50-60 miles: CP6: 2 Miles Too Far
Being the last participants thru at CP5 and perhaps due to me having already waited some time, Rory (RD) was in a hurry to get Oscar moving. But Oscar needed time to sort out his feet and legs, so we were left with some provisions, with Oscar relaxing on the grass verge for another 15 minutes to cool down his feet and legs with an icy leg spray.
Our earlier conversations had been polite and minimal, but knowing we would be spending time together, we talked like best buddies and righted the world and the UK's current political and economic situation. However, a couple of miles in, it was apparent that there was something wrong, first with me, then with Oscar.
The make shift knee support I had put on earlier felt too tight: the back of the knee was feeling swollen and throbbing. I dropped the "knee support" round the ankle where it hung round loosely, however the damage had already been done. Perhaps the overtight restriction of an ankle support around a knee caused this "minor" injury (ham and calf strain) that I would need to manage. As long as I kept it gentle and kept moving, I assured myself all would be fine.
As we took off again, Oscar's movement was irratic.
Me: Why are you limping?
Oscar: Oh it's nothing. I'll sort it out at the next CP.
Me: I learned from an Arctic buddy, that we need to deal with problems sooner than later. With 50 miles more, it can quickly get worse, so what is wrong?
Oscar: I've got blisters on my toes from these crappy sports socks I'm wearing, but I'll sort them out at the next CP.
We "pulled over" and gave Oscar some plasters to "sort it out" and hopefully provide some padding for his blisters. Whilst Oscar tended to his feet, I tried to stretch out the back of the leg, but this seemed to make it worse. Imagine stretching an elastic band back and forth. With each stretch, it will cause the elastic band to recoil tighter, thus shortening the band. That's how my leg was feeling.
We jogged a little more, sometimes we talked when we walked, sometimes I sang 'cos that's what I do, but we always ran in silence listening to the rhythms of our steps. On one of our "let's run" time, we were along a main road and missed a turn, continuing down the road for another a mile. With signs not apparent where they usually were, nothing was adding up and we both began to feel displaced. It was about 2am, and we reluctantly made a call back to Rory. We were told to return a mile back up the road and look for a missed left hand road - easy to miss in the dark as it was off a dual lane carriage.
Back on track, we headed into a village and again things did not add up. There was no signage at a main crossroad. I looked at every sign post as Oscar waited patiently. He wasn't looking too good but was keeping his chin up. Having lost confidence, we called back and woke up a sleeping RD (sorry). As we waited to receive instructions from Rory, we both cooled down significantly. Fortunately I had a jacket, but Oscar had nothing further. He went sheet white, his lips quivered and managed to stop him throwing up over his bag. He was shivering, his shin was hurting...Oscar was at a low. My motherly instincts kicked in and I gave him my ankle support in the hope that might help him, and tried to keep him warm until we had made a decision to move based on Oscar's GPS (technology is wonderful).
It took us just over 4 hours to complete this leg of the journey and we made it to CP6 apologetic to the waiting marshal. Our earlier times had averaged out to 2.5 hours.Having been lost in other events, have found the energy can be sucked from your body within minutes of finding oneself repeatedly lost. I did not get that feeling here and was grateful to have had a companion to be lost with! We spent about 20 minutes at this CP. It was important to ensure Oscar had loaded back up with carbs/sugar/salt.
60-70 Miles: CP7: The Magic Wonder of A Rising Sun
As the sky began to lighten, Oscar told me to go on ahead and assured me that as it was lighter he would be okay, but knowing he was fighting injury (shin splints and blisters). Like a loyal dog, I refused and told him we were buddies. We had got through the night portion and I wanted to ensure we both finished. Mentally it is easier for me to be helping someone else rather than just myself. I had a mission to ensure we both completed the event and Oscar, being an upbeat person was easy to be around. Without much further ado, we soldiered on.
It is amazing how a rising sun can invigorate the soul. Our spirits seemed to draw the emerging ball of energy into our own and we began to run. About 5am and 4 miles into this next leg, Oscar's buddy appeared on bike (a really lovely guy) as a roving supporter with supplies. With all things new and alive around us, we blasted down a long downhill section, completing the 10 mile section within 2 hours.
70-80 Miles: CP8: People on the Road
After about 15 minutes at CP7, I needed to get moving as the leg injury was stiffening up as it got cold. Oscar now had a buddy and didn't need me any more, so I left him at the CP, trying to ease my leg into motion.
It is strange that after having felt very comfortable in the pervious 5 miles, my leg no longer wanted to play. Despite getting Oscar to spray my leg with his anti-inflammatory spray at the CP, the back of the knee was having difficulty opening up. I knew that completing this event would mean 4-6 weeks recovery time thus no training time for the next marathon that lay ahead in South Dakota. I was adamant that I would complete this event as there were only 30 miles left. DNFs (Did not Finish) are soul eaters and I didn't need another to kill my confidence for a future ultra even if this meant a 6 week lay off.
The sun was now fully radiating its splendor on farmers fields and I was sure there was someone swinging in a tree in front of me. On closer inspection it turned out to be a moving branch and a bag. Cool! Hallucinations were now becoming a feature of this journey. As mental fatigued settled in and began to sit comfortably in my head, I saw more people at the side of the road. When I had got closer, there were just hedges and I had wandered right into the middle of the road. Somehow I had fallen asleep on my feet!
It was time for a defence weapon. A toothbrush with toothpaste! As I brushed my teeth, I thought I could trick my mind into thinking it was time to wake up. It appeared to work for a couple of hundred metres and then the mind said "nah shut down". A fight was ensuing - body, mind, egos, alter egos. A cacophony of discord was in battle. Great as long as my mind was occupied my body just needed to move forward.
I had only managed about 2 miles by the time Oscar and his buddy had caught up with me. Oscar seemed to be moving well and I did not want them thinking they needed to stay with me, so I shooed them on......but now with the shoe on the other foot, Oscar stayed, empathising with my tiredness and now was motivating me on. I was grateful for the company and words.
As we walked for another mile, Oscar's buddy politely encouraged us to run to the next corner, then walk uphill, run down hill. He got us to mile 80 within 3 hours. It was at this CP, both Oscar and I agreed to rest for at least 20 minutes. So Oscar's buddy left us as we lay down in foetal position on a bit of grass on the curb. The marshal also left us with further supplies of food and drink.
80-90 Miles: CP9: The Merry Band
The sun beaming down kept us warm and I allowed my mind to fill with the music of birds, cars, wind in trees, a tractor ploughing......beep beep beep beep...Oscar's alarm! 20 minutes had flown by! I definitely felt so much better for the kip and ready to go. Oscar still had to sort out his legs and feet. My leg was now almost immoveable and the offer of an anti-inflammatory pill was gratefully accepted. We had 20 more miles to belt out and the finish line was now in sniffing range.
As we got ready to move, another of Oscar's buddies pulled in, and as they "caught up" with each other about the event, I decided to get the leg moving. I gave my adieus to limp slowly up the hill, though it really was not long before they both caught up with me. I once more tried to shoo Oscar and his buddy repeatedly on and without a thought Oscar announced "we're buddies and we will get to the end together".
I gotta say it is great having buddies. Further up the road, a car pulled over and out hopped a couple more of Oscar's buddies with reserve supplies and took our back packs from us. Impromptu, they decided to join us on the last 20 miles. The group was now a merry band aiming to get us both to the finish line. We all chatted away, taking in the scenery of rolling hills and farmland bathed in sunlight. It felt like a Sunday stroll with a group of wonderful friends. It was pertty warm now and the sun was painting skins red. With motherly concerns over the group it was time to get everyone to "factor 30" up and my cap that I was not wearing went to a "red/ginger" haired chap. He would certainly need it more than me. Being of oriental descent and growing up in the sun, meant I had more natural sun block protection than our new buddies.
At CP9, one of our new buddies tried to ease off the back of my leg. Unfortunately the leg just needed rest and the inflammation to drain. We had 10 more miles to complete and we were not going to stop until we had reached the end.
90-100 Miles: 70s/80s/90s Karoke Party
I knew Oscar needed to sort out his feet and legs and Oscar knew I needed to get my leg moving, so I walked on, painfully slowly up the hill knowing they would catch up with me easily. Thankfully with no one around I could do my abolutions in peace (I was surprised my body still had trash to get rid of!). I
had just jumped out of the field I had borrowed for privacy, and there was Oscar and his gang.
With about 5 more miles left, I had to sing and soon the whole group were singing a medley of songs from all genres and eras. Oscar's perfect rendition of Monty Python's Life of Bryan said it all. We were such a happy, laughing, singing group. We were hurting and we were having a party!
100 songs sung and the last 100 metres but a blur of speed. 100 miles done!