“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” John Muir
A week out from the race, I feel like my recap may be a bit different from the one I may have written it on the same day, or the day after. The immediate pain of the event has faded and the relief at having reached the finish line has passed. Running has been very much in my mind over the past week as I have thought about where I am and what I would like to do.
On Race Day I arrived at Foxlake HQ at around 7am. The weather was not like this last Saturday, but Foxlake looks great fun on a nice day.
I was concerned that the two hours till the start of the race would pass slowly, but I found I had plenty to keep me occupied. I had to register, get my number and get my chip sorted. I tried to eat some more breakfast, but couldn’t manage. (I had porridge before I left the house and this filled me.) I got chatting to a few veterans of ultra running and was interested to hear of all their experiences. I am fascinated by people who do this regularly and how they work it into their lives. We were loaded onto buses to take us to the start line at Port Seaton. Bag drops were provided both at the finish area (Foxlake) and at the start so there was plenty of opportunity to shed layers at the start and have fresh clothes waiting at the finish.
The weather was harsh throughout. This is one of the few times on a run of distance that I have not thought about taking my hat off. I also had ear warmers on underneath which stayed on the entire time. My gloves did come off briefly near the start, but I needed them most of the time. I cannot recall ever racing in both tights and a jacket either. There were rain showers and sleet showers throughout the run, but the exposed parts with the wind were the worst.
The first 3 miles were along a narrow coastal path:
My fears of getting lost were unfounded as the route was well-marked and on the couple of occasions when I was by myself a quick look to see the markings or a fellow runner in the distance reassured me I was on the right path.
The first few miles were filled with speed time calculations in my head. I was concerned to feel the ongoing IT band issue starting to irritate after around 6 miles. I knew it was likely going to hurt, but had hoped to get further in before it became a problem. Unfortunately, the pain got worse as the race went on and the sudden movements, slipping on muddy trails exacerbated the situation.
The terrain was more challenging than I had expected and I frequently felt like I had under-estimated the challenge. The mud was horrendous at times and it was difficult to walk, let alone run. The hills were also a bit more undulating than I had expected.
This is the view from the top of a stretch that felt like miles and miles…
The aid stations were a real beacon of light in what felt like a grim struggle. I loved the orange slices and the kindness of marshals could push an emotional runner over the edge! Due to the conditions, at every aid station we were asked if we were “too cold” and if we wanted to continue. As the race went on, it was mighty tempting to say “No.”
This was the halfway point at North Berwick at the changeover point for relay runners. I could very cheerfully have finished at this point after a blustery run along the beach.
The stretch from the halfway point to around 20 miles was my most successful part of the race. From here on, the wheels really came off. My leg hurt more and more and the run through muddy, squelchy paths was soul-destroying.
By the time I reached the last aid station I felt incoherent and broken. I glugged Coke that was offered and it tasted great,
Billy and the boys were here at this point to cheer me on. I think I told Billy I was dying. I was barely moving!
The last 5 miles took me just over an hour. My leg was really hurting and the run in along the coast was hellish. I fell several times in the mud and the wind in my face and occasional spray from the sea was not helping me get anywhere. The camaraderie of fellow runners did help a little as I realised I was not the only one suffering. A man told me he was “broken” and he became slightly hysterical at the ongoing trenchfoot inducing conditions saying he couldn’t bear running through any more “shit”. Another runner told me he was “a right good runner” and had achieved a 1.28 half marathon a couple of weeks previously. He then shook his head and said, “But this…” I just kept saying “I don’t know what I was thinking. I completely underestimated this.”
It almost felt like an outer-body experience by the time I reached the home strait. My dreams of a sub 5 hour finish had long since disappeared in the mud or the winds and I limped across in 5hr 30 mins.
My official photographer captured all my grimaces. (Billy said I looked the “most buggered” of all the finishers he saw!!)
Fortunately my official photographer also managed a cute shot:And a selfie 🙂
A change of clothes later and things did not seem so bad.
The stats made me feel a better about my time:
I have learned so much from this experience. Taking part and finishing is a part of the journey I need to focus on more. There are too many variables on a race day to get too bogged down (literally) on finish times. Given a bit more time on my hands I would love to make friends with the ultra running community and get myself a couple of running buddies. Running alone is special and something I definitely need a lot of the time, but it can also be challenging as a soloist. I know I could not sustain the mental takeover that doing an event like this generates in me, so to do this regularly I would definitely need a change in mentality. Meantime, I need to hope my IT band issue clears up and I can get back in my groove again soon.
“The sun shines not on us but in us.” John Muir