Thames Path 100 – It Was Brutal

 

The morning of the Thames Path 100 dawned blue and warm, inevitably we got to the start just after registration had opened and waited around for the 10 o’clock start.  Hours for me to change my shirt, change my shoes, change my shoes back again, worry about water oh, and worry about the 100 miles ahead.  I also had to worry about the hole which had appeared in my trail shoes a week before and the bold call to wear new trial shoes for the race, and I decided to buy a new race vest the week before, at least I had done one run in it. 100 miles on one of the hottest days of the year in new kit, how hard could it possibly be.

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By 10 o’clock I was on the start line ready to find out.  Crowded into a small area with some random punter on a bike pushing through (no, he couldn’t wait the one minute there was time for a quick last minute chat with the people to the left and right, a good morale boosting chat from James ‘if your garmin shows 103 miles, don’t bother sending us a photo, we just don’t care’ (brilliant) and a last minute dose of the butterflies before we were off.

There was a real mix of people, most were like me, wanting to play it safe and adhere to the constant advise of ‘go slow early’, people who seemed to be a fair amount of effort and those who were clearly sticking to their plans of run/walk from the start.  I arrived at CP1 to see quite a lot of people who had run hard past me stocking up, but I was ok, bit of Tailwind and I was off again.  Then CP 2, a quick stumble as I ran in but I was ok but that was all, ok.  I’m used to feeling better than ok early in a race.  

I was after CP two that I had my second stumble but this time I didn’t manage to catch myself and smashed into the path with my right knee leading.  I always feel a bit shaken when I fall on the trail (I really need to start picking my feet up) but this time I also felt annoyed at myself and at the two people who just stood and stared at me. Luckily another centurion was hot on my heels and slowed down to check on me, listen to my swearing and give a few words of sympathy. Yes my knee hurt, there was blood and everything, but more worryingly I could feel that things were not all good at the back of the knee. Please don’t let it be my cruciate ligament. 

By the time I got to CP 3 I felt like I was already at mile 70. I pride myself at being good at running in the heat, perhaps grabbing the black t-shirt in my hasty change was a bad idea or perhaps it was just bloody warm, the nausea was already kicking in and my leg hurt. I was determined that I would run all the way to Henley and not start a run/ walk until then, a plan I was confident in as I continued to over take the guys already adopting this strategy. That was until Andy over took me. I had gone past him a mile or so previously as he walked enjoying the shade, he was clearly in good shape, far better than me so I reckoned that it was time to join him which was a great move. Eventually there were three of us run walk/running along a beautiful trail through our amazing countryside. The pace was pretty rapid and I knew, a bit too fast for me during the running bits but it was worth it; the chat was brilliant and the three of us were looking out for each other, Centurion style. 

By Henley I was in a fair amount of pain. There I met up with Jo and Shelley from my Sports Massage course.  Shelly pointed out that she had power walked from that point onwards the previous year. That made me feel like I had options. I could run (nor really an option), I could run/walk or just walk. I felt stronger for it, still a sharp pain in my leg but felt ok. 

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One of the things I struggled with on SDW100 was the amount that I ran on my own but this race was different. There was always someone nearby, whether it be someone right in front or a head torch in the distance. With the amount of weed being smoked on the trail and piss heads staggering around enjoying the sunshine, I felt happier knowing that there was always someone around. 

Eventually it was head torch on time. I would love to remember the CP’s but I generally didn’t have a clue where I was. My only real memory of anything between Henley and Wallingford was  someone offering me cheesy beans whilst trying to understand me through slurring words, beans were clearly going down well with everyone else but not for me. I saw Andy again who gave me the stats on what was coming in an upbeat positive way, making over twenty miles sound like a trip around the corner. 

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Finally I got to Wallingford and Jodie, my fabulous pacer. I can’t believe what a game changer having a pacer is. My spirits lifted and I found a bit extra in my tank. The miles ticked past slowly but steadily through fog, mist, a beautiful dawn and then, finally I saw a field I recognised from my limited recce.  The white bridge appeared and I knew that all I needed to see was some boat houses and I was there. 

Crossing the finish line was emotional. Which ever way you look at it, 100 miles is a long way. On this course, with lots of concrete, sun blazing off the trail and the river and with a hurty leg and high temps, I found it brutal. But as ever, the Centurion army both in the trail and in the CP’s made it a special event. Again, I’ve learnt so much from this race, so many things I would like to do differently but, as ever, it’s all about finishing for me and I achieved that.  Jodie was a game changer for me, in an emotional race, she held me steady, made me laugh and gave me lots and lots of small goals to get me through. Hopefully, when my kids try to drop out of their next triathlon or find their next spelling test hard, their times tables unachievable or the bullies at school unbearable, they will remember what mummy does and that working through problems usually works out in the end.

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