Blog: Stuart Pyper

"10in10 runner 2012"

21 May 2012

Day 10 - "You had a different challenge"

No taping for me last night, and just easy, gentle physical work. Too tired now to cope with those painful and draining sessions that got us through the earlier parts of the challenge. Today was about being in the best mental state to get out and enjoy the final marathon.

Despite all the talk about it being 'a freebie' or 'a lap of honour' I had no doubt that, actually, it was yet another tough marathon, that was going to demand the exact same respect as the previous 9. I was sure the extra support on the road would give us all a tremendous lift, as well as the knowledge that we could now actually STOP once we'd finished, but it was still not going to be easy.

There had been some discussion about the best time for the early start to go off - too late and we'd miss the presentation, too early and, if one of us had a really good day, there'd be a danger we'd be at the finish line before any of the other runners. In the end we went off two hours before the main Ten in Ten runners, and hence three hours before the day-trippers, as per usual; all the early starters had always been caught by the faster runners up till now, and if either Rob myself did pull some miraculous performance out of somewhere we'd just have sat at the bottom of the drive until the others finished - it would have been nice to clap them through :-)

It was a truly FANTASTIC day - beautiful sunshine, but not too warm, at least not early doors. Rob, Tinu and I wandered off down to the start with Mac, and then we were off.

I really wanted today to be a great run - not fast, just enjoyable, and I was really looking forward to sharing the course with the runners in the main marathon. And the first eight miles were just what I wanted, a lovely run/walk in beautiful conditions, criss-crossing with Rob as our paces varied, chatting about everything that had happened and how today was going to go.

Then something in my right ankle went bang. I'm sorry, I really am - this has just become an increasingly pathetic list of lower-limb failures, hasn't it? Whatever it was, the pain was unpleasantly stabby and nothing really seemed to shift it - stretching, trying to change how I was running, shouting at it, all the usual things we try.

By Newby Bridge I was walking, and not especially well either. Once again I was feeling down - it looked like the whole thing was going to end, not with a bang, but a whimper - another eight-hour walk around the lake. I wasn't happy, and wondered whether anyone had actually abandoned on day ten.

As had so often happened, I was saved by Ruth and some very sage words. "You had a different challenge. For you, given everything else that has gone on, it was always just about getting here. Getting here, then getting round."

Well, one way or another, getting round would be something I could do.

By this stage we were starting to see Aly and Mac, and knew the front runners among the Ten-in-Ten would soon be passing us, likely to be swiftly followed by the fastest of the Marathon runners. Given that the ankle didn't seem to be getting any better on its own, and it was the last day, I swallowed my principles - and a couple of painkillers. I'd been avoiding taking any whilst running - my personal view was that if was going to take painkillers, I might as well take the bus - but by this point it was likely the only thing that would get me running again.

I should point out that these were bog-standard paracetamol here, and my aversion to taking them earlier had more to do with not wanting to mask any injuries I was picking up, rather than some kind of moral standpoint. I'd already been chided by Body Rehab for turning my nose up at similarly innocuous anti-inflammatories....

Whether it was the paracetamol taking the edge off the pain, or seeing the front runners going by (inspiring as always) I was at least able to start run-walking again. I can't really remember when the first of the Marathon runners started coming past - after the hills beyond Newby Bridge, so probably somewhere around the 18 mile mark - but when they did, it was everything I had hoped for.

When the runner leading the Windermere marathon gives YOU a shout of encouragement and respect for what you've achieved - well, pride doesn't sit well with me, but it started to sink in that what I had achieved, battered and far from perfect as it was, it was still a rare achievement.

After that it was...just brilliant, frankly! I love supporting at races anyway - behind every vest there's a story of effort, and time spent in training, and sacrifices made, and hopes and fears for race day - I love the whole human mess of it all. I stepped off the path and applauded the first dozen or so runners passing me - I have huge respect for anyone who can turn out that kind of performance, and I wasn't going to let them go past without me showing that. The respect and support I got in return continued to amaze me.

I'd love to say I was then wafted effortlessly to the finish on a wave of support, but of course it isn't like that. It DID seem to get considerably easier, my pace did pick up and the walking breaks became less frequent. I chatted to runners passing, shouted encouragement, got my head down and ran up ice-cream hill. Said 'thank you' to everyone who called out any encouragement. Smiled, a lot :-)

The last few miles were taken at a steady jog; I was often running at the same pace as the runners around me now, and I would chat to one person for a few minutes before an inevitable walk-break meant I lost a little ground on them, and tagged onto someone else. Turn by the Rugby club and know that the job's done. 

I shuffled down the last little incline one last time, trying to spare my knees. Maybe a dozen people went past me on this section, and the short run to the bottom of the drive.

The drive. I'd only run it on day one, and not especially well. There's no more work to be done, the ankle is painful but seems to be holding up, all the blisters are numb by now anyway...what the hell, lets see if I can remember what it feels like to really run.

Off up the drive like a rat up a drainpipe, ignoring the bemused looks from the people who've just passed me who I'm now re-passing. Who does this idiot think he is, sprinting for position waaay back here in the mid-pack? Not only that, everyone around me has also run three hours quicker than me, given my early start. But, to counter that - they are only on their first lap :-)

Tonked up the drive and felt like I was steaming down the finishing tunnel. I was probably lumbering along like a rhino, but at least it FELT fast, it felt like running freely again.

Frankly, it felt bloody marvellous, but not as good as the hug I got from Ruth after crossing the finish line.

So that's it. Done. My inner voice wants me to say "badly" but it can shut up, for once. Some things are big enough that they can find a positive meaning in the old saying "it's not that it's done badly; it's that it's done at all"

One more blog to wrap up my thoughts and feeling, I think; then a final one for some special thank-yous
By Stuart Pyper, 21 May 2012 – 4 comments

21 May 2012

Day 9 - Sometimes, you drop the ball.

And, some of those times, someone else just picks it up, hands it back to you and says "here, it's ok - just have another go"

For some reason - tiredness, soreness, general mental and emotional wobbliness - I started off the day in a complete blue funk. I'd had some serious taping done the night before, and whilst it has been doing wonders for my swollen feet and Plantar Fascia woes, it didn't play well with the compeed plasters I have covering the blisters. It was also painful to remove, and took longer than I thought, so I was a bit rushed down to the start....

.....whatever the reason, everything just started to completely snowball in my head. Maybe having spent yesterday walking the course had fed my inner demons; certainly they were whispering their bitter somethings in my ears from the moment I set off. Maybe I expected to feel more 'recovered' after yesterday's walk, because a hilly 26.2 mile walk is still considerably less gruelling than running those same miles. Maybe the fact that it was day 9 meant I was expecting a good/better day for some reason. I don't know.

For whatever reason, I set off planning to walk all the way if I had to, and from the off I was pretty much a blubbering wreck. More support (in the form of other Ten-in-Ten club members) had been arriving from the evening before, and whilst I should have found their presence very supportive (and everything they said and did WAS supportive) my state of mind managed to turn that support into oppression. 

The inner feelings of 'just not good enough' were multiplied by the presence of a bunch of other people, all of whom had already proven they WERE more than good enough. The stories of difficulties that had been overcome by others, which should have given me positive feelings about what I was capable of myself, just seemed like another yardstick against which I could measure myself and fail. "You're complaining because you're tired and your feet are sore? Someone else has completed this course with stress fractures, so man up, you little sniveller, or push off back home where you belong". There are days when I really don't like my own inner voice.

I saw Ruth just before Hawkshead, and it was obvious I was in a bad way. She did the best thing possible in the circumstances - avoided me for the next few miles, to minimise the chances that I would actually take the easy option and pull out. I kept trudging out the miles as well as I could, stopping occasionally to sit on the drystone walls in apathetic misery before giving myself a slap and moving on. 

I saw several of the previous Ten in Ten completers during this stretch, at the various support points - and I can only apologise profusely for my extreme grumpiness and non-communication. I can't hide what I'm feeling, my emotions are always right out on display (I'd be the world's worst Poker player) and so I tend to try to blank people out when I'm feeling really down. Sorry guys, and huge thanks for your support.

Round about mile eleven-ish, Steve Edwards got out of one of the support cars and started walking with me. Now, one of the things we talked about later on was how certain words are over-used these days, and so have lost the intensity of their meaning, so I'll simply say that Steve is extremely well known and respected within the Ten in Ten club, and indeed the wider multi-marathon community. I respect him enormously, and so having him walk with me might well have allowed my mental demons to increase the feelings of shame and inadequacy that had been plaguing me thus far.

But he's also a tremendously nice bloke, and perceptive to boot - despite never having really met me before the training weekend, he put his finger on exactly how I was feeling and why - the anger with myself for my failure to prepare, and my struggle to deal with the subsequent (inevitable) results of that. It didn't immediately make me feel better, but it did keep me walking.

At Newby Bridge, I popped into the Swan for a loo-break, and whilst there I stripped off the heavier 'walking' gear I was wearing over my shorts. As I said to Ruth when I was back outside - "this might be all she wrote - I HAVE to run now, or it really is all going to be over".

Off I attempted to run over the bridge. Now, it wasn't quick, stylish or pretty, but it also wasn't walking. Steve caught me up a little later, and we kept talking as I jogged on, with walking breaks as and when I needed them. He ran with me all the way to ice-cream hill - at 21.5 miles, it's the point at which you can start feeling you are 'almost in', although it's still a significant distance to the finish given how tired you generally are by that point.

By then, the pace Steve had been trying to keep me at was starting to tell, and various bits of my legs (adductors, hamstrings, calves) were sending various warning twitches up to my brain. Steve was all for running me in to the end, and took a little convincing to leave me to run/walk the last few miles in on my own. It was the right thing, though - by that point, whilst I was still physically in poor condition I was mentally and emotionally much more back on track.

Steve, I can't thank you enough for that, you kept me in the running when I really needed it.

It was really nice to be able to run and smile again - honestly, I don't know how people have been managing to put up with me.

The last few miles seemed interminable, but I ground them out, finishing...eventually. To be honest, I've no idea what the actual finishing time was. I don't really care, it was a 'finishing time' not a 'retired at' time, and that was enough for that day. I was still tired, and sore, and hadn't magically been blessed with new legs, but I HAD been blessed with the support of a lot of very good people, and it had got me through another day.
By Stuart Pyper, 21 May 2012 – 1 comments

18 May 2012

Day 8 - If it looks like a duck,

waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

By the same logic, if it's 26.2 miles from start to finish, you can probably call it a marathon, however you get round it.

8 hours 15 or something, today. A personal worst that will probably stand for all of one day, as tomorrow may well be another of the same.

Walked the whole thing. I snaffled chips from Ruth at Newby Bridge, drank cups of coffee, had sensible clothing on over my running kit, and generally just kept putting one foot in front of the other until the job was done.

It's a brutal course, even just walking it. I couldn't have contemplated even trying to run today; there's nothing specific wrong, other than accumulated physical fatigue from 7 prior marathons, and mental fatigue from the world of hurt we've all been living in the past few days.

My spirits received a huge lift with some additional, welcome but very unexpected extra support on the course. My friend Hannah, having seen my blog, had driven over to offer sympathy and someone to have a good rant with. We always end up setting the world to rights, usually with a lot of bad language involved, which is unfailingly cathartic - and so it was today. Chapeau, Han :-) hope to see you and Norn again very very soon :-)

This whole event really has been about how marvellous other people can be. I'll try to wrap up my feelings about everything and everyone once it's all over, as trying to do so now I'd be completely unable to do everyone justice.

Additional damage from today was, hopefully, fairly minimal. Lower back more tired and sore, hips feeling like they're falling off, a bit of shin pain - all generally added to everything else that has been accumulating. Oh, and some more fantastic blisters, many thanks to Ruth for making an emergency shopping trip to get the supplies to try to deal with them properly! At least one toenail has been sacrificed, it's currently floating on a pool of tissue fluid, not even vaguely attached to the toe any more.

More marathon preparation in evidence at Brathay today, another reminder of how close we are to the final day. Just two more starts and finishes. Tomorrow I'll go off very like today - if I can run some I'll do so, but if my depleted willpower needs another day to recover (not to mention the blisters/pain/fatigue and everything else) then I'll walk as much as I have to. I'd rather have something left for some kind of effort on Sunday, safe in the knowledge that that's it, and I'll be able to rest.

Finally, talking about waddling like a duck - that's been my own form of locomotion the past few evenings. It's nothing to do with mucle pain or stiffness, but the AMAZING things that have been done to my legs, with a mixture of Zinc Oxide tape and K-tape by the equally amazing Tamara. I'm strapped up for compression to help the swelling subside, then I have a K-tape cantilever arrangement that keeps my ankles flexed when I sleep and prevents my calves (and hence plantar fascia) from becoming shortened, stiff and painful.

Fozzy got a picture of it this evening, hopefully I'll be able to link it here. It does mean my efforts at locomotion resemble some genus of waterfowl rather than anything vaguely human, but it is clearly helping, so I'm very much sticking with it.

So, another start, another finish. It wasn't quick and it certainly wasn't pretty, but it's done. Many thanks to Robert Dallison for his words to me yesterday, they really helped today. You're a man of rare inner strength and conviction, and it's a privilege to know you.

And another thank you for all the various messages/texts/emails - sorry I'm not replying, please don't think I'm not reading them! Just lacking in time and energy, but really treasuring all the thoughts being sent my way.

Two more starts. Two is...actually a comprehensible number. I never thought I'd get anything like this far.

PS - special thanks to Jules R - that sponsorship arrangement is pure evil from one accountant to another, isn't it? You knew EXACTLY how to hook me in :-)

By Stuart Pyper, 18 May 2012 – 4 comments

17 May 2012

Day 7 - Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

7 Hours 6 minutes, or thereabouts. Second really bad day.

Today, the course broke me. It wasn't any one particular thing; although everything that has been troubling so far got a little worse, as these things do. But from mile 8 onwards there was just a gradual slowdown, a leeching away of my ability to just keep on keeping on. I was totally spent, empty. The last reserves of whatever has kept me going this far seemed to trickle away with a faint despairing gurgle.

Nothing helped. Counting strides, reciting mantras, giving myself a talking to and a good slap. Seeing Ruth and the dogs out on the course made me more homesick, and made me realise how much I'm missing them - I'm seeing them everyday, which is much more than the other competitors, but it's hardly quality time, and I'm far from at my best.

Gradually the running I was trying to do became more sporadic, and I struggled to raise the will to keep myself into any kind of disciplined rhythym. Eventually I was stumping along as best I could as often as I could, which is to say, not well and not often. My walking pace dropped off, and it became more than clear that today was going to be another long, cold, painful trudge.

The mental demons came back in force too, and whilst I'd like to say I battled them valiantly in truth I was too exhausted to do much more than nod in recognition when they arrived and started whispering in my ears.

I finished. That's something.

Afterwards, flat out on my back on the floor in the athlete's room at Brathay, with my feet on a chair - elevated because they were swollen like a couple of cantaloupes, my socks stained with blood and fluid from the fresh blisters that the heat and swelling had caused, my back complaining constantly and preventing me getting comfortable in any position, pretty much every part of my legs shot to pieces in some way - I thought about the difference between failure and success.

Failure, at this point, means not starting tomorrow. That means....probably little loss financially to Brathay, I've done enough to keep my sponsors happy. It means my own bed, with my partner beside me and Oscar the Sprocker sleeping on our feet, Hugo the Sprollie snoring gently in his crate. It means waking up tomorrow, late, and lying in, warm and snug under a decent duvet. It means driving up to the coffee shop at Moota for one of their fantastic bacon and egg muffins and a pot of really good coffee. It means food that can be savoured for its taste, aroma and texture, not just ingested as essential fuel for its basic calorific content.

It means an end to pain, and swollen feet, and no more blisters. It means pootling around Keswick with the dogs, and doing nothing much in that enjoyable weekend sort of way, and browsing the internet for bargains, and being able to sort out my backlog of emails before work on Monday. It means a brief smattering of faint applause from my co-workers before I settle back into the old routine.

Whereas success means the ice bath. It means stripping off kinesiology tape in the shower, trying not to yank off too much blistered skin with it. It means another draining session of agony on the treatment tables. It means trying to sleep in a cramped bunk-bed, my feet elevated on a rolled-up blanket to help them drain, taped up to keep my Plantar Fascia stretched. It means being up at six, for more painful treatment, and starting at eight because I'm going to be slow, again.

It means another 26.2 miles around the lake. No-one is going to make the hills any smaller. No-one is going to replace the battered, crumbled, cambered road surface with some nice smooth level grass. My lack of fitness won't suddenly be annulled. It means dressing to be out in any kind of weather, whilst still being able to run, should that ability be granted me again. It means shovelling down as much food as possible, despite a total loss of appetite. It means more tape. More anti-inflammatories before bed. More time spent battling my own mental demons.

Probably another 7 or eight hours dragging my under-prepared and inadequate body and spirit around the lake.

Not just once. Three more times.

I think I've got at least one more start in me. At least one. Whether I have any more finishes in me remains to be seen.

Today was a hard day.

By Stuart Pyper, 17 May 2012 – 11 comments

17 May 2012

Start of day 7 - Mission for today - don't mess up!

Blogging before the marathon, for once.

Day 7 - it just seems like a prime day for a silly mistake. Going off a kerb, stepping in a pothole, going too hard....just doing something daft that will then compromise the remaining days. Just because there's nothing at all special about day's just 'one of the ones in the middle'.

So today will be nice and steady; I woke up feeling tired (obviously) and a bit flat. The worst part of the day is the few minutes immediately after waking up, when getting out of bed to run another marathon seems nothing more than a painful impossibility. But treatment wasn't too painful this morning, and it gave me a bit of a lift.

It's raining, which I'm quite happy about after yesterday's heat played havoc with my already trashed feet. I've been getting progressively quicker over the last two days ('quicker' being a very relative term, of course) but something tells me that today might be another long day. I'm feeling quite drained, and, in the spirit of not messing up today, I'm just being cautious, so if it's another longer day today then that's fine.

So, I'll go out prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. And not thinking beyond the next mile or so......

By Stuart Pyper, 17 May 2012 – 6 comments

16 May 2012

Days 5 and 6 - Catching up, catching up :-)

Apologies for not updating yesterday - I had planned to pop down after my usual 8:30 therapy slot to do so, but I was on the slab next to Paul Foster (Fozzy) and he was being led to hell and back in order to treat his ankle. I couldn't bring myself to just leave him there on his own once I was finished, so waited the extra hour or so and made sure he got back to the Lodge ok. All the pain seems to have been worthwhile - he had a cracking run today :-)

Yesterday and today were both very much about getting round again after the trauma of day three and the recovery of day 4. Yesterday I walked to Hawkshead, then started mixing in a little running with the walking. Once beyond Newby Bridge I tried to be as disciplined as I could with the pace counting, and tried to keep upping the amount of running in relation to walking. End result was 6:20 ish (I think - it's all starting to blur, now). I was very pleased with that, although with all the walking my hips and lower back have now joined the 'threatening to stop working' consortium.

Today I mixed in a little running in the first couple of miles, but felt it start to twinge my calves, so gave myself till the first drinks stop at 2.5 miles to warm up in walk. Then it was back to run/walk intervals, again trying to increase the quantity of running. It was the first day so far that Ruth and the dogs weren't on the course to support me, and I really missed them; fortunately it was a lovely warm, sunny day and I felt like I was going well. I'm still pace-counting - I seem to need the discipline of it, otherwise I tend to just drift along, with the walking spells becoming too long too easily.

I got to Newby Bridge in under three hours, which was a nice improvement over yesterday, and a full hour quicker than Monday. I knew a sub-6 finish was on the cards, so I just kept trying to press on through the second half.

It got harder - the heat was making my feet swell, which led to a blister which had been carefully drained refilling itself then popping quite spectacularly. It was, I suppose, a little ouchy - but compared to the Plantar Fasciitis it was practically pleasant. I was also feeling the effects of running more (sore feet, sore calves, sore quads....sore everything, basically) and my lower back was now really hurting.

Pushing on regardless got me over the finish line in about 5:50 - really pleased to be back under 6 hours, and feeling tired in the way a runner feels tired, especially given where I was a couple of days ago.

Only four more to go. It seems incredible that we've already done so much.

Other thoughts for today - thank you all for the comments, and for comments and support on Facebook, through email or by text. I really am treasuring everything that's been said, and can only apologise that I haven't enough spare time and energy to respond more fully to everyone. I'll catch up once this is over, I promise!

Also - thanks for those who have dug deep and sponsored me here: It really does support the great work done here by Brathay, and it REALLY keeps me going when times get hard.

Finally, I have to mention, again, the wonder-workers of Body Rehab. The work done by Dread Pirate Roxy and her crew is...well, inconcievable. Painful, yes, sometimes excruciatingly so, but every day we come in bruised, battered and feeling beyond hope and every day they put us back together and get us back to the start line; if not raring to go, at least feeling that another marathon is possible.

Every time I thought about running too early in today's marathon, I heard Roxy, or Maz, or Tam's voice telling me to take it easy, let everything warm up, stop and stretch. And I got flashbacks to elbows, thumbs and knuckles being experty deployed deep into sensitive muscle, and heard my own resulting howls. It really, really made me take care of what I was doing.

I've realised that I'm no longer sole owner of my own body. There are a team of people working to keep it moving forward on laps around the lake, and I've got a responsibility to them to take care of it. I keep it fuelled, and then attempt to pilot it round the lake - they strip it down and rebuilt it overnight so that the process can start again. Whilst it might seem that their ability to fix pretty much anything could lead to an attitude of 'run it like you stole it' on the basis that however badly I break it they'll fix it again, it's actually made me much more acutely aware of what I'm doing to myself, and the work they have to put in afterwards to repair the damage.

I'm a lot more cautious because of that, and I think that's something I'll be able to take away and keep from this event.

Special mention today to Davey Green, a man with a heart of solid Cornish Oak, who has had a couple of long, hard days and has never once let his spirits dip. He really is amazing.

Right - bed now. Three more marathons, then a final lap of honour on Sunday. But for now - it's just another start-line tomorrow. That's as far ahead as I'm thinking.

By Stuart Pyper, 16 May 2012 – 7 comments

14 May 2012

Day 4 - Proving the rule of 6Ps

Perfect Preparation Prevents Pretty Poor Performance.

Substitute 'Pretty' with any other appropriate word beginning with P, depending on taste and audience.

I had absolutely no illusions about how hard this event was going to be. I also had plans about how I was going to prepare for it. Thorough, detailed, elegant plans, running right from the point where I knew my entry was accepted through to day zero. Top level strategy (train the way you'll be competing - avoid injuries at all costs) down to broad objectives (Marathon PB fit by Christmas - 10 in 10 fit by Start of April) down to monthly and weekly training schedules.

I think it was probably Sun Tzu who said "No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy", the enemy in this case being all the other parts of life that get in the way, principally the demands of earning a living. Despite my best efforts, lateral thinking, and patches of consistent training, I knew at the point when it was too late to do anything about it that the only way in which the word 'prepared' could be applied to me would be following "Woefully under-"

If I'd picked up an acute injury, it would have compromised my training at a single point, and would probably have given me the insight to defer my entry. But the problem was the chronic one we all suffer from (the four-letter-word of "work") and it always seemed like "next week will be better, I'll get more miles in then" and once you've raised even a little bit of sponsorship you can't really go back to people and say "sorry, not really up for it any more, so giving it a miss for a year"

So I wasn't especially sanguine about my chances of getting through everything that was going to be thrown at my poor tired body. Base fitness was ok, but it takes time for all the support structures - tendons, ligaments, even bones themselves - to become conditioned enough to be able to handle sustained stress. I knew I would break down, the only question was how long would I hold out, and how bad would it be.

I figured if I turned up, and suffered heroically enough for long enough then my sponsors would be happy that I'd given it my best, and I'd be able to quietly depart, preferably still with some kind of vaguely working body. And not actually in a bag.

Day one - actually pretty good, very happy with it. Thought I'd got through without doing much damage, very pleased to be really not at all bothered about times.

Day 2 - The Dodgy Knees. Where did they come from? Still got through it, the pain eased off when I was running and the demons at Body Rehab worked their dark and painful arts to get me on to the start line for day 3.

Day 3. The feet. I still don't want to talk about it, but I will. Knees very sore, I set off shuffling and run/walking (well....shuffle/walking, really) desperately trying to keep Kaz in sight for a bit of human contact. I just knew it was going to be a bad one. Little did I know just how bad.....

At mile 6 my right foot started to hurt. I'd been footsore after each of the last two days, but it had faded and I hadn't worried about it. This seemed a lot more insistent, and gradually spread across the whole of the sole of my foot, then settled itself in comfortably and started slowly ratcheting up the pain level. Somewhere around mile 10/11 the left one also decided to get in on the act. By this point they were painful enough that the knees were pretty much forgotten.

I got to mile 18 still run-walking, with Kaz long since vanished into the distance, battling as best I could with feet that felt like they'd been stuffed with hot coals. I was convinced I'd stress fractured them. On a scale of pain from one to childbirth, they were right up there with really bloody painful, actually. On another day I'd have been toddling off to A&E for X-rays.

I decided to try to walk to mile 19 - and didn't actually run another step. The pain in both feet kept getting progressively worse. Every now and then I'd just stop, with one foot in the air, waving it around like a farmer who has lost his welly in the muck-heap. It hurt so much to put them down again that my brain was refusing to do it, and I had to consciously start shuffling again. Swearing was also involved, and a LOT of crying.

I was, basically, out at this point. Only Aly, Mac and my own bloody partner completely refused to let me stop. Blubbing like a baby I shuffled, painfully, down the finishing straight. I'd asked Martin not to film me. He refused. Fair enough, this is what I signed up for. I'd asked him to ride ahead and tell the others to keep out of the way - as far as I was concerned, this finish was nothing that deserved either celebration or applause. He refused, again. And I used to think he was so nice.

I kept out of everyone's way after the finish. I was in a very bad place mentally, and physically I was still in crying agony. I'm ashamed to admit that I was hoping Body Rehab would decide it was stress fractures, as that would provide me with a way out - and the whole thing would have been pretty much the experience I expected.

Sadly (for me, at that time), Roxy prodded around and declared there to be nothing bony going on in there, it was just Plantar Faciitis. JUST PF. Great. PF has a history of turning runners into ex-runners. This was really not good news, although Roxy assured me there was a lot they could do. And after the miracles they had worked on my knees, I was willing to believe them.

They did a lot, and it was all painful. I don't like having the soles of my feet touched at the best of times - they are ticklish, tense and tender. I mean, really, don't touch them. Don't even look at them, it's making me squirm. So, when they are already stomach-turningly painful, having someone's knuckles rubbed into all the most painful parts of them - excruciatingly hard - was, well, I really haven't the skill to describe the experience. Maybe if I had recorded my screams I could have attached the audio file to the blog? It would have been a suitable sound-track.

I drew the line at sticking acupuncture needles into them, mainly because, by that point, the experience would have caused my brain to melt.

The only upside was that after walking the last 8 miles, my knees had loosened off. Well, that's some silver lining.

I was still very sore after treatment - walk ten paces, stand still and wait for the pain to subside, walk ten more paces kind of sore. I was still sore after taking anti-inflammatories before bed. I was still just as sore this morning - I was managing fifteen paces before stopping on the way down to therapy. Another 90 minutes of benevolent torture. More hooting and yelling. More tape strapped around my lower limbs. More words of advice that were mostly falling on a deaf brain by this point.

I went back to my room, and packed everything back into my bag, ready for when I had to drop out. I suspected I'd just want a quick, quiet getaway. Then hobble (fifteen paces and stop...still) down to the start. I had decided I would start, if only out of respect for the work that Body Rehab had put in. I'd walk until I couldn't walk any more, or until everything got better, or until I got to the finish line, or Brathay pulled me off the course. It all felt a bit out of my hands, really.

Off we go, and I'm still trying to hide from Martin's camera. I'm still not in a good way. Despite being told that PF is worst in the morning, and eases as the day goes on, I just couldn't contemplate completing another day like yesterday. Within the first quarter mile, everyone is out of sight and I'm completely on my own. After about a mile and a half, I try a couple of shuffling steps of jogging. No way, Jose. I'm not going to do anything to make the problem worse, so back to walking it is.

Somewhere around a mile and a half, something in my left foot cracks, and it feels like someone has taken an axe to the side of it. I'm hopping around screaming, cursing and gasping, wondering what the passing motorists think. It does it again, then again, and I'm contemplating asking a farmer I'm passing if I can borrow his chainsaw just to cut the damned thing off - it would be less painful overall. Then, amazingly, it starts to ease up. Within half a mile it's almost completely pain free. I can't believe it.

The other foot wasn't so compliant, but it did at least crunch a few times then settle down to much less of an ache. And now I'm having a slightly surreal experience - as Mac is going ahead removing the plastic crates that hold our drinks, and I'm not seeing him, or the van, or the crates, or any of the other runners, it's like I'm nothing to do with the Ten in Ten any more; I'm just a bloke walking down the side of the lake, meeting his girlfriend every couple of miles for a bottle of pop.

It seemed to be the space my head needed. I was walking, and was reasonably pain free. Just as well - I'd had my fill of pain the day before, I really had left my heart and soul out on the road and there was no way I could begin to contemplate doing that again. Probably not ever. But I can walk, and Brathay seem to have some odd kind of determination to keep me circulating around the lake, even when the obvious thing to do was simply to call out the knackers van and have me shot like a lame horse.

I walked all the way to Newby Bridge, near as makes no difference the halfway point. Four hours exactly. So if I keep walking the same pace I'll be out for eight hours. Fair enough then, if Brathay are happy for me to do that I'll do that. Ruth was there to provide logistical support, so I was happy that I wasn't leeching support of the other runners (many of whom must have finished before I even got halfway....)

After Newby Bridge, I thought I'd try an experiment, to keep my mind busy as much as anything. 100 strides walking, then try 50 strides jogging. OK, that work, lets keep doing that then. So I did. Right the way back up the other side of the lake. It rained, the sun shone, it was warm, it was cold. The view came and went. I kept seeing Mac, and Ruth, and just kept popping out the 100/50 rhythym. Various things started to hurt, but nothing that felt like it was doing any significant damage. 100/50, 100/50. By this point I'm getting pretty puddled, and so I was often counting out loud...I'm sure no-one noticed. To be honest I didn't care.

It seemed to work though. The effort of counting (yes - right now, even simple counting is a task that demands full concentration) kept my mind occupied. The changes in pace seemed to help everything stay loose, and the discipline of the fixed intervals seemed to work better for me than the previous tactics of walking or running according to whether I was going uphill or not.

It did mean I had to run sections of the uphills, but that actually felt ok too.

All the way home, then, same deal. Finish in 7:06, I think - a long day, but it's 26.2 miles and so that makes it a marathon, however I managed to get round it. Typically, having filmed me in bits at the finish yesterday, Martin was nowhere to be seen when I actually ran in today.

So; I really, honestly didn't think I'd be starting today. The idea of finishing - well, I was going to drop out at Newby Bridge, if I made it that far, as we could have had a nice lunch at the pub there. Finishing just wasn't any kind of reality until I was at about mile 16, when I dared entertain the thought that it might be a possibility.

I'll have to unpack my bag again, I guess.

Anyway - day four, in and done. And a huge, vast amount of mental baggage unloaded. More pounding the soles of my feet by Body Rehab, but they felt a LOT better today right through the race, and I KNOW I'll be able to start tomorrow. And that feels like a miracle.

Too long; didn't read version? Yesterday was horrible, loads of nice people helped me through it, today was better; in fact, today was good. Tomorrow is another start.

By Stuart Pyper, 14 May 2012 – 22 comments

13 May 2012

Day 3 - Not going to talk about it.

Seriously - not going to talk about it.

6 and a half hours, or thereabouts. Outlook: uncertain.

By Stuart Pyper, 13 May 2012 – 11 comments

12 May 2012

Day 2 - Injured?Already? Surely some mistake....

Well, after being very careful with myself yesterday, and being given a good pumelling by the Body Rehab team in the evening, I went to bed feeling; well, as good as can be expected, having run a marathon and with another one to do the next day.

And then I woke up around 2AM with the distinct impression that someone had crept into the room with an angle grinder and was applying it to the side of my left knee. Not good. Really no-where in the game plan at all.

A very worried and uncomfortable night followed, and I was up at 6 and off down to Body Rehab for 7. I had had the slightest niggle on that knee the day before - it had been explained that it wasn't the joint itself, it was my notoriously tight adducter muscles pulling on the point where they attach to the bone on the outside of the knee (well, -ish. If you really want to know the details, I suggest heading down to the library for a copy of Grays Anatomy, and look for the Gracilis). It looks like sleeping on my side, with the bony bits of my knees pressing together, had caused the niggle to become much more inflamed. Apparently sleeping with a pillow between the knees helps. One more perversion to observe, all in the name of being a runner.....

More pounding from Body Rehab. As this was pre-run, I was told that this was just 'superficial' and that the evening session would be 'much, much deeper' - and hence more painful. I haven't been yet. I'm putting off going. This may become my first 100,000 word blog......

Suitably loosened off and with a very fetching length of kinesiology tape applied to my inner thigh (now I understand why everyone else either got waxed or shaved...) I was at least able to start. My head wasn't in a good place, though. the first four or so miles to Hawkshead were scary - it was hurting like buggery, and appeared to show no signs of abating. Thankfully, just after Hawkshead, it settled into a dull ache - which was bearable. It also didn't hurt at all when I walked, and the level of pain didn't vary whatever pace I ran at. Going quicker hurt no more than going slowly.

So, the day became about getting round and managing the injury. I walked up all the hills, then ran down the other side, and along any flat bits, for as far as I could. Given the nature of the Windermere course, this meant there were plenty of walk breaks to rest the knee and break up the relentless rhythym. I was running with and around a few of the others; Jim Meta, Jeff and Nick, a couple of the others. Once I'd got to Newby Bridge I was pretty sure I'd be able to finish - a great feeling, especially as it had really looked like game over for the first few miles.

Of course, yesterday's marathon was still showing it's effects, and as I really started to tire the others pulled away, and I just ground out the miles as best I could. It all got a bit emotional at several points - pain, fatigue and low blood-sugar are a heady combination. The last 5 miles seemed to go on forever, and the last two seemed to extend themselves endlessly - the last mile being almost completely walked to save the knee.

5 hours 12 or so at the end. That'll do. I feel knackered, battered, but stretching and ten minutes in the ice bath has helped, and soon Body Rehab will again work their magic; assuming there's a form of magic that involves finding the most tense, tender, tired muscle in someone's entire body and poking your pointy elbow into it. Repeatedly, and without mercy......

I'll be on the startline tomorrow. That's far enough ahead to plan. Oh, and I'll be sleeping with a cushion between my knees.......

By Stuart Pyper, 12 May 2012 – 5 comments

11 May 2012

Day 1 - That'll do, Pig

I haven't exactly been reliable ay updating this blog - but then the last few weeks since the last entry have been more than a little hectic. Rather more work (lots) than training (none), so I've been repeating to myself the fact that being under-trained is better than being over-trained, and potentially injured. I don't think I managed to fully convince myself, though.

So, day 1 finally arrived, and dawned - rainy. Really quite wet. Now, toughing it out in a vest and shorts may normally be the done thing, but since I needed to finish today ready to go again tomorrow, a waterproof and enough spare clothing to ensure I'd stay warm and comfortable whatever happened was the order of the day.

Lots of nerves now - and not just me, there was a lot of tension and excitement evident among the other 17 runners. the sense of relief as the gun went off to start us on Marathon number one was palpable. Although, as is they way of these things, the filmed start was a little bit of media trickery - as soon as we were out of camera shot, we filed down to the gates of Brathay and had the official, chip timed start.

And then we were off. The leaders were very, very quickly out of sight. I was considerably more circumspect in my approach, being the last to start, and setting off very comfortably. The aim was to stay comfortable right the way round, and I was going to be strict with myself to do so.

The weather was mercurial, changing in an instant from cold rain to bright sunshine, and back again. The miles ticked by quite steadily, and it was a real feeling of relief just to be out on the course running. It really came home to me when I got to Newby Bridge, round about the 12 mile point and the spot where we've watched the 10 in 10 go by the last few years. Ruth was there with the dogs, and it just put a massive smile on my face with the realisation that I was really here, this was really it.

Which is probably what caused me to pick the pace up slightly over the next few miles. By mile 17 my legs were starting to feel it, though (I'd forgotten that section of the course is really quite rolling) and so I eased off. I eased off again at 20 miles, as I kept feeling like I was just starting to have to work at it - and I don't want to be working at it, I want it to stay easy for as long as possible.

An easy bimble through the last few miles saw me crossing the line at Brathay in just under 5 hours - 4-fifty six, or thereabouts. Perfectly happy with that - if I'd had a different 9 months of preparation I'd have been very disappointed, but I didn't, and it's simply all about finishing all ten now. Times are irrelevant, enjoyment is paramount, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time out there.

Food, stretching, and then the dreaded ice-bath. Ten minutes in waist deep water at a positively balmy 3 degrees was an interesting experience, but my legs do feel a lot better than they should now, so I'm going to believe that it works. Although tomorrow I'll be taking a hat and gloves with me - everything that doesn't have to be immersed may as well be wrapped up warmly!

Today's job was to run a marathon and finish it feeling like I could start another one tomorrow. That's done. Tomorrows exactly the same, really. I'm looking forward to it :-)


Oh, and almost forgot the most important bit:

By Stuart Pyper, 11 May 2012 – 6 comments

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