I've Got 99 Problems Son And My Fitness Ain't One… Full Version (A Wee Spartan Blog)
Ok, so I haven’t had a full years training in for my UTLD100 but the mileage and running I've done over the last four months has been pretty good!
Check point 6 at Braithwaite Visitor Centre and I'm feeling a lot better than I've felt since the beginning of the race 10 hours ago. Yes it was hot and sweaty, yes I went out a little hard, yes I felt I had something to prove but perhaps it was that bottle of Lucozade Sport I downed minutes before the off that sent my stomach into a revolving ball of pain? Running with a gut full of un-releasable gas was only going to be temporary, so the plan was to go with it knowing that it would relent sooner rather than later (take it easy, make it up later was the thought process). The only down side to the thought process is that it doesn’t accommodate the fact that I'd been unable to eat anything since starting. At checkpoint 4, Buttermere I'd told myself that I wasn't going to leave until I'd put something solid in me. The soup and bread didn’t appeal but a deal's a deal even if it was with myself
Enter Greybeard and Jim (James, whatever) and I was brought back into the real world. Onto my feet and off again into the darkness with the boys with the hope that the food would do some magic, checkpoint 5 here we come. After half an hour my spirits were up and I needed to break from our small pack to run at my own pace. A couple of guys stuck with me and 20 minutes later Andy caught me up and promptly left me as I stopped for a good guzzle before the final drag over to Braithwaite. Once in Braithwaite I forced myself to eat the pasta and did my usual trick of refilling water bottles downing two cups of coke and a cup of sweet tea. In my books I was drinking a lot more than I usually would but I guess the conditions called for it. Jim arrived, Andy left, Jim left, I left, the next three head torches I caught up weren’t the suspects I was looking for. It wasn’t until I reached the stream under Skiddaw that I caught sight of the boys again. Nose down, sticks out, I caught them 10 minutes later. No sooner had we exchanged pleasantries, I needed to stop and pee, as I did I had an unusual burning sensation in my pee tube, hmmm, not good I though as I packed away and carried on. Even though I'd finished peeing the burning sensation continued and I felt as if I needed the toilet every 5 minutes. The good news was that my stomach pains had subsided and the daylight was coming!
So, I'm at checkpoint 6 where we started this tale of woe (wee?)- Apart from the burning tube I'm feeling good. Our small pack of three had just taken several scalps on the last section and we were looking forward to taking a few more on the next. Unlike Andy and Jim I had the knowledge and experience of what was to come over the 60 odd miles. The plan at this check point was to enter drink, wee, eat, drink and leave ASAP (don’t loose those well earned scalps!).
I enter, I drink, I go to the toilet to wee and BAM- BIG problem, in the low light of the last passing of water I'd not seen the colour, but here in the super bright super clean white toilet all I see is a steady stream of black coffee that may as well as be boiling hot the way it's burning as it comes out of me. Well this is certainly a game changer that I hadn't planned on!
I went back out to the boys and told them to carry on and I'd try and catch them up soon but withheld any further details. It seems to me that I'm majorly de-hydrated despite drinking ample before setting off and continuing to do so, so far. I need to spend a bit more time at the check point, get even more fluids on board, give them time to circulate and carry on, easier said than done when you're itching to get on with the job at hand.
Enter Gareth (Gaz/Gazerith). Hia Dave, What you doing here was his chirpy, sweaty greeting. I can't remember what my reply was but I was suddenly on a downer about my imminent problem. Not wanting to be sociable I grabbed by belongings and headed out saying to Gaz that I'd probably be seeing him later. The sun was just about up and I stopped in the first field and turned my phone on to call Steph it was about 04:30, I knew see wouldn't mind hearing from her wonderful Husband. I explained to her my uncomfortable journey so far, my latest problem and I agreed to stick with the plan of meeting her at Dalemain but if anything worsened then I'd call her and withdraw from the race. No sooner had I put my phone away galloping Gaz came down the hill so with out further ado and feeling sorry for myself I decided I try and run with him as physically I felt fine, or as well as could be expected after 10 hours running!
I think I mentioned in the beginning to Gaz about my problem but apart from stopping every half hour to wee it wasn’t really mentioned again. Gaz set a good pace that was achievable and we often switched to pull each other along. I could have pushed it a little bit harder but I was very conscious that even though I wasn't hurting or in pain, something was wrong inside me. We passed several runners then caught Jim up on the Old Coach Road, he was suffering but in good spirits so we all ran into the next checkpoint Dockray together to find Andy sitting in the shade looking a bit worn around the edges. As I wasn't feeling any worse I restocked and headed back out with all the boys together. It wasn't long before I realised that we'd dropped Andy and Jim without saying anything, I'm sure they understood. Fellside, woods, fields, road then a bit of trail, a few more scalps taken and we arrived in Dalemain to cheers and clappter and most importantly our loved ones.
I dipped in and Steph whisked me off to see the medic. I'm not the best of people when it comes to these things but I knew I had to sit back and let him do what to needed to do (and he did it well). My mind was racing faster than my body and I felt invincible but in reality the medic was saying 'to be on the safe side I should withdraw from the race but only I could make that decision'. I took on board everything that he said as any true man (Neanderthal) would do and I said I'd think about it! As I wasn't in a thinking mood I requested a 10 minute lie down undisturbed to try to piece together my thoughts. 10 minutes later decision made, if my urine had worsened I'd stop and withdraw, no ifs or buts, if my urine was clearer I'd carry on, on the understanding that if it gets worse I'd withdraw, final, end of.
I informed the medic of my decision but I think he already knew what I was going to tell him. I had to sign a piece of paper that said I chose to ignore his professional advice or something like that.
Game on, I had a full change of clothes ate and drank then I was off, Howtown bound. I pasted a runner before Pooley Bridge then three more on the road up to Askham Fell. I could see a solitary figure in front of me and that was my target before the right turning to the descent for Howtown, checkpoint 9. As I neared this lone person I had a good idea who it was, it was Andy and he had his poles out, that spelt trouble in my books because I hadn't seen him use them yet and this was no big hill we were going up. Andy's usual enthusiasm had somewhat evaporated in the sun and over the past miles. I did my best to enthuse him but I could tell he was in a dark place. I ran off leaving him with words of encouragement but still at a lose as if I'd actually helped him or not. My thoughts turned to Gaz as I did a steady gallop down the hill. This was the first time I'd been running alone for any good distance since Buttermere and I was really enjoying it. No stop, start, stop, start, I could ease off on the slight hills and push it on the downs fully in control of my race.
I entered Howtown as I'd entered the first checkpoint of the race just a bit smellier! I was in a good place and feeling strong. No blisters, no chaffing, no sun stroke, no negativity just Mardale and beyond to look forward to... I dipped my dipper handed my water bottles over to be filled, requested a cup of sweet milky tea then headed to the toilet. With my discomfort of passing urine I'd found it easier to sit down whilst doing so. Surely I've turned a corner and everything's on the mend, how much fluids would it take to get back to normal? I'd had well over an hours rest and recuperation at Dalemain, come on, Jonny be good...
A blood red plentiful liquid now left my body, whilst I breathed a sigh of relief from the urge to urinate a tear filled my eye as I knew my race was done. I sat there for a few minutes looking at the red liquid that had sunk to the bottom of the water in the toilet. I guess I was trying to pick my words.
Excuse me, I need to withdraw from the race, the words came out like I was an embarrassed little boy, the marshal made me repeat it, I did but obviously she needed more detail, she wasn't going to let me go that easy.....
Now just because I got into Howtown all buzzing and raring to go doesn’t necessarily mean I would have completed the full 100 miles, just saying!
Marc Lathwaite (race organiser) did warn us that either the person sat next to you or yourself wouldn't finish! He never mentioned the guy in front though!
On Monday morning, first thing, I visited the doctors and within 30 seconds of explaining my symptoms to the doctor he knew exactly what it was- Mechanical hemolytic anemia, basically Wiki says,
Cause- Repetitive impacts to the body may cause mechanical trauma and bursting (hemolysis) of red blood cells. This has been documented to have occurred in the feet during running and hands from Conga or Candombe drumming. Defects in red blood cell membrane proteins have been identified in some of these patients. Free haemoglobin is released from lysed red blood cells and filtered into the urine.
Well I had to weigh this up carefully, was it the Bongo drums or the running that had caused MHA?
I felt a great relief fall off my shoulders, I wanted to hug the doctor, I wanted to jump up and punch the air with joy... I quietly said- 'Oh, thanks, erm, great'.
'Just to be on the safe side we better take some samples and send them off for analysis, if there's anything serious we'll be in touch' said my new friend the doctor.
Let's step back to Saturday afternoon, I arrived back at the campsite in Coniston (thanks Flick) to an eerie silence that hung over field. Children were playing but the buzz of the evening before was now spread out over the fells of the Lake District. The partners of the runners lolled about reading books, sun bathing and generally passed the time anxiously waiting for news of their loved ones. Several wounded runners hobbled about, many with their pride more dinted than their body.
I felt a bit of a fake compared to these guys, my legs were tired, my body was aching but I felt mentally sound, the true ache I had was the need to be suffering more! I should still be out there cursing those hills with sweat stinging my eyes while my body slowly started to protest and fall apart, I wanted to be cursing the small stones that hurt my feet, the steps that loomed large and the trivial things that normally wouldn’t matter.
Instead I felt like I could be doing cartwheels around the campsite whilst singing Hallelujah. This was all at the front of my brain while hidden away in a dark place was the fact that less than three hours earlier I was passing blood in my urine. My mind was desperately trying to forget about this but it weighed heavily on me.
Stephné my wife was not a happy person! She should be bloody happy, her crazy mad husband had just pulled out of the race safely in order not to inflict any more damage on/in his body so he'll live to see his children grow up and spend the rest of our lives together. Where's my thanks? Do I have to curl up in pain, have open flesh wounds or break down crying to get any sympathy?
As a man I have a failing or two, one of these is the inability to talk about my feelings. Many people approached me and asked why I'd returned, what was up, to these people I could openly tell them about my problem and discuss it, every time I opened my mouth a bit more would come out (words not wee!) and this is where Steph gleaned most of her information from, not from me sitting down with her and telling her first hand like I should of done.
Before I'd left Dalemain for Howtown it'd been mentioned that if my symptoms worsened I should not only pull from the race but see a doctor as soon as possible. I kept one half of the agreement, the other I put off till Monday morning, this did not sit well with Steph. I'd made a secret agreement with myself that after I'd pulled from the race if my symptoms deteriorated I'd go to A&E, but they didn't so I didn't go, simple yes but also stupid (in many eyes). Sorry Steph.
So apart from the personal and mental drama, everyone else had their own issues to deal with. Many Spartans were still out there suffering with the long mileage, intense heat, blisters, sores and those damn Midges while I was sitting pretty after my double shower (hot then cold) with food in my hand.
Everybody was worried about everybody, 'he checked in ages ago and should of arrived an hour ago, such and such is lost', the list goes on... A fellow Spartan had had enough at Mardale and had requested evacuation, that was my cue to help. I offered to be navigator to take his wife to the back of beyond and rescue this poor soul. Paul was his name and at 75 mile he gave in the game! It was a fantastic effort though especially as he only travelled 20 miles the year before!
Normally after my race I would have hung around and seen as many Spartans in as possible, after dropping Paul off I felt very deflated with it all and just wanted to hide and sleep, which I did.
The next day was a new day and the buzz had returned to the camp site along with the runners. Whilst a few runners were still out slogging over the final miles most were back brimming with tales of torment and torture. It was great to see the tired but enthusiastic faces brimming with admiration for each other, the love was high. For me it was time to move on and let those heroes celebrate.
Two strangers met at a kids birthday party in a small village hall near Delamere Forest, little did I know that it would burst into a club that would warm my heart so much forever.
Thank you fellow Spartans for making the club what it is today.