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In life we all set ourselves challenges, whether that's to avoid those cakes that are just too tempting, leave work on time or just aim to get a little fitter. So when James (husband) decided as an anniversary present to enter us into the Dixons Carphone Warehouse Race to the Stones, I didn't really fully understand the enormity of what was in front of us.
Am not really a runner, just someone who runs to keep fit, and thankfully I had some bike fitness to start as a base for what was in front of me . James took on the challenge to train and motivate me, so I would be fit enough to be able to take part. In fact I even surprised myself that on days I wasn't due to run, I missed it...and that's never happened before!
Training started about 8 weeks out in mid May and took me from 4 miles a week to completing 100km Double Ultra Trail Marathon (or 64 miles). My weekly mileage over those weeks was 4m, 11.9m, 19m, 19m, 35m, 35.1m,14.1m , 12m then 64.6 miles event week. - even as I write this, I don't think it has quite sunk in....probably because I haven't stopped since!
Training involved a mixture of running and hiking to cope with the mixed terrain we would be faced with during the event, and many hours in the Welsh mountains in the sunshine. During these training sessions learning to eat and hydrate whilst moving was something new to get used too, as well and making sure those all important feet were taken care of, as blisters can be a game changer. Throughout all these sessions we were constantly readjusting our needs and equipment choices, to make us as comfortable as possible.
A few weeks out from the event James picked up an old calf strain and I struggled to find the right trainers for comfort. Meaning training started to get affected.
Planning for the event was crucial not just for fitness, but also logistically as the start and finish are in different places, and neither of us thought driving home afterwards would be a good idea!
Threshold Sports who run the event, have everything covered and all you need to do is turn up and be ready to go. Shuttle buses can be booked to move competitors back to the start or local train stations. Whilst your bags make it to the base camp for overnighter's, or the finish for those running non-stop. As this was our first Double Ultra Marathon, in fact my first marathon full stop - we opted to stay at base camp overnight.
The route for the event took us over a mixture of surfaces and elevations - where you were constantly challenged and running on mixed surfaces, some harder than others. The Field of Dreams (shown above) is one of the iconic parts of the run.
Beforehand we decided that the best way to tackle the course was the run the flats, walk the uphills and do whatever else you fancied in between. Some off those hills were epic on those tired legs!
The first day went by so quickly and the pit stops for stocking up on fluids and foods we well stocked, and varied and medical help was available at them all.
We stayed at base camp where a hot shower, food and and beer were very welcomed before a nights camping to rest those legs. Base camp had a lovely friendly atmosphere and a great way to enjoy the event. Unfortunately I had picked up a nice blister on my heel which required treatment and patching up to be able to take on the next day.
Amazingly we woke feeling fresh, and after breakfast headed out early to try and beat the heat of the day. Legs felt ok, just a slight ache on the right knee which some painkillers all day managed it nicely.
The second day, was harder as we were tired from the day before but also at mile 10 I slipped slightly which moved my blister dressing and meant a temporary redress and a kick up the bum to get going, whilst working though the pain. It's amazing how something so tiny can cause so much discomfort and pain. It seemed that not even Vaseline could help. Throughout the day I had 3 sock changes, and checks on the feet to monitor them and still those blister kept coming. The humidity of the day didn't help.
The last 20km of the event was the hardest and most testing mentally and physically and I don't remember much about the course as it was head down and take each step one at a time, and just keep moving forward.
At pit stop 9 I had no option but to get medical help to be able to get though the last bit and probably where we lost quite a bit of time. Whilst I was getting fixed, the pre-workout caffeine fix was being drunk and food eaten all ready to get started again
Against all the odds of previous injury, and picking up new ones on route, I achieved something that no-one can ever take away. The journey to reach the stones was epic - just a note I wish I knew before, that the Stones are not at the finish, but at about 98km and a slight detour. I may have looked happy here, but this part of the journey was probably my darkness 1km as every step I took pain seemed to travel from toes to hips and all I wanted to do was get to the end and stop.
Then when we got back on track and were heading towards the finish, a new sense of energy and determination took me to the end. If I could of run this last 1 km I would have, however my mind was writing cheques, my body wasn't willing to cash in so it meant a hobble to the end and a jog to finish off.
So can you go from nothing to 64 miles in one event? Well it seems that if you have stubborn determination not to give up, and great mental strength, anything is possible and it's not till you challenge yourself you know what you can achieve.
Thanks to James's support and motivation, keeping me in pain killers and plasters, I got round. We started and finished together and on this amazing journey.
Going back to work on Monday was hard, and got harder again on Tuesday until someone pointed out that post race blues are really common and probably what I had. It was a feeling I had never experienced before, as I had never done anything like this before. The weekend event went by so quickly, and because you are so tired and everything seems to run on autopilot - it's a surreal feeling looking back and thinking 'Did I really just do that?'
So I have been told the best way to beat the blues to to go again, so even though we are broken and walking strange I want this amazing feeling back, and we are already planning our next one.
Would I do this event again....Hell yes as I want to beat my last time!!!
What will you do next to Challenge yourself?