Lining up at 4am on Saturday morning I was super excited about the day that lay ahead. I had trained hard, felt fit and was ready to race. I normally go off at the start of races like a maniac with a “Go to you blow” approach but I decided to be sensible this time, hold back and chill and let the race unfold a bit before I put the hammer down.
The gun went off and accompanied by flares which looked great but the ash from them flew into our eyes as we ran across the rugby pitches, not ideal when it’s already dark. The first part of the race winds its way through Cape Town and despite feeling like I was running slowly we knocked out a couple of 3:50min/km. The route finally gets onto the trail and starts winding it’s way up to signal hill. As you climb higher you can see all the twinkling lights below you as everyone is still all cosy and tucked into bed. The first little climb up Lions Head was in the bag and we started the decent to signal hill. I heard a guy running down behind me so jumped out the way to let him past. Unfortunately this jump resulted in the rock I landed on falling to the side and then me feeling my ankle go and a searing pain shoot up my legs. Rolling my ankles is not new and I can normally walk it off so I tried but god it hurt. My running speed was significantly reduced and every time I went over a stone, rock or twig it sent a pain up my leg. Turns out there are a lot of these around Table Mountain so the pain just wouldn’t ease up. I sent Mike a voice note asking him to get me some paracetamol, at the next aid station it was there ready and waiting. Amazing, so I took a couple and after 30 mins or so the pain started to subside.
The climb up to Table Mountain was tough but going up hill hurt a little less I guess as I was putting pressure on my toes instead of my ankle. At Kloof Neck corner the cowbells and cheers were awesome and raised my spirits and I thought I would try and shuffle as I hit the contour path to which I nearly sacked it (again) in front of all those people hearing the sound of ooooo! As I nearly went over I bounced straight back up and acted cool as I shuffled away into the distance. The real climb up Plataklip Gorge then started with the sound of bag pipes reeling you in as you climbed, it was quite nostalgic. As I was climbing there were two guys behind me saying ‘oh shame did you hear one of the top girls has already pulled out because she has a sore quad. I mean we all have sore quads’! I decided to take this point fully to heart ‘ha I might have a sore ankle but I am not bloody stopping in case I get ridiculed’. I know this is silly but it motivated me to get up that mountain and proof the boys wrong. The climb across the mountain was tough and way more technical than I remember with tree roots and boulders to throw in the mix of things to navigate. I knew there was a road coming up and couldn’t wait to get on a flat surface so I could at least attempt to run again. It arrived and hurrah I managed to get some 4:50min/km in the bag but as I was enjoying the flat and just as I was getting into the swing of things we got back on the path of death where my speed was reduced to a hobble. At this point the pain killers had started to wear off again and shit was getting real. I could feel my ankle swelling and my speed was reducing rapidly. I was getting more and more frustrated as I could only run for 10 meters and then had to walk again to get over a rock or a boulder.
I arrived at the Llandudno aid station and Mike was waiting to help resupply me at which point I just burst into tears as my ankle was so sore. I think the medic heard my crying and thought someone had been stabbed because he came running over to ask if he could help. I decided to try and get him to tape up my ankle in a bid to hold it in place. So we took my shoes and socks off to be greeted with a nice throbbing swollen ankle. The medic told me over and over again that he really shouldn’t let me carry on which I said thanks but please just tape my ankle up so I can get going again? After being told another 5 times that I shouldn’t carry on he finally gave in and taped me up and sent me on my way. It was so frustrating at this point I should have been jogging along the beach enjoying the sea air where instead I was hobbling along trying not to cry! I carried on trudging along and then saw my coach Nic in front of me, I really didn’t want to see him as it meant that he was having a worse day than me. We had a chat and he told me that he had been throwing up and was a bout to bail. He told me that a few girls had bailed already which made me even more determined to carry on. I felt that I had put so much energy, effort and time into this race race that I didn’t want to bail at 10km just because I had hurt my ankle.
After our little chat Nic told me to carry on and up another massive climb I went before I would finally get to Hout Bay. There the aid station was awesome everyone was super cheery but I was just in a bad place. Walking hurt, I could hardly run and it was depressing that I was slipping further and further back into the field. Anyway after a bit of time sitting on a bench contemplating my life I went on my way hobbling along like a wounded buffalo. Finally I reached the aid station at Alphen Trail where my medic friend from Llandudno was waiting and said that he was surprised to see me as he thought I would have bailed by now. Ha I surprised him! We took off my old tape and re-taped my ankle which had now doubled in size and had started to bruise. The next part of the trail I found really hard as there were loads of steps to get up, a shit load of boulders to make my way over and technical downhills with so many roots to get over, my ankle was not happy. At this point I was about 5km away from the final checkpoint, the cut off time for the check point was 7pm and I was getting scarily close to that. As I started to make my decent I did the calcs and figured out that I was going to miss the cutoff and my race would shortly be over. Unfortunately not! I got to the aid station to which they informed me that they had extended the cut off by 10 mins and I could keep on going NOOOOOOO! I burst into tears because I really really wanted to stop. Yep I know I could have kept on going but emotionally and physically I was done…well not quite Mike and the other volunteers sent me off for the final 10km of pain. I got to the top of the mountain just as the sun started to set and then I had to chuck on my head torch again and make my way in the dark along and down the mountain. As I was descending I thought I am going to finish after the 17hr cut off so there is no way I am taking a medal. I finally got off the mountain and then saw Mike at the bottom of the hill who ran the last km with me back to the rugby pitches. It was strange coming into the finish. I wanted to come first, my aim was to to win the race or at the very least podium and I ended up coming last in 17hrs 16 minutes and 44 seconds. It was such a relief to cross that finish line mainly because I could stop. And on crossing the line I just burst into tears…again.
Once I had got a grip I got taken away to the medical tent where the doctors had another look at my hoof and I found my medic friend who told me that I had lost him a lot of money because he had made a bet that I wouldn’t finish and ta da I did! I was advised to go and get a scan and got it wrapped up again before getting sent on my way. I also decided that I would take a medal as I had dragged my ass for 100km up and over the mountains and it is probably one of my medals that I have achieved!
When I got back to Joburg I went and got a scan and luckily I hadn’t done any serious damage however there was calcification on the bone which the radiologist though was from when I went over on my ankle the previous year and was probably what made me get a stress fracture in March! Yes I could have stopped and I know I could have done serious damage to my ankle but just because I was having a bad day I didn’t think that should be an excuse to bail. I love watching people race and I always feel slightly dissapointed when someone who I aspire to be like bails because they are having a tough day. You can’t always win and just because you are not going to stand on that podium doesn’t mean that pulling the plug is the right thing to do. Don’t get me wrong sometimes it is when we can get injured or sick but I think a lot of the time we can push on and dig deep. The races that are hard that we have to dig deep in and push our bodies to the limits are the ones that teach us the most and make the races that go to plan feel so much better!