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Ambulance, pies and running part 3

A good nights sleep but not enough.. it was 6.30 so quickly packed my bag. I knew it was going to be hot day but the prospect of getting cold filled me with utter dread. So whilst runners were strutting around wearing race vests and shorts I’d packed a full waterproof top / bottoms, long leggings, wooly hat, gloves and a duvet jacket! Add a stack more clothing in my overnight bag and I was ready for an artic winter.. and it was already 17 degrees.

Turned down my insulin pump to 25% and quaffed a porridge. Before I knew it I was shuffling to the start line along with 1500 others. Towards the back I hasten to add.


The gun went off and with that many people it was more a shuffle to cross the line.. I had no real idea where I was going, all I could think was feed stations every 10kish and I 50K to do today.

The first feedstation arrived soon enough, with a lot of people there was a little queuing – I was banking on some carbs being on hand but it was eluding me.. Bananas and bars – the bars being far from appealing on a hot day. I tried the powdered drink but soon decided that’s not for me.

Trundled on to the 2nd feed station along the great paths of the ridgeway the views were great and I was enjoying the running. A couple of ladies passed me with a music system strapped to the rucksac, which made me muse that so many people on outdoor events would quaf at this behaviour – but they were having a great time – and arguably Threshold in its open approach was doing more for Ultra Running than many of the regular 50K runs on the calendar.

By the time I was on the 20k feed station I was proper parched, blood sugars were heading south and I really could have done with some carbs. It was going to be a hot day!!.. a few sausage rolls / packet of crisps and headed back out again swiftly.. knowing full well I’d be passed soon enough but those who were regarding this as a massive 10km interval event with 30 minute rests.

Jogging to the 3rd station and past a local regatta on the Thames was the point where my legs decided they wanted nothing to do with this day. It was like a switch had gone off and quickly I was reduced to a walk. My sugars were OK – I know in the past this was an indicator or not enough food / insulin. So I corked a gel and added a unit of insulin, to see if I could kick start this body to start running again.

3rd feed went past and a gentle climb was finishing many off – my pace had descended to a slow walk. Consistent but frustrating.. my HR was low but I just couldn’t get the legs to work. I ran out of water somewhere and feed station 4 arrived.. by the time I’d finished the day it was a good 9hrs after the start. I was a little broken and frustrated. Its all too easy to collapse a feel a little sorry for oneself but that would not help matters.. if anything it make it worse as the prospect of getting cold loomed large on this warm day.

I Grabbed my kit bag, roll mat and found a tent – a queue was forming for the food and I didn’t have the whereforall to queue so quaffed a creamed rice stashed in my bag. Shower and a quick chat to the guys behind the scenes – by all accounts the heat was taking its toll, and whilst I berated my slow time I was far far from last.

Finally got some proper food, I volunteered to help which was respectively declined so I found my bed. As I tucked up in bed I realised I had absolutely no idea what time I was supposed to start the following day.. I set my alarm for 5.30 – can’t be any earlier than 6 surely. I was aching but I know full well how effective the medicine of a nights sleep and shower is..

5.00 and some fella was on the PA system – camp was full of people cuddling toothbrushes and wearing onesies. With hardened racers donning sun tan cream and mixing sports drinks. Efficiently packed everything away so when I left the tent there was not need to go back. Beans on toast and I made myself a jam buttie for the day JUST in case. At 6.30 I nonchantly meandered across the start line and started jogging.. how strange a feeling that was.

As with the previous day the first 20k were fine and then wam bam legs said nough now. To make matters worse it was a hot day again.. the 3rd feed station passed and here I made a fatele mistake of not refilling both waterbottles. Here lies a small problem – you tried eating most things that appear on an event and are portable and involve carbohydrate – you need to flush it down with some liquid.. as this section rattled on I drained my waterbottle realising I still had another 4k to go. In my bag I had an emergency carton of orange juice – great way to quickly get the sugars up. So I starting this argument in my head do I drink it or don’t I? If I don’t then yes its likely I will go low and NEED to drink it.. if I do then perhaps I can make the next feed station. I stopped at a road xing and woofed it down..

I was glad to see John Richmond at the last feed station – I munched away on much he had laid out, a chalk board announced that the feed station closed at 5pm it was not 3pm. Was I really going that slow.. guess I am. Best get my deriere out there..

I must have been 2km in going at a Murmuntrude pace when Julian Mack said hello, Mack is the boss of Threshold and is nice as pie. He was with a sponsor of the event, although I could tell this was an unofficial meeting I tagged along for a few km – we chatted about events in general and the DW race for which we both admire in a quirky way. But then he started running UP a hill – time out you best carry on.

It must be a psychological thing that the last few KM are so hard – it did seem these were going on for quite some time. And humblingly some lets say rather large people were passing me – I felt slighly out of place in my running shorts, ambling along. The fool that I was I’d run out of water again, I was taking so long that invariably I was drinking more. The 5km to go sign was beyond depressing. I could just see the finish line, but it may as well be 10km away as my mouth felt like a flip flop.

There was a cruel turn to the event where you visit Avebury stones its a good 1km loop near the end. You see those who have visited the stones on their way to the finish.. I was proper thirsty now – I suspected these stones where near the village centre so resolved that if I saw a pub I’d stop for a coke. As I neared a local gardener was out with watering can, the liquid being showered over the plants looked like pure nectar. I was no good.. excuse me sir any chance you could spare some of that for my water bottle? “sorry it has pesticide in it, but I’ll refill it for you”.. I did feel a bit of a cheat – outside support, but I was fearing that these last 2km where a step too far.

The water was better than any cold beer or chilled can of coke. But sadly my sprint finish was not to be.. I crossed the line some time later with a smile but a little deflated. If you get the chance check this clip out of me finishing a 190 mile run over 4 days .. I was proper running full tilt. THIS however could not be any further from this experience.

I knew immediately that my body was shutting down. I do wonder if it is that process that kicks in the cold – Simon led me to the medical cow shed, I put some more clothes on and found my sleeping bag. A few friends were concerned.. such great people but I really didn’t want to see me like this. Best get a shower – I shivered and shuffled my way around trying to hold back the tears – why is it like this.

The harsh reality of logistics the last bus was leaving in 30 mins back to the start where my car was. I got on board all a little confused.. 90 mins later I was in my car and I was warm, a friend had booked me a hotel not far away and after 5 nights of a sleeping bag I was ready for a proper bed..
The following day I headed north home, the 4hr journey with traffic took much of the day. I stopped a few times to catch up on emails and to send a few out – in particular to Andy my diabetic consultant.

I’m still unsure went wrong – I definitely have put weight on, but I really am not that unfit. That weekend my sugars were really high and now they are back to normal.. maybe had a virus or I wonder if the insulin I put in was not right.. that said this experience of running out of energy is not unique to this event, its been happening throughout the winter which would counter that. I could be insulin resistant with the extra weight but as above all is working fine this weekend levels OK and bolusing is doing what I’d expect. Another medical mystery..

I should add with a slightly smug face – not one blister :-) but hell fire I ached the following day.

Thanks to all at Threshold – special people. To Andy for being on the end of a phone and to my poor wife who puts up with me.

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