How do you even start to describe a weekend that is and was beyond your wildest dream?
The Otter was an experience I am going to struggle to ever adequately describe. It was more than just the race. It was the quick but lovely stop in PE, registration and the ‘fan-girling’ over all the international runners. It was the prologue jitters, and the nerves that followed after finding out I was starting with the Abangeni. The packing of my Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 4.0, the checking once, and then once again that I had all the gear. Then the race. The road trip home, and the Jack Black Otter After Party – and man was it a party. Needless to say – post-Otter blues hit me hard.
Let me start my ‘story’ by saying that while I possibly had the race of my life – my lead up was not exactly ideal. I’d been struggling with a small ankle injury that was just not going away. The Friday before Otter weekend, I did a 5km run that was so sore I didn’t think I’d make the start line. I spent the rest of the taper week doing just that – tapering HARD! Two sessions on an indoor bike and my measly Otter prep was done. I had mentally prepared to be in pain the whole race, and I’d also prepared myself that I would finish come hell or high water.
Waking up race day, I laced up my Altra King MT’S, checked my UD pack again to ensure I had everything – FarBar, FastBar, Game in one bottle, GU electrolytes in the other, Ultimate Direction windbreaker, additional bits and bobs… check, check, check – and off we went.
In all honesty, the race was a blur. One of my favourite memories was stealing a few glances up at the views whilst running behind Silvia Ramapazzo in the first 15km. All that we kept saying to each other was ‘How lucky are we to be running in such a stunning place’. And then we had to look down again because it was slippery and technical as all hell. Then, the few magical and unbelievable kilometers where I was leading the pack – if you had ever told me that I would be leading a run in which my running hero’s participated, I’d have laughed in your face. I went into the race not expecting to make top 10, let alone lead the race and end up on the podium. And obviously, I can’t write a report on the Otter without mentioning the finish. I was completely overcome with emotion – grateful that the pain was over and there weren’t going to be more blooming stairs. Overwhelmed by the support and love, and completely stunned that I’d managed to hold onto a podium position. I still get emotional when I think about it.
In the weeks that have followed, people have asked me numerous times, “How did you do it?” and honestly, I have no idea. It was hard… so hard, and it was long… so long, and it was completely and utterly surreal. To have finished on the podium in the field of women I was running with – I am still speechless. I think the best advice I got was to run bravely and to just ‘let rip’. There was nothing to lose. Thank you to those people, you gave me courage and confidence.
I won’t bore you with too many race details – all I can say is that for my first marathon distance I couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful (or more technical) run. Thank goodness I had the King MT’s, which held up like a boss on the slicked roots and rocks!