Trailblaster by an Ultra Tortoise
I’m an ultra tortoise slowly shuffling moving towards my end goal. My last ultra was probably my hardest one especially both physically and mentally. I hadn’t run for 18 months and was feeling very low. Depression and anxiety was at its highest and I felt worthless and unwanted, so I decided with just eight weeks training to do the Trailblaster 24-hour Solo!
I’d done the 12 hour three times previously and really enjoyed the event. My training consisted of a few 5-8 milers, long runs - I managed three 22-24 milers at a slowish pace - but two weeks before the race my back went with my discs playing up again. My head went into overdrive thinking I wouldn’t be ready or good enough to get on start line.
As I was raising money for Bowl Cancer UK, that gave me inspiration to keep my mind and body at it. I put deep heat on, and had many ice cold baths and eased my back. Just three days before the ultra I was so stiff and struggled to get out of bed.
"Oh no, it’s not gonna happen," I thought and stayed in bed all day. I was so frustrated, anxiety and depression sets in with so many thing going through my head. Will I get on the start line? Will I get to the first mile or even to a few hundred metres?
Two days to go my backs easing now and I’m packing kit, energy drinks, food, first aid, 10 pairs of socks, tops, running vest, trainers, trail shoes, jelly babies, Kendal mint cake, flap jack, hat, gloves everything, lol!
The next day was Friday I was so nervous, worried, anxiety high, buy ready to go to the registration camp village. I arrivedand a lot of people were camping already, I kept my head down, set my tent up, organised my kit, went for my race number at registration thinking bloody hell what am I doing! Not good enough, not fit enough, not tough enough for this. I walked back to my tent to see lots of Chorlton runners next to my tent saying hi, being so friendly, wishing me luck, they were such nice people. Then I saw John Lloyd organiser who also said hi and wished me luck, a great guy who always gives me inspiration.
I led in my tent thinking all night shall I just pull out not and not start or just do a lap and see how I feel? I woke up without much sleep at 6.30am on Saturday with nerves kicking in already. I got ready, had a banana and energy drink. Time flies and it's 8.45am, I see Ian Barton, Vicky and Pete, Team Walsh they’re doing a 24-hour team race. I chatted to them they perked me up a lot,I then went to find the Trawden tent to get my running vest.
I saw Jenny and Paula, we all had a team photo and went to the preview talk before the race. I stand there looking around feeling so out of place, with my head and mind with anxiety through the roof, oh no what am I doing I shouldn’t be here! Then team Trawden ladies all wished me luck, I thought let’s do this, let’s just plod and try not stop lol!
So three mins to go on start line I set off back. "Go slow, you've got a day," I say to myself. Then John Lloyd says 3-2-1 and we’re off. I plod off slowly taking in the scenery with my mind set nice and easy. My first lap went ok but a bit quick 37.18. I slowed down over the next few laps just settled in 40-45 min laps. Other competitors were so nice and kind. Three hours in and I’d completed 4 laps I felt okay and kept plodding on eating and drinking a bit along my way. Five hours in my back twinged and started to hurt. Oh no! My mind and head were telling me to keep at it whilst my body was saying stop. I put one foot infront of the otherand plodded on. I walked a bit, ran a bit and thought this is my strategy now.
Friends were passing me cheering me on. Trawden runners, Team Walsh, Donna Airey - wow, you flew past me lapped me lots but my mindset was keep plodding on. Michelle Abbott was doing the 6-hour race and she stayed with me for a lap which was great it got my confidence back.
Six hours in with 8 laps done, going pretty well just plodding non-stop. I’d slowed down over the next few laps but the support and event team were fantastic. "Keep going Trawden, keep going Mark!" Before I knew it with 10 hours gone, 12 laps were complete. I was over 38 miles in now and my mind was telling mehalf way through now just keep going. The sun was so hot, my shoulders and arms were red and burnt even with sun cream on at 9.30 at night, lol!
Around 11.5 hours in it was time for my head torch, long sleeve top, ready to head out through the night plodding on with every step getting harder. Over half way at 13 hours and time for a pizza break. I got to finish the lap and then no pizza! I was gutted, Domino's was late, lol! I thought plod on do another lap.
People were still cheering me, Team Walsh, Trawden still going strong with other runners flying past me but I kept plodding on. It was hard in the dark and hard underfoot. With 15 laps completed it was finally pizza time! Meat feast, wow it was huge. I only managed two slices then back out plodding on with my body aching telling me to stop yet my head saying no your target is 20 laps Mark, get on with it!
Kate Taylor from Trawden walked a lap with me was which was so nice, kept me plodding on with only a few runners on the course. I kept going through the early hours with each lap becoming slower and harder.
Hallucination creeps in, I’m done my back's gone, my body’s finished, but no the voice in my head says you’ve got this carry on. With 17 laps done, light started to appear it was daytime again. I kept plodding on with people starting to wake up cheering us on again with runners passing me. "Keep going Trawden, keep going Mark," it was great to hear. Team Walsh finished, done enough, they did amazing.
18 laps in I hear a shout "Go on Mark, keep going pal!" It was John Roche warming up for the Accy 10K. I wondered if he realised I’d been plodding for 22 hours! This gave me inspiration, two more laps Mark, come on legs and my back was numb at this point: 19 laps done and 59 miles in thinking, wow you got this get one last lap in. So off I go lonely last lap, the support and cheers were amazing.
I’d been plodding for 23 hours now, just needed a push one last time. A few runners passed me patting me on the back. "Amazing Trawden, amazing Mark!" Going into the farmers field the last time my emotions were unbelievable. I’ve nearly done it, just the last few steps to cross the finish line still plodding - 62.1 miles in I couldn’t believe I had done it.
A fellow runner gave me beer 100 meters from the finish. I was drinking it at finish, he told me it was coke lol, so funny! It was and amazing feeling, the anxiety and depression lifted. I was on top of the world, all the support from runners and event staff was amazing and made me feel me great again.
Thanks running community hope I haven’t bored you with this!
Mark Lord (Ultra Tortoise)