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All haste and no speed – how to go from hero to zero in an ultra marathon

Henry David Thoreau said “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

My new friend Harry and I had been splashing through half frozen puddles on a (suspiciously) small path through a hilltop bog, visualising our glorious podium finish after the 44 mile run through the Brecon Beacons. We were feeling strong and had opened up a big lead on the field with the group behind us out of sight. But as we crested the ridge, I realised that we were WAY off track.

Races
Just me and the Chamois tracks. After getting down I was so exhausted, I wanted nothing more than a magic carpet to take me home. I had no option but to run another 15km. It wasn't actually that bad.

Does training help the body burn fuel more efficiently?

An important part of getting fitter, and improving both speed and endurance is training the body to burn fat at higher levels of intensity. This is really important for athletes who do the things I like doing – running (because they can go faster and further) and mountaineering (because mountaineers don’t have very good access to food to top up their limited carbohydrate stores).

One of the advantages of having diabetes is that I can observe how much carbohydrate I need to eat to keep my blood sugar stable. Does this mean that I have an insight into how well my body is adapting to burning fat? Can this help anyone else?

Data Training
This one almost ate my camera.

Ultramarathon “taper” – and the unforgettable goats

The last "run" five days before the ultra

The last “run” five days before the ultra

A lot of preparation has gone into getting myself ready for the CCC tomorrow. The CCC is the little sister of the ultra-tour du mont-blanc (UTMB) – a mere 101km and 6100m of climbing. (The 6100 of downhill will be the difficult bit of course.) This is more than enough for me. I feel fit, strong and have no idea how fast I will go. I hope I’ll finish it of course.

They say that success in running ultras can be boiled down to winning the “ultra-eating” competition. One can expect to burn about 700 calories an hour. The body can absorb up to 300 calories an hour if one eats as much carbohydrate as possible. Competitors frequently suffer from nausea or vomiting, and this can lead to exhaustion if they cannot hold food down. 

Running
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My advice to a newly diagnosed type 1 – a year into my pancreatically challenged life

Last week was my one-year anniversary of my diagnosis. People refer to it as the “diaversary” but I really don’t like the word!

I can remember all too well the shock of my diagnosis. I could not concentrate on anything else for the two or three weeks following, and I had huge uncertainty about whether I would be able to continue to do the things I loved doing. I was lucky to have fantastic support from my wife, family, friends and medical team. What words of advice would I give someone else who is newly diagnosed? I’ve been thinking about it since my anniversary and here is what I came up with. Bare in mind that I’ve had the condition for a mere twelve months. There are probably loads of wiser diabetics who have better advice than me!

Diagnosis
My spot for the night - I was just about warm enough under the stars a 2500m

The Diabetic Snail who ran back-to-back marathons in the Alps

(In the Spring, I was a diabetic tiger. In the Summer I was a diabetic snail – running slow and steady with my house on my back)

I had everything I needed for four nights in the mountains. The diabetic snail was ready to go running!

I had everything I needed for four nights in the mountains. The diabetic snail was ready to go running!

With the cliffs above me blocking the way higher, I eyed up the only way onwards: a waist high stream a few metres across. The water was flowing fast before tumbling down a series of waterfalls dropping into the village I’d left half an hour before. Having scrambled up three hundred metres of imposingly steep grass and rocks I could verify that contrary to what my map told me, there was definitely no path and definitely no bridge. There was also no-way I could risk crossing the torrent without the possibility of plunging to a premature death far below. I cursed at yet another misadventure and turned round to retrace my steps. I slipped, and desperately hung on to my walking poles, digging them into the ground with my life flashing before my eyes. I averted my slide and broke one of my poles in the process. Walking up the 1700m to the next col had just got even harder.

Running
Peaking over the top of the aiguilles rouges and the Chamonix valley.

Trail running with diabetes

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I’m training for a 100km ultra marathon around mont blanc. I’m learning a lot about running, training, physiology and diabetes. Today though was all about the joy of running and being in the mountains.

It started with a four mile run in London at 5am. I hadn’t factored in just how heavy my bag was, and I had to really push it to make my train. The doors closed as I arrived on there platform, so I panicked, waving to the driver hoping that I wasn’t going to miss my second plane in a week! Luckily he let me on.

Running