Five days before I had planned to fly to the Azores for 70.3 miles of swim, bike, run I found myself in not the most athletic or positive of places; balling my eyes out, lying on the sitting room floor for nearly 2 hours following 10 minutes of running that left me limping home slower than a sunburnt snail on crutches, eating an ice cream.
What has happened?
What could it be?
Will I ever be able to run again?
What have I done wrong this time?
Why is it always me?
Yup the “Eloise in running crisis” (if you know, you know!) Family Trivia had started. These questions, along with the worst possible doctor there is (Google!) were the ultimate fuel for an afternoon spent on the floor crying as if it was Armageddon. PERSPECTIVE ELOISE, PERSPECTIVE!
Thankfully, nothing an ice cream sundae, a coffee catch-up and watching Mamma Mia 2 couldn’t help jump start the, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” Eloise. Time to get the “real” information I need, see the people I trust and work out how to get back on the start line in a week’s time…
I would be lying if I said it was quite that simple due to a deep rooted fear I have of breaking again & having what I love, want the most taken away from me because of what I did to myself almost 10 years ago. Yes, it is irrational and based on out-dated information & circumstances but the gremlin of regret is still there, and it likes nothing more than a running niggle to take to the spotlight and begin its one-man show in the West End!
But thankfully my team; Dave, Renee, Pete and Jon, were all there to help me access the physical, mental and emotional so I could arrive at the choice, that yup I needed to jump this time to face that fear and just learn about my current limits, whatever they may be. Time to be brave, be bold and just go race it. And as I said to Dave if I’m racing, I AM RACING, there is no point going into a sword fight minus your sword – just dumb, painful & pointless!
So enough of the chit-chat let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of race day, or more appropriately I should say the nitty-shitty…
Before we knew we were standing on the beach looking at the buoys ahead of us, yes for once I could see the whole course thanks to my new prescription goggles (well done Eloise!). So surely with that in mind regardless of the result I had already won “the don’t be as blind as a bat in the swim” competition so nothing to lose but to run full steam ahead into the sea and start my Azores campaign, and I did!
Exiting the water in joint 2nd just two minutes down meant it was time to get on the bike and hope this time, yes finally, my 70.3 bike legs decide to turn up. More than essential here as the next 56 miles ahead of us were going to be hot, hard and hilly – amazing course but not for the faint hearted! To my amazement within the next 10 minutes I saw a bright yellow dot just up the road on the start of the next climb… What, is that the lead girl? Really?
All about staying focused and pushing forward. By the next town less than 10km into the bike I moved into first and knew now I had to test the legs as the longer climbs were starting, then see if I can open the gap before pushing on again #prayforlegs.
THEY HAD ARRIVED #victorydance! Thank you legs! The next 80km were all about pedalling on, fuelling, checking the HR just to make sure I was not overheating (wouldn’t be my first time) and enjoying it AKA singing along to ABBA in my head. Oh and I couldn’t not mention the star of the show here in the Azores… Don’t get me wrong the course was amazing in all the right ways (perfect roads, beautiful scenes, relentless, fun etc.) and I will be back. However that weekend must have been international cow moving day as the roads were garnished with fresh cow sh** that, as you can imagine, just ended up all over us and our bikes – the smell of my bike and kit post race still haunts me!
By the end of the bike, I had put over 6 minutes into the next girl and the legs and body felt fresh and ready to run – game plan on point so far.
However, within the first few strides I could feel the niggle in my right hip. “Ok Eloise, breathe, relax and it could just be from the bike, run it out.”
I focused on getting into my stride, staying relaxed and keeping cool for the next two miles. But by this point it was getting much more intense and I was starting to mix up my run stride to help take away some of the stress – anything but ideal!
“Right finish the first lap and then see…”
Running back towards transition the pain was getting almost unbearable, “breathe, breathe, you are winning, just see, breathe you got this.”
After finishing the first lap, I decided to just start the next and see, but within the next 500m I was walking, even that now hurt and so it was time to face the music & reality… DNF.
Standing on the side of the course still leading by a good few minutes, in pain and having to pull the plug is what every athlete dreads. I hate giving up, I hate being weak and I hate feeling like I have failed – probably what has caused me to run through stress fractures for weeks before (genius, cue eye roll emoji). However, I know that this choice will be anything but giving up or failing when in the near future I start running again, and can still turn up to fight another day in another race – sword, amour and all.
So what now…?
Smile! And of course regroup, review & refocus so I can push forward again having learnt something and ensure I do come back stronger. This may sound cliché but I have always believed (and experienced) that every time you fall flat on your face, whatever it may be, it is a chance to learn about yourself, your weaknesses and your goals. It is not failing if you make sure to not make the same mistake twice AKA you learn.
A massive thank you to Luis for organising the event and to all the volunteers in the Azores – I would recommend this race to anyone and already excited for 2019.
But most importantly thank you to everyone who not only persuaded me to get on that plane but also support me daily to always be a better person and therefore athlete. As I said to Renee last night on the phone: “I’ll be fine as hey, I have come back from worse!”
I will leave you with this quote – some food for thought:
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all”
Lots of love,