Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Learning the hard way....

Cateran Trail Ultra - 55miles 15th May 2010


Maybe the first signs of trouble came after I hurled the veggie burger I had in the hotel. I put it down to the journey - even as the driver, the road to Spittal of Glenshee makes me boak. By morning I felt fine though and managed a couple of bits of toast and 3 cups of tea.

I started the race conservatively but I wasn't quite ready yet to start walking the inclines so I ran them, picking folk off in the process. At the first drop-bag point (Dalnagair) I was already ahead of my best-case schedule by 10 minutes. I enjoyed half a banana and a slug of coke before making my way to Kirkton of Glenisla. By the time I arrived there I was 15minutes ahead and feeling fantastic. I ate half my crisp roll and enjoyed another large slug of coke. It was all going so well....

I struggled on towards Den of Alyth. The rubbery tasting water from my camelbak was making me feel ill so I had already stopped drinking it and at Den of Alyth I texted Sue, the best support crew you could wish for, to bring me a bottle of decent stuff at Blairgowrie. I knocked back about 300ml of coke and another half banana and made my way towards Blairgowrie now 13mins behind schedule but feeling okay.

I must have sprouted wings en-route to Blairgowrie. I know I battered my way down the downhills, not caring how trashed my quads might feel the next day. I met Sue who had tea and choccy digestives waiting - fantastic! I had 3 cups, 1 biscuit and about a third of a muller rice. I was surprised to see that by now I was about 5 minutes ahead again and after 31miles feeling good.

The route to Bridge of Cally was the only familiar thing about this race, having done it in the relay at last year's 23miler, other than the vomit that came shortly thereafter. I struggled along and felt queasy when I arrived at the checkpoint now 6mins behind. I bit a banana, sniffed at the rest of the contents of my drop bag and stropped on. By now I was finding running difficult but walking was tolerable. I met Sue up the track who insisted I chew on some crystalised ginger, whether I liked it or not! It was a distraction if nothing else but I was soon gagging and retching and with no visible results it was time for the bulimic approach which worked a treat. Sue left, I felt great, briefly, but it didn't last. From that point everything that hit my stomach promptly reappeared.

I got slower and slower with everyone now going past me and when I reached a fence about 80ft high (seriously) with no clear signs of how to get over it, I succumbed a rock to contemplate my next move. It was obvious really, I was in no position to continue. I texted Sue, who was waiting at Enochdhu, to meet me at Kirkmichael where I was bailing out - again.

Sophie with her dodgy knee and on-board pharmacy caught me up and she kindly walked with me until Sue arrived just outside Kirkmichael where the decision was made more or less for me that I wasn't going any further, having now gone 5 hours without fluid.

I only made Sue stop once so I could puke at the roadside on the journey back to the Spittal where, rather annoyingly, after a lie down, a shower and a bite to eat I felt just fine. At 9pm I contemplated getting someone to drive me down to Kirkmichael so I could finish, I still had 3 hours until the cut-off after all, but we schemed a plan instead to run the final section in the morning.

I woke at 5am ravenous - a good sign! At breakfast I consumed more than I'd usually eat in a whole day and at 10am Angus drove me, Karen and George to Kirkmichael to run back to Spittal of Glenshee. It was a glorious morning, I had a fabulous time, great gossip and the final pelt down towards the hotel marked my finish, albeit 12 hours late. As an incredibly generous gesture by the wonderful Karen I was even awarded my race memento. Handy having the RD as a personal friend!!

So what went wrong? Retrospectively it's obvious (isn't it always....). I didn't eat or drink nearly enough early on. Why? I was in a race, I didn't have time to eat. I had a target in mind and a schedule to follow and nothing was going to get in my way. Except it did, and it's a lesson I've learned the hard way.
Slapped wrists, onwards yet again......


  1. Aww glad the run on Sunday was fun. Keep at it, you will get there eventually!

  2. I'm rubbish at eating on the run. I had three jelly babies during the Fling. Shed loads of coke and lucozade though. I'll be borrowing my Grannie's falsers soon :-) xx

  3. Ps: Well done for completing the route. That's tough stuff.

  4. Lesley, It was defo the right decision. When you arrived at me in Kirkmichael it was obvious how ill you were. Glad you recovered so quickly and were able to kick the Caterans ass the next day.
    See you at the Clyde Stride in July :-)

  5. It was good to meet you on Friday night Lesley.

    Sounds as though you had some good highs but also tough lows on Saturday.

    I'm very impressed you went back to finish off the route on Sunday. That shows real character.

    Recover well and try sort out what you can eat on some long training runs.

  6. Hi Lesley, I've had similar problems on some long events in the past so understand the feeling and how frustrating it is. Now everyone's different so you have to find out what works for you, but a few of the things I've learned are
    - I eat early on in the race because it's easy, later on you can get by with not much food if you don't feel like it - sometimes putting pressure on yourself to force stuff down is worse than not eating (one year I covered the second half of the WHW on a couple of cups of tea and a mug of soup with no ill effects afterwards).
    - running to a schedule can make you go just that bit faster than is good for you on the day, particularly if you try to get ahead of the schedule early on, and it has a bigger effect on your digestion than you realise. I have a rule now never to run up any significant gradients until I've been running for 5 or 6 hours.
    - a valuable lesson I learned from Jez Bragg after I had to drop out of the UTMB one year, he said if you get problems with nausea one of the most likely causes is electrolyte imbalance, so it's important to match your drinks with salt intake of some sort (I use Succeed caps but there are plenty of other strategies)
    - above all I know for me that it's really counterproductive to get nervous about the event, both before and during. If I go out with the idea of enjoying it without bothering too much about times, I usually have a trouble-free (and overall faster) run.
    Good luck on the next event!

  7. Glad you managed to finish the route the next day Lesley. I was so worried about you and like Lee said you made the right decision at Kirkmichael. I remember a couple of years back that I kept vomiting at races and it was because I was glugging water, it takes ages to work out what the real issue is though sometimes. Once you crack it though, things seem so much easier. See you at the Clyde Stride. x

  8. good work for sorting out the 'unfinished' business, tough stuff!!

    ...have you tried nuun tablets in water? they're electrolytes magic pills but can give the water a very subtle lemon taste that can mask that horrible plastic flavour.

  9. Thanks for the advice folks. I def need to sort out my nutrition! I can't rely on the reserves I simply don't have. I'll be experimenting with everything and keep my fingers crossed that my third attempt will be lucky??!! Clyde Stride Lee, can't wait, surely I can manage 40??!!