I’ve been so disorganised lately that not only have I not been blogging, I’ve even neglected journalling. And there have been so many highs and lows over the last few months that I really need to get my thoughts organised.
I’m doing this now to put to words the utter elation and pride I feel in myself at the moment. I am so unbelievably chuffed that I need to hold on to this moment by writing it down for posterity.
I made it thru #hellandback last Saturday, June 14, 2014. A day for the history books. What’s that you say? And how did I get roped into something so hellish? It all starts with a man. (As these stories usually do). With my husband, in fact.
I’ve been nagging justin for years that he needs to get a hobby. Business consumes him, body and soul and I told him that if he doesn’t take an interest in anything besides work, he will a. Drop dead the second he retires or b. never retire. Now I’m not belittling my husbands work ethic cos if he doesn’t work, we won’t eat. But I wanted him to have something just for him. No one was more delighted than I when he started hill walking and mountaineering in the last couple of years. So,exhibit a- Justin- super fit and super active.
Anyone who knows me knows that my physical activity is confined to the bedroom, taking the occasional basket of laundry down the stairs and shovelling food into my mouth as fast as possible. So, exhibit b, me- lazy and totally unfit.
So last December, I made the mistake of telling Justin that I would do something with him next year. Just the two of us. Now, in all honestly, I thought my husband would cash in some sexual favours, but it seems I underestimated him.
We’re going to do hell&back, he says.
What’s that, I say?
From their website:
“WHAT IS HELL & BACK?
HELL & BACK is an off-road adventure event, featuring man-made obstacles and naturally occurring challenges over a variety of terrain, in the private Belmont Estate in Bray, Co. Wicklow.
WHY IS IT DIFFERENT?
HELL & BACK is not just a hill run / mountain run / assault course / road race / hill walk / adventure race, but a combination of the best parts of all these pursuits! The time it takes for you to complete the course is not important – making it thru’ the challenge in one piece is!!!”
So on one cold Decembers eve, he sat me down to show me what hell&back was. We watched the videos and I laughed. And l laughed and laughed some more. And I said, no way, no how.
And we would have left it at that, except he took out the big guns. Gabriella, he says, do you think mummy can do that? And she said no.
And by god, I was not going to be one of those people that their kids don’t believe in, it went against all my super mummy instincts. So I said, dammit, sign me up.
And my fate was sealed. All I had to do then was get off my ass.
I have no willpower, no one knows this better than me and the cupboard full of diet aids, powders, tablets and gadgets in our house. I signed up with a personal trainer, Brian, from DT fitness and it was the best (even though it sometimes felt like the worst) thing. I presented myself to him one dark winters morning at 7am. This was a feat in itself as I’ve been suffering from insomnia for years and this makes me furthest from a morning person ever! Brian didn’t outright laugh when I told him where I needed to be in 6 months. And he didn’t cut me any slack and he didn’t baby me. It was my responsibility. I had to do it for myself. And I figured, I may as well give it a go. There were plenty of mornings I was at the gym when I didn’t wake up until my 45 minutes were up!
We also started juicing daily. Bags of carrots, kale, spinach, you name it, we tried to drink it. I didn’t notice a huge health benefit with juicing until one day, 3 or 4 months down the line when I realised I hadn’t been sick once since we started. Even with the crappy weather and all the extra physical activity.
Slowly but surely, one week turned to 4. I was delighted with my progress and though I hadn’t lost weight, I did lose inches so it was a start for me.
And then Roy got sick, or more sick as it were. And the next few weeks were a blur of miles up and down the road to Dublin. We cried, we laughed, we reminisced and we grieved. And I can hand on heart say that training gave me focus.
I have to note that transitioning from running on a treadmill to on the road was really hard for me. I was doing 30 seconds walking, 1 minute running or more like 2 minutes gasping for breath, 30 seconds running. And then one day, someone posted a link to the Irish Times couch to 5km. I clicked on a video for week 3 and just like that, something made sense. She said, if you can’t run for long, slow down. That was it. And that day, I ran my first continuos 3km. So I was absolutely delighted. And from there, I built it up and up.
I now run every other day. The day I did my first 10km, I crowed and crowed about it. Me. 10km! What dimension is this? 10km when I’ve never run in my life before. It was such an amazing feeling to achieve something of that magnitude. And by accident too! We had been mapping out routes and Justin had convinced me that it was only 5-7km, I needed a long run so I thought to give it a go. 6km came and went and then a sign that said “donegal 4km”. I kept telling myself that I could get kathleen to collect me and I nearly made that call. But instead I focused on telling justin I did 10km and just how I would humblebrag about it on Facebook. So I kept going and I’m so glad I had it in me!
In the midst of all this, we lost Roy. And the aftershocks of that loss are still deeply felt, 2 months down the line. I do believe that the training, the very solitude of running saved me. It helped me compartmentalise my grief and also use it to inspire me to keep going. I would like to believe that Roy would have believed in me.
I feel that it gave justin that same focus. He spoke to his dad about us doing hell&back, and hell and high water, I knew he was going to give it his best for his dad as well.
Last Monday, I did my final 10km before the big race and then I went to a sports therapist for a massage. I was at this stage still petrified about doing it. That little voice in my head kept telling me that it just wasn’t going to happen. In fact, very few people knew I was going to do it. I told Joanne I was scared stiff and she told me not to think like that. Faith and not fear. I put in the work, I had strong legs. She said focus on only one obstacle, the one I’m most afraid of and work on my strategy to overcome it. And so I told the voices to shush. Ten foot tessie was my nemesis. Was I afraid of submerging myself into a skip full of ice? Crawling through barbed wire and getting electric shocks? Did the thought of snipers alley make me freeze up where actual snipers shot actual pellets at you while you ran? Was I afraid I would lose a shoe in the swamp and wouldn’t be able to continue? Yes! Yes! Yes! But my biggest fear was that I would be too heavy for anyone to help get over a 10foot wall.
Up to the very last moment, when we started the warm up on the big day, I was still quieting my doubts. I couldn’t even talk about it. The energy though, was electrifying. It was such a party atmosphere. I was sure that the synergy alone would get me through it.
Justin and I always joked that it was every man for himself. And to be honest, I didn’t want to hold him back. I like to fail or succeed on my own terms. In fairness, I caught him looking back when we first set off to make sure I was ok and I waved him on. That first kilometer was tough. Virtually all uphill, as the next 4km were. I thought all those weeks i had been training were rubbish. If I were to do it again, I would teach myself to run up and down hills. Endlessly. With a bag of rocks on my back.
And they put in a few psychological trips as well, the wrong signs so you think you did less than you had! It was torture. The obstacles themselves were piss easy, IF you compare it to the difficulty of that initial terrain. It was nearly a relief to get a break from climbing.
The camaraderie was infectious, there were several people doing it in teams or in couples. A few on their own like me who were determined to finish. No man left behind was one of their mottos. And I was so so grateful to all those people who helped me, either by helping me through an obstacle or by simply smiling and asking if I was okay.
I ran all the places I could, picked myself up each time I fell. Jumped head first into a freezing river, and sunk to my knees in the swamp.
I lost all sense of time, it was just a constant go, go, go. Where I should have felt relief when a Marshall said 1.5km to go, all I felt was trepidation that ten foot tessie was looming.
I can’t describe the feeling of coming out of the forest to hear justin and our friends cheering my name. I ran over for a drink and a bit of moral support before I faced the wall. And boy, that wall nearly broke me. I couldn’t even ask for help. All I kept thinking was that my fat ass would surely break these huge strapping men. Finally, one of them motioned over and said come on, we’ll get you over! There was no way I was going to make them do it more than once, so I gave my all to get over.
And the relief and bliss of landing on the other side was amazing. The tunnel of electric shocks was just a bit of craic after that.
And finally, finally, when I stood at the top of the slide at the finish line, the complete elation and pride that I had finished overwhelmed me. I saw the clock and I’d done the challenge in 3 hours, 5mins. Holy hell. I cried with joy all the way down.
Justin hasn’t stopped telling me how proud he is of me. Hell, I’m proud of me. But here I am, 3 days later. The muscles are still stiff and my body aches and I still have to quieten the voice in my head.
The one saying that it wasn’t that hard because after all, I was able to do it. It was all just hype and anyone could do it, because I managed didn’t i?
I’m telling that voice to shush, I did do it. I earned my number. I owned that course. Regardless of the time I did it in and no matter what, I made it thru.