Last-minute run-up to this was slightly thought-provoking. Shouldn’t races be social events, a time to get together with like-minded friends and strangers and enjoy some healthy competition? Yet I found myself apologising to a group of lovely people who were setting off to do the 100km walk and were all meeting up in the pub for food and drinkies the night before. Apologising because I just wanted to relax into race mode. I’d really been looking forward to this one. I was worried that my IT band issues might bring me to a halt as it did in the Weald Ultra just weeks before … and I merely wanted a pre-race afternoon of tea and cake, a wander around the island, peace and quiet in my own head and no watch-keeping. Is that so wrong? Perhaps – but that’s my way and I mean absolutely no offence by it.
And the race? I started with a warm-up plan of Run 10 Walk 5 minutes. Yes, that is a LOT of walking – but my magical ‘injury time’ seems to be around the 10-mile mark so I was determined to get past that milestone. I figured that 5 minutes would be long enough for any tension in my IT band to keep relaxing and getting back to normal. This might not be how it works, but hey, it worked for me! So I stuck to it like glue and had a fabulous day. The weather was more than kind and the ‘hills’ that I was expecting were only really ‘gradients’ – nothing ham- or quad-busting at all. The downside was the lack of coast for the first 18km! Nearly did my head in, it did – far too much road/housing estates etc. At one point I was thinking that if I’d known it was going to be a road race and not trail I would’ve worn different trainers!! That said, once I finally got to the coast it was BEAUTIFUL! Stunning, stunning trail all the way around. And the most fun bit? At the six-hour mark I started playing with numbers and figured I could still make a personal target of a sub-7 hour 50k (told you I was slow – you didn’t believe me, did you!!). So the next hour flew by with the distraction of making that target – a fab way to put aside the battles with sore legs, dodgy stomach and all those things that tend to surface around the 25 mile mark. Fab Fab Fab. It was a real battle but I won – with seconds to spare!! Of course, my timing for the IOW 50k doesn’t quite show my battle because the halfway-around-the-island mark aka the finish line – was actually at 56 km. Once I hit my 50k target I just lost the will to do any more battle. I had won my personal medal. I walked the next 56k – feeling every bloomin’ ache and listening far too closely to negative voices – and crossed the finish about an hour and a half later. I can’t tell you how THRILLED I was to cross that ultra line – injury free! It’s been a long year!