Knowing when to stop.

If it’s becoming a tradition for me to have one disappointing race a year, I hope it was today. After feeling so horrendous on the HM 30 last year, the rest of 2015 couldn’t have been better. So, hopefully, after dropping out of the HM 55 today, maybe the rest of 2016 is looking good!

Two weeks ago, I was signed off work with a viral infection that had seen me wiped out for at least a month. I sat on the sofa for 5 days straight, drinking Lemsip and watching rubbish on telly. Even running at the Saltburn marathon in February had been a struggle but I thought I had shaken this last week. I was well rested at least!

Arriving in Helmsley for the start, I didn’t really feel like I was about to run a 55 mile race: the focus wasn’t really there and I think in the back of my mind there was uncertainty. I had already started thinking that I had the option of stopping if I wanted to, something that had never crossed my mind at a race before. Seeing everyone was lovely though and it’s always a fantastic, buzzing atmosphere.

The pace at the start was pretty quick but that was what I had wanted. I knew to get anywhere near the time I did last year, I had to have a good first half. Shelli and Adam were going well, so I stuck with them and had a good chat about upcoming events. Shelli pulled away on the first steep climb, but I kept them both well in range. By now though, my legs were feeling heavy because I just couldn’t get much air in. My pace was good, so I just kept plugging away.

Running towards the White Horse was where I really started wondering if I had enough in me. Every small ascent and even the flat didn’t feel as smooth as it should have so early into the race. Drinking coke doesn’t usually happen until later on either but I had some at the checkpoint! Passing some friends on the top path above the White Horse was great: Lucie looked ridiculously excited! Jayson met me on the path but I didn’t need anything – except maybe a miracle! – so I just kept going.

The path around the top of Lake Gormire is ace. I usually get a rhythm going because of the swoopy, fun trail but it just felt difficult. It was here I started debating with myself about stopping. Sensible, grown up Kim was telling me to stop at Square Corner. I would have done a good 20 mile training run; I could get back to some quality training more quickly; I wanted to enjoy my Easter holidays and not set myself back with this stupid virus. Stubborn, illogical Kim was telling me to at least keep going to Lord Stones because I am usually better in the second half; I’m stronger on the climbs than the flat and if I get that far I’ll probably just think, sod it, I might as well do the whole thing. This went on until Sneck Yate where even the irrepresible Reyna couldn’t make me change my mind! I swigged some more coke and chugged away along that draggy moor. Katie passed me at High Paradise Farm looking really strong: this is definitely going to be another good year for her and her outstanding result was not a huge surprise after all the work she’s put in. Jayson met me just before the descent into Square Corner where he asked me the questions that I had already been asking myself just to make sure it was what I wanted. It was.

Once I stopped and started planning what to do with the day, I felt much better. This race was always about giving me the confidence I needed to know that some of the things I achieved last year weren’t just a fluke and that I was capable of a good WHW and CCC in the summer. I still took that confidence away because I managed an undulating 20 miles in about 3 hours whilst feeling decidedly shoddy! I’ve had a couple of DNFs now and have come to the conclusion that they are a vital part of racing. They teach you a lot and make you realise just how important self preservation is!

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Once upon a time in North YorkshireThe Way of the Midge