I remember the tricky and technical terrain of the route from last year, the woods are misleading and the descents with big tree ruts are brutal.
Six hours and 12 minutes into my run I reach the turn around aid station, where I see the lovely Alma who greets me with a big hug!
Like last year Alma has a selection of olives and cheeses I can nibble on. Although I am very grateful I am really not that hungry yet and have been doing ok on my salt capsules and some nuts.
After running for 8hrs and 29 minutes, currently in 21st place and still not feeling the running buzz. Grateful for such a scenic sunset and running this long, yet I am not running with my heart today, just going through the motions it feels like.
My mood is still low and I need a big kick!
I have good memories of last year plodding up the steady and lonely climb of the ancient roman road.
I try to keep my pace steady with a marching hike up the steep sections and then make some time up on the flat and downhill.
There are less and less runners to spot now as we find our own pace and spread along the Ridgeway. All that can be seen are the flickering white lights of our head torches as we climb.
The wind is fierce now and has quite a chill to it. The air is misty and damp in places making it feel cooler than it is.
Halfway at Bury Downs its a quick water stop at this aid station and a few cherry tomatoes with cheese, I am ready to keep moving onwards...
The steady incline feels like forever and in places the track seems to end, split, dip and turn off course. The tracks are so old and uneven it almost plays tricks on your mind in the dark.
Far up ahead I can see a cluster of lights but different colours and moving white lights around them. It looks like a ufo or a fun fair on the horizon.
Miles tick by so slowly and the lights still look alien to me. I don't usually hallucinate when running, or at least I don't think I do anymore...
Soon enough I figure out it is the centurion crew at the next aid station and the lights are coming from their brightly neon decorated set up.
It looks fantastic and is so way out there up in the middle of nowhere!
I check into the disco gazebo in 19th position. The support and buzz from the team here is like being in a night club, it's brilliant and it helps me forgot my troubles of the race and the remaining miles left to go.
I nibble on some tomatoes and nuts while a very helpful chap refills and changes my light batteries for me as they were getting very dim.
I top up my portable bottle with coffee then thank everyone before heading into the pitch black again...
I have been running for over 11hours now and still cannot shift my low morale. My knees have started to ache coming up the gradual hill and now my ongoing plantar fasciitis has woken up to tell me it hurts!
It's in the heel of my foot and the time on my feet has started to aggrevate it again. I had some time off to let it heal but was aware it could still need longer...
I am starting to wonder if it's wise to finish.... as it will slow me down if it gets more uncomfortable.
The strong winds are really starting to sweep in and the gusts push me in all directions on the wide open stretches.
After 66 miles and back at Bury Downs I am really starting to suffer with my PF. It has that dull, bruised ache feeling and with all the hard compact stone terrain beneath, it is just making it feel worse.
I can see lights in the sky ahead and think my eyes are playing tricks on me. I then see red and green and soon realise it is fireworks. They are rather close to the track we are running so I wonder if it is some supporters or families sending out guided lights for everyone.
I play my beats loud to distract my discomfort and just try to numb out any feeling.
I am still not enjoying myself and find this troublesome as I love the running buzz ultra gives.
I'm longer to feel the high and euphoria I usually do...
It just does not come... I say hello and well done to the passing runners, the head lights are a way of keeping me focused and also on track back the way I came...
I hear my name being called and then after the initial blinded by each others lights, I notice it is Shawn on his way up the Ridgeway. We chat about the day and how we are feeling. He has had a few bad spells but nothing he cannot handle.
I tell him my disappointment and how my foot is playing up again. He hopes it improves for the last leg.
So do I.... but I'm loosing faith in this race now as my heart hasn't been in it from the go! We say our goodbyes and good lucks before running off in opposite directions.
The miles tick over slowly and I hike the climbs the best I can at a steady pace.
Even if I do get to finish this 100 it will be a slow death march to do so and I really have my doubts if a good idea. I have a vacation coming up and also 'The Hill Ultra' in December..
Maybe today is not my day to run 100 miles.
Once reaching HQ again after the third leg. I catch up with my crew Sunday and Helen. Jacqui is here as centurion crew and let's me have some of the avocado she saved for Shawn.
I warm up with some coffee and nibble on some cheese. I sit down which I rarely do his late in a race, especially a 100 miler as I worry I won't be able to get up to run again!
After spending far too long doing nothing but think over and over how many hours it would take me to complete, I decide I am not going to carry on.
My PF and mood has been a test all evening and I've decided to make the sensible and wise decision to rest fully and enjoy my time off and vacation.
It is never an easy decision to make for any runner, especially an ultra runner. The words 'did not finish' or term DNF that we all dread to see by your name WILL happen sooner or later.
It is always better to DNF than DNS 'did not start' in my eyes. I really didn't see this as a set back or negative feelings. My body needs the extra time off to recovery and mend, it's not like you can just run 100 miles on a whim like a marathon. It takes so much more than just keeping the legs moving and I think I discovered that today!
This has to be one of my most darkest of races... but one of my most memorable.
I won't forget the thoughts and feelings I experienced in these 14 hours, but I will most certainly use them again as a mental reminder for future races!
I have to... I have plenty of other ultra to set my mind to and I look forward to the next challenge...