Stage 3 - 28km and 480m of ascent
Back across the park again to the departure area for the second half. Our packs are decorated with a glow stick. It's dark and a stroppy marshal tells us we can't leave for another 15 minutes until there's a large enough group to leave together because of health and safety. I point out that we train in all weathers together and we've never had a disaster yet and it's not like we're on our own but he won't have a bar of it. I'm having a hissy fit and Richard quietly takes me to one side. From there, we see a couple of people sliding around the side, setting out for the second half unchallenged. We wait all of 30 seconds until the marshal is having words with the next few people telling them they can't leave yet and getting the same angry responses then quietly slide around the stide and leave unseen and unchallenged too 😊 Back downhill into the town, not nice on the ankle. I'm keeping the painkillers regular through the day so there are a couple of hours between doses when things aren't good and neck and hips join the pain party again. Only a short walk through the town (and it seems remarkably quiet for a Saturday night) to the quayside where we have to catch the small launch across the river to East Cowes (the chain ferry broke over the winter and hasn't been replaced yet). I'm so cold my teeth are chattering. A 14 minute wait for the launch in a windy shelter doesn't help but once on the launch it's absolutely toasty - only a few minutes crossing but long enough to feel the benefit and stop shivering so much then we're on our way again. Ahead lies a 15km long road section through East Cowes to Ryde but at least it's more level and as we walk on again the pain eases to a more tolerable level. As we pass through the town, passing cars start winding their windows down and people shout 'well done' and 'keep going'. What a lift that gives us! As we walk up a residential street on the outskirts of East Cowes, three teenage girls are leaning on their gate and as we pass give us each a slip of paper which makes us smile -
We pass Osborne House somewhere on the left here but neither of us see it. My eyes are now glued entirely on the path ahead, watching out for any unevenness. The walk is becoming a blur - I'm not short of energy and I'm not tired but the constant pain is taking its toll on concentration and I keep forgetting to drink and snack. The slightest trip or catching the foot causes sharp pain and the background ache is constant despite the painkillers. Another wonderful text from HD strengthens my resolve, there's no way I'm giving in until I'm across that finish line!
We reach Ryde and the next CP in another public park but this one is small and very quiet. Same routine - sani-privy, two cups of tea with 5 sugars in each (did that at every single CP bar the first where we didn't stop, it works for me 😂😂), off with the boots and socks, check the feet and apply blister plasters to another couple of new ones on the front of the left foot and under the toes because I'm now pushing off mostly on that foot. Another 30 minutes taken up but this time I appreciate the rest. I stand up to go and nearly go flying because the ankle didn't appreciate the rest as much as my hips did 😂😂 I make like I'm snuggling up to Rich on the way out so I can lean on him and limp less. He understands perfectly and gives my hand a squeeze. I don't want to attract the attention of the prowling medics! Back to Ryde seafront Again I'm freezing cold after stopping and the wind, now gusting up to 40mph, is cutting right through my damp clothes and my teeth are chattering again. I just can't walk fast enough to generate enough heat. Without a word, Rich takes his waterproof out of his pack and we stop in a bus shelter while I put it on over the race pack and everything. Within a few minutes, pure bliss 😊
We reach the end of the prom and join a rougher section of the coast path again as we head towards Bembridge. Everything becomes a blur of concentration then out of nowhere there is a huge stretch of water in front of us with just a narrow causeway stretching across it. It's maybe 6 feet across and we can't even see the end of it even with the powerful head torches we have.
These pics give you the idea courtesy of Google and the internet
It's high tide and the water is maybe two feet from the top of the causeway and it's quite choppy but at least we figure we must be in a relatively sheltered bay as the wind isn't quite so fierce here. We can see a couple of lights ahead of us and when we reach them, there are two lady challengers debating how to cross a much lower section 15 foot long section of the causeway (presumably to allow boat access) that's covered in seaweed and the waves are lapping over it. Asking if they minded if we go first, we just get on with it and must have given them confidence as they followed. We have no idea how deep the water each side and it's a very surreal experience indeed (we found out afterwards it's about 1200 feet long and the water each side is only two of three feet deep 😂😂). Finally we see buildings ahead and as we get near the end of the causeway, a young rat scuttles off the causeway and disappears under a corrugated iron fence, his tail making a loud clang as it goes underneath. That must have smarted! The causeway has certainly woken us up a bit and we start walking down the prom at Bembridge. The pain is on the up again as my last painkillers wear off. I make myself continue for another hour before taking the next lot so they stay evenly spaced. That means another two hours before I get some relief. I'm trying to distract myself and remember I haven't eaten for a few hours so I dig out my remaining sandwich and some crisps and eat them while we walk and have a good drink of water. I'm with it enough to start getting really grumpy at the state of the footpath. Lots of cursing. I start walking on the foot high wall at the side of the prom because it's smoother, but the wind keeps threatening to blow me off so I walk in the road instead and get hacked off that the road is entirely cambered and any slight angle to either side hurts more so I walk down the white line where it's flatter.
I stop and take the next painkillers and with another hour before they start to kick in and I'm retreating deep inside again just concentrating on getting the job done. Anything uphill is blissful because it relieves the ankle pain. After a bit we reach the 80k CP at Culver Down. Two cups of super sweet tea, use the facilities. I don't want to stop for too long because the ankle really doesn't like it and it's harder to get going again but I have to add more blister plasters. It takes way too long to get the extra compression socks off and now I can't rotate my ankle to see properly under my right foot. I look across the table at Rich and he's fast asleep bolt upright and I don't have the heart to deny him that short nap. By painfully rotating my hips and the grotty ankle I manage to fix my feet again. They're starting to look more like blister plasters than skin! I pull up my Skins and have a look at the ankle - first time since halfway and am shocked at how the bleeding under the skin has spread. Fished around in my pack for some tubigrip to add to the mix at which point Rich wakes up, apologises then sees my ankle. He does his best to persuade me to stop but I'm a very stubborn old bugger when I set my mind to it. 35 minutes after arriving we're off again into the night.
Stage 4 - 26km and 440m of ascent
The final stage, saying that to myself feels mentally good. The descent from the CP down towards Sandown is a complete nightmare of narrow rough steep paths and occasional loose pebbles and I'm so glad that no medic at the CP can see me now. I lean very heavily on Rich, my human crutch! The voice in my head keeps saying "why are you doing this?" and it still gets a firm answer - because I can, because I'm a Buzzer and I'm not quitting now! Buzzers have faced worse and they get through it, that's what we do. The sky is lightening and with it comes rising hope - at least here'll be scenery again to distract me. Once down off the hill and on the flat approaching Sandown, the sunrise is one of the best I've ever seen -
Rich is getting so really physically tired and we try and distract each other by looking at the passing rocks, seabirds, trying to play the alphabet game (and not doing very well 😂😂), just anything to distract but ultimately he falls behind and I have to pause for a few moments for him to catch up. We pass a couple of other challengers laying on the sea wall and check to make sure they're OK and they are. They've been out on the course since 7.40am yesterday! They're 'just having a breather'. Twenty minutes later a text arrives from HD (hope you don't mind me quoting this HD 😘) "The day breaks.....the day of destiny...you must be so close now....the brain will be weary, the legs even more so but you're as strong as they come. 21 hours gone of leaving your incredible legacy....bring it home....one foot in front of the other.....bring it home...." Tears were running down my cheeks, that meant so much right then at a time when I needed it most.
Down the esplanade of Shanklin with a lighter heart - this is the day the challenge gets smashed no matter how long it takes. I'd really wanted to finish this challenge in less than 24 hours but now time just wasn't important, just the finishing at all. On towards Ventnor via a series of roads, tracks and decent paths, the gentle uphills again giving the ankle some relief and the downhills giving it more grief. Along the esplanade at Ventnor, finally reaching the last CP at 95k in Ventnor Park. The sun is blazing down and the wind is still blowing a hooly but I'm finally too warm to keep Richards waterproof on. As our chips are scanned I feel so happy knowing you could all see we'd almost made it. More sweet tea, a few snacks then use the facilities and twelve minutes later, we're off again and now we know we're definitely going to finish. All doubts gone, no question about it. Only 11km to go - two Parkruns and a lap of honour 😊 11km, just as well I didn't know then that it would take just over three hours to complete - blissful ignorance!
Back onto the coast path - long sections of narrow, uneven paths with roots everywhere and the bushes each side and over the path constantly catching in my race pack or hair. More and more cursing.
The last lot of painkillers is either wearing off more quickly or the ankle is getting even worse. Rich is quiet, he's so tired but his support still completely unwavering. I'm quiet, just focusing on keeping going forwards. They've saved the biggest hill until last! As we climb the wind batters us afresh, stripping all heat from me in minutes. No words needed, Rich helps me into his waterproof again, and again the relief is instant and huge. The ascent is long but the view towards St Catherine lighthouse spectacular
Pauses are frequent now as we gather ourselves for the last few k's. We finally reach the start of the descent down to the finish. We can see the finish!!!! Again the descent is brutally painful on the ankle, the worst so far. We reach the bottom, crossing the waving grasses of a relatively flat meadow with relief. At the end of the meadow we stopped in disbelief. A huge stile stood between us and the road. We'd climbed many stiles since the start with increasing difficulty as hips protested more and more. We both stare at this huge stile and both curse and swear (a very unusual occurrence for Rich) and that makes me laugh so much (probably hysteria). Monty Python's obstacle race had nothing on us as we somehow help each other over it. Back onto the road, but it's the main road. That lovely smooth surface is all I want to walk on but the traffic is quite heavy. Nevertheless I keep stepping down from the lumpy grass verge onto the road between cars for a few moments of less pain and Rich, getting increasingly concerned and cross keeps pulling me back onto the grass. The finish is so close we can hear it, see it and smell just down the road but what's this? An arrow sending us off to the left? Are they having a laugh? I'm ashamed to admit there are tears from me as we are directed back onto the narrow uneven coast path for the last 2 km when the finish is only a few hundred metres down the road 😩 Still, it has to get done so on we go. Before the final turn into the finish, the warming waterproof comes off and is hastily stashed back in Rich's pack. Hand in hand we approach the finish line and with hands raised we cross it. No Kenyan finish this time, it just isn't physically possible, but job done 😀 Officially 106km. On Runmeter, 107.14km (plus the missing 3 making it 110.14km) in 26:09:23. Impossible truly is a lie and the pain no longer matters, it's done, AS well and truly kicked 😊
Into the marquee and the tears started and wouldn't stop for five minutes. That's never happened before and I must admit I felt a bit of a twit but there we go, we can't always be in control. One of the lovely young girls brought us tea and we just sat for ten minutes without moving, without speaking. Rich wanted to go straight back to the bungalow and get some kip, but now I was ready for food and thought that I should see the medic and so he was persuaded. All I wanted was a bacon sarnie same as at the end of the TPC 100. It was 11.20am and the bloke behind the table said they'd no bacon left. He offered me a gluten free burger and I very nearly told him where to stick it but maintained my dignity 😂😂 Instead I lurched over to the medics tent while Rich ate. The doc saw me coming and asked what had happened. I'll never forget the look on her face when I told her. You walked 61k on that? Are you insane? Answers on postcard please 😂😂 She looked, and without even prodding said I'd almost certainly got a stress fracture at the end of the fibula, gave me an ice pack and told me to keep it elevated until I could get to a walk in centre.
Back to the bungalow, a long hot bath (and yes it took half an hour to fill the tub 😂😂) before falling into bed. Tossed and turned until 6 - not too funny how you can't sleep when you're so tired. A champions dinner of steak, sautes and veg followed by more profiteroles before falling into bed again but I still didn't sleep much as the ankle was continually throbbing. Home later that day and to the walk in centre the day after. Ankle x-rayed, nothing to be seen but when I went back last week the stress fracture was confirmed. Lots of RICE and 'no further than the end of the drive without crutches'. Hopefully I'll be off them this week. There's the matter of the Westminster Mile on the 28th and intend to be there. It was going to be my inaugural 'run my first mile without walking' but I might just have to walk instead. C'est la vie 😊 Got to take a bit more care as at don't want to miss the HU5k and want to be fully healed for the Chiltern Challenge (50k) in July and Saharan Challenge (back to back marathons) in October.
I promise to be quiet for a while now. After all, I've virtually written a book here and if you stuck it out, well done indeed 😊 If you do have a spare quid or two tucked away anywhere I'm fundraising for NASS again throughout my year of challenges (https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/KathyMiller). I wasn't going to fundraise this year but without NASS (a tiny charity run by only six people) and their years of campaigning, AS patients would not have access to the treatment I'm on now and because it's already improved my life so much already, it seemed wrong not to. They don't receive any funding from central government and rely entirely on donations to carry out their amazing work.
If you're interested in the stats, 797 people started the 106k non-stop challenge, the were 196 DNF's. I came 330th overall and was the 125th woman across the finish line. I have no plans for revenge on that course right now, it's just brutal......maybe one day 😊 Here's the route -
Happy training everyone 😀
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