Ultrarunner fighting Atrial Fibrilation (AF)

This blog has pretty much always been about running ultras, mostly Hardrock. It still is but now it is also about running after AFib. I was forced to miss Hardrock in 2011 due to the onset of AF but my long term goal was to get back to running milers. And hopefully help any other runners with AF who stumble upon this site. I never made it into Hardrock in 2012, or 2013, or 2014. I didn't have a qualifier for 2015. I ran Fatdog in Canada instead. That was tough. I finished my 4th Hardrock in 2016 and now I'm back to try for the magical number 5.

If you want the history of my AF the heart problems all started back on May 25 2011: http://howmanysleeps.blogspot.com/2011/05/out-of-hardrock.html

Monday, March 24, 2008


I had planned on a 91km recce of the Great Ocean Walk with Spoonman
this weekend but was clearly not well on Friday so dropped out. But I
still needed a long run so scheduled a trip down the coast for
yesterday. I slept in and had to drag myself out. Ended up just going
to the Ironbark Basin. It was mid morning by the time I hit the track
and it was hotting up. I headed back towards the circus of Bells
Beach Easter Carnival before doubling back through the Basin and onto
Anglesea. After just 1/2 an hour I was struggling. It was hot. I had
no energy. But worse was the lack of any desire to be out there. I
txt'd my coach and he told me I needed an easy week. I think he would
then can me for being soft. But that didn't solve the problem at
hand. Should I just pack it in? I needed kms in my legs. And then I
remembered what I was training for: Hardrock. There will be many dark
moments out there. If I gave up at the first bad patch I might as
well not bother starting. "Suck it up princess," had been another
motivating txt message. So I walked. I jogged when I could. I kept
moving forward. Gradually I found rhythm. I passed my usual
turnaround point and continued through the residential zone. Up this
enormous hill. I found the connecting road and trail I had been
looking for and set off towards Aireys. I was running the uphills as
well now. Big hills. Eventually I turned back and found another trail
back down to the coast. By the time I got back to Addis I was pretty
stuffed. I opted to run up the road to save a couple of kms through
the basin. Up the road. I don't think I have ever run up that hill.
And here I was after 6 hours running up that hill. The late afternoon
sun was tormenting me and I ran from shadow to shadow. I was out of
water when I hit the final km of trail but I still jogged it in.
Totally spent. I realised that today wasn't about training my legs.
It was about training my mind. I needed to get back to the
fundamental hardcore principles of ultra running where the effort is
only 40% physical. I needed to find that 60% mental to get me there.
Maybe not a case of "sucking it up princess" but "toughen up
princess". Easy week this week? I think not.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

6mins the new 5mins

After browsing at my professional 6' photo samples online I noticed
something rather alarming: I have no leg lift. I have succumbed to
the ultra shuffle. Any wonder I am running such crap times. I am not
running but shuffling. I thought about this while out running over
the weekend. I was alone, and setting my own pace. Another alarming
realisation: my average training pace has gone from 5 min/km to
closer to 6 min/km. So just like 50 is the new 40, so to is 6mins the
new 5mins. This doesn't make me feel any better about my time at 6'.
This transformation is no doubt, not helped by running so much with W
who is much slower than me. But it is also probably a direct
consequence of my running style. It is time for me to get out and do
some training drills and, heaven forbid, speedwork! In fact I've been
thinking of trying a little barefoot running on the local golf-
course. But don't tell Tim.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Six Foot of pain

Nearly a week after the event and I still haven't recovered. A
running friend (well now presumably ex-friend!) told me I had a bad
run at 6' because I'd gone soft. There are few things an ultra runner
hates more than being called soft. The inexcusable macho undercurrent
that pervades our egos denies us recognition of our weaknesses. But I
don't think it was softness. I think I just had a crap run. My
greater concern is the implications for my long term training build-
up for Hardrock. Am I just not as fit as I thought I was or am I
still too early in my training to be racing. Oh, and I think the
punishing run at Maroondah 3 weeks before took a toll.

When things go wrong, they really go wrong. I seldom fall in a race
but the jarring impact of hitting the hard packed gravel road sent
more than pangs of pain through my body. It signaled to me that
things were not right. I should have cleared that creek easily so
early in the race. Instead I hit the far bank with both feet, not as
I should have with just one, then vaulted sideways gouging a sizable
chunk out of my knee on the rocks as I hit the ground. After
recovering from the shock, I looked around furtively, surprised that
no-one was in sight, and scampered off trailing blood and spilt ego.

I had lined up behind Dog and by the time we hit the start timing mat
I was buried in the crowd. I let gravity pull me gradually through
the field until there was only a couple of runners in front of me. We
hit the sharp right hand turn and I could see the stairs. I could
easily be first onto the stairs but I didn't want the pressure of
holding all 200 wave 2 runners up, so I slipped in behind another
guy. We skipped our way down the stairs at break-neck speed. Flash
from the photographer was just a blur. We caught wave 1 runners half
way down. They moved over quickly at the sound of us charging
through. The guy in front zigged when he should of zagged and I was
now in front. We were passing people constantly. I heard Dog not far
behind me. There was a clear gap when I chanced a glance back so I
knew I wasn't holding anyone up.

I hit the rocky pools at the end of the stairs and splashed past more
wave 1 runners picking their way through. I was moving fast but well
within my comfort zone for downhill. Through the trees along the
single track. Still more runners. But they let me pass easily with a
clear signal on my approach. And then we hit the open fire-trail and
I backed off. I caught up to another wave 2 runner. It didn't
register until later but he couldn't have started with us or he would
have been behind me. I'm sure I was second onto and first off the
stairs for wave 2 yet I was catching him now? I ran with him until I
heard Dog's characteristic heavy footfalls behind me. I lifted my
pace to match Dog. I sat with him for a couple of hundred metres.
"Don't start match racing me already" he said. No danger of that, he
was flying along. I eased back to a more comfortable pace. Either he
was going to run a blinder or blow up spectacularly. It would end up
being the former. He deserved it. That had been my plan: go hard or
go home. But my legs felt empty. There was nothing there. My week of
rest to settle some glute tendinopathy hadn't freshened me up at all.
Re-adjust the thinking; 4:30 was out of the question. Look for 4:45
maybe but try and stay under 5hrs. If I could just hold it together.

I had a clear run to the river but still only got there about
1:20ish. A gazillion people passed me as I was leaving the
checkpoint. I just walked the hills. Even that was a disaster as
walkers flew up the hill and I just plodded along. Ran with a guy
doing the South American (?Chilli) desert run in a few weeks. He was
spinning out some newbies so I added to the entertainment by
mentioning Western States and HR. Spud caught me somewhere around
here, going up Mini. I tried to hang on but my guts were playing up
now as well. This could get really ugly.

The climb to Pluvi seemed short but I was happy with that. I had
already started cramping lightly in the medial quads coming off Mini.
I felt more twinges as I started running Black Range Road. The
traditional coke at Pluvi did little to energise me. The road was
thick with runners. I was passing some and being passed by others. I
walked sections and my stomach churned while cramps threatened to
steal my leg function. I would cramp in the quad and the hammy of the
same leg at the same time. How could I stretch that out? I managed to
hold pace with a young lady runner for some time. The light
conversation punctuated my malaise. She fell back and I pushed on,
trying to keep momentum. Twitey passed me about where I passed him
last year in his post C2K delirium. He warned that C2K would trouble
me for some time. I think it had more to do with Maroondah 3 weeks
ago. But I wasn't giving in that easily.

The Deviation checkpoint arrived and I looked tentatively at the
portaloo. I decided to keep going but saw the toilets in the camp
ground and made a bee-line for them. I lost more than a few minutes
but felt somewhat better. I climbed the gate and back on the trail I
put my ipod on and tried to run hard, hoping my stomach would now
settle. Cramps grabbed me periodically but with the Angels blasting
in my ears I climbed to Caves Road and set about finishing this race.
The undulations on the singletrack suited me fine but cramps stopped
me from getting any rhythm going. I kept hanging on behind Moh and
another guy who had repassed me while I was in the loo. Past the
cabins and I looked at my watch. I was still a chance at sub 5 hours.
But I would have to run hard. My calves were getting sore from the
twisting on the rough descants. I knew the long, steep final descent
was really going to hurt. I turned the music up and pushed hard. The
track started plummeting down into the valley. I was flying over the
loose rocks, past runners picking their path cautiously down the
trail. My calves screamed with each wrenching twist or roll of my
ankle on the rough terrain. Past Moh and his mate. Past a lot of
other runners. Onto the narrow path. Someone shouted a warning to me.
I had pulled my earphones off to hear the cheers rising up from the
finish-line far below. There was no easing back. I hit the little
rise just before the cobblestones. Another photographer carefully
placed to catch my pain. A young guy I had been leapfrogging for an
hour or more slotted in behind me. He saw me look at my watch as we
hit the made path. "Will we make it?" he asked. "I won't die
wondering," I replied as I grabbed the handrail to sling myself
around the hairpin corner. Bam, bam, bam. My stiff legs jammed into
the hard surface as fast as i could make them. Another photographer.
I was streaming spittle and sweat as I sucked in big breathes in a
mad pitch for the finish. I braced myself for the final turn off the
stairs onto the road, knowing I would cramp. I did but I grimaced and
pushed for the line. There were people cheering but the noise wasn't
reaching my ears. My legs were screaming but the pain wasn't reaching
my brain. My world was reduced to that timing mat under the finish
clock. I ran as hard as I could and beat 5 hours by about 40 seconds.

I had said I would leave nothing in the tank. I didn't. On a day that
people were PB'ing all over the place I was just glad to finish. No
PB. Just sore legs and satisfaction to have managed to salvage a sub
5 from a very ordinary day. But 6' is about more than the race. The
post race socialising and watching others finish makes it all worth
the effort. That same friend (or ex-friend) gave me another little
pearl when bagging me about my average performance. When asked about
why he doesn't do something else instead he merely said: because I'm
a runner. And that's what I am. And 6' is a great place to run, and
test that theory. I guess I'll just have to "suck this one up". 4:59:19