The Isle of Wight. A small island of the Southern coast of England. Picturesque.
A popular holiday destination and when the weather is good is stunningly beautiful. The picture postcard looks are there for all to see.
However, when the weather turns it’s not quite as nice. The wind gusts off the sea and temperatures can plummet and the rain can chill you quicker than you can believe.
In April 2016 this is exactly what happened. 3 hours of glorious sunshine, perfect running conditions and then, almost without warning, the weather changed. Freezing rain, hail stones and gales force winds battered the island. It only lasted for a couple of hours but the damage was done. Fields that had been firm underfoot became glutinous mud traps, trails became mud slides and runner after runner limped into aid stations with blisters. For some this was the beginning of the end and the island would continue to take its toll throughout the night as temperatures dropped.
For me this was my first trail run, my first Ultra and the first time I’d experienced blisters from running. When the bad weather hit I was between aid stations and the two hours I spent trudging through muddy fields with wet feet was the time it all went wrong for me. The blisters had formed and despite fantastic work from the St John Ambulance crews and regardless of treatment and padding, I spent the next 15 hours running and then walking on very sore feet. Ironically it was my knee that took me out of the race, just too many stairs up and down the cliffs.
After 21 hours I could no longer generate body heat and with sore feet and a knee I couldn’t put pressure on I made the decision to withdraw with only 6 miles to go.
Now in 2017 I’ll be going back to finish what I started. I know the course now, I know when to push and when to be careful and hold back. Nicer weather would be nice but this time I will learn from my mistakes and complete the island.
As you may already know, distance running is a mental sport. Sure there is a physical side to it but if you can’t get the mental side right then you’re not going to do very well.
It’s 90 per cent mental. The other 10 per cent is all in your head.
Sounds silly doesn’t it? But it’s true especially in Ultras. There is, on average, a 25% drop out rate before the start of most Ultras and at least 10% of those are just too plain scared to start. It’s a truly daunting prospect standing at the start line of a 50k or a 100k race for the first time. No level of training can prepare you for the hours and hours or running ahead.
I was lucky in the way my brain refused to acknowledge the distances in all my training. I’ll try to explain that. When I first started on C25K and was running my first kilometre, the thought of running 10k was just about imaginable but a half marathon wasn’t something I could comprehend. The same happen when I moved up to 10k; a marathon was an impossible distance so I didn’t think about it.Once I switched up towards the marathon, 26.2 miles slowly, over 8 – 10 weeks, became a distance that my mind allowed me to realise was possible.
A 50k race is just that little bit further than a marathon so a little more training and you are there. A 100k race is a different beast and takes a totally different mind set to complete. Imagine your last marathon, or your first if you’re still training for one, and remember how you felt when you crossed that finishing line at 26.2 miles. You’re tired and your muscles are thanking you for finishing. You can slump into a comfy chair or sit in the bath and relax and congratulate yourself with a glass of bubbly and then take a few days off. Well this is a 100k race and you’re not even halfway, you drag yourself up and you start running again and hours later you finish your second marathon. Wow!! At last you can sit down and rest, that cup of tea looks pretty good now! “What do you mean I still have a half marathon to run?” Yep, sorry, on you go. Just 13 miles to go now!! Mentally that’s tough. I’ve done it and it’s mind blowing but I can just switch off my mind and trudge onwards, ever onwards.
Looking forward to the long races I plan to do next year my brain just can not understand 5 1/2 marathons or 9 1/2 marathons back to back which is probably a very good thing right now. 🙂
I’ve run a marathon and it hurt, it hurt a lot. I’ve run 60 miles and it hurt a lot but surprising not as much as the marathon. My feet hurt more but not my legs. I know I trained far more for the Ultra and I was more mentally prepared. I know if the weather had been better I might have survived the whole 66 miles. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know really. I’ve since learned more about taping my feet up which should help me going into the future.
There are a few races I would like to do next year, ranging from a simple marathon, how crazy does that sound?, a simple marathon! all the way up to a 250 mile race. Mentally I can face anything, any distance, I know I have the capacity for that, I know I can just shut off and trudge on regardless. Whether my body can survive a massive endurance endeavour like a 250 mile race is debatable but I think that I have to find out.
I’m not young, in fact I will be 50 in 3 months but I think that I have to try these crazy things. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, I never have done and I never will do.
So my hopes for 2017 are to compete in The London Marathon, but only on a ballot place, redoing The Isle of Wight Challenge, just to finish those last 6 miles, GUCR, 145 miles from Birmingham to London and the Thames Way 250, a monster of a race.
Are they all possible in one year? I have no idea but you never know until you try.