The Washie 100 Miler isn’t a race, it’s a journey. A journey that involves huge commitment, support & compromises from the family; moral support from wonderful friends; and the efforts from all the people who care for me and helped me to achieve my dream goal. The journey started with my loving husband.
I met up with my other two magnificent Ironman Seconds, Noel and Julie at East London airport. Floods of support started to build up from other Washie runners such as Jimmy Parsons (10 times), Norrie Williamson, my coach Marcel and lots of e-mails, SMS messages, text, phone calls etc. From all the people who care for me so much me created a complicated mix of nervous feelings, self doubt, fear etc.
I / we have been preparing for this Journey since September 2010, when all the training events started to fall in place – Athens Classic 2500 Anniversary Marathon in October, Dubai Marathon in Jan & then the Boston Marathon in April went well to plan. Night training somewhere in the desert with my crazy friends Samantha, Rosemary, Marek, Julie and Noel capped off the LSD preparations as I trained through the hot Dubai summer in the heat. Getting up at 3 or 4am every morning, often twice a day to run hills, interval sessions, LSD and strength training in the gym (on Cybex of course!). Everything was falling into the place through the united support of my family and my running buddies Jacques, Marek, Rosemary, Samantha, Noel & Julie. The feeling was great as both mentally and physically I became prepared for the Washie – otherwise known as “The road from Hell”. I was extremely nervous but ready to face to this personal challenge!
Very unfortunately four days before the big day however I started to feel an abnormal pain in my hip flexor. I thought/hoped it might be just nerves and may just be a tight muscle. I told myself not to worry; rest and see how my fitness took me. My training prep had gone so well. In my mind there were only two things left – get to the Start, and get to the Finish!
One day before the race I did an easy 5 km run with the team. Noel asked me very politely, “are you ok?” he obvious saw my strides weren’t looking right! I decided to tell them honestly and we all decided to agree that it was nothing to worry about. Nobody was going to dare suggest anything just 24hrs before the race!
Throughout the week while in South Africa I was overwhelmed with the support and warmness shown by other South African runners and supporters. People I had never met before such as Jimmy Parsons and Gereld (4 times Washie) from France were so supportive. I shall never forget their kindness and encouragement. I arrived at the start area, met up with other runners and some friends of friends who happened to live in the area. We were all chatting and I started to relax. Inside me however I knew I felt fear. Never start a race with this feeling of doubt, ever!
The raced started at 5 pm. The Race Committee had lost the “Start” banner but nobody seemed to care. The first 15km was an out and back loop without my Seconds. During this period the sun set and the African night set in. It was pitch black and I started to worry about my sense of direction. Better stick with other runners. It’s not Jumeirah here I muttered to myself! When I saw my Seconds greet me at the first meeting point I started to feel excited! My legs were not right, but I still thought and hoped it was only a stiffness that would loosen up when I got going…
Around 32km however I had a significant pain in my hip flexors. I had to be honest to my team “I am injured, but I want to carry on”. Needless to say I could see the worry on their faces. It was way too early on in the race to have this type of pain. We of course all agreed to carry on and see how I felt. As each one of my seconds switched to run alongside me I received different pep talks. They were all very sensitive to my feelings, advising me gently that IF I decided to stop, it would be fine with them; don’t worry about letting the team down; it was my race and not anyone else’s….. All the words were very touching but we had still over three marathons to accomplish and the night was still very young! Meanwhile the pain got worse and worse. Obviously my team could tell how I was struggling but I gave them the “look” as they explained later that I was NOT up for stopping or giving in! When we reached the 80 km check point, I had been running steadily but slower of course than what we had planned. It was still midway through the night and the huge trucks speeding along the road forced me off the road into the ditch numerous times. Not only did I have huge hills to navigate but also these damn trucks and sheering pain from my hip flexors. As the night wore on the temperatures dropped to 7ºC. The pain and the hill climbing limited me to alternate running 100m then walking 100m. This run was not getting any easier despite the brief encouragement of the African sunrise. By the time we got to the 108 km mark, my team had to start monitoring my time and pace to make sure I could make it to the 120 km mark check point in time. They calculated the time needed to eat and even gave me a hard time over my toilet breaks! By the time we got to the 120 km mark I had learnt to power walk as this relieved some of the pain in my hip flexors. My seconds calculated my time again and based on pace told me I was now about 1.5 hours ahead of the race cut off. Our revised goal was to get to the finish line between 25-26 hours. I told them that whatever happened I would run, walk & crawl to the Finish. I was not going to give up! John, Noel and Julie all looked at each other and we continued in grim silence.
With 52 km to go, it was John’s turn to run/walk with me. A strong headwind pick up as we endured another 5 km long hill. The pain grew worse and I started to cry. You could see the concern on their faces! I told them I hoped this pain was temporary – quitting would last forever! We carried on, taking every single step and grinding out the kms as my wonderful seconds walked and ran alongside me. As we got to the last 20 km we dared to dream of the finish line. Our goal seemed achievable!! We started cheering & smiling at each other! With the great support and a little bit more of determination & stubbornness………
WE DID IT – crossing the line at 24hr31min!! I mustered enough energy running through the finishing line amid cheers of encouragement.
We all had a big hug, kisses, tears….. my feelings were very complicated, mixed with pain, exhaustion, excitement, appreciation then I looked at the faces of these 3 wonderful people, wondering what I have done to have them in my life. What they had been through for last 24 hours, they have done whatever the best they could to get me through this toughest day to make sure I achieved my DREAM GOAL! My Seconds made the impossible goal possible.
The highlight of the trip was the prize giving on the following Sunday morning and the chance to meet with all the other runners and sharing the experiences of this epic run. When the race organizers called out my name for the trophy the applause was overwhelming. They don’t have many non South African runners running the Washie, especially from Dubai. Later I was interviewed by the local newspaper. The cheering & the greetings were unexpected! I felt it was a shame nobody mentioned the top job of my seconds!!! The trophy should be shared among the four of us.
The joy and sense of achievement I felt at that time will last with me forever!
Special thanks to:
My very dear husband for his unlimited loving support in every way I can think of.
My two wonderful Ironman Seconds, Noel & Julie for their amazing friendship & sportsmanship. They made the trip to South Africa specially to support me – words cannot express how much I appreciate them.
My Coach Marcel Viljoen for his professional coaching, mental preparation and encouragement to get me to this event.
My family, their love and support; their compromises to help me reach this goal.
All my friends & running buddies in Dubai and South Africa, some had helped me out to beat the heat, ran overnight or got up for my 4 am runs. We received over 100 text messages before and during the race!
Without any of the above, I doubt I would have made the finish line.
It is now 6 pm Sunday evening, I am sitting in the ice-bath (again) and it’s a chilly 12ºC outside. Despite the cold and pain I am still feeling very contented and very proud with my trophy! 🙂