I hadn’t really planned on running D33 again this year, but then George announced that it would be his last one. With it being his final race as well as the tenth anniversary, how could I miss it? In honour of the final year and tenth anniversary there was also going to be of the one-off option of the D99, which I thought about for all of 5 seconds before I realised the implications of a 100 mile race in March (both in terms of training over the winter and the weather risks on the day) and thankfully wised up pretty quickly.
By lucky timing rather than keenness, I happened to be on Entry Central right as entries opened, and I found myself with race number one. Was rather pleased to have number one on this special race (and may have chanted “Number one! Number one!” on more than one occasion throughout the day…)
Unfortunately, this year has not been a good year of running. In January on a night out I was happily dancing away when my left knee completely gave out from under me. It wasn’t painful, but when I attempted to run on it the next day it was very unstable, and I was terrified that I had torn a ligament. To add to my concerns we were due to head to France for the VVX experience (https://www.fetcheveryone.com/vvx.php) a few days later. I had a very unsatisfactory physio experience which really didn’t tell me much, and the knee was still a concern when we had returned from our trip the following week. Luckily I was able to see my usual physio, and although she was also slightly concerned that I might have torn something, she was confident enough that it was more likely to be a strain and could be treated.
Throughout this time, I was able to run slowly and on flat surfaces, and the physio confirmed she was happy for me to continue running as long as I avoided hills. I saw many laps of Duthie Park! There was still no pain from the knee but it was weird and uncomfortable, and I could tell that my running style was compromised as other bits of my body started to ache from the compensation. Fortunately the knee did continue to improve, and I was discharged from the physio with some strengthening exercises to continue to do. Essentially, I don’t really appear to have an ACL left, so I might have to give up on the career back up plan as a rugby player and I may want to consider seeing an orthopaedic surgeon at some point, but it wasn’t stopping me running.
Unfortunately, probably as a result of compensating due to the knee, I then had a painful flare up in my foot- and this did stop me running. Luckily it was similar to a tendonitis type flare-up I’ve had before so I had an idea how to treat it, and in the end I was only out for a few days. But by now we were most of the way through February and my longest run was sitting at 13 miles. I was still determined to give it a go though and decided I would just have to run/walk from the start. I experimented with a few ratios on the longer runs I did manage and decided to do a 2 min run/1 min walk from the start.
I did manage one good week of training with 50 miles in total and a 20 mile run/walk on the Saturday (including a reasonably fast parkrun at Victoria parkrun in Glasgow, my fastest since injury) and 11 miles (a warmup plus Smokies 10 miler) on the Sunday. Even though I was doing it as a back to back, and I knew I wasn’t in good shape, it was hard not to get down that my pace at Smokies was over 2 minutes a mile slower than my best there.
I therefore arrived at the start line knowing I was far from trained, but confident that I had enough in my legs to get me round. I hoped that by starting with a run/walk from the start I could have a strong second half. My 2/1 ratio was coming out around 11:40 minute miles and I hoped to be able to keep that up for the majority if not all of the race.
The weather forecast for the weekend unfortunately got worse every time I looked at it. Concerning for me but potentially even worse for the poor D99 runners. I headed down to Duthie Park to see them off on the Friday morning and just hoped that it would be less windy by the time it was my turn. I then spent much of the afternoon excitedly dot-watching and looking forward to my own adventure.
The day dawned better than the worst of the forecasts suggested, and I was grateful to be walking to the start line in dry weather. I hoped that if we could just get going before the worst of the weather arrived it wouldn’t be too bad. The D99 guys had had a tough shift and though a number were finished there were also still many of them out there, and I looked forward to cheering them on as they came towards us. The wind was cold but not strong and the conditions were about as good as I could have hoped for really. Stu was helping at registration so I quickly got my number from him, dropped my drop bags, and visited the portaloo the customary excessive number of times. It was great to catch up with so many friendly faces- the real family feel of this race is always a huge bonus.
Soon enough it was time to start and we set off out of the park. My first 2 minute run flew by and it was difficult to stop to walk so early on, but I knew it would only work if I stuck to it from the beginning, so I made sure I took that first walk break (a few seconds late as I waited to get round the corner onto the line so I didn’t get in anybody’s way!). Of course this meant people went flying past me and I was very quickly near the back of the field but that was ok- time didn’t matter today, I just wanted to finish. For the first few miles I was leapfrogging with a South African couple who were running steadily but at a slower pace than my running sections, and I enjoyed listening to their chat and just letting the race day atmosphere wash over me.
Within a few miles I caught up with my friend Lyndsay, who I had hoped I might get to run with. Her training has also not been ideal and after a few bad races I knew she was feeling nervous about the day. It would have been easy to get caught up running with her but I resolutely stuck to my 2/1 and she seemed happy enough to fall in with that, so the time passed pleasantly as we chatted.
In the first few miles we passed a number of D99 runners coming towards us, looking knackered but pleased to be nearly finished. We cheered them all on, and although they must have been exhausted, they all responded and wished us luck on our own journey. I just couldn’t get my head round how long they had been out. I still have absolutely no desire to take place in a race that keeps me out of my bed through the night!
The rain held off for maybe 90 minutes, and then a steady drizzle started. It wasn’t too cold though and the wind wasn’t too bad, so it wasn’t too unpleasant. At that point, anyway. We reached the first checkpoint in good spirits- I didn’t have a drop bag at that point so I just grabbed a cup of coke, said hi to everybody, and moved on. I would have liked to be feeling a little bit more energetic given the sedate pace but at least nothing was hurting. A couple of miles later we passed my friend Vicki on her way back on the D99- I couldn’t believe how energetic she was after what must have been a long night! The added dynamic of seeing those guys really did add something special to the race.
It wasn’t long after that when the race leader came towards us, going some pace and with a huge lead. He responded to our cheering and wished us well also; often the first few runners are very focused and it’s usually a while down the field before you get a response, but every runner that came towards us was super supportive and friendly this time- maybe it’s just because we really were nearly the back of the field? Either way it was a big boost each time.
As we headed towards Banchory the going underfoot did get tougher as it had now been raining steadily for some time. It was still far from technical trail, but it was enough just to be that bit more tiring. I was tired now and very much looking forward to halfway. At halfway I topped up my Lucozade and grabbed some hula hoops, babybel and pork pie. I’d been saying all day if we could only get to halfway before it got really miserable it would be ok and as if to mock me, the minute we headed out of the checkpoint on our way home the weather seemed to pick up. It had been snowing for some time but now the snow got thicker and wetter and the cold wind picked up. I was soaked through and although my core temperature was alright, my hands were starting to get really cold. I did have dry gloves in my pack but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get them on and didn’t want my hands to get even colder while I tried.
We plodded on- I was trying to stick to 2/1 but my hand was so cold I could no longer feel my Garmin buzzing, and I had pulled my sleeve down so couldn’t see the screen. Lyndsay was great here, pushing me on to run at the right time, though the 2 minutes seemed to last forever and the 1 minutes were over in a flash! We caught up with our friend Frank but he was really hurting and we slowly pulled away from him.
That stretch from Banchory to Drumoak seems to last an eternity. My hands were really cold now- I was trying to stick them in my armpits to warm them up but they were cold and damp so not really doing much good. I started to wonder if I could actually finish. My dad had texted me in the morning telling me not to do anything crazy- was I being silly? Was I risking real damage to my hands? I also knew I had forgotten to take my rings off- a rookie error that I knew could exacerbate matters.
But we kept going, and eventually we were at the ¾ checkpoint. My friend Shona asked how I was and I just burst into tears, telling her that I thought I would have to pull out. She asked why and I just held out my freezing, puffy, useless hands. Along with my friend Elaine she helped me get the gloves off, dried my hands vigorously with a towel to warm them up a bit, and put my new dry gloves on. They offered me my Prosecco but I didn’t even want that- things really were dire!
And then somehow, I was being ushered out of the checkpoint and having been pretty sure I was going to pull out I was somehow on my way again. The value of these amazing angels that saved my race (and I’m sure countless others) cannot be underestimated- thanks again ladies!
As we left the checkpoint a guy passed us, saying “good luck ladies”. A couple of minutes later I looked ahead and saw that he had missed the right hand turn off back onto the railway line and was headed off in the right direction. I shouted at him, as did Lyndsay and another runner, but he had headphones in and was totally clueless. Three of us were screaming at him but he just ran on, and in the end I had to run as fast as my tired legs could to catch him. I only ended up running about an extra quarter of a mile before he finally heard me screaming at him, but it was an extra quarter mile I could have done without…
With that drama out the way I made my way back to the race route and plodded on, still feeling pretty miserable. Lyndsay was great, but she was also starting to get cold, and we were rather a sorry pair. I was so grateful to have her, as I would not have kept going otherwise. Soon enough we were crossing the road at Milltimber Brae, and I actually started to perk up a bit here. Ok so I couldn’t feel my hands, and I couldn’t actually do anything with them (trying to use my water bottles was amusing and I ended up just squirting water at my mouth and hoping for the best), but I could still move them and at least my core temperature wasn’t too bad. We had passed the last marshal point and I couldn’t have worked my phone to call for rescue if I had wanted to, so the only way to end this torture was to finish the race.
We ran when we could, walked when we had to, and continued to make slow but steady process. At one point we passed a flooded section and had to tiptoe through an icy puddle and I threw a proper strop, screaming at the bridge, the puddle, and the world in general. I felt a bit better after that release though! Finally, finally, we were crossing the bridges, and a few minutes later I saw somebody standing on the line with an umbrella- “It’s my daddy!” I gave him a big (cold, wet, snotty) hug then we continued on our way- final half a mile now, we are really going to do this!
We walked a few steps to the gates to the park, then agreed to run the rest of the way. We ran side by side to the finish, where Stu was waiting for me with my medal. Unfortunately I had other priorities and just thrust my hand out at him “Stop my Garmin! My fingers don’t work!” Once that essential task was completed I gratefully received my medal and hugs, then again held my hands out for help. I was taken into the first aid tent where my gloves were pulled off and I saw that my left hand was swollen to twice its normal size- no wonder I hadn’t been able to do much with it. Alan thrust a cup a soup into my icy paws, and I stood by the amazing heater. It was great to have Stu and Dad there, and I quite quickly began to feel more human. I didn’t stick around for too long though as my core temperature was now dropping and I knew I needed to get out of my wet clothes. Dad walked me home and I had the most glorious hot shower. I continued to shiver for a good hour after the shower, but all I cared about was that I could feel my hands again- and did finally feel well enough for that glorious bottle of Prosecco!
It was a really tough day out, and I’m so grateful to all of those that helped me make it to the finish line. I don’t really have any plans for races in the near future- and I have at the moment put my back out and am struggling even to dress myself, so that’s a very good thing. I need to get over all these injuries then somehow try to find the runner I used to be- my training definitely needs a mix up of some kind; yes I’m a bit older but my current mile pace is around what my half marathon pace used to be, and I don’t think it needs to be that dire. But given that walking is a struggle right now, it can only be up from here, right??