I started my running training less than eight weeks ago. Less than seven weeks ago, I found myself hobbling down the street near Canary Wharf (still miles from home) and hailing a cab because I could no longer run.
For the first time in my life I have approached running seriously. I’ve seen a physio (Raphael from Pure Sports medicine, who is brilliant) and consequently spent two to three hours a week doing all the stretching and strength training he has prescribed. I’ve also been running like Forest Gump – treading that fine line between training enough to have a chance of finishing the ultra, but not so much as to injure myself. After that first scare with the cab, diligently doing my stretching has left me feeling incredibly strong and resilient when I run.
I’ve also been working hard on the diabetes front too. It turns out that I can eat 60-70g of carbohydrate every hour which is enough to keep my energy up and to stop me from experiencing hypos. While I run, my blood sugar level is the same as a healthy person. (I’m in my honey moon phase, which means I produce some insulin still which is making blood sugar much easier to manage than it will be after my immune system has finished killing off my beta cells.) I test myself once an hour, which takes a bit of practice and slows me down only a tiny bit. I try to time it with an uphill bit so I’m going slowly anyway. Laura Eckhardt, the research nurse on my trial, has been really supportive and of the many things she’s helped me with is get a better blood glucose reader which is less fiddly to use whilst running.
For my training, I have been working almost exclusively on conditioning myself for long runs. Nothing fancy, just as much slow running as possible. At the weekends I’ve been lucky enough to do three to six hour runs in beautiful (or at least new) places such as Montreal, the Peak District and Chamonix. In Chamonix I ran 20km up the valley and 20km back. The first 20km was mostly in snow which was unexpected and hard work. But the feeling of being up in the mountains with just a small backpack, not a single other soul, and lots of large friendly animals is incredibly exhilarating.
The coastal trail marathon last weekend was meant to be a training run for the ultra. I could practice my nutrition plan, both during the run and before: I had to eat a small breakfast so that I didn’t need to inject insulin before the run. I was pretty disciplined and ran slowish. Including walking up the hills, and stopping at all the checkpoints to fill up my water bottle. The first quarter was the most enjoyable. A group of four of us ran together, having a bit of a chat and enjoying the stunning scenery. I ended up running a bit faster than I was intending – I don’t think I could have finished another 15 miles at that pace – but I still had plenty left in the tank at the end. When I finished I even heard someone exclaim “he doesn’t even look tired!” It was a far cry from the only other marathon I’ve finished when I was so tired I couldn’t even speak!
So I ran 27 miles, 3500 vertical feet, and finished third with a time of 4 hours 7 minutes – just over 20 minutes slower than the course record. I’ve now got a sneaking feeling that I might actually do quite well in the ultra. Despite it being 15 miles further than I’ve ever run. So it’s bound to end in tears! Two and a half weeks to go!
My wife also ran in the 10k. The first race she’s ever done. She had an enjoyable and tiring run and had a big smile at the end. I never thought I’d see the day, but I’m very proud of her!