It’s the day after Endure24 and other than a little bit tired and some ‘interesting’ chafing I feel pretty good. As promised in yesterday’s overview blog, here’s my story of my 6 laps. I didn’t do a picture round this year but the course was the same as last year so if you want to get a sense, have a look at my description of the course from then.
For some reason I had decided I wanted to go first. No idea why really. So I lined up on the start line and set off with the crowd. It soon thinned out and I settled in towards the back of the pack. It was incredibly hot. The start section is a grassy very slightly uphill pull before you turn right down a nice gentle slope before turning quite sharp left into the first wooded section, the first bit of which is again gently uphill. Then you reach the Black Fen Drop and go downhill before the next right turn. Did I mention it was hot. I turned right and then walked a little. I might have got caught up in the running at the start and gone off a little too fast although I felt good. I went on running the shady flat and downhill bits and walking anything that was uphill and/or in full sun. It was hot. Just before the drinks comes a section called sheep rush – more like sheep pile up in the shade on this lap. They were all packed in as tight as they could under the trees at the edge of their field. I didn’t stop for drinks this time round although I sipped my own as I walked through that section. I chatted to a few solo runners on this lap
including Caroline who is also in the #Run1000Mile group, we walked Ripple Rise together and then somehow chatting with her and another lady that caught us up I managed to run up ‘That Bloody Last Bit’. So lap 1 was a success. I came in in 1 hour 5 minutes and 44 seconds and it felt like pretty easy running.
This was about 2pm. Kath had had a good run round but warned me to be really careful because it was so so hot. So my strategy was to run the downhill and flat (there isn’t much that is genuinely flat!) and also walk anything that was in full sun and just walk the rest. I was keen to just get a couple of gentle laps in and then have another good go at running one later when it cooled down a bit. I thought this might be a sociable lap just because I was walking lots but it wasn’t really. I was passed by lots of speedy people
running for their teams – all very impressive. I was just hot. It seemed hotter out there than on my first lap. I had one lovely chat with a solo lady who was walking. We chatted about how solos often team up and pairs and teams are sometimes more ‘solo’ than solos. I stopped for some water at the drinks station. The Deep Dark Wood just before had been a welcome bit of shade but it hadn’t really cooled me. I plodded on mostly walking and came in in 1 hour 13 something. I was happy but hot and very glad of the cooling towel Kath had for me.
I went out for Lap 3 at about 5pm ish. Guess what, still hot. I felt pretty good but didn’t want to go silly so my plan was the same as for the lap before. I thought there would be a few more shady areas now so I might run a little more. The first part of the lap was non eventful and I just happily plodded along. Then someone recognised my Dopey t-shirt for a Dopey Challenge T-shirt and we had a quick exchange about how awesome it was as she flew past me. There were lots of comments about Dopey on this lap – most people not knowing it was a Dopey Challenge T-shirt. Many identified with the sentiment and I got lots of ‘Go on Dopey’ and ‘Well Done Dopey’ calls as I plodded round. Going up Temple Drag I saw a stunning Dragon fly. It was enormous – bigger than I’ve ever seen and shimmering as the light caught it. It made me smile and for a minute or two I forgot I was hot. I saw another one at Sheep Rush. I stopped for a drink and a chat with the marshals and then plodded on past the 5km mark to the next set of marshals at the bottom of the next hill. They were offering water sprays – who knew a simple spray of water in your face and on the back of your neck could be sooooo amazing. Thank you! Plodding up the hill I suddenly smelled camomile. It took me a minute to realise that I was running on the edge of the field and that the grass was edged with the low growing creeping sort of camomile – I must have been disturbing it and making it smell. It was lovely though. The rest of the lap was just hot although as I came to the end I vaguely wondered if maybe it was cooling off a bit. I was also suddenly aware of discomfort on my knicker line and inner thigh. Hm
Before lap 4 I had to investigate the discomfort. Well it turns out that my thighs had won the material v thighs battle once again and my running tights had a hole in them running
from the knicker line down my inner thigh. This isn’t news to me, that’s how all my pants eventually die. Unfortunately though this one went without warning and caused some nasty chafing along the knicker line and down my inner thigh – like red raw kind of chafing. I hate vaseline. The consistency/ feel/ texture/ everything freaks me out. It’s vile. But there was nothing for it, vaseline it was going to have to be.
Patched up and in a different pair of pants I set off. Partly I really wanted to get another lap in without having to use a head torch so this was my last chance to do that. I also wanted to capitalise on feeling pretty strong. Lap 4 was probably the most eventful of my laps. I set off and it was now definitely cooler (though still quite warm) and running felt a little easier. I still walked the sunny bits but there were now markedly fewer of them. I was going well and then we got into the Deep Dark Wood coming up to half way. There was a solo runner in front of me. I nearly went flying (hahaha) past and then realised that he was really struggling. I stopped and asked if he would like a bit of company, if that would help. It seemed to so I walked with him a little while – just short of a mile maybe, and we chatted about competing with ourselves, coming last and race bucket lists. I had a flicker of ‘oh well there goes a decent lap time then’ but it lasted less than a split second. Helping a fellow runner round was far more important. We chatted until we got to the drinks station and then he seemed to know a few people and was chatting away with them so I had my drink and headed on.
I was actually running strong and wondered whether I should try the next hill but it was still in full sun so I walked up smelling the camomile and watching a ewe on the wrong side of the fence getting more and more anxious because one of her lambs was on the other side. Marshalls were trying to herd her in the right directions round the fence but runners were coming through in a steady stream so she wasn’t for going that way. Eventually the inevitable happened and she launched herself through the fence, got stuck and sort of fell through it and stayed down lying on her side. I’d got to the top of the slope by now and the two ladies I’d been chatting to carried on as I went to see if I could help. The marshals didn’t know what to do and everyone seemed to think the ewe was badly hurt. I wasn’t so sure – I thought she was just being a sheep and giving up on life rather easily. I stroked her through the fence and checked her legs, no obvious pain, nothing felt broken. I couldn’t see any injuries. I think she was just stuck – or rather I think she thought she was stuck and was doing the usual sheep thing of ‘oh ok, well I’ll just die here then’. I walked round the fence line and over to her on her side of the fence.
She just looked at me. I stroked her while untangling her legs from the fence and then, helped by a gentle slope at the edge of the field, we rolled her over. As soon as she realised she could get up she jumped up and legged it over to her lambs (who had helpfully run off to be with the flock ‘bye mum, nice to have known you’ style). The marshals thanked me for stopping and apologised for ‘ruining’ my race. That made me laugh – it can’t have looked like I was racing anyone or anything! I reassured them they hadn’t and got going again. Towards the end of this lap my legs were feeling a little tired but otherwise I felt good. I was looking forward to a recovery drink and a little rest. I came home in 1.22 and a bit in spite of the lovely walk and chat and the sheep rescue.
Laps 5 and 6
When Kath came back after lap 5 I had dozed off so I was a bit dazed and confused. I set off on lap 5 really looking forward to a good run. I felt good. I certainly didn’t feel like I’d already covered 20 miles. I power walked the grassy slope to get used to the head torch
and wake up properly and then I jogged down the first hill. I felt sick. Not running related sick, not tummy bug sick, nothing like that. I felt motion sick. I know that feeling well. I can get motion sick standing still. I nearly puked after doing the Star Wars simulator at Disney World with Kath even though I kept my eyes shut for all of it. But running? I realised that I got a wave of that deep nausea that can’t be shifted every time a runner approached from behind me and the light from their torch merged with mine. It was worse when they had a torch that flashed or moved a lot. It was completely disorientating me and I was unsteady on my feet. I walked. The nausea didn’t shift but at least I could walk in a straight line – sort of. I turned my torch off and for a couple of glorious minutes it was just me in the dark and the sick-y feeling eased, then more runners came past. Whenever I could I turned my torch off but there was a steady stream of other runners so it didn’t help that much. I tried to run but I kept nearly falling over and it made the nausea worse. I sipped my tailwind and kept walking. I was grumpy. I felt strong, nothing hurt, nothing was even achey and my legs, which had felt tired at the end of lap 4, felt fine. I tried to run again, stumbled and nearly fell into the path of another runner. ‘This is stupid’ I thought. I’m obviously not safe to run with the head torch light. I have run in the dark but when we do we tend to run in the dark. We take the head torches and will sometimes use them on tricky patches but generally we run without them as it is rarely so dark you can’t see.
So I kept marching round. I was upset and disappointed. This was going to be my flying lap. I wanted to try and get round in about the same time as my first lap. It should have been doable. I was in full blown battle mode in my head by the time I got to the drinks station. The guys there were singing Robbie Williams ‘Millennium’ and having a laugh and it was so cheerful and supportive that while I was there I forgot I was grumpy. I marched on a little more positively and as I crossed Festival Crossing the moon was in full view. It was stunning. I realised that I was missing all the wonders of being out at night. I tried to focus on them. I could hear the sheep nearby but couldn’t see them, I could hear owls screeching and the undergrowth at the path edges was full of hustle and bustle. I could feel the mist every time we descended into a dip but I couldn’t see it and the air had a stillness to it that you only get in the middle of the night. I walked a bit faster. I breathed more deeply, I was keeping the motion sickness under control. It was still there but more like the lingering car sickness that stays with you a couple of hours after a long journey. I marched up That Bloody Last Bit. Decision time. I wanted to stop. I was tired and felt a bit of an emotional wreck after that lap. I wanted to stop. But I also knew that if I stopped now that would be it. I wouldn’t go out again. I came for 6 laps. I wanted to stop. I knew I couldn’t run with the torch light. I knew I could wait for it to come light and then go but I also knew that I’d be unlikely to do that. If I stopped for any length of time I’d stiffen and if I fell asleep I’d struggle to wake up properly and if I slept too long it would be hot. I was also mindful of our long haul flight on Tuesday. I needed
to not be broken to get sorted for our trip and be ok on the flight and on arrival. I wanted to stop.
So as I came into the finishing straight I kept to the right hand side, as far away as possible from the exits to the change over areas. I wanted to stop and I knew if I was on the left where it was easy to just duck out I might not keep going. I knew I could walk another lap. I knew I had to make myself do it or I would be so disappointed. I still wanted to stop though. I wasn’t sure I’d make myself do it until I had walked all the way down along the grassy slope along the far right away from the tents and opportunities to duck out. I basically kept my hand on the guide rope as if begging it to hold onto me and not let me quit. I turned right down the slope ‘ Right then Dopey, you’re doing this’ I said to myself. One foot in front of the other. I kept moving. I was more focused on my surroundings now, looking around and listening. There’s a certain quality of quiet in the night. Granted, it was punctured by the huffing and puffing of runners storming past me, but it was there. I got my ears in and heared different noises – different owls I think screeching and I caught the noise and movement of one swooping but it was too far in the wood to actually see it. Once or twice I more felt than saw a bat close by and once or twice my head torch caught eyes in the wood and reflected them back at me. It was stunningly beautiful. A few times I just stood and listened. I’d forgotten about time.
At a mile and half I saw a solo runner, Martin according to his sign on the back of his pack, walking slowly down the hill to Temptation Corner in front of me. It was tempting to fall into step with him, he was walking more slowly than I was at that point and I was aware of tiredness creeping into my legs and hips. But I kept walking offering words of encouragement as I went past. He overtook me later and looked strong. At the 3km mark there were marshals who were basically dancing the night away and they made me smile and I did a little series of salsa steps as I went passed – or I think I did. Who knows what I actually did. The next stretch was probably my favourite bit of all of it. In spite of now being quite tired and a bit emotionally drained because this was not the plan I love my slow walk through the Deep Dark Wood on this lap. I got lucky and saw almost no-one on this stretch. I turned my torch off and it was lovely and dark. My eyes adjusted quickly, the motion sickness faded further into the background and it was just calm. I realised I was happy and I realised I was going to complete the lap and get to 30 miles and I realised that that was what I wanted and that after the lap I would call it a night without any regrets or what ifs.
As I got to the drinks station I realised my hips were tight, very tight. The guys there were now playing Abba. I laughed. I wondered how many Abba songs I could sing in my head. Quite a few as it turns out and I hope for everyone’s sake that the singing happened in my head only. Can’t be sure though.
It must have been about 2.45 am and there was some light in the sky now. I could see the
mist patches as I walked into them now and the sheep were more visible. In fact the scene at Festival Crossing was spectacular -the moon shining its light onto a large peaceful flock of sheep below. I thought about the ewe I’d helped rescue earlier and hoped she was ok. As I walked up Ripple Rise I caught up with Gareth who had a broken ankle and was hobbling round in his boot and on his 3rd lap. Seriously impressive stuff. On the flat he was walking faster than I had been and as I fell in with him and was forced to stride out a little more to keep up I stretched my hips and the pain eased. We chatted to the finish. It felt good to finish. It had an almost melancholy sense of achievement. 30 miles is a big deal. It just wasn’t quite the way I wanted to get to 30 miles. I wanted more running. But on reflection I’m really happy. The 10 mile walk in the middle of the night did me good, it did my brain good. It took forever – nearly 3 and a quarter hours in the end but it wasn’t about time. In many ways time just stood still as I toddled off into my own world, a world were calm and quiet were there in a way that they so rarely are for me these days. It might not have been what I wanted but it was perhaps what I needed. Sometimes the universe knows.
I’m still coming back for 7 though!