Friday, 23 March 2018

| journal | 2018 | 03 | 23 | my dad's childhood |

Every year we make a summer pilgrimage to the small town in which my Dad grew up.

The drive takes around an hour. Upon arrival in Houghton, we visit his parents grave in a beautiful little graveyard outside his childhood church. It's honestly lovely, very small, private and steeped in history.

Marie Mitchell, 8th June 1978, aged 50, In loving memory. Donald Walter Mitchell 1st November 1986.

The church is over 900 years old (well parts of it). That's really old.

the little peak hole to see through the pillars, you can't really see much but the idea is good...
Our little group then heads off to the nearby Romsey for lunch.

Very exciting.

Three years ago we stopped at 'la Parisienne', and I had a light crab and avocado salad (of course with fries) followed by a cappuccino. My dad and sister had quite nice looking foods too, but the arrival of a wasp stopped my camera working. We're horrendously terrified.

You'd think our little expedition was over but we then nipped into Romsey World of Water to find a remedy for our green pond. My dad was fully aware that having left it to stagnate for well over a year can't have helped, but was still surprised when they all expressed shock at our lack of action. We are not pond people, people.

I'm going to get a japanese koi called pak choi. Don't ask why.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

| journal | 2018 | 03 | 22 | how i take my tea |

Right, I am going to set the story straight. I like my tea, but not just any old which-way.

There needs to be a good balance between sweetness, strength and milk. Depending on my mood I'll either use sweetener or real sugar, but you still need to follow the basic rules.

Firstly, choose a good tea bag. Yorkshire tea, or another strong blend, but a decent english breakfast. Don't muck about people.

Secondly, only add the tea bag to the mug (which by the way, can't be too small). Do not add the milk. Why boil the kettle if you're going to cool the water with the milk? Please don't.

Add the sugar/ sweetener and then the water - stir thoroughly. Allow to steep, let it develop. You wouldn't expect a great work of art to happen spontaneously? These things take time.

Whilst stirring, add the milk. If you leave the teabag in you can rectify any potential mistakes. See the picture above for how I take mine. It's the only way. Remove teabag and serve. Voila!

Tea connoisseurs may not like my method. But I do. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

| journal | 2018 | 03 | 21 | the wall. and ultramarathon |

This blog post is really hard to write. It wasn't just 20 hours.

You can't compare an ultramarathon to a marathon. In the same way a marathon is different to a football match - they just aren't the same.

An ultra is all about getting to the finish line -  it just isn't guaranteed. There is simply too much time for things to go wrong. You can be out there for five hours at a time. The terrain is inconsistent and life can get in the way.

It's also not because I can't remember what happened, but because I want to get across what the race entails. I want to give each and every one of those 69 miles the recognition they deserve. I want to place emphasis that it wasn't just race, but it was a real struggle on a personal level and we were all there hurting.

If you don't know the back story to this, I failed last year. Dislocating a bone in my foot left me completely unable to walk, not just from mile 38 onwards, but for the following 3 months. Stuck on crutches I made a promise to myself that no matter what I would go and sort out the distance, and I would do it well.

That injury was one of the hardest to come back from. 

We all remember my dislocated foot. The tears.

One mis-timed step and then that's it.

69 miles took us from one side (Carlisle) to the other (Newcastle) over the hilliest route they could find. 140,000 steps and 400 flights of stairs later I ache a lot. This photo is from around the 30 mile mark. No. I will never do it again
64 DNF.
529 did.

That's almost a 10% drop off.


The start line.

The journey to get to the start line actually began around 3 years ago. Myself and Ross were running a Spartan race and talking about where we saw ourselves going next. We were both completely in agreement - we hated running and wanted to never participate in something that was solely that. Another competitor chipped in and mentioned The Wall - an ultra. We laughed.

June, 2016

4.30: my alarm went off. The vibrate on my phone had pushed it right to the edge but I just didn't have the motivation to turn it off. Eventually it fell, and I rolled onto the floor to stop the disgusting noise as it buzzed around on the carpet. I felt sick.

5.45: breakfast. Porridge. Two mouthfuls later and it ended up in the bin. I could barely drink the coffee I'd made.

6.45: race briefing. I honestly never pay attention to these and promise that one day I will. Ross wasn't really listening either. We don't cope well with nerves.

pre-race checks. If our hydration systems failed at any point we'd be in big trouble.

7.00: the start. Quite possibly the slowest start ever, we didn't really start running until 200m down the path. Why bother? We'd be doing it for the next 69 miles...

To be quite honest, The First 5 miles were really tough. Not tough in terms of fitness (!) but mentally it was terrifying. I felt every single niggle, every catch of my pack on my neck and everything felt wrong. The adrenaline was pumping and we were so jittery. We needed to calm down.

My mum says she hates this bit the most.

Saying goodbye to us.

But at least she knows we always look out for each other. 

Lanercost - mile 13.

At every stop you're timed, checked and given food. It's great.

This was too soon for a stop, but we enjoyed it anyway. We weren't tired, had been ignoring the rules regarding eating early and I was still dancing to Taylor Swift. My mum was so happy to see us come round the corner and I sprinted towards her. Then remembered what I was doing.

Up until that point we'd also been jogging up the hills, trying to get as much ground covered as we could. 


We didn't stay for long, keen to get underway. A lot of people get too comfy at the rest stops and that's what really does it.

I remember this place from last year. It was a great boost to our morale. Mum was happy, I was happy, Ross was happy. That's all that mattered. In that order.

It was here that we started to conserve energy. 

stairs. in the middle of an ultramarathon. 

Mum caught us on a food stop during on of the checkpoints. She wasn't allowed to speak to us or come near but it was enough just seeing her face. 

The hill just kept on coming. Up until the halfway mark you're on a steady climb with some really steep bits dotted about. 

Beyond mile 39, you're running down to Newcastle.

We were flying past everyone, and kept the pace high.

Mile 39 was quite a poignant moment for me as it was where I'd had to pull out the year before.

Sucks to be you!


The sun was still up, the sky was clear and there was a refreshing breeze.

We were completely delirious.

I have no idea how long we were singing our own versions of Oasis songs, but I have a feeling it was too long.

Our bodies were starting to fatigue, routine was slipping and my memory wasn't exactly reliable. The giggles hit us hard and we were breaking every rule in the ultra rulebook. 

pit stop mile 45 - Hexham.

We finally turned the corner to the tent and my mum was standing there. We both were having such a great time, I danced my way across the timing mat.

I really enjoyed the volunteers shout of 'oh no you haven't won it'

My sarcastic response shut him up though.

This was the pit stop we'd been warned about.

The one that's the hardest to leave.

We sat down, and I think it started to sink in. There was a further 17 miles between us and the 62 mile stop, and 25 until the line. There was a huge chunk until we would next see my our support team, and it would be dark.

I layered up, and we proceeded at a far more tentative pace. Genuinely I was nervous.


Mile 50 felt like it took forever to come round, and the gap to mile 55 was never ending. I was also starting to get grumpy. My music wasn't helping pass the time and every time I looked at the distance it felt like we were going backwards. 


It was dark. I mean it. pitch black. And cold. The pace had slowed to a painfully slow one and I was ready to start throwing things.

I don't really want to talk about this bit. I think that was the worst because I can still remember every single step. Beyond that point my brain definitely shut down and protected me from the pain.

I'd had to stop to tie my shoelaces, and it was only when I went to stand back up that I realised how dog tired I'd become. My legs had nothing left in them, and my muscles just felt exhausted. There was a kind of disconnect between my brain and my hands so it took a good five minutes to negotiate my head phones. 

By mile 58, I was gone. Spent. Completely empty and in a really bad place. I was lower than I have ever been and frightened I wasn't strong enough to go on.

Ross did the right thing by running ahead. There's nothing he could do. He can't take the pain away, and if he pandered to my softness there's a risk I won't be able to push through it. By giving me no choice but to plough on, I wasn't giving in to the voice in my head saying 'give up'. I just had to stare at his rucksack 3m in the distance and not stop going.

Ross had been banging on about the creepy village for hours. I’m sure it was a bit unfair but it was creepy past midnight. There were also numerous tables laid out with fruit and drink, which I’m sure was meant with good intentions but it just looked weird in the moonlight.


The tears started at mile 60. Yes. I was exhausted. They were tears of frustration, and quite frankly I was bored. I wasn't really crying, they were just rolling down my face at an annoying rate. My contact lenses were uncomfortable enough without the constant stream of salty water to keep dislodging them, Marvellous.

We had been trucking down a path in pitch black, with no indication as to how far it was to go aside from my watch ticking over painfully slowly.

 I cracked. I messaged our support team, begging for them to drop a whatsapp pin so I could find them on the map. 0.8 miles to go. It was the dark. It made it so much worse.

62. The final stop.

The pit stop at mile 62 brought a small amount of sweet relief. Ross made me a cup of tea and sourced some chocolate.

There were still individuals dropping out at this point. Everyone kept saying only 7 miles but even walking over to the food table felt like an ordeal. Our twenty minutes was up. It was time to go. We didn't even joke about running that time. We put our music back on and walked. We were going to walk it in.

And it hurt.

I'd started counting down in sets of 200 strides. But it didn't take long before I was clinging on to 20.

In all seriousness, I will never complain about pain in my legs again. The feet were excrutiating too. My arms and shoulders ached from just moving and there wasn't a lot I could do. 

Mile 65 marked the point I could no longer count. I was trudging along and staring straight down at my feet muttering 'one, one, one'. Conversation had died a long time ago, and Ross was tired too. He wasn't in the same place I was but I believe that was down to having completed it the year before.

At mile 66 my watch started beeping. It was low on battery. I snapped and started to yell.

'we're all tired. I get it. you've done a lot today, but how about you SHUT UP'

I think the people we came across thought I needed some kind of help.

'yes yes I'm low on battery too but that's not going to get us home is it!?'

Ross just laughed. He's great. I don't know what I'd do without him.

We'd given up trying to eat. This was it. The final reserves. There was no energy left to get into our bags, nor did we have anything to say.

The bit that really got to me was when we almost got lost. I was ready to throw in the towel. The arrow wasn't completely clear and we couldn't see the next one. I had to put so much faith into the fact we were going the right way - because if we hadn't been and had to double back I would not make it.


I hurt everywhere. I have never been in so much pain.

My legs, my feet - I could barely cope with walking. It is so hard to put into words what we went through to get through the last few miles.

I think unless you've been there, you just won't know.

I'd hooked my thumbs around the straps on my backpack to take the pressure off the various parts of my back and chest that were hurting the most. It was a case of pain management over actual relief. Eventually, my hands and arms started to go numb through cutting off the circulation, and I was happy.

My watch had finally died, and with it so had my spirit. Knowing there was around a mile to go didn't help - I couldn't watch it tick by. I didn't even have the energy to get my phone out of my bag so was stuck once again with a dubstep 2 hour mix.

I wasn't competing against anyone but myself. It was a fight between the voice that wanted me to stop, and the spirit that wanted to go. I had no energy for emotions anymore, I was a walking zombie, unable to even muster a smile as I crossed the line. Normally when I get tired, I get mad. I get furious at everything around me and vex. It's the fire that normally carries me through the tough bits, but I couldn't even bring that together. There was nothing. I got my medal, got in the car and passed out, drifting in and out of consciousness for the hour and a half home. The sweet relief would come later.

Back at my mums we all cracked on with ensuring myself and Ross would be able to function the next day. Hot showers, painkillers and foot inspections took place - never have I enjoyed a shower so much. I spent most of it clinging onto the wall for support, but the water felt amazing. Splashing our faces with water at every stop was no substitute for actually washing the sweat off (grim, I know).

Amazingly, I had made it through with only one new blister - and it wasn't even that bad.

The next day
Oh. My. God.

It wasn't that my legs hurt a lot, it was just... they didn't work. My hip flexors had completely given up. I couldn't walk. I had to use my abs to get any kind of response.

I was a mess. I essentially had to roll down the stairs where I found Ross lying on the floor. We couldn't stop laughing.

I was on crutches for 4 days. I tried walking to work and it took half an hour.

My body was in a state of shock.

A special thank you to Ross. We did it.