SALLY FAWCETT: Run Diaries iii

The Trail World Championship was an amazing experience, and such a privilege to run with an amazing bunch of athlete’s. The whole event was brilliant; a super friendly and laid back British team, mixing with all the other nations in the hotel, the acrobatics at the opening ceremony, the super lazy day before – the type you never allow yourself at home!

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The race it’s self was tough, the heat at 6am only got worse until we finally hit some shade at around 60km in. For me that was soon after 2pm! The start on an athletics track encouraged a fast start and that’s what we got, a sub 7 min first mile wasn’t the wisest, but I’d like to think it made the most of the flat bit of the course.  I settled into a nice rhythm on the first climb, and enjoyed a more sensible pace. It wasn’t until an hour or so later when I momentarily took my cap of I realised it was soaking wet. I hadn’t dipped it in water, it was sweaty yet my skin was dry, it was evaporating off me so quickly. The first water station at Borriol came early, I had plenty of fluid so just grabbed a cup of water but didn’t need to fill my bottles. By the time I reached the first of the supported checkpoints at 31km after 3hrs 28mins I was starting to struggle, not through lack of fluids just the heat, but so were plenty of other’s.

Sarah arrived at the aid station a couple of minutes later in a similar state. After taking time to douse ourselves in water, drink plenty, grab a few crisps then restock bottles and food we decided to keep each other company for a few kms. This helped both our races massively; it was motivating to have someone alongside you and good banter provided a welcome distraction. Sarah even managed to teach the Bosnian runners some choice English words! Brilliant! When we passed one of the Australian team, she noted the heat despite coming from an as good summer over there. What chance did we stand after our winter! That 10km passed quickly but when we reached the aid station I was aware of my hamstrings tightening, particularly the left. I laid on the floor and Kim Collinson, part of the GB management stretched it out which helped hugely. We followed the same water and food routine and left the aid station together, but it was soon clear Sarah was running much stronger than me, so she set off ahead.

I spent the next couple of hours swaying before I got to the next aid station and thinking maybe I could plough on to the finish, albeit slowly. I had picked up poles at the last aid station and these were helping on the climbs, maybe just getting into a different rhythm but I was soon using them even on the flat sections. Things were starting to improve though, I wasn’t eating a lot but felt I was eating and drinking just enough. I got to Vistabella, the last supported checkpoint at 62km at around 14:20, and after faffing about finding my space blanket for a kit check I made my way to the British table to Sam Ayres. To be honest, when I mentioned wanting to drop I don’t think I ever really considered it. I did a bit of maths, I had set myself a vague target of 11-12 hours, it was now 8 and a half hours into the race and with 25km to go, if I covered this in 4 hours I wouldn’t be far outside my goals.

I’m so glad I continued as the next section was by far my favourite part of the day. I started overtaking people, we hit shade and woodland sections and I was able to get into a nice rhythm, still slower than I’d like but when Mel from New Zealand stuck to my heals we seemed to get into a really good, metronome like pattern, an Indian chap tagged along for a bit and commented ‘strong women’, not in a patronising, just motivating way. They both dropped back but it had been nice having company again for a few kms. There was a Latvian women who I’d too’d and fro’d with a lot of the day, she had her head phones on but as we came into sight of Penygolosa for the first time I’d already decided I was taking her before the finish!

The climbs kept on coming but eventually we reached a water station, 4km to go, all downhill we were told. The Latvian runner took off but as we reached the last couple of km I was reigning her back in.  The race was back on. We rounded the last corner, round the trees and onto the red carpet. I somehow mustered a sprint finish and edged past her, she didn’t see the funny side of a pointless sprint finish after 86km as our team counters were back anyway (the top 3 of 6 runners count for each nation count), but I smiled as I crossed the line. It really was pointless as she must have started further back on the start line from me so her chip time was 1 second faster than me and 1 place ahead! Never mind, I was incredibly relieved my foot had held up, relieved to have finished, relieved to be out of the heat and relieved to finally sit in some shade!

So, what now? It’s time for a change, I love running but I’m not prepared to keep pushing, only to flare up my foot and need to take another 6-8 weeks out and get into a constant cycle of flare ups and rehab. I want to be running for several years to come, it would be such a shame to stubbornly continue running and do more damage to the toe joint so I can’t run at all. To reduce the risk of aggravating my foot I need to move to softer ground. I’ll be moving away from trail running and sticking with the fells, in the next few weeks I’m doing Buttermere Horseshoe, Saunders Mountain Marathons and Glenshee 9 Munros. I see this as only positive, time to embrace change (and get better at navigation!)

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