Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Landing the knockout.

We headed up to Skye on Friday, Pauline did all the driving and what a gorgeous day, brilliant blue skies all the way and that was the forecast for the whole weekend. 

We picked up our numbers and met up with the Sheffield crew, lovely to see them, we only see them at the Skye Half and they didn't manage up last year, also Joss and Irma, a Dutch couple that just happened to be in the pub after the race over ten years ago, Joss has now ran the race around four times although he'd never ran before or any other race for that matter.

Saturday morning for the first time in over a week I managed to eat real food, a small bowl of porridge, I hoped this is the turning point and my mouth and throat was starting to heal.  Although it was going to be a warm and sunny day I decided to wear my 2XU compression tights as worn by top class athletes and eejits that have done naff all running since March 6th and plan to run a half marathon on memory and would like their legs to stay in motion and in the upright position!   With it being sunny I better wear my big hat too, I have to keep my radiation burnt skin out of the sun, also a Buff scarf, I tucked it under the cord of my hat to stop it rubbing the tender skin under my chin. Not normal running gear I know but if it protected me I didn't care what I looked like.  Also for luck I pinned my number on with my little humming bird brooch and my  boxing gloves.  I did originally attached the boxing gloves to my bumbag, I planned to carry ginger beer and my syringe if I couldn't manage to swallow, but my bumbag wasn't comfy, it pushed  the feeding tube into my tummy so Pauline said she would carry it for me.

I wasn't nervous before the start I just wanted to get going, I had no doubt I'd finish, I've never DNF'd and I never will, it would just take a long time. We were walked to the start by the Pipe Band and then we were off.  My legs were running!  It felt fine, nothing wobbled due to the compression tights but they had no energy or bounce that you would normally feel at the start of a race but that was ok, I went straight into ultra shuffle and energy conservation, as soon as we rounded the corner and started up the hill we walked. West Highland Way race rules, walk the hills, run the flats and downs.   It was great to be running, the pace was irrelevant, I was running!

My mouth felt not too bad, I manage to drink at the water stations and have small sips of my flat ginger beer,  I was so glad it didn't nip. After half way,  my energy level was the same as if I'd been running for around twenty hours, luckily I've had a fair bit of practice at that, just relax and keep moving forward as best as I can.  At least it was just my muscles that felt that tired, my guts were fine, and so was my head, they usually start to get a bit dozy when you've been running for around a day! 

We had a lovely surprise at the turn just after seven miles, we heard someone shouting to us,  they were too faraway to recognise but it sounded like Jackie Baxter, (also from Dunfermline) it was Jackie! What was she doing here? I received hug and a brilliant boost, she was here with Martin, he was meant to run but was injured, they still came up for the weekend.  

The next couple of miles are not what you'd call a hill but it gradually goes up, not steep enough to walk but too hard for me to keep running, so Pauline started to time thirty seconds run, thirty seconds walk until the start of the hill proper, I was still managing to swallow my ginger beer even though it was small mouthfuls.  At the top of the hill, we ran all the way down, Stevie Hards came back to meet us, I did have to have a few wee walks heading into Portree, once back into the town I kept it running, there was nothing left in my legs, I panicked for a second when I had to step up a kerb, I nearly didn't make it, if I'd fallen would I be able to get back up? Hang on, and keep moving forward was my only thought, there's a wee hill up to the finish, will I manage to keep running? 

I did!  2hrs 55mis 57secs.  I bent forward with my hands on my knees, I felt ok, but I didn't want to take a funny turn and my big hat kept my emotion under wraps until I could gather my face into a smile.  

                                                                        The bastard was decked!  

The Skye Half has one of the best race mementos ever,  a specially engraved shot glass and a miniature of Talisker.  I'll keep mine for later and savour it when my mouth is better.  
                                                   (this was last year, we drank it at the coral beach)

A slow walk back to our B&B, Pauline had her shower first, I had a wee lie down.  We just had a quiet afternoon but managed out to the Tongadale in the evening, the walk would do me good, also had some medicinal Guinness, except it nipped my mouth, but I had a syringe and I wasn't afraid to use it!  The company was good and we were the last out the pub!  Same time next year folks!

On Sunday every muscle was sore, my shoulders, my arms, and my legs were as stiff as if I'd ran a big ultra but I was happy.  It might have just been thirteen miles but on my road to recovery it was over a hundred!  I still have clinics and stuff but that is it, I am getting back to being me.

The daft thing is on  Sunday I felt as if my mouth was going to heal quickly, it wasn't too sore and I was looking forward to getting back to eating  but by Monday night it was quite sore again, I think my body's own endorphins had worn off.  Gonna have to get me some more of them, they work better than prescription painkillers!  

I will be sensible for a wee bit, gather my strength slowly, my next race isn't until August, the 48 hour at the British Ultra Fest.  Pick your chin up off the floor!  It will be my 48 hours to do as much or as little as I like, no pressure for any distance. Run a bit, walk a bit, sit down for a bit. I'll even do a Knoxy (a technical term for having a seven hour kip during a race!) 

I'm not kidding anyone here am I?  Ok, I have a goal, and I have adjusted  it from when I entered the race at the end of last year and it takes into account my lack of training and assault on my health, and there will be no pressure... 200km.  Just 100km a day, that's do-able right? 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Going for the knockout!

The past couple of weeks have been the hardest, and I thought I wouldn't be going to Skye with my mouth being so sore and with struggling to eat. I asked Pauline would she still go if she could get someone to go with her. (Oh, before you get into this post I think  I better warn you if sweary words offend you, there are a few here, I'm not pulling my punches with this one.)

I started to feel a bit weary, this was the closest I came to letting my head go down.  I then thought Fuck it! I can have a sore mouth, stay at home and be miserable or I can have a sore mouth, be tired but happy in Skye, it doesn't matter if I can eat or not, I'll work round it.

Pauline was pleased when I said I was trying to get my head round going to Skye and I even surprised Pauline by saying I still would like to do the Half Marathon, it is very important to me, it was the first race I ran seven weeks after I had the brain haemorrhage in 2005 and again I think it's fitting the Skye Half is my first race to show I'm on the road to recovery.  Ok, a few more weeks to get over the treatment might have been better but I've never gone for the sensible option.

 I did have a lovely morning walk on Monday, the first day in six weeks without having to go to the Western for treatment.   It was arranged ages ago for Pauline and I to meet Clare Balding at Balmaha and have a wee walk out and back talking about our West Highland Way races for her radio programme Ramblings on Radio 4, but if I wasn't able to go she was happy just to do it with Pauline, I was glad I went and managed to say a few words, I was disappointed when she said it was time to turn back, I was hoping to get further, but it was lovely to stroll along the WHW for the first time is ages. I think we only walked for about four miles but probably just as well that's as far as we went, I got home around mid afternoon, I was very tired and slept until about 8.00pm!

 I've been doing a lot of sleeping, trying to gather my strength for the trip to Skye, my body is not in  good shape,  I'm not eating at all just now, my mouth is too sore and raw but I still have the feeding tube in my tummy and I've been using that for the past few days, I've got a supply of the bags of drip feed they gave me after the surgery, I never thought I'd use it but needs must, it has around 1300 calories and supplemented with prescription milkshakes and full fat milk I'm making sure I'm getting over 2000 calories a day, and these things are all fortified with protein, vitamins and minerals.  I'm not hanging it up and using the pump though, too much palaver, I'm just skooshing it in with a syringe, even that's not correct procedure, you're just meant to remove the plunger, pour the gloop in and let gravity do the job, but a bit of common sense, (I do have a little) I don't force it in with the velocity of a power hose!

The Half isn't going to be pretty or very fast, my last run was on 16th March, I'll be walking more than I'll be running but I'm an ultra runner, I know how to do tired. I'll still be pinning my number to my club vest, it will still be the best I can on the day and I'll always be proud of my best effort whatever the time on the watch even if everyone else has gone home by the time I finish... but finish I will!

Cancer and it's life changing surgery followed by six weeks of harsh and painful radio and chemotherapy  has left my body tired and sore but it never got close to my heart and soul and that is what will get me round my race.  Cancer you can fuck right off, this is the last time you will dictate to me.

Final round, I'll land the knockout blow when I cross the finish line.

Hands up, chin down.