Pit of Depair

It’s taken me a while to write this blog mainly because it’s all been a bit crap. Pretty much since the Windsor Trail Ultra in August I have been ill.
It all started with what I thought was a pulled muscle in my shoulder/chest area just before the Windsor race, I have had something similar before but thought nothing of it and just continued to take Ibroprofen. It wasn’t until after I returned from Mallorca (where I had been for the weekend doing some photo shoots for Asics) that it got considerably worse to the point where breathing wasn’t overly comfortable….not ideal for ultra-running!!? At this point I guessed I should go see my doctor for a check-up, thinking he would probably just send me away with some painkillers, however this didn’t turn out quite how I had expected. I spent the rest of the day in the Royal United getting chest x rays and waiting to be seen by a Consultant. Turns out I had pneumonia…..not quite what I was expecting. This was less than ideal 15 days out from the World 100k champs and as the Consultant explained she would normally suggest several weeks rest but because I was an exceptional circumstance. She sent me away with two lots of antibiotics to properly kill the infection and told me to listen to my body as I knew it best, as long as my symptoms had gone I could race but not to expect to be at my best. Obviously this was a huge set back and I came away feeling totally down in the dumps….all this training under my belt for this to happen. But….it didn’t stop there. Five days later I get a call from the same Consultant asking me how I am and could I come in the next day for a CT scan as the radiology report had found something else on the x ray. The next morning I am in first thing for a CT scan which reveals what they think is a cyst attached to my diaphragm…..I say think because I am still under further investigation as they can’t be 100% sure until they rescan/biopsy. Depending on what they find I may need an operation or just further observation. This was the week before I was due to fly out to Holland and whilst the pneumonia symptoms seemed to be under control I was now under the emotional anxiety of what the hell was wrong with me. When you see with your own eyes a golf ball sized growth in your lung scan it kind of freaks you out!
I made the probably unwise decision to fly to Holland and compete in the World Championships, I felt I didn’t want to waste all the training I had put in and I didn’t want to let anyone down. Running 100k isn’t easy on the best of days and so I knew under the strain of the last few weeks finishing would be a bonus. Within the first 10k I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant…..whilst I felt great my stomach didn’t. I think I spent more time in the portaloo and the bushes than I did on the course. Everything I ate or drank was coming out of both ends and whilst I could continue for so long, at some point my energy levels where going to be rock bottom. That came at 72k where I decided to pull off the course. I couldn’t face another 30k with no energy in the tank and I was having to stop more frequently which was losing more and more time. I don’t go to races to walk most of it and I was aware my body was under a lot of stress. Clearly the double course of antibiotics had ruined my stomach, something I really hadn’t considered before the event. I had only finished the drugs 6 days prior and really had no understanding of what they can do to your gut.
It was great to see the rest of the team have a successful weekend but my day got even worse when I learnt that my grandma had passed away that morning….all I wanted to do was be at home with my family.

Luckily we had booked to fly out to Chamonix after returning from Holland to walk around Mont Blanc, this was the perfect tonic to a less than perfect couple of weeks. We spent an amazing week walking the 175k route around the mountain, staying in mountain refuges and meeting new friends. It also enforced my love of the mountains and running/walking in them. I came away with a new positive attitude and ideas/plans for the future. Little did I know the illness fairy hadn’t finished with me yet! I woke up on my birthday with a terrible cold and cough…..unable to taste anything….not what you want when you are going to your favourite restaurant for dinner. To top it all off, in the early hours of yesterday I woke feeling sick, ran into the bathroom, passed out, hitting my head on the bath and smashing a glass over the basin. Spent the rest of the night being ill. I really hope that this is the end of it all now because I hate being ill. I realise that health is the important thing and so I am going to try and get back to being a healthy human being asap before I make any more ridiculous racing plans. Having said that, I have been looking at 2016 races and I am super excited about beginning next year in a good space/place.

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