On the third and final morning of the challenge, my legs felt not too bad (much better than the previous morning). The weather was looking a bit cloudy and precarious though, and drizzly rain was on its way. After a hurried health check (my blood pressure went from 90/60 to 110/90 in one day – should I have been worried??) I checked-in for the start of the race, went and drank another pre-race coffee, and then began warming up/stretching, comparing pains etc with everyone else.
My legs were feeling ok, just quite stiff and tired, but my right knee still felt strange. After the fun Heyrobics warm-up, we set off, to cheers of ‘ya jo!’ and ‘fighting!’ and again had some local students joining us for their own race for the first 10 or so kilometres.
I set off at a faster pace than the day before, and due to feeling on fire and that my legs were pretty much fine, I sped off (so to speak) with Rob, one of the guys from the previous days’ running teams who was always faster and stronger than me ultimately. We were chatting about how we’d be fine if we just kept this same pace, and we might even get a sub-2 time. I was stoked about that: was thinking ‘all I have to do, is keep this pace and keep chatting and I’ll be done before I know it’. However, not long after declaring that this was a good pace and that I felt fine, my legs objected and at the 5km mark or thereabouts my pace noticeably started to slow and my right knee was particularly painful. So, Rob powered on and I lagged behind, starting to get passed by everyone we’d passed a couple of k’s back. My knee was getting quite painful and I was doing a mix of shuffling and occasionally trying to stretch out my legs or run in a different style to take the pressure off the knee. (It felt like something mechanical or twisting around the outside of the knee, and was especially painful with any kind of downhill, no matter how gentle.)
More friends passed me by, one telling me really encouraging things such as, ‘you’re a rock-star, you got this!’ and ‘you wrote a novel, you can DO this!’, and my particular favourite, and the one that I think that helped amazingly later on: ‘I believe in you!’ Then my running buddy from the day before appeared, looking strong and fresh and pumped. We chatted for a few seconds and I whinged a bit about my painful knee. Bless him, such a gentleman and good friend he asked if I needed conversation to get me through this final race (even though he would have been fine to surge on ahead at a much faster pace), I misheard and thought he said medication, to which I perked up and said ‘what have you got?’. Turns out, he did have some painkiller on him, and he gave me his last paracetamol tablet, before I told him to go on ahead and have a great race and I’d catch him at the finish. It was his last tablet so I hoped he wouldn’t need it himself (lucky he didn’t). A couple of k’s later there was a drink station so I was able to take the tablet, and wow, let me tell you – that shit really works! I was amazed! The power of drugs hey. I took the tablet at the 7.5km mark and by about 10k’s in the pain was a distant memory and my legs were (almost) back to normal. I picked my pace back up and got on with the race, still being careful with any downhill slopes though. Again, Angel living up to his name – he really saved me again, as without that painkiller I doubt I would have finished or maybe wouldn’t have finished in time.
The course for Day 3 was stunning! Absolutely-fricken-gorgeous!! I didn’t take my camera due to the bad weather, so stay tuned for maybe some other photos I can find of this place, but trust me – it was beautiful! Really peaceful and the road seemed to cut right through the mountain and alongside a beautiful stream with lush trees everywhere. For the last 7 or 8 k’s or so, I had a new running buddy, a man from Henan but I didn’t catch his name. We didn’t talk too much, whether that was due to our being focused on getting this race done and keeping our pace going, or whether it was due to my lack of Chinese language skills, who knows. But it was nice running side by side for the last portion of this 3-day race. When the 20km marker came into view, I squealed and yelled ‘er shi!’ (20!) and we both noticeably picked up our pace. The last few hundred metres takes you through the centre of the village/town and I felt like we were flying! Amazing what painkiller can do hey – this was probably my usual pace for finishing a race, and before I knew it we were over the finish line and were presented with TWO medals – one in a fancy box and one placed around our necks. I had done it!!!! Completed the 100km+ 3-day challenge!!! I couldn’t have been happier! My time for the 22km leg was 2:06 or 2:07 (I really should pay more attention when crossing the finish line hey!)so well under the 3 hour cut-off time and after congratulating and hugging my running buddy who finished with me, I went to find the bus to get back to the hotel.
Here’s the one and only shot I have of this day’s race (hopefully there’ll be more to follow), this is me and my running buddy from Henan, and a couple of others, including an amazing runner and writer from New York (she flew past me on Day 2 and managed an amazing sprint finish! It was her encouraging statements of ‘I believe in you’ that really helped me on the last day too, so thank you so much Orianne!)