On the 22nd September 2013 I undertook my biggest challenge to date, The Ladybower Ultra Marathon. Here's what happened...
The big day was looming and I had just come back from my honeymoon on Gozo and Malta (which was amazing by the way) and all my training was complete so all I had to do was prepare for the race.
Everything was going well until… BANG! I came down with a bug. Stomach cramps, night sweats and a bunged up nose – excellent. Just what I didn’t need but I wasn’t going to let this ruin the race so it was just a case of trying my best to clear as much of it as possible before Sunday. On the Saturday night I started to feel worse and I was getting all panic stricken but Kathryn, my voice of reason, said it was probably my nerves making it feel worse than it really was. So I got my head down ready for the 5:30am alarm.
My alarm went off, I was a little fuzzy and then it kicked in. I got up and got ready because it was the big day! On the way there I felt calm and on arrival I got everything prepared for Kathryn and Sue to meet me at miles 15, 30 and 45 and I got myself ready for the start line.
10, 9, 8, …….3, 2, 1 and we were off. It was the 5 mile part lap to start with and all was going well. I kept my pace a little faster than anticipated, expecting to slow down at the later stages and I was feeling good. As I passed the start/finish for the first time and started my first of the three 15 mile laps I was still feeling good. I grabbed my water and energy gels and carried on nice and steady. As I got to the 15 mile mark I panicked a little as Kathryn and Sue weren’t there! So I carried on wondering if they were ok but half a mile later I saw them on their bikes. I topped up my drink, ate some Jaffa Cakes and carried on past the start/finish for my second lap. All was still going well and my friend Antony passed me (he was competing in the 35 mile race and finished it in first place!). I dropped my pace slightly as the temperature was rising and eventually it reached 19 ̊c. I was less than two miles into my second lap (22 miles ran so far) and I started with stomach cramps which lead me to being sick numerous times. I knew I just had to carry on and that I did.
At the 30 mile mark I met up with Kathryn and Sue again and although I was in 11th place, I was a mess. They were worried about me. I started to top up my drink but couldn't stomach any food. Dan arrived on his bike to see how thing were going before he got ready to pace me for the last 10 miles. I set off again having lost a few places. As my condition worsened, I tried to take on plenty of clean water over the next 5 miles. Fellow runner, Dave, gave me a bottle of Lucozade to help me along (thanks Dave!) and I had made it to the start/finish for my next lap, the final lap, which was the hardest I have ever tried in my life.
At the line I had some bananas and some more water and then asked Dan a huge favour. I asked if he could run the whole of the last lap with me. This would be his longest ever run and he was still sore from a car accident the week before. Without even questioning it he grabbed his running pack, filled it with everything we needed, cranked up some music and off we went on the last 15 miles! I ran with a new sense of vigour. With the help of a good friend and some good tunes we soon made up the places I had lost (back to 11th again) and we had a run/walk strategy to get me through the final lap. It was hard, very hard, as my body had nothing left to give. With Dan motivating me, we kept pushing and I was walking more and more often and I’d lost 2 more places. By this time I was in 13th place and I had set myself the target of not dropping another place over the last 9 miles. By the time we got to mile 45, my body was spent but I was in better spirits than the last time I saw the girls. Dave was getting close so we had to push on.
So here it is, the hardest 5.9 miles of my life! I had started to see the red mist of competitiveness and every time another competitor had started to close in, we tried to pull away until we were about a minute away from them. With 2 miles to go, disaster struck yet again. The stomach pains returned and I started vomiting but we carried on running. It was downhill, I was hurting but we kept on going. Dan was constantly trying to motivate me and as we passed the last dam, that was it. I was going for a strong finish and it was happening. Even on the last climb to the finish line with friends and family cheering, I crossed the line and looked for the nearest chair before I collapsed to the floor, nearly pulling the gazebo over with me!
The unofficial finish time is 9 hours 14 minutes and 30 seconds and I came in 13th place. I was so exhausted and so happy at the same time. Now here is the big question - would I do another ultra? We will have to wait and see.