Saturday, 27 October 2012

Cold Virus One : Ultra Nil

Last night I struggled with another interrupted night sleep, only getting about 5 hours sleep, again down to my cold.  This morning I woke with the feeling of being hang over from too much partying.  I sit here now feeling crap, worse than same time yesterday.

Last night when awake I came to conclusion that the chance of being well by Sunday morning was basically zero and decided it best to pull out, but left the door open to making a final decision in light of day.  I still feel rotten, and while I'm familiar the marathon taper madness that can suppress ones feeling of well being prior to a big race what I have is in a different snotty league of it's own, I'm ill plain and simple.

Lessons learned from past bravado

About ten years ago I faced a similar situation, a heavy cold prior to a two day hiking expedition across to Knoydart on the west coast of Scotland.  It rained for the whole first day and I just put my hood up and got on with it.  We camped in the boonies and the next day I awoke to having a cold and painful inner ear.  As we were out in the wilderness with no roads we had only one choice - to go on to our destination Inverie or back to our car, both were equal distances and at that stage I was just uncomfortable so we pressed on.  Through the day my ear got progressively more painful until the last few hours I could really speak to me friends, I was just hunkered down in my own world of pain putting one foot in front of the other to get the youth hostel where I could rest.

We arrived at Inverie and headed to the pub for tea, but I was in so much pain that I had to leave early unable to eat, and couldn't sleep either, during the night my ear drum burst.  The only route out from Inverie is by boat and the first one headed out the next morning so we caught the first one back to Malaig we could and found the doctors and was given a presciption for pain killers.  This helped but on the drive back I was close to passing out so we had to pop into A&E in Fort William where they prescribed even stronger pain killers.

On returning home I was bed ridden for two weeks and got prescribed several rounds of anti-biotics to clear up the ear infection.  I had never known discomfort like this in my life and never been bed ridden before so it was pretty humbling.  I lost the most of the hearing in my left ear during this period, and didn't fully get it back for many months afterwards.  Even now a decade on my hearing, especially in noisy environments, isn't as good as it once was.

Risks and rewards

I have really been looking forward to running the Jedburgh Ultra.  It's a perfect distanced ultra to end my race year and the route looks great, and save for problems with my plantar fascii that have dogged me over the last 8 weeks I knew I was in good shape both physically and mentally for race.

This time last year I did the Glen Ogle 33 Ultra on the back of rather insufficient training due to injury, but was realistic I raced well within my fitness level and finished strong.  I really really enjoyed the race and it gave me a new sense of confidence about my ability to run longer races.  It's this race that gave me the confidence to sign up for the Highland Fling 53 mile tour of the first half of the west highland way, this represented a big step up from my previous longest race which was the 41 mile River Ayr Way Challenge race back in 2010.   The confidence was well founded as my training this year and my races have all gone well with PB's on almost all the races I've run this year.

I really wanted to be able to gauge things again, and sign off the year with a good race.  With this done it would be time to re-evlauate prospects for next year and what races I should considered signing up for.

Another motivating factor of doing the race is the inner science geek in me what to know just how well one can predict race performance on a new route based on training data.  This science geek also was curious about just how the body would respond during and after the race given my rather unfortunate illness during taper.

Counter to all this, I'm a family man and I run my own business and have clients that depend upon my ability to function efficiently and intelligently.  The big risk is not that I might have a crappy snot filled death march of race but doing an ultra would break down my body enough that opportunistic infections would take hold.  Having had a bad ear infection floor me before I know just how foolhardy it can be ignoring illness when undertaking big physical challenges.

Sense over Bravado

In my heart I really wanted to race, and still do, but even with a foggy head I know that it makes sense to pull out and not risk getting more ill than I already am.  So with a heavy heart I've decided to pull out.

Best of luck to all those who will be toeing the line at all the races in Jedburgh and elsewhere tomorrow, my envious thoughts will be with you!


  1. So sorry to read you're not running tomorrow but it sounds like the right decision.

    I'll need to the guinea pig instead.

  2. That was extremely frustrating but almost certainly a wise decision. The risk of serious complications arising from exhausting yourself while ill heavily outweighs any benefits of what would at best have been little more than a gruelling test of doggedness. It is a shame because each ultra is unique, and the three peaks offered not only a scenic delight but also appeared to present an interesting challenge to strategic planning. But you have already had a good year, and you will be able to start preparations for next year’s events with a solid foundation.

  3. It's a day after the race and I've still dogged by the cold so I'm certain it was the right thing to do. I really missed not running though, watched Twitter updates through the day desperate for news. Amazing to see the times of the winners, well below 6 hours in those muddy conditions is really impressive.

  4. That is such a shame, after all the training you have put in you end up empty-handed. But it was a sensible decision, and almost certainly the right one.

  5. Ohh, I think I'd be hard pushed to claim I put much specific training in for the Jedburgh Ultra, it was more of an end of year bonus making us of the all the training I had put it for other races. I am disappointed not have run though, even though looking at race reports such as John Kaynaston's you can see just how tough a race it was wading through all the mud.

    However, I can't be disappointed in wasting any training, truth be told I enjoy the training just as much as the races, so having races is really just a means of provide a jolly good excuse to get out there and train. Perhaps I shouldn't even classify my time running between races as training, it's really just all running for the pleasure of it. I guess if I lived in a city rather than a beautiful rural part of Scotland I might need something extra for motivation to get out and run.

    So I'm without the experience of running a race that I was looking forward, and without a final gauge of my fitness for the year, but empty handed I feel not. I have just finished reading "Why We Run" which has got my thinking more deeply about this topic, so perhaps I should write a blog entry on the book and my thoughts...