when is the correct time to quit?

strong athletes sprinting during triathlon race
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When should you quit?

Is it onmy before the halfway mark

Or just when it starts to hurt?

Do you carry on crawling on hands and knees?

Do you stop whenever you please?

I doubt there’s an answer that simple,

No equation; no one size fits all

That’s part of the final story

As you leave the race in a blaze of glory.

I have a friend who was doing a continuous deca Ironman last week. For those of you who are not familiar with the the world of ultra, that means that he was completing a triathlon that is ten times the distance of a standard ironman.

And if you don’t know ironman distances then I am here to tell you that he was attempting to swim 24 miles, followed by a 1,120 mile bike ride and all topped off with a 262 mile run.

I spent last week glued to Facebook as I watched his progress. He boshed out the swim in 13 hours and then took several days to complete the ride. By the time he started the run his body was already broken and it was painful to watch the video clips of him hobbling around the 1 mile course.

Ultimately, it got to the point where he was just moving too slowly and he had to withdraw after EIGHT DAYS of moving. He had about 120 miles to go, but he just wasn’t going to make it so he dropped.

I can’t imagine how disappointed he must be feeling right now, knowing that all that effort came to nothing (he still has serious respect from most people in the ultra community whatever the result).

It has made me think about my own experiences with giving up and that disappointment, and more importantly, when is the appropriate time to chuck in the towel? I used to say that once you went past half way you couldn’t quit, but sometimes you just want to see how far you can push it.

I’ve had several friends die because they’ve pushed it too far, and it’s horrible to log onto Facebook and see that somebody got into difficulty in the Channel and couldn’t be saved.

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is so important, but I’ve learnt over the years that listening to your body is important. You learn a lot from quitting so it’s never actually a wasted experience.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is embrace those failures because they’ll normally make the best stories years down the line. But make sure you learn your lesson and come back stronger next time.

Much Love

Rachel xx

100 mile ultra run report

green leaves
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Nothing great is easy

Captain Matthew Webb, first man to swim the English Channel

On Saturday 18th June my dad and I jumped into the car and drove to Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking so that I could run a 100 mile foot race over a one mile lap. That’s 100 laps in under 30 hours.

I arrived at about 7:30am so that I could register and get my timing chip. Then I checked out all the important stuff like where the toilets were and where I could store my bag so that I could access it easily during the race.

At the start of the race there was a mini camp site where everyone set up tents, but I just had my holdall in a black bin liner. Lots of people were doing the P12 and P24 challenge where they ran a mile on the hour every hour for either 12 hours or 24 hours. It was lovely as it gave the place a real festival vibe, especially over night.

The weather at the start was really hot and although the first thirty miles are normally quite comfortable, I was struggling with the heat a little bit. It was very much appreciated when the organizers cracked open the ice lollies.

The lap became very familiar and I found that I could walk the slight incline and then jog the downhill and the flat. This rhythm became really important as the night set in because it’s easy to start flagging.

During the night we had a massive electrical thunderstorm and it got a little bit scary as we ran out into the rain and thunder. It didn’t help that I was so tired I was starting to hallucinate. This can be a really scary experience, but I’m learning to push through and the sun coming up in the morning makes you feel so much better.

It was another warm morning and I had about 20 miles to go when the sun came up. By that time most people were doing the death march and I just had to dig deep and keep going.

Dad arrived with Noah when I had 11 miles to go so they went into Dorking for a little look around while I continue to stumble on.

Those last 10 miles were shocking and if it wasn’t for the wonderful volunteers on the checkpoint, I don’t imagine I would have made it. They cheered me on every time I passed them and it just lifted my spirits. The other people on the course were all shouting encouragement to each other too, and I could really feel the love.

At 11am Noah and dad came back and I asked them to walk the last lap with me. We marched around together and I crossed the line in 27 hours – it was roughly a ten minute PB.

At the end I literally fell over the line and was presented with my beautiful buckle (most 100 mile races have a belt buckle instead of a medal for finishers).

I was in a bit of a bad way when I got back to the car and I know I was smelling really bad! I buried myself under my dad’s coat and tried to close my eyes and ignore the pain as we travelled home.

Monday was a write off and I had to take a day off sick. Noah was worried that if I tried to drive in I might get lost on the way. My brain was so fuddled that I barely knew my name.

It’s now Wednesday and I’m still a bit stiff but I’m starting to feel more human and I’ve been into work and not done anything too stupid. The only problem is that when the pain begins to fade the need to sign up for another one returns. Should I?

Much Love

Rachel xx

Don’t let a few failures define you

I know it sounds cliche

But get back up,

It might not even be

The third time a charm,

It could be the fourth

Or even the fifth

But however long it takes

The reward is the sweetest.

I love to run. I’m not a talented runner, but I do love to push myself as hard as I can and I love to see just how far I can go. And so it seemed only natural that I gravitated towards the ultra marathon distance, finally making it up to the 100 milers.

I did five of them between 2015 and 2017 and then I hit a bit of a road block. I don’t understand why, but every time I attempted the race, my head just gave up anywhere between 60 and eighty miles.

I had three failed attempts under my belt and a five year dry spell and I really was starting to think that I just didn’t have the ability to do it anymore.

So, I was a little bit hesitant when I entered a hundred miler for the weekend just gone. But, nevertheless, I pulled on my trainers and hit the trail. And I poured my little heart into it.

And you know what? I only went and bloody did it.

So, I just wanted to say that when you’ve failed at something a few times, it never means that it’s over. If you want something bad enough, you can get it. Just keep plodding away and eventually you will get there.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

what’s the actual point?

What’s the point in those useless tasks,

The challenging things that don’t need doing,

That will set us apart but not earn us millions,

That turn a few heads but will soon be forgotten?

Is there a point when we can’t leave our mark?

Or should we just curl up, save ourselves time

When there’s a chance we’ll just fail,

As we try to outdo a bar we can’t see.

I’ve been watching some of the Salomon TV on Youtube over the past few days and it’s quite addictive because the people they follow are just so interesting. I think that we all need positive people in our lives and these are the people who shine a little bit of light into my life.

I don’t have any real interest in being rich or famous or successful, so the outlook of these people is really inspiring to me. Their idea of success is coming to know themselves better and the people in the world around them a little better.

Watching these videos you get to see people pushing themselves over a finish line that they have determined. There is no trophy or gold medal at the end. There isn’t even a cheering squad because they’ve made this challenge up on their own. All they care about is digging deep and understanding what makes themselves tick.

There is something quite spiritual in it and I guess it’s why I enjoy pushing myself. I’m never going to win a race, but I can find a point to the things that other people consider pointless.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the london marathon

photo of people in a marathon
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Thousands on the line with different reasons

To be there, for charity or just for kicks,

Some are virgins to this kind of thing

While others have a hundred to their name.

And still they line up all as one,

Expensive shoes and plimsolls worn the once,

Nike shirts and people dressed as vegetables,

A horse straight from the pantomime

Beside Olympians vying for a world best time.

And that’s the magic of the London race,

That brings them all together with

A crowd that cheers for first and last.

It’s the London Marathon this weekend and I’m so jealous of all the lucky people who are in and running. It’s normally such a special race, but this year it’s even more special – given that we haven’t seen this race being run for two years.

There is just something so magical about seeing all of those people pouring over the start line to complete something pretty incredible. The fact that you can have an Olympic gold medalist running, and then also someone dressed as a carrot in the same race, is what sport is all about.

I have entered the ballot to get in a couple of times and not got in. One day I will be on that start line!

Much Love

Rachel xx

what i talk about when i talk about running

person running in the hallway
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All runners, without exception, we have a dialogue

That runs as we do. Sometimes angry, sometimes funny

And sometimes just downright weird, reminding us

Of our own little oddities, our mental defects, as it were.

I get mad. Like really mad, turning over old events

Like tiny rocks that burn the fingertips. These thoughts

Are better left alone, but I love the burn, the hurt.

Lately, I have tried to change the pattern,

Think of things that happened in my day,

Creating stories from the objects on the floor and in the trees.

The teddy bear, tangled in the spindly branches of

The gooseberry bush, looking old and tired of this life,

His fur all tattered, did he run away? Or was he thrown?

Or was he dropped by accident? Missed so dearly by

A little boy, comforted with useless words.

And then there’s cups from Burger King discarded on

The pavement like a shiny tile. There is no Burger King

In this crappy little town, so just how far it’s traveled to

Reach my pounding feet, is known by God alone.

And that woman on her phone, who’s she talking to?

Unaware of me, I guess that it’s a lovers’ tiff,

He forgot to bring the milk and bread last night

And now she’s pissed; she wants him out, or else.

I wonder what the other runners think, when they bound past me?

Have they made another story for the crumpled mask,

The Kit-Kat wrapper on the floor, or the smiling man

In the Screw Fix uniform? I hope they have,

And I hope they’ve made a story just for me…

There is a famous book by Murakami called ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’, and although I’ve not read it I have a good idea how it must go. And that’s because I run a lot and I reflect on life and make up stories in my head as I go along. If you are a long distance runner, you have many hours to fill and so this constant talking to yourself is important for your sanity.

When I first started ultra running, I wasn’t sure if I was the only person who did this until I was running my first hundred miler and I had to pull out at 54 miles.

I had been running at the same speed as a guy who I didn’t know for almost the entire race and he decided to pull out at the same time, so his girlfriend offered to give me a lift back to the finish to get my bag. We hadn’t spoken much during the race, so the car ride was the first time we got to know each other.

He asked me what my name was and when I said ‘Rachel’, he practically yelped with delight. He said he had been making up stories about the people he had been running alongside, giving them names and jobs etc. He had decided that my name was ‘Rachel’ and he was so pleased with himself for getting that right.

I thought this was pretty cool, and it showed me that I’m not the only one making stories up about where a Burger King cup might have come from…

Much Love

Rachel xx

pure exhaustion

My bones ache, I am so tired. And I didn’t even achieve my goal. I wanted to run 100 miles and yet again I only made it to 100km.

I say only, but this was on the Jurassic coastline and the terrain and the weather were awful. If you have ever visited that part of the world, you will know just how steep some of those hills are.

Still, that doesn’t take away the disappointment when you have literally put every last bit of energy into getting somewhere and you don’t make it. Failure is a part of being human, but it also makes us feel pretty crappy.

I hope that if anyone reading this has failed at anything recently, then you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep on trying.

I am exhausted, right now. I literally feel like I want to cry because everything hurts and the serotonin levels in my brain are completely out of whack. I tried so hard that I was hallucinating and I don’t know if I can put my body through that kind of abuse again. This might be a sign that I’m getting just a little bit too old. Perhaps I should just pour my energy into something a bit more sedate like writing?

Much Love

Rachel xx

the eve of the big day

swimmer on block before diving into pool
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The dress hangs on the rear of the door,

Catching light that streams before it sets.

The shoes are placed like man and wife,

By the door, ready to take me where I must go

And the bags are packed to bursting full

Of things I know I will not need.

But, still excitement burns through from the core

With a raging heat that can’t be quenched.

It’s just like Christmas Eve, when as a child

Those butterflies would hold me up at night,

Knowing Santa’s on his way with gift wrapped love

And sprinkling magic dust on furniture

That in the day was dull to touch.

That fiery joy will burn all night, and for a part

Of long days yet to come. If I could sleep

I’d dance through to the main event,

Forgetting that sweet pain that stings

On the eve of a big day.

I’m running a long race tomorrow and the nerves are starting to set in. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me feel a little on edge; it’s like some primal part of my brain knows that something big is on the horizon.

I don’t know if you are the nervous type, but as a child I used to vomit when I got nervous. It was excruciating to want to do something really well but to struggle to do it because I would get myself into such a state. It wouldn’t matter what I was doing: exams, swim meets, Christmas; I would always end up making myself ill.

I’ve gotten better at controlling my nerves as I’ve gotten older, but I still feel that familiar twist in my stomach on the night before a race. I know it’s going to hurt, but I also know that I have nothing to fear because I know that I’m enough no matter what happens, and I never knew that to be true when I was a kid.

If you’re feeling anxious about anything, just know that you are enough too.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the end is getting close and i don’t know how i feel

grayscale photo of woman
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Crossing the second shipping lane

With heavy arms that turned a thousand times,

But now the sun is risen and the fog

Has cleared to show a sea that flickers

Under daylight’s gentle morning kiss

And that dread of hours more has disappeared,

Now I’ll sort of miss relentless strokes,

The salt that once just burned my mouth

And the cold that enveloped my heart.

All that once was pain and strife

Is suddenly the reason for my life.

The end is near, I thought I’d flow

With joy at knowing I could end

This swim, this trial that has consumed

My every waking minute and

Instead I feel the ache of love

That’s being ripped away.

I just finished my third out of four essays which means that I am almost there! I am almost finished! And I am sure that most people have reached this point in something that has felt like a slog, the moment when you know it’s almost over. And the strangest thing happens. You realise that you’re going to miss it.

I’ve had this feeling over and over and I remember is most acutely from swimming the Channel. There is this feeling when you reach French waters and you know that you’re going to make it; you suddenly want to keep going. You have struggled for twelve hours, swimming through cold and dark and shipping lanes and shoals of jellyfish and you thought that you wanted nothing more than to end it.

I think that sometimes we’re addicted to pain and we just want to put our bodies and minds through hell. It makes you feel alive to feel pain and discomfort and many of us are sometimes really frightened that we aren’t living life.

I have this feeling that I’m going to end up crying when I press send on that final essay. And then I’ll probably start searching for something else to torture myself with. Because that’s the way I am.

Much Love

Rachel xx

on being a hopeless failure

Just keep trying,

Even when it’s hard,

Even when it feels like you’ll never quite get there

Even if you never do get there

You’ll learn so much from the fall from grace

The errors you made

And the memories you’ll make

As you run through life.

So, I like to run. I’m not a very good runner, but I do love to see how far I can go. And the reason I’ve not written anything these last few days is because I was attempting a 100 mile run.

I haven’t done one in ages and I only put in a month’s training so my chances weren’t great, but I stood on the starting line and I gave it a go.

I got to 80 miles and I just ran out of steam and had to give up. I can make loads of excuses, but the truth of the matter is that I just hadn’t put the work in.

However, that doesn’t take the sting out of failing. I set out to run 100 miles and I only ran 80 and that really hurts. There is shame in having to drop out at a check point and I’ve felt crap all day.

But as I was driving home this afternoon, this Coldplay song came on and the first lines just really resonated with me. It reminded me that failure is a part of the human experience.

Every human has to fail at things and we can learn so much from the fails. My body is stronger for the run and I need to be proud for the distance I did do. I mean, who can say that they can run 80 miles? That’s a pretty cool achievement in itself.

So, my advice today would be to embrace those fails. I have a tonne of great memories that I’ll take from that run. I don’t need a medal to tell me that I did something impressive. And it’s put a fire in my belly to go again and get it done.

Much Love

Rachel xx