The first word that springs to mind of yesterday is mud. Mud mud not so glorious mud. I would like to re-name this ultra marathon as a 50mile mud run.
The start had the usual milling around, people queuing up of the portaloos, adding vaseline into places I would rather not see at 7am, taking off layers, putting on layers and cramming in the last mouthfuls of porridge, coffee and flat coke. It was pretty cold and damp to start and I was wearing all of the kit I planned to carry. This year was the 10th year of the Thames Trot Ultra, this means there was a short speech at the start; not that I could hear it as I mistakingly started near the back.
Then I heard it...the count-down, five, four, three, two, one...we were off and the daunting realisation that I was going to be running for the full day dawned on me. I am an idiot, why have I signed up to 30 endurance events to raise money. Abbi calm down it is all for an amazing cause and just take one step at a time. The first 300m were delightful, even though cold, the rain had stopped and the ground was solid; then after crossing the bridge onto the Thames path itself it started; mud. It wasn't just normal mud, this was mud that sucked your feet down and held onto them, at each step adding a few spoonfuls to cold water into my already laden down trainers. Just one step at a time, you have got this.
People in ultras tend to be really cheery and happy individuals that chat away for the duration and believe me we were all trying to be sociable but to be honest most people were concentrating on staying upright. It was pretty funny for the first couple of miles until the realisation that this could last for the next 48!
At the first checkpoint I was greeted with my incredible support crew an the adventure pooch wagging her tail; having a team like that all wrapped up like Micheline men from the cold is a pure dream. It means so much and the moral boost was is like nothing else. They took my water pouches and filled them up, shoved jelly babies into my face, gave me encouragement and pushed me back on my way. The next 10 miles were the same on the mud front but i was getting into a strange mud filled rhythm. The only issue was my body already felt like it had run a marathon trying to keep upright for 20miles takes it toll.
At check point 2 - Benson. My hubby ran with me from mile 19 to mile 27 with the pooch (the mud doesn't phase a spaniel). Along with the company it was nice to have someone who wasn't part of the ultra experiencing the mud; so when I have tales to tell at the finish line it is believable. Ultra running can also sometimes be very lonely; for me it is a form of meditation whilst for others they need to have their headphones in to stay motivated. I also have a huge motivation from food, I have been trying to eat during an ultra every 15 minutes. This is harder than it sounds, my coach wants me to try and eat 200 calories every hour. This may seem like a lot but I was burning close to 800 calories each hour. Fuel the body to fuel the mind.
At check point 3 in Straitly, the terrain was familiar to me as I work close to the area, this was a moral boost, I was also over the hump! I was over half way. I had a fabulous group of cheer leaders supporting me (in the metaphorical sense) and my sister-in-law Ruth ran with me for the next 10 miles. This cheered me up no end as we were able to chat away when she wasn't falling over or trying to stay upright in the mud. Between these two checkpoints I reached 30miles, in my head at 30 miles I knew I would make it, 20 miles doesn't seem too bad when you have just run 30!
For the next 20miles, my body was broken but my mind was strong. Ultra running is all in the mind, keep saying mantras and believing in yourself, with one foot in front of the other the finish line will be reached. At 46 miles however it was dark and the mud was not abating, I had a break down; i couldn't believe that the world felt like it was so against me; I was so close but it also felt like so far, however, a good cry and a hold of the hand does wonders.
Closing the finish line was a pure relief (again crying), pure elation that I had actually done it. 3 endurance events down and 27 to go. I need to remember, all for a great cause.
Things I have learnt:
- Sometimes in mud it is quicker to walk and saves energy
- Potentially trial a small part of the route a couple of days before to feel up to date
- Ultras are all about strength of mind, when you body is broken your mind is still strong
- Try to smile; even when feeling pants it made me feel better
- Talk and encourage as many people as possible, remember everyone is in just as much pain
- It will all be over just run one step at a time