once again inspiring all with his fearless effort. The 3.15 am start meant by 8 pm I was tired. You often don’t know you’re that tired until you hallucinate. At 8 pm I thought I saw Sid. I thought to myself, now don’t shout Hi Sid until you’re a bit closer. As I got closer I realised it was a completely different person – the person wasn’t even wearing a morph suit! It wasn’t even dark. This didn’t bode well for the impending night ahead of us 🙂 The hallucinations that early into the race before reaching late at night, demonstrated how tough and grueling the race would end up being from the night to the morning.
Around 2/3 am is always the darkest hour. I had been confused and disoriented for some while. My underwear had started to get on my nerves so I decided to take them off. When I got to the start/finish line I started to get things out of my bag to replace at the tent. I then thought I had dropped my knickers somewhere at the start/finish line, which would have been mortifying. So I did the thing I hate doing the most in this race, backtracking to look for them. I remembered after some time of this that I had put them elsewhere in my backpack… It was like that from 8 pm on- total confusion and regular mistakes. I knew just 2/3 more hours of fighting the tiredness and the sun would rise and all would be ok.
For the final lap, I started in my fleece jumper and trousers. Every year I find I run more than the last and this year I didn’t need to push in the final lap, yet walking was just boring me. My mum called and said I was currently in the 16th position. That was the push I needed, so I dumped my extra layers to collect later and ran a bit.
On my way up “not that hill,” my throat became super dry at first. My throat felt like it was closing up. I knew at that point I either needed to ask for some help or just calm down and breathe through it and take my mind off it. Usually, I don’t play yoga music in my yoga classes yet that week someone had asked for it. I, therefore, remembered that I had downloaded a playlist onto my phone. Then at the aid station, a marshall said “come on guys you can do it! Less than a park run to go!” which made the world of difference to me mentally. After all those miles it was relatively little to go so what was the issue?
If there is one takeaway from this article – it is the power of wording.
I kind of silently talked to myself- which I know Mike does too – come on now, less than a park run vs pull out on the final lap: breathe, take 3 watermelon strawberry sweets from the aid station, suck them slowly (keeping one for the last 1km) and feel your throat opening up and all is going to be. Well not exactly well, but mostly okay. Speaking with someone I teach yoga to, they suggested it could have possibly been exercise-induced anaphylaxis (fancy science words of the day). Which, I haven’t looked up yet but I’m pretty sure it was literally just too much running and fatigue. If anyone has any other ideas please get in touch.
As a result, the last 3km were a push. I couldn’t get hold of anyone and I had hoped the twins would come and meet me near the end. It was that thought that kept me going: “they will probably meet me at 2km, then at 1km, then at the finish line.” A guy I had met at the top of the hill was also on 13 laps. I asked if he wanted to run alongside me. He said his knees had had it, so to go on without him. He lapped me at the finish line, as when I couldn’t see anyone I knew, my heart just sank and I couldn’t find that final push.
Most of the race people kept saying to me: “you look so fresh, how many have you done? 1 lap?”. Around the end of lap 11, someone said “how many have you done, you look like you’ve done a lot?” and everything shifted for me mentally. With everyone saying you look fresh, I felt like “oh I look fresh, I’ve got this in the bag”. When the sun came up and someone said I looked like I had done a lot… I felt like, “Woah, I must look tired, like I’ve done a lot” and things then felt way harder.
I saw a blind runner during the race. My headtorch wasn’t fully charged and my reserve wasn’t that great, so I spent most of the night with a somewhat dim light. I knew the course well by night though so it wasn’t a massive issue. I still got lost every single time at the top of the hill.
When you see a blind runner being guided in a race, or a barefoot runner, or people running that don’t have legs or arms, you realise how incredible people are and how really you have zero to find difficult by comparison… Mike and I once tried to guide each other with our eyes closed, just to see how it worked and it was impossible. I didn’t trust him at all and so kept stopping.
Finishing with some life lessons:
Expectations will let you down.
You can only ever rely fully on yourself.
You can do more.
All I can say is that regular yoga has to have helped me mentally to push through and physically as well. I barely ached afterward and taught classes on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Then cleaned my house like a mad woman on Friday…
I don’t think that should be possible with little training – but I do think that honestly, the power of yoga is literally magical. I’m not getting any younger – but I do generally do something yoga-ish every day… The last lap and my throat closing up were when yoga really helped me…
That said, I don’t know if I have more ultras in me at this exact point in my life… Who knows. It’s sad to even type for me… They’ve been a big part of my life so far.
If the Queen hadn’t passed away I would have been at work by 9:20 am on Monday. Despite physically feeling really good – I didn’t go upstairs on my hands and knees once – I was very fatigued.
This weekend is what I do as a treat- and the rising costs of ultras, plus the practical demands of the long races, have to be taken into account as I move forwards.
I love them – this one was my 8th and I’m so lucky and grateful I’ve made it to and through that many. l absolutely love the feeling afterward – like I’ve completed a new level on a game or entered a new realm – but I just don’t know at the moment, about the future.
A lot of things left me sad this year. I came 14th female overall in the end I believe with 132.8km. Yet I was so sad about how the race ended… Any sense of achievement was overshadowed.
It would be hard for me to go back, in all honesty, having left in tears and I don’t cry that often.
It wasn’t the weekend experience I had hoped for. Yet, I didn’t get injured and I was proud of what I achieved.
A word from the one and only Sid who is at £300 of his £500 fundraising goal for The UTS Foundation: they provide free nutritional advice and exercise programmes for people battling cancer and recovering from cancer.
“I battled the course on and off for 16 hours but only managed 5 laps. Lots went well but lots more went wrong so I will learn and go again next year.
The two 3hr plus night laps with visibility at Zero and me trying to navigate the course from memory did me in. Due to my self-perceived slacking: I am running the Chester Marathon on the 2nd of October in the American Football kit.“
Sid saw me after his race and said “shame I didn’t catch you out there Hannah!” I said “Sid, I passed you several times and we exchanged well-done keep goings, but I know you can’t see a thing! :D”
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