Post TDS race

TDS Race - at the startIf you followed me during the race you’ll understand when I say that it wasn’t perfect.

It was my best effort, not my best performance but my best effort given the cards I was dealt and it will be one of my proudest finishes I will always remember. Going into the race I knew I was in good shape, I had trained well and I had a good head on my shoulders. I was excited and nervous for the unknown of entering a longer distance, more hours and taking on a race into the night but I had the perfect people around me that gave me confidence and encouragement to enter the unknown and believe in myself.It will be easy to tell the story of the race because it all happened in 3 nice big chunks. There was the good feelings on the starting 30 km, the beginning and then the brutal attack with the stomach for 30 km and then the rebirth of energy for the final 60 km.

My poles had become my best friend and I, somehow after accepting that they were actually super handy and would help me in my quest of traversing the TDS, left them on the side of the road while I waited for my lift to the start line… so much for friends never leaving each other behind. First, I thought this was a sign that maybe I was kidding myself about poles actually helping me and maybe I would be better to go without. Luckily, I had the wise Swedish team (Mimmi and Toni) at the car and with a spare (totally different) pole set and I quickly learnt how to adjust the height and we stood on the start and waited to take on the journey.

I started how I planned in the recce of the route. I knew where I would like to run to, where I would take my poles out…etc. I thought it was strange to not feel the want for energy food and water wasn’t tasting great but I am pretty known for strange eating habits in a race and so I normally listen to my body at the beginning and begin fueling a bit later than most so I continued to wait and it felt pretty easy in 2nd position.It was at 25-30 km on a downhill that the pounding of every step was starting to cause pain and I was starting to feel the need to stop and throw up what was in my stomach from the beginning. It was here I took time to slow down, I was in second and I was waiting to be passed but it took more time than I thought for Maud to come by.

TDS Race - working the polesThe second section of my race: the death march. I saw the Salomon team out on the course and I had nothing to give them a smile, I wanted to stop and I was sure It was the end. I admit, I cried. I hated all the people passing me and whilst I was grateful for the care the other runners were taking I was defeated. It was a 15 km downhill into the main checkpoint and I walked down at a 90-degree angle as my stomach couldn’t take the pounding and this alleviated the pain and cramps that were taking place. I tried some food, I threw up the food and some more, I drank some water, I threw up the water and I knew I was digging a deep hole in energy and for health.

On the way down, I had a nice looong time to think of my options: I could stop, I was worried for my organs and my body. I could continue and continue to cross my fingers for these moments to be over. I could wait for my Dad, ask his opinion and/or continue with him. It didn’t come down to not wanting a DNF next to my name, I don’t care about those 3 initials and I don’t know why but I got to the checkpoint, I looked around and walked straight back out. I committed to the next 2,000 m climb and I began to go up.

Here it was funny. On the uphill my stomach was okay and I could move quite well-my quads weren’t destroyed and I had worked out how to make the poles the same length… yes at 50 km I was just sorting this out. As the climb went on I was catching people and I recognised a lot of the faces that had looked at me on the downhill and they were surprised I was not only moving but passing people. I had lost 300 positions and went from 2nd female to 20th but as I was putting one step infront of the other I started to feel a release in my stomach, a lightness in my step and even an acceptance to food and water. I took a CLIF shotblok and I have never had sugar hit me so hard. I was buzzing, I was ready and I even said to a guy I was near “I am going to hunt down as many people as I can now” (cheesy I know!)

The final part of this story is where the magic happened. Suddenly that good shape that I knew was there blossomed and I began to race again. I saw people in the distance and I made it a mission to catch them. I counted the girls off.  As I had been carrying so many gels with the plan to eat them all from the beginning I didn’t need the aid stations except when the craving for watermelon shone and I ate I think close to 1 whole melon!

I caught up to people I had been with at the beginning and I passed faces that were stronger in the back end. I came into Les Contamines and met with my crew Rachel, who had an easy job as I was still only just eating slowly and so she handed me some water in flasks, a CLIF bar with the hope that maybe it was something to put in the stomach and a hug- also the knowledge I was in the top 10 and there were girls near. I left and I ran the uphill I never dreamed in the recce I’d be top-toeing up and passed some more people.

I took the last climb with some ease and helped some runners with their survival blanket as it was getting cold and they were stopped on the track with exhaustion. I was no longer passing people with ‘bonjour’ but ‘ca va?’ to make sure people were OK. With the night came the interesting task with the head torch and with the renewed energy from anything I put into my body I was buzzing with sugar to catch to the next light ahead and dance on the trails with just my spotlight on my feet and the wind in my hair, it was a total freedom.

TDS RaceAt Les Houches with 8 km along the river to go and 18 hours into the race I didn’t stop, I ran through and began the section of the course I knew so well. I ran with a guy who I had been back and forth with. Together we flew along the trail in and out of the cold river mist. In the last kilometer, I saw a pony tail in the head torch and I decided that there was one more chance. I ran up and we both pushed on the gas we had left. The last kilometer through town was left at 4:09/km. I finished just ahead to reach the 5th position and in 19:04 hr. Relief, disappointment, pride, happiness, gratefulness and respect swept over me as I layed at the Church square in Chamonix.

It wasn’t easy. I knew it would be, but I didn’t expect it to be that hard. I didn’t expect these challenges; but that’s the single best and worst thing about ultra running, you have a lot of time to go from feeling good to bad, good to bad and sometimes it’s possible to come back and fight.

I want people to read this and finish with belief in themselves, belief in their bodies and belief in others. I gained a lot of energy from volunteers, supporters, racers during the race and since the race you have filled my heart with kind messages and comments to aid the sore legs and recovery.

The body is an amazing machine and I respect that I totally destroyed it out there. So tomorrow I fly to Spain, to lie on a beach with my Dad (he finished too, in 26 hours I watched him cross the arch and was super proud of him to have conquered his journey and with all ankles and limbs still attached! 😉 ) and then back to Australia!

Thank you for being on this journey. It was not possible without you and it was far more fun to share it with you all. I look forward to taking on Chamonix on 2018!
Au Revoir!

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