It has been ages since I’ve blogged. The main reason for this is that I’d pretty much fallen out of love with running. However, you may want to make yourself a cuppa and take a seat as this is not going to be a short blog!
Before my wonderful running had fallen out with me (or had I fallen out with it?) I’d committed to going back to Devon and having another crack at the Women Can marathon. Roll forward a few months and training has been sporadic at best with a longest run of 16 miles with Annie (Abz1903) who had to deal with me having a full blown diva tantrum and tears before we’d even got 10k. I followed this up by an altogether better 5 mile trail run the following day with clubmates from Garioch Roadrunners, which gave me some hope. By the time I was properly tapering I knew I would get round but it wasn’t going to be pretty.
After another setback of an infected insect bite which cause me to head to GMeds at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary A&E, I was as ready as I was going to be.
For some reason, I’ve found it really difficult to find fuel this year. Everything that used to work for me now doesn’t and I can’t seem to find things that do, so I was kind of making it up as I go along. Yup, I should know better and that would have been a contributing factor to race day issues.
It was an early start on Saturday morning. I have never wanted to snooze an alarm so much in my life with it went off at 4am. Thankfully I’d got myself all ready the night before, so things were fairly straightforward and although it was misty I had an uneventful set of flights, although the Manchester to Exeter leg was slightly delayed, this just gave me a bit of a breather.
Collected a hire car in Exeter and then spent a bit of time exploring a bit. Headed into Sidmouth for food and then to the Donkey Sanctuary as I didn’t get around to that last year.
After I’d had a good walk around and stretched my legs from the flight, I decided to head to Tipton Saint John to pick up my number and was chuffed to find that we got our t-shirts and goody bags in advance (must have made things much easier on the day). I was medal chasing though, but more about this later.
Decided it was probably time to head to our hotel. Most of the 261 Fearless runners were booked into the Premier Inn close to the M5. As I pulled into a space I’d parked almost beside Juliet and Jo who was to be my room mate for the weekend. Turns out the roads where horrendous (bank holiday weekend) and I’d probably got there quicker than those driving.
This year we had a bit of an international team of ladies, so it was so lovely to make new friends. We all met up once everyone (well almost everyone) had arrived and headed off into Exeter to pizza express for our meal.
After a lovely meal we headed back to the hotel and to bed. I didn’t sleep particularly well but then again I never do the night before a bit race. So up, shower and breakfast got ourselves sorted and met in the foyer. I was intending to take the hire car, but as luck would have it we didn’t need another car so I got to be a passenger (this came in handy later 😉 ).
We drove through rain on the way to Tipton and I was happy. It was still warm enough for vest weather. There was the usual faff and trips to the toilet followed by team photos and then not too much hanging around and we were off. The rain had stopped though and the sun came out. It was going to be hot 😦 Thankfully I had put on factor 50 sunblock, which turned out to be a very wise decision.
I knew I was on a run walk strategy and ended up with Debs from New Jersey who was nursing a hip injury, so she was taking it easy. We ended up spending the first few miles taking quite a few photos.
We saw butterflies, frogs, mice and lots of birds. If you run too fast, you would miss all this. It was so beautiful that I’d forgotten some of what lay ahead!
I was feeling pretty good and not really sticking to my run walk schedule. Ended up just going to feel, but after the first relay change point we headed out on to the coastal path and this is where things started going a bit wrong. I started to get cramp (around mile 8), a common thing for me, but I haven’t had issues with it for ages. This left me walking uphill, powerwalking/jogging the flat and running the down as that was the only time the calf didn’t seem to cramp up.
We finally got some down into Ladram Bay through a field of interested cows who looked like they may try to follow us, but thankfully after my stern looks and telling them ‘No, stay’ we were able to carry on. I should mention here that it was wonderful to have someone to chat to en route. Debs and I shared many stories throughout the course of the day.
Anyway, when you head out of Ladram Bay (around 10.5 miles), there is a bit of a hill. This is where things started to go wrong further. By the time I got to the top of the hill I felt so nauseous I was sick. My heart felt like it was trying to escape out my chest and I’d gone from feeling fine (other than the calf being a pest) to feeling rotten. Over the next couple of miles I hit my lowest point.
All belief I had that I could still get round despite the cramp disappeared. I’d arranged to meet a Fetchie Friend (LaisyDaisy) at the halfway point at Sidmouth Rugby Club and at this point I was determined that my race would end there. Up another hill before the descent into Sidmouth and again I felt sick and I had a little cry, then complained to Debs that I couldn’t even do that right because it wasn’t much of a proper bawling cry. She knows the score, we’ve all hit low points before, so I kept going and pretty much told her I’d just have to get over myself because I didn’t want this race to beat me. I’ve never DNF’d a marathon and I really wanted that medal.
As we came into Sidmouth we got some encouragement then a bloke said “just as well it doesn’t get dark till late” obviously referring to us having taken a bit of time to get there. Debs was carrying walking poles to ease the pressure on her hip when needed at at that point the gentleman (if I can call him that) was very lucky not to find them inserted about his person. Seriously folks, it’s not clever. A runner could be in a bad place mentally, just encourage, it will do the trick.
We eventually got to the half way point and they had sponges, so I got to wash the salt off my face which felt wonderful and LazyDaisy met us. I gave her a hug and almost started to have another little cry, but now I knew that other than the cramp my legs were more than capable of taking me round the rest of the route, so I just needed to convince my head of that.
From the rugby club you go through Sidmouth a little down the prom and through the Byes to Sidford. LazyDaisy accompanied us for a couple of miles till around mile 15 and by this time my head was well back in the game. Debs got stung by nettles here, but plenty of dock leaves about, so on we went.
By mile 17 Debs was looking and feeling really strong. Her hip was fine, so I told her to go on. She was a bit reluctant at first, but we both knew by this point, I would make it. It wasn’t going to be brilliant and the route seemed hillier than last year (probably due to my poor preparation) I knew that the scenery would get me through.
Not long after Debs had gone on ahead, my stomach started to play up. Well I’ve never had that happen before! I erm had to just do what I needed to do, thankfully there were suitable leaves to assist (sorry TMI I know) but I still managed to brush into a nettle when picking a leaf, so the dock leaves were also deployed to sort my sting.
I decided that my tummy didn’t like any of the food I’d had even tried and tested foods, so I gave up and stuck to my tailwind and had water at each stop. No more tummy issues during the race, thankfully.
There was still quite a bit of climbing which I’d completely forgotten about, but I’d taken to pretty much stomping as fast as my legs would carry me and trying a jog when I could.
Then came the forest path and the mud! As I previously mentioned there had been storms the night before which meant that the ground was quite boggy and lets face it nearly 200 other women had ran this way before me, so I was laughing like an idiot running, walking, slipping and sliding through the mud. The sun was back out now too and I was glad to be in the shade of the woodlands. The downs were really hard though as these were gravel/stony type paths which the water deluge the previous day had carved its way through. I made sure I was careful going down these as I didn’t want to risk a fall.
I did get a bit stroppy here as every turn you seemed to be going back up and I was kind of sick of heading up at this point. In saying that there were some lovely viewpoints.
Finally between miles 21 and 22 you come down and out of the forest. It was at the water stop here I learned that there was a nordic walker not that far ahead of me, so that made me even more determined to get moving as quickly as I could as I wanted to catch up with whoever it was 🙂
The miles were ticking past and I was soon coming into Ottery St Mary and I knew I wasn’t that far from the finish. I heard from the marshals there that the nordic walker was just ahead, but they also told me that an American lady had been bitten by a dog. I knew this had to be Debs, so I pushed on again, catching up with and passing the nordic walker, who had been a sweeper last year, so I apologised for not returning the favour this year, but I had to get to the finish as I was worried about Debs. She’d been quite shaken.
You go through the village and then back to the river path. Some of the terrain was not easy to walk on anyway, but around mile 25 I saw this sign:
I had another little cry here, but these were the tears of knowing you are nearly there. They soon stopped when I remembered that I can’t run and cry at the same time. As I got closer I could hear music and then was rewarded with approaching this sign:
Before I knew it I was in the field heading for the finish line. I saw all the 261 ladies and yelled out to them and high fived everyone before crossing the line.
Got my medal, my Otter half pint glass and some gorgeous vegan cakes. Then I made my way out for hugs and pictures and prosecco 🙂
I beat last years time big style and probably was able to run more despite the cramp. The Otter glass was a lovely surprise, but I really had to get that medal. It’s specially designed in the shape of a ballot box marking 100 years since women in the UK got to vote. How much things have changed in those last 100 years but there is still such a long way to go.
After some much needed food and drink (G&T) and a lovely seat on the grass, we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up before meeting for drinks and then turning in for the night.
I would say that was the hardest race I’ve ever done. I’m just thankful for the support of each and every one of the women there, especially the 261 Fearless Team and to the organisers Jo, Pauline and Peg.
Special mention has to go to Debs, who put up with my chat for 17 whole miles, although we did get a chance to swap some stories and I’m glad to say she was fine after her dog attack, although she does have a rather impressive bruise developing.
I’d also like to thank Jo for being my roomie and Juliet and Nicky for organising everything.
In the morning we all went our separate ways but what a weekend of friendship and fun. I spent most of the day in Sidmouth and met LaisyDaisy, her husband and the famous Flossie the labrador and we had a wonderful walk along the beach.
I have no idea what is going to be next. I will blog more again because I really do enjoy it.
Maybe I should ask you folks what you think I should do next, other than take some time to properly rest and recover that is 🙂
Until next time #befearless