Saturday, 2 June 2018

Cape Wrath Ultra: A Prelude

It's funny.  For someone who is never short of something to say, I've been really struggling to find the words to put down in this post.

It's been almost a week since we finished running the Cape Wrath Ultra, and a repetitive stream of unoriginal adjectives have been flowing from my mouth; Amazing!  Incredible!  Beautiful!  Stunning!  Hard Work!  Life-reaffirming.  I just can't seem to find the right words to describe quite how amazing this journey has been.  I'm left with a sense of peace and inner calm; something I've been struggling to achieve for months as I bounce around a manic A&E department at work, or cram in hours of triathlon/run training into an already-too-busy week.

This week, despite overwhelming fatigue, I have felt incredibly relaxed and calm, even in the midst of a hectic department!  Time on the trail has always been my bit of headspace; a time for mindfulness.  Well 75 hours and 13 minutes clearly gave me a lot of time!!

Happiness is... 
Photo by ©Jimmy Hyland JHPVisuals

In The Beginning

My journey to the Cape Wrath Ultra began last year when I met race organiser Shane Ohly in a ski hut in the Austrian Alps.  Our ski tour had been scuppered by bad weather, but good conversation made up for it!  After a few days of enforced rest, we finally escaped the hut, and the CWU seed had been sewn in the back of my mind.  Shane also turned us vegetarian; well done!

Having watched the 2016 CWU film on BMC TV, I promised myself that if i finished my first ultra (the Highland Fling) then I'd enter Cape Wrath.  I mean one 53 mile ultra verses an 8 day expedition race... meh!  It'll be fine!  Race entries opened; I was clicking refresh, ready to go, and had entered in minutes, before I had a chance to change my mind!

Finishing the Fling with Owain.
Photo by Stuart Mcfarlane.

A summer of triathlon training followed (racing Ironman is my usual thing), ending with a strong race in September, then a bit of downtime.  Autumn followed and time to pick up the training again.  I did feel sorry for my poor triathlon coach Jon, trying to combine training for a horrendously long ultra, with keeping up some bike and swim fitness.  Thanks Jon and Matt from TCUK!

Winter went well and rolled round into spring.  The miles were ticking by, but moving back to Sheffield (after a year of work and play in Snowdonia) and onto a more challenging rota certainly took it's toll!  As CWU grew rapidly closer I had to relax and trust that I had the miles in my legs, and the strength in my head!

Almost the end

After much debate about kit, buying and replacing bits and pieces, decisions about shoes etc, it was a week before the race and I was packing my kit bag, almost ready to go.  Then disaster struck.  It started with a bike crash.  I rode my bike into a stationary car at traffic lights on the Sunday before the race.  Except for an angry driver, car, bike and myself were OK, if not a little shaken.

Then came a bad stomach bug.  It's not uncommon in my job to get the occasional bout of diarrhoea and vomiting (call it an occupational hazard!); my body is very good at shaking it off within 24hrs.  This time, from Monday through to Wednesday, things were not so good!  Any food went straight through me, and I laid in bed feeling very sorry for myself, doubting I'd reach the start line.  I gave myself ultimatums; if you stop poo-ing/ start eating by X then you can race... I kept moving the deadline backward though!  I knew full-well if I was giving advice to a patient I would be telling them not to race.

Big thanks though to Em for telling me to get some Cipro, and Georgie for telling me to get on the start line anyway!  Thankfully by Thursday my bowels had settled, and by Friday my appetite returned... phew!


I headed up to Fort William on the Friday for a couple of days of R&R with the husband (who had been working away on Skye).  Staying in a Shepard's hut in Torlundy we had incredible views of the Ben, and I had a chance to concentrate on eating, sleeping, and making sure I was as ready as possible before the race started.  Big credit to Tom for tolerating two days of rest rather than climbing, especially when the sun was shining and we could see the incredible north face of the Ben!  It must be love...

On Saturday I joined the long queue at registration, and eagerly chatted to fellow competitors, as we waited to register.  The support crew were very patient as we trotted around the hall, visiting each stand.  How many times must they have repeated the same information??  I was a bubble of nervous excitement, with a massive grin on my face!  Heading back for the briefing and meal, I met up with Owain, who I ran the final 20km of the Highland Fling with in 2017.  We were excited, and planned to start the race together the next day.

Things get serious.
Photo: Tom Hecht (I think...)

I unpacked then re-packed my running bag.  Clothes sat in a pile on the side.  It was too late to change my mind anyway; I'd already checked-in my kit bag for the week that evening.  One final chance to sleep in a bed, before the race began!  I tossed and turned, waking with dawn, as ready as I could be!

To be continued...

1 comment: