From Ultra Highs to the Lowest of Lows

Well that didn’t go to plan, the idea of this blog was to describe how wonderful and hard my most recent event was, little did we know.

My 2021 had been a good year, fittest I had been, personal bests in the local 5km races, really good outings in a couple of duathlons and training had gone really well for my 100km Ultra. I had settled in at my new job at Sainsbury’s my colleagues giving a wonderful boost, and was enjoying the most consistent mental health period for years, what could possibly go wrong.

So July 10th had arrived, we had arrived at the starting point for the Race to the Stones, both John and I a little nervous but ready for what lay ahead over the the next two days. My only major worry was the calorific intake and how I could get 3000 calories in, my food pipe unfortunately had closed to the extent that I could only consume liquids, made up of soup and my special shakes. My wonderful dietitian in Worcester had supplied me with a collection of 250ml bottles of fortisips(high calorific shakes) and was to drink 5 a day during the ultra to give me 2000 calories, giving the balance to be made up of energy gels – all sorted.

Our wave start time was 8.10, and bang on time we were off in the drizzle, heading through a wooded area towards the first hill and onto the Ridgeway. The mix of people on the run was staggering, and the general humour and friendliness was invigorating, we started at a good steady pace heading for the first pit stop after 10km. Unfortunately by this stage I had tried my plan for nutrition, with my first bottle of fruits of the forest milkshake, however even though I had tried it before this didn’t go well making me feel extremely sick. So for the remaining two days I completed the remaining 90km on 8 gels and two pots of porridge and copious amounts of flat coke and sweet tea.

The first day went amazingly well with us smashing our previous personal best by over an hour, the only slight issue was that I had forgotten my device for covering the hole in my neck whilst in the shower. There followed an extremely careful shower and a visit to the food tent for more bloody sweet tea, the legs had held up well and was feeling extremely good for the next day, so an early night in the tent called as we were off at 6 the next morning. No need for an alarm as I was woken by Mr Knobhead who seemed to think 4am was a good time to start packing, anyway following this I had a pot of porridge and another sweet tea. We set off at 6am aiming to get a good start, things went well until the 70km when John’s Achilles heal decided to tear and my right foot decided to explode into 7 blisters 🤯 Following a the next feed stop it was decided John should stop and following being strapped I continued to hobble on, the next 20km flew by, the only issue being downhills where it pushed my toes into the front of my shoe. At 90km I felt a strange presence along side me, I looked to see a grinning John heal strapped and high on ibuprofen gels, the next 10km flew by and we were soon at the staggeringly unremarkable Avebury stones, we had completed the 100km, two years after becoming the quiet silent one.

Following the race there were two days of self isolation to be followed by a routine food pipe stretch to allow me to eat normal food again, what could possibly go wrong 😂 Arriving at Worcester hospital at 7.30, was shown to my bed space by Meg and given the necessary attire and alluring compression socks, which were surprisingly perfect for my extremely sore legs. There then followed a a short intermission whilst I awaited the theatre to become free during which time my consultant Charlie explained the possible downsides of the procedure, the worst of which was perforating the oesophagus wall, however this was highly unlikely only a 0.8% chance – no worries.

So at 11.30 I was delivered to theatre prep, where I met the consultant anaesthetists whom I knew from my previous visits, there was also a junior who had just started, Andy the chief gave me the nod and the fun began – wrong date of birth, no knowledge of my signature always good fun and very relaxing. Cannula fitted,  anaesthetic pumped and off to the world of nod, two hours later and awoke as dozy as ever with a shocker of a sore throat, my doctor came round to check on me explaining how well it had gone. It took longer than usual due to not being able to find the top of my oesophagus, apparently owing to my anatomy and the fact that my food pipe had constricted to about 3mm, once found he had stretched it to about 36mm. After an hour in recovery I was moved to the head and neck ward to continue coming round, about an hour later it was explained that I could try a couple of sips of water.

Well that’s when it all went a bit tits up, upon having the sips about a minute later I had the most excruciating pain across my chest, so severe that I was arching my back off the bed. What followed was a scene from casualty – red alarm button hit by the nurse and in the next minutes I was surrounded by about 30 doctors and nurses(I shit you not). What followed was rather alarming, I had 2 junior doctors trying to put another cannula in( apparently I said to Meg what the f… are they doing). Over the next 30 minutes I was given a rather large dose of morphine and taken for a ct scan, it appears that during the dilation my oesophagus was perforated allowing some water and crap to leak into my chest cavity. Following the results I was blue lighted to the wonderful Fawlty Toweresq QE hospital in Birmingham as they were more equipped to deal with my issue. For the next six days I was not allowed to eat in order for my   oesophagus to heal, hence over the next 5 days I lost 5.5kg, finally on the Sunday I was allowed a Jelly. I relate the QE to Fawlty Towers as during my time there I had no washes, and not once did they change my bed sheets, also on my day of freedom I was still receiving oxygen, which the doctors hadn’t noticed so in reality should have stayed in another day to be weaned off. Anyway better off at home with my own nurse 😅 what was staggering is that a week earlier I had run 100km and now couldn’t get up the stairs.

I have since found out that this was a rather serious illness and had an infection taken hold it would have a bit dodgy(50/50) but thanks to the speedy response in Worcester and on 3 lots of antibiotics immediately every thing was OK. Apparently during the emergency part I was heard to call my consultant a fu….. tw.. , I blame the morphine and luckily I have apologised and he is fine 🙂

The whole experience has been rather challenging and the loss of fitness and inability to run and cycle has been rather stressful, my family has had a lot to put up with and my wife Ann is an absolute angel, and the occasional misinterpreted comments make me smile. The support of my tri club friends is above and beyond as is the constant support of my friends at Sainsburys, the spot on crew and Jonty have been fab. My kids as ever are brilliant and thank you to my fellow grumpy old man Jon, you are a star.

I keep saying this but next year can’t be as bad, and I am planning  duathlons, triathlons and an iron-man , my swimming snorkel is being fitted on November 23rd so bring it on 💪💪

2 thoughts on “From Ultra Highs to the Lowest of Lows

  1. You’re definitely a tough guy. Iron man clearly suits you. Sounds like a bumpy ride but hopefully improving now. Keep fighting and stay strong

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  2. Amazing read & amazing achievements throughout. Keep fighting and looking forward – keep strong in both mind & body – with you in thoughts every step of the way….

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