Hello Realbuzz superstars
What a weekend we had last weekend - just incredible!! The blogs may have slowed down on Realbuzz over the last few months but the GOR weekend brought us all back together again so well and with blogs aplenty, that has been absolutely fantastic. Sorry it's taken a while to get around to mine. I just want to say a massive thank you to all the Realbuzz staff for their incredible donation to our cause this year - that was so kind and so incredibly generous
I was glad that this year I had something suitable already lined up for the big day, something that would really challenge me and test my limits, something I didn't even know if I could do. As you all know, sometimes only being able to walk rather than run makes me feel a bit inadequate, but whether we run, walk, press-up, plank, cycle, swim, it really doesn't matter - the fact that we all really push and challenge ourselves for a great cause is all that really matters in the end. This year's cause couldn't be more fitting, because we were doing this for someone close to our hearts, HD's lovely and wonderful Mrs H. Apologies for the very waffly account that follows but I want to try and remember as much about the whole thing as possible. For the quick version, skip to the end, otherwise resign yourself to several cups of tea!
Earlier this year I signed myself and Mr K up to the Thames Path 100k Challenge as walkers to raise funds for NASS, a cause close to mine and Sir Bolty's hearts as we both have AS. Btw, a massive thank you to everyone who sponsored us and if anyone still wants to contribute, our page is still open for another couple of weeks here
. Last year I walked the 50k TPC challenge on my own, again for NASS, and no question it was tough. Despite some very thorough training over the past year, the doubts were still whizzing round in my head, particularly in the few days before the challenge. The last training walk we did the week before the challenge was a hilly one up in the Chilterns. That was the first hilly walk in weeks as we'd trained on the flat since Race to the Stones in July. The walk was fine at the time but within 24 hours, my left knee really started going off on one. I don't have any cartilage left in either knee and the left one was the one that had an ACL reconstruction a few years ago. As far as I know I hadn't done anything to it, though with always tripping up it would be easy to do. It was an unfamiliar pain, the kind of pain that's so sharp and immediate that it makes you feel nauseous. All of that week before I tried to be kind to my knee, smothering it liberally in Voltarol regularly, icing it, wearing my knee brace when necessary, but it wasn't improving.
I had all good intentions that week of getting all my kit ready so that on the Friday night, we could relax and get an early night. In typical fashion, that went out of the window and I got distracted by other things that had to be done. We went up to Putney on Friday afternoon to take advantage of early registration so that we'd arrive at the start all ready to go and hopefully have plenty of time to find and meet Vicky's Richard and see him off at 7.20 then relax a bit before our start at 8.00. Big bonus, we found that we could get a train straight through to Putney from our local station without having to change trains at all, so hopefully we'd be able to have a doze on the hour long journey up there as well. We got home from registration around 7.30pm, had a late dinner and I finally got all my kit together by about 9pm! Mr K was far more organised and had his kit packed a couple of days beforehand.
Because I was walking in orange for NASS, I also had to integrate some red for Mrs H and the Eve Appeal. I came up with the idea of a red ribbon on the back and front of my pack as well as wearing a red waist pack.
The plan for an early night failed miserably and a I didn't climb into bed until gone midnight. I had no problem falling asleep, but was awake again within an hour. Total sleep before the alarm went off at 4am, 2 hours 46 minutes, so not the ideal pre-race prep
Half an hour spent getting dressed and preparing feet and legs to minimise any possible chafing before heading downstairs for a breakfast or pears, yoghurt and a good sized bowl of cornflakes. Then a quick tidy round the kitchen, a last check of kit etc before the taxi arrived at 5.15 to take us to the station. We were at the station by 5.20am for they 5.39 train - bit of an overestimate on timing there, but better safe than sorry. If we missed that train, the next one would involve 3 changes and only just get us there in time for our 8am start. Our train, the first one of the day, was due to depart at 5.39. It got to 5.40 and the board was reading 'expected at 5.41', every time the minute changed, so did the expected time of arrival. By 5.50 it read 'delayed' and we started to feel slightly worried. It eventually turned up at 6.09 having been delayed by engineering works. That was OK, it would still get us to Putney by 7.10 and although disappointingly we probably wouldn't be able to try and find Vicki's Richard, we'd at least make our start time. We tried to doze, but we were both too wound up to nod off. 45 minutes into the journey came the announcement that to make up lost time, the last station that would be stopped at before Waterloo would be Barnes and that passengers for Putney should change trains there - eeeeeek! When we arrived in Barnes, we seriously considered walking to Putney, but with my knee still misbehaving, we waited for the next train to travel the few minutes up the line. We arrived in Putney at 7.20 - Vicki's Richard would have just started. An ungainly fast walk from the station (with a good deal of cursing my knee) followed but by the time we got to Putney Bridge, all of the 7.20 starters were already over the bridge and heading off down the Thames Path
We got to Bishop's Park just on 7.35. A quick trip to the loo, dropped our bag that was going to the finish line (£7.50 for the privilege of being a walker - free for runners and it couldn't be accessed at half way as it could for runners so all spare dry kit, my specialist food and snacks etc had to be carried) then just time to chug down two cups of tea cooled with a lot of milk and we were being called into the start pen. A quick selfie then the warm up stretches. This year they were sensible and relevant so we joined in the fun. Last year they had some crazy woman encouraging participants to leap around like deranged monkeys with little in the way of stretching involved - needless to say I declined and did my own stretches on that occasion!
No fancy timing mats here, just a 'chip' - no chip actually involved it was just a barcode thing on a tag hung around your neck that was scanned as you entered the pen. A quick countdown and then we were off bang on the stroke of 8am. I'd made sure that we were at the front of the pen so we didn't have to dodge people at the start. Even so, quite a few people passed us in the first few minutes - we were to see the same people many times again! Up a set of steps (ouchie on the left knee) the over Putney Bridge and on to the Thames Path proper. I'd given the knee a second good coating of Voltarol on the train in and the more we walked, the more the pain backed off - good news indeed
Within minutes there was light drizzle on the breeze. We didn't need to do anything about it for the first half hour as it was really light. I'd made sure that we had our waterproofs and el cheapo plastic orange ponchos handy, knowing the rain was expected very soon after the start. When the slightly heavier rain started around 8.45, there was a degree of chaos as many people started cluttering up the path by taking off their backpacks and unloading the contents, foraging for the waterproofs which for some unfathomable reason, they seemed to have packed at the bottom! We just whipped out our cheap ponchos and put them on without really breaking stride. They were great too - unusually sturdy for £1 each from eBay and they reached down as far as the knees. When the rain lightened up, as it frequently did, I just lifted the poncho and wore it still around my neck, flowing behind me like a curious orange Batman!
With the knee now much more settled, the first few km just flew by and we were walking above our usual average speed of 5.5kph. I really questioned whether we were starting out too fast - I really feared burning out later in the day. However, we just decided to go with what felt comfortable and almost all of the first 41km were walked at 5.5+ kph. I think this was down to the constant need to overtake people as the path narrowed. It certainly was congested. I thought that once we were past the first rest stop, numbers would thin out like last year, but there was no respite. I can't stand being bottled up behind people, the constant dodging makes my pace falter and then that causes more hip, back and neck pain. There were huge groups walking together in places and their constant chatter was quite wearing at times (do I really need to know someone's recipe for apple pie in fine detail, constantly repeated while someone else jots it down on their phone?) - oh for a bit of peace and quiet! They also took up the whole width of path without thought for those behind. So, oddly angled grass verges were made use of - just anything that would get us past the seemingly endless conga in front.
We reached the first rest stop at about 10.20, 14km in. A short 16 minute stop to go to the loo, grab a cup of tea and eat a bag of crisps. It may have been raining, but it was still pretty warm and we were as damp under the ponchos as outside them - nothing like exercising in a plastic bag On through Richmond, Twickenham, Ham, Kingston and past the glories of Hampton Court Palace, still looking splendid despite the now heavy rain. At least the rain did us all a favour by keeping a lot of non-race traffic off the path. The few pedestrians were met were all very polite, wishing everyone good luck in passing. The few cyclists we met were just a little bit rude at times, but it must have been horrible for them trying to cycle against the flow. I had one runner (not in the race) who approached me from behind on a narrow part of the path and literally shoved me off the path with his forearm. A good deal of anglo-Saxon went his way but he never even looked back. Thank goodness people like that are very few and far between! I digress though (what a surprise!). We crossed over the Thames again at Hampton Court and reached the lunch stop at 28k in Molesey just before 1pm. 27 minutes to eat our sandwiches, grab a few more snacks, have a couple of cups of tea and re-grease my feet with the magic Trail Toes (thank you Gerry ) then we were off again. I hoped to keep the stops short so I didn't stiffen up too much.
The next rest stop came quickly - only 9km away in Shepperton, so two cups of tea in quick succession. The knee was stating to kick off again so on the way out, I put my foot up on a barrier to put on more Voltarol. When I put my foot to the ground again, that dreadful sickening sharp pain again at every step
Richard was concerned but I was angry and did my usual trick of lurching off as quick as I could. Within ten minutes, all good again. Whatever it was it couldn't be much as it backed off again. Happy me again
Now we were getting into more familiar territory, passing through Weybridge, Chertsey, Laleham then Staines and knew that half way at Runnymede wasn't too far away. Total walk time (excluding stops) to halfway was 8:46, so just a bit quicker than last year and that was pleasing. I'd started feeling nauseous not long before halfway. Mr K was nagging me to eat but I just didn't want to. At least I kept drinking little and often which is pretty unusual for me, but I'd remembered so far that it had to be done this time.
Arriving at Runnymede we were met by Ben's (our youngest) fiancée, Hannah, and it was a really lovely surprise. Richard managed to eat a small hot meal. I couldn't have eaten any of it even if I'd have felt like it - there was no gluten free option. So, three cups of tea, 5 sugars in each (disgusting I know but I had to keep the energy up somehow). I also picked up a couple of boxes of Paynes raisin Poppets and found that they went down quite well so put some more I my pocket. A 41 minute stop at halfway, boots emptied, feet regreased again and by the time we emerged it was almost sunset and at last the rain had finally stopped
Shreds of mist were clinging to the tree covered hillsides and we were looking forward to the night section. The 50k stop had been very busy but as we set out again, the path ahead was almost empty. Around the 57k mark, I felt some irritation in my right boot. At every rest stop I'd faithfully emptied my boots of bits, removed the insoles and cleaned them. We stopped while I emptied my boot again, set off again but the irritation was still there. Off with the boot again and checked socks as well and sure enough, a grass seed was stuck in them. Didn't bother to look at the foot. By the time we reached the outskirts of Windsor a few km on it was dark enough to need the head torches. That was also when we noticed how foggy it was becoming. We were passing more people than we were passed by now and every single one asked where we'd got the head torches from (thank you Hobs, great recommendation
). The next stop was at 63k and I felt fine as we arrived. It was intended to be a quick two cups of tea stop but as I stood up to leave, there was a sudden sharp stabbing in my right heel where that pesky grass seed had been, so boots and socks off and got a real shock to see a 4cm wide blister around where the grass seed had been
That knocked my confidence - a big blister at just over halfway was not a confidence builder. We'd already seen so many people with horrendous blisters who were absolutely hobbling and who we felt wouldn't get much further. Out with the blister plasters then but with no real faith it would improve things. I was amazed that the next time I stood up, I couldn't feel a thing - what incredible inventions those plasters are!!
Onwards we went, the fog now thicker than ever and a very distinct chill in the air. The visibility was getting seriously reduced and at times it was hard to spot the next route marker. The path varied from Tarmac, to ankle rolling uneven but dry surfaces but the worst bit was still to come - a long stretch of chalk mud. This must be the most slippery mud known to mankind and within minutes, the bottoms or our boots were caked in it. This started to make me trip as well as slide and we did well to keep the pace just above 5kph. Just before the next stop at 78km, although I didn't realise it was so close at the time, we saw two people in front. Both were walking carefully and looked a bit uncomfortable and as we approached I could see from his race number that one of them was Vicki's Richard. We introduced ourselves and shook hands and I asked Richard how he was doing. He said he was struggling a bit but that he was managing OK. How I wish I'd paid a little more attention knowing what I know now
At the rest stop I watched for him coming in but couldn't spot him in the crowd. This time I found that I could at least get a jacket potato to eat - it had a filling in that I knew I'd react to, so had to get rid of that, but there was enough spud left to to at least get some warm food inside me. Mr K ate only a little again, saying he just didn't feel like it. Again, I should have been on the ball as to how he was feeling too. I think I was getting zoned out by now, just trying to keep the pace up and keep going. I was managing my pain meds fairly well but there was still a couple of hours in every six that were quite unpleasant. After 30 minutes or so we stood up to continue. Again, the sharp stabbing in the right foot but in new places now! Off with the kit, boots and socks again and utter dismay to see that I now had more blisters on the same foot. The one under my little toe of three weeks ago had come back with a vengeance (twice as big) plus I'd developed another inch wide one on my forefoot. Thirty minutes of fiddling around finding and fitting blister plasters and reloading bags etc, but again, virtually no pain from the blisters once we were underway again.
The next section really does seem like a dream now. The fog was so thick now that I could only see in the light of Mr K's head torch and he could only see in the light of mine. The path was a thin dark muddy ribbon through white grass, incredibly heavy with dew from the fog. The first km after the rest stop was relatively fast one - the fog was almost mesmerising and the mind began to wander, thinking of Mrs H again. I heard a faint shout and was shocked when I looked back to see that Mr K was just a small light in the distance behind me. As he caught up, he said he was starting to struggle with energy levels and we had to slow down. The pace dropped after that and 5kph wasn't seen again. I grabbed his hand - he was still wearing just a wicking tee shirt and was soaked and cold. I suggested he put his jacket on and tried eating a few small snacks as we walked. He managed some crisps and drank a little more and are a few minutes felt a little better but just really tired. We lost the path a couple of times as we didn't see the markers in the fog but fortunately we realised quickly that we'd gone wrong. I'd walked this second 50k last year and remembered it pretty well even in the fog. The real down side of slowing the pace was that although the backache became worse, the pain from my neck was just grim. Once that kicks off the pins and needles rapidly follow and the hands and feet don't cooperate as well. All I could do was concentrate hard on trying to keep a reasonable posture and make sure I was picking my feet up as we walked. That section I remember as cursing roundly every few minutes as I caught a foot on an uneven bit of the path, stumbling and jarring my neck and back even more.
The last rest stop came at 89k and we only stopped for 16 minutes, just long enough for a couple of cups of tea and this time Mr K put more sugar in his. As we walked the last 11k, hand in hand where the path was wide enough, I greeted every km marker with a yell and a 'that's one less' to try and keep his spirits up. He did seem to be more himself again after that last rest stop thank goodness. Finally seeing the lights of Henley glowing dimly through the fog gave him more heart. The sky was just starting to lighten as we passed the 99km marker. All ideas of a sprint finish went out of my head, just getting there hand in hand and crossing the line together was all that was important any more. We'd done it, we'd really done it! I never ever in my wildest dreams thought I could walk that kind of distance and I was so happy in that moment because I finally felt like I'd done a proper ultra All that training really did pay off in the end I guess But the Realbuzz Baton played no small part - I carried it in my waist pouch and held it many many times throughout the walk, never failing to find extra strength and determination from it.
Medals draped round our necks, Richard drank the glass of fizz handed to him then we went back to the finish line so that one of the staff could take a picture of us on my phone. It turned out bright green (flash reflected off the phone case!) so I've converted it to black and white -
Into to the marquee and some very welcome cups of tea. Already both of us were starting to shiver uncontrollably. We saw other people had space blankets and were eventually given one too when we asked (crazy system on a cold wet night like that!). Mr K immediately went and picked up our bag that also had two fleece blankets in and said he really needed just to lay down and sleep. I sat wrapped in a foil blanket and answered a few texts - thank you so much for your texts, they were so very much appreciated. I found out early on though if I tried to answer them, Runmeter stopped working - a rather frustrating experience! I was shivering really hard by now, teeth chattering and feeling pretty uncomfortable. More tea I thought - another two cups went down. Then I smelled the bacon cooking - more fuel, that's what I needed. I guess I couldn't generate heat very well on the little I'd managed to eat that day. I was over the moon to find they had gluten free bread and that bacon butty was just the best thing ever. It didn't stop that darned shivering though so I went off to find which pile of silver was Mr K. I eventually identified him by seeing our bag. The 'quiet area' provided for those finishing early in the morning was a groundsheet in to one side inside the marquee. Sure enough, next to our bag, completely covered by the space blanket was my lovely hubby. I got a fleece blanket from the bag and wrapped myself up in it and crawled under the space blankets next to him. We were both still teeth chattering and shaking fit to bust. After ten minutes though we were both more comfortable and slept solidly for the next three hours
When we woke up, I texted Ben who had offered to pick us up. He and Hannah had just parked up in town and were on their way across. The sun was shining now and it was wonderfully warm and dry again - what a difference! When we saw them, they had White Magnums for us - the first of the whole 100k, and they were absolutely delicious.
The rest of Sunday and most of Monday passed in a complete haze of sleep for me with occasional wanderings for food and drink. Mr K, bless him, kept the house running while I slept, letting cats in and out, making meals. He really is a superstar. We were both surprised that neither of us had much in the way of muscle soreness afterwards. My neck and back were a bit grim for a day or two, a direct result slowing the pace in the last 22km but we're pretty much back to 'normal' by Tuesday by my standards. I went for a three mile walk on Tuesday to get things moving again and to the gym as usual on Tuesday night and had a good stretch, then out for another 5 miles on Wednesday with Ben doing some heathland monitoring and I felt fine. That's when the unreality started creeping in - it really did begin to feel that it had happened to someone else, as I expected to be lurching around for at least a week afterwards like on that famous post London marathon video on You Tube! After the great sleeps of Sunday and Monday even that's back to the normal two and half to three hours a night in short bursts.
Our finishing time was 21.51.36 of which 18:21:26 was walking time. I reckon I lost half a km in restarting Runmeter while trying to text! Here's the link if you want a squizz, here it is
. Would I do it all again? You betcha! In a heartbeat. Mr K said 'Never again' as we crossed the finish line, but on Tuesday evening while he was giving me a l lift to the gym, he said "You know I said never again? I think I might have been a little hasty". Now that really has made me smile
Sorry it's such a long post and very well done if you made it to the end - you deserve a medal too! We all achieved fantastic things last weekend Realbuzz style and a massive well done to every single one of you, you're awesome 😀
Here's to you Mrs H, you were my inspiration through so many of those kilometres