good morning bigmoose crew,
last week's blog was late, and sent on saturday instead of friday, but was opened by the most people ever, so i'm gonna experiment with this being sent today (saturday) instead, and then see what you guys reckon, any feedback will be gratefully received.
so last week i mentioned among other things that chloe aka fluffy was running a 42 mile ultra race, and it turned out to be a rather epic day, with lots of highs and lows, and lots of things to learn from, so i asked her if she wouldn't mind recounting how her day went, warts an' all, so you guys could experience it through her eyes.
so, she has written a tale about how the day went, and it is below for your delectation, and she too appears to have a propensity for long blogs, so i will update you on all stuff bigmoose next week, but hopefully chloe's efforts show that you don't always get what you want, but sometimes the journey is the takeaway from an adventure.
i hope you enjoy
chloe's first ultra
long distance running has never been my strong suit. but in march 2016, a good friend of mine passed away after a 2 year battle with cancer. emily was an amazing young woman and inspired many people, including me. until then, i had been fortunate to not have ever lost anyone close to me and so losing em, was a massive shock. at bigmoose we wanted to do something to remember her, so dad came up with the idea of getting a cardiff half team together.
at this point (may 2016) i had never run a mile in my life, but after watching dad on mds i knew i wanted to give some running a go and then losing em, gave me the push to commit.
for the last few years i have suffered badly with back pain and inflammation in my chest. i was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at one stage but this has been proven to be a misdiagnosis. we still aren’t 100% sure what causes the pain but it requires daily management and sometimes walking up the stairs can be challenging, so i knew running a half marathon wouldn’t be easy.
i trained for months prior to the race and the day of the half was amazing. with over 100 runners #runningforemily, i managed to cross the line with dad, pritch and my good friend olivia richards.
following on from the half dad came up with the idea of me attempting to run 365 days of 2017, no matter how far or short the distance i just had to run. this was a great focus for the first few months of 2017, but i felt i needed something more. before dad went to everest we discussed aiming to run a marathon together when he got home. however, whilst he was away i started thinking about running an ultra... i ordered a running vest to hold my water bottles, sent dad a picture with the caption ‘thinking of doing an ultra’ – his reply ‘you are so my daughter!’
and that was it, it was booked!
i had 6 months to get my mileage up, i hadn’t run any long distances since the half and i was now back down to running only 2-3 miles per run and i needed to be able to run 42 within 24 weeks! i got a training plan and began upping the mileage. i stuck to the plan as much as i could but my back pain often got in the way, resulting in missed training sessions and doubts building in my mind.
but progress was good and on 19th august i ran my first marathon followed by a 30 miler a few weeks later. i felt good and ready for what was to come! in the last few weeks of training my knee started playing up due to tightness in my hip and so i had to rest and miss my last big training weekend but i knew i’d put the work in up until then, so i just hoped it was enough.
on saturday we drove to cambridge, i was ridiculously nervous and as we ate dinner that night i felt sick and my stomach was in knots. i tried to get some sleep but my mind was ticking over going through everything i needed and just hoping that my body would hold out for just one more day of long distance running.
5am alarm – i sat on the bed of the travel lodge, feeling so sick and slowly eating a bowl of fruit and fibre - my standard go to breakfast before a run. when dad played hockey he was very superstitious and this has carried on as he’s continued taking on big challenges and in 2015 when he ran race to the stones he packed a bowl, a spoon from home and a measured amount of cereal in his bag. he explained that he liked continuity and wanted to keep as much the same as possible on race day. so flash forward to september 24th 2017 and i chuckled to myself as i sat eating my cereal out of a bowl from home with a spoon from home thinking what a mini me i am of dad!
the weather was due to be dry and as i got dressed i was so glad i wouldn’t need to contend with rain as well as everything else.
the start line was in front of the beautiful ely cathedral, near cambridge and as we arrived i had that first day of school feeling. i felt sick and didn’t want to get out of the car. there were so many doubts, my back hadn’t been great the week leading up to the race and i felt so frustrated that after 6 months of work that my body may not allow me to complete my challenge. i cried as we sat in the car and it took all my energy to get out into the cold morning.
race brief done and the countdown began. 3, 2, 1 and we were off. after a few miles the sun started to rise and the temperature was increasing rapidly. it was only 9am and it was already18 degrees. i was wearing my go to pair of leggings and t-shirt that i had trained in for months and, though i was comfortable in this outfit, i had not factored in the heat of the day! who’d have thought the end of september would be so hot?!
the first few miles felt good, the amazing runners at the front of the pack were now just small specks in the distance, the gap continuing to expand as their pace remained steady (and so fast!!!). i was near the back with about 8 other runners, we were all around the same sort of pace and i had 4 runners behind me for the first 6 miles. as it continued to get hotter and my back started to ache the runners started to over take me and before i knew it, i was in last place. coming last didn’t bother me at all but having the bikes tailing me was off putting and i didn’t expect them to be so close to me at all times. every time i needed to stop and stretch my back they were there, and as i’m so used to running completely on my own, it was really odd being followed!
i ran pretty well and got a boost when i saw my parents at mile 8. however the sun got hotter (now at 25 degrees) and by the time i got to mile 15 i had slowed to a walk, i met dad at mile 17 and was in tears. ‘i don’t think i can do this’ i said to him. he joined me and helped pace me and encouraged me to continue. we made the decision to try and make it to the half-way point before the cut off time and then make a decision to whether i continue. this meant 4 miles in less than an hour, which on a normal occasion would’ve been fine but because i felt so ill it was such a struggle. we made it to 21 miles with less than 4 minutes to spare.
by the time we got there i was on my hands and knees being sick. the sun was absolutely battering me, i sat in the shade just playing it over in my mind and thinking how easy it would be to get into mum’s car and just come home. i even worked out that if i left then i could be in bed by 5!! however i just couldn’t give up until i absolutely couldn’t take another step.
i made the decision to carry on with the option of meeting mum along the route in case i needed to pull out. dad was with me now, which was amazing, but we were averaging a super slow, 20 minute per mile pace, but i just couldn’t move any faster. the pain was intense and i felt exhausted but also frustrated as i knew i could go further as i’d done it in training. we planned to get to mum and as we got to the end of the path i saw her waiting for us with a huge smile. ‘how you doing?’ she asked, 'it’s not going to happen’ i replied, with my head down.
we walked to the pub where mum was parked and i ran in to the toilet, i reflected on what had happened over the last few hours, i felt broken but before the race i told myself to keep going even when i felt like i had no more to give and only stop when i physically couldn’t go any further. i came back to the car park and saw mum and dad and they were ready to get me in the car and start the drive home. ‘i want to keep going’ i said. they both looked surprised but immediately were on board and supported my decision. i had a horrible blister on my toe so i strapped it up, drank a glass of coke which gave me an amazing hit of sugar and then got back on the road.
i don’t know what happened during this 20 minute stop but as i started again, i had a new lease of life, the pain killers had kicked in and we were now averaging 13 minute miles which was an amazing improvement and more than that, i was actually enjoying it!! we still had the bikes behind us but i had a spring in my step again and deep down i knew the race wasn’t over and we were back on track.
the miles melted away, we ate skittles, laughed as we went, reminisced about our time on kili and i felt so happy and content to be completing this with dad.
then we got to the half marathon checkpoint, 13.1 miles to go. based on the time i had been out if they multiplied up they worked out i would finish by 10pm – the cut off was 7pm – the marshals said they needed to ring the race director to see if they were going to have to time me out. we pleaded with them that i was feeling better and had sped up, but they were like tradesmen pricing a job *deep intake of breath P shaking of the head P arms folded P* - it wasn’t looking good! as we filled our bottles i could see the marshal talking seriously on the phone. dad said to me ‘you carry on, i’ll catch you up to save wasting time’ so i kept going and then heard the deep shout of the marshal ‘put your number and timing chip down, you can carry on at your own risk but hand over your number’. i turned around debating what to do... i knew my race wasn’t over, i didn’t want to get in the van to be driven back to the finish line and i didn’t want a dnf and to hand my number over!! i looked at dad and he shouted ‘just keep running fluff!’. i only needed to be told once!! i turned back around and continued on the road ahead leaving the marshal confused and still shouting to leave my number!
dad caught me up and we laughed like naughty school kids running away from the grumpy teacher! we continued at the same pace, taking in the beauty of cambridge and as the sun began to set i felt so much better. with 8 miles to go we stopped and saw mum and by then i knew there was nothing going to stop me now.
by mile 36 we knew we weren’t going to make the 7pm deadline. it would be close but we knew we wouldn’t get there. we rang mum and gave her the update, she was now waiting at the finish line. we kept going and then suddenly the beautiful ely cathedral was back in sight. as we started up the last road towards the cathedral, dad crossed the road to let me have my moment and as we got closer i could hear mum shouting and cheering and by the light of the street lamps i could see she was with 2 other people.
i ran my heart out touched the finish point and sighed a huge sigh of relief. then as i walked towards mum it became apparent that she had convinced the race director to stay and wait for me to finish, mum told him about my back pain and that it was my first ultra and he kindly stuck around! i crossed the line at 7:22pm, the cut off was 7pm. he gave me a goodie bag and congratulated me and then from his back pocket he presented me with my medal, i questioned him and said that i hadn’t made it on time and he said that i deserved it for the perseverance and determination to not give up! what a top guy!
the other person with mum was one of the runners that i had run with for the first few miles or so. i saw her a few times during the race and she passed me on her way back as i was still making my way to the halfway point. she had finished an hour prior to me but came back to take a picture of the cathedral in the dark. as she did she spotted my mum and started chatting, when mum told her i was still running, she asked if she could stick around and see me finish! i was overwhelmed by the kindness of the these 2 strangers, and probably overly enthusiastically hugged them both!! what a day!
i was elated! after 10 hours 44 minutes i had finished my first ultra.
the car journey home i slept but kept waking up and feeling for my medal, to make sure i hadn’t dreamt it! the first few days of recovery were rough as we think i got sun-stroke as the heat was relentless, but apart from sickness, a few blisters and tired legs i feel great! the whole day was amazing, but what i took away from it more than anything is to surround yourself with people that love you and support you. i 100% wouldn’t have finished the race without dad’s support throughout and without mum following us along the route with food and drink. these two are heroes.
time for some rest now!!
as brucey would have said "didn't she do well"
there are lots of things i'd like to say about this episode of our family life, but they will all sound like soundbites from a nike ad, so i won't, except to say i'm super proud of this young woman, and can't wait to see how her life continues, i have a feeling it's going to be a great journey.
thanks for tuning in, and i'll get a bumper cardiff half marathon edition blog out to you next week, but just to say to all runners good luck, and keep an eye out for the 14 bigmoose supporter stations at every mile along the course, and if you see our runners if you're supporting, don't forget to cheer with a huge 'moose moose moose', to make them feel loved.
have a great week,