Days 18-22 - 200+ miles running empty

Well sorry for the lack of blathering for the past few days, I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch (That made the whole shin splint thing feel like a broken finger nail). I have had diarrhoea for 5 days now after the vomiting episode. Last night Laure insisted that I went to the hospital to have it checked out to see if it was bacterial, it isn’t. I am starting to recover now.

Below is a blog I wrote about the first day with the shits, day 18 where I had no sleep and had to walk 42 miles. Day 19 was a bit better, I finished under the cut off time but then 20 and 21 were just too hard. 54.4 miles then 51.4 without being able to eat anything or keep liquid inside me. The other days I will have to do from memory when all this is finished. I won’t be forgetting this for a while.

Each of those days went the same, I’d try to eat whenever I could at night and in the morning but my saliva glands had just packed in. I could not chew anything. Each morning I’d start running but within a few miles my legs would start wobbling and then by about 10 they would struggle to hold me up.

My plan each day was to beast myself enough so I can get to a point where I can just stagger to the finish within the cut-off time. It was horrible.

I always slept quite well (apart from the night it first happened). The first half of each day I was falling asleep still, probably a consequence of the lack of energy. I would try to convince myself that I could “fuel up” as I went along but it rarely happened.

The support teams and all the others have been fantastic to me in this time. Bertrand, David, Rene and Anne have been brilliant in keeping me going and being there when I crashed several times. The support van would be there about every 2 miles and I’d just crawl into the back and moan about the lack of activity in my legs. I craved cold soft drinks but whenever I drank them they spewed back out of me.

And then there was the stopping every half a mile to piss out of my arse. I Don’t know how much fluid went through me in 2 days. The sun gets to me more too, I feel feverish at 30 degrees whereas I was bounding along in 40+ a couple of weeks back.

On the end of stage 21 I felt a bit more optimistic because I was hungry for food. When I arrived I got stuck into the buffet and thought tomorrow might be great again as I had something to eat. Then Laure told me that she was going to take me to hospital to check it was not that serious as it has been 4 days. I really wanted sleep.

We got there about 8 and got to see someone about 9 it was quite quick. I sat in a hospital bed and had a drip and some blood tests. The doctor seemed quite sympathetic to my need to get rid of this illness as I had to run across the country.

While there I went to the toilet and looked in the mirror. I did not recognise what looked back. My eyeballs looked too big for my head, like it’s been squashed inwards in a vice. I have lost 8kg since I have started. I could release a weight loss DVD. I have also not taken any photos for 4 days. It also is really annoying that there is no phone reception in any of the places we run or stay in New Mexico. Maybe it’s just this place, as soon as I entered it I had to defecate and have done so another 500 times. Perhaps Oklahoma will be better?

Anyhoo, today went much better, I ate lots during the run and took it easy and felt comfortable though still weak and feeling the sun a lot worse. I have just eaten a load at the buffet here, hoping to be on the mend now.

Right then, off to bed. Big day tomorrow.

Day 18

For the record it was not the McDonalds that did it. I felt a bit queezy after eating too much food but it was some steak thing I had later on that I left out for a while that did it. As soon as I had it I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Not that I am rushing to eat fast food again anyway.

The night’s sleep was probably the worst since I have been here. I just lay there and watched milesof tarmac road and white line unroll in my head over and over. In a semi daze I’d snap out of it and say “stop it, don’t do the miles in your head, they don’t count. Do them on the road tomorrow. Think of something else”.  I just could not seem to think of anything else except of course when I got punched in the stomach again.

4.30AM, Italo and I were awake, he was already getting his stuff ready for the day. He seems to have a lot more to do than I do, I just put on my clothes, brush my teeth, eat whatever is lying around and head out. He started talking about energy gels, saying that the organisers had given him mine too and was not sure what flavour I wanted so it was OK to swap if needed. I interrupted him to say “Italo, No. I just can’t talk or listen now”. He asked what was the matter and I said I have diarrhoea, I am sick and I did not sleep.

In the car park outside El Rancho (I really wish I got to spend more time there as it was a great place) we assembled to get a lift to the start about 15 miles away. I really need to specify on my reservations that I want a ground room floor as lugging my bags up and down just pisses me off now. I had spent the last night trying to drink as much fluid as I could including 2l of lemonade, just before we got into the cars that all came gushing out in front of everyone.

Anne (who normally gets all the runners to sign in each morning) asked if I was OK to run. Whether I am OK or not is of little consequence, I’ll run. On getting into the car I was presented with plastic bags from about 3 different people. I made the car journey without being sick.

There was some confusion at the start about the distance. 41.2 miles was the advertised but a mistake in an instruction meant it could be 2 miles less. Alas no, normally those 2 miles are nothing, but today they would be at least half an hour of sleep, or rest, or eating or anything but running.

The first 2 miles went OK, I only had 1 shit. I ran very slowly and watched everyone else pull away. Very soon it occurred to me that I was not going to be doing much running today at all. I was pretty much walking from the start.

The cut off is 3.5 miles an hour, which is a brisk walk. It’s easy to say that you can walk that fast when doing a couple of miles at home but for 41 miles when you have to stop and eat and shit and with hills and heat. It definitely does not feel comfortable.

I was timing the miles from the start, pleased when I’d do one in 14 minutes (there are mile markers on the roads, not from the organisation but as part of the road), and then beating myself up when one came up as 17. I’d say to myself that maybe because it was because I stopped to have a shit but I knew that this now only took 5 seconds at a time and that this will be a feature of most miles today.

Within 5 miles everyone was out of sight. There was a long waving section of road which must have stretched 10 miles and though I could not see anyone on it I imagined everyone dotted along there somewhere.

My knees were weak and wobbling, a combination of the tiredness and lack of energy. Sometimes I just could not pick my legs up to even walk, I was all over the place and I had not even done a quarter of the stage yet. Several times I just felt like falling into the sand and lying there. I needed to sleep.

This was the first time so far I have pictured myself getting carried out of the race and to the finish. If I fall down now I am done, the car will come, pick me up take me to the end, I’ll rest a few days then start again. But then I’ll become a “stage runner”, put in a separate list from those still in with a chance of getting a ranking for getting to New York.

Half way took a lifetime to get to. No amount of coke or energy drink would kick me awake. Rene and Anne were doing an amazing job of crewing for me, right out at the back when they also had to attend to Italu (near the front) and Jenni who was neat the back too but not nearly as far back as me. At 23 miles they put out a chair and a parasol and asked me to sleep. I sat down in the chair, covered from the sun by Anne and the parasol while Rene drove on to deliver another aid stop for the others.

It was beautiful. I just sat there, cool relaxed and for a while I had no care in the world. The breeze and my own rhythmic breaking calmed me not quite to sleep but into a meditative state. I thought I would only take 10 minutes but I took half an hour. I was not asleep but I was somewhere else.

From then on it got better. I woke up. I was still crapping a lot (up to twice a mile now) but I felt I had a little more energy to get the job done. Rene and Anne said not to worry about the cut-offs as today would be my “bad day” and tomorrow would be better. With about 12 miles to go I threw my watch into the van and Rene and Anne laughed. Time does not matter anymore. I’ll get to the end when I get to the end, not before, not after.

With about 10 to go I started counting the hours until I can go to sleep, like a little kid waiting for Christmas or something. Rene had to leave with the jeep and Bertrand replaced him in the Toyota as Rene had to drive those who had already finished back to El Rancho which was now an hours drive away. I felt a bit bad for being the slow one who messes up the plan but Bertrand and Anne would have none of it. “COURAGE JAMES. COURAGE”.

It got quite hilly in the end as Anne walked with me and I pointed at things and asked what they were in French. I was getting into a manageable distance from the finish now, not long from sleep.

The finish again is in the middle of nowhere, I walked over the line, my legs aching from all that walking. I was about 25 minutes over the cut-off of 11.45 but that does not matter here. I sat and had a sprite, the first I kept down all day as David took down the finish flags. I got into the van and slept for the entire journey home.

Laure said to me on my arrival at El Rancho to not do any blogging tonight, just sleep. That was fine by me. I had a shower, had some rice that Laure bought for me then hit the sack. Today was by far the worst day. So far.