Challenge two of the Grand Slam, after my big trip and fall on TP, I honestly didn’t think that I would get as far as the start line of SDW100. Tendonopathy in both legs and now a hurty bit behind the knee (more tendon issues apparently), I’m managing too many injuries, I’m stupid if I don’t just take some time out and mend. On the other hand, the Grand Slam is looking at me, taunting me, it will still be there next year if I don’t crack it now; I never ever want to run TP100 again so it’s now or never. When I voiced the idea of quitting and not completing the other three, my friends were hugely supportive (sensible), they saw me limping and knew that all was not right. Then I spoke to my husband and one of his army mates, they just gave me a slightly Disappointed Dad look and told me that no-one runs totally pain free at 43 (suck it up cupcake). So ‘suck it up’ overruled sensible, I sat on a bike in between the two races, put no pressure on my new hurty bit at all, put my Big Girl Pants on and got myself to race registration in Winchester.
Instantly I knew that I had made the right choice, sitting on the bike meant that the hurty bits hurt a little less, the buzz of competition weekend was infectious and, most importantly, it meant that I didn’t have to go to Cub/Beever Camp with the kids.
I had planned to run hard around the first field, get out of the choke point and then chill out like last year but something went a bit wrong. I was having a ball; fabulous runners all around surrounded by glorious trail and freedom from the bike. I flew around the first four check points, I knew that I was going way too fast, but maybe this time it would be ok, maybe I was just banking early miles so that I could chill a bit more when it got really hot.
T’was not to be, by Washington I was struggling more than I had last year. Just before the pigs on a gravel track I finally had my race fall. Why oh why can’t I pick my feet up. This time, I didn’t even feel it happen I just found myself on the ground, blood coming out of knee, hands and shoulder. It’s only a few scratches and, compared with the tendon buster of the TP100 it was nothing, but it still shook me up.
The next few check points were a bit of a blur, I remember an amazing guy before the nasty hill leading up to the YHA hostel who sorted my pack, made sure it was back on properly, shoved something sugary down me and gave me a positive pep talk, all volunteers on Centurion events are dedicated and caring but this guy focussed in on where I was deficient and sorted it out, love him. Then it was Nasty Hill, brutal climb up to the YHA, I know it well and it’s not pretty. I felt positive, up beat and better on that hill than I had last year but by the top, I just couldn’t get my legs working again. This is where a pacer would have made a difference, I lost loads of time trying to get my legs to run on perfectly runable track when they refused to function, why wouldn’t they work. The desire to lie down next to the track and just sleep was beginning to pass but the nausea was in full swing, Devils Dyke came and went, still beautiful, still a painful hill down. On TP I used tea, this time I tried coke my logic being that at least it as calories in it but I was struggling to get anything down at all.
By the Farm I had been caught by some fab people, more pep talks and running banter and on to the way to the railway crossing via the most horrible downhill stretch of all. I can never remember the proper names just pictures in my head which reminds me about them. Steps up, steps down and into the CP, full of people and positivity and it was that point I realised that I was finding life far harder than last year; most importantly I knew that I was extremely dehydrated despite drinking and drinking all the way around. It was this point that I realised that I needed to walk it in. Yes I could have pushed a run, perhaps if I had had a pacer then I would have, but something told me that pushing any harder would end in me keeling over, walking (and I can walk pretty fast) was the way to finish. It wasn’t ideal but I was totally at peace with the decision. The realisation that even a gentle jog is faster than a walk became pretty apparent after people cruised past me and disappeared in no time at all. Normally this would have bothered me, but not this time. Evil, evil hill into the penultimate check point and then I knew that I had it nailed. I checked into the final CP, didn’t bother to stop and started up the final hill. This is a great hill, bit steep at the start but not in the middle and the ridge line is almost immediately visible making the trigg point feel close and achievable. I remember it from last year, ploughing up the hill and then the trigg point is suddenly and unexpectedly there. A friendly voice and a head torch greeted me, I clearly told him that I loved him as he sent me down the horrible overgrown rock fest which is the route off. A short road, a never ending path around the hospital and there it was, the finish. The longest 400m in the world which I managed to rustle up a jog for and the finish line.
It was two hours slower than last year, I completely bombed as I struggled over the railway bridge, yet I am left with the feeling that I’ve had a great race, why? Centurion races are always great, the organisation is second to none and the loyalty to the Centurion Army is infectious. The guys on the check points seem to emotionally give more and more every time I step onto a Centurion race, or maybe I just need more and more, but this race there were certain characters who saw where I was struggling and said the right thing at the right time to keep me going. But it was more than that. Before the race I had a fabulous email from sports psychologist Evie Serventi. I had already discussed with her my change of goals for the year; just getting to the start line of each race was going to be an achievement, but Evie’s email this time around put me in the right place mentally and kept me there. In fact, the biggest achievement in this race was just how positive I was with everything. Running into Washington I was dreading the steep down and then steep up, but once there I found myself saying ‘well that’s the down done, only the up to go’, then I was ticking the checkpoints and nasty hills off ‘well that’s a hill I never have to run up again’. By the end it was ‘only three sets of five miles to go’. The walk in decision turned out to be a good one, my kidneys told me that in the days to come, our bodies are pretty good at telling us the score v I beat myself up every time I run because I perceive that I could have done better, maybe this time I could have done better but I remembered to congratulate myself for even getting to the start line, for every hill climbed and for every difficulty overcome. 100 miles is a bloody long way in anyone’s language so, whether I could have changed the course of the day or not I’m just proud to have crossed that finish line. Only two more to go, how hard can it be……