Vartry 50 mile-becoming an ostrich..

Vartry 50 milesWhen an ostrich does eventually pull his head out of the sand, does he get a fright or what?

I did the complete ostrich approach to the Vartry 50 mile, like complete head in the sand approach, like don’t tell anyone , don’t think about it, don’t worry about it, don’t get excited about it, don’t eat right for it, don’t sleep right before it, don’t nothing about it. If I did any of the above I might not have done it even though I really needed to. I had to do it so I guess just not thinking about it was the way it was going to get done.

I spotted the Vartry races on Facebook.   I thought the 50k or 50 mile would be a good distance to see was the Wicklow Way Solo a possibility. A few Facebook messages over and back to Don who said go for the 50 mile. I paid up just a few days before it closed, forgot about it and set about concentrating on the Wicklow Way Ultra which was the following weekend. I figured I would get the WWU done and then think about/see about Vartry.

Pre- WWU I was worried about pacing for a 50 mile, worried I would go too fast and crash, my last marathon was 3.41, there wasn’t a hope I could keep that going for nearly twice the distance, maybe I could tip along nicely and see…. But then post-WWU, what was all the worry about speed??? HA! I could barely run at all!

One week after WWU and the week before Vartry , a tired body, heavy legs, less toenails and ever expanding waist line (insatiable post-ultra appetite) I dragged my tired expanding ass 10 miles around the town and thought how am I going to do 50 miles next week? It was then that I fully decided I just wasn’t going to think about it at all during the week. Good bye Clare, hello Ostrich…

So with three kids and a husband who was working 7am until 9pm on the Saturday of the Vartry race I did have my good friend Amy offer to mind my girls. Thank you so much Amy! I just didn’t want to make any deal of the day or distance so really I didn’t say much to my family or friends. I told my husband there was a 10 mile loop race in Roundwood and I just wanted to see how many loops I could do.

The ostrich head in the sand approach worked nicely and I did wonder once and a while would I wake up on Saturday morning with the biggest fright of my life?! I relaxed about the race and just got on with the week. A bit too relaxed about it because by 8pm on Friday night, with 3 kids in tow I still had a crazy load of stuff to do, it went a bit like this….

“Girls we have 5 jobs to do as quickly as we can, we get them done and I’ll read your story (Awful Aunty-David Walliams brilliant book!), right let’s do this…”

  1. Go to Tesco and buy supplies for tomorrow, bananas, choc, crisps, lucozade etc.
  2. Put diesel in the car
  3. Drop back DVD to Xtra-vision
  4. Go out to caravan and collect storage box to keep supplies in
  5. Go to cinema and collect pre-paid tickets for Amy and girls for tomorrow.

I only shouted at them twice I think, we did well.

Home by 9.30pm, can I really be in bed by 11pm is that realistic?! Running around the house, throwing things into my storage box as fast as I can (hat, gloves, hi-vis, head torch, food, drinks, neurofen, plasters, spare hair bands, spare t-shirt, shouting at kids to brush teeth and get into Pj’s, they shout back that they are ready, filling hot water bottles from kettle, I run up and read 3 chapters at lightning speed, give them all hugs and kisses explaining to them I’ll be gone in the morning when they wake up. Right, what next, what gear am I going to wear? Pack gear and post-race clothes for after. Better get porridge and eggs ready for the early start. Will I get to bed for 12 am, is that realistic now?! Fuck I still have to stick my “Vartry 50 2015” music collection on to my iPod, oh god…

At last I am in bed at 12.30am setting my alarm for 3.45am, counting on few fingers the 3 and a bit hours I have to sleep. I close my eyes and then the big fright comes, it had to come at some stage and I actually start to tremble, my hands are shaking. I Google a relaxation thing and stick in my earphones…. Relax your shoulders….oh god I have run 50 miles on 3 hours of sleep…..relax your face muscles….oh god I have to run 50 miles on 3 hours of sleep …relax zzzzzzzz. Woken an hour later by Sarah wanting to get into my bed, I give up and get into her bed for an hour and sleep.

3.45am alarm, I sit up on the side of the bed feeling quite chirpy, I slap my knees and say out loud “Let’s do this today!”

I admitted to Don the other day that I am slightly ashamed to say I just booked into Vartry as a training run without putting too much emphasis on the event itself but as I drove towards Roundwood , the excitement was building in my belly and when I passed two 100milers in the pitch dark with their head lamps and hi-vis I suddenly knew that there was magic going on in Roundwood and I was delighted to be part of it and a witness to the incredible runners of the 100 mile event.

So how to run a 10 mile loop 5 times? Break it right down, like right down and don’t ever think of it as a whole 50 miles, that’s way too over whelming (but a tad exciting!!)

Myself and Padraig, my good running friend and partner in crime for the solo decided to stick between a 9 and a half minute mile and a 10 minute mile, no matter how good we felt. The aim of the day was to complete it. We didn’t either plan to run together or not run together we just fell into a nice rhythm and stuck together, chatting all the way around for the first lap. Wow the full moon shining across the Vartry lakes was just a special moment in a very special day. Jeez Padraig, that 10 mile lap is a bit hilly! First one done. 0-10 miles

Second lap (10-20 miles), break it down, look forward to the little things, we don’t need the head torches as the sun is rising, warm top stays on as the wind is chilly, we are still chatting, definitely had to keep watch of our pace and keep slowing ourselves so that we see this day through. My aim for this lap, take a gel and wee at the 5 mile aid station. I am starting to realise that from the little steep drag at the left turn all the way to the 5 mile aid station was the bit that dragged the most, it just went on and on, the wind picked-up up there too. There is a nice downhill a little after the aid station and I say to Padraig that we are now running 3 hours and it feels like only 30 minutes, that was kind of crazy.

The little out and back section was cool, a good way to see other runners face to face. And as Padraig so rightly put it a great test of your moral compass as there was no one there to ensure you went as far as the pole! We slapped the top of it each time we passed it, turn around and up the hill heading back to base. Each time we were close to Roundwood I asked Padraig what was he going to eat/drink next. At the end of this lap the 50k race was underway and we got to see Jean starting the 50k, shouts of encouragement to each other and off back to base.

Third lap (20-30 miles), the sun is coming out and it is getting warm, I throw on my baseball cap to keep sun off my face, get rid of hi-vis and warm top, eat some food and take dioralyte, off we go, we are getting quiet, less chat, maybe even no chat. Padraig is a great running companion, you can chat if you want but if you don’t want to that’s ok and we seem to be well able to run comfortably in silence. I can feel my feet starting to suffer and I know I have a blister on the side of my toe and I am loosing toe nails, I just know it. Break it down, get to the 5 mile aid station, wee at my trusty spot in the woods, demolish an orange and a half, god it was gorgeous and get back to base. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy!

Forth lap (30-40 miles), more food, more fluids and two neurofen, too afraid to check out feet, down to vest top as its warming up a lot. Don says I look grand and doing well, not a bother to me, smiling on the outside, feet crying on the inside, I thought this would be the hardest loop but really it was ok, I did stop for a second and walk a few steps near the 5 mile point but got going again. Wee again at spot in woods, I had a branch that I would hang off to balance, I was obviously getting tired and relied on the branch a bit too much, snap and down I went on the ass, nice! Get going again and get scratched tired ass back to base! I told Padraig I would put on my music for the last lap, he said he would do the same. We pass the point where Padraig is now in unknown territory as it is the furthest he has run and we acknowledge it! Yeahhh!

Fifth lap (40-50 miles), I faffed around a bit before I got going ,Jean is stopped too and we chat a bit, banana, take a gel, inspect right foot, stick plaster on blister, rub cooling gel on my now nicely tanning legs and music in my ears, Padraig left before me and is now ahead. I just can’t believe this is the last lap!! I decided I don’t care if I walk the up hills, I don’t care if I walk the whole damn lot, I am so happy with what I have done so far that I don’t care how this last lap goes as I know I will finish, I too am in new mileage territory now and with the music blasting in my ears I hit the road out of Roundwood with a mini-pip in my step.

So I knew as I went along that I was 4th girl and i knew I wasn’t too far behind so when I walked up the nasty hill around the 3 mile point and came around the corner and up along the now very nasty stretch I spotted the 3rd girl (Fionnuala). We chatted briefly and she so graciously said off you go third lady it’s all yours, I am always so blown away by the friendliness and camaraderie and true sportsmanship and respect that runners give each other. I actually got a bit emotional at this point knowing I was 3rd and still feeling pretty good-ish.

My Garmin is now dead and I am on the last lap so I am free to run as I feel and off i go, knowing I am in third definitely gives me a boost. Pass the 5 mile point, I don’t stop at all this time and just legit down the hill towards the out and back section, my legs are tired so any uphill I walk, the rest I am running. Oh my goodness, the feeling of coming around the corner and up the path to the caravan park and in around to the finish. What a day, what an amazing day. I run through the finish and there it is 50 miles run on 3 hours sleep! ( 3rd female and 9th overall). Don is there, smiling and shaking my hand saying he knew I could do it.

Vartry was by far the best running event I have ever taken part in.

Watching the other runners in all distances was nearly breath-taking at times. If you wanted to renew your belief in the wonders of the human spirit then you need to get to the Vartry Races next year if not to run then to watch, the passion and perseverance, pure grit and determination, a smile or a nod of acknowledgement that says ‘good on you’ to each other as you pass on the road, high-fiving at 90 miles (Lillian!!), the belief that dreams are actually possible (once you pull your head out of the sand!)











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