I’m a distance runner –

I’ve trained to keep going even when it’s hard. When it hurts. When it sucks. When I don’t want to. I look past it. Relentless forward progress to the finish. Call it what you want; stubbornness, endurance, determination, guts. Deep down, I don’t know how to give up…and it’s always worth it in the end!

Sunday – My rest day but I felt so restless. I tried to spend as much time off my feet as possible, reading and sleeping when I could.
I did day five of my yoga practice which focused on flow…following the breath with the movement. I felt like I had a massive ball of energy to use though.
Once my fiancé got home we went out to the local ice-cream parlour, sat in the sun and chatted while we ate and watched the world go by

…half an hour or so of sheer heaven and I felt rejuvenated on getting back.

Monday and start of taper week 2 – Usually after a rest day I weigh about the same as I do before a long run, my hydration levels stabilising and my muscles starting to recover, but I was nearly two pounds down. I therefore made a conscious decision to ensure I drank more during the day for the next few days aswell as dialling into my nutrition.
My recovery run was the lowest it’s been in a long time, 5K only of slow run which was lovely and refreshing…but I never felt warmed up before I was finished. Usually it takes me between 5-6K to really get going and then…well then I mostly feel like I could run all day. So the 5K felt a little awkward.
I also noticed I didn’t feel as awake as usual post run and at work I had moments of massive brain fog. I was pleased to get done all the tasks set for me and again felt a huge sense of accomplishment as I left. Driving home wasn’t as draining and so I did day six of my yoga practice program before lunch. Today was all about working on the core and looking at how flow moves to help build core strength.
By half past two my energy had dropped considerably and I had a nap before popping to the doctor for this months hormone injection. It was a different Doctor and he had a bit more experience of administering the injection so I wasn’t left quite as sore afterwards…although it did still feel as though someone had hit me in the hip. He also checked my blister while there and pronounced it “didn’t look too bad”…I’ve been instructed not to bandage it unless it flares up during my Ultra, to put a good bit of vaseline on it before I set off, plus I’ve an anti-fungal cream to dry my skin out as a just incase!!!

Tuesday – The forecast had mentioned a light shower for early morning but I think it beat me out the door.

The grass, bushes and flowers all wet and low cloud hanging in the Valley as I ran…my newly hormone suppressed body meant my mind wandering and my heart rate naturally elevated – my side sore where the injection was given and I felt a little grumpy at it and life in general. So parts were walked as my heart rate crept, a couple of times I gave in and stopped to take in the view and breath. These next few days I need to be as easy on myself as possible so jeffing is in, ignoring the watch or getting annoyed at it are out!
On Monday I’d run with my hydration vest empty, save the house key and my phone, but I’d added everything to it but my water bladder on Monday evening ready for Tuesdays run. I’ve been carrying most of my kit with me on long runs to get used to the weight over longer distances, and some midweek runs I’ve weighted my vest…again in preparation for my Ultra and to normalise the weight on short runs where I’ve not fuelled as much, and so it may tire me more – another slow help to build my endurance. However, this was the first time I’d worn it with all my food in the front pockets during a week. My aim was to finish ensuring my body was used to the distributed weight by Friday and that everything would be normalised. I need to note that this too may well have affected being able to control my heart rate during the mornings run!
At work I was posting BACS details…the first time doing so since getting back and something most seem to hate and I quietly love!!! My gosh was it mentally exhausting though, I had to take five minutes out as I got to the stage of not being able to work out what I was doing. I know I need to learn not to feel guilty about doing so, thankfully Tuesdays aren’t as busy a day.
After work I had an appointment to pick my new glasses up, exciting and disorienting all at once…my prescription hasn’t changed much but there’s still that odd queasy feeling of being able to “really see” as I told the assistant!
I popped to the Green Man Art Gallery afterwards to see if I’d managed to have my work displayed. I knew how many had entered the Spa Prize competition…plus the standard of some of the other work…and so was overcome with pride to see my piece on display!

I also made a personal note to myself to raise the bar a few more levels if I enter again next year – the work on exhibition is exquisite and I highly recommend people visit to view all the pieces…and mine of course.
Feeling too tired to drive straight home I went to The Pavillion Cafe for lunch, the waitress looking embarrassed at having to tell me there was a half hour wait on food…I was eternally grateful though as it meant I could just sit and watch the world go by and rest more.

Once home and silly housework things done I completed day seven of my yoga practice – honouring Surya…the sun, I felt energised stretching for clarity!
Before making dinner I filled my water bladder and added it to my hydration vest so that I would run at full capacity on Wednesday…it weights seven pounds in total and is hard to put on and take off, but I felt very comfortable once it was on.

Wednesday – My last training run and everything went perfectly. The extra weight of my vest didn’t phase me and I ran at zone 2-3 heart rates throughout. I was actually faster than on Tuesday as my pace and breathing were better and so my heart was unconstrained.

Once home it dawned on me that it was my last run, that next time would be race day…it was an exciting feeling and one I’m now very mentally aswell as physically ready for.
The only bit of my preparation which isn’t quite on point is my weight, I’d lost another pound despite eating and drinking more on Tuesday…my IBS has flared more over the last few days and so potentially may have been to blame. All I could do is keep on putting the fluids in, eat well and not worry…I know my body will find its level and I’m taking extra provisions with me on Saturday incase I feel I need them. Given what I’ve packed my aim is full self sufficiency across the course, when I have to stop at aide stations it should be just to clock in and get going again. However they’re there if something isn’t right and I need help too, and as much as I want to complete the distance, I also need to be sensible.
Work went really well again and I got back home feeling a little better, I did day eight of my yoga practice while a homemade soup cooked for lunch.
By the time I’d eaten and done a little housework I was absolutely spent and actually put myself to bed for an hour instead of just having a nap on the sofa. I felt so much better afterwards and had afternoon tea out in the garden to get a little extra fresh air before the evenings rain set in.

Thursday – My body felt sluggish and sleepy, my last bit of strength training was a half hour upper body session. It felt longer and quite hard so I did Yoga to Feel Your Best…enjoying the deep breaths and hip movements which freed my back up…before day nine of my actual practice – Divine. It went through breathing in a more controlled way in order to calm you more plus more opening poses to flush your body with energy. I can honestly say it worked and I felt great afterwards…although still a little sluggish.
After work it was odd not to come home to yoga practice and to have time to rest. I had documents to sort out for Saturdays race, my first kit lay to do and a little housework to complete before I got to fully sit down and enjoy some stillness.
I felt hungry all day and so made sure I had little bits here and there around my main meals, listening to my body and its needs. I decided that Friday would start with a lie in and apart from a slow yoga practice after work I would treat it more like a rest day.

Friday and my canceranniversary – I managed to have my lie in and woke feeling really good but emotionally a bit vacant. I wasn’t sure how I felt…or how to try to feel…emotionally I wasn’t happy, but at the same time I didn’t feel the sadness I’d expected.
Getting ready for work I remembered all that happened a year ago on the 12th and I felt slightly numb…like I couldn’t breathe. My overriding thought was that I just wanted to feel alive again…instead of just existing like I started to a year ago.

I’d had a call from the hospital on the afternoon of the 11th, I don’t know why I listened to the voicemail on the walk home from work and chose to ignore it…the sympathy in the man’s voice as he said who he was, that I needed to call them back and come in to see the Doctor as soon as possible – it induced fear. I recall standing on the bridge near the Mill and thinking…shit, it’s not been long enough since the biopsy for it to be good news. I didn’t tell my boyfriend until after dinner, I was scared of upsetting him and in fear of what was to come.
On the morning of the 12th I set off to work, got in and told my supervisor. He and a colleague persuaded me to call the hospital…if they hadn’t I’m not sure how long I would have left it. I sat in the sun in the atrium waiting for someone to pick up, thinking “it’s a Thursday, why does it have to be a Thursday”…bad things always seem to happen in our family on a Thursday – it’s like the most jinxed day of the week and I hold my breath inwardly from Wednesday evening to a Friday morning…when it’s safe again!
The lady who answered my call strictly gave two options 9.50 or 1.20. I took the 9.50 slot, only 50minutes away, text my boyfriend to see if he could take me and a colleague dropped me off at home. Apart from walking in the next morning and being pleaded with to go home and give myself time, and the day I cleared my desk, I never went back.
The drive to the hospital was ridiculously long, I got the wrong floor on arrival and instinct told me how bad it was going to be when they came and looked for us…then asked how we’d like our tea or coffee. We were put in room 3 – anyone who knows my quirks will already know I have a thing about the number 3, I see it as lucky and like if something is divisible by it…or equal a prime…I like those too. As I read the sign over the door as we went in I breathed a sigh of relief at seeing that number and believing it would help. My Doctor and a nurse joined us, the Doctor was a surgeon and matter of factly explained what we were dealing with – the nurse stopped her after a sentence or two as the words “its cancer and we need to act fast given what we’re dealing with” had switched off my ears and I was crying without realising. They went through what we needed to know…primary ductal, grade three, type three breast cancer and all that that meant. My only question was could I still run…then I remembered I’d need to tell my parents and wasn’t sure how, plus I had a new job I was on the verge of starting. The Doctor explained running was indeed in and needed as it would help with my head and also the benefits would help my body manage better everything that was coming next. They explained that telling people would be hard but family was the best place to start, then softly told me that work wasn’t something I should worry about at this point.
My Doctor left, leaving me with the angel that is Fiona…a little light in amongst so much grey, maker of fantastic coffee, giver of wonderful hugs and the most amazing calming voice I’ve ever heard. She gave us alot of reading material and my next appointment. We left and went into the City, had coffee and didn’t really speak much, we were waiting for the time to pass so we could drive over and tell my parents. That in itself was as hard as hearing the news, gutting and terrifying.

A year later and it’s hard to fight back the tears, the new me is beyond thankful that my diagnosis that day…while bad…wasn’t any worse. Looking at all that went on afterwards it’s scary what I, and we, have been through. From that day my life was no longer really mine, decisions no longer really my own – they did exactly what they needed to in order to look after me, give me the best care, ensure I had the best treatment and the best prognosis for the future. I slowly began to just exist…not live. That advert that says cancer doesn’t care about your hopes, dreams etc….that’s so true. I am now so used to just existing I find it hard to understand that I can live, to feel free and alive seems like a distant thing.

And yet

This was the last day of my taper, at work they had me post BACS…head down and involved so that I couldn’t think and get upset. One of my colleagues had a birthday and so just before 11am we all had large iced ring doughnuts and a cuppa. It felt great to celebrate a little…see good in the bad day. As I left and drove home I saw them putting up some of the signage for my Ultra…where I work marks halfway in the course!
I did day ten of my yoga practice…Expand, focusing on opening wide and breathing deeply to let go. Then gave myself half an hour with my foam roller before lunch and rest.
Registration at Bakewell went smoothly and I was pleased I’d gone early given the queue of cars I drove past when leaving!

Home again I checked my kit, refilled my water bladder and attached my race number to my hydration vest ready for morning.
At some point while out there I hoped to be able to catch up with feeling alive again.

Saturday – It didn’t feel like 4.15am…it felt later and my brain and body automatically went into long run mode. I listened to the birds and watched the sun finish rising over breakfast, readied my bag and then set off for Bakewell.
Finding my fellow Lonely Goat at the start line helped settle my nerves and spur me on, thank you Ian!

My aim was to finish in under 7hrs, try to run at 8kmph and to power hike hills when needed. There was only the latter that worked!
I felt comfortable and paced well throughout, enjoyed the views and really took in the run…but treated each 10K as the start of a new warm up to trick my brain into not giving in. The hills were at times brutal and really took it out of me, I also ended up in a cornfield and was only saved from cutting myself to pieces by fellow runners who navigated me back into the trail.
Through Deep Dale I misjudged an uphill over the river and a man actually lifted me off the slope I was on and put me back on the path! Thankfully neither incident lost me time…what lost me 6minutes was pain! Remember that blister on my right foot…well I got my feet wet early on and feared the worst….it took it 20K to have an effect! At just after the 35K sign I put my foot down and pain consumed me, yell…I screamed! I couldn’t stand to walk let alone run and really thought that was it, game over…then I remembered I’d a compeed in my vest. I took everything off, sat on the side of the road and gently removed my shoe and sock. Where the old blister had been a new one had formed, burst and was pulling at the skin…it was weeping and pretty awful. So I put a large gob of vaseline between my toes, stuck on the compeed and put my sock and shoe back on. I had many fellow runners check if I was ok and for a second or two I didn’t think my DIY had worked, but it then felt fine…so I kept going.
I had issues with my hips feeling tight, a feeling almost like cramp pulse through my muscles on and off but otherwise all was okay…it didn’t feel any longer than what I’d every run before (18miles in one go)
I managed to get my energy bars in at 25K and 39K without feeling, or being poorly. Plus I had my gels at each 8K distance…but somehow miscalculated and ended up taking one at the wrong time…I have no memory of when but as I got to 40K I realised I’d only one left and would need one at 48K. Thankfully I didn’t have to remove my hydration vest and was able to get to it easily. I really feel that extra one was very needed to give me more energy…my body, apart from the blister, never let me down and felt strong. It was my head!
Just after 43K when I was starting my countdown, I checked the time and knew it’d be tight but within my 7hrs. I had to cross the road and the volunteers said to me…well done its 9K from here…I’d forgotten the run was 52K and not 50! I tried so hard, to hard, to push to speed up to try and get back sooner. My body did fine but I couldn’t fight the emotion and went from sprint to speed walk while crying, to sprint and on and on and on. Then two fellow runners caught me up and tried spurring me on and I just let everything out. One was doing the 100K and the other the 50K like me, they told me there wasn’t a cut off, that I would get a medal and to think about all I’d done and achieved…we were at 49K. They decided to stay with me and we’d all cross the line together…we jeffed it for the next kilometre then ran downhill from the station to the finish line – I shall be forever grateful to them for their kindness and support!
At the line I cried, was given my medal plus a t-shirt and fizz.

I then found my folks and my fiancé and cried some more. Mum sorted out my Rego shake and got me drinking, checked I’d had my nutrition and iced my legs…then took me to the medic to get my foot checked. It will be fine but needed drying out a little!
After it felt sad that it was over, surreal that I’d achieved such an amazing thing…then we got home and I checked my details – I was the 4th female!!! It makes being just over time I’d set myself pale into insignificance given all I’d managed to do…plus actually finishing. We had a fantastic meal out – food never tasted so good – although I was somewhere between not hungry, nauseous and starving.
My legs ached, my hips especially – I need to work on strengthening them for all that will follow this year – because now we start the next countdown…and the road to the Loch Ness Marathon.

Sunday – I’ve slept well but on and off, my body sore and aching. I pushed viciously hard in the last 10K yesterday, now I’m feeling it…but at least it’s a rest day!

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