Isn’t the power of belief a wonderful thing and even more powerful when you have to overcome obstacles and self-belief becomes stretched to its very limits.
I have been running and competing in triathlons for around 10 years now and not once did I really feel the ‘want’ to run 100kms but that all changed after watching finishers come over the line at Heysen 105km in South Australia in October 2017. I had been crewing for my husband on his 3rdHeysen 105km and waiting at the finish line and seeing the look of accomplishment, and the emotion that the runners felt it stirred something in me, and for the first time I thought “I want THAT feeling”.
Fast forward 1 year from then to the start line where I found myself waiting for that “Ready Set ,GO” on Saturday 27thOctober 2018. But this starting line for me nearly didn’t happen…..
After March 2018 I completed my last triathlon, a Half Ironman for the season which had been riddled with niggly injuries. I took a month off and started up training again for the Jodie Lee Foundation Trek, 85km over two days. Again after this I was plagued by injuries. This allowed the self-doubt of “could I really do more than that in one day” crept in and the fear of the injuries is sometimes worse than the injury itself. I decided to rest and rehab. The best thing I did was listen to my physio! Not once did she say “you’re too old, you’re too injured, why would you want to do that for, running is bad for your knees” (actually my knees were fine it was the rest of my body, LOL) which if you are a running Mum or Dad lots of people (mostly the non-runners) like to tell us we are. Not once did my physio doubt me. Saying that my husband and 2 young daughters, my family and my best running friends never had any doubt in me either, they had seen me go through much more pain than these niggly injuries….(more on that soon).
Let’s wind back to June 2018 I started my training from the book Journey to 100, which was given to me by a running/work friend and I decided I was sticking to the plan, worse case I would get injured again but part of me had this overwhelming feeling…but what if I didn’t get injured again?
At the end of the day you have to trust the process and trust it I did. I was running hill repeats and efforts, I was doing the fitness testing, I was getting up at 4:30am on weekends to get my long run in before my kid’s and husband’s sports, I was writing my plans for the week ahead to make sure I was accountable, I was recruiting training partners (which I know they secretly loved me for and are thankful for now), I was training to my lactate threshold, which gave many a people a giggle because I tell you with all the training I was eating like I was lactating again…LOL, but most of all I was doing all these hours and km’s of training and I was not getting injured and I was seeing progress! I can’t tell you how much this boosted my confidence, I certainly didn’t think I was invincible, but for the first time ever in a training block I was not having time off from injury and a light bulb moment flashed in my head “ I think this 100km is meant to be, I have actually got this!”
I had plans for two ultras and a 33km event as part of my training plan. The Federation 50km at Murray Bridge in July went without a hitch and I had a great time. Mt Crawford 33km was early September and was my first DNF (Did Not Finish). At the 15km mark I started feeling off and realised I couldn’t get any fluids in, this was the start of the end. I made it to the 19km checkpoint and realised that dry retching and reflux were not going to get me to the finish line. I burst into tears feeling so upset but I knew that I couldn’t continue like this. I had to think of the bigger picture. I was right as I went to the doctors got diagnosed with virus, had my medication adjusted and was back to running on the Tuesday! Then in September I ran one of the most iconic events in SA is the Yurrebilla 56km. It was warm day, no rain, no wind and it has the most amazing atmosphere as checkpoints are every 5kms. I was feeling great and then boom… I fell face first down a hill superwomen style, landing on my shoulder and knee. I am so thankful it was a grassy hill and that my Garmin and Salomon pack survived too! I still joke that I tripped on a blade of grass! Despite the fall, I loved this day. My nutrition was good even in the warmer weather and I felt really prepared as I finished my last big ‘training’ run.
Running the 56km event four weeks before the 105km felt little awkward as I felt like I needed recovery but I also feel like I needed another peak week, but then I felt like I should be tapering! So many emotions so many decisions to make and the worry what if it’s not the right decision. I knew that again I had to trust the process and followed my training plan. I recovered and trained as needed. 10 days before the big day I finished my last hill repeat session. I don’t know many of us that love hill repeats but we love that feeling of accomplishment it gives us and that was exactly how I felt. I felt ready and I knew I could do it. I had a finish time in mind as we should to help with nutrition and planning with the crew but I just knew I was ready, everything was good to go, until that afternoon…
I thought my back felt a little tight, I told myself I was cold and a hot shower would help as I’d gone straight to the supermarket and coffee after my run (yes I did stretch, in the car park as us multi-tasking mums do). I got home, showered, had some R & R with Netflix and then boom, I could not get up. I tried to move my legs off the couch but it was excruciating. I managed to move but every step was agony. For the first time in my life I had ‘done my back’, just as quick as the pain came so did my fear of not getting to my 100km (funny the things we prioritise in desperate times). I tried not to get upset and thought if I can move more it will feel better. By the night it felt somewhat better and went to bed praying that it would be ok in the morning.
Wednesday morning, 10 days until the start line. I woke up and I was worse, I felt broken physically and mentally, all I had achieved in the last five months right then at that moment felt wasted. I was then reminded I had slipped down hill on the Saturday and perhaps that’s what caused it, funny thing is I didn’t get injured from the little slip, or so I had thought. The next three days were agony, I was on prescription anti-inflammatory’s and these were not doing anything. I had to get my husband to pull the blankets up on me in bed as I couldn’t move, somehow I managed to get out of bed but I had to get my daughters to dress me in the morning, driving my car especially over bumps was like a knife wedging deeper in my back and with every hour getting closer to the starting time my black cloud of despair was getting darker and darker.
Friday night my chiropractor was able to squeeze me in (my physio was completely booked up) and was able to release some of the tension with dry needling and gentle manipulation. I was so happy I could finally dress myself! Oh the simple things we take for granted.
Saturday morning I was supposed to attend a trail running workshop, I knew I had no hope of running but didn’t want to miss out and didn’t want to sit around home moping ( sitting was worse for my back anyway) so I went out on the trails and walked the gentle tracks while the group ran. I had a great day being with like-minded people and people that understood my current state of despair. We finished the day with drinks and dinner and I celebrated the fact that I was able to walk again, with pain but it was bearable, it was better to be walking than standing still or sitting.
I woke up Sunday feeling still sore but something had changed, the pain wasn’t as intense but I think my state of mind had changed. I felt a wave of positivity which I can’t really explain. I decided then that I would walk each day and if my back was not better by Thursday I would accept it as a DNS (Did Not Start), but if it felt better I would get to that start line.
I have a big group of running friends locally, interstate and internationally that I have made over the years from our common love of running. I made a video and sent it to the group, I became very emotional. It’s hard to explain to people that don’t run that if I was so injured why would I want to even try and attempt to start running 105km. We will always have people that don’t get us runners, why we get up early, we put our training first, why we would want to push our bodies to do things that they think is not normal. But I think that video made me realise that this is “my normal” this is what I do, I like the feeling of pushing my body to do things that I thought perhaps were not possible. We all have our ‘thing’ and this is mine and after some encouraging and understanding messages from friends this helped me accept, come what may!
I walked most days, and don’t get me wrong I was still doubtful and emotional but I still had that feeling of hope, maybe it was the feeling of acceptance of what would be would that helped. I suddenly felt so positive about the outcome , during the days leading up to Saturday I would find myself in a daydream like state but it was actually a visualisation of the course ( I had completed the 57km course in 2016), I could see the check points, I could see my drop bags and what I needed to get out. I could see myself on the course with my food, even could see what I outfit I was wearing ( which at the time I had not decided what to wear until then). It then was reminded that this time 5 years ago I was faced with a similar challenge.
In 2013 I was heading to New York City to run the marathon, nearly every runner’s dream but that year had been plagued again by injury but I was also diagnosed in the March with Crohns Disease. Coping with the diagnosis was hard enough but again I accepted it as I finally had answers as to why I had been so sick on and off for many years. The medication was a nightmare, but again I accepted that is what I needed but the straw that almost broke the camel’s back was a major injury to my pereoneal tendon in my right foot two weeks before the start line of the NYC marathon. Not knowing at the time it was all part of my side effects of Crohns but again people doubted me and questioned why would I still go and try and run. Again it dampened my spirits but I made sure I had my tribe in my corner to help me get through. I did get through, I left Adelaide on the Wednesday on crutches, had the crutches up until the Saturday then my friend and I got gastro on the Saturday the day before the marathon. We couldn’t leave the room until 3pm that day and tried to eat what we could. Well guess what, we ran that NYC marathon, we showed it who was boss, I ran the first 23km non-stop. Again the power of positivity and having the right people in your corner.
So if I survived all that surely I could survive 105km….
Well you know what I did survive, actually I did more than survive I loved every 105km and 19 hours of it (ok 95% of it). I woke Saturday morning at 4:10am and my back was good, no pain, no stiffness. They day was perfect running weather, 22 degrees, no wind, no rain, the sunset was just as amazing as the sunrise, my nutrition that day was as the kids would say ‘on point’, I listened to my body I didn’t push it downhills and took in the scenery and the atmosphere. I had decided the best way to get through was break it down into checkpoint distances, so all I had to do was get there to each one. My husband, two daughters, my Mum and friend were there for me at the checkpoints and helped me more than they will ever know. Just letting me sit down while they fussed over what I needed was a nice mental break and a chance to have a little debrief about how I was travelling. My husband is the better at restocking packs than I am now! My buddy runner reminded me of some silly things we were talking about over the last 5 hours of the night, like its ok and I’m so glad I got to share that time with her, as it all makes up the memories of my first 100km as you will never get to have your 1st100km event again. My buddy runner also reminded me that not once did I say I wanted to quit (I did want the blister pain to quit though) and thinking back not once did I even think I would not make it, I set my sights on for the next check point and then the next until I reached the finish line. It’s going to sound crazy but you know what I think my back injury was not the worse thing to have happened in the 5 months of training, it taught me a lot about myself over those two weeks, it taught me a lot about the people I surround myself with and it taught me that sometimes dreams really do come true.
German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” It turns out that he was absolutely right.