Wow, I don’t know where to start. Such a brilliant weekend away in Devon to take part in the Grizzly – a 20ish mile, well marshalled course which incorporates pebble beach, hills, muddy bogs, hills, water puddles, hills, stairway to heaven (as pointed out by Gouldy – this is not an actual stairway with a banister), more hills and mud. The karaoke in the car journey on the way there was enough to get me in the mood for the weekend away, great singing guys! We stayed at a Premier Inn in the centre of Exeter, which was a great location and very comfortable, we were walking distance to many shops and restaurants which was really handy. There were 17 of us from the club staying here and it was brilliant to be able to enjoy a drink at the bar and walk to get dinner in a group, no hassle – nice and easy. We all met on Saturday morning and jogged to parkrun. I was in two minds as to whether I should run this or not because my Achilles was still tender, but I got it taped up (thanks Tina) and thought I would make the decision when I arrived at Parkrun. Phill thought he’d take us on a little “detour” so we could have a longer warm up but we still arrived in plenty of time, my heel wasn’t any worse running than it was walking so I decided to do the parkrun to get the legs moving. It was a lovely route along the water and then round a field, but a bit of a walk to get the barcode scanned in which I’ve not come across before. We even had to take our shoes off before going up the stairs which was a bit of a mission in itself but I thought it was good that we all made the effort to get up and run it. We went on to Seaton to grab a Grizzly hoody and have a look round HQ, there was a really good atmosphere and it was brilliant to see some others from the club who were staying in a different location. After grabbing some lunch in a little Café called Seventeen, we went on to Lyme Regis to pick up some fudge and I had a cheeky toasted teacake to keep me going until we had dinner back in Exeter at the Byron Burger #carbloading. I had huge concerns about my heel – it was sore to put shoes on so was very glad I had bought my flip flops. I thought I would possibly be taking the cut off to do the cub, this is still 9 miles and a massive achievement. I knew I would be extremely disappointed if this was the case, but I also knew that I had events coming up that I didn’t want to miss, so I had to be sensible and run with my head and not my heart.
Arriving at the start early on Sunday was exciting, all being there as a group really got me buzzing and we got the chance to pop back to the café for some breakfast, but I stuck to my trusty cereal bars and water. A group photo was taken and we all headed to the start line where we all set off pretty much in a group, although it didn’t take long for us to spread out. We were taken along the shingle beach nice and early which was a good test on the heel but it actually felt better than I had expected. Myself, Gouldy and Paula stuck together until the Cub cut off point. We also had some support from Bob on his bike which was great – always nice to see someone cheering you along the way. It felt as though we’d reached the cut off point for Cub very quickly, this was at about mile 5 and I had to make a decision about which way to go. Paula, returning from injury, was going to do the Cub so I knew I could continue with her if I felt my heel couldn’t make the full 20 miles. I think we all know which way I went, so we said goodbye to Paula and continued on straight through a deep puddle, which was great for numbing the feet, heel and ankle. I took a quick stop to get a stone out of my shoe as I didn’t want any blisters and we continued on our way up lots of muddy hills! I love hills and I love mud but these shut me right up. By the time we hit about mile 12 I thought I’d made a mistake to take on the full and not do the Cub but I kept my head down and managed to pick myself up again by about mile 14 (or was it 16?!). There was some great marshal support with bag pipes, enthusiastic cheering and motivational sayings along the way and many jelly baby’s, flap jacks, crisps and even bacon sandwiches on offer at one stop! We managed to catch up with Paul, who had been ahead of us for a while, and we kept together with a few others from the club until we hit the second round of beach. Then as you look up you can see it – the Stairway to heaven! Gouldy was right, it was not an actual stairway with a banister 😬 It was quite a climb, I found it a little frustrating at this point with people stopping in front of me because I just wanted to get into a rhythm, but everyone was having their photo taken at the top which I imagine caused the holdup. It will hopefully be worth it when I see the pic of me and Zoe that was snapped. I’m pretty sure Paul and Zoe had been slowing for me for a few miles now as I was starting to find it tough, but sticking together got me through and I am really grateful they did that. The last few miles felt slow and sluggish, but when I looked down hill and saw the finish line it gave me a boost. We saw Julian from the club up ahead and Paul suggested we upped our speed a little so the 4 of us could finish together, which is what we did and it felt great. I was relieved my heel had held out and felt so happy I’d managed the full Grizzly! Reliving it as I write this is actually making me smile, I knew straight away I’d want to come back and do this one again. Seeing Tina come across the finish line after she had taken a nasty fall earlier on a downhill was amazing, I don’t know how she managed to pick herself up and complete another 12 or so miles after that. Once we’d had a hose down from the firemen at the finish line myself and Jo went straight into the sea as an ice bath which I think did us the world of good. I was eventually allowed out once I’d turned blue. We got some dry clothes on and grabbed a bag of chips as we cheered our other runners across the finish line. It was lovely to watch people finish in their groups and with huge smiles on their faces.It was great to reflect on everyone’s run on the journey back to the Premier Inn, I think we were all quite keen to have a nice hot bath and get ourselves to the bar and out for dinner. This was not to be as we had a rather unfortunate 40 minutes stuck in a broken down lift. As it turns out I get claustrophobic and did not deal with it well! Fortunately there was 7 of us together in there and a couple of the others took charge of the situation. I am very grateful to have had them in there with me, Alia distracting me with noughts and crosses & Jo calling the emergency buzzer and eventually getting the fire brigade called. It wasn’t long until they had got the doors opened and we were out, as soon as the fresh air hit me I felt better. I’ve never seen 6 people who have just completed a very challenging 20 mile run move so quickly – except for myself who looks up to find I am the only one left sat in the corner of the lift with all my jumpers and belongings to pick up! The panic of thinking the doors would close again wasn’t helping!! I imagine the firemen were quite looking forward to rescuing 7 women from a lift until they saw the state of us, hair everywhere in our running gear – mmmm sexy! We missed out on a lift selfie (thank god) although it was suggested, but our Jo got us a pic in the fire engine! The weekend away was brilliant, I had a great time with great people and I already know I’m up for coming along again next year if I get the chance. The Grizzly in itself is just impossible to sum up in words, you need to experience it to appreciate what it’s like. My Achilles is quite sore and tender so I’m having to take a week, possibly 2 weeks, rest which already isn’t going down well. I’ve had to pull out of a relay team at the weekend and I hate letting people down when I’ve said I’d do something. I’m hoping to get a couple of swims in to keep the legs moving but in all honesty I don’t have motivation for it, it’s a mission and it’s not the same as running for me but I’ll try my best.