But this year things are getting back on track. The World Championship triathlons I qualified for last year are all happening this year and booked.
In the meantime what did I do? Made the most of the wonderful Dorset Country side and the amazing Jurassic coast line. And, for some reason I’ll never know, I entered The Oner, a twenty-four hour 82 mile, 10,000 of elevation, Ultra. Perhaps to give me the incentive to get out and train? My blog on the event follows. Warning – it’s a long one!
There is no way I could have done it without the support and encouragement of chums, all equally crazy. A number of whom have all ready done The Oner. I had been totally in awe of their accomplishment, it being totally outside of my league. But, somehow when surrounded by such inspiring people I decided to have a go. Immediately and without question “Of course we’ll crew for you and you will finish it!” Then the icing on the cake was when Kim Ellis also also decided to enter and we’ve been a great team ever since.
I certainly don’t think I could have pulled it off without her. We really complimented each other, getting out in all weather, each planning training sessions, mine were always conservative, Kim’s always more challenging! One that I planned was from Ferry Bridge to Charmouth and Kim was excited. “A marathon!”
However, on the day I started us off at a different place and when we finished, what was a particularly gruelling trail run, we were short of the 26.2 miles. I think she has now forgiven me, especially as some of her runs, planned on an Ordnance Survey map often lead us into all sorts of dead ends, or barbed wire fences to climb over when we went wrong, or took us through ankle deep mud.
Then there is Helen Adams, a Oner finisher who organised some of our Hill Reps and Interval work, mine would be short and easy, hers long and hard!
On the day it was Helen and Kim’s husband Keith who crewed for us, being ready and waiting throughout the twenty-four hours to meet all our needs. In addition they were often joined by other chums and even more were at different places en route to cheer us on along. I daren’t mention them as I am now somewhat confused as to whom I saw and where.
Through the Ironmen series I’ve become used to getting up almost in the middle of the night for an early start. But waking up at 04:30 and catnapping until 6:00 made a very long, frustrating morning till the start at 12 noon. Breakfast at 7:00, registration at 8:30, second breakfast at 10:00 (porridge, honey and banana). Then Nic, my husband, drove me to the start at Studland.
At last, we were off. Kim was always slightly faster than me and in training would often double back rather than wait for me so we had agreed not to run together. Although, when we started our training I could beat her down hill and in the mud, as initially she looked like Margot out of ‘The Good Life’ trying to tiptoe round the bogs. She soon learned to ‘plough’ through the middle.
So, shortly after the start, she slowly pulled away ahead of me. However, I kept her in sight almost till dark, especially in the deep cuts whether inland or up and down and I’d shout across to her. She was heard to say at one of stops, “Linda keeps catching me up,” Apparently we stayed pretty close until towards the end when she proved stronger than myself.
What do you think as you run along the beach knowing that you’ll be doing this for 24 hours? Just try and enjoy being out, a privilege to be doing something you love with all the support you need. But, it did take me quite a few miles before I settled to that happy frame of mind and a steady rhythm.
Before I knew it I was approaching Old Harry, mentally distances now just don’t phase me at all. Long gone are those days when I started running at 68, and hated it, when found myself wishing to be at the next corner only a few 100m away.
As I passed The Bankes Arms Sam and Mark cheered me on as they supped pints of beer. They then caught me up with their mountain bikes.
I have to mention Sam as he has a lot to answer for, he and his wife Josie run the Sandsfoot Cafe, they attract an eclectic like minded crowd and somehow everyone gets sucked into all sorts of activities and challenges. Apart from me, Sam has introduced many to Ultra running by setting up the Cafe 50 Single Shot Ultra Challenge, a 50 mile ultra loop around Dorset to be completed between dawn and dusk. The rules? Wave to the cafe security camera as you go and wave upon your return!
Obliviously you have longer in the summer, which is why when I did it I chose close to midsummers day. Would I have ever entered a more formal Ultra – who knows – but the seed was sewn.
Back to the Oner. The first crew stop was at Pevril Point to pick up a peeled banana. I had set myself to eat every 45minutes, either a drink of Tail Wind or dates or jelly sweets from M&S or Helen’s delicious flap jack (checkout her chocolate brownies they are to die for, https://rollysbrownies.co.uk) plus picking up bananas along the way. I really enjoyed the run along the undulating cliffs and before I knew it I was at Check Point 2 at St Aldhelm’s Head about an hour ahead of the cut off time.
I now had a clear view of Portland almost on the horizon in the far distance, but I wasn’t at all daunted, I knew I wouldn’t be there till after dark, and after all it was only mid-afternoon! Just round the corner, welcome shouts from Helen and Keith and another banana, hardly stopping, grabbing it as I ran past, I was in a good place physically and mentally and enjoying myself, running as much as possible, but disciplining myself not to run up the many inclines and using my poles to save my legs. How lucky were we with the weather? Sun, broken cloud and a bit of a cold, refreshing head wind.
Then one of the big climbs, up the almost vertical stone stairs at Chapman’s pool. I just took it steady and never looked up, as they seem to go on, and on and on! . And, before I knew it Clavells Tower came into view and Kimmeridge, Check Point number 3, still over and hour ahead of time and faster than my calculated time for that point. A quick dive into the loos, inattention meant I went the wrong side an passed a guy at a urinal, but I didn’t mind, hope he didn’t! Grabbed a banana and off but with Helen shouting after me, “You need some water – you need to drink.” I had, as always, hydrated well the day before and the morning of the event, so was happy that I litre of liquid, that I was carrying, would be sufficient for the first ‘marathon’.
I’m not sure what happened next, but these events are 80% if not 90% mental attitude, assuming of course, that you’ve done the training and get your nutrition right.
My head definitely went and my body quickly followed!
On reflection I’ve done the stretch from Kimmeridge to Lulworth twice. Once on my own and once with Kim. The first time was on a run from Studland to Lulworth (to see if The Oner was feasible) on a hot summers day. I had anticipated an Ice cream van at Kimmeridge for water and an ice. But there was none. So I had a quick dip in the sea and was on my way. But I had found it difficult and hadn’t enjoy that bit at all. Next time was with Kim when we ran from Swanage. After Kimmeridge there seemed to be many more, and longer hills, than I was expecting and when I thought we had just climbed the last Arish Mell loomed ahead between us and Lulworth. I tried to convince Kim that we didn’t need to climb it, but to no avail. Again, a bad experience.
Soon after Kimmeridge my stomach began to cramp and every hill was a nightmare, no longer a positive challenge, but an ‘obstacle’ in my way. I found I couldn’t eat, just nibbled, knowing I needed regular feeds. The sickness feeling just would not go away. I even found it difficult to run anywhere, even the lovely grassy down hills. Eventually at I descended towards Arish Mell, up came what had been bothering me and I felt a lot better. However, the sickness feeling returned as soon as I started climbing again. “Just slog it out I told myself, Lulworth is the other side of this hill.”
Lulworth, Check Point 4 and had lost a bit of time, now just under the hour ahead and not feeling good. Helen met me to run/walk from the Check Point to Lulworth car park. She suggested I tried Coca Cola and phoned ahead to have it ready, as I had said I wouldn’t need it until at least after Portland. I had visualised them parked right by the entrance to the carpark and was so dismayed when I couldn’t even see it way ahead at the far end. It was only 200m or so – but to me it was ‘miles’. They sat me down, took my bag, emptied it for what I needed for the night section, helped me, as I was hopeless, to change into warmer clothes. I swore and grunted to Kim’s sisters and friend none of whom I had met before whilst my nose was dripping snot, but I was beyond care.
I had no choice but to go on. After all, “One foot was going in front of the other,” and, having so may chums and posting it on social media, I couldn’t loose face. So yes, you have all helped me. Thank you.
The Coca Cola had gone down well, and I was on ‘home’ territory with lovely little hills between Lulworth and Weymouth. Some may not agree with me but mentally, to me, they were just a series of ‘mole’ hills! I tried to nibble some food, or sip my Trail Wind, but was finding it very difficult, if not impossible to do so. This was concerning as I knew it was important to continually take on carbs. As I neared Osmington someone appeared and said, “I’m looking for Linda.” It was Sarah Kerslake , with Mike, her husband not far ahead. We hadn’t recognised each other.
By the time I arrived at Check Point 5 I was now only 45 minutes ahead. But, was surprised to see Helen and Keith as I had not expected them there. I was still having difficulty eating so more Coca Cola went down a treat and I took one on my mini peanut choc bars which I had in reserve. I managed to eat it, albeit very slowly.
At Bowlease a shoe change and put on some warm leggings plus change watches so mine could be charged. Mike and Sarah were also there to run with me, and they concocted a plan so one or the other, ran with me all the way to Portland.
Oh! I love my shoes. First Vivobare foot Primus SG (but so difficult to put on, that once off I’d not get them back on). Next my super squishy, bouncy Nike Vaporfly to make the most of the tarmac, and give my feet a treat. Then at the base of Portland, changed into my Altra Lone Peak, still zero drop and a wide toe box, but with a bit of cushioning. The trail shoes with waterproof socks have proved to be so comfy. However, panic with the Vaporflys as I realised I needed sports socks as no way would I get them on in my thick waterproof ones. But, Helen came to the rescue and gave me some of hers.
Helen had set her watch to Average Pace in minute/kilometres not minute/miles. My fault, as I really wanted current pace plus average pace in minute/miles. But, in hindsight it was probably a good thing. I may well have pushed too hard. Apart from using the time for feeds and checking against cut off times, I didn’t use my watch at all. I had been, and continued, to go on ‘feel’ (RPE, Rate of Perceived Exertion) and was happy walking whenever I felt like it for the six miles on tarmac across Weymouth to Portland.
At Portland, swap watches again, put on my Altra trail shoes, grab another choc bar, ditch the Tail Wind for water and take another glug of Coca Cola. I was on my own until the early hours, but had three Check Points on Portland if I needed anything.
Scrabble up the muddy slope and to Check Point 6 (HQ) and was happy to be back to over hour ahead. I was so happy, I’d made it to Portland, my legs were good, stomach no so good, but hadn’t been sick again and could just about nibble the choc bar. I’d run into the sunset and now was blessed with the most amazing night sky. It was just a ‘skip and a hop’ down to the Bill and a power walk back to HQ.
Fortunately the previous week Kim had wanted to re-do part of the rocky path on the East Side of the Bill in the dark. I didn’t think I needed to but went along. Oh! Yes I did! Got muddled in a couple of places which I sorted out so was totally confident when joined by two blokes, “Do you know the way?” They asked, and I lead them to the Bill. Claire had said we didn’t need to go around the Lighthouse, so we didn’t, but at the checkpoint in the car park we were quickly advised that was not the case and sent us back around it.
At Check Point 6 on the car park I picked up a choc bar and had another swig of Coca Cola. Fabulous moon reflecting on the sea and Chesil Beach – magical! Interesting that the temperature definitely dropped at about 2am, but I was quite warm enough. Slightly cold fingers, perhaps.
Check Point 7 and now an hour and a quarter ahead.
My chum Nancy was amused that I just went into the hall, saying “Dibber Dibber, dabber,” so they’d be ready for me to register my time and was off. Along the route I did this at each Check Point as they were generally by the coastal path and I could be checked in within milliseconds.
I ran/walked along the causeway to Helen and Keith at Ferry Bridge, change of water bottles, more choc bars, more Coca Cola and a cup of black coffee that I took with me, threw the cup over my shoulder and shouted back for Keith to pick it up! No way was I going to ‘litter’, nor back track!
Helen came with me for this stretch and I was grateful as she helped me maintain a good pace, mainly walking but a gentle jog from time to time.
Langton Check Point 7 and still a good time and more Coca Cola.
There was a heavy frost, which was good in some ways as although I had waterproof socks, wet grass would have meant cold feet. I did skid on one tuff of grass and land on my butt. However, this was the only fall, amazing! I had to concentrate for 24hours, “Pick up your feet, toes up,” for every stride. I used to have a competition with my grandchildren, who had the worse grazed knees. They gave up when I won hands down!! Then there were the styles, an endless number of them. I’m nervous of them at the best, fearing an injury, but these were icy and my flexibility seemed to have disappeared. The poor guy behind us, who was slower, kept catching us up as I tried to negotiate each one.
Although confident with my time I was moving outside of my comfort zone. It was cold, but little wind and up until then was warm enough. But as we neared dawn, the temperature seem to drop considerably. In addition my eyesight is not good in full day light and suddenly found I was struggling. I’d had enough and wanted dawn. Just as I said this to Helen, I began to get very cold. Even the dawn chorus didn’t cheer me up. Helen had noticed I’d stopped chatting and produced another jacket (Sam’s apparently now doing it’s fourth Oner!) Funnily enough it was just at a point on the route that I didn’t like, it’s when you go inland just before Abbotsbury. Coincidence? Or just the ‘head’ taking control again.
Abbotsbury, “I’m here!” My legs were working, nothing like they had been towards the end on my previous two fifty mile ultras. I had expected to be struggling at this point, and I was ahead of time.
Nic my husband surprised me by being there and then at every beach through to the end.
I was disappointed I couldn’t run at I headed for West Bexington and West Bay (It was always my ambition to get at least that far – but hardly dared think I would). I later learned that Kim had ‘Power Walked’ with poles all the way from Portland to the end and made good time. In hindsight I should have too rather than trying to run..
I had got over my dread of the pebbles at West Bexington on a previous run, and once on the marshy ground behind the beach I took off my gloves, beanie and buff and carefully put them in my bag without putting anything on the ground, as firstly it was so soggy and secondly I couldn’t bend down! However, on finishing someone handed me my Ironman beanie, I had obviously dropped it.
Just before Burton Bradstock Sarah and Mike came to meet me, and again they hatched a plot to accompany me all the way to the finish. In addition to Nic, Graeme, my son and his identical triplet sons, Henry, Jake and Charlie were there as well. They also had a great day, visiting each beach along the route and at the finish.
I was dreading the climb down to West Bay, but in reality it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I could hear shouts and cheers, but daren’t look down, as it really is steep. I’d made it – and within the cut off time. Nothing mattered I could finish, but so far within the cut off time, I could actually finish within 24 hours. Two and a half hours to do five miles, says Helen. A quick calculation gives me 30 minute/miles. Ridiculously slow if you are a runner, but I was walking, and there were many hills and obstacles between me and the finish.
However, I was now determined to make it. I wasn’t running, but decided to take two paracetamols. Don’t know if it was them or me, but I then managed to jog some of the grassy downhill sections, couldn’t risk the gravel or rocky ones for fear of tripping.
Sarah was a great help as we just chatted away inanely, which distracted me from any weariness and weakness I was feeling.
Mike joined us at Seaton, and I was grateful at the end for those last few confusing fields, where the path goes though little gaps in the hedges, and there always seemed to be another field when I thought that was the last. The poor guy behind me went the wrong way. I was lucky but was fretting for the last part whether I would make it on time.
I had said I’d be 23hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds and in the end I was 23 hours 49 minutes and 38 seconds!
53rd out of 54 finishers, 4 more finished outside of 24 hours and a further 38 did not finish.
Boy was I chuffed and still am. A memory and achievement I will cherish forever.