Monday, 16 May 2011

Getting started

having completed the 'fling' some time ago and being in a state of limbo right now, I'm left to put this together. I suppose I may very well be blogging to myself for now but hopefully will gain a few views in future. Why? Well hopefully I can contribute something to the community I have recently joined in the same vain as those who have inspired and taught me. Phot shot of me and Rob on a training run last year - a shot used in the Montane website. Check out the link for another photo in the website!

The fling was both incredible and frustrating for me. The longest I had run on trail prior to this was 22miles so I was a little nervous. I was also carrying a couple of injuries which I had been addressing with pain killers and iboprufen - to my cost as will be seen. To add to these worries I had taken part in the Highlander Mountain Marathon 2 weeks earlier and had a terrible day 2; basically I put that down to too much high intensity training during taper thus arrived tired and ultimately paid for it.

To deal with my nerves (for the fling) I took solace in the wise words of my buddies Rob, Seb and Craig The latter two of had done the fling (and were doing it again) and all had supported me on my Bob Graham Round. They told me that I had absolutely nothing to worry about so long as I started slowly. To deal with the injuries - suspected ankle posterior impingement and achilles bursitis on the other foot (through overcompensating, I think), I took 400mg of iboprufen an hour after breakfast and an hour before the start of the race.

And so it started; up until this point I had never raced in anything longer than a half marathon before so was thrilled by the atmosphere all around. I started within the group at the sub-11 stage, Rob was with the sub-10's and I noted that Alistair, a colleague from work, was standing '2 hrs behind' in the sub-13 group. I got a buzz from seeing a television crew filming us at the start but knew they were only there because of the front runners and thought to myself 'in what other sport can ordinary guys like me line up 'against' the worlds elite? Awesome'.

Within seconds of the start I was passed by what felt like the whole field but I wasn't in the slightest bothered as I was determined to start slow and remain slow until my body told me to go fast. Everyone was in a state of deep concentration and wasn't giving too much away to start with but about half way to Drymen I got chatting with couple of guys. At this point I have to say that the experience started to be similar to being a young twenty something attending the ritual clubbing scene. I started to soak up the very friendly atmosphere not to mention the outstanding scenery; I was slowly but surely realising that this wasn't just about a challenge but was about an unknown social scene (to those who think ultra runners are nutters) .

Drymen came and went and then I entered some terrain that I could appreciate i.e. some ups and downs. Although at around this time my belly started feeling a bit uncomfortable which was odd as I certainly wasn't going hard. Anyway, my body was telling me to stop walking the slight uphills so I continued my trot up these passing people. I then took a trip into the woods to take a trot of a different kind! Before I got to Conic, I caught up with Chris Webb again and noted that I was struggling to take any food down but still had plenty of energy. At this point I find it's a little ironic that I said to Chris, 'aren't ultra's more an eating and drinking contest, than anything else?'

Conic hill was good for me as I was back to being in the comfort zone, I blasted down the other side and into Balmaha without considering the damage that I might have caused to my legs this early in the race. I think by this point I was probably getting a bit frustrated at holding back with the pace for so long. I ditched all of my solid food that I brought with me and stuck with my gels and water. Usually if all else fails these see me through on long runs, by that I mean big training sessions in the region of 10 hrs - albeit in the fells! I left Balmaha looking for a public toilet but unfortunately never got one - belly was getting sore again.

The run to Rowardennan was very pleasant; got chatting to a few guys again and despite my tummy was lapping the scenery up. I had to take another trip into the woods though. I had noted that my legs were feeling a bit heavy during this leg but to be honest I was expecting them to be at some point around mid-way. At Rowardennan I grabbed my fluids and gels and set off trying to eat my salt and vinegar crisps. I say set off - I walked because I really struggled to get the crisps down and even struggled with the water. Anyway, there was a long way to go and to heed the words of Stu Mills - I'd be wise to avoid any negative thoughts, so I didn't dwell on my fading condition.

Thankfully the next section was rough under foot, I say this because this is where I'm at; rough ground, twists and turns, ups and downs. I started to overtake people again and was even running with some of the relay guys at points. It was encouraging to hear them remark how fresh I looked - though was aware that this may have been simply that - words of encouragement - of which I have to say, were very forthcoming from everyone on the route, be they walkers, marshalls or other runners. Brilliant. 

So just before coming out of the wooded section I had to 'go' again. I mentioned this problem to a very kind woman as I was running alongside her for a bit who then gave me some immodium. 'Thank the lord' I thought, so off I went again hoping to get back into race mode, and blasted into Bein Glas except for my tummy. Seb gave me some milk after I had text him and asked him to get me some. He and Craig had pulled out at Bein Glas due to tummy problems but they're focus is the Comrades and as they were treating this as a training run, they got what they came for.

Leaving the farm I was in a bad way. Aside from my tummy I couldn't understand it, I had plenty of energy and really wanted to get going but could only really walk for what seemed like an eternity. Another kind lady - now known as the author of 'Santababy' gave me some salt and vinegar crisps at the farm so I took the walk as my opportunity to get them down my neck with the milk and a gel just incase I needed it - for later.

I carried a bottle of pre-flattened coke and had some smart gels (caffiene loaded) for the last blast. But by now even the gels were a problem! Thus, my end to the fling was more of a disapointment than anything else, as I was sick twice and struggled to replace any fluids. The last leg was predominantly interspersed with walking because every time I tried to run my tummy just complained bitterly. All was not lost though as I took this opportunity to chat with a few more like minded individuals.

I finished in a time of 10:24:45 and in one hand am happy as afterall, I did start in the sub 11 group. However, as with everyone else who has done an ultra it was a journey in more ways than one with plenty of experiences that I didn't know I was going to have. For example, I certainly didn't think I'd be as ill and have to walk so much!

The sickness and diarrhoea let me down, the lack of specific training let me down and my injuries let me down. I can't explain thoroughly but I reckon I would've got sub 9:30 if I had taken care of these. How do I do that? well the training and injuries are obvious. As for the illness, if anyone reads this I'd welcome their views.

Last year prior to my Bob Graham Round I had a bout of food poisoning which hindered my training and my first attempt - I started being sick at the 4hour mark and lasted for 7 more hours until I just couldn't keep going. On my second attempt 4 weeks later and with a changed eating strategy (which was set out with a 21:30 schedule) I had a hypoglyceamic attack between Yewbarrow and Red Pike - ironically my favorite section of the whole round, from that point on I could only walk (as I couldn't get anything down my neck) and with my buffer - completed the round with 12 minutes to spare. So it is from this valuable experience I can say that I did not have the same problem on the fling.

Having read about it now on various forums, I can say that the cause was probably due to the 400mg of iboprufen taken an hour before the start. I feel it is this because when I was sick or going to empty my bowels, the feeling was more a need to get rid of what was in my belly rather than a general debilitating nausea that I experienced during last years training. I was also at the toilets twice before I started the race!

Looking at the results I've no doubt many others had problems and therefore take comfort from that. However, I am disapointed that on another 'biggie' I have had some problem holding me back from achieving my full potential. But having only done two ultra's now, suppose I shouldn't be too dispondant as there will hopefully be many more chances to put this right. The only issue with that is at the moment I am waiting to get this posterior impingement injury seen too.

I've decided to stop running now, well intensive training anyway. I'm pacing someone on their BGR attempt soon but as it's only leg one I'll just grit my teeth and get on with it. I had hoped to do the HP40 and the OMM later in the year but will hold off until the specialist see's my ankle. It may be that my next race is the 2012 Highland Fling!!!

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