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Ups and Downs: ๐Ÿ˜ The South Coast (First Half) Challenge 55 km race report!!!

Ups and Downs: ๐Ÿ˜ The South Coast (First Half) Challenge 55 km race report!!!

I'm freestyling my race entries for now, but in order for that to work I do of course have to be training appropriately, and have my beady eye on something!

Sorry, this is a long report! Relive it here for the cartoon version :)

relive.cc/view/1796832800

My training plan

I've been re-attempting the 50-miler ultramarathon plan I found on Runner's World, that I had been previously doing for the London 2 Brighton (L2B) run, but had had to largely give up on due to injury. I've been aiming to finish the plan in time for the Beachy Head Marathon (Beachy) at the end of October, which is a good excuse for a lot of long hilly runs. But I was aware of the South Coast Challenge (SCC, run by Action Challenge, who also do the L2B), which starts at Eastbourne and ends 100k later at Arundel. But there was also the opportunity to do the "first half" (actually 55k) and finish at Hove Park, which is about 2.5k up the road from where I live! So I can get a train to Eastbourne in the morning, and run home - I likes that idea :)

NB there were also second half, quarter, and two-day options available.

I was probably not quite ready at that point to run 55k on August 25th. Although I had increased my previous two long runs from 29k to 35, 55k was still a bit of a leap - so I had to accept that I would be taking things at an easy pace, particularly the uphill bits, of which there are many! I waited until the last possible moment (the Monday before) to sign up, body-scanning and checking the weather. Both Achilles tendons were feeling a bit stiff but OK, and the weather was looking breezy but fine - so I was in!!

The off!

Up at 6am on Saturday, despite having been given a 10am (the very last wave) start time, I checked the train times website to see that all the trains had been cancelled!! A little further investigation suggested that there were in fact trains, and with a little delay getting from Hove to Brighton, I was soon on my planned train and leaving Brighton on time. I had two litres of water in my back pack (as per the shouty last-minute instructions from Action Challenge), plus jelly babies, mini-Mars bars, and Clif gels, head torch (hoped I wouldn't need that), extra clothes, waterproof jacket, and dry socks (or so I thought...). It's amazing how much can fit in a teeny-weeny back pack! I munched some breakfast bikkies on the train, washed down with a large Americano which I came to regret later.

I arrived at the start at Eastbourne Sports Park, far too early (it took all of two minutes to register), but I didn't really mind sitting in the sun watching the preceding two waves do their warm-up and then disappear off across the park. The theme from Rocky is played, which I sort of think of as "my" tune - Abi-GAIL, AbI-gail... etc* I squeezed my long-sleeved top into the very top of my pack, got my barcode swiped (no posh timing chips at these events!), got my Zumba on, posed for the group photo, and then I was off!!

The first HILL!

Jogging across the grass, I quickly became aware that I had forgotten to start Strava, so I stopped and fished out my phone (in its high-tech freezer bag). A man marching past said "I did that, too!". There were only a handful of other runners/joggers starting at 10am, and they left me behind at this point, which I didn't mind as I am a bit of a loner :) I kept them in my sights though, as we wound our way through the steep streets of suburban Eastbourne. At least until I went through a hole in a hedge and suddenly was confronted with the first HILL!! A softly-dried-mud path with treacherous tree-roots and branches wound away steeply upwards through woodland. I didn't see the runners again after that, and was soon power-walking and then just regular-walking. I passed a couple of walkers from the 9:30 wave, one of them was sitting down and said "well done!" as I passed, jogging again by then as the path had levelled out a bit. Woodland became heath, became cliff-top, and I began to catch up with and pass more Challengers, which was quite gratifying at that point, although in truth the majority of the people taking part (1212 finishers in total) were walking - I heard the announcer at the start say there were only a couple of hundred runners accross the whole Challenge.

Well, I did my best to keep running, but the Achilles said "no!" to the steepest uphill bits. I paused every now and then to revel in the stupendous view back across the cliffs and sea over Eastbourne. It was a beautiful day on Saturday! Although we sometimes struggled against the Westerly breeze, we had been lucky to escape the high winds of the previous day, and the winds and torrential rain that happened on Sunday! The sun shone for most of the day, and the views were far-reaching and constantly stunning.

Hard going from the start

From first hitting the heath above Eastbourne, along to cliff to Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, and then along the river Cuckmere to Alfriston - all was familiar to me as part of the Beachy route, albeit going in the opposite direction. SCC set a tough early first task in making us deal with the Seven Sisters so early in the run. Although not the highest point en route, they are almost terrifyingly steep, both up and down, and the path gets pretty crumbly in places. I encountered the first of several walkers taking an exaggerated zig-zag route downhill; seeming not to care that there might be someone behind them trying to run straight down, they careered alarmingly to and fro across the path, walking-poles a-flail! "I was told this was the best way!" a woman said to me, helplessly. The first rest stop was at Birling Gap (11km), just at the beginning of the Seven Sisters. At that point I was suffering from my earlier Americano indiscretion, and I'm afraid I didn't quite make it in time. Never mind, that's what Tena's for (tmi) :) I had already been going for an hour and a half, and was thinking I ought to get on with it, so I didn't hang around at the rest stop. After the loo I had some citrus High5 drink from the big barrel, grabbed some choccy bars, and I was off again.

After the 'Sisters, we descended to sea-level, and had a long flat run along the river. It was a good chance to make up time, but there wasn't always possible because the path was often too narrow to pass anyone. I occasionally took the opportunity gratefully to catch my breath, but most of the time I was bobbing and weaving and "excuse me"-ing past the walkers and their treacherous poles :) I have the utmost respect for people walking 100k along such a route (heck, I pretty much did it myself at L2B earlier this year!!), but it was good when the path widened out again. I occasionally was asked by members of the public (lots of those about - beautiful day for it!) how far we were going, so I would explain that I was "only" running 55k, but most people were going all the way to Arundel! I passed a walking group of Challengers who struck me as having just met each other that day (I remember that from the L2B, it was lovely in a way), and heard one of them say "Only 2k to go til lunch!!".

Alfriston Village and the "midway" rest stop

Just outside the pretty village of Alfriston I came upon the next rest stop (23k). Since this was still well under halfway I was feeling a bit concerned to note that I had been going for a bit more than 3 hours! I tried to push away the thought, but I didn't stay long and this rest stop either. Feet were fine, I restocked my pockets with food. I delayed a little to have a bit of flapjack and then some cheese and onion crisps to, as my Grandma used to say, "take the sweetness away". And High5, always High5. Man, I love that stuff!! I was somewhat annoyed to note that in the shouty email from AC we were being told to bring rehydration sachets with us. I couldn't understand this - were they not going to be giving us High5 at the rest stops this time? And how am I supposed to use rehydration sachets without a cup to mix them into?? Anyway, I didn't get around to buying any in the end :)

The next BIG HILL, and I begin to struggle...

After leaving Alfriston it was pretty soon time for the next BIG HILL!! Up up we went, along a grassy path. I have to say, I heartily recommend the paths along the majority of this route. A lot of lovely short, soft grass, and quite a few nicely maintained gravel paths - all pretty easy on the feet! I was wearing my new Rosรฉ Inov-8 trail shoes, and didn't suffer too many foot troubles, couple of blisters near the end. I'll tape up those areas before I start next time, and be done with it. What I am most happy about is the lack of toenail damage despite EXTENSIVE downhill running :)

We passed ponies and cows and sheep - oh my! I kept seeing our offshore wind farm from different angles all along the route. Sometimes it looked so close I thought I must have gone a lot further than I thought I had. And then sometimes it would recede. At one point I saw a town I recognised as Newhaven and realised just how far I had to go! And then I hit my struggle...

The wind was much stronger at the top of the moorland, and even started to feel a bit chilly. I was OK because I kept running, but it was getting harder to do that, even on flat or downhill stretches. For a while I had been having difficulty with food. I usually eat a little every half an hour on long runs, which works for me. But it became harder and harder to eat, and I couldn't believe how fast the time was going - what? I time to eat again?? Oh noes :( And I was getting tired, so I needed the food. I started to think that I would end up walking again, and it would take forever. But this time at least I didn't consider giving up - actually I thought the logistics wouldn't make sense! And, I had my secret weapon da da daaaa! The other "Expresso" gel, with the 100mg of caffeine. I forced it down, and then I started to perk up a bit. I hadn't seen a km marker for ages, and then I spotted one: 34 km!! I was a LOT further on than I'd thought, and I could see the cute little tents near the next rest stop up ahead. The path started a steep descent and I was as happy as a clam :)

Sock bother, and the LAST BIG HILL!!

I did hang around for a bit longer at the rest stop at Southease Village Farm (35km). I thought I'd have my dry socks at that point, took off the sweaty ones, rummaged in my bag to find... no dry socks! What happened to them? I guess I'll never know. Damn, they were really expensive!! Oh well, back on with the sweaty ones then, grrr. I'd reached the stop at just after 3pm, so I figured I'd be lucky to get back to Hove before 6 - but I was going to try!!

Pretty much straight after Southease we were heading up the final (for me anyway!) BIG HILL!! But it was pretty nice going, and once at the top I could start to see the familiar landmarks of home. It was good to go past the 42km (marathon) mark. My legs were starting to feel a bit sore by this time, and I had adopted a new strategy of having just a mouthful of food when I could - this seemed to work pretty well at least. I carried on plodding along, and found myself following another Challenge runner! I passed him eventually, and we exchanged "hellos". This was not a very conversational run :) I followed undulating paths for a while, received some nice, encouraging comments from a member of the public, then began to descend towards Brighton, having spotted the welcome sight of the AMEX stadium. There was a mini-rest-stop at Falmer (44.5km), with a delightful view across Brighton, and some cans of Coke, one of which I couldn't resist, although I also couldn't have more than a few sips - too fizzy! Straight off after a quick "thank-you" to the volunteers, I then hit the BEST RUNNING PATH IN THE WORLD!! It seems to be made of recycled tyres, and it's just so lovely and bouncy!!! I'd just ran along it a few days before :)

Home to Hove :)

I carried on downhill on a new-to-me path along the Racecourse, through an estate, and into Kemptown down a VERY steep street, with views of interesting-looking buildings I'd not seen before! And then to the sea front, where I found the Mods! Going was pretty slow and treacherous, I usually tend to avoid the sea front of a Saturday in August, but needs must :)

I plodded on, calculating how much further I had to go, and my dwindling chances of getting to the finish before 6pm. At one point I told a skateboarder that I "didn't like" him! I didn't mean it personally though, I just wanted him to pass me so he wasn't following behind my quaking heels :D We turned up Grand Avenue, where there's a bit of uphill. I passed a couple of challengers, which made me a little disproportionately proud. Then the last little bit was downhill, which was excellent, and I was running alone when I came to the finish line where a lovely group of volunteers were all cheering for me!!!

Got my medal, t-shirt, cone of prosecco, and a little bit of pasta and salad. I felt very contented, especially when I phoned my husband and he said he would come and pick me up in the car :D I actually got back at 4 minutes past 6 (curses!), and my finishing time was 08:07:52. I uploaded to Strava, complaining about being slow, but in the end I was actually in 20th place out of 315 first half challengers, and 10th female. Not bad really, and you can bet I'll be back for more of this ultramarathon caper!

*Don't any of you even think of calling me "Abigail", I will hunt you down...

59 Replies
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Youโ€™re right. It was a long read - but it was well worth it.

You make it sound almost tempting ๐Ÿ˜„.

Congratulations on another long one. Nice bling too.

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Thank you!! xx

Some people do all the Action Challenges in a year, there's a "package" that can be bought, even the Kilimanjaro and Sahara Desert ones!!!! Not sure I'm up for that ๐Ÿ˜Š

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๐Ÿ˜ฎ

watch this space ๐Ÿ˜‰

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๐Ÿ˜‚

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Made it half way through and felt tired! Iโ€™ll finish the read later.

Such a fantastic effort tho x

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Well done, I know I know... ๐Ÿ˜‚

And thank you!! xx

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Well done - 20th out of 315, that's brilliant.

It's such a beautiful coastline, the views must have been stunning.

Hope you're well rested now.

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Thank you!! xx

It is supremely lovely, time passed so quickly ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Wow! Well done missus! I loved your report! I wanted to read it a para at a time so went to make a big cuppa tea, read another chapter, hanging washing out, wash pots, read another ...... Like savouring a yummy piece of pie.

OMH what happened to the socks? Did you find em? Is there an APB? Is there a reward for their safe return. I'd check the last chair you sat in to put your shoes on. Or the tea towel drawer. They could have been stuck to a piece of velcro about your person, which happens to me quite a bit.

Americano! I think an espresso is tops volume wise, or better still a ristretto off a teaspoon. Rocket fuel without the need for the lav!

Your views sound amazing. "Sounds" is all well and good, we appreciate that. LOL Bloody hills, bleeding gravel, ruddy skateboarders. We turn in Victor Meldrews don't we. I say "we". Sorry!

It's a long time alone but the time does fly doesnt it. When you're in good shape that is. Sounds like you were doing more than ok to be fair. The finish, once glimpsed, but then retreats even further into the distance, is a bit galling isn't it. You get a bit of a downer on when that happens, and you can go into terminal mental decline if you're not careful. You're ok though cos you're made of girders! "Dig deep Roseabi gir",sorta pep talk works well as a rule. You've started so you have to finish don't you, if you wanna be at the finish before you lose the light. That would make me shift my arris!

So, well done lady. I have the utmost respect for your grit and fortitude. The route looks amazingly beautiful, and that stretch by the sea looks awesome. Not so lovely when it's windy i imagine!

So rest up a bit and then what ? .....

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Lovely reply.๐Ÿ‘

Your experience,knowledge,empathy all shines through.๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’ฅ

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She is a superstar, isn't she??!! โค๐Ÿ’ฅ

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Yes another, just like you, gosh so many of you that would just trip off the tongue effortlessly.

Inspiring, and keep doing it, all of you women of steel.๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’ฅ.

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This is such a lovely lovely reply, thank youuuuu xxxxxxxxx

Oh gosh yes, I am absolutely Victor Meldrew!!!

I dunno, I think those socks are gone, I suspect I dropped them at the start. But I still live in hope...

Yes, espresso! You are right!!! I never learn ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Did the cartoon version.

What a star you are.๐ŸŒŸ๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’ฅ

Will enjoy reading this tonight.๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Amazing read and what a result.

What happened to your socks.๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’ฅ

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Thank you, tbae!!! xxx

It's a mystery... ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿ’ฃ๐Ÿ’จ

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Inspiritational Abi.๐Ÿ’ฅ

I am buried in the garden.๐Ÿ™ˆ

Realistically I do not know for how many weeks, not injured, no gym and no running.๐Ÿ™ˆ

Planning my return as I spend quiet hours grafting.๐Ÿค”

27day C25k programme.+ shortened version of B210k.+ half marathon.6 weeks period max.

Going to test myself because I can.

Thanks for your ultra account , amazing Abi.๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’ฅ

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Thank you!! xxxx

Gardening is good workout at leat, but enjoy your planning! You'll be back ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ

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Your post and achievement is a tonic for me.

Nothing will stop me from at least trying to follow.๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’ฅ

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โค๏ธ

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Wow, such a gigantic run! I feel exhausted just hearing about it, but also love reading about the South Coast unfolding in front of you ๐Ÿ˜€ I do miss it a bit down there! I love that you remonstrated with a skateboarder too ๐Ÿ˜ I do that sort of thing when I'm both tired but still focused. They always seem so surprised.

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Thank you!! xx

I felt a bit bad, but at the same time it was a freeing experience!! My husband decided I must have scarred him emotionally for life, but he looked pretty happy tbh ๐Ÿ˜‚

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....and they called Maggie T. the "Iron Lady" ?

Wow Abi - you absolutely Rock! โ˜บโ˜บโ˜บโ˜บโ˜บโ˜บ

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Ha ha, thank you, John (I think) ๐Ÿ˜‚ xxx

You should have seen my friend Jo and me, 13 years old, as "Maggie & Cleo", a Christmas singing double act. Me in a wig as Mrs T, her as Cleo Laine, hosting a competition to sing the loudest version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"... ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

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Oh lord - that must have been hilarious! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

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We certainly thought we were ๐Ÿ˜

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What a fabulous read and what a huge accomplishment! Wow roseabi you're a machine!!

You almost make it sound tempting..I said almost....Just great :) :)

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Thank you!! xx

Tempt you, I can ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Well done Abi! An incredible achievement and result, and on such tough terrain ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป. I really enjoyed reading your report. The zig-zagging on the downhill sections must have been tough! I donโ€™t know how you do it - just amazing!

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Thank you!! xx

It was soooo tough!!!! I do wonder if I'm losing my marbles sometimes! ๐Ÿ˜Š

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A fantastic read and a massive accomplishment Abi. You are made of some strong stuff!

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Thank you Decker !! xx

I try ๐Ÿ˜Š

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What an awesome achievement, just shows what we are capable of (not all of us, just machines like you) inspirational though ๐Ÿ™

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Thank you!! xx

I just remembered that we watched Terminator 2 the night before, so I made sure I did some "T1000" running during the day ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

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You are incredible. Well done- you are one tough cookie! Fantastic writing, too - that was a very enjoyable read.

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Thank you!! xxx

Hope you are well!

It's strange because I am really such a wimp ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Apparently you should be working on your opinion of yourself.

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You have hidden depths then. I think perhaps we all have to some degree. Fight or flight response, innate in all of us ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ Anyway, suffice it to say we can dig deep when we have to ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Itโ€™s understandable why you should choose to do it. Lovely scenery, wide open spaces, coastal views, freedom, quicker than hiking. Whatโ€™s not to like, apart from loss of expensive socks ๐Ÿ˜

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"quicker than hiking" love that ๐Ÿ˜Š

Stupid socks, I hate socks!

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Wow go you!what a brilliant result for you!I'm tired just reading that! Well done roseabi(g**l)!!!! Fantastic ultra done ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿƒโœ”๐Ÿทxxx

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Aw thanks Ali!! xxx

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Holy cow (... and ponies ... and sheep.. and everything else you saw on those hills...)! that was a long run!! congratulation on the time and position!!!

thanks for the enjoyable report! (and sorry for the socks, have you discovered what happened?)

I love when you write "My legs were starting to feel a bit sore by this time," after the sentence go past the 42km (marathon) mark..... a bit sore at 42 K, that is a new feeling I have no idea how you kept going.

well done, really!!! What's next? are you seriously thinking about the desert marathon ;) ?

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Thank you Marco xx

Running in a desert seems like a silly idea at the moment... ๐Ÿ˜‚

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I bet running 55 Km on a hilly route seemed like a good idea when you started ;)

give it another few years :)

Just kidding, but really , congratulations!!!!

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Wow Abi, mad respect (bows down ๐Ÿ™Œ). A great report, lovely pictures, and I enjoyed reliving it on relive. You are a true running beast ๐Ÿ’ช.

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Thank you!! xx

Raaaargh ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Great race report Abi! How do you remember all that detail? I must be in a trance on my long runs cos I'd have difficulty recalling much if asked about them! Massive distance with hills too! Mega!

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Thank you!! xxx

I find it really hard to write these reports, and they take hours to do, but they're important to me because I forget things really quickly! I kind of take snapshots in my mind (and sometimes on my phone too, which helps a lot!), and over the next few days I just think and think. It does all get a bit muddled up, but using maps is helpful to get it all into roughly the right order ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Great report and great achievement well done. You always remember so much detail it's amazing!

you make me almost tempted to do an ultra myself.

and whats wrong with the name abig....

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Ha ha - do it!!!

Thanks Ben xx - and grrrrrrr ๐Ÿ˜Š

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I shall think about it after Paris next year or just might do a half IM instead!

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I don't look in this forum enough, so missed your post for a bit, though I did see your stupendous run on strava. I'm so tempted to call you abi... but I won't, coz then I'd probably want to pull your pigtails too lol.

Such a fantastic effort and a lovely write up, you should be so proud. It brought back memories of a birthday treat I had for my 40th, we stayed in the belle tout lighthouse for the weekend(the one just past birling and before the beachy head stripey one). I recall how steep it was walking up and down to the NT place at birling gap and how many rabbit holes and other hazard to negotiate.

Stupendous :)

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Aw thank you - that's so lovely of you!! xxx Except for the A word, grrrrr ๐Ÿ˜Š

I just looked up the Belle Tout Lighthouse, looks fab, lucky you!!

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Hehe, it featured in the 'life and loves of a she devil' which I am old enough to remember but most aren't :P

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Wow what an amazing reportage..... misses you are hardcore ( apart from the TENA incident!!!!!! I let out a big roar at that bit).... it sounds amazing and a huge challenge, and your time and position demonstrate just how super cool you are... go girl!!!

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We all have our little soggy moments ๐Ÿ˜„

Thank you Ju!!!!! xxx

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Fantastic report and an amazing achievement!! What a challenging route, so well described I was getting out of breath reading ๐Ÿ˜‰. The coastal views must have been wonderful and you were so lucky with the weather. I used to live at Saltdean and know how steep those hills are!! Maybe the socks fell out of your bag when you stopped near the start?

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Thank you!! xx

I think I must have dropped them before I started :(

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๐Ÿ˜ก

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Wow. Truly awesome in the most literal meaning of the word. Ammmaaazzzziii ng!

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