“So, explain to me again what it is you’re doing”
I sigh inwardly. When I came up with the GymQuin, I had no idea it would confuse people so much… “So, I’m swimming 12 miles in a pool, cycling 560 miles on a gym bike and then running 131 miles on a treadmill”
“WHAT??? But that’s crazy”
“Ummm, yeah. I guess it is…”
The swim section was held at my gym as it’s a nice pool and on a good day you can have the lane to yourself. We arrived around 6am and whilst I got ready, the boys (Martin and Rob) got the nutrition etc poolside.
I had planned on a 9hr swim with 30 minutes of breaks for food etc. Either Rob or Martin counted the laps and let me know when each mile was completed. I was also counting as I always do, but the more fatigued I became the less reliable my totals were, but I found that keeping count (even if it was wrong) kept my mind off other things.
Towards the end of the swim, I started feeling a bit rough. Being immersed in chemicals for so long isn’t good and my asthma and allergies started to play up a little. But apart from that, I felt alright and the day went reasonably fast. Lou Dutch swam with me for a few hours in the morning and Rob in the afternoon. I was treated to a Caramel Latte when I had 3 miles to go, but by then my appetite had gone and I was feeling a bit sick, but you never waste a Starbucks, right?
What did I think about during 9 hours of going up and down in the pool? I have no idea… I broke the laps into sections of 64 and just focused on that part, stopped myself looking too far ahead. I had been worried that as I hadn’t really trained for a 12 mile swim (shock and horror!) that I might be feeling some soreness, injuries etc but apart from the expected tiredness, I felt good. I put this down to my recent and regular attendance of Pump classes. We do a lot of upper body work with weights and I feel so much stronger because of this.
I was so pleased to get out of the pool for the final time and enjoyed a hot shower. A quick look in the mirror was a truly terrifying moment. My goggle marks looked like someone had literally drawn thick lines around my eyes with a red Sharpie and my eyelids were swollen, making me look like I had been in a fight. I avoided mirrors from that point on…
After the boys had stopped laughing at my face, we hit the road (and the 5pm traffic) and made our way to The Gym in Bournemouth. This is an actual 24 hour gym, I kid you not, these things exist. I feel that it’s important to set the scene of what was essentially our home for the next 4 days.
Music – very loud, non-stop.
Lights – very bright, lots of them.
People – ever present, working out.
So, just to be clear, the above was happening 24 HOURS A DAY – NON- STOP! Lights, music and people….
I got myself on the bike and we noted the start time and I was off. I had my first wobble at this point, the gym was pretty busy and I was sat in the main area, I looked like an actual Bullfrog, felt pretty ill and really self conscious. In my normal events, I can put my bike glasses on and get my head down. None of that here, just me sat on a bike in the middle of a busy gym. I later realised that very few people that came into the gym noticed us, even when we put up the giant banner that explained what I was doing…
Whilst I was starting the bike, the guys brought all the kit up and sorted The Room. This was basically the area where all the lost property and broken bits of gym equipment lived, quite fitting really. It was a decent size and suited our needs, the only problem was the light would come on automatically and was triggered by any kind of movement. Which basically meant you had to get into the camp bed and lie really, really still. Move even your little finger and the room would instantly light up, leaving you blinking and swearing… For me this was not a massive issue as I only had very short breaks and it got to a point that when I stopped, I fell asleep instantly. Rob was not so happy about it though…
Cycling 560 miles on a bike is always going to be challenging, but how would it be on an indoor bike? Easier I thought… Although I had asked Chris Ette what he had found the hardest on his indoor double and he had said that is was having to keep turning the pedals, no freewheeling, no cruising… And guess what? He was right. Keeping the speed at a constant rate to be able to hit the target finish of around 45 hours was really hard. Also, sweating a lot. I’m not a particularly sweaty person but I had this weird clammy feeling the whole time. Keeping my fluids up was a must.
The seat on the recumbent bike was my main issue (god, I never stop moaning, do I?) It was so hard and myself and Rob both had sore bums and swollen areas on our backs. I later discovered why mine hurt so much when I looked in the mirror and saw the bruising, the image below was 3 days later when it looked a bit better!
I was eating a reasonable amount (for me) but I remember at one point thinking that a McDonalds would be a really good idea (it was) and for ultra endurance folk, eating a burger and chips is not unusual, but imagine walking into a gym and the first thing you see is a woman on an exercise bike eating a McChicken Sandwich…
The bike dragged on from 5pm Thursday till Saturday afternoon! Which even I find staggering, and I was there! I watched the tv’s playing the music videos and the same advert for Sainsbury’s over and over again, chatted to Rob, Martin or Lou (when I say ‘chatted’ I mean shouted over the music) Incredibly the gym was only completely empty for a total of 20 minutes at about 3am one night, the rest of the time there was always guys lifting ridiculously heavy weights or someone on a stepper… The cleaners would appear at some point in the middle of the night and helpfully lock the toilet doors, just when I needed them. Although, to be fair, they were really good cleaners!! (you notice these things when you live in a gym, y’know).
The last few hours seemed pure torture (boy, I had no clue what was coming…) It was never ending and I was so sick of the bike. We had changed over to a slightly more upright version for the last few hours, but it was still so uncomfortable and I kept smashing my knees on the drinks holder. Nice, smiley Claire was now mean and sweary! On the last 30 minutes I scrolled through Twitter and saw that a cat had died that belonged to someone I follow. He was an old cat that had lived a happy life, but I was sat trying to fight the tears, thinking ‘don’t cry, otherwise the guys will think you’ve lost the plot over a dead Twitter cat, I managed to hold together. Little did I realise that in the next few days I would cry more than I have ever cried. In my life.
Once off the bike, I practically skipped over to the treadmill (in reality, I hobbled over like an old man) and jumped (limped) on and pressed start. I was going to smash this run and get home! Yeah baby… 5 marathons… whatever!! I have this slight issue with under estimating times and distances in the world of ultra events (and long distance driving) I know how far I have to go but it seems to be so much less in my head. This only gets worse the more tired I get and then suddenly I am faced with the harsh reality of another 20 hours or whatever it may be. That moment is always a good test of mental strength and character.
For most of the first half of the run, I alternated between running (6.6kph) and walking (5.5kph) and this seemed to work well with both timings and what I could handle physically and mentally. During the night section my view was the image above. A knackered looking chick, my speed / time and the illuminated big wheel on the seafront. During the day, it was the same, minus the reflection of the knackered girl, thank god.
At one point during the run (I have no idea what day it was) my kids came to see me. As soon as I saw them, tears came from nowhere and I pulled my daughter into the toilets, just so I could cry without feeling like an idiot. They stayed for an hour, Jess on the treadmill next to me and Jake behind on the cross trainer. It was awesome to see them and I am so proud to have kids that are both fit, active and see training as a normal part of life. When they left though, I felt really down for a bit…
I found that visits or phone calls from people made time go quicker, which was so needed in this environment. I now existed in a world where loo breaks were something I looked forward to. A couple of times I confess, I went when I didn’t actually need too.. just to stop. Just to escape for a moment.
I had my first ‘big’ sleep of 90 minutes during the run (not on the treadmill as below) If it was down to me, I would not sleep at all and at the very least, just power naps of 20 minutes. Which is like hitting the reset button and stops you from falling into zombie mode, where you start to dream with your eyes open. 90 minutes felt too indulgent and like I was losing control of my timings, but apparently sleep’s important… I awoke from what felt like 8 hours to find Rob standing over me, saying my name. Not disturbing at all…
So now we have reached the bit that got very dark and twisty. It’s a real blur for me and I can’t really remember the order of things or where about’s we were in terms of milage etc but at roughly 3 marathons to go, the wheels well and truly fell off. Apart from the normal aches and pains, I had two real problems. The first one, I am going to keep to myself, as it’s personal and kinda embarrassing and let’s just not go there… but believe me when I tell you that THE PAIN was very bad. It wasn’t constant though, so I had breaks from it. The second issue was constant and EVIL. I had it at Mexico and thought it was Plantar Fascitis, which I had years ago. But Plantar Fascitis doesn’t come and go like this, when you have it, it’s there all the time. Where this just appeared during long bikes and was massively painful on long runs. Weirdly, didn’t have it at the Dorney Deca / Quin though…
Dr Rob did some research (he’s good at that) and came up with Metatarsalgia. Which makes sense but whatever it is, it basically makes the soles of my feet burn and is stupidly painful. The pic below is when the girl from the Brain Tumour charity came to see me. You can see that I’m supporting some of my weight on the arms of the treadmill and that I’m in a lot of pain. Mean and sweary Claire was back…
It was noted at this point that I was taking rather a lot of pain killers and it was decided that someone else should take charge of the drug dispensing. A few toys were thrown out the pram around this time, less food was being eaten and I was starting to really slow up. Even when Lou arrived and showed off her impressive Backwards Running on a Treadmill trick, it failed to cheer me up.
I had to sort myself out. I went off to my favourite hiding place (the loos) and had a quiet word… “you have to speed up, stop focusing on the pain and stop being such a grumpy…” Add a few swear words in there obvs. I then looked at where I was in terms of distance and carefully documented it (see below) so I knew how much I had left. I was covering 6k in an hour, so it was 1hr, 1hr, 30 mins till the end of marathon 3. Then x7 lots of 6k twice for marathon 4 and 5… (I wonder why I failed Maths GCSE?) Simple. Sort of.
So for a while I got it together and cracked on. Then it all went really, really bad. I never actually thought I wouldn’t do it, I never thought that I would give up, but I just couldn’t understand how I was going to get through the last marathon. It’s hard to explain this part without sounding like a whiney, moany idiot that needed a cup of man the fuck up, but it really, really fucking hurt at this point. Every single step killed and I was falling apart. I was barely speaking and then I entered The Crying Phase. Now, I’m not proud of this part but I feel that if you are going to blog, then you need to be honest even when you don’t want to tell people how shit you really are sometimes. I started crying openly, not wailing, just basically sobbing. And once I had started I couldn’t really stop. I was vaguely aware of people on the treadmills near me, looking at this crazy woman, speed walking with tears streaming down her face, but I no longer cared. Whatever it took to finish this thing.
I was getting close but still so far, Rob came into his own at this point and calmly told me the plan. I was initially quite excited as I thought it was going to be an awesome, painless and fast end the the Quin, but what it really boiled down to was this…
Rob – “You’re going to do the next hour. Then you are going to go straight into the next hour. After that you will do another hour and then you get a short break. After that you will do two more hours then a short section, then you are finished. Ok?”
Me – “No. NO! That’s not ok, it’s shit. It’s a shitty plan and I don’t like it”
Rob – “Just get on with it”
Me – “Sob” More crying….
And as brutal as that sounds, it’s exactly what I needed at that point. Sure, I could have had a sleep break, maybe some food or a shower. But what was needed was a bit of a slap and pull yourself together moment. So on it went until the last 20 minutes (the worst…) and it was over. I had finished what was undoubtable the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
This is the bit where I say how amazing my crew was and how I couldn’t have done it without them, but that somehow doesn’t seem enough here. In the past I have been a bit of a lone wolf, not wanting to put people out or bother them. But now I’m learning how vital a good crew is for these events. They literally are the difference between finishing or not… and if you are really lucky (like me) you find some amazing, funny and kind people who become real friends. So thank you Rob, Martin and Lou. And for all the others who supported me via phone / text / emails (you know who you are!) Also, a massive thanks for all of you who sponsored me, that made a huge difference and really kept me going.
Swim – 12 miles (768 lengths)
Bike – 560 miles
Run – 131 miles
Calories burnt (aprox) – 7,200 (swim) 15,200 (bike) and 16,500 (run) Total = 38,900
Calories consumed – no clue but not nearly enough!
Weight lost – 4lbs
Sleep – x2 90 mins and x8 20 min power naps – 5 hours and 40 minutes aprox
We will look to gather more accurate data in the 2017 Decas.
I was thrilled to finish and so was my toe…