Today I woke up with a very bruised and fat knee, grazed chest, cuts on my hands and the most sore triceps, I assume from where I'd caught myself. I felt like I'd been hit by a bus.....
I entered this race with some friends a couple of months ago. I've not really been training specifically for it, I'd expected it to be more of a social trip. Since Zermatt I've not run further than half a marathon but I've been getting out regularly in the local hills with friends for short - medium trail runs so have been ticking over.
Fresh from a 2 week break in Thailand I had been keen to get some fitness back and what better way than a 40 mile hilly race in South Wales!
The week running up to the event, I'd had a cold and even up to the day before felt pretty run down and hadn't decided whether to start the race or not. My friends had since pulled out for various injuries etc so I had no real pressure to go along. I'd already planned to be in Swindon on the Friday to see dentist and my family so I was half way to Wales if I did decide to go.
I decided that I'd set my alarm in order to do the race and see how I felt in the morning. Best case, I could do the original plan, there were other options - drop to a shorter race, or just stay in bed.
I found myself at the start line of the 40, map tucked in my race vest, lemsip dosed up.... so you know how that decision at 4am went.
My original target before I'd been poorly was to get in sub 9 hours and before having to use my head torch. This felt like a tough target on a good day looking at the results from previous years so I had to be realistic about what I could achieve in my current state, a finish would be a big achievement.
The race started really well. A little too well. With a few flat miles to start, I found myself trotting along at a good clip, trying to hold back a little, thinking I had gone off too quickly. Yet, I felt surprisingly good. Still it was a long way to go and 2700meters of ascent to get through.
Before long we hit the hills, I ran them to begin with, until they got too long, then I hiked as hard as I could. I just couldn't get any air into me, I was making sex noises as I climbed the hills and chugging down a gel. Safely up and over the first hill we got an awesome descent down the other side into the valley and first check point. I was feeling better off the top, getting my breath back. The CP marshals told me here I was the first lady through (which, I knew anyway as I'd left the other ladies behind in the first kilometre). I didn't take anything here, just scanned through and jogged on.
Nothing much exciting happened for a while, until mile 10 while I was on a nice piece of easy fire road, slightly downhill, simultaneously looking for somewhere to take a pee. Whether I lost focus for a second or what I don't know. My toe caught the only rock on the entire path and I took a swan dive straight into the floor. I remember as I hit the floor thinking "not my teeth, not my teeth" I can only assume from the injuries and pains sustained, I took on the form of a sky diver mid flight as both knees impacted the ground hard, my thigh skidded along the floor, followed my tits and hands.
I laid there face down for a few seconds, slightly winded. I crawled up assessing what hurt. I couldn't stand up straight, my knees were trembling, part in pain, part in shock. Blood trickled down my knees. My thighs were stinging, my ribs hurt. Ouch my boobs. Urgh, there's gravel stuck in that hand.
I brushed myself down, and hobbled on a little way. My legs not quite working yet. I was 2 or 3 miles from the next CP, if I had to hobble there I thought I could, so I wobbled on whilst the trembling and shock disappeared. A few minutes later 2 guys appeared and asked if I was OK when they saw my bleeding knees and I tried to jog on with them. I managed a slow jog for a while, whilst I loosened back up.
Reaching the CP, I was feeling OK. Sore, but OK. I decided it was probably better to keep moving rather than stop and seize up, on the plus side, my cold seemed to have improved somewhat! The CP staff asked if I was OK, I said yes, grabbed some coke and walked on out, stumbling around the icy rocks.
The next section took us up the biggest climbs, the Brecon horseshoe, the climbing was hard but I put in a strong hike, the stretch along the ridge is amazing, it was quite windy and icy in places, and the fog was down so I nearly missed the turning at the top. I set off on the descent, sticking to the grass beside the path to avoid the slippery icy rocks. The descent was great. Or it would have been had every single step not sent hideous pains shooting through my kneecaps. I gritted my teeth and pushed on as hard as was comfortable. I was a bit sad as I love this sort of descent now - it's taken some practice and bravery to get to this point but the pain was not fun.
I reached the CP at 20 miles thinking that perhaps I should pull out. I wasn't in the best state, what if I made things worse?
Clearly, I was looking for excuses. I was offered more excuses at the CP. "Are you OK? Do you want to stop? Can we clean you up"
"No, I'll just keep moving" - part of me thinking that it would probably take as long to get back in the sweeper truck as to carry on.
I had been thinking of what I'd tell my friends and family. I had some legit excuses. What I'd title my strava post. Stop being a wanker Anna was the overarching message to myself. What's the point in coming to do these events if you're going to shy away when things get a bit hard?
The next 5 miles or so were the hardest. The ground was a bit crap, slippy, muddy, icy, camber pushing me off my feet. I could hardly stand up. Texting my friends as I went helped keep me going. As I couldn't run at the moment, it helped motivate me. Their positive messages and knowing that I was over half way. I could hike back in 5 hours if I had to.
15 miles to go...
Nothing much exciting to report except following a couple of guys and descending the wrong hill, a really fucking horrible one which I had to sit on my map and slide down. I got my map out for the first time and correcting myself, kept it out so as not to make any more irritating errors.
The last 10 miles were fantastic. I was running more consistently, some road miles meant I got through some miles a bit quicker, I was walking the hills now, any hills, anyone who runs long knows the score when it comes to any incline in the latter stages of a race! Finally finding another human to run with was great too! A guy Tim, caught up with me around this time and we chatted and ran the last 6 miles or so together - he'd also taken a tumble and hurt his knee but we both enjoyed the company and agreed to stay together unless either of us fell over, in which case we'd leave the other to rot ;-)
It was quite clear we would get in around 8hr 30 so we were both pushing each other to keep going to achieve this.
We crossed the finish line, me in bang on 8:30 and Tim a few seconds before.
I was thrilled to a) finish, b) finish well within my target time and c) win the ladies race! I managed to beat most of the men too which was a good feeling. Even if I'd been last in that time, I think I'd have been happy. It's a tough but incredible route and mostly I enjoyed it. There were points when I was looking for a way out and other times I would have accepted them.
My knee immediately swelled up and I began the painful hobble around to get changed and find some food - I was starving!
Thanks to my friends back home for keeping me motivated, although I might have shaved off a few minutes if I'd not been taking pics and chatting ;-)
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