Saturday 9 June 2018

Syke Trail Ultra

On Saturday 26th May I ran the most amazing race I've ever done.

It was an early start, but to be fair the excitement meant I didn't sleep much Friday night. Nerves were getting to me, I'd never ran 74 miles.

We all met at the village hall at 3am for our lift to the start line. Lots of nervous/excited energy flowing around. I felt truly out of my depth! Our start line was a telephone box in Duntulm. 31 of us were all lined up ready to go.

 Then we were off..... We all headed off on our run. I stuck in the middle, just plodding along, unsure what the race had install for me. I didn't really research the race, all I knew was that it's hilly for the first marathon, that was it! As I approached the first climb I realised this race could be much harder then anticipated. It felt like the climb went on for ever, but once at the top the views were amazing!
It was just absolutely stunning. There were parts that were runnable, but the climbs were good for taking in the scenery.

The weather was beautiful, blue skies and a gentle breeze. The ridge was brutal in places, the climbs just kept coming and the descents were so steep at times, around mile 11/12 I tumbled head over hills down the hill. I landed on my knee and then the mind games started! I was panicked that my knee would force me to pull out. I took some paracetamol and tried to forget about it. Luckily I found some people to run with and we chatted and ran/walked the hills. This made so much difference, distraction from worrying about my knee.
After a long 25 ish miles I was off the ridge, seeing Jeff handing out water was a welcome sight!! It was getting the hottest part of the day, the sun was scorching! Next was a mile or so run along the road to the first checkpoint. This was a welcome break for the steepness of the Ridge.
Portree check point was a welcome sight. Re fuelled and water on board I set off to the bridge to change my shoes. This is where I should have really looked at my feet, they were hurting, and now I think if I'd seen to them properly the next 50 miles might have been better! New socks and shoes helped tremendously though!
The next section was a lovely road along a quiet road, some beautiful scenery, and saw some birds of prey too. I ran walked this part, whilst taking on some food. The ridge took about 8.5 hours, so I was conscious that I needed to make sure I've eaten enough! As I came off the road on to the track I could see Slig check point in the distance. I felt good, my legs felt good, and I ran most of the way to the check point. Dipping my buff into streams was without doubt the best thing ever (thanks Jeni and Stephen for giving me the idea!) more food collected at Slig and I carried on to Elgol.

Now this is where it all went pear shaped. Andy showed me where to go, but said keep left.... I took it to the extreme and went through a gate, but luckily realised and headed back. By this point I had been running 12 hours. I won't lie I did have a wobble at this point, my body was tired, and the heat had possibly got to me. I'd never ran for more then 12 hours!! But I just had to get to Elgol. The stoney path caused havoc with my feet, all I could manage was a power walk. I lost reception on my phone for a few hours and I was just left with my own self doubt. I doubted I could navigate the path, doubted I could carry on. But, amazingly enough I did. Seeing Sharon at the check point just made me burst into tears. I just felt so broken. The blisters on my feet were horrendous. Every step hurt, but Andy and Karen were amazing. They helped put blister plasters on my feet. I put my road shoes on and they felt better, but even still every step hurt. I wanted to quit. All I told myself is the worst part was behind me.
I left Elgol and took some more painkillers. I also got phone reception which was a huge mood booster, I could hear from my friends. I walked on. I even found myself running at times. I had this in the bag. The sun had gone down now and it was much cooler, this in itself was a massive relief.
 I bumped into Stephen and we ran and walked most of the way to Blaven check point. We stopped very briefly to put on head torches as it was getting dark now. I never expected to see so many frogs! They were everywhere! As we got onto the track it was quite dark now, all I could see was eyes glowing in the dark. It freaked me out at times!! The final stretch along before we turned left to go up to broadford felt like it went on for a life time. But once we found the path (this took a while!) we knew home was in sight. We power walked the last few miles until we reached the Tarmac.
Then before we knew it we were running the final stretch to the finish line. What a welcome sight it was. Big hugs and congratulations all round.
It was by far the hardest race I've ever completed but it's one that I'll remember always.

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