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, November 05, 2012

Time for another run on the GNW

Hard to believe but 12 months ago I had my ablation. 12 months. It could be a lifetime. And in fact that is pretty much the philosophy I have adopted since my ablation: I have been given a second chance and I set about making the most of it.

My post ablation recovery period has already been well documented. The huge effort just to make it to GNW100s and then complete the full 175km course, also documented in detail. I now rate this as one of my most significant races, possibly the most. I managed to organise the GOW100s and then Bogong2Hotham with help from Brett, Wendy and an enthusiastic group of volunteers. The manual work required to set-up GOW and then Bogong and then clean-up, not to mention the race day drama of the mid-race cancelation due to extreme weather, really tested me out. Not to mention testing a few runners.

I have kept running through all of this, closely monitoring my heartrate. I still get unexplained sporadic breakouts of 'mini-AF' episodes while running. This despite always going very easy and keeping my heartrate low. At a follow-up visit to my cardiologist in March 2012, he explained that a repeat ablation would 'clean-up' the little areas that had been missed and were allowing these breakouts. I was not keen. He said he would review this around the 12 month mark. That anniversary and repeat visit came and went uneventfully. On the outside at least. Inside I was dancing a little jig. I didn't tell the Professor what I had done since my ablation. Probably best he doesn't know. But he considers me a successful outcome and I have to agree. I will have another review with a 24hr monitored ECG next year but until then I will get on with things.

Just for the record my post surgery running achievements look like this:

November 2011, approx 6 weeks after the surgery I completed my 6th GNW100miler (plus 1 x 100km) to keep my streak there alive.

January 2012 over the Australia Day long weekend I ran the Bogong to Hotham course, solo, unassisted and without drops. When I reached the summit of Mt Hotham as the sun was setting I turned around and ran back. It took me a little longer than I hoped but carrying a full pack of food, water and emergency gear definitely slowed me down. I completed what we call the Bogong Boomerang in 36hrs and 36minutes. I don't mind saying turning around and heading back into the night knowing what I was headed for was one of the toughest challenges I have faced.

In January I also swept the 2Bays race. Then in February I ran and swept the Maroondah Dam 50km for my 10th finish there. I also competed in the Melbourne Trailwalker 100km and later returned to TNF100 in May.

March 5th, 2012 I undertook a full traverse of the Munda Biddi trail in Western Australia. I ran/hiked the trail from end-to-end approximately 550km in 9 days 11 hours and 49 mins. The Munda Biddi is a dedicated mountain bike trail and although not yet complete, at that time this was the full length of the existing track. The first 7 days I experienced extreme heat with the reported temperatures tipping and exceeding 40*C (guarantee it was much hotter out in the open sun) and I had to carry up to 7 litres of water to cater for a potentially dry tank at one of the huts (on top of full camping, cooking, sleeping and emergency gear plus food). I utilised some food drops and stopped in small towns a few nights but went solo and unassisted.

At Easter I headed south to the Great South West Walk. This hidden gem of a trail blew me away with the spectacular scenery and incredible diversity. There are a couple of options for the course but it is billed as 250+km. I did the counterclockwise loop ensuring I visited every camp site and taking the inland route from Swan Lake Campground. Again I went solo, unassisted, without any food drops and carrying everything I needed from the start. I did supplement with half a dozen potato cakes, couple of chocolate bars, an ice-cream and several litres of softdrink at the Nelson Kiosk at halfway. I am sure the girl who served me was bewildered as to how I was eating/drinking all this on my own. I covered 270km, starting on the Friday morning and finished 58hrs and 33mins later back in Portland. This is one I will definitely revisit.

June long weekend and it was time for Phil and I to have another crack at the full GNW250. We had some crew lined up and got an early start this time, after the last attempt when we ran to the start of the GNW100s race and then tried to continue on after the race. The weather was near perfect and despite not quite making our time targets we were moving well. The second night sleep deprivation got to me and I struggled until a 5 minute kip rejuvenated me. But we were well off record pace by the third night and then torrential rain caused flash flooding as we were navigating the outskirts of Sydney. After some back-tracking and clothes changes we caught a water taxi across the Harbour to finally finish the job in 63:11hrs. I do not want to do that one again!

After a phrenetic first half of the year I took a rest. Organising GOW100s took up a lot of time and energy. A couple of weeks after GOW, I ran my sixth Prom100 and 2 weeks later I am preparing for the big one: GNW100s. I really hope to keep the unblemished record in tact but I take nothing for granted. I am just so grateful to be healthy enough to front up again. There are many regular names missing, testament to the wear and tear that our obsession can bestow upon us. But I will keep coming back as long as I can and measure myself against this tough course.