A win and DNF. The ups and downs of racing.

Three weeks ago I ventured to Castellion de la Plana to race in a 10km on the road. After the disappointment of missing the Barcelona Half (due to a bad case of flu the previous week) I was fired up for this one. The journey was smooth as the fast train from Girona takes you almost all the way there.  The fast train is luxury compared to South West Trains and is a very pleasant way of travelling. The views of the coast line were beautiful and in less than 4 hours I had reached Castellion.

There was only a short walk to the ‘Pergola’ the race HQ located in a big park with palm trees. I arrived and collected my race number as well as receiving a goodie bag. The goodie bag never fails to disappoint. It usually is an Aneto soup sturdy shopping bag containing a host of delights. This time we had a race t-shirt, a bag of satsumas, a carton of soup and some energy drink. People were leaving the HQ in good spirits. The following day there was to be the 10km and also a marathon. I wondered along to the finishing arch that was being assembled and then my eyes caught glimpse of the podium to the left. I walked over to the podium and decided to take a photo of it. I could then look at that photo and visualise me on the number 1 spot. I was longing for that.

I went to my accommodation and put my running kit on to do a short steady run and some strides before having dinner and an early night. In this run my legs felt like lead, even for the strides they did not want to run fast. I tried not to worry despite both calves feeling as tight as a drum. I went back to my room and did a bit of massage to my calves and some stretching. I had to hope and pray that my legs would feel fresher the following day.

Race day was here. I ran to the HQ to drop my bag off and continued a good 3 mile warm up and the usual race routine of strides and drills. Soon it was time to line up on the start line. After a few announcements the gun went and we were off. The first km was slightly downhill which always helps to get the legs turning over nicely. I settled into a rhythm and felt good. I got to 5km in the planned time. Just after 6km I felt what I thought was a stone get stuck to the sole of my shoe. There are small ventilation holes in the bottom of my trainers and occasionally small stones can get lodged in. In this case it felt like a big stone. I contemplated stopping but decided that it wasn’t causing me pain and I wasn’t dying so I just had to finish the race as fast as I could. It continued to make a clank every time I stepped but I tried hard to ignore it and to stay focused.

The last 2km hurt (as 10km’s do) but I kept pushing on. The finish line was nearing and I knew that I had a significant gap between me and the next female runner. A sharp turn to the right and I was in the finishing straight and sped up for a strong finish. As I crossed the line I raised my arms feeling elated and also relieved. After a few extra steps I propped myself up on the shoulder of a marshal so I could remove what I thought was the stone. I was amazed to see that it was a large metal bolt! It took some yanking to remove it. No wonder it had made such a noise every step! The marshal was also amazed and he was quick to take a photo of it for his Facebook page. After a few photos and an interview I made my way out of the finishing area where we were given a medal followed by biscuits, cakes, oranges and bananas. They do know how to put on a good race. I did a cool down and came back for the presentation before making my way back to Girona feeling happy.

Two weeks on to the next race, the Big Half marathon in London. I was due to fly in to Gatwick on the Friday, have a quick catch up with my brother, see our cat Ronnie (who now lives with my parents) and then head to the race hotel the following day. The ‘beast from the east’ had other ideas. Seeing everyone’s photos of igloo building, snow men and sledging on Instagram had left me feeling slightly concerned that my flight may be disrupted or cancelled. I checked for updates before making my way to Barcelona airport and all seemed to be ok. It got as close as the screens saying that it was time to embark. I was in the queue with my warmest clothes on… scarf, big woolly jumper, down jacket and felt like I was soon to overheat but I couldn’t have fitted all the layers into my hand luggage. The announcement then came that the flight was cancelled. The word that I had dreaded hearing!

As you can imagine everyone swarmed to the desk trying to find out what was happening and a few people got angry. It soon became apparent that no more flights were going to London that night.  Most people got on the phone trying to find alternative flights. None were looking very favourable for me to get to London the following day in good time to get to the race hotel. I started to think that this was it, I had missed the race. Easyjet were promising accommodation for everyone so I called Rich. We decided that if he could find a flight I would stay in Barcelona and go the next day. He found a flight for 3pm and was able to book it for me. I was lucky as some people didn’t get flights until Monday or Tuesday. After waiting in a long queue, for what felt like hours, I had a notification that my request online for a hotel via the Easyjet app had been requested. I left the queue and  jumped in a taxi feeling relieved.

The hotel was nice, the taxi driver assured me that it was in a good area. He told me that Messi lived in this neighbourhood. I arrived exhausted. I had been organised for the day and had made all sorts of healthy snacks and had brought dinner in a Tupperware box. It hadn’t crossed my mind that I would need 2 days worth of travel snacks. Thankfully there was a supermarket close by so I planned for the following day and bought enough snacks to keep me going. Pre race food is always an important element of race preparation. I then climbed into bed.

I had envisaged my morning run to be in the snow in the UK but here I was still in Spain with Spring like weather. I found the Cataluyna Olympic rowing lake to run around. Rowers were out and later on there was wake boarding taking place too. Soon it was time to for me to go back to the airport and I could only hope that I would get to the UK. This time I was flying to Luton. It seemed like the flight was going to go ahead. I was back in the queue with all my layers on ready to board. Finally!

We arrived into snowy Luton which was enveloped by thick cloud and fog. After a bus journey and 3 trains I made it to the race hotel. I got my number, quickly had dinner, laid out my race gear and got to bed feeling exhausted but happy that I had made it and that I was able to race.

Race day was here and it wasn’t as cold as had been forecasted. The conditions seemed good. It was nice to see some of my racing friends from the UK. I did my usual pre race warm up and then we were called to the start. They had the sound of  a heartbeat blaring on the tannoy getting faster and faster and then we were off. I set off at my planned pace of 5 minute 30 miling but didn’t feel too good. Despite sticking to the pace it felt like I was running through treacle. I just had no energy and my whole body was protesting in a way that it shouldn’t 3 miles in. It felt like I was in slow motion and everyone else was in normal time. My calves started to tighten and the nerve pain that I have experienced in the summer came back with a vengeance. I thought I might feel better as the race went on but by 5 miles there was no change.

I stopped and pulled up on the pavement. Watching everyone pass it seemed like a bad dream. I asked the marshals where I should go and they said to an information tent a mile or so in the other direction. I started to walk and a lady came running after me with her jack russell dog. She suggested that I took the DLR and walked with me. She was so kind and offered me a hug. We walked past the boats and frozen water and I was able to get to the DLR. I hugged her and thanked her for her kindness.

I sat on the train trying not to cry and another lady came and sat next to me and told me that I did well just to start the race. She told me that she used to run half marathons but now she has a stick and has multiple sclerosis. I said how sorry I was that she had such an awful disease and how hard that must be. She didn’t want sympathy, she continued to try and be there for me. What an amazing lady. It certainly put my situation into perspective.

I reached Greenwich and walked along feeling frozen by this point in my shorts and vest. Finally I got to the hotel and was able to message Rich that I hadn’t finished and also my best friend that was waiting at the finish. She came straight to the hotel and was that friendly face that I needed to see.

I pulled myself together and we went for a cup of tea after locating my kit bag and had a well needed catch up. Before I knew it it was time to return to Luton (as if I wasn’t feeling bad enough already)! The journey home began but I couldn’t wait to get back to Rich and Josh. It felt like I had spent the whole weekend travelling. Waves of emotion kept sweeping over me as I felt so disappointed. What a contrast to the emotions from the previous race. A wise friend said to me  “you just have to bank it and move on even when it’s frustrating that we can’t do justice to the hard work or potential inside us”. She is quite right. I will put this behind me, keep training hard and I look forward to the next race. In the meantime I have a training camp to look forward to.




2 thoughts on “A win and DNF. The ups and downs of racing.

  1. Hi Jenny, wow, you’ve had your share of the ups and downs recently! A great blog again, I liked the description of the heart beats getting closer to the start. I find that life is like going over speed bumps, usually fairly smooth, with the odd scary/exciting bump keeping us on our toes. Good and bad things are all part of life’s rich tapestry, and I’ve no doubt that you will fly over any obstacles in your next races. Very best wishes, see you in the training camp.



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