January 2021 and running started up again in preparation for SDW100 in June.

All was going well and I managed a muddy 48 miler in March with Michelle along the Brenda Parker way.

The following weeks I felt fantastic and was running fast to work and back and then one day I started a 14 mile trail run with a slightly tight right glute and finished it heavily limping. From that day on for around the next 8 weeks I barely ran. My pelvis was really twisted and although I went to the Osteopath, Physio and did lots of yoga, the journey to recovery was slow.

When I say I barely ran, I did complete 2 x 50kms!! Racing had just returned after lockdown and I weighed up the disappointed at a DNS(did not start) with the disappointment that a DNF (did not finish) would entail. I decided that I would rather hobble round than sit at home moping!

Both 50kms were ok. The first one was quite painful and my gait was so wonky that I kept tripping on my right foot and fell hard, smashing my knee. The second one was an improvement and I was happy with 5hrs 30 minutes especially after a cataclysmic drop in pace with around 6 miles to go.

5 weeks out from SDW100 and with ‘racing’ out of my system, I vowed to spend all my time repairing and preparing to get to the start line in good health and uninjured.

I knew that I didn’t have time to build up long runs and to be honest I had lost motivation to stay fit- all I wanted was for my glute to feel better.

Fast forward 5 weeks and a 2.45am alarm woke us for the drive to the Winchester start line, picking up fellow runners Paul and Kate on the way.

Mark had a busy day- he was going home after dropping me to the start line to take the kids to clubs and to hand them over to grandparents so that he could drive to the finish line in Eastbourne, get a train to Brighton and walk up the hill to meet me at around 64 miles in before running to the finish with me.

The race started. A staggered start meant there were people everywhere and due to the initial few small loops, there was lots to see.

I was relieved to see people walking from the very beginning and I joined them up the inclines.

Once onto the South Downs Way I settled into a jog/walk pattern and was pleased to see that I was moving at around 5 mile per hour(12 minute miles)

It was due to be a really hot day and even at 5.20am start, the air was warm. I made a vow to drink and drink and drink and that I did from the very beginning to the very end-I am actually really proud of how much water and food I managed to consume as it’s often something I neglect, paying the price of nausea and lightheadedness later in the day.

Checkpoints came and went. I picked up small individually packaged ham wraps and pieces of pineapple and grapes. I made sure I had 2 500mls bottles filled with water and a spare 500ml bottle filled with tailwind for some extra calories.

I had never taken salt tablets but because the day was going to be hot and I couldn’t rely on just crisps and other salty food, I started taking the odd salt tablet from quite early on.

By marathon distance the sun had some real intensity and I drank a lot between South Harting and Cocking. Arriving at Cocking was amazing- there was a cold tap just before the checkpoint and I stuck my head under it- heaven! I drank lots at the checkpoint and filled up all 3 bottles, I also washed my salty face and neck again at another tap on the way out.

The next stretch from mile 35 to 45 was possibly the hardest of the race. It was so hot. We were out of the trees and the sun reflected off the white chalk with such intensity I was craving shade and cold water. I hadn’t recced the course since running it over 3 days a few years ago and although I knew there were 10 miles between checkpoints I hadn’t kept track of mileage on my watch and didn’t really have a concept of how much further to go.

Along the route there were aid stations for all runners but also extra crew points where runners could arrange for friends and family to provide extra drinks etc. I didn’t have a crew so just relied on the aid stations(which was fine and plenty enough stopping) Most crew points up to this stage had been close to the aid stations so when I approached Bignor Hill car park and saw a crew point my spirits lifted as I thought it couldn’t be much further until the aid station. I was nearly out of water and had stopped trying to run- I decided to walk this leg because the heat was so intense that I thought saving my energy now would mean that I would reap back the miles later on in the race when it had cooled.

I was dismayed to find out I had another 4 miles to go until the aid station! I completely ran out of water a few miles out and was desperate. A very kind lady on the trail who had offered me an orange slice(heaven)realised I was out of fluids and gave me and a fellow runner the last of her own water- she was our absolute saviour at that point- thank-you!

Cursing myself for being so stupid and not saving water, I entered Houghton Farm. It was carnage! Lots of people sitting on the grass, one man with a bloodied head where he had fallen – clearly it wasn’t just me who had suffered on this leg.

I drank a whole bottle of water before filling all 3 up and having a cup of coke too. I asked about a tap on the next leg(incidentally the previous leg was one of the few where there wasn’t a tap!!) and was told it was about 0.5 miles down the course… amazing news.

I started walking with a fellow runner who I had been close to from the start, we both shovelled down crisps and some grapes. I hoped dearly that the tap was there for a refill and started making my way through my first bottle of water.

I basically had a shower under the tap when we came across it, much to the amusement of some mountain bike riders who were filling their bottles. I filled up my now empty bottle and was satisfied that I had got enough fluids back into my body to continue.

Washington- 54 miles in – was the next stop and the ‘halfway point’. I chose not to have any drop bags as I didn’t want any distractions to stop. This I think stems from the old channel swimming days where you have to train yourself to not even pull your swimming hat down as you swim- if you start doing that, it can be the start of a slippery downward slope of mental distractions that ultimately do not help you!

Many people might find this odd but for me I wanted every minute possible to be based around moving forwards …. stopping to change socks and shoes and clothes just wasn’t something I felt I needed or wanted to do- I could change at the end of the race 🙂

I was in and out of Washington in a few minutes and it wasn’t long before I reached Botolphs. I think I had got used to the heat and was out of the main midday sun by this point. I grabbed some coke and crisps, refilled my bottles and was just walking out when I saw some camping chairs lined up and a man sitting down. Ooh… a little sit down would be rather nice, I thought, I had after all been on my feet for 14 solid hours and travelled 61 miles with no sitting down so far! I sat down… aaaaah what bliss! Then the man next to me asked the checkpoint crew if he could have a coffee- what a bloody great idea! I asked for one too and sat for around a minute, sipping it before standing up and finishing it as I walked to the road crossing and the gigantic hill climb that awaited. I felt positive and strode up the hill until suddenly a sharp pain at the side of my heel stopped me dead. I tried walking again but the sharp pain continued. I reluctantly stopped and took my shoe off, rolling down my sock to find a big blister had just burst. It didn’t look too bad so sock and shoe back on I carried on striding and soon the pain subsided. This happened more than once but the pain always went away without the need for plasters(not that I had any plasters!!)

Mark was due to meet me before the next checkpoint and I focussed on this through the next tough miles of hills.

When I saw him coming from the opposite side of the valley, just after the Truleigh Hill YMCA, a small lump, actually a very big lump, rose up in my throat and I did a little choked up cry as I hugged him hello. It was all going to be ok from here on now, I just knew it. By this point it was after 8pm and we jogged a little and walked a lot, talking and watching as the sun went down in a spectacular fashion.

Just past the Jack and Jill windmills and at nearly 10pm with the sky still so light, we saw someone coming towards us with a small vehicle behind them. Mark immediately knew it was the adventurer Rosie Swale-Pope and was keen to talk to her. She was a bit lost without a phone, money or an extra layer and wanted to find her way to the windmills. Once we told her that I was running 100 miles she told me to get a move on! It was a bizarre and uplifting meet and we were both absolutely buzzing after it.

I sat down again at Housedean Farm, 76 miles in. I had been feeling tired and it was now dark. I had some refreshments and we got going again- I got the walking poles out and suddenly felt I had energy and strode up the hill at pace… it wasn’t until I reflected on what I had consumed at the previous checkpoint did I realised I had had a coke, a coffee and a revvies caffeine strip- buzzing!!

We carried on and past the crew point at 86 miles. Mark had got sweets out of the bag and as I turned to him I could see he was really pale in the light of my headtorch. He didn’t look good. He suddenly said that I should go on and he had to sit down for 5 minutes. I knew this meant he wasn’t continuing but I was loathed to leave him behind… I knew, however that he had worked some ridiculous hours leading up to this race, been up for the same amount of time as me that day preparing family life and sorting everything that wasn’t me running out, and hadn’t done any running for months and months. Selfishly, I would rather he got in a fit state to drive me home after the race than try and slog it out for the remaining 14 miles. He walked back to the crew point and some very kind supporters drove him back to his car. He was there exactly when I needed him to be and is, and will always be, the best person I could wish for to help me.

After Mark left, I got a little second wind and started to do a bit of jogging. The downhills were pretty painful but the sun was now up and the headtorch was off. There was the most beautiful sea mist that had rolled in and, up on the hillside, it felt like we were literally running above the clouds- I can’t describe how special it felt to be out there.

The final two checkpoints were great in terms of hospitality and I looked forward to them. My feet were really hurting at this point and progress was slow going for the final 8 miles… I had lost even walking speed and sat down a few times on the trail just to lift the pressure off my feet for a few seconds.

I had a sit down and a coffee at the final checkpoint with 4 miles to go and just smiled- life was good and I knew I was going to finish.

It’s really strange, without a single exception I have always had a moment or stage of doubt or negativity in a long race. That day felt different. I think I may have just found mindfulness! I embraced the positive thoughts and let the negative ones float through me. I kept repeating something Keith Simpson wrote to me before the race; experience the experience… such a simple but beautiful use of words that hold great value and made me smile without exception every time I repeated it.

The finish was lovely. I saw a runner in front of me for the last mile and I wanted him to have a full lap to himself running round the track at Eastbourne so I made sure I walked when he walked and jogged to keep him in sight so I didn’t miss a turn!!!

Entering the track was amazing- I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face I was just so happy!

The finish was kind of like any other race, I picked up my buckle and tshirt then pretty much walked straight to the car and drove 5 minutes to our first of 2 Mac Donald’s stops 🙂

Often I am not hungry straight after a run but I was starving and stopped a second time for a milkshake.

It was such a thrilling weekend for so many reasons.

There were tough bits and not so tough bits but they all added up to create a wonderful experience that has made me stronger, tougher, happier, more mindful, and that is the beauty of endurance sport. Not once was it a competition. Not once did I look at another runner as anything but a fellow comrade. Not once did I feel anything but thankfulness to the selfless volunteers who stood out in the heat to feed us, water us and reassure us. Every single person was the experience and I am so grateful for it.

Thank you Centurion

SDW 100

I am sure like most of the running population, I have been pining after a good race. My phone also helpfully reminds me of all the wonderful memories of past races with photos popping up weekly. This, along with reading Vassos Alexander’s new book ‘how to run a marathon’, has made me reminisce about all the amazing races I have done.

The funny thing is, most of them weren’t fast or something I had seriously trained for but they were FUN, always fitted into a weekend and I would thoroughly recommend the following, in no particular order.

The Marathon du Medoc and the Bacchus

A marathon, fancy dress, loads of wine, straight into a post-run party.

Note: getting a late flight out of Gatwick to Bordeaux on a Friday night(Saturday race day) and drinking until the early hours, turning up already over the drinking limit of most Saturday evenings to start the race is also thoroughly encouraged if you’re fairly relaxed about marathon running.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much as in these races. The amount of wine consumed in my Medoc(France) experience and the twice I’ve done the Bacchus(Denbies Vineyard in Dorking, our wedding venue 9 years ago) whilst running was ridiculous.

The last time we did the Bacchus with friends, we went dressed as tennis players and with the assistance of a tennis ball on a piece of elastic, set up more progressively drunken impromptu human swing ball games where one participant was the ‘pole’ holding the end of the elastic on top of their head whilst the other players swung at the ball on the other end of the elastic. We came dead last and we’re drinking from the bottles towards the end!

In another, we re-enacted the cluedo murder scene on the finish line, again not pulling off looking remotely sober. Such fun.

These races come with health warnings- if you’ve completed the race ‘successfully’ be prepared for your marathon hangover to last for at least a week after the race.

Man vs Horse

A 20ish mile run in Llanwrtyd Wells where runners race riders on horseback. Simple as that really. Such fun and a great drink up in the post race pub after.

Jersey (Round the Rock) and Guernsey Ultras

I do like running round an island and it doesn’t get much prettier than these 2 races. Challenging yet not too far(48 miles and 36 miles) so getting a flight back home after the race is manageable.

I do also like running round the Isle of Wight but it’s a little further, especially if you do it all in one go!

The Great Glen Way

We haven’t done the race but had a mini adventure one wedding anniversary. Sleeper train to fort William on Friday night after work. Start running and, with an evening hotel stopover, finish at Inverness airport on Sunday afternoon for a flight home.

Loved it!

Midnight Sun Marathon

Still my pb at 3hrs 27, the midnight sun marathon starts at 8.30pm on Saturday night and the aim is to run during the midnight sun(ok I finished a few minutes short but I’ll take the pb).

Awesome race in the Arctic Circle involving a long time on 2 flights. It was Mark’s surprise 40th birthday present so we splashed out and stayed for 2 nights instead of the usual marathon pit stop trip. Tromso is a funny place and a trip to the local museum was a horrifying experience of animal trap enactments with poor former-arctic animals- not one for the animal lovers out there.

Thankfully when buying the kids a present, the gift shop was full of very cute and fluffy cuddly toys with all their limbs, no fake blood and minus the savage metal traps.

Mark and I spent the race criss crossing each other in bouts of feeling fine and feeling not fine. Neither of us had trained much but fit enough to get round just fine and we ended up crossing the finish line together- perfect!

Obviously we went for a recovery swim the day after too. Brrr

There are so many races and runs I’m thinking about now I’ve started- the XNRG The Pony through New Forest, running round the Isle of Wight, running round Holy Island in Wales(on a whim), London to Brighton(a love/hate relationship that has brought me back 3 times) and many many others with great memories of camaraderie and friendship I’ll never forget about.

Other races I’ve loved have been Otillo Swimruns in the vast beauty of the Scilly Isles and then swimming from an island offshore and running through the hustle and bustle of Cannes- just stunning.

Aah 2021 what will you bring? Mostly a load of deferment races that I’ve forgotten I had entered and am wholly unprepared for- no change there then 😉

What are your favourite race(s)?

Run Fun Run

Over the past week or so I have come to decision to end my attempt to do the Arch to Arc in July 2020. I know it is the right decision because I only feel relief and happiness right now.

Why did I enter the Arch to Arc?

I wanted to do something big. Something that would stretch the limits of my fitness and become an achievement that was more than the generic ultra. I wanted to use my swimming ability to swim the channel again but this time be legitimately warm and floaty in a wetsuit!

How did I see myself succeeding?

I felt the Arch to Arc was very doable. Not easy, but doable. The swimming would require dedication but I had swum a channel relay in 2019 and a 24mile/24 hour swim. I had swum the channel before so knew how it felt to succeed. The running just needed to become more efficient- I had run 100 miles in October 2019 plus lots of other ultras so I had the confidence that I could do the 87 miles to Dover. The bike would come later. Again, I had completed 180 miles around the loop at Brands Hatch in a 12 hour event… I felt that once I got to the end of the swim, I would be fit enough to cycle to Paris.

Why did I change my mind?

I had a blast in 2019 doing events that were sociable but tough. I got some injuries(but had so much fun doing it!) and felt like I could go into winter fighting for and ready to train.

As it got closer to December, I found that I was struggling to motivate myself to train. I couldn’t be bothered and instead thought that I would drink lots of red wine and do very little exercise in an attempt to get everything out of my system before training started ‘proper’ in January.

December was fun 🙂 but January didn’t really get going. A hip/knee niggle had stopped me from running after I had limped across Scotland in 2 days in November; I developed a bad stomach and presumed I had developed a food intolerance, which was odd as I’ve never had any issues before.

I slightly resented not being able to enter events in 2020. I love events. It’s how I do most of my training. I am not a ‘training’ kind of person. I’ve never created a spreadsheet or particularly followed a plan… my exercise usually revolves around a sociable club session or the need to make a journey where I can run or cycle. I do get myself on a turbo or a solitary swim but ultimately I like going somewhere or being with people.

The SOLO Arch to Arc was something I thought I could deal with- solo events include the camaraderie of fellow challengers and the ‘team’ you create around yourself but ultimately they ask you to dive deep into your inner being and be comfortable with being by yourself for long periods of time.

I realised that, although I’m comfortable spending time in my own company, I don’t really want to be there for long periods of time! I want to be with people. I want to be with my husband and my kids. I don’t WANT to sacrifice that precious time for a hobby.

What was the breaking point?

I had been at the Enduroman Lanzarote swim camp. I had a fantastic time and Eddie and Rachel who run Enduroman are the most wonderful people that I think I can safely call friends. I had completed a 6 hour swim with really positive thoughts the whole way and the whole week just felt great(other than a bad stomach for a few of the days). I hadn’t felt homesick and, although I had some major panics about leaving the boys for 4 nights before I went, the time went by relatively easily.

When I got back I suddenly regressed back to being upset by training, panicking about organising daily life and just generally being a bit of a stress bag at home.

One evening I burst out with ‘I don’t want to do the Arch to Arc’. I expected Mark to tell me that it would all be ok and I was just having a moment but instead he did the best thing that anyone could ever have done and told me the truth; he thought I hadn’t been happy since I signed up for it. It wasn’t something that happened straight away but it was a pressure that had built up over the months to the point where I was actually unhappy.

The next few days were filled with emails and phone calls with Enduroman. Eddie and Rachel were both so supportive- they know me and they know the event very well; Rachel is an A2A athlete amongst many other achievements and Eddie was the very first to complete the A2A- both are the most humble and kind people I’ve known and I really treasure their support.

What next?

I am so excited but I mustn’t enter everything!! I already have a 24 hour track race in April and a 300km bike ride in June. I’m thinking of a local Ironman and maybe a marathon swim. I doesn’t really matter what events I enter, what matters is that I’m very happy and motivated again- all thanks to my amazing husband.

Lessons

I’ve learnt that I don’t want to do solo events(at the moment)

I’ve learnt that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.

I’ve learnt how important my family really are to me (but that it’s still important to be ‘me’ and do the things I love doing).

I’ve learnt that it is ok to admit when something is too much.

I’ve learnt that I stress can present itself in many different ways.

I’ve learnt that an event doesn’t define you- it’s just a hobby and the enjoyment of that hobby has got to be the main factor.

Why I quit the Arch to Arc

Autumn 100

The reason for entering the Autumn 100 was to complete a long distance run the year before my ArchtoArc where I will be running 89 miles from London to Dover.

I started the A100 a few years back and dropped at 50 miles… I had entered on a bit of a whim(maybe subconsciously to find my limits) and I found my limits that day!

Fast forward to 12th October and I was once again toeing the start line. This time failure was not an option. If I walked for 50 miles, then I walked for 50 miles but I was going to complete 100 miles on foot. For the days leading up to the race I was SO nervous. I would be stepping into the unknown and I just didn’t know what to expect from myself. Most people would probably have done more weekly mileage in the lead up to this race but juggling 3 sports, a job and a family I had a 5 week ramp up of mileage culminating in a 60 mile week(which is a lot for me).

Working through sleep deprivation was another reason for doing this race and the long hours of October darkness would ensure that I felt the full force of manipulating my body clock! A few weeks back I rode 180 miles around Brands Hatch overnight(followed by Reigate Half Marathon in the morning) and was surprise at my adaptability to cycling through the night- hopefully this event had helped.

The Centurion Autumn 100 is 4 x 25 miles legs(12.5miles out and 12.5miles back with a checkpoint at around halfway and at the furthest point). The route takes runners along the Thames Path for legs 1 and 4 and The Ridgeway for legs 2 and 3, creating a sort of cross shape on the map.

The forecast was fairly straightforward. It would be wet. The chances of rain for the entire 28 hour allowance was high. On the upside, the temperature was set to stay in 2 figures so at least it would not be freezing cold.

At first, I was adamant that I would not use the allowed ‘pacer’ from 50 or 75 miles as I wanted to race independently and without distraction. As time got closer to the event, Mark suggested he needed to do a long run and that he could be my pacer for the final 50 miles. Best decision we ever made!

Starting lap 1 I felt relaxed and ensured that I didn’t push forwards at any point. 9.30-10 min miles would be fine and with lots of gates in the first few miles, the pace was naturally restrained. The ground underfoot along the Thames Path was muddy and this was a continued theme for the rest of the run. The more it rained, the muddier the ground became. It was energy sapping but because it was a constant for the entire race, it became our normal.

My hips started to hurt worryingly early- I think before 10 miles. By the end of the 25 mile lap I was feeling anxious about the rest of the race… there was no way I was DNFing so the only option was to work through the pain! I grabbed my drop bag from Goring Village Hall and put my lightweight rain jacket in my bag. I was still in shorts but had put a long sleeved top on and would soon add another layer as the rain soaked through. I didn’t spend much time in the checkpoint and grabbed a few jam sandwiches to eat on the way out to lap 2. I knew Mark was meeting me at the end of this 25 mile lap and as I headed out I decided to put an audio book on(Vassos Alexander). Suddenly it was like someone had flicked a switch; I felt great- relaxed and calm. I stopped to check a sign and paused my watch- a sign that I felt more like I was on a training run and not in a race(I never pause my watch in a race). The Ridgeway leg was great- more mud but more hills to walk up and jog down. Each leg had a halfway checkpoint(and the same on the way back) as well as a turnaround checkpoint. They were all brilliantly stocked with sandwiches, cheese, sweets, chocolate and enthusiastic volunteers ready to help with anything. I generally had rather a nice time and was happy with my pace. The sky started to darken with about 3 miles to go. I kept jogging, too lazy to get my head torch out of my bag. With 2 miles to go it was getting pretty dark. I caught up with a guy I had seen earlier in fantastic pink calf guards. We both agreed we would be tuning into our night vision and continued running. Thankfully, just as it was getting too dark to see the path in front of our eyes, another guy I had been running with earlier approached with a headtorch on. We all stuck together(or myself and pink calf guard guy stuck with him) until we entered Goring for the second time. Mark was there and it was so lovely to see him – before the run I was adamant I wanted to do this on my own and take whatever the race was to throw at me. The idea of a ‘pacer’ made me uneasy… sometimes in a long race you get into your own head and when someone comes into that bubble it can disrupt everything. That didn’t happen. I was SO excited to see Mark and SO happy that he would be running next to me for the next 50 miles.

We headed out into the Ridgeway again. It was dark and I was quite cold but we started running. My heart rate was at its lowest even though we were jogging uphill. I was happy, catching up on the day and what Mark had done with the boys. I felt great. The first checkpoint came at around 6 miles into the leg. The little tent in the middle of nowhere was blaring out Groove Armada’s ‘I See You Baby’. I had a jig, top up of tailwind and a chunk of cheese and was ready to go. Heading out onto the next section which would be 6.5 miles out and 6.5 miles back I started to feel really weary for the first time. We were still travelling uphill and the terrain was unforgiving. The beam of light from my headtorch revealed an endless path of mud and being on a ridge meant the wind and rain was driving at us; it felt never ending. Every step I took towards the next checkpoint was spent dreading the steps I would have to take back along this churned up track. Eventually we got to the checkpoint- more colourful fairy lights lit up the tent and the warm faces of the volunteers welcomed us.

A few bites of watermelon and a top up of tailwind(never had this before but drank litres and litres of the stuff – easy calories) and we turned to face the 12.5 miles back to Goring. At the midway checkpoint I stopped and put on my waterproof trousers. My legs were really cold and it was affecting my core temperature- an extra layer on my legs made a huge difference and I suddenly felt a lot better. Although the way out had felt all uphill, so did the way back- how was this possible?? We trudged and jogged, I was now desperate for the miles to tick over and made a huge effort to run down some of the longer descents. We finally reached the road that would take us into Goring. The pavement was bliss compared to the mud. I had doubts at this point though, I kept voicing that I didn’t know how I was going to run the last leg- I had no idea how hard I was going to have to dig.

As we jogged into Goring we were met by friend Hedley who had just paced a competitor for the final 25miles to the finish. He was a huge help replacing my headtorch batteries and topping up my bottles whilst I took off wet layers and put on dry ones.

I had a quick coffee whilst sorting my stuff out and we quickly left Goring for the final time. I worked out that we had just over 7 hours to complete the next 25 miles in order to make it back under 24 hours and went out ready to smash it. 400 metres down the Thames Path and the enormity of the task in hand hit home…I couldn’t care less what time we finished in- I was done and ready to fight for survival!

The first checkpoint came far too quickly considering this lap was meant to be around 27miles(there was a detour in place to avoid an unsafe bridge). I went to the toilet and heard Mark talking to the marshals. When I came out he told me to make sure I had enough fuel as the next checkpoint was 9 miles away. 9 MILES! The next 9 miles was by far the hardest of the entire race. I was so tired that my eyes began to close and as much as I tried to keep them open I kept falling asleep whilst running. All sorts of funny noises and whimpers kept escaping my mouth and at some point a few miles away from the checkpoint I just broke down in tears. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. Mark kept reassuring me that it would pass but conversation was limited. We stopped and he told me to put my head on his chest and close my eyes. He held me really tight and I felt my body go limp within seconds. 15 seconds later and I lifted my head off his chest- he told me to do that as many times as I needed to and we jogged on with a renewed grit. I struggled on, tiredness overtaking the pain in my legs. We went past a few benches next to the river and I finally gave in and told Mark I had to sit down and close my eyes. I sat and instantly fell asleep, still aware of a few people who passed asking if we were ok. A few minutes later I felt the cold creep into my bones and jolted awake- I knew I had to get moving. I was freezing and had to get jogging. I slapped my face a few times, trying to keep awake. Funny whimpering noises and lots of face slapping later and we finally, finally caught sight of Reading. It seemed like an age but we saw familiar faces coming back in the other direction. One man told us it wasn’t far to go-2.5km. It took forever but finally we reached the checkpoint (which was up a flight of stairs!). Just before we arrived I burst into tears again- I couldn’t bear to think about doing the return journey. Once inside the volunteers looked concerned as I walked to the furthest chair, sat down and closed my eyes. All I wanted to do was sleep. There were others in the room that looked like they were DNFing but I wasn’t really paying attention to much else around me.

A lovely lady went and made me a black coffee and pulled a table over to the chair I was sitting in. I put my head on the table and felt myself falling into unconsciousness again. When I woke, probably only 5 minutes later,I felt a little better and drunk my black coffee. I spent time nibbling at bits of cake and eating some grapes. The mile before and including the stop totalled 43 minutes so we were clearly there for around 25 minutes although I had no real concept of time at that point. As we left(I was wearing all of my layers and 2 of Mark’s) I was freezing cold. We walked and didn’t do anything but walk for the next 13 miles. I somehow felt much happier. The coffee had worked and I felt more alert. I was happy that the pressure of time was no longer there and that the mileage was slowly ticking down. The sky had begun to lighten and slowly night turned to a grey day. The next battle came after we had left the final checkpoint. My feet started to really hurt. Mark’s feet were also hurting. I just wanted it to end but walking at about 3 miles an hour meant that miles were going slowly. Step by step we got closer and closer. Finally we saw the bridge into Goring. I felt the emotion build up and just before we round the final corner into the village I turned and gave Mark a huge hug- no way could I have done that final 25 miles without him there. Composing myself, I said we should jog the final 100 metres to the finish. We did and it was such a relief to get there. I made a little joke about sprinting across the timing mat and then entered the hall where it was kind of like any other finish of a running race. Autopilot kicked in and I received my medal and tshirt, had a quick photo and ordered a coffee. I grabbed my drop bag and got changed quickly- Mark had to drive us home and needed to keep going on adrenaline!

We drove home and passed out for an hour before my mum brought the kids back. We then visited Mark’s parent with the kids where we got fed and had naps!! My mum was amazing and did the school runs on Monday as well as looking after our lively 3 year old!

My legs are slowly returning to normal but I don’t have much recovery time as 6 days after finishing the A100 I will be on the start line of OtillO Swimrun Cannes(apologies in advance to my teammate Adam Wade for being slightly off peak!!)

Many congratulations to all who finished the A100 and to all the amazing volunteers who selflessly sat in the middle of nowhere for an entire day.

Massive thanks to our family who looked after the children and generally took care of everything else.

To Mark for always saying the right things at the right time- it’s rare to be able to put your full trust in someone when times get pretty desperate but I know I could do just that.

Autumn 100 2019

Ever fancied spending most of your Easter bank holiday swimming at Guildford Lido? Then this is the event for you!

The challenge: swim 1 mile, on the hour, EVERY hour for 24 hours. Simple.

The sun dance worked and the weather was on our side- a forecast of beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures during the day (although the clear skies meant for a chilly night). I was really looking forward to catching up with some friends, some who were supporting and some who were swimming solos and relays.

We put our tents up on Friday afternoon and it was fantastic to pitch with the rest of the Tri Surrey team, Stacey, Martin, Pete and Jem as well friends Kosh and Neal and our friend Tasha.

7am Saturday morning and I left to drive to Guildford via Starbucks, arriving far too early but with plenty of chatting time. The klaxon sounded at 8.55 and we walked to Lane 1, meeting our lane buddies for the next 24 hours.

The lane consisted of myself, Stacey Angliss from Tri Surrey, Tasha Morey, Hayley(whom I had swum 100x100m with last December) Andy, Niall and Chris. The 7 of us started out strong and stayed in a train for the first mile. As the day and night progressed, we differed in pace but everyone made sure that someone else had a pair of feet to swim on!

The day was stunning, the sun was strong and the miles ticked by nicely. Mark came down with the boys and they played with Tasha’s daughter. It was good to see them knowing I was in for a long night!

My routine remained the same. Swim, get out and dry off with a towel/change costume, put on towel/dry robe, make a drink and grab a snack from the tent, sit on camping chair on poolside and post photos of chosen snack on Strava, reapply suncream, get ready to go back in the pool.

This routine worked well and I felt great. My pace was dropping off from 25 min miles to 26 minutes and I was losing the feet of the people in front. At first this bothered me, that I was the weakest link and couldn’t help the others, but I soon realised that we were in it as a team and even though I was regularly finishing behind the lane, everyone stayed standing at the end to welcome me in at the end of the mile.

Just before the 8 pm(12 mile) swim I had a bit of a low. Maybe it was the sun going down; maybe Mark turning up and a rush of emotion; maybe the white chocolate milkshake….whatever it was I suddenly felt very sick. I let a little bit of panic rise up and felt my emotions take over.

I got in the water and just concentrated on not being sick in the pool and eventually the feeling went away. It however took another 2 hours of just having water and green tea to stop feeling bad.
It was a relief to put my wetsuit on after 12 miles…I was starting to get cold as the sun had gone down and it made a difference to have a safety blanket!

The whole lane were motoring along beautifully…I was struggling to keep hold of feet and so found myself on my own for a fair bit. This did mean that I added even more time onto my mile without the effects of drafting but I was happy enough and didn’t swim slower than 27 minutes for a mile. Niall was an amazing person…he was quicker than the rest of the lane and so lapped me around the 800m-1000m mark. He would overtake me then slow right down so I could sit on his feet. He would stay there for the remainder of his mile, just dragging me round. It almost brought a tear to my eye at how someone could be that selfless and I hope that I can help someone out in the same way someday! Niall would also be the last person from our lane to leave the pool, waiting for us all to finish and then for us all to get out- true sportsmanship.

I decided to go and try to sleep in my tent after mile 15 so at 11.35 I crawled in and lay down. I slept almost instantly and was dribbling when Mark shouted 7 minutes to go until the next swim! Having the sleep had felt good so I decided to do it again after the next mile. I stuffed a bit of food down my neck and slept again at 00.35 until 00.53!

Miles 17-20 were tough but I treated myself to the heated marquee. It sounds like a fantastic idea but being warm and snuggly makes getting into the water so hard!Plus, sitting on a plastic garden chair at 2am when you just want to sleep is like torture!

Tasha was doing amazing. I only found out after the event that she wasn’t intending on doing it until I had text earlier in the week when I saw her name on an email. Then she was only going to do 12 hours. She completed all 24 hours with no wetsuit and completely looked after me in and out of the water, especially in the last 3 miles. Champion.

I kept eating little bits after each swim and the night was a bit of a blur. I decided to lay down in my tent again at 4.35am. The sky was still black but as I lay down I heard the most glorious sounds; birds singing… dawn was coming!

As I crawled into my tent again at 5.35am the sky was getting light- it was an amazing feeling but I was still so exhausted…only 3 more swims to go.

I looked at the hot tub longingly as we lined up for mile 22. Stacey told me she was going to sit in it after mile 23. I thought this was an amazing plan and vowed to meet her there!

Mile 23 and 24 were just about getting the job done. Tasha was suffering with cramp as she pushed off the wall and said she was staying with me. We took turns to lead 200m each then rotate round. It was the most lovely feeling to know that we were in this together and, although I knew that my swimming speed was much slower than hers, she was unequivocally going to be with me until our last stroke.

The last length of mile 24 was wonderful. Tasha and I were trailing nearly 100m behind the others and swam side by side down the final length. I could hear people clapping and cheering, their support flooding the poolside. As we reached the end of the length, the rest of our team were waiting. handshakes and high fives at the ready. Someone suggested a group hug and we all bundled in. I’m not usually one for a group hug but there was something very special about looking everyone in the eye with the full appreciation of what we had all gone through. The highs and lows, be it at different times, were all very real and we all knew what it had taken to get us through the last day and night.

The benefit of being the faster swimmers meant we got first dibs on the hot tub and piled in! It was just so glorious knowing we didn’t have to swim again.

Soon it was back to real life and everyone was taking down tents, getting dressed and saying goodbyes. Mark and I had separate cars and managed to drive to Mark’s parents for an Easter egg hunt with the boys before I passed out for a few hours. The sleep deprivation is tough and on Monday evening I’m still catching up. The shoulders are sore but relatively ok. My face is peeling- senstive skin and 24 hours of chlorine, sun and suntan lotion doesn’t do it much good!

This is an amazing event for anyone wanting to test their endurance, mental ability and fitness. Its manageable if you can stay warm and stay focused- the beauty of 24 miles is that there is a mini finish line at the end of each swim- you can use the breaks in between to laugh, chat, cry, question your sanity verbally to others… there’s not many events where you can do this sitting in camping chair in the sun with a fresh coffee 🙂

My main advice:

  • Be organised with your kit- put your hat and goggles in the same place. Hang up wet gear and have your warm stuff ready to go.
  • Be prepared to be flexible. Change your food, clothing, pace- it doesn’t matter as long as you keep swimming.
  • You will feel sh!t at some point. It’s normal. As Mark told me “embrace the misery” (I told him to F*** off with his advice at the time but he did have a point)
  • Smile. It’s just swimming 🙂

 

Some people I would like to mention:

Mark- He said when I had finished that I could have done it without him but I honestly wouldn’t have wanted to- even just having him sitting beside me was a comfort and none of this would be possible without him.

Stacey, Martin, Neal, Kosh: seeing your resilience after each mile was inspiring.
Stacey, when you looked at me wide-eyed at some point in the middle of the night I thought you were going to cry and tell me how much your shoulder hurt. Instead you looked like you were going to cry and questioned how on earth you were going to get a brush through your matted hair!! It made me laugh so much!

Martin- as much as we very rarely take you seriously, you battled some serious demons and the smile on your face after you put your wetsuit on was the biggest relief!
Neal and Kosh- kudos for going non-wetsuit, Kosh for continuing with innuendos  and Neal for throwing up at the end- you left it all in the pool…and the bin.

All the other soloists including Sheridan, Kate, Jason and probably others I have forgotten. I am so thankful for your friendly faces and chat- you continue to inspire me in what I do.

Well done and thank you to everyone-relays,solos, support crew

 

 

 

2swim4life 2019

I can’t remember the exact moment that the idea of entering the ArchtoArc popped into my head but it had definitely been dwindling in my sub-conscience for some time. Mark completed it in 2012 and the journey he went through, at the time, seemed incomprehensible. When he completed it, he had the record for the fastest and the first person to complete the swim without a wetsuit (Mark still has to fastest swim time of 11hours 47mins). It was simply nuts.
Fast-forward 6 years to summer 2018 and I announced that (I think) I wanted to do the ArchtoArc.

The ArchtoArc consists of a run(87miles) from Marble Arch to Dover; Swimming the English channel; Cycling 181 miles from Calais to Paris.

As described on the Enduroman website: ‘ The clock begins ticking when the athlete sets off from Marble Arch in London and doesn’t stop until they reach the Arc de Triomphe in Paris many hours later. As of the end of the 2018 season, only 34 athletes have successfully completed the challenge.’

I’ve compartmentalised the event so much that just writing this is making me feel a bit sick!
I’ve got a lot of training in front of me and, although swimming is my main strength, it is the part of the challenge I’m most nervous about. I have faced some demons in the Channel and I struggle mentally with the long distance swims so to go back will be a challenge to say the least.

Since announcing that I will be doing the ArchtoArc in 2020, I have found it interesting that so many people have asked me when I will start training. I’ve spend a proportion of the last 8 years challenging myself in endurance sport so, to me, this is an evolutionary next step that will require huge amounts of training but hopefully with a little bit of experience behind me.

To date I have completed 15 marathons (pb 3hrs 27), 23 ultra marathons and  2 iron distance triathlons(best time 11hrs 47mins). I have swum 2 x  length Lake Zurich(26km); 2 x Lake Windermere (10.5 miles); Lake Annecy(15km); Lanzarote to Fuerteventura; 4 English Channel relays;1 x failed English Channel Solo(aborted 200m from French shore due to fog after 14 hours) 1 x English Channel Solo(12hrs 24mins) and Jersey to France(3rd fastest ever crossing at the time 6hrs 50mins).

2019 should hopefully see me tick off some more marathons and ultras (round Guernsey and the Autumn100 entered so far); Austria Ironman and a channel relay.

Most important of all I am looking to remain consistent in my training. For so many years I have done events based on some pretty sporadic training and although my fitness has risen and my mindset has become pretty relaxed, I have also got injured and struggle to recover from the events that I probably wasn’t quite prepared for! My aim is to do less events and keep the training strong and consistent, slowly ramping up the distances and run-swim bric training.

I have also started back at Dynamo Boxing(Hard Fitness)  with Adam Wright- he got me ready for my first Channel swim and I was bloody strong so I have a lot of trust in his ability to get me strong again! Since having Bodi nearly 3.5 years ago I have done very little strength work so my core needs a lot of work!!

I hope to keep this blog updated with how training progresses and am looking forward to the journey over the next 15 months 🙂

Enduroman Arch to Arc logo

Enduroman Arch2Arc

I was VERY nervous about this event. 3.8km swim, a 3 lap very hilly bike and an off-road marathon over 4 laps.

I have had an odd year in terms of training after injuring my knee early on in the year at the Pilgrim ultra.

Since then I have completed a couple of marathons, a 100km run and Man vs Horse (22 miles cross country). I’ve done a couple of 100 mile+ rides and some swimming (although I realised not over about 3km in one session since the beginning of the year!!) All of these events were completed with a small amount of trepidation and some knee discomfort; I haven’t really felt ‘fit’ at any point this year but have relied upon my base fitness, some muscle memory and a big glug of resilience!

I hoped that I could complete the Bastion in around 13- 14 hours; 1 hour swim, 7 hour bike, 4-5 hour run.

The race started at 6am and at 5.15am I was nervously prodding my bike and chatting to Lucy and Michael who race for Bayliss Multisport Team and are coached by Stephen and Bella. Both had an amazing race and Lucy won the women’s for the 3rd consecutive year and Michael got an excellent 3rd. Suddenly the race organiser came into transition and shouted that it would be a non-wetsuit swim as the water temperature had risen to 26 degrees. A huge grin spread over my face; I hadn’t wanted to swim in a wetsuit as I had been so hot at the lake recently. As a swimmer I am more comfortable without a wetsuit but as I looked around transition, no one else was smiling. Nervous and weaker swimmers would rely upon a wetsuit for buoyancy and this could potentially mean a much slower and more tiring swim for these people.

At 6am we entered the beautiful lake at Hever Castle and swum to the start buoys. I eyed up the more confident looking swimmers hoping I could catch a ride on their feet. The starter horn went off and I swam hard. The field spread out quickly and I soon found myself leading a small group with another few swimmers pulling away from me. From about 500m into the 2 lap course I stayed in the same position. I could see a couple of people way out in front and when I looked behind I was leading quite a big group. This group slowly dwindled off the pace and I made sure that no one was going to come round me. After 1 lap I had 4 people on my feet but the rest of the field had dropped way back. The swim was beautiful and spectators were able to stand on the bridges and cheer as we swam underneath. At the end of each lap there was a short river section that was so full of weeds and green river-stuff that I had to clamp my mouth shut and try not to ingest any pond life. 200m to go and I had just one person on my feet so I gave a kick and dropped him so that I had a clear space to get out of the lake. A marshal helped me up the ramp and I ran under the beautiful arches into T1. I had swum a 1.08 which is alright considering it was non-wetsuit and this was the furthest I had swum in months! I was 5th or 6th out of the water overall and 3rd placed woman.

Bike shoes, helmet and race number on, I collected my bike and off I went. Straight up an incline. I did not feel strong! I was buzzing from the swim and grinned away as people cheered from the roadside but tried to pedal easy and remind myself that this was going to be a long day out on the bike. Being strong in the swim meant that the boys on their fast bikes would come past fairly regularly for the next few hours. This made me feel extremely slow but I reminded myself to just stay steady and to look after my legs as much as possible. I had been really worried about my knee because it had clicked the whole way through a ride a week ago and had been sore leading up to the race. I was relieved that it felt fine as I climbed the first few inclines. Climbing up to the Ashdown Forest I put my bike into the smallest gear I have and spun my legs up. Down the other side was wonderful and I felt happy that I had got around nearly half a lap feeling ok. As I reached the dual carriageway, which marked the furthest point of the course, Lucy came whizzing past and was her usual enthusiastic self…we had a brief exchange of ‘well dones’ and off she went! I made sure I said well done to nearly every person that either came past me or who I met on the out and back part of the course…in such a small race with a field of 100, I was quite surprised by how many people had clearly forgotten their manners(and their smiles)…I get that some people are really focussed but, hey, if the winner of the race can smile and nod on the bike then so can the rest of them 🙂

End of lap 1 and I had averaged 16.2 mph in a time of 2hrs15. Great, this would give me a few minutes buffer on the next 2 laps to get in under 7 hours. How wrong I was!! The 2nd lap started to sap the energy from my legs. My knee had started clicking and hurting so I kept my gears really low. I ate and drank and ate and drank but I was really struggling. At one point I felt great and thought I had got a second wind, but that soon left me. I decided that I was going to stop at the aid station just over halfway around the 2nd lap and use the toilet. I wasn’t desperate for the loo but I was desperate to get off my bike and stretch my back and my upper body. I also hadn’t worn my tri suit to cycle in before and was struggling with the thinner chamois.

I felt a relief when I started the 3rd lap knowing that each metre of tarmac I rode over would be the last time I rode it today. Unfortunately, I was completely worn down by the previous 2 laps and struggled to keep up my cadence even on the slightest inclines. The positive news was that my knee had stopped hurting- probably shocked that I had kept on hammering it! There was not really any flat on the course; it was either up or down. In previous laps the descents were glorious and a chance to stretch my legs and feel some speed; on the 3rd lap they took up as much energy as the uphills and my fatigued shoulders and neck meant that I couldn’t stay in one position for longer than a few minutes at a time so I was constantly changing from the hoods, to the drops, to my aero bars just trying to get some comfort. My average speed had dropped from 16.2mph on the first lap to 15.5 mph and the third lap saw it continue to drop to 15mph. My garmin was set to just show the time of day and I was glad that I didn’t have the constant reminder of how comparatively slow I was going. The final 20 miles felt like they took forever… the second half of the course was full of short sharp inclines that sapped all my energy. During the final few miles a lady came up behind me. She was taking part in the aqua bike and was also finishing her bike leg. We chatted for a few minutes and it completely took my mind off the pain that I was feeling…a short conversation had really come at the right time.

I felt nothing but relief as I turned left to head in towards transition. I hadn’t even thought about how I was going to run a marathon but plodding very slowly is my forte so I knew as long as my knee held up I was going to be ok. The bike had taken 7.5 hours- longer than I had anticipated but still giving me 5 hours to complete the marathon and get under 14 hours overall.

Riding onto a grassy bank, I wheeled my bike to T2 where it was taken to be racked and I entered the tent. I didn’t think sitting on a wooden bench could feel so comfortable but it was bliss to know that I didn’t have to be sitting on a bike saddle any longer!! I faffed around and took about 5 minutes putting on suncream, socks, shoes then trying to decide what combination of cap and sunglasses to wear and whether or not to put on calf guards. Instead I used them to wipe the sweat from my face as I stood up and prepared myself to run out of the tent and onto the marathon course.

The run was 4 laps of just over 10km. It was so so hot outside and I knew that the first thing I had to do was get my body temperature down. At every aid station there was a bucket of water and sponges and I drenched myself at every possible opportunity. I completed the first in 1hr 15mins…I had been spurred on by going past the girl I knew was in 3rd place and who unfortunately ended up DNFing. It wasn’t long however before another girl came past me and I was back into 4th. I completely lost my pace for the next 3 remaining laps. The course was beautiful; a gravel path led up a hill and then a grassy path ran around the lake followed by some stints through woodland and a few corn fields. The run wasn’t easy but it was a typical trail run and I would have liked to have run it with fresh legs! I was very thankful for the flat coke that I had drank at the 3-4 stops per lap… it was the only nutrition I had but totally did the job. Nearly everyone around me was in a similar state. I ran through the finish straight at the end of lap 2 and Michael, who had finished in 3rd, cheered me on and shouted “1 more lap!”. I corrected him that I had 2 more laps and it dawned on me that it could mean nearly another 3 hours!!

Once I was halfway round my 3rd lap I felt happier. Mark had dropped the kids with my mum and was busy running round the course in reverse; I think a lot of runners got to know him quite well! He told me the news that with 1700m to go to the finish, he had timed Lucy as 1min 10seconds behind the leading girl and he had told her to sprint.. he hadn’t known the outcome but we found out that Lucy had got the win by 6 seconds and this made me very happy and spurred me on!

The final lap was fine. I knew I would be finished soon and tried to enjoy the experience as much as possible. Although painfully slow, I managed to keep a sort of jog going and when I came into the finish line was completely ready to cross it! Medal presented, it was 8.30pm-14hrs and 31 minutes after starting at 6am. It was all a bit surreal finishing and I just wanted to get home. Mark and I had driven separately so I had to drive home and managed to take a pretty funky route in my tiredness.

It has taken me most of the week to start to recover and all thanks to my mum who had the kids on Sunday and Monday night so that I could have a lie-in.

As always, Mark dealt with my pre-race panicking (which went on for weeks ) and generally picked up all the pieces and said all the right things at the right times.

Would I do it again? Yes, but not next year…I would need to be very ready for it and make it a stronger race.

The Bastion

In a week and a half I will be getting round The Bastion triathlon at Hever Castle; 3.8km swim; a hilly 180km bike(10,000ft of climbing); and a trail marathon run.

Physical training has been sporadic due to injuries but I’ve done plenty of nuts events so have ensured the mental training has been ticked off!

I’m raising money for a very small charity in Swaziland, run from London by friends of a friend. Their story is truly incredible:

Since 2002, the African Village School Fund project has been a true labour of love for the founders, Rob Nestor & Lynn Frusher. After being selected for a reality TV series by Channel 4 , the Nestor-Frushers, along with their three children Daniel 13, Chloe 8 & Callum 4 years old, relocated to Swaziland in January 2001. Embarking on an 10-week adventure, the South London family settled in the village of Ekudzeni, homestead of the Shongwe family. They gave up many of their material comforts, and had to quickly acclimatise themselves to their new surroundings. The family lived in a hut with a thatched roof; without running water or electricity. They altered their diets, bathed in the local river, and lived without the modern convenience of public transport. The closest school was more than five miles away, requiring a two-mile walk to the bus stop in order to attend. Though the family  experienced acute culture shock, they grew  to love the village and the people.  The Nestor’s  wanted to help and support the community who had welcomed them, guided them and shared their lives with them. So in 2002 Rob returned to Swaziland met with the Elders to ask what they needed and came home to commence fundraising for a tractor. African Village School Fund was born.

Today, Rob and Lynn return to Ekudzeni at least once or twice yearly, in order to visit the projects and people in which they have invested nearly two decades of their lives. Obviously, with time, huge improvements have been made. Building the primary school encouraged a local bus route to start running regularly, the pre school is the only one for miles in this rural community, the indoor kitchen in the Home of Hope now enables cooking to be done comfortably in all weathers ,the homestead now has electricity although Mungo’s is still waiting to be connected, local people have found employment with AVSF and the Shongwe’s have become part of our family. What started out as a frivolous adventure turned out to be an amazing, life changing experience.

Giving any money to this charity would hugely benefit them.

You can do so and find out more at the links below.(the first links to Robert’s fundraising page- if you sponsor here please make sure you leave your name so I can thank you personally!)

Donate

https://mydonate.bt.com/events/iwilllhaveahalf/414473

Or via PayPal

https://www.paypal.me/AVSF

We have a Facebook page

https://m.facebook.com/AfricanVillageSchoolFund/

Website is

https://www.africanvillageschool.org.uk/

Twitter @AVSchoolFund

Thank you! Xx

The Bastion Triathlon and Fundraising

This was my 3rd consecutive year taking part in the L2B ultra and, after having a cracking year in 2017 clocking 12hrs 24, I was a bit more dubious about what the day had to bring.

Having been out for about 10 weeks with a knee injury, I did what every Physio probably recommends and eased gently back into my first run- the London Marathon. Knee felt ok so I did Milton Keynes 2 weeks later. Knee fine, I started Cranleigh trail marathon 6 days later. Ok, knee now not so fine so I opted for the half marathon option at the end of lap 1 of 2.

Ultra training… tick. I’m sure that was plenty enough miles!

2 weeks after Cranleigh and I was standing at the start line in Old Deer Park in Richmond alongside fellow Tri Surrey member Peter Starnes.

The day ticked along quite.nicely; Pete and I ran together and chatted and the miles just zoomed by. At around 30km in we were joined by Sophie and Ian, also Tri Surrey members. Ian was on car support and the plan was for Sophie to run with Pete until halfway and then perhaps over the South Downs towards the finish. It was great to have an injection of pace from Sophie and it freshened up the run. This was the first time I saw Mark and the boys and they continued to follow me, often quite literally down the road, all the way to Brighton.

By the time we got to 40km however I was beginning to overheat- the sun had broken through the haze and the day was heating up. I knew I needed to spend a bit more time at the 40km checkpoint in Outwood so let Pete and Soph go on and stayed a few extra minutes to guzzle some coke and squash and get a cereal bar down.

I was really hot running out of the checkpoint and, already at marathon distance, was starting to feel my lack of consistent training creep in. I generally felt ok in mind, which I’m happy about because my head usually goes before my body!

At about 50km I had to leave some new running friends and stop to stretch my calves… cramp was creeping in and I felt like they could spasm at any second. I needed salt. 6km to go to the next stop and it was agony. I jogged and walked but my head had blown to smithereens. I txt Mark to tell him I was going to pull out at Tulleys(56km) … his reply, although sympathetic, did not accept my decision. When I got to Tulleys, the first person I saw was Ian and it was such a relief to see a friendly face… I walked through to the marquee and Sophie was waiting; she informed me that Pete had struggled with cramp too and was currently getting a massage. Well, Pete and I had previously had a conversation about taking pleasure in other people’s misfortune and I’m guilty to say that knowing he was suffering too took the edge off my own suffering! Sorry Pete!

I scoffed most of a bag of salt and vinegar crisps and went in to give Pete some in the massage tent. I stuffed some dry roasted peanuts in my bag for the walk. I still wasn’t feeling all that keen on continuing the race and wanted to get out and away from the checkpoint as quickly as possible. Pete said he would be about 15 minutes longer so I decided that I needed to make my way out.

The race continued in peaks and troughs. My legs had well and truly deteriorated and any running I was doing was a proper shuffle… this was a worry with over 40km to go. Thankfully the demons in my head generally stayed on good behaviour but I was just finding it physically very very tough. My core muscles were tightening and hurting and my chest and breathing was really tight, probably due to the stinking cold and cough I had had for the 3 day run up to the race.

At one point about 65 km in, I climbed over a style and just sat down on the grass the other side of the fence. I don’t think I’ve ever just sat down in a running race but I was just exhausted and no amount of food or drink seemed to be helping.

Through the Ardingly checkpoint(67km) and Mark had txt to say they were in a cafe on the waterfront of the Ardingly resevoir. When I got to them, Mark asked if I wanted and ice cream. An offer I couldn’t refuse! I sat in the shade with the boys whilst Mark ran and got me a twister. Having anything cold was heavenly even though I was having to fight off a 2 year old Bodi who was eager to share Mummy’s ice cream. Having cooled down slightly, I carried on up the hill. I had one more sitting down incident where I saw a bench that had my name on it; I sat and swung my legs back and forth, taking great joy in the simplicity of sitting down!

Eventually I got to the Wivelsfield checkpoint(80km) and saw Mark, Sophie and Ian. I was broken but in my head I knew I just had to put one foot in front of the other.

The next 20km was a blur of painful shuffling and walking and I didn’t want to do anything at the Plumpton Checkpoint(87km) except grab some water and a banana and get the hell up and over Ditchling. I got talking to a girl who was a class runner, probably running a couple of minutes a mile faster than I had been but, being a marathon runner she wasn’t used to the distance and she had stopped for ages at each checkpoint so had only just caught up with me.

It was great to have company up Ditchling and she tried to get me jogging along the ridge with her… I lasted just a few minutes but she was far too quick for me so I ushered her on.

Another climb and a txt of encouragement from Jenny made me cry- I don’t think I’ve felt that desperate in a race for a very long time; I was digging deeper than I thought I could but there was no other option but to keep moving on.

The final hill from Falmer station took ages but I didn’t care… I knew that once I got to the top I just had a 2 mile flat section and then the racecourse would appear, like a mirage, across the other side of the road.

Mark was waiting for me at the road crossing to the racecourse and I nearly burst out crying. Indie was asleep so we arrange to meet in the car park which I was fine about- I didn’t want to hang around any longer than necessary!

I dragged my feet round the racecourse towards the finish- it seemed to take an age but eventually I heard the cheers and finally, finally reached the line in 14 hrs 12 minutes.

I smiled, said thank you, accepted medal and t-shirt, took 2 sips of prosecco and threw the rest on the grass as I walked straight to the waiting car.

I’m not sure what I felt- mostly exhaustion; some relief that I had finished; a sense of satisfaction that most of the emotions I felt were due to complete necessity to dig to my deepest guts.

Pete battled some massive bouts of cramp and no doubt had to dig twice as deep to get the the finish in just under 17 hours… absolute kudos to you.

Sophie and Ian were amazing and, as always, proved themselves to be the best support crew around!

Mark and the boys are my world and to have them there was invaluable; the ice cream, the high-fives and the little cuddles from Indie with a reassuring “well done Mummy, you’re doing really well”, when I was crying on a roadside… well… nothing can beat that for motivation.

The only spanner in the recovery works was the Vitality Westminster mile the day after- probably the most pain I had felt all weekend. Feeling like I had the worst hangover in the world married up with being hit by a bus, and then chasing Indie round a 13 min mile was my limit… I deserved my afternoon nap!!

So, usually after reading my blog, I get at least one person to sign up to that event- who’s it going to be this time? You? 🙂

London to Brighton Ultra 2018