Caution – some readers may find some parts of this report might put them off their cup of tea and Hobnob and there is strong language in the middle.
Pauline was struggling with the decision of whether to run or not, after the long flight back from Australia her knee was not right. It was improving but not fast enough and if she started there was no question of DNF, it would’ve been 24 hours no matter what. I didn’t try to sway her against running but when she made her decision not to run I was relieved. I have seen her push herself to destruction before. The small consolation, she would channel all her disappointment into my support. I would be running for both of us. No pressure then!
Although my running was fine, I hadn’t been focussing on this race at all. I knew at the beginning of the year that the Perth Ultra Fest was happening with the possibility of it being an International event with a wee chance of representing Scotland again. I planned to run the 24 hour race anyway. It wasn’t until the end of July that I knew what vest I was wearing and it was a boot up the bum to get some quality and quantity into my training before a wee taper.
Doing support at a 24 hour event was new for Pauline and on Thursday evening we spent a couple of hours going over my race plan. The motivation started as soon as she picked my up on Saturday morning, she pointed over to a big sunflower growing in my neighbour’s garden. “That’s how I want you to be, tall, straight and strong with your head up to the sun.” I gave it a bit of thought, “Hmm? Yeah, that’s a good one, I can do sunflower!”
I didn’t need much faffing before the start, I was ready to go once I’d put my number on and the chip on my shoe, a couple of photos (roadrunpics.com)
and at 10.00am we were off. Soon settled down into my groove, it was going to be warm, I took off the t-shirt from under my vest, there was a novelty, it’s not often I run with just one layer, I hate being cold and rarely run at a pace to break sweat especially with something this long.
At 12 noon the 50km and 100km started and they whooshed past loads and always with lovely encouragement, Scott made me laugh, he gave me a round of applause every time he lapped me. I went through the marathon in 4hrs 21mins, a nice steady start, then 50km in 5hrs 15mins, it was a wee bit slower than my 2008 splits but that was ok, my plan was to take it easy in the heat and save myself for when it cooled down.
I could feel the toes next to my big toes on both feet getting hot and decided to change my socks to thinner ones. Pauline got the bag with my spare shoes and socks ready for the next lap. There was the start of a couple of blisters on my toes so lots of Body Glide around my tootsies then on with flesh socks but I was staying with the same shoes. I was half way round the next lap when I glanced down at my feet. What a numpty!! I was wearing odd shoes! They were the same make and model except that the pair I was racing in I’d only ran about 40 miles in, the others I used for training, and were quite grubby with loads of miles in them, I considered just leaving them since my “racing” shoe was the one with the chip on it but I was hoping to run another 90 miles so I thought it would be better to wear out my shoes evenly and decided to changed back. There was a lot of hee haws from support when I next went round and announced that I wanted to change just one shoe.
I settled back down until around 40 odd miles when I felt a wee bit chafing between my butt cheeks, which was a bit surprising, I don’t normally chafe at all, anywhere, except under my bra where I take the pre-emptive action of a wee bit of micro-pore tape. It must be the heat, I was also covered in salt, I felt quite manky, I’m not normally this sweaty but it was soon sorted with a wee freshen with a flannel round my face, neck and arms and a wet wipe and a dollop of Vaseline between my butt cheeks (sorry if that’s too much information… but I did warn you!)
I was refreshed and back into my groove knocking out consistent laps, not that I could tell from my watch, I never look it, I always run to my body and its built in metronome, I was wearing it as a fourth lap counter, just back up for the chip on my shoe (dodgy and totally untrustworthy) a lap counter (give me a thumbs up from a cheery face with a clip board any day) and Pauline (totally trustworthy) There was a couple of anomalies with my laps and it was always the chip that was duff.
The sun went down, the temperature cooled and the youngsters that had appeared were having fun with the glow sticks that were marking the path in the dark, it didn’t worry me, I had done a few laps by then and knew the surface well, on one lap there were a few of the kids on the path, I yelled “COMING THROUGH!” They promptly moved, I thanked them and a second later one was running beside me and asked how many laps I had to do until I was finished. “Dunno, it’s as many as I can do in 24 hours!” I replied, next came the usual questions, “When do you stop to sleep and eat?” He was awe stuck when I replied “I don’t!” he wished me well. The entertainment came to end when the Police arrived and told them it was bed time.
By lap 46 (109km/67miles) I was equal to my time in 2008, Pauline and I were doing the COME ON! ALRIGHT! shout. A wee tradition we now have which started at Perth last time Perth 2008 report I felt strong and pulled in the splits until I was 7 minutes ahead, all I had to do was maintain and I’d have a PB. Seemples!
Not so seemples, with around eight hours to go my stomach started giving me grief, I had some crystallised ginger which usually helps but not this time, my guts continued to bubble and boil like a witch’s cauldron. I burped and boaked to no avail, this was going to be a long night, I wondered why it was called the dry boak, my eyes were watering, my nose running and I was spitting plenty slavers, but no matter how many times my tummy muscles heaved I just wasn’t producing the nice big splatter with the diced carrots. Pauline tried to motivate me, I was going really slow and had lost my advantage, she shouted “COME ON!” I answered “FUCK OFF!” she pulled the earphone from my lug, “COME ON!” “FUCK OFF!” she tried a third time, “COME ON!” right in my ear, I’m nothing if not determined, I wasn’t in the mood to play. “FUCK OFF!” This was the first time ever in my life that I’ve sworn at Pauline. When I’ve supported Pauline during her moments of stress in races she has been insulting but never once did she swear at me, I have raised the bar in twinny tantrums.
A wee while later I had a fashion diva strop when Pauline tried to make me wear her Granny mac, she argued it will keep me warm, I disagreed, plastic only keeps you warm if the heat is there in the first place, I felt so cold that a corpse would’ve had a higher core temperature. She took it away and came back with my fleece blanket, that was better and at least I wore it with the panache of a pashmina and not a burka!
This photo isn't out of focus I really was that fuzzy!
Eventually, after a couple of hours I managed to spew, after all that effort I wasn’t impressed, “Is that it?” I thought. I’m afraid my puke protocol was lacking, I didn’t move over onto the grass, and left my wee splatter right in the middle of the path. I apologised and warned the relay team when I next came round “Try not to slide on the spew in the middle of the path up there!”
I can’t say I was running on empty ‘cause I wasn’t even running, it took all my focus just to stroll/stagger forward, every lap the benches on the far side were trying to seduce me into lying down but I knew that if I sat down even for a minute it would be game over, I was going so slow but I knew that if I stopped I’d go light headed and my legs would seize. It was going to be a very very long night, when I went through race control, everyone was encouraging me, but I could see by their faces they were thinking “God, you look like shit!” If anyone had actually said that to me I would’ve taken it as a very flattering compliment, I felt a hell of a lot worse! Andy Smith looked me in the eye and said something encouraging; I eyeballed him back and said “I’m not stopping!” I think I said that to everyone that looked concerned.
The sky slowly lightened, that mean bugger aka Pauline took Blanky away from me and gave me Sue’s Harriers jacket and told me to move and swing my arms! I felt colder with just the jacket which was on top of a fleece, my vest, a long sleeved top and a short sleeved top! The only way to generate heat was to move forward as fast as I could go. I was trying, honest! Occasionally my blisters would remind me they were there, I didn’t mind a wee bit of blister pain, it’s only skin, sharp and superficial and distracted me from the pain in my guts.
Pauline was shouting at me to run, she counted out ten paces of running to ten paces of walking, when I was out of ear shot I modified it to ten paces run/twenty paces walk. I had a stitch on both sides and in the middle when I was running (I didn’t know that was possible), it eased when I walked, I felt as though I’d been Claymore-d across the guts. Eventually I extended my running paces to my walking paces, I warmed up, went though 100 miles, (earlier I didn’t think that that was going to happen) lost the jacket, lost the fleece. I was moving forward with the pride of a Rampant Lion, time also moved on, neither of us were fast but both consistent.
The end was in sight, John gave me a wee stick with my race number on it, Pauline gave me my Saltire, I was to run ever step until the hooter sounded. I went past Aileen, she was ahead of me by several laps “Run with me, let’s finish together!” but her legs were stuck in her pace, I ran up the wee hill through the gap in the wall, Pauline was now allowed to trail me to supervise my collapse at the end.
There was William ahead. Pauline shouted “Runner coming through!” There was a proper gent with a sense of humour; William Sichel holder of 32 World, British and Scottish records, with a smile on his face, raised his arms in a “We’re not worthy” salute as I (me!!! a wee bauchle of a Fife wife) went by!!!!! The highlight of my twenty four hours!
The hooter sounded, I was between benches on the far side, Pauline planted my wee stick into the ground, I walked on towards the bench ahead, “I’ll have you now, ya tease!” I lay on the bench with my feet on the bucket, I had stopped. Lots of deep breathes, I wondered when my legs would get the message, they were still jumping about. Val appeared and with both Pauline’s and Val’s assistance I manage to walk back to the Scottish camp, Gail and Helena came up to watch the finish of the 24 hour and hugged the life out of me.
It was over, more deep breathes, this was one of the most painful 24 hours of my life, and without the support of everyone there I doubt I would have managed to do what I did. I would like to thank everyone personally but that will take too long, so to ever race official that gave up their time. Thank You. To every supporter there. Thank You. To the Scottish team. Thank You. To Pauline to say Thank You is inadequate and a box of Thorntons doesn’t make the apology but that will have to do. To Fabienne and Julie, your kindness and tender care will never be forgotten as you got my battered body out of its manky race clothes and into warm, clean and dry clothes. Thank You. To Lorna who gave up her cosy jacket to some random in need just before the prize giving when I was shaking with cold like an old washing machine on fast spin. Thank You.
Running round in circles is quite different to the adventure of a trail race but there is still a tangible magic there, what is beautiful is the way every runner supported each other, nobody past anyone without some words of encouragement, I knew ever time Chris Carver lapped me by his cadence, it was so fast. I was so pleased for Chris that he had won, there’s a guy that’s had more than his fair share of battles, a most deserved win.
This was just my third 24 hour race and it was the least distance I’ve had but I’m not disappointed, I still have a lot to learn, what I achieved in this race is not visible on a result sheet. I knew I was a tough burd before but I found a new depth within myself, although I’ve never experienced gut problems like this before my head stayed up not once did my posture crumple or did I wish I was elsewhere, I wasn’t the bonniest sunflower in the field, I swayed in the breeze but I did not break! My strength was honed and tempered beyond what I knew before, and that will stay with me always to take towards future challenges. 200km may be beyond me but it’s my goal and I’m hanging on to it, that’s for the future to know and for me to find out. One thing I know for sure is that I am capable of going further than I’ve gone before.