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? 🙂