WARNING – This post contains feet pictures.
As soon as we left the camp site I was asleep – poor Laura had to navigate her way around a maze of single car width roads and stay awake to get us back to her Mum and Dad’s house in Abergavenny. When woken I had already started to stiffen up, so it was off to the bath for me trying to make little noise and not fall asleep in the bath in the small hours of the morning.
My body had decided that enough was enough and now it was time to repair. I had a terrible night of sleep due to leg pain and general discomfort. When I woke in the morning needing the toilet I had to crawl to the en-suite and had to be helped back to bed.
I headed off to A&E the next day to see if they would x-ray my legs and to check what I should do with my blisters (I never get them so I didn’t really know how to treat them post event). It was a comedy few hours. My answer to the question; “How have you done this?” was met with, “My god, you know we’ve got buses in Wales!” I left in a wheelchair with both feet mummified and two crutches.
My largest blister had become infected and the other two were drained. The largest blister was fully cut, drained and it felt a whole lot better after that. It took me a few days to be able to move with any sort of consistency and I needed my feet up as much as possible. It was gutting not to be able to take part in the week of fun we had planned with the family.
[Click on the pictures for larger images]
I had 8 sessions of physio which didn’t seem to speed up the recovery which was a good 2 months before I ran again, but despite all this within two days of the finish I found myself craving the next day in the mountains. I really couldn’t have had a better week of running and I just wanted to get out there again. Asked if I would do it again my immediate response of “in a heart beat” was often met with disbelief.
I don’t think it is something that people can really get their heads around. I find it difficult myself and I’ve done it! I’ve had a lot of very kind words said and some great ribbing from the running club. A couple of people out side of running have made comments about my placing – what did they think I was going to do??? Win it? “Never mind, 27th is still good”… are you kidding me? Most of the people didn’t come close to finishing. Finishing was what it was all about for me and if I never do it again then I will still be very happy.
There is the temptation to go back and do it again in 2015 as I know so much more now. I’m certain I can finish as I want to finish; i.e., running the whole way and going on to do the 6th day to the South coast; but “unfinished business” is probably too strong a phrase for how I feel. “it’s be nice to” is closer to the mark.
So what did I learn?
1) If I really want it, then I can complete anything
I’ve been pretty exhausted since the event, just burned out I guess, but I did find myself at the start line of a 46 mile race just 1.5 weeks after coming back from a 2 month lay off. I wasn’t remotely concerned about the finish – my belief that I can finish and endure is made of iron now. I know I can just put one foot in front of the other and make it.
2) Never give up the competition in an ultra
Cast iron belief is worth a lot in ultras, if somebody was 20 miles ahead of me in a race then you’d think you have no chance, but if that race is 100 miles and they still have 40 to go, anything can happen. People fade, leads get chipped away at. I lost several hours on day 3, yet climbed the leader-board. Joe Faulkner steadily chipped away and ended up in 15th despite being 35th on day 1.
3) I need to develop a better mental approach to deal with it when the head goes down
I can take too long to come out of a funk, I’m not the worst, but I’ve had days where I have beaten myself up, told myself I was having a terrible day, but looking back on it I was actually still in touch at that point. Part of this is down to food I think, as I don’t feel I’ve really cracked that yet.
I also think I need to stop apologising for needing my own head space in a race. A responsibility can form in a race when you’ve partnered up, it can be difficult to break that up. Some people love it, others like me need to get away and into our own heads regularly. If I was doing the race again I would start everyday on my own, unless it is somebody I have entered specifically to run with. This is no offence to anybody I ran with, I may very well end up joining up with them later, but I should have started fresh each day for my own sanity (and theirs too no doubt!)
4) I’ll benefit from improving my navigation on the move
It’s just a practice issue which is easily addressed. I also think I could say this for the rest of my life as even the best make mistakes. I need to slow down to go faster and I need to be able to trust my first reading, not keep going back for additional confirmation two seconds later.
5) Training Specificity
- a) I’m under no illusion that my shins went because I didn’t do enough long days in the mountains before hand. It’s difficult with a family to get the time out there and Laura was incredibly supportive for me going off to play. I needed to be getting out regularly into proper mountains for 8+ hour days either running or walking.
- b) Never stop fell racing – this comes under training as it’s the best speed work you can possibly do. It reminds you that you can run up the hills too, it builds strength in the right muscle groups and if you never run fast… well, you’ll never run fast.
Speed work for me is incredibly difficult as I just can’t do it on my own. Finding a way to get in regular speedwork is vital as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the enjoyment of running. Finding a speedwork partner(s) is vital. Seeing the sunsets was incredible, but getting in earlier would have been too
6) Support is vital and social media is epic.
The messages I received whilst out there on the hill were amazing. Several people followed me and posted on my behalf which I really appreciated. I had a lot of messages on the final day when I was really struggling which gave me a boost at every read.
Most of all I would never have made it to the start line without Laura’s support; she is incredible and I am nothing without her.
7) Wales is one of the most beautiful places on this planet.
8) Some things are worth it.
9) Did I mention how incredible my wife is?
- Distance: 320km (199 miles)
- Ascent: 15,279m (50,129 ft)
- Descent: 14,916m (48,937 ft)
- Time taken: 68 hours 29 minutes