Saturday 5th November
Week 45 will go down as one of the most beautiful 1/2 marathons of this year around a course that I’ve done 5 times already on this challenge. What followed later that day was sadly a stark reminder as to why I am putting myself through this challenge. The contrast of the two experiences book-ended my day.
Today I had Tom Drowley for company. I’ve known Tom for years from my Loughborough days and then later as a colleague and close friend at Bath. Not much of a runner, this was going to double Tom’s lifetime longest run and the tension was building all week. When the morning arrived it was clear blue sunshine, a perfect Autumnal day. I’m not sure we actually stopped talking for the next 1hr46mins that it took to complete 21.1km. I mean Tom can talk with the best of them and he didn’t disappoint for company. Topics covered included life design, sprint kinematics, ego, ambition… the list of dreamer-bullshit goes on and on! I absolutely loved it and the whole thing flew by.
We spent the rest of the day unwashed, watching rugby, eating and drinking and even enjoyed a firework display out the back courtesy of next door’s family reunion. It was all going so well.
Autumn had been suspiciously cuddly with me all day and had been off her food ever since her vaccinations on Thursday. When she’s drowsy like this we check her heart with a stethoscope just to make sure it is under control. This time though, it sounded pretty quick. Katie and I passed it back and forth listening intently through her raspy cough. Our guide is that if it’s too quick to count, it’s going crazy! When she’s in SVT it beats like a hummingbird’s wings. We dropped everything (including Tom) and headed to A&E. We got seen straight away and the nurses hooked Autumn up to a heart rate machine. Sure enough her heart was going double what it should be: 260 beats per minute. Our hearts sunk. We were taken into the room next-door where she’d been seen back in November and it all came flooding back. At nearly a year on she was much stronger than before and while concerned, the situation was not life threatening this time. The doctors tried to avoid using adenosine this time and instead opted for conservative treatments. Unfortunately this involved holding Autumn’s head in ice cold water to evoke a vagal response, that feeling you get when you jump in ice cold water and your breath is dragged from your throat. She immediately responded and her heart rate fell back to 130bpm before shooting back up again a few minutes later. The staff tried again and successfully repeated the procedure. I couldn’t watch. Our little girl must have though she was going to be drowned. She was terrified and there’s nothing we could do to explain to her what was going on. The doctors delivered adenosine just once through a canular in her hand. Again it worked but he heart just rebounded back up to 260bpm. We were admitted upstairs for the night. Eventually the doctors decided to just leave her to calm down, fall asleep and monitor her. At 2am she corrected her heart rate herself and did not return to SVT. Katie stayed with her overnight and on Sunday afternoon we were discharged.
Once again I cannot thank the staff enough for their kindness and generosity with Autumn, Katie and I that night. Their expertise was once again so impressive to me and I’d like to thank everyone so much for all they did. Unfortunately nights at the hospital don’t come cheap so I’m hereby adding another £1000 to my £8000 total to cover the cost of Autumn’s care once again. It’s worth acknowledging the repercussions of such an evening to appreciate what parents in Children’s Hospitals have to endure. Katie and I took the Monday off work together and returned to work on Tuesday. You feel fit enough to work but you’re not all there. We both got sick that week and limped through to Friday. Life goes back to normal but your just exhausted. My mood was so low. I was irritable and frustrated. I had to remind myself that it’s to be expected and it’ll pass. And it does, but it takes longer than you think.
Each time we just catch a brief glimpse of what life is like in Children’s Hospital and we’re so lucky to take our little girl home safe and sound. I just can’t imagine what it would be like otherwise. My heart goes out to everyone there and the staff that do such an amazing job every single day and night.
Thank you Tom for coming running with me, it was immensely enjoyable. We’ll have to try the burger night again some time!
Sunday 22nd October
I can put hand on heart and say that I could not have run this any faster. It was literally 95 minutes of hanging right on the threshold of what I was capable of. But what I learned today was that your head is capable of confining you of your absolute best. I’m convinced that if I had have been striving for this same time on my own it just would not have been possible for me. It’s not that I can’t work hard for that long, I’ve done it in the past on my own. It’s that there is a gap between what I believe is possible and what is actually physiologically possible. The head drives the legs. Ralphie was like a shadow cast in front of me hovering a few paces ahead always nudging the pace. The first 500m was virtually a sprint to get into the narrow pathway along the Thames river. Not my usual way of starting these runs.
“What’s your tactics today?” he asked me.
“Follow your pace, be brave and see what happens…” was my speculative response!
And that was it, something that whirred around in my head the whole way around. There’s going to be a point at which I either run out of mental energy to hold myself at boiling point or fatigue creeps up too high for me to sustain this pace. At that point I decided that today I’d just keep leaning into the bubbling boiling point of threshold running and just see what happens. The thing is that slowing down is completely understandable, acceptable and even noble in the pursuit of a new PB. If I boiled over at 10km to crawl to the finish line I reckon I could even believe my own bullshit. Today I’m really proud to say that when the time came I was brave enough to keep exploring what was possible for me when every piece of me just wanted to pull back!
We ran the fastest 10km I’d ever run at 44mins30secs. I was pretty sure that at some point fatigue would kick in and my pace would drop. Either my legs would go or my head would reach it’s suffer-limit and pull me back…but it didn’t. I knew that tiny voice in my head would try and convince me to back off and slow down and this is when I felt I needed to be brave and hover in that red zone. The critical point for my race tactic was at 16km. Ralphie overtook 2 runners and I slowly caught up to them. If I was on my own my goal would simply be to stay with these guys. Not because it was comfortable to do so but that this was genuinely a strong pace for me. This was the moment…. be brave and see what happens.... and I did. I overtook the pair and held that pace for the next 2km leaving them behind. I had found a new level that before that moment I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of. With 2km to go Ralphie surged again and I just couldn’t hold him. Run ragged I was just desperate to get to the end. Navigating back into the Bisham Abbey I did my best to accelerate again, easy to do when your at the finish. As I turned the corner Ralphie was stood behind the finish, urging me over the line with 1hr34mins40secs on the clock. I was ecstatic. Another 3mins off my previous best from The Bristol Half and 5 minutes under the 100minute threshold that just a few weeks back I was struggling to break.
It takes a huge amount of focus and effort for me to sustain running on the redline for that long but today was yet another realisation as to what I am capable of and what needs to be in place for me to achieve it. Food for thought for the future!
Thursday 20th October
Left bedraggled after The Friday Night Grind this week was about bringing the joy back to the challenge. Early mornings are better than late nights for me and when you invite Renee McGregor and her dog Bailey along there’s not much choice anyway! My first coaching session of the day today was 8.30am. Starting a run before 6am is certainly a first for me this year but I would definitely do it again. I’d planned to meet Renee at 6.20am on the other side of town so my aim was to have covered 5km before I met her just to break things up a bit, another tactic for avoiding The Grind again. I headed out on a tourist route around Bath taking in the Abbey at Pulteney Bridge, beautifully under-lit in the dark. It was cold, dark and dreary this morning but if you just look up the architecture is stunning and is enough to keep me occupied. As planned, I met Renee at a not-so-scenic Tesco Express and we immediately climbed towards Victoria Park and straight up the backside of Lansdown Hill. Super-steep in places, Renee’s gentle camber just speeds up and away she goes. This is the third 1/2 marathon that Renee has done with me this year. Week 3 we did The Hilly Heights of Bath and Week 14 we did The City Paradise Surprise in Bristol. This time I felt like I had a lot more in reserve (should hope so considering I’ve done 30 of them since we last ran!) and for the last 5km she squeezed the pace heading back towards Weston. Back at Tescos we parted company, just pausing for a photo and a hug and away I went to cover the last 1.5km back to the car… I turned to run and SNAP… my right knee gave way… cramping calves or hamstrings… or both! Either way my knee wasn’t lifting at all. To the commuters on their way to work at 7.30 I must have looked like a complete idiot out for a run on a Thursday morning, training through injury. I cracked 21.1km just as I reached my car. I jumped in and up the hill to get to work. I joined the commute up to The Sports Training Village, cleaned myself up and got on with the day… just don’t ask me to move any faster than walking pace and I’ll be fine!