Monday 30 July 2018

Lakeland weekend

So you're up to speed now on my woes and Lakeland weekend was upon us.

I love this event. Most people who have done it, love it. It's more than a race. It's a proper festival of running. Whether you are taking part, supporting, marshalling it's just bloody amazing. It's my 3rd year running the 50 and I've been up a couple of times to support.

Doug and I had entered as a pair again, wwen we entered, it was the A race of the year, but since being lucky enough to get spots in TDG, it has been demoted to a B race - I feel a bit of a dick saying that as so many people would give their child in order to do this event. That isn't to say we weren't going to put in a good effort, more that we needed to keep in mind there is more training to do out of this race.

Hoping the arguments from last year didn't repeat we were both setting realistic expectations of finish times (me as ever over zealous with my targets) but agreed we'd run to comfort, take it steady, focus on eating, drinking and enjoyment and above all not smash our legs up for the next block of training.

I'd had a chat with Robbie before I saw the Dr to discuss what I would do. It was still unclear whether I'd race or not. He wasn't that up for me starting. He suggested that FOMO wasn't the right reason to start, particularly not knowing what damage we might do by running through an illness.
But we agreed to chat again once I'd seen the Dr. After I told him the diagnosis he said we should give the race a miss :(

So I spent the next couple of days in a state of indecision. Not really thinking about preparing. I went out for dinner with some friends on Thursday evening and spent most of it coughing which was nice for them. Friday I was planned to go in for my xray and blood test so we dropped in on the way and got that done - VERY efficiently I might add. Good work St Albans hospital.

The weekend always starts (and ends) with a bloody awful long drive up/down the M1 and M6. always takes long than expected and always eats up an entire day. Still Doug got to enjoy my singing and with the weather topping at 30 degrees and the Air Con on the car broken it was a bit unpleasant.

Anyway, we arrived at the Red Lion in Lowick where we were staying, Doug had a pint and I had a nap as I had a crap night's sleep, well every day this week.

We then headed up to registration, just missing the 100 start by 3 minutes. That's skilful. Bumped in to a few of the usual faces, Stuart one of my fave adventurers, always seen at the OMM events, always a big beardy hug and Claire who was there marshalling and supporting Dan.

We queued up with a beer (Lakeland Legend no less). Still undecided whether I was going to run. I got to the front of the queue and asked what the situation was if I didn't start in the morning. Could Doug still complete but as a solo. All fine. Equally if I stopped he wouldn't be disqualified.

Kit check done, Dan C was there so had a quick hug - he was marshalling later at Kentmere so hopefully I'd see him, weigh in "one at a time please", a trip to the garage to get food and head back to the pub for dinner and a pint. I text Robbie during dinner and told him my plan.

I feel well enough, but i'll see how I feel over the first 5 - 10 miles, if I cough at all, I promise i'll stop.

We had a short phone chat after, and I could tell it wasn't his preferred choice, he reminded me it's not our goal race, not to smash myself round if it meant I wasn't able to run this week. He wanted to see me doing some easy running this week.

We packed our kit bags, prepared snacks and an early night (woke up choking a couple of times)

Up and fed and on our way to Coniston. Quick turn back because I'd forgotten to take my antibiotics. Back to start. Missed the briefing and straight on to a bus.

The weather had changed from 30 degrees and sunny to 15 degrees and rainy. I was dressed in a skimpy pair of shorts and a vest. I'd been wearing nothing but sports bras for the last 6 weeks or so, so I still felt overdressed.... but also quite cold if I admit it.

We waited at the start in Dalemain, I was pretty cold so I had my jacket on. The wind was whipping up but the rain had stopped. We herded into the starting pen and waited to be set off. I'd packed my jacket away by now.

3...2...1... off!

We set off, nice and steady. Not wanting to upset my airways. I tripped over in the firs half mile (just grass. no ouchies. but in front of 50 people and their I-phones)

We didn't run the hills. Trying to keep the effort low but we were still in a good front quarter of the pack. Playing "Marco. Polo" to make sure we're not getting separated we continued on. I was focussing on my running technique - I'm trying to become more efficient at long distances. Not lift my knees so high, use less energy etc. This helped me not get carried away with trying to "race"

I felt pretty good for the first 10 miles. We walked the hills still, and before long were on one of my favourite sections just after Pooley Bridge trotting up and over some ace single track towards the first check point. Here it started to rain quite heavily but my jacket still hadn't made it out of my pack.

Rolling in, in not a bad time - a little slower than last year, a lot slower than the previous year. I went for a slash in a cow pen while doug got drinks.

Leaving the CP we put on our jackets. Here is the first substantial climb up Fusedale. It's the hill that keeps on giving. Although this year it didn't seem as awful.

However, as soon as we started off, I had a bit of a coughing fit followed by a small choking one. I contemplated stopping and going back. But stubbornly carried on. We had gone a mile or so already. The wind really started whipping up. Hoods pulled on tightly, my hands getting cold (I have bad circulation in them anyway so it's not a new thing).

After the wind and rain we received the addition of a bastard hailstorm. It was like being sand blasted with pea shooters. My bare legs were stinging! I could barely stand at times, other times getting blown across the trail.

My airways really didn't appreciate this hill. I think it was the combination of the incline, the cold, and the wind ripping down my throat. When I turned from the wind to choke it seemed to help relieve it.

I coughed my way to the top, mentally planning my stop at CP2 which was still a good 21 mile into the race. I was going to ask there what the repatriation plan was and call it a day. Go back for a shower, nap and wait at the finish.

Reaching the top, sooner than I expected the wind was crazy. But it was behind us. So we got pushed quickly but forcefully across the plateau, intermittent rain showers splashing on us, and stinging our legs.

Coming to the start of the descent we spotted Jenn, I'd seen her at the start and had a quick chat there too. She was in great spirits as we ran on past.

Where the weather has been so dry for so long, this sudden downpour created a slick of icy mud on top of the rock hard surface making the descent quite sketchy. Taking care not to fall on my teeth we reached the bottom. The Lake had seriously receded following the dry spell. I'd never seen it so small.

This part of the route, on paper always seems like it should be easy. But it's not. It's rocky, slippy not totally flat but again today it was rolling my quite effortlessly. The sun had reappeared, so jackets were off and drying, the steady pace was meaning we weren't over doing it. I wasn't needing much in the way of fuel or water and so far, no arguments!

By the time we got to the CP, in a not bad time of about 4 hours. I was feeling pretty good again. So much so, I didn't really think about asking the repatriation situation and thought I would carry on.

We had a short stop to get some coke and a cheese sandwich before heading up the next hill. It's a bit of a monster, not technical but long and high. We climbed 100 meters or so and could see the clouds rolling in again so stopped for few minutes to put on our jackets (and my gloves)

I was beginning to think, I'm cold, I have no spare clothes, it's only 4pm.... I had an extra light weight wind layer (supposedly waterproof but it was soaked through just being in my bag). My only spare layer was my emergency base layer, only to be used if you weren't planning to finish (i.e. in an emergency)

We continued up the hill, I was coughing again. The wind was really aggravating my airways and it was beginning to really feel laboured on my chest.

We stopped and considered things for a few minutes.

I'd been reading the CP evacuation notes last night and been laughing at them, but only got as far as CP3 of the 100 so I had no idea what the times were to get taken off. Doug said he knew there was a note in one of them to say if you were in X and were thinking of stopping, don't go to the next place.... but we couldn't figure it out. We had no signal to check.

We acknowledged I shouldn't carry on. It wouldn't benefit me to smash myself round and I'd promised Robbie if I was coughing, I'd stop. So I gave Doug my emergency layer so he could upgrade his to his "spare layer" - we had both underestimated the weather. I gave him our spare batteries and we said our farewells. He offered to come back down the hill - "don't be silly, it took us half an hour to get up here"

So I turned back, Doug pushed on forwards, and almost immediately the biggest crack of thunder rumbled overhead. Followed at once by an insane hailstorm. Fortunately for me it was at my back but poor Doug had gone face first into it :(

Doing the walk of shame back down the hill I bumped in to Jenn, we had a hug, I gave her my skittles and I carried on to get myself back.

I reached the CP and explained I was stopping. Only to be told the waggon had just left, and the next one wasn't until 11pm (it was 5pm now)


The medic said I'm best to walk to the next CP where it's a building and get a lift from there. She recommended breathing through my buff - why the hell hadn't I thought of that!?? (It helped)

I could have cried. If only I'd known. If only I'd stopped before I'd be on the bus. If only I'd carried on with Doug (I'd be coughing my way into a storm) I stomped slowly back up the hill I'd just come back down and resigned myself to a steady walk for 6.5 miles. I wasn't in a hurry anymore. My "race" was over but my adventure was not.....

I reached the top of the hill and started the long descent back down the other side, jogging steadily, the wind still throwing me about a little but effort levels were low, legs felt really fresh and aside from some moderate lower back ache (I need to do more core) I was feeling in great shape (except when I intermittently had a spasmic coughing fit)

People walking past "are you OK" whilst I'm doubled over wheezing.

On the descent I came across a couple of guys, one was helping the other. I looked an could see A LOT of blood.

The guy being helped had fashioned a bandage over his nose and his beard was full of blood. I stopped to see what help was needed and said I'd stay with him until the next CP. The other guy continued and I stayed with the guy (Kenneth). I don't really know if he wanted me to, it wasn't a chatty walk, unsurprisingly. He said he had no head pains and could see fine. mostly he was just numb and bleeding a lot from his nose. We discussed that it was probably broken.

I didn't have much in the way of help to offer, he just seemed to want to carry on. So we continued mostly in silence, me checking now and then "are you OK?", "no head pains?"

Reaching the bottom of the hill we came across some camper vans, out of one jumper 3 folk supporting some of their friends. Fortune had it they were actually mountain rescue volunteers and had a lot of medical kit in the van, so Kenneth got in the van and they started cleaning him up. I was getting cold so they threw me in to the van too.

I waited while they patched him up. It was a right mess. His lip was split, his teeth had visibly moved in his mouth and his nose, probably broken and not wanted to stop bleeding. After about half an hour they'd steri stripped his nose, cleaned the blood up as much as possible and he was itching to leave.

So we went out into the pissing rain. I frequently checked on him. Blood dripping consistently from his nose. He wasn't really able to eat or drink because now the pain was starting to appear. I was worried how he'd cope. Suggested not having a hot drink at Kentmere.

It wasn't clear if he'd stop at the CP, he said he'd see how he felt. Coming into the CP we were greeted by a Marshal who had been sent out to check on him.

Still in good spirits, despite his mangled face he trotted down the hill into the CP.

We went in, I said, "I'm stopping here"

"no. Go and sit down, get some hot food. take 5 then come and see me"

I knew what she meant, but I didn't want to carry on. I'd made my decision. I knew it was the right one. I knew I could finish if I wanted to but I didn't want to jeopardise the Tor and I also didn't think I had enough kit to get me through til 1am!

I found Jenn and Richard and had a sit down. I wasn't hungry but had a couple of biscuits. I went back to the lady to find out the situation for getting home. "6 hour wait"


"You're better off getting to Ambleside

(8 miles away)

Kenneth came and found me, thanked me and said he was carrying on. What a tough guy.

While I was sat down, a guy Adam who was a friend of Jenn's said he was going to walk to the next one too. He'd just had his knee strapped up by the paramedic as he couldn't do any more than a straight legged limp. So I said, I'll walk with you. Again. I could have run. But I didn't really see the point. A nice easy walk isn't going to damage me, a run may do.

We left together and started the slow journey to Ambleside. Downhill was the hardest for him so it took us a long time to get anywhere. Fortunately he was a chatter box so the time passed quickly. The weather was lovely now too. Clear-ish skies and great views. He also offered me a lift back to Conniston from Ambleside from his parents who were waiting for him which was super kind.

A few miles from Ambleside we came across Simon, who was doing the 100 but was suffering similar pains to Adam. Knee pain caused by tight ITB. (also probably exacerbated by the cold). After a while of seeing him wincing along in pain I offered to tape up his knee to take some of the strain away. So we stopped on the side and I did what I could to strap him up with the strips of tape I'd packed for emergencies. His legs were pretty hairy so it made keep the  tension and stickiness difficult but we had a bash.

We continued the final 3 miles slow together to Ambleside, chatting as we went about naked German pools and the like - one thing I love about ultra running is that there seem to immediately be no boundaries to what you talk about. You think nothing of saying "I'll catch you up, just going for a slash behind this wall"

We reached Ambleside and Adam's parents were there. We got our dibbers cut off, saw Simon to the paramedic and went to the chippy. I still wasn't hungry but I bought some chips and an Irn Bru for Doug (being Scottish that's all he should drink, right) I ate about 10 chips and then we got driven back to Conniston.

My phone had switched itself off during the rain so I had no idea where Doug was, I estimated he'd take about 12 hours to finish all going well. Although the amount of time he'd lost waiting to get rid of me, and comparing  to last year a long way behind that time, I somehow thought that was optimistic.

Adam and I said our goodbyes, I went to get my kit and charge my phone quickly so I could see where he was last tracked.

The tracker estimated he'd be back in 10 mins..... what!? That's about 11 and a half hours!

I ran to the bar to get a beer for his arrival and minutes later his smiling face was there looking around for me.

I was so so happy for him, and proud for doing such an amazing time. Sad that we didn't enjoy the full day together but smiling so hard at how amazing he'd done. He must have smashed that last 30 miles. I just hoped he hadn't done himself a mischief ahead of the Tor... :-/

I got him into some dry clothes and got him fed then home for a beer, shower and snooze.

Overall, this weekend taught me a lot.

1) It's ok to have a plan B. Or C.
2) I really need to review my kit. It was a good timely reminder how the weather is so variable. Less isn't always more.
3) my health is more important than a medal

I'm very happy with the decisions I made, my legs felt strong, which gave me the confidence I've been lacking the last few months. I ran a strong 20 miles, and had a slow hike of 15 miles. Fuel wise, I ate very little, probably no more than 400 cals all day; obviously this needs to be considered. Though on this occasion I didn't feel like I needed it, my energy was steady most of the day and as I only walked for that last 6 hours, I wasn't consuming lots of energy.

My only regret is not stopping when I first got to CP2 and got straight in the van! However, I had an eventful day and hopefully helped some others get through their day with less misery - and as the saying goes, misery loves company.

So, today I was bouncing up the stairs at work instead of walking sideways. I had a lovely run on what were pretty fresh legs. The coughing has been quite bad today although it's changed a little. Feels more like there's sand in my gullet than snot. There have been a lot of choking episodes at work but only 2 significant ones during my run (when going uphill)

On the way home I asked Doug about next year. He's not keen, in light of the shit journey. I'm going to see if I can get a place (he'll probably get FOMO and enter anyway). Or maybe we'll have a look at what else is on. We've already discussed next year, and aren't planning any big "races" but hoping to have a more informal adventure.


Getting my excuses in....

As excuses go, I don't think the ones I've saved up for Lakeland 50 are bad ones.

If you read my last post, you'll know I've had some health issues lately. So, a bit of an update before I go on with my Lakeland report.

The weekend after I had these pains I went to Latitude festival with some friends. I had a terrible cough the whole week up to it, then totally lost my voice over the weekend from constantly coughing, combined with dancing, singing and drinking in a dusty environment. The cough still hung around.

Since then, I have stopped having chest pains and seen the Cardiologist. The night/early morning of my appointment gave me a bit of a scare though. I woke up suddenly about 2 in the morning, choking and completely unable to get my breath. Who was more scared out of me and Doug is unclear. But after what felt like 5 mins (probably seconds) I finally got my breath after some deep wheezing sounds in my chest, Doug trying to slap my back, me trying to slap him away. It was horrible, I have never experience that.

Doug offered to take me to A&E but I figured I was seeing the Cardiologist that afternoon, I'd mention it to him. I didn't really sleep much more after that, between googling whether I was having a heart attack and worrying I was going to die in my sleep.

Penny met me in Bedford for my appointment where I had another ECG and went through in detail the problems/symptoms I'd been having. He listened to my heart, read my ECG (decided it was wrong, and the lady had put the wires on wrong). He said there's nothing wrong with my heart. I told him about the choking incident, he said I probably just choked on spit while I slept.

When he was satisfied the ECG was normal, he agreed that running shouldn't be an issue and that 50 miles the next week should be fine if I feel OK. He recommended seeing my GP if the cough persisted. Relieved, but still not fully satisfied that I was "well" I went for a glass of wine and some lunch with Penny in the sun.

I was in Swindon over the weekend and did a lovely run on the Saturday on the Cotswold way, not too many coughing fits. Sunday I had a sports massage followed by a bloody awful run!

I should probably say now that every night, from that night, I woke up choking.... it was super alarming but I figured it was just normal, but not great for getting a good nights sleep as for a couple of hours after I'd be a bit unsettled by it.

Doug made me get an appointment with my GP but as I was in Germany with work for 2 days I couldn't go until Weds.

I explained the last couple of months to the GP and she examined me, listened to my lungs. All seemed clear. She seemed satisfied that she'd solved the conundrum.

"You have Whooping Cough" she said

"what? isn't that what babies get?"

"Adults too. I had it not so long ago"

"Oh. What does that mean?"

She explained that it was probably too late for antibiotics but gave me a script anyway in case. Booked me in for a chest x-ray (just in case) and a blood test to confirm her diagnosis.

I didn't really know what to do with this info. She said it is sometimes referred to as the "100 day cough" because that's usually how long it lasts.

Since then, I've done a huge amount of research and it sounds like it's actually fairly common but often misdiagnosed.

It is however, fucking horrible. I still wake up at least once a night choking. I feel fine in myself. I have no real obvious signs of illness except when I have these violent coughing fits, which have me gagging at times (but not passing out or vomiting like a lot of cases I've read about)

In my research, I've found out the following key pieces of info  - apart from it being highly contagious in the time before you have symptoms.

1) the disease is almost undetectable when the bacteria are doing their thing. Their "thing" is essentially destroying the Cilia - which are the little brush things that remove mucus and dust and germs from your airways. Irritate the fuck out of the airways and trick your immune system into not knowing they're there chomping away at these important little brushes and leave your airways sensitive and prone to choking fits.

2) Only when they've done what they set out to do you start getting symptoms, normally cold like ones. Mucus, coughing.

3) Once you are through this. You're pretty much locked in to be coughing and choking for the foreseeable future(100 day cough didn't come from nowhere) Most people seem to say it last a couple of months, some say it's lasted up to 8!  The main cause of alarm for other people this horrible insuck of air that creates the "Whoop" sound - a bit embarrassing when this happens in meetings.

4) the vaccine we're given as kids wears off after about 10 years.

What I'm not sure about is the damage I will do by running or how long these Cilia take to come back. What I do know is that I have 6 weeks until Tor De Geants, and it's highly likely I'll be coughing then still.

So I think I've brought you up to date to the few days before Lakeland and good news is I've not got a heart problem!

Thursday 12 July 2018

Take it easy for a little while....

This isn’t what you want to hear 3 weeks before your next big event or two months before the event of your life.

However, right now I know this is the right thing. Right now, I feel like shit. My chest hurts constantly and I'm coughing like I have been smoking 20 a day for the last 15 years.

About 6 weeks ago Doug and I were in the alps for a week or so training and working remotely. Whilst there I had a throat infection or something. Along with it was shortness of breath and some chest pains, which I’d put down to the altitude, harder than normal climbing and my sore throat.

From there I didn’t think much more about it. I had a bit of a persistent cough on and off and recurring chest pains, these escalated a little bit in the last couple of weeks, becoming particularly bad on a weekend training trip in Brecon. When I say particularly bad, I felt like I had a strong man sat on my chest. I'm not talking heart attack. I'm talking the discomfort you get when you on the bottom of a pile of "BUUUUNDLES" back when you were at school.

Whilst running and hiking, I was struggling for breath, and getting tight chested. I knew something wasn’t right, but I thought I was just unfit. I put it down to stress. Work has been unblievebale (whilst I’ve taken steps to make improvements there, I’m pissed of with myself having seen my post from November and things being even worse!!)

Anyway, despite my guilt for not working this weekend, we had a long day on our feet on the Saturday, made longer by not paying enough attention to the map and descending the wrong hill, into the wrong valley. I was having all sorts of pains and finding reasons for them. Chest - fitness. Back - new bag, and massage the day before. Knee - I'm carrying a bit of timber at the moment.  Ankle - rolled it running off Pen Y Fan.

Despite that we had a good day it. It was beautiful. You could see the black mountains and beyond. It red hot and finding water was a challenge but we enjoyed ourselves. When back off the hill, I had quite severe chest pains. They were bad for several hours, whilst it settled a little during the night there was still a grumbling there. The only way I can describe it is when you're super hungry and your tummy is rumbling - like that but in the centre of my chest.

In the morning they were still there. Doug suggested maybe acid reflux or some thing. Yeah probably that. What ever that is.

Sunday’s run was shorter, less intensive. Hike up run down. But after, and the hours driving home my chest was super sore.

I text Robbie to give him an update, I'd noted it in my training plan a few times the days prior about the curious pains. He suggested I visit the Dr.

Of course the next week involved 3 lots of 3am finishes at work and a trip to Germany so this didn't happen.

During the week my chest was tight still. Like someone was sat on it, I didn't have time to train. Thursday I finally got out for a run, I didn’t feel great but I put it down to how little sleep I was getting and the enormous stress I’m under.
Friday I had entered a race with a friend at work that was only a short 4 and a bit km run up and down Luton runway at 4am.

The race went well -  I won. I didn’t feel wonderful, didn't have any great turn of speed and I spent a lot of time afterwards coughing.

Saturday I planned to run the ashridge boundary trail. 16 miles of unchallenging terrain, climbs about 500m throughout, one of my favourite local routes. I got 2 miles in, I was wheezing. Double over, not able to get air in. I walked  the rest of the hill whilst texting Doug. My chest felt the worst it had felt before and it was a little alarming. I wasn't even putting much effort in.

I continued on at a slow pace with the pains constantly there, my breathing laboured when I tried to run up hill. I didn’t even attemp any pace.

I was committed to get back to the car now so that meant cutting short to complete a 10mile route. Getting back to the car I followed Doug’s advice to go home and go to the walk in clinic....

Which was closed.

So I spoke to a friend who is a GP who told me to call 111. They asked me lots of questions, and said they were sending an ambulance, I refused as this was a bit dramatic and agreed to go to A&E. I was visiting some friends near Peterborough so I decided to go to Bedford as it was halfway and Penny met me there with hugs.

I was seen very quickly despite the England match being on and there being quite a queue. I was quickly taken for an ECG, blood tests and other checks.

After a couple of hours the Dr came to see me and ask some further questions. He confirmed my blood test was normal, blood pressure fine. However, the ECG had shown some changes he wasn’t happy about.

He said  few things, that he wants to rule out some things, that it might just be a virus, that the area around my heart is inflamed

He made me an appointment with the cardiologist for 11 days time. Told me to take it easy “can I jog?”

"Not if that is what is making your chest hurt more"


He gave me some anti inflammatorieis - I assume to see if the inflammation goes and I have a normal ECG recording.

So, there’s we are. Waiting now to find out what happens next week. Waiting to find out if my summer of races is going to be cancelled. My coughing is persistent so I think it's probably just a bit of a sniffle. It's probably nothing.

Above anything else, nobody is more surprised than me that there is even a heart in my chest cavity!

Fingers crossed I'm well enough to run Lakeland 50!

To be continued......

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This latest blog will be hopefully following my transwales experience. Enjoy with me :-)