2019 World 24 hour champs – Albi, France

It is such a huge honour to represent your country, especially doing something you love. Add to that, running is such a solo sport that you rarely get to be a part of a team. And what a great team to be a part of. FionaDawnEmmaWayne and Graeme were all familiar faces from Taiwan last year while Kim joined us for the big dance and it was an absolute pleasure to meet her – and hear some wonderful stories of her endurance running feats. And it was another opportunity to catch up and run with my good mate from over the ditch Mr Stephen Redfern (he is now 5-2 in victories over me – I have some work to do)

So how did the race go for me? Well, it was a bit of a disaster. And, three days later, I am still totally gutted about it. That’s pretty much the race report in a nutshell, you can stop reading if you like.

…but if you want to know more…..

All the ducks in a row was the focus in the build up to this event. I had trained and focused so hard on it and felt everything was bang on – I and woke up feeling like ‘today is the day!!’ on Saturday morning – starting the race 100% ready. 

However, it turns out, I haven’t actually figured out how to execute this style of event yet. I say ‘yet’ because even though the last thing I want to do now is do something like this again I know I need to at some point because it’s gonna bug the hell out of me until I nail one. I know I can and I’m learning more each time I fail. A lot of the problems from Albi were copies of problems from Taiwan last year – so there seems to be a pattern.

Start at 10am, was fairly near the back but was totally fine with that. Made sure my heart rate was mid 120’s for the first few hours. Easy running. Ankle gave me some pain after only hour which wasn’t welcome – physio and crew master Marcus Daws dug in there with a good deal of pressure and it really did the world of good. We might have to drag him to all our events from now on! Got through the marathon in about 3:50 and this was still cruise mode and happy. However, by hour five running suddenly got very hard as my chest started to tighten. Breathing was an effort. Once again Marcus worked on freeing up muscles in the chest and back. Back out but very uncomfortable. Stomach was getting steadily more painful as the heat of the afternoon wore on. By hour twelve everything was awful. Had to bless the crew tent with a huge vomit – which I hoped would help but I realised it was too late for whatever was causing the pain. Also, (apologies for too much information) my pee was steadily getting darker and after 13 or so hours it was very, very red and I was getting quite concerned. So, doctor time. There were others already on the beds with the same problem. While my vitals were all fine the basic advice from the doctor was ‘stop’. So I did. And the long walk around the track back to the crew tent was quite emotional with plenty of time to think about everything that had gone into this race.

However – sleep, as any ultra runner will attest, is an amazing thing. I drank about a litre of salty soup, ate half a loaf of bread and then went to sleep on the floor of the tent thinking that I would not be out there again. About an hour or so later I woke up and felt a little better. Started cheering on everyone still out there which is great to lift spirits. Pee stop – almost normal! Ok, wait a bit longer. Four and a half hours to go the FOMO was just too strong so I went back out and just walked – knowing that I shouldn’t take any risks. I walked for 3 1/2 hours and I gotta say, it’s not a lot of fun going at that pace – but it was awesome seeing just how incredibly strong some of the top elite runners were going – six people (including Camille with her new world record) going over 270kms is just insane! With one hour to go I felt almost like a normal human so I ran that just to make it feel like I had done something if only for that hour. 144kms total – I had added 29km by going out in the morning which, while insignificant in the grand scheme of things, made me feel a little bit more like the runner I’d like to have been that day.

So, what to take away? At first I had no idea and was frustrated. Then some advice came in which really seemed to ring true (and if anyone out there has something to add to this I am absolutely all ears). Basically it comes down to drinking too much water in the heat. I think that because it’s so hot (for me anyway) I need to compensate by drinking often. Eventually the stomach is forced to hold the water as it’s too much for the body to process while doing something as taxing as an ultra. Any nutrition coming in gets held up by the liquid in the stomach so the body ends up getting very little to operate on. Meanwhile, the kidneys are not getting enough liquid to do their job so you end up with the combo of stomach and kidney pain along with gnarly pee. Good times right? I’m sure someone who actually knows medicine can explain this better but that is my general understanding.

So, ‘next time’ (aargh!) I must have a more rigid nutrition/hydration plan and stick to it. This kinda happens automatically when you are carrying your own hydration in a mountain ultra which is why I’ve not had those problems in other races – just these loop circuits with water available all the time. My theory anyway.

So, in summary: brilliant event, amazing team and crew, wonderful experience and a terrible run. Maybe the next one will be a local one without all the pressure aye. Might help. Maybe….

And, of course, none of this mad running thing would have been possible without the incredible support of the super-crew wife Emma – who had to juggle the kids this time but still managed to be there when I needed it THANK YOU!!!

Cheers for reading, looking forward to figuring out how to do one of these properly one of these days aye – I’ll be back!

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