Hiya! So I may well have looked somewhat like a Sir Digby Chicken Caesar out there… but I had a ball :)
It seems like my phat cankles on display in my class the day after inspired one Yoga student of 2.5 years to enter the race next year herself Aren’t people curious… I wonder if the beginner will come back! At the beginning of the class I said “I’d like you all to close your eyes. Whilst I try to sit on the floor”. I booked the day off today, as honestly I think the 2nd day is the worst. Tomorrow I will be back to normal service So my race experience from Equinox24 2018: Tl;dr I ended up 20 mins off my 15 lap target, finishing with 14 laps in 25 hours 28 mins. Each lap is just over 10km. This year I socialised a lot more but also pushed a lot harder… Luckily I socialised with some extremely motivating people. I’ll try to keep the rest brief- sticking to the high and low lights
After I finished the race I (again) didn’t really have that rush of relief or urge to stop. I would have carried on for a final lap- but I was out of time. I collapsed however near the finishers area about 20 mins later- for the results presentation.
My delightful daughter said “Mummy. Mike got 17 laps. He was walking normally, then I saw him doing this in his tent (she starts repeat squats) and then he touched his toes. And you are just sitting there, and I can see your bum“.
I was tired and was well aware I should pull my shorts up as I looked like a builder. I was too exhausted and cold to move. 15 laps took third place female. The first place male got 21 laps (declining to do a 22nd for a course record, despite having time to) and had a lap average of 1 hour 6 mins and a fastest lap (course record) of 47 mins. My mind was blown by that We are not the same species. Neither is Mike with his post-ultra tent squats. Weirdo.
Stopping is always the worst part for me. Once I stop and the seizing up begins, I regret everything and question why I do this. Pre-race week was pretty awesome for me. No nerves at all prior. Just excitement. That’s the first time I’ve felt so good. I was looking through my kit- consisting of one box of food, one of supplies. “Mum. Do I really need 6 spoons?” I asked. Mum “weeeelllll I just thought it’s better to have too many than not enough”. Righteo I didn’t take part in the kids’ race this year which I was grateful for. Somehow I missed my son whizz past but I did catch them both at the finish. They did well
First 7 laps for me were fine. Then I made a mistake. A guy caught me up at one point and we had started chatting and running. He was a Geordie and I swear I didn’t understand a word for a couple of laps- but then I got used to the accent- he bought me a coffee and we planned to set off walking and drinking that. I had a rule: no caffeine until after dark, so I guess it was 11.10pm when we started lap 8. (It might have been lap 7 the bad thing happened, I can’t remember)…
Half-way through the lap I became aware I was swelling up: my fingers got fatter and my bra top felt tighter. I understand the extremities swelling- that’s happened before due to heat and also ultras- but not my torso. I felt like Verruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- I felt like I didn’t know how big I was going to get.
I took salt tabs but then started to feel weird. Like possibly slightly sick, dizzy, fatigued, and hot and cold at the same time. It was probably simply because I’d been running- so the blood pumping around had made me swell- and it was now bedtime so I naturally felt tired and a bit dizzy- then the caffeine confused my system further- and my body was just dealing with all that. I said to the dude I am just going to take it easy and focus my way through it. I was breathing in through my nose blowing out through my mouth slowly like in labour, ha, and could feel that bad spell passing- I didn’t want to talk- just stay quiet, calm and focused. I remembered Mike having a similar coffee experience the year before. I had never before drank coffee in a race.
I got to my tent and mum wasn’t there. I needed to take extra clothing now as the temperature had dropped. My hands were curling and fat and I couldn’t move my fingers great. I was trying to look for clothes in my tent and this wasted a lot of time. My toe socks looked like my gloves.. I couldn’t find my top I had taken off pre-race… I was holding my headtorch in one hand and searching with the other… This is something that probably cost me the 20 mins that made all the difference in the end- that was a real wake-up call for me regarding the importance of minor organisational details. Every minute I wasted I had to make up for on the course.
That lap we- erroneously- decided to do as a “test lap” just take it easy and see what taking it easy translated to on time. As I had planned to get a lot of faster earlier laps- to leave me with 2 hours a lap for later- we decided to test how long a slow lap would take me. Fact was- I then struggled to get the lap times I needed. At 1am ish Ed lent me his poles and they really helped. So lesson no. 3 was I learned finally how to use trail poles to aid faster walking. Although Ed told me “those poles are for running with! Not walking!” Thing was I just couldn’t get faster. I was so driven and focused on getting my splits and lap times down… But every time I tried to run I just felt my hamstring scream. It wasn’t possible. Ed tried everything he could to get me to speed up just a little bit. I couldn’t. By lap 13 I knew I couldn’t make the time up. It was feasible- I just felt I physically couldn’t. Ed tried to talk me into believing otherwise- that if I wanted 15 that badly I could do it- but every time I ran that pain seared down my left leg. I then took it mega easy last two laps, knowing it was going to be 14 for me again this year.
I really get a lot of mental peace from these events. I don’t know how to describe it exactly. There is an absolute clarity that comes with just focusing on one thing- moving forward. It feels like that inner restlessness life brings- is just quietened. It’s not a euphoria or a rush. Yet despite the terrible rain for a couple of laps I do not let it waver me and I do not complain. I just do my job, keep pushing forward. I like being outside for that long, it makes me feel very, very alive, well and happy. I think a lot of our problems come from being indoors too much. An hour a day outside is way less than is natural- but even that is a lot for me to aspire to some days. I have a bit of wind burn but I like being out once I’m there… I’m not very domesticated but I do get cold easily so I need to keep moving- this also kept my stop times down- so this worked well in a race at that time of the year. There are logical problems that need to be overcome- such as how to find my gloves and do things when my hands have swollen… Whether I should stop when things got a bit weird or I felt tired. What could be the reason I swelled up. What do I need next time at the tent and how can I acquire it as quickly and as easily as possible. I wore way more than ever in any race- as you can see from the below pic. I haven’t worn trousers for a race in many years- even during the snow I had shorts on. But I had become cold and decided it was much easier to preserve heat than try to warm up later.
Again, around 3am was my hardest point. Luckily I was not alone for one full lap- and probably only the equivalent of one lap entirely. Despite putting lots of new music on my iPod it’s no longer a race where you are likely to need headphones. There is just so much going on all the time. I didn’t want to pull off the course as I knew I would freeze if I stopped and also I might miss something.
My feet stayed fine. I didn’t change my socks. I don’t really like my trainers, although they have good trail grip- I think they are heavy and hurt my legs- but my feet stay great in them- it’s like they haven’t been anywhere- no soreness, blisters, toenails all nice etc. But I have more swelling in my legs than before. On my last lap this was causing pain in my shins.
Again, the kindness of other runners, chatting, offering to buy me cups of tea when they had dropped out and I was still going. These are the memories that will endure with me longer than the tightness in my hamstrings. Thanks to everyone who was a part of it… And as always to my amazing mum for being there, despite the lack of Mr Vegan runner this year And despite the confusion over what was 500ml in my hydra pack and 2 litres ;) She looked after the twins, all our tents and me spectacularly.
To summarise- I learned more in this race than any previous. I learned a lot about myself too, not just in terms of the race but in how I do things and things I allow myself to get distracted by sometimes. The best way I can explain that is this race somehow provided me with a clarity or simplified outlook on life- where I could realise clearly what is important and necessary and what isn’t, things I need to be doing and things that are just a waste of precious time.
That alone makes me feel really at ease, happy and peaceful.
It definitely taught me more than any other race- this is my 5th ultra and I still feel very fresh to the game.
Here are the things I learned for next time:
1) No caffeine at all for the week before. (I managed this this year just for one day- well Friday and Saturday really).
2) No coffee during the race or at least- not in the middle! It made me go to the toilet a lot and I was better with tea. Toilet stops in those two laps alone would have saved me the 20 mins. Ed was really happy with all the time he spent standing outside portaloos in the cold waiting for me I’m sure 2x stops per lap for three laps in a row. I am always happy to see the waterworks working properly (ie not getting too dehydrated)- but that was a bit more properly than was necessary.
3) Better planning and organisation tent-side. I need a walk in area with two tables- ala Mr Mike the organised one. With all clothes somehow laid out and also somehow protected from rain. Not one bag of black clothes with a head torch for light in the night trying to figure out what is what.
4) This is a social event for me. Rather than a half marathon with speed and music on- however I need to keep my goal in mind from the start and have no “slow test laps” that was an error. But the slower pace of an ultra means I can socialise and push at the same time.
5) Trail poles. I am getting some
6) maybe get some new trainers- any suggestions please shoot. I need a lighter more flexible shoe (but still solid grip and a wide toe box).
7) maybe I should get a gait analysis… Think I’ve been saying that for a decade.
8) maaaaaybe get a running coach, so I actually train properly now rather than just train blindly and hope for the best
I feel if I came 9th ish with this poor training, I could do better with a coach.
In fact I spoke to Ruben (Maltese trail guru) of the Trail Co. yesterday- he reckoned the reason I did so well on so little training was down to Yoga.
If anyone has any tips on anything such as what may have caused my swelling- how to prevent it in future- or deal with it best- or how I can train myself to start running again in a race after I start walking (something I have never mastered in an ultra) please let me know!
Or any tips on using poles for trails… or poles to buy… Something I never thought I would do… Or any questions, please get in touch
Thanks for reading! Hannah x
N.B. for any buff spotters- you will notice I managed to work 5 different buffs in this race