Be like Alison - find your fierce
105km is a long way to run. But Alison did just that - last weekend - with a big side of hills to add to the difficulty.
Was it a breeze? Did Alison just get through each of the aid stations with no issues, no dark times, no feelings of wanting to give up, no niggles, no injuries, no pain, no doubts?
She experienced all of these, but did not give up. She felt each and every one of these, but kept going. Right to the finish line.
At 45k, she arrived at the aid station we were waiting at. Her body language indicated she wasn't in a good place. She had got hot, really hot, and was unable to eat or drink.
What was happening was both the heat and humidity had been increasing over the 45k since the start of the race and her body was unable to sweat effectively to cool her down. This is because high humidity prevents the process of evaporation of sweat from the skin, so you can quickly overheat and literally cook.
Alison was cooking. This made her feel nauseous which is why she couldn't eat or drink. Not eating or drinking is not ideal in a 100k race. We - support team of Fiona (pacer for last section), wonderful parents Jerry (Dad) and Margaret (Mum), Stewart (husband) and me (friend) - offered her all sorts of options but she gagged. Watermelon was the only thing she could eat - so we kept ploughing her with it. We wanted to cover her with water from the sponges that were available, to really help get her body temperature down, but she declined. Her mum was rubbing ice on the bag of her neck to create some kind of reduction in her body temperature. She talked about not being able to carry on, she just couldn't do it any more. She said she was just too hot, she needed to stop. We supported her with helping her rearrange her pack, restocked her food and drink, massaged her legs, did as much as we could, but we ignored her thoughts around giving up. As she got through the watermelon, she slowly started to change her narrative. Maybe she could walk more till the next aid station (10km away). We were all over that suggestion! After about 5 minutes, Alison shot up from her chair and, armed with 5 slices of watermelon to squash into her pack, she ran off. She had made up her mind to continue and get it done. Only 60km to go.
I have honestly never seen anything like this.
She had repaired her mindset. She was a totally different person at that following aid station and her grit, determination, courage and fierceness reigned for the remaining 60k (with many dark patches along the way). Accompanied by her amazing pacer Fiona who had joined her on the last section of the race, she crossed that finish line in 16 hours, brimming with every emotion possible.
There's also a bit of a back story. Alison was on a mission to get to the finish line and get her medal. A medal she had deserved the previous year when this same event had been cancelled but she had chosen to run it anyway with her coaching group. Without the full tally of aid stations and clearly marked trails, she undertook 100k and got lost in the last 20k in the dark, going down multiple wrong turns and hills and having to turn back, exhausted and struggling to get her food and drink into her. But she found a way and her way and somehow crossed the makeshift finish line, albeit in a very depleted state. This had been her first 100k, followed up 8 months later with another one and now this one a mere 4 months after that.
Alison's fierceness, her ability to change her mindset, her refusal to give up, are a huge part of who she is but she has also been developing these qualities over the past four years when her endurance journey began. She has consistently been challenging herself since, with harder and harder events. Alongside many other benefits, these achievements make her feel empowered, help her to put things into perspective, deal with everyday challenges, do scary things and grow.
Find your fierce, just like Alison.