Sunday, 29 March 2020

Lockdown Lowdown

Well, this finds us all in a strange place doesn’t it? Lockdown. The world overwhelmed with a virus that we don’t fully understand, other than it spreads quickly, it kills many and it has resulted in a change to our reality that we probably still don’t fully comprehend. We can try and jump into a new reality or we can stop for a moment and allow ourselves to catch up. I know for one that I need to catch up. My mind is exploding and the reality I had found myself in has been replaced, not necessarily with something worse but with something so different if I don’t stop for a moment, well who knows?

Up to 2 weeks ago things were pretty normal. Back working, in something I was very much enjoying. Running again - including managing a half marathon in under 3 hours with no training. Even involved in parkrun again each weekend. 

And now? Now we’re allowed out for one piece of exercise a day - running, walking or on your bike. No more. At the moment allowed to go for as long as we need, although asked to be sensible and stay close to home. If we abuse it or if things get worse this will be taken away. It’s great people are now exercising regularly. We feel if we don’t take it we’ve somehow missed out and it’s a way of keeping us sane. If we used to swim, or spin then this is all we have. I never used to exercise every day, other than my walk to the station and home again. I had just started to run again regularly but now I’m using my once a day to go out with Keeley, my wife. We’ve all become attached to our one exercise a day, quite rightly as it’s all we have and if you think you’re going to lose something you hold on to what you’ve got. 

And in that is how we keep ourselves together. We need to hold on to what we’ve got. Our humanity. Our compassion. Our kindness. Before all this happened I’d finished reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown. Her focus on vulnerability, shame and daring greatly is just what we need right now. We are face down in the arena and this is where we need to pick ourselves up and face where we are, without falling into traps of nostalgia for a past that’s gone but also through the fundamental belief that everyone around us is doing the best they can. We are far from perfect. Each of us. We may not like everyone around us. How could we? Why should we? But we can believe that even those we think are arseholes are just doing the best they can, with the set of circumstances they’ve been given. 

I’ve made mistakes this week. I’ve been judgemental. Misunderstood. Angry. Sad. Falling into the rabbit warren of social media - like White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland “I’m late, I’m late” - late to understanding what matters, what’s important and what we need to hold on to. But I’m here now. I’m settling into to a new routine, making sure I give myself time and do what I need within the boundaries we’ve been set. And I know people think those boundaries don’t go far enough and I think likely they’ll get tighter, but we cannot judge others for following the new rules. We need to look at ourselves and our own behaviour. Trust others to look at theirs. Mud slinging. Personal politics. This isn’t the time for that. 

We can get through this, today on our walk we stood 2 metres way from Sally and had a lovely chat. We talked about trauma, the need to reflect, feel, and not close down or just move on - this is about processing. If we do that and support those around us through they’re own steps we can get through. If we judge and question and spend the next 6 weeks on social media, well we will get through but we’ll go insane.

 In the same way I’ve given up strava and comparing myself to people when I run, this is a time to stick to our own swim-lane. We can support the other swimmers in the pool, cheer when they finish and offer them encouragement but we don’t need to compare. We just need to be. That’s what will get us through, let’s just be....

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Happy to be alive

Here I am, nearly a year on from when everything fell apart in my life. It was only the second week in February 2019 when I was shocked to hear a GP tell me “you’re not safe to go to work” - incredulous at first, but then too exhausted to argue. She was completely right. I had passed the point of no return and every little thing was another blow I couldn’t quite deal with, a nail in a coffin that I felt I was building myself. Just trying to work out the best time to put myself into it. We really don’t notice when our world begins to fall apart, I think that I have a fairly good understanding of what made this time so different but that’s in hindsight. At the time you’re just trying to keep going, day after day. You don’t want to let anyone down. You don’t want to seem a failure because you can’t cope. You don’t want to admit to yourself that actually its more serious and you’re not well. 

This is what makes serious depression a mental illness and not a passing moment that you’ll get over. There are other things, of course. And we all feel sad, depressed, anxious, lost at different moments in our lives. But these can be at very different levels and require very different interventions. 

What made 2019 different to all my other periods of being depressed wasn’t how deep and dark I fell, but how much I worked to really understand why and what was happening. Opening myself up to pain I had locked away. Exploring the very depths of my soul and my mind. I put the work in. And it has paid off. It has not been an easy journey and at times I really thought I wouldn’t make it this time. There is a big gulf between suicide ideation and actually killing yourself. I know that and I’ve always been more into thoughts, feelings but not believing I would carry them out. But this time I had a plan. I had a method. I had a motive, so I believed. I’ll never be 100% sure why I didn’t go through with it. I’m grateful that I didn’t. I’m grateful to those that gave me support in my darkest hours - Keeley, Tor, Jules and Lynn alongside my therapist Carolyn. I’m grateful to the others that watched from the sidelines - either virtually or in person and offered support in different ways. Not being one who is always open to such things I did hear every word, read every tweet, digest every message. 

Then I’m grateful to the books I read that helped put things in perspective. Of course I couldn’t read in my darkest days, I could barely get out of bed. But Audible became my friend and as I worked through my pain these words helped give perspective - most especially Lost Connections by Johann Hari and My Sh*t Therapist by Michelle Thomas. Michelle’s words to me whilst I was on holiday, telling me to “hold on” were literally a life saver. 

Despite all this support and probably the best therapy I’ve ever had in my life (Google EMDR it is amazing) - I know this one was my win. I did the work. I put the time in. I got up from the floor time after time and chose to keep living. I wanted to get through. And I have. I’ve learned lots about myself. My past. My inner demons. I know that happiness isn’t a thing we achieve. It’s something that comes to us in moments. Sometimes fleeting. Sometimes hard to grasp. We need, I need to stop chasing a dream. Living in the moment and accepting. Most of all accepting me. Knowing I am good enough. Knowing I’m like a bottle of L’Oreal and very much worth it. Brene Brown has begun to teach me about the power of vulnerability. With honesty comes risk. But if we don’t take those risks then we aren’t alive. And we certainly are never going to achieve things. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely free of depression. I certainly won’t ever fully understand all the emotions I feel and how to process them. But I believe I now have the routine and the tools to work within that. The waves will rock me and I may still feel like I’m sinking, but I know where the lifeboats are until this one is saved! 

This morning I went for a run. Did my hill training. No one knows about it because I’ve turned off my Strava. Even better I bumped into Sally and we had a fabulous chat about mental health. Connection is important (see reference above to Lost Connections). She had some very wise words about staying still. Not chasing after things. The best lesson I learned was to stop chasing a false idea of happiness. To accept me. To accept the world around me. I may be a grumpy bugger a lot of the time but I think it has come from fear. Fear of letting people see me. But frankly now everyone knows a lot about me thanks to this blog! And it’s so important to me that others do not fall into those traps of thinking. Positivity is wonderful. It’s important in the right circumstance. But it cannot fix things that are broken. You can. If you’re open to it. And once they’re fixed, or at least you’ve accepted them, that positivity will become what you need it to be, in the right place and time. Chasing after what you want in life may not bring it to you. Or you may run right past it without realising it is there all the time. Working out what your ideal life really involves brings up surprises. Then rather than chasing a dream you can work towards it. 

2019 was an amazing year for me. Out of my darkness came some of my greatest achievements. I stood on top of the world at the Half MDS and cried my heart out. Not only for what I was doing (and from fear) but with relief. That I had allowed myself to live so I could take part in something so amazing. That it took me to people I love having in my life now (you know who you are Von Trapps and MDSers). That I received so many messages of support and of love that I knew they must be true. It isn’t a lie to say I think about that race every day. My wife kindly gave me a fabulous memory photo book for Christmas made up of snaps from the race. I keep it by my bed so I can remember and be reminded of how it made me feel and how strong I really am. 

And now it’s a year on - but it wasn’t just about last year. This has been a lifetime in the making for me. For the first time though I know I’m in control. Leaving my job in November was a huge risk. But it was a giant leap of faith that paid off. I gained freedom to make the right decisions for me about my future. I no longer feel scared. I’m back feeling confident in who I am and what I can give to the world. I’m running, albeit slowly. I’m enjoying being back at parkrun as a participant and most of all as a volunteer. You never know I may even join the Selfies on a slow run one day (if they’ll have me back!). Or I won’t. That’s the joy of my life now. I’m not confined by what I should do. No more shoulds. No more just saying yes. The best thing about your story is that you get to write the ending....

Picture credits: Sow_ay, Cleo Wade and Brene Brown - and me! 

Friday, 29 November 2019

Knowing when to stop

A few weeks ago I happily announced that I was going to start walking more races instead of running - people mistakenly took this as my announcing I was over with running. I’m not - but out in Fuerteventura I discovered that sometimes just finishing is better than worrying about time, or how much you run. Perhaps if I’d had a break once I got home to properly recover I wouldn’t have made this announcement. But the fact is these last two months have been my busiest in activity all year. 

Two weeks after the Half MDS finished, still with blistered feet and tired limbs I headed to London to take part in my 6th Royal Parks Half. It was my first Half Marathon back in 2014 and would be my last fundraising race for Breast Cancer Now. The weather was perhaps the worst I’ve known it for a Royal Parks, with the race village area a horrific mud bath, meaning feet were wet and muddy before the start. That said I was surprised to find myself running and running quite well once the race started. I had started at the very back, not worried about time or pace. But my feet kept me moving, until about mile 10 - when I realised that wrapping yourself round and round the park really wasn’t as exciting as climbing mountains. I had seen a few people I knew and at this point it was really lovely to see three of my Half MDS buddies, where I shared just how bored I was with road racing! I had text my wife too just before saying I was starting to find it really dull and with that my running slowed, I began to walk run. The rain began to fall. It’s was cold and wet and I realised, that perhaps, road racing was over for me. 

I finished in under 3 hours, which I hadn’t expected. Time wasn’t important - after all I’m a long long way off my 2 hour Half Marathon times of old. The experience was fun, but also eye opening in how much I’ve changed perspective of what I want from a race. No one questions your time when you’re going a long way. No one stops to ask why you’re walking. No one cares your walking. Partly because no one is watching. It’s just you. The race. The other competitors. Plenty to think about as I trudged home soaked to the skin and still covered in mud. 

Two weeks after this, so just 4 weeks after Half MDS had finished I had Beachy Head Marathon. Now I wasn’t expecting to even do Beachy this year, we’d entered to walk it together Keeley and I. But she has injured her knee so instead we were going to go away for our wedding anniversary but we changed our minds and this meant, well yes I could use my entry to Beachy. My 3rd visit there. It will most definitely be my last. It’s another great race and ticks all the boxes for a trail marathon. Great support. Great scenery. Challenging conditions and sausage rolls at 18 miles.  I had started off seeing a few people I knew. Again not worried about time with a plan to run/walk and aim for at longest an hour per 5k. Run/walking - which i was doing. Until I decided I wasn’t. Then I was walking. Which was fine. My feet were still a bit sore and blistered but so far other than the wind the weather had held off what was it’s horrific forecast of gales and rain. Reaching my sausage roll was wonderful. I knew I wouldn’t be doing this race again so enjoyed every mouthful. Even trying a second. But i was tired. My body was tired and it would only get worse as we entered the hardest part of the race. Which was when the weather turned. Stupidly I hadn’t put on the jacket I was carrying at the last pit stop. So when the rain began i was soaked in seconds. No point wearing it now. Plus it was cold. The climbs of the Seven Sisters didn’t phase me. All those climbs in Fuerteventura have given me perspective. But i was dressed for run/walking not walking - so the conditions became tough. I knew it was going to be dark when I finished. I was slowing. 

But then we reached Beachy Head. I saw the emergency Chaplain van and I thought how strange it was to be back here again. The first year I ran with Jules I was right on the edge of my mental strength, it was all about to crumble away and the race simply became a battle for me mentally. In 2017 I ran it thinking I was doing so much better but little realising how much more there was to come. And all this year I had often thought about taking myself to Beachy, not for a nice day out but to end it all. It’s was one of the options on my shortlist. Although I was cold. Wet. Tired. I was alive. And I want to be alive. For a moment tears filled my eyes and then I thought “fuck this” as I so desperately wanted to finish. I can’t tell you how awful the conditions now were. Wind that nearly pushed you over. Stinging rain. So NOT the lovely sunshine I have discovered I like running in. 

Even worse when it was finally over (muted celebrations, soaking wet, cold, everything closed as it was nearly cut-off time) I had to drive myself home. Nothing glamorous about this race.  

And then two weeks later, so just 6 weeks after finishing the Half MDS, i packed my WAA ultra kit bag and headed off to Swindon to take part in XNRG’s Druids Challenge. Having been too ill to try Pilgrims in February this was my alternative. 3 days along the ridgeway. Sleeping in community centres. This time I was prepared to be a walker. I’d packed trousers and the right kit. My WAA bag turns out to be more comfortable than I’d realised, having used my old UD bag at Beachy it just wasn’t for me. 29 miles day 1. 27 miles day 2 and 28 miles day 3. Or something like that. A long way. 

Turns out too far for me. Day 1 was fine. I enjoyed every moment. Well nearly every moment. Once it got dark and I was on my own it wasn’t such fun. Meeting a group of people I knew at the last checkpoint I hurriedly followed them out of the checkpoint so I wasn’t too far on my own. Sticking to the guy in front of me like glue. Running when he did just so I didn’t feel lost and alone in the dark. Overnight was the horror show I expected it to be. Dirty cold showers. Freezing cold hall. The only saving grace was I managed to acquire one of the spare camp beds so I wasn’t on the floor! Oh and my period had arrived a nice 2 weeks early. One of the fabulous XNRG crew drove me to the Co-op so I wasn’t left with an even bigger disaster. But all this combined to make Day 2 an experience I simply didn’t expect. 

It was ice cold in the morning - like literally ice. I had dressed in my trousers and walking gear as I knew the forecast was terrible. This part of the route started to join the Race to the Stones course so there wasn’t even anything new about it. But it was fun. I was having fun. It was all I love. Like minded people. Snatches of conversation. Beautiful scenery. Great check points. Amazing marshals. I was doing really well. Had a good pace. Until we hit the Thames stretch where it was deep mud and I slowed. My limbs felt sore and tired. And the rain began. Leaving Checkpoint 3 i was beginning to struggle. I had tried singing all the songs I knew - including an entire rendition of the sound of music. But i was getting slower. Up on the ridgeway where the wind and rain became incessant i began to cry. This was not fun. Then finally my shoes gave way and i realised i had wet feet. My double socks were no longer keeping me dry. I was so cold. My hands were in wet gloves. The jacket was clinging to my triple layers but still i was getting wet. I was at about 21 miles. I knew the last checkpoint wasn’t far and then it was 4 miles to the finish. I began to think about the next day. How slow I was at walking. How I hadn’t managed any running. I knew that it as unlikely I was going to try for Day 3. Another 9 hours of this wasn’t looking like something I would enjoy. I was just so slow. If I could run a bit or be a bit quicker then maybe. But i was tired. 

As I cried I realised that actually I had nothing left to prove. I had about a kilometre to the last checkpoint. At my pace that was about 12 minutes. I could stop. Just stop. Another 4 miles would take me easily a couple of hours. I was soaked. The weather was getting worse. Just stop. 

So I did. I walked into the checkpoint to be greeted by one of the amazing team and asked “who do I speak to about stopping” - they tried to talk me out of it but I was sure. There was  another woman who was injured who was waiting to be rescued and we both got driven back to the sports centre in Didcot that was the Day 2 sleep spot. Realising I would have to spend another night sleeping out as they couldn’t recover me to my car until the next day I looked at a map and was able to call on my hero Charles who lived near by and came to rescue me and take me back to my car at the finish. They gave me a medal for my efforts of day 1 and in total I had completed 52 miles. 

Since then I haven’t really done much. One parkrun. My feet are no longer blistered. My body is recovering. I’ve got races next year. And yes I’ll be walking some of them, but I’ll be running too. I can’t spend 9 hours on my feet it’s too long. So I need to get some fitness back. Lose some weight. Take my time but know I can get back to being a run/walker. Walking has its place but for me not over those distances. I take my hat off to those that did Day 3 and it took them 9, 10, 11 hours. That’s a long time on your feet. Those at the back deserve our praise. 

And here is the thing. I felt fine about it all. I still feel fine about it all. No regrets. No second guessing. No ‘oh but I could have....’ it was the right decision for me. The best decision and in that moment of knowing when to stop I realised I’m getting better. I’ve found who I am and who I want to be. Who i can be. I pushed myself but I also respected myself, was kind to myself and said ‘enough’.  Since that moment I’ve taken that into other areas of my life. Leaving my employer of over 13 years and looking to see what adventures lie ahead. Recovery is just that - being kind to yourself. Taking the moments you need. Making the most of the moments you have. It’s not easy. Life isn’t. But now I’ve learned there is nothing to prove in pushing yourself beyond your limits. Don’t get me wrong, pushing, striving, achieving all has it’s place. The Half MDS taught me that. I went way beyond my limits and came out flying. Druids taught me that you don’t have to do that every time. Only you know when it’s right to push and when actually some things are more important.  Listen to yourself and no one else. And whatever you decide it’s the right decision! 

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Half Marathon Des Sables - Fuerteventura 2019

Where do you start? Probably best to start with the facts: 

The Half MDS is an endurance event, with 450 competitors at the start over 4 days, each having to carry everything they need to get through every single day. 

Day 1 – Stage 1 was 30km starting at noon (so nice and hot), 32% on sand, 65% on trails and 5% on rocks (also known as cliff edge). 

It had 2582 feet elevation gain and I burned 3117 calories. 

I finished in 378 and it took me 6:59:23

10 people failed to complete the stage. 

Day 2 – Stage 2 was an eye watering 54.5km starting at 6.30am, 36% on sand, 35% on trails, 29% on rocks. 

It had 4706 feet elevation gain and I burned 4439 calories. 

I finished in 314 and it took me 13:15:40

21 people failed to complete the stage. 

Day 3 – rest day -  more on that later. 

Day 4 – Stage 3 was 24.4km starting at 9am, 4% on sand, 91% on trails and 5% on road. This doesn’t include the 3.5km walk to get us to the start line. 

It had 1608 feet elevation gain and I burned 2245 calories. 

I finished in 368 and it took me 6:14:45

Everyone who started Stage 3 completed and earned their medal. 

That’s the reality of what happened. The bare facts. I finished in 355th place out of a field of 365 runners – all of whom are amazing human beings each with their own story and who now have a shared experience that we can never forget. This my story. 

We all know the circumstances that led me to this start line on Monday and you probably (if you’ve read my blogs before) know I don’t do race reports. So this won’t be a “race report” about improvements, mistakes, blah blah. There are lots of those blogs out there and this one in particular turned out to be the most accurate if you want that kind of thing (

A couple of weeks before flying out I had been lucky enough to stumble across the Half MDS facebook group full of eager Brits all making last minute plans (some very last minute), sorting issues, asking questions, but also ensuring we actually knew some names and faces before we got there. Well obviously not me as if you know me you know I hear peoples names, see their faces and then instantly forget that information. But I was no longer worried I’d be completely alone at the start. 

The Playitas Resort that hosts the event is a large sun bleached complex on the sea, with breakfast and dinner provided. Registration was easy and painless. No real check of the kit and everything happens pretty seamlessly. Meaning you can focus on getting to know people and sorting yourself out. The most important thing you get at registration is the race book. Which reveals the details of each stage. How far, how high, how technical, how long you have to finish. 

I was delighted to see the longest stage was now “only” 54km compared with the mammoth 66km last year. We had less time to complete it but all of the stages were still manageable. There were some big looking mountains but that had been expected. I realised the hardest part of every day would be reaching the first checkpoint. It was always the tightest time, giving you never more than a couple of hours to go anything from 7km to 10km. That may seem ages in real life but out here with the heat, the hills and your kit on your back I knew it would be a challenge. 

I spent Sunday night working out the distances between checkpoints, how long I had to do them, what pace that meant I had to go at. Committing to memory for Day 1 so I would be prepared. An early night but not an early start and the race would be off. 

No need for me to go through the details of the briefings or the bus to the start, I want to focus on what matters. Arriving at the start line grateful there were portaloos. My worst nightmare had come true and my period had started on Saturday. So by this Monday start day I was now on my heaviest day. I knew this was going to be a challenge. 

You can’t help but feel excited at the start of any race, but this one does feel so much different. With all the kit, the atmosphere of the amazing event team, the runners not sure what is going to face them. Although in the distance I knew we didn’t have far until our first giant climb – 380 metres up a mountain and I could see them in the distance. Thinking how I would never ever complain about the start at Beachy Head Marathon again!  But they don’t leave you standing in the sun for long and after pumping music, loud cheers it starts. 

I started running. An added incentive was they announced that Selma Hyak and Angelina Jolie had been filming in the village over the mountain….if that didn’t spur me on then nothing would!  A slow plod as it was flattish and after all this is a race. Right? I kept going, but as it got steeper the rule of ultra running came in and I walked. And then it got steeper and steeper and it was midday and hot. And suddenly after 40 minutes at 5k I was knackered. My 11 minute kms became a 20 minute and a 15 minute. As the path wound up the mountain I began to think “what the actual…fffffff” – I decided I would stop for a breather at every bend. Finally at the top with an amazing view I was pleased to be on the down and could start running again. 

It was here that I found myself behind the most amazing group of athletes from France. In front a woman, calling out to the sight impaired runner behind her. Behind him a man who gently touched his elbow or his back if he got to close to an edge, or was stepping on a hazard. It was mesmerising, incredible and made me realise I had no cause to worry about how I was getting down this mountain path! 

Having made checkpoint 1 with plenty of time to spare I was feeling better. No Angelina Jolie in the village sadly, but the Han Solo film had been filmed around there and I set off along the beach feeling good. But 10kms of sand has a way of sapping that out of you! Heavy, soft sand with the tide out and too far to venture off course to get to harder sand it was tough going. Relentless. Hot. Beautiful. That said I would have enjoyed it if I’d known what was to come. As after finally getting off the beach the worst part of the day and perhaps the race was to come. 

I didn’t really study the road book too closely but apparently between checkpoint 1 and 2 there was a ‘technical section’ of 1km. There would have been no explanation of what this meant even if I had studied it. It turns out it is a code word for fucking difficult and very fucking scary! 

We began to climb a cliff. An actual cliff. On a tiny teeny slippy, lava rock, cliff face. It snaked its away around and up. With gaps to leap over, bits to reach up. Slippy. Did I mention slippy? And nothing else except sea below you. Oh and have I mentioned that I hate heights? This was horrific. Beyond horrific. I know the race lost some people at this point as they simply couldn’t do it. I also know one man fell at this point, sliding off the cliff and holding on to a rock with his finger nails as he teetered on a ledge. Only to be rescued by another runner reaching down with his running pole and hauling him up to safety. There is a reason our GPS trackers have an SOS option! 

At points I was too terrified to move, but dug deep and just kept repeating “trust your shoes, trust your shoes”. Hoping that once I’d made it past there would be safety and an easier route. One of those things was true, there was indeed safety. But then a small ravine with rocks to climb. A man lay at the foot of the first rocks I came across, surrounded by medics. He had slid off said rocks and was now being rescued. I began the climb up and out away from any cliff edges. Pausing for multiples swear words at a giant climb in front of me, wondering how I was ever going to get up it. When a British man appeared behind me. I turned and said “I hope you don’t mind pushing my arse!” He laughed, said no and I began to climb. At the appropriate moment I yelled out “NOW!”  and he gave me an almighty shove to get me up and over the rock! 

From there on it was checkpoint two and then home. I had slowed but was still well within the cut off and the last part of Stage 1 was what they call chalky path. Which is a code word for not quite so heavy sand. It was easier to move on and I found myself able to run again. Just gently. But run I did. Doing the last 10k in 90 minutes. Most importantly finishing in daylight for day 1 which I had never expected. 

Now it was a welcome to camp life. You cross the line, collect your 5L water bottle which is to do you until you leave camp the next day. Find your bivouac and do your best to get everything done like eat, toilet, sort out kit, sleep, make new friends. I was in Camp 22 and the easy part was I already new most of the camp as they were all from the Brit FB group. (Bret, Jess, Stu and Emma) Other than my tent buddy to my right Sol, who was a lovely young man who ended up finishing the race in 43rd position! 

A big clue to how camp life would be was the fact there were several wind farms within touching distance. I was the last to arrive at our night time home for the next 3 nights and most had already eaten or were in mid cook. But you could see several failed attempts at fires. We had all brought our little stoves, fuel blocks, ready and happy to heat our water to rehydrate food. Bugger that. A Bunsen burner would have struggled to stay alight in that wind. The blog that said dig a hole, fill it with wood, make a fire. That was the right one! Thankfully Stu is made of stern stuff and worked hard to create an area that was free of wind so you could get enough heat for water. I was impatient as I was tired and hungry. He helpfully heated my water to a suitable tepid and I added it to my mac and cheese along with one of the essential kit stock cubes. 

All those statements now fill me with dread. I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. First rehydrated food. Oh yummy. Oh bollocks. It’s a means to an end and I did not try any of the ones I took with me first. Big mistake. Taste tests matter. Stock cubes do not matter. And they certainly don’t matter when added to an already stodgy goo and make it taste like, oh what did it taste like? Cats piss? No…I reckon that would have been tastier. It was disgusting. Barely edible. But by now getting dark and cold and just wanted to eat. 

If I’m truthful when I finished the first stage panic over the second stage had started to set in. It was so hard. So scary. So near death like that I had begun to doubt I could go on. I went for my tent, ate. Went to the loo where I discovered phone signal and texted my wife. Bugger digital detox I needed her more than I needed time away from phone. Walking back to camp I thought I’d stop and see if I had any messages. There was a queue and I waited. You give your number and they then hand you any printed sheets with the messages people have sent via the website that day. He smiled and said “wow, you’re popular” as he handed me 3 pages…! Taking them back to my tent, now bathed in darkness I crawled inside to read them. Camp life is great if you’re an old woman as everyone goes to bed at 8.00/8.30pm especially as the next day was the longest stage and earliest start. 

The messages were amazing. So many from friends, family, twitter, facebook. I was overwhelmed and sobbed into my 360gram sleeping bag! When you’ve been to the darkest places to discover people care enough to message you, telling you things you never believe in yourself, it was the most incredible feeling. There is no question these messages became the highlight of my trip, I carried them all and will keep them forever. That night one in particular stuck in my brain from Darren it said “you are strong. Stronger than you think you are” – I sat thinking about those words as I hadn’t felt strong. It hadn’t felt good today. It was hard but it felt so much harder. What did I need to do tomorrow if I wasn’t going to die?

And that’s what I did, thought about what I needed to do. In my tent. I felt my fuel had been all wrong, my technique poor. My heart rate had been high all day and I had been tired.  Tomorrow was long and hot and running is overrated. So I re-sorted my food into bags to take between checkpoints, decided I would shotblok every 5k and knew I wouldn’t attempt to run. I then went to the loo and told Keeley that I would do my best to get to checkpoint 3 and make a decision if I could go on. But if it looked like mountain edge I would stop. I asked her to warn people that I may not finish (which she never did) and then I went to bed. 

I will say here and now that what happens over night at Half MDS camp stays at camp. There is no place in a blog for nighttime shenanigans – but suffice to say the loos were nearly a km away there and back and the sand is very very dark at night….

As I stood on the start line for Day 2 – Stage 2 I was terrified. The morning had gone well. My tent was clear of everything other than sand. No risk of a penalty. I’d eaten some food. I had my new routine. But I was convinced the mountain today would kill me and that I couldn’t do it. I had one mission – to get to checkpoint 3 as fast as I could so I had the maximum amount of time to get over the mountain and limit my time in the dark. And with that we were off. 

The first part of Stage 2 was perfect, flat, downhills, hard sand, rocky river bed. I had watched others with their poles yesterday and changed my technique so I was now more efficient and adaptable to different terrain. I smashed my way through checkpoint 1 in record quick time. Suddenly today I wasn’t alone, I was surrounded by people and ahead of people I expected to be far behind. It suddenly meant there were people to speak to. Say hello, check how we all were. And I was feeling good. Checkpoint 2 was passed still well within cut-off and I knew I was giving myself a great chance to reach my decision point in good time. I felt good. I was on a mission. My routine in checkpoints was clear. If I had water left in my bottles pour it over my head and neck. Refill empty bottles. Take some fuel. Electrolyte. Don’t take your pack off. Don’t sit down. In and out as fast as I could.  

Up ahead I could see a bit of a bottle neck building as we approached the sea. I figured there was either a great photo point or a bit of a tricky point. It was both. It was time to work your way down to the beach part. Otherwise known as cliff. Sandy. Slippy. Drops that you had to step down, across, with sea to your left and well not very much to your right at times. But it was so beautiful. Magical. “You’re stronger than you think!” And I began to trust my feet and my shoes. With people around I felt safer and there were hands to help you up or across at times which hadn’t happened yesterday. A few times I stood with my heart in my mouth wondering if I could make the gap (I know one woman didn’t and dropped out at this point) but it was also fun, exhilarating, terrifying. 

At the end of beach section I was so proud as I hadn’t slowed too much and I’d made it alive. At this point I was following a man in front with another runner just behind me. We climbed the hill out of the area. Then I stopped. Hang on. Where were the red tags that mark the route? The man in front ploughed on, but myself and my companion both said “no markers?!” – we turned to see several people climbing the hill behind us and started yelling anyone see any route markers. We were off route. They are every 10 metres or so and were none. The man who had been in front of me had ploughed on and was out of sight. But now a swarm of 10 people were frantically searching for the route. I had wasted energy climbing a hill I was sadly trudging down. A cry of delight went up and we saw the markers had taken us off UP another way. So now it was time to climb again. 15 minutes of time lost. But it could have been so much worse. Another mistake I would vow not to make again. 

Now Checkpoint 3 wasn’t far and I knew I would keep going. I had time on my side and I had everyone else on my side too! All the checkpoints were so welcoming, friendly and encouraging. It was lovely to see people who’d been ahead or behind you and just catch up. Take a breather. But I knew this one was to be quick for me. Not just because I wanted it done. But also cause I knew I should take a loo stop before the mountain! 

The first climb wasn’t too tricky, but the road book map had been deceptive – making it look like we climbed and climbed. Instead it was a long slow gradually ascent in a river bed. Surrounded by mountain either side that we would ultimately be on top of. This was some of the hottest parts of the week. My watch recorded 38 degrees in the airless ravine. There was a 15km gap between checkpoint 3 and 4 so it was also important to conserve water. At this point I found myself drawing on where I’d been to get to this point. All the pain, the anguish, the fear and despair. I’d survived it all and found myself here. Now. Alive. Living. I knew I was going to climb that mountain. And I knew I would remember every step. I would remember here and now and how strong I was. Not just achieving this race but everything else too. 

At the point you’ve run a marathon the climb up began, but thankfully no edge. A clambering over boulders, tricky but fun. I felt about 10 years old albeit with a back pack and a strange desire to stand in the shade every so often for a breather…as I got higher the wind started to return and before I knew it was literally standing on top of a mountain. All around you could see for miles, even better it was a track road along the top, wide and flat so no fear factor needed. Yes it was hot, hard and I still had about 4km to go to the check point. But I was so happy up there, banking every moment for when things get hard in life. 

Checkpoint 4 came joyfully into sight with the offer of hot soup (salty broth that wasn’t my cup of tea but I know lots enjoyed it) and then it was the last push for home, back on dusty sand paths. An endless road that went on forever up to the finish but I knew I was going to exceed all my expectations when I reached the last KM to go sign and the sun was yet to set. I was going to complete the long stage in daylight. I had pushed hard, worked hard, dealt with my fears and anxiety and quite frankly smashed Stage 2! This shows in the stats too as I gained 35 places on Day 2. 

Back in the camp, euphoric at finishing I ended up just having my evening chilli meal with luke warm water, too tired to heat up my water and my feet now sore and clearly blistered. This would end up being a big mistake as it never really hydrated properly and sat heavy in my stomach during the night until it wanted to reappear at super fast speed!! But I had rest day to look forward to. 

Lots of people seemed to find rest day frustrating, not really tired or perhaps with feet in better condition. But I enjoyed the opportunity to not get up at 5am. To rest my feet. Chill out around my tent. Sort my kit. Read my now 11 pages of messages (seriously thank you guys). The good news is my muscles were all fine, it is a different test this event – well maybe not if you run it or really push it, but my feet were terrible. I had felt a blister burst early on Day 2 and I could feel the soles of my feet ache. Sol advised I visit the medical tent so with Nat for company we took the walk there. 

There was a fair queue outside of the tent, they took our race number, had a quick scan of our feet and it looked like we were going to just have to sit and wait. When suddenly the offer came of an english language DIY foot clinic. Nat and I looked at each other “could you do it yourself?” She asked me. I looked at the queue and shrugged – “I think so”. Now to be fair at this point I had no idea what I would be doing myself, but I knew I didn’t want to queue and how bad it could it be. Haha oooooh how bad could it be? We went inside with a very lovely Dr Lady who sat 4 of us down with paper under our feet, gave us rubber gloves and then a syringe and a little pot of iodine solution. Turns out DIY blisters involves injecting your own blister with iodine…okay then! 

Nat was amazing as she was the ‘demo’ doll – we all watched what happened – an un-burst blister gets injected, pull out the pus, pump in the iodine, pull out, pump in. Done. It actually didn’t look painful as it’s just dead anyway. The woman next to me had a more complex blister as it had burst, that just gets injected into the skin. And we were warned it hurts. Well turns out my blisters had pretty much all burst. Plus they were all on the bottom of my feet. Which meant although at the DIY clinic I never did it myself as I couldn’t reach. I did have Nat kindly offering to do mine for me, but funny I decided to decline. We’d never really spoken before this moment but I can tell you we’re close friends now. As when a burst blister that is the size of your heal gets injected it really hurts and when Nat had to have her blister under big toe injected, yep that REALLY hurts!!! We laughed. We cried. We held each other’s knees as we had rubber gloves on so couldn’t hold hands. But most important we left the tent with our feet soothed, covered in gauze and tape. It took over an hour but the team there are amazing, there were some brutal brutal feet and other injuries. This is NOT your regular race folks. 

The remainder of rest day involved gathering to chat in the communal area, which was freezing and like a wind tunnel, so you could only sit in there for short periods or dressed in winter wear! Learning how to fold your tent away (yes that would be our job) and watching a bizarre turn of wrestling from some local school children and finally the all important visit with the coca-cola which came far too late in the day for my liking. My dinner on the rest day was Chicken Tikka, the best of the bunch and I’d put my water out in it’s can with a bag over the top at 11am so by 6pm it was lovely and warm and no need to attempt to heat it. My favourite part was going through my pack and throwing stuff I wouldn’t need away. It would be a lighter day tomorrow. Although I confess I never found my pack too heavy. It was the one thing I thought maybe I’d struggle with but it was comfy to carry and fairly light weight the whole time. 

And soon it was time for bed. Rest day over. I think perhaps camp life I found the most disappointing part of the experience. There were fun moments and I met some lovely people but what I had expected didn’t quite come to pass. But I still had my messages and I fell asleep with them clutched to me, knowing I was going to complete this epic adventure. 

Stage 3 started earlier than we had been told, I expect to give us longer before the heat of the day. It involved a walk, a bus ride and another walk. Packing up camp was pretty easy and we all worked together to help each other. It was the hardest breakfast of the week and I struggled to get any porridge in me. The journey to the start was made easier by finding myself with Ruth on the bus, who ended up the 2nd placed British woman. A very understated, excellent competitor with a keen humour and who came from Orkney so with my Shetland background we had plenty to talk about. I’d woken up with an upset stomach so it was lovely to have something to take my mind off this. Off the bus it was clear we were being walked up to a lighthouse along a tarmac road, which we would clearly end up running back down when the start came. It was a real party atmosphere at the top, chilly in the wind but everyone knowing this would be it. The end was in sight. All of us who gathered there at the start would end up with medals. 

Stage 3 was much more about running – as it was a road start, steep downhill once the off went everyone shot off. If it is about running I’m never going to be in the frame. So unlike Day 2 I was almost immediately at the back. Not least because my feet were now super painful. I had strapped them into socks and my shoes but it was going to be a very painful day. I could see the others I knew who had sore feet also walking the hill down. I ended up with a slow plod for as much of it as I could. But the field spread out very quickly and I would see less people today than before. But today I was much more emotional than other days and spent much of the time thinking deeply about life, what I would change, how I would live. More open. Less afraid. And I would have no regrets from this experience. I remembered how I felt after RTTT and what a mistake that was. How dark a place was I in, even then?

The checkpoints came and went, I was still in touching distance of the Von Trapps (ask me about it sometime) and Sara was also in checkpoint 2 when I went through. It was now the home straight – just the two mountain climbs to go over, but both much smaller than the previous days. It was a hotter day with less wind so it still wasn’t easy going but I left the final checkpoint with plenty of time and only a short distance to go. Now after the event was over I had a conversation with Karen, who I’d been telling on the rest day about my fears of cliff edges and heights. Proud of what I’d overcome. She told me afterwards she knew that she couldn’t tell me about the final day. She had done the race before and knew what was ahead and just decided it best I didn’t know. She was right. 

It was a steep climb, but I felt good as I could see people I knew ahead and a man on a buggy had gone up to the top, so it was obviously wide and safe. Stepping out on to the top though everything changed. We had only 4kms left but the next 2km would take me 90 minutes and I would cry the entire time. Fear, anxiety, dread, despair, relief, hope, laughter. All mixed up in those tears. I would sing songs from the Sound of Music. I would say over and over “trust your feet, trust your feet”. I would mostly be alone, desperately looking round to see if Sara was close enough behind for me to wait. She would eventually pass me and it would be the only time I sat down. After the worst of it to let her and some others pass. Tears of relief as I could see the last climb ahead behind which I knew we’d see the finish down on the beach. 

When I look at the photos now it is hard to see what I was seeing. It’s hard not to think – really? Was it that bad? I’ll never know as I’ll never go back. But it was a tiny goat track, that snaked around and up and over. Wind blowing hard. Rocks to climb. Slippy under foot. Sheer drop to my left. I slid on my arse. I held on to rocks. I just wanted to make it alive. “You will not die now” was another of my favourites in that 90 minutes. I knew the anxiety was causing adrenaline overload, I used water on the back of my neck to try and calm my now racing pulse. I thought “what would Santosh do”. I thought of Keeley. She’d be so cross if I slipped and fell now. 

It was the hardest finish to any race I think I could ever do. I’ve done Beachy Head and that last 10k is brutal but you never think you may die. I was terrified I would. But I didn’t. I made it. I rounded the last hideous climb and saw the finish below. A scrabble down on slippy path with sore feet was all I needed then it was the last KM sign. I would finish. And that’s all I’d ever wanted to do. 

The rest of the details don’t matter, ice bath at the finish, medals, t-shirts, gala dinners. Friendships cemented. Drinks drunk. Memories shared. Flights home. Reality. It is a great experience, not really a running race, an endurance event that turned out to have actual life risk involved. And it leaves you with euphoria with the risk of dropping like a stone. 

But I will never drop like a stone. It wasn’t a life changing experience. My life had already changed. It was a life enhancing experience. It took me to places I didn’t expect. It took me deep inside myself, it gave me time to reflect, to put into practice what I’ve been learning. There was no darkness there. There was strength. Resolve. Resilience and as Cat said to me tenacity! And then there were those messages. Those messages which must be true otherwise why would you all take the time to write them?

I went out and climbed mountains, stood on the edges of cliffs, hung on to rocks, waded through sand. It was epic, amazing, but in the end it was me that made this week. It was me finally believing that I am good enough. 

Monday, 9 September 2019

My time

Here we are then, in two weeks I’ll be in Fuerteventura. In fact at this time I should have completed the first leg of the Half Marathon Des Sables, probably about 20 miles. (They don’t tell you exact distances until you get out there). I’ll be cooking my dinner on the little stove I’ve carried with me, a fine dehydrated mac n’ cheese and preparing to settle into my bivouac in my ultra light sleeping bag. Ready to get up and face the longest stage - roughly 40 miles over the volcanos and sand. 

I won’t go back and remind everyone what’s led me to this point. Or will I? You may not know I entered the race a year ago now. It was going to be the end highlight of a year of great achievements for me. My dream race The Wall, 69 miles in the summer. Another crack at the London Marathon, with the hope that maybe I could even get a PB (first time I’ve admitted that!). A few more ultras thrown in and then the Half MDS followed by my favourite Royal Parks. All raising money for Breast Cancer Now - who I’ve fundraised for now for nearly 2 years, raising nearly £5000! 

But most of that hasn’t happened. There have been 7 DNS (Did not Start) and 1 DNF (Did not Finish) so far this year. I ran in London. I certainly didn’t get a Personal Best. The Wall was one of the DNS. But I have 3 races left this year - Half MDS, Royal Parks Half and the Pilgrims Challenge in November a 3 day ultra back to back 30 milers. 

Throughout all of this I’ve been off sick from work for 5 months with depression and PTSD. Returned to work. Been on anti-depressants, taken myself off anti-depressants. Put on over 2 stone in weight (cause of said anti-depressants I’m now not on!). Some days I’ve been able to run. Some days I’ve not been able to get out of bed. All the time watching my dreams for the year come and go. Part of the pain. But knowing the Half MDS was still on the horizon. Achievable if I could just get myself there. 

And here I am. Two weeks out. Ready to go. It can no longer be the way I imagined it. My weight, although going down, is still probably a lot more than the average competitor. My fitness is returning but not fast enough to make a huge difference. I am strong in my legs because they know they’ve done far more than this (Race to the Tower a case in point). But am I strong enough in my mind? Can I really do this? 

Yes I bloody can! I’m on a long road to recovery but the Half MDS has become part of that. It is achievable. It’s achievable for anyone. Not just me. I confess I have moments of crisis, mainly as I really wanted to do well. But define well. Is well completing it in a time that is respectable? Or is well just completing it? Knowing that only 2 months ago you couldn’t imagine getting through the day and now you’re going to run 120km with everything you need in a 6kg bag on your back? Everyone says it’s enough to just complete it. I know in my heart of hearts I don’t believe that. But right now, right here - that’s all I have. I know myself. I know I will always feel that disappointment that this year fell away from me. But only in my running. In my life this year should be the year that makes me. The year I finally confront the demons inside my soul and say “enough”. Perhaps the year I am able to complete the Half MDS and realise this was enough. That looking at others race times, achievements and feeling I’m not good enough is just that nasty parrot on my shoulder. It’s not the truth. It’s not my truth. Nor is it your truth. We are good enough. 

Which led me out to the beautiful Kentish Greensand Way on Sunday for a 21 mile kit test. Technically it was a run but my pace is probably the average persons walk, I was basing it on trying to get each 5k under the hour. Which I achieved. I stopped and took photos. I stopped for chats. I texted Jules playing i-spy as we both went out on our runs with photos....I went 21 miles in pretty much the time it took me to run the London marathon this year 6 hrs 30 minutes. And that’s good enough. It has to be. It will be. It can be. 

Which means off I go. I now declare I am officially tapering. I’ll do some parkruns and a few more kit checks but with less than 13 days to go I declare myself ready. This is my time to achieve something. Not the something I planned. But something for me. Something I can hold on to and say - you know in a year of proper shit I did that. I crawled out of the darkness and went up a volcano! Deep down I may not believe it’s a great achievement, but one day I will and I know you’ll all tell me it is anyway so I’ll believe you. I promise. With that I want to thank my amazing cheer squad, those I know in person and those that virtually slap me most days through Twitter. You know who you are. You know that i probably wouldn’t even be here without you. And you know that I’ll think of you when I’m re-hydrating my chicken tikka masala and then the next day trying to find somewhere for a shit as I run!! 

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

One step at a time

Salisbury has become a ‘thing’ for me - in 2017 I was entered to do the Salisbury 54321 marathon for the first time. I saw it as a great opportunity to get back to running after Race to the Stones, it was billed as a trail run and the cut-off was super generous. The 54321 is always a bit weird but it’s something like 5 rivers, 4 hills, 3 country estates, 2 castles and 1 cathedral.  Well, I never did the marathon in 2017 - instead my wife had ensured I got to see a Doctor the Thursday before and I was put on anti-depressants and sent straight for counselling. I switched on race day to the half instead

Last year i entered the marathon again, another great opportunity to get running again after Race to the Tower. This time I had Jules and Tim for company. I did complete the marathon. We didn’t run much of it together as my pace was slow and laborious. But that year I finished it, in the wet and the rain. Still on anti-depressants, weight rising steadily. But job done. 

Well, this year I entered the Ultra - why not get the complete set? Great training following the Wall (which obviously I didn’t do) and the perfect distance in advance of the Half MDS in September. Except, we all know how this year has been going for me. Mostly filled with DNS - one DNF at Bewl and mental torment that sees me up and down like a yo-yo. Plus I started back at work 5 weeks ago and although it has been okay, it hasn’t been great. Work have been super supportive but the minefield of restructures in Local Government and not being sure what I’m meant to be doing hasn’t made it the return I’d hoped for. Which led to a collapse in my recovery just as we approached my nemesis in Salisbury! 

What to do? I hate making decisions in case i make the wrong one, in case i regret it and spend the entire time wishing I’d done something else. Or blaming myself for being so foolish. I simply didn’t know - I ran 15 miles the week before, plenty within the pace for the cut off. But later that day I bent over to pick up something and my back went into spasm. Co-codamol prescribed by the GP and the words ‘keep moving’ all seemed to indicate I could still run. But did I want to? My wife, Keeley, had been entered by mistake (by me!) into the 20 mile walk - the plan had been for her to walk the Half Marathon having walked the 10k last year. Despite my mistake and trying to convince her not to walk 20 miles with a bad knee, no training and no point she was determined to stick at that distance. Should I, I pondered, do it with her instead of the 50k?

When you don’t know what to do what else is there to do but ask Twitter. So I did. And you answered in your droves. Almost all pushing me to drop down to the walk and have some fun with my wife over 20 miles. She had promised me a scotch egg picnic on route too so I could feel the gods drawing me in, but I still wasn’t sure. Decisions. I hate making decisions that I can’t stop myself regretting. Which then helped that two people made it for me. First Whiffers - well you just don’t argue with Whiffers and second my therapist. Both told me not to run and to do the walk. That was it then. 20 mile walk with 10 hours to complete it in was the plan. My back was still sore and it just seemed to make sense. But once again Salisbury 54321 had defeated me before I’d even reached the start line. The race that has inadvertently become like a marker in the year for when my mental health finally completely failed me. There would be no triumphant return saying “I’m better” - and I can promise you there will be no return to Salisbury again. 

If you ever get the chance to enter Salisbury 54321 then I would. It’s a masterpiece in organisation. You can run 21, 33, 42 or 50k and you can walk all of those too as well as a 10k and a 5k fun run. Everything is colour coded. There’s bread pudding on route (for the longer distances), great marshals, beautiful scenery, no chance your watch will match the distances (always well over) and the weirdest ending along the river dodging tourists and shoppers who have no idea you’re in a race.

20 miles in 10 hours seemed very doable for Keeley, we had mused about potential pub stops, picnics. Plenty of fun to be had. Except she hated it. From about 2 miles in - granted she’s in a lot of pain with a ligament damaged knee strapped up. Likely arthritis too. But her physio had seen no reason why she shouldn’t give it a go. And she did. Mile after mile. Hill after hill. In pain, I kept her dosed up like smarties with paracetamol, ibuprofen, some of my co-codamol. She navigated stiles, fences, main roads, off road, yew trees, tarmac (most of it is actually not trail) oh and hills. Lots of lovely hills. Her message to me “just keep talking” - so I did for 9hrs 30 minutes. I went through my entire repertoire of bollocks. At first I was questioning whether she actually wanted to do the entire thing. But her inner stubborn was not about to give up - or at least when it wanted to we were in the middle of nowhere with no checkpoints and no chance to just drop out and Uber it home. Which meant we walked. I sang (those who run with me know my love of Nolans), I chattered. I texted Jules to give me inspiration on what else I could do to help motivate her. We had cheese straws, we did stop and eat the scotch eggs. We took selfies. And she swore. A lot. But she bloody did it. It took longer than we had hoped which makes it harder as that’s all just extra hours on your feet. But she kept going. She dug in. She walked 20 miles. 

And me, I walked it too. And I realised I could walk it, easily. 20 miles did not seem scary to me at all. But I guess having run 13 marathons and a few ultras it wouldn’t. But I had never realised this before until Sunday. I just kept going. And it felt good to be able to give support to Keeley. The one person who has been a constant over those last 2 years of deep darkness, it’s not been easy for her (at all) and in some little way I could give her something back. This was what I did. Stick me in a race or on a route and I will keep going. I won’t be fast. I won’t be pretty. But I won’t stop (well other than in Bewl in the pouring rain!). It was like an eye opener for me. At one point Keeley asked me why did I do this and it’s something my therapist asks me too. Why? Why push yourself over crazy miles. Simply because you can. You can switch it all off. All the pain. All the voices in your head. And just put one foot in front of the other - usually with beautiful scenery and snacks and friendly folk to cheer you on. It isn’t real life. It’s as far from real life as you can get and it turns out, I can achieve something doing it. I can get to the finish. And in real life I’m never quite sure I’ll get to the finish. 

But we did. Together. One step at a time. And doing that 20 miles, strapped into my MDS pack, bad back and all I know I’ll get to the finish of all my races left this year. On the drive home Keeley turned to me and said “it’s weird, as you struggle so much mentally in everyday life but somehow you’re incredibly mentally strong when it comes to running.” The 50k wasn’t to be for me this weekend. But I know I have it in me to reach those goals that are to come. And maybe just maybe I have it in me to reach my life goals too. 

Before I finish I also want to thank Donna and Tim, our friends who popped up in the last 2k at Salisbury. Tim had hoped to run the marathon but had to pull out. Even though I’m sure they should have gone home hours before suddenly they appeared in front of us and helped ensure that last mile went by easily. It was almost the same pace as our first mile. It gave Keeley a boost and they took some great finish photos too, so thank you!