The usual winter lurgy has descended on the Rolfe household with a vengeance. Last Sunday, two kids were on antibiotics and Mrs R and I were feeling a bit under the weather, but battling on. I had entered the Nice to Monaco Course Du Soleil as it was organised by some of the guys that organise the Cro (Cap D'Ail Macadam), and have in the past given them some help with their website, translation and so on. It also fitted in perfectly with my training - the plan was to run it and then cycle back from Monaco to the start, chucking the bike in the truck and driving home, negating waiting for a bus at any stage. On the basis that to miss a workout would be more painful than actually doing it, I went to the race. It would also be my first race of the year, as I had missed a couple more I had entered due to other things cropping up, and would be missing a couple more subsequently due to plans changing.
The usual pre race brekkie of porridge and tea was accompanied with a headache, and as a result of that and rushing out the door, I managed to forget everything including hat, gloves, ipod, and extra layers. To be honest I was not exactly banking on the temperature being just above freezing, either.
Having sheltered from the cold with the engine running and heater turned up full blast in the truck, I made my way to the start just before the start of the race, and where the sun was peeking it's head above Mont Boron it was warming the air at a rate of knots. Above the din of the other runners chatting excitedly like a flock of starlings, I could just make out the stirring music that is played at the start of the UTMB. Moved and excited, I forgot the headache and tried to remember to start my Garmin when I crossed the start line.
Whilst I was dodging the other runners (who goes to the front and then walks the first km of a half marathon?), I kept an eye on my heart rate, which was a lot higher than I would have expected at that point in the race. Reigning everything in, I brought it back to a level I thought I could maintain for the rest of the race, and promised myself I would keep it there or thereabouts.
The first climb up Mont Boron was as expected - lots of runners overtaking me but puffing and panting as they did so. Then the long 2km flat straight into the sun before bearing left down into Villefranche. I had to remind myself to push down the hill, but was getting into my stride as we left the main road into the narrow streets of Villefranche itself. The only clear bit of street was the gutter as I thundered past loads of people on the steep downhill. The only person to overtake me was a skinny guy in a blue t shirt with an "ultra beard", in ginger. The road flattened out as we skirted the port and beach at sea level, and I grabbed a half cup of water at the first ravitellement.
The beach of Villefranche gave way to a narrow staircase up to Cap Ferrat, which was expected and a nice breather for a few seconds as we queued for our turns to climb the short flight of stairs. At the top I tried to use the undulations of Cap Ferrat to my advantage, slowing uphill and speeding downhill.
We left Cap Ferrat for Beaulieu, and as I joined the main road a car shot past us, clearly annoyed at the hold up, and drove right through the peloton of runners to try and park. Fortunately noone was hurt but he was surrounded by irate runners. As I caught this up someone undertook me and then stopped in my path, causing me to run into him at full speed and we both struggled to stay upright. It took a few seconds to register who it was amongst all his swearing and gesticulating, but I recognised Ginger Ultra Beard. For some imagined slight he had pace checked me and bitten off more than he could chew. I ignored him as best I could and continued running, trying to put as much distance between us as possible.
From then on I used the old Mad Dog trick - fishing. Casting an imaginary fly into the back of someone's shirt and then rolling the imaginary reel back until I overtook that particular runner, before repeating the process. This is a great mental game as it keeps me focussed on pace without actually focussing on pace.
I lost a lot of places heading up the hill to Cap D'Ail but was able to make them back and more as I headed down the hill into Monaco. I was a little surprised and annoyed to see Ginger Ultra Beard overtake me on the downhill. We were neck and neck on the flat before heading into the Fontvielle tunnel before he took the lead by a few metres. I let him have his head as we reached the Stade - traditionally the finish of the half marathon, but there was some football match on so the course had been extended by an extra half km or so.
We crossed the border from Monaco back into France, and although I couldn't see the finish I thought it would be where they put the finish for the Tour Pedestre, so I put the hammer down as much as I could, overtaking Ginger about 100m before the line and holding him off to the finish.
I had covered the almost 22km in 1hr 44, 386/1376. My best time for the proper half was 1hr 33, so a long way from that, but I don't feel I left anything out there, I just need to work on some speed work. I grabbed a Coke and jog/walked back to the apartment before changing into my cycling stuff, emptying the dishwasher and putting on a load of washing, before mounting the trusty Bianchi and cycling back to Nice.
It had been quite a windy run which was to be expected, but it was also windy on the bike. I couldn't believe I had gone both ways into a headwind. That didn't make any sense at all. As I headed back up the hill in Cap D'Ail, I overtook a few cyclists, but was overtaken by a club ride of 3, working together as a team, taking it in turns on the front. One guy was clearly much better than the other 2, with a bike in the same colours as his kit - a KTM believe it or not, in black and orange. The guys were from St Laurent du Var, and looking strong.
Just before the tunnel at the top of the hill, the team leader was waiting for their third member, the weakest link, who they had dropped off the back. I caught them as he rejoined and we headed down the hill as a four. I was struggling to keep up until the flat at Eze when I managed to overtake them all and headed on my own.
The two top guys overtook me again on the way up the hill to Villefranche, but when I got to the bottom of the hill KTM guy was waiting and asked me if I'd seen their third wheel. He was looking a little exasperated, but unfortunately I could not help as I had not seen him at all. I carried on to Nice, up the final hill, flat, downhill and hobbled off the bike for a 48 minute 21km bike ride. Not unhappy with that performance, I had a protein bar and headed home for a
Crawling into bed at midnight, exhausted, on Friday night set the tone for the whole weekend. #2's pump had not been delivering the insulin effectively and she had had high blood sugar for most of the day. This tends to have two effects
1/ Because her body cannot process enough sugar to efficiently run the muscles and brain, she burns fat and muscle which makes her feel like she has the flu, and is irritable as a result
2/ She is annoyed because she knows the side effects of being high, and is therefore irritable.
She is also 12, going on 13, and has a propensity to be irritable. On Friday she had changed the pump's cannula and connection 2 or 3 times before bed, and I was hopeful when I checked her at midnight that it would be working properly, as I did not particularly want to wake her up and face another Defcon 1 meltdown. It was. I retired exhausted after a knackering week.
Saturday was a blast - Mrs R took #1 out for a bit of mother/daughter 1 on 1 bonding. It went well. I had #2 and #3 and a friend of #2. We walked around MC, had a massive burger (well, I did) and an ice cream (kids only) which were delicious (I tasted them to make sure they were ok for the kids to eat).
On the left you have a normal burger for #2. On the right was my burger. Delicious, and washed down with a pint. Well, I was carb loading for the Spartan Race.
In the evening a group of us went to see Kylie - the show was great, although sitting down on pain of being ejected from the auditorium was weird. I rather enjoyed the costume changes, though, and it did not matter that Kylie was miming (the tell tale was when she stopped moving her lips but the singing carried on, or perhaps she is a great ventriloquist). Predictably we went on to Sass and finished at 3am. Ouch.
Fortunately the Spartan Race wave we had booked was not until 1.30pm, so I had time to sleep in until 8.30am before tea and porridge. Stu kindly drove the four of us the two hour-ish drive down to the Paul Ricard Circuit at Castellet. We discussed tactics en route, with the plan to stick together no matter what. No man would be left behind.
We arrived around noon and were greeted by the sight of people COVERED from head to foot in mud. COVERED. We were cringing away from them as we made our way to registration, as we did not want to get dirty! It was about a 1km walk to the registration from the car park, and as we got closer you could hear shouting, chanting and loud music. A great atmosphere. We were scheduled in the 1330 hrs wave, the elites had set off at 9am, and there was a steady stream of people heading to and from the start - clean and dirty. We passed a reservoir with people crossing it, looking like they were swimming but in weird jerky movements.
Registration and bag drop was a simple process. In fact the whole experience was slick and practised - car park attendants directing us according to our wave, picking up the bibs, the bag we received including the number on a headband, it was all "frictionless". After a brief stretch we headed to the start, and immediately took our positions.
To get into the start pen you had to clamber over a 6 foot wall. I was quite pleased to manage that with relative ease and not falling over and making a complete prat of myself in front of hundreds of other people! Then a warm up process led by an inspirational bloke with a microphone that included piggy back fighting, sitting on the floor and people crowd surfing, and a few burpees. The four of us in my team found ourselves face to face with a Roman legionnaire (one of a few lined up in front of us) carrying an enormous stick with 2 huge padded ends. There was a brief countdown and all of a sudden everyone behind us surged forwards pushing us into the guys with the padded sticks who were trying to push us backwards.
We burst through the Legionnaires and trotted off onto a trail. The initial path was "breaking us in gently" according to Stu. We went on a zigzag path up and down a steep bank, sometimes technical with loose stones. The field spread out a bit, and we were able to get into a gentle jogging pace. The beauty of doing it as a team was that we thought would be handy for some of the tougher obstacles. As a result we were tied to a pace at which the slowest amongst us was the most comfortable, and that was a very easy pace. We had a bit of barbed wire at mid shin height we had to crawl underneath, through some mud, as one of the first obstacles, followed swiftly by trees piled up a bit like ladders, we had to climb over, but tough because of their big girth as it was difficult to hold on to anythiung. These increased in height, and there was some help required by some to get over the tallest - about 10-12 feet high.
We then had to swim through a muddy quarry, fully clothed including trainers, and I tried not to take on board any muddy water as well as to avoid getting kicked in the head by the person in front. After that a ladder up a wall, but the first rung was at 6 foot. At the top of the 20 foot wall was a drainpipe we had to slide down like firemen, but because we were soaked the drain pipe did not slow us at all and we thumped into some straw. More mud crawling under barbed wire, then wading through a shallow river with water about knee height for 200m. We then had to climb a wall with two poles set up against it leaning at an angle. There was a technique to holding eeels. At the top was a narrow pipe which we had to slide down the inside of to land on a mat.
Onto the race track, grab a race car tyre, carry it for 300m, climb over a couple of crash barriers with it, and put it back where we started. Run 500m, grab a massive log, do a 3-400m loop with it on tough trails, then dump it where we started, and on another 500m to the monkey bars. These were quite hard as we were a bit wet, and also quite tired from the incessant obstacles. There was a runway next to the monkey bars with a Mig jet warming up its engines. Very impressive. Dom and I went together on the monkey bars and unfortunately collided which meant Dom fell. I continued to the end and unfortunately Dom was made to do the burpees - 30 of them. We waited whilst he did them and watched the Mig take off.
By this point we were down to a walk between obstacles as Tom could not manage anything more, but noone was in a massive hurry. There were walls to climb up and go under alternately. Then the lake crossing - there were wooden beams about a foot under the water every 6 or 7 feet. The water was almost pure mud, and there were heaps of people crossing the lake. It was necessary to sort of swim forwards feeling with your hands to locate the pole and then flip over it, onto the next all the while being pushed from behind and kicked from the front! Another 300m, and then disappear down an overflow pipe - bent double and in pitch black I held my hand in front to stop myself from bashing that person and could feel the hand of the person behind on my back. The pipe actually took us under the road. At some point there was a rope we had to climb up and ring the bell - I was amazed and really pleased to be able to climb that given the mud and water on me. More walls to climb, and then tractor tyres to pull and push, a weight towing loop with dips cut into the track to make sure the weights kept catching and it was necessary to jerk them out. Tractor tyres to flip up and down a hill. Then a sandbag loop of 500-600m down and then up a steep trail. This was tough - the sandbag was heavy (20-30kg?). One chap's girlfriend had a meltdown and he ended up carrying hers! People were sitting down on the trail, and one chap was being attended to by medics at the top, with heart monitor nodes attached all over his chest. Dom and I reached the top, dry mouthed, and cheered on Stu and then Tom. More jog/walking through trees and then a net to climb. The obstacles kept coming thick and fast. A weight on a rope you had to pull up to the top on a pulley and then let down slowly - for fear of burpees. Every time you missed an obstacle you had to do 30 burpees - a pressup, squat and star jump in one. Knackering.
There was some technical trail which I quite enjoyed, more barbed wire to crawl under, and then spear chucking. There were 3 hay bales lined up with a wooden spartan face to aim at. You had one go at the bale. My spear hit the face and bounced off - turns out if you lodged it in the bale that would have been ok! I had to do burpees - 30 of them, and was knackered afterwards!
I cannot remember every obstacle we did - there were ropes to help us up and down wooden planks, made harder by water spraying off the top. One of the worst ones was an almost vertical plank the other side of a wall, with a big queue of people. When my turn came I peered down the 20 foot drop. There were three ropes drilled in to it secured by a big screw at the top and the bottom. The idea was to grab the rope and gently lower yourself down. Tom went next to me and thumped down the plank into the straw at the bottom, did an undignified roll in front of a few spectators and stood up. I grabbed the rope, swung my legs over, but because the rope and plank were soaked and muddy, my hands slid down the rope at great speed, leaving plenty of skin on it, and my right butt cheek caught the screw at the bottom. No blood, thank goodness as the rope was wrapped round it, but plenty of bruising. Quite a refreshing take on health and safety!
The third to last obstacle was a really long mud crawl under barbed wire. It was packed with people, and the best way to get through was to roll side on. The sight of people covered in mud rolling along was really funny. We all got coated but I made some new friends in there! We then had to climb over a 45 degree angled wooden plank holding a rope and using our feet to climb up. They had positioned hoses on the top to make it harder. Dom got up to the top followed by me and we helped Stu and Tom over the top. It took a while! Then we had to climb a massive wall to get to the finish. I gave Tom and Dom a leg up, Stu got some help from someone else, and all of a sudden I was on my own! The wall was so big I had to jump to reach the top. I managed to get my arms over it but was so muddy that I could not get any purchase with my feet and I slowly slid down. I tried again - getting my elbows over it, but could not get the purchase needed to get over it! Stu dashed round the side and gave me a leg up, and I got over! Then we jumped over the log fire to finish off - four of us in a row, the only bit visible were our smiles! We picked up really nice finisher t shirts and snazzy medals, Coke, bananas and a sticky bun which was posted into our mud covered mouths by a volunteer.
It was great fun. We took 3hrs 43 mins - not a fast time by any means to cover 13km, but the fact we did it as a team and did not leave anyone behind meant that the pace between obstacles was slower, and we waited for everyone to do burpees when necessary. Happy to have all finished, we hosed off and drove back the 2.5hr drive home with 3 wrong turns! Fortunately we had thought to pack cornish pasties and beer in an Esky.
I arrived home to the sight of Mrs R arguing with #1 about something and nothing, but was very tired and full of the experience. I had had a great day doing something completely different with my mates in the countryside, got muddy, had a jog and a swim and a fabulous workout!
It took a while to recover and in fact my ITB's seized a bit so saw the Befit physio, Naomi, to get them sorted out before getting back on the NYC marathon training regime of 25km this morning. I am also glad my shots are up to date given the amount of skin I appear to have left at Paul Ricard in return for the mud I appear to have brought back with me - and keeps appearing relentlessly, even now!
I am getting a lot of questions asking how I am and whether I have recovered from the double Cro Magnon yet. The loss of three night's sleep, coupled with covering a long drive on foot has certainly left me tired, and I am once again back to propping up my eyelids in front of Homeland Season 3 despite the lack of any real training. I have been going for swims in the sea, some very short runs and a lot of stretching, and yet tying my shoe laces still results in an elaborate facial contortion regime as I return to a standing position. I would far rather sit than stand at this juncture!
The weekend was rather full what with taking kids here and there, a fledgling Monaco Diabetes association lunch, church, and more taxiing of kids. We did manage a quick trip over the border to restock with cheap booze from Italy together with a quick lunch just Mrs R and the kids, which was a lovely novelty.
It was with weary legs that I dragged myself out of my own bed, and climbed #2's ladder to her mezzanine bed last night, and went through the finger prick rigmarole by torchlight. #3 shares the room, and after a hectic weekend and end of term exhaustion, I did not want to wake either of them. Despite being asleep, #2 pulled herself into the foetal position facing away from me when I reached her level, making things even harder for me, but I managed to draw some blood and read the BG monitor for a level of 9.8mmol, requiring a corrective dose. The pump really is great for BG control, but as in my favourite metaphor, steering a boat, it requires a lot more - but smaller - inputs.
Cue rummaging around under the blankets to try and find the pump - usually buried in some nook or under a load of discarded clothing, and occasionally under #2's body. It is a relatively simple process to bolus correctively - plug in the BG level, 9.8, <ENTER>, confirm that she has ingested zero carbs, <ENTER>, confirm the level of insulin units to be input (can be adjusted depending on the type of food - up for pizza, down for vegetables, for instance), <ENTER>, set an alarm for another BG check in 2.5hrs yes or no, <ENTER>. What follows is a barely audible whirring as the insulin is driven from the reservoir in the pump along the thin plastic tube, and the numbers creep up from zero to the final level of insulin injected, like a jackpot meter in a Vegas slot machine.
I zoomed quickly through the usual cycle of <ENTER>'s, barely reading the text at each stage as it required more concentration than I had to offer perched at the top of the ladder, trying to do all this by torchlight as quickly as possible so I could go back to sleep. I became fully conscious when I realised that the pump was injecting Alice with 9.8 units of insulin - and I knew immediately what I had done. I broke out into a hot sweat and tried to prevent the panic from taking over - 9.8 units was a massive corrective dose - I did not know the full consequences of an insulin overdose if untreated, but I was sure it was potentially enough to kill her. I cycled through the menu on the pump barely able to read the options and managed to suspend the insulin delivery and then cancel it. It had injected 3.9 units already.
I woke Mrs R, summarised the situation, and went downstairs to make a Nutella sandwich and grab a packet of biscuits. Then I had to wake #2 up, give her the unfortunate news, and try and get enough carbs into her to outweigh the insulin "overdose". #2 was far from amused at being woken and was also unhappy at my choice of sandwich (12 year olds can be fickle at 11.30 at night). Mrs R and I eventually got back to bed around midnight after forcing a toasted bagel, some Lucozade and some biscuits into her which we felt was enough to counteract the insulin.
What we did not know was whether she would digest enough of the carbs to offset the insulin before the insulin kicked in, as the metabolism slowed for the night, so the alarm was set for 2am. Her BGL was 10 at that point - high, but we decided not to correct again given the unknown variables.
I got up for a stretch and light core strength session today, mainly to get rid of the stress from last night. Mrs R was similarly exhausted, but #2 had a lie in to recover. Whilst a bit shaken up by what happened, today is a new day
I had to put on every layer for the start of the Cro itself at 4am - I was pretty cold and knew it would be colder at the top of the first climb - 1000m of altitude gain in 10km or so, with the summit at 2000m. The gun went at 4am, and it all felt slightly surreal - no real pre race nerves given I was not far off half way through my challenge, but almost from the off I could feel the 105km already in my body, and I was hoping that it would stand up to the battering the Cro promised.
I chatted to a few people on the way up the first climb including a transplanted Brit now living in Italy, as we passed a monk ringing a bell cheering us on. There was snow at the top but cleared enough on the route we took, so that it was passable. As the sun came up we had some spectacular views across the mountains, with low lying clouds in some valleys. There was only one really technical section of the course in the first 70km's or so of the race, and that was on the way down to Tende at 24km. However, the route was certainly hilly enough, albeit on rough tracks through forests and up and down mountains. I made it to Tende, the first real refreshment stop, and filled up my empty bladder with water and my powder. It was not quite 8am and clearly the heat was going to be the main issue of the day. We then climbed out of Tende up to the second ravi point, Refuge Amicizia, at 42km, the first marathon of the day. I was already out of water 3/4 of the way up the hands on knees hike, but in better shape than a bearded chap who had sat down by the side of the trail. He complained of stomach issues, so I tried to chivvy him along. I found some marshalls a little further along and they provided me with a couple of cups of water to tide me over to the proper stop. After almost 8 hrs on the trail, I had 2hrs in hand before the cut off, and was very pleased but my feet were already starting to suffer with a recurrence of the blisters and also the tenderness on the balls of my feet and big toes with the really deep blisters.
I could do nothing but push on, and was given a boost by seeing 4 participants getting into an official landrover, retiring from the race because it was "too hard". I then chatted to a nurse from the Cardio centre in Monaco - he had tried the race a couple of years previously but given up, and he hoped to complete this year. He went ahead as I went at my own pace, and tried to remain hydrated as despite the cloud cover it was very humid and hot, and there were still shadows indicating the sun was still threatening the unsuspecting. At 59km, the refuge Muratone, the aforementioned nurse was sitting tucking into some hot food when I arrived, and looking for all the world like a broken man. I would not be surprised if he dropped out, as I tried to chivvy him along but he would not come (sadly I cannot remember his name or number so cannot check).
The next aid station was scheduled Breil, and I was also looking forward to the half way mark. I can remember heading along a very long dirt road through the woods, undulating but only steep in brief sections. One one side of the track was France and on the right was Italy. Through the undergrowth and brambles I could just about make out the odd doorway here and there. Clearly there was a vast network of fortifications under the dirt, a legacy of hundreds of years of war between the 2 nations. Quite fascinating wondering what sort of era the fort was used in and wondering about the soldiers that had inhabited it. It seemed to be massive and go on for ages, but truth be told I was slowing down quite a lot and a couple of times I had to use a discarded stone slab or tank trap to have a sit down, slurp some fluids from my pack and have a handful of trail mix. I managed to keep the breaks to a minimum of time and pushed on as much as I could.
I arrived in Breil just shy of 7pm, a full 4 hours ahead of the cut off, and I felt pretty beaten up. My lower back was in agony, my feet were screaming so loud I thought bystanders could hear them, and my legs had virtually seized up into stumpy telegraph poles. Paola, Sonia and Luca greeted me on arrival - Paola was in charge of the aid station, and asked me what they could get me, but I just took some Coke and water, and found my drop bag, sat down in a chair to do some admin. I munched on a couple of O'Connor flapjacks (those things are manna from heaven), and re-Vaselined everything. Sonia even found some eucalpytus cream and gave my legs a bit of a rub down (she is a soigneur in real life!), and within 15 minutes or so I was ready to leave a new man. It was like I had had a complete engine rebuild in that short period of time. My legs were able to move in all the right places, and even the soles of my feet felt less sore, although both socks had holes in!
The challenge began at 8pm on Wednesday 18th June, when the intrepid team of Dom, Stu, Mark, Tim and I set off at an underwhelming (to the spectators at least) pace from Chez Rolfe. We took the Sentier Littoral to Cap Martin and then peeled off up the hill towards the Col De Castillon. The others were picked up after 11km or so, just as the sun was setting, and I realised that the challenge was actually happening as I donned my headlamp and set off up the increasingly steeper incline. I took a mixture of roads and footpaths, not venturing too deeply into the forest as 2 weeks earlier Georg and I had been hopelessly lost on a training run in the maze of VTT and Randonee paths. I was afforded some amazing views over the coast, and enjoyed seeing 4 badgers playing, as I topped the Col at 750m.
I pushed the pace a little bit more to Sospel using gravity - a nice descent, joining the Cro trail about half way down the hill. I arrived in Sospel in time to hear the church bells ringing in midnight in stereo - there are 2 churches. There is a water fountain by the river so I took the opportunity to fill my bladder with water, added a little bit of the isotonic powder, had a handful of trail mix and put on another layer of clothing from my pack, as the air was humid and starting to chill.
I jogged out of Sospel and took the road up to the Col de Brouis. This was a long slog up the switch backs, and I stuck mostly to the road. Not too far up the hill, I could hear lots of rustling in the undergrowth, and heard the tell tale grunts of wild boar. I crossed the road, and more or less immediately came face to face with another boar. After the initial feelings of sheer terror had diminished, and he was just staying still and staring at me, I took a photo although it did not come out too well. He was about 10m from me, and the flash scared him off. I took another path not far from the top of the Col, and saw a pair of eyes staring back at me. I thought they belonged to a cat, but the animal did not seem that scared, more curious. As I got to within 2m of the animal it slowly walked right past me - I am not sure what it was, perhaps some sort of mink? If you have not been up Col De Brouis, it is very isolated and there is no habitation at all apart from a tiny auberge/restaurant at the very top. Unfortunately I reached it after last orders at 2.15am and therefore no opportunity to take on fluids. My feet were starting to get a few hotspots, due to a thinner sock choice, a cold night and my feet were rubbing in the shoes. I couldn't do much about it though, and just cracked on. Just over the Col, I saw a pair of eyes staring back at me from the woods. They were about 150m away, and were wider apart than the cats/badgers/mink I had seen. My headlamp just about outlined the shape of a large animal, at least waist height if not more, and the eyes were forward facing, not on the side of a head like deer or cows. I thought it was a dog but dogs always bark. This just stared....I speeded up and was a little perturbed to seen another pair of eyes on the other side of the road, exactly the same. Whatever they were I did not hang around to find out.
A mixture of road and trails for the jog down to the Roya valley, and then the long, slow climb into a headwind from Breil to Tende. I stopped in Fontan to use one of the fountains to take on water, and also had a sit down and a Go Bar. A friend, Markus was heading to Limone for a training trail run (TDS in August), and he drove past me at 5am with Coke and a friendly face, which was a real boost just before dawn. Not long after I came around a corner and virtually bumped into a boar nuzzling away at a verge. She was surrounded by 7 or 8 boar-lets. Both boar and I were surprised and fortunately terrified, as we both exclaimed and ran in different directions, piglets heading off in all points of the compass.
I arrived in Tende not long after dawn, and called Elio - one of the Cro organisers - the plan was to have him come from Limone, and then drive behind me in the tunnel whilst I ran. He told me the plan had changed, the police had said it was no longer possible and therefore he was going to come and pick me up to drive me through the tunnel - he thought that the Col de Tende would be too difficult due to the snow, but I wanted to try for myself though, so he did not come. I jog / walked up to the tunnel, meeting Martin for a change of socks and an apple en route. He also charged my telephone up (I had run out of battery and spare at 75km on Runkeeper, pre Tende - sorry about that!). The police confirmed that I was not allowed through the tunnel on foot, and also stated that the Col was impassable due to snow. As the kids' book says, if you can't go over it, you can't go round, you can't go under it, you have to go through it. I therefore hitched a lift for the 3.2km long tunnel with Martin, getting dropped off the other side for the last 7.6km into Limone. About 4km before Limone, Sonia and Luca from the Cro organisation found me and delivered tea and digestives - Italian breakfast! Disappearing onto a mountain bike trail and what I thought was a short cut, I got totally lost and 8km later was behind some railway barrier in a field. I pressed the button to alert the signal man and after what seemed an interminable wait a train rumbled through and the barriers lifted. I managed to find the road and was clapped into Limone by Paola, Sonia and Luca. I think, although am not 100% sure, I had covered 105km on foot (plus 3.2km by car). It was 10.20am (14hrs 20 mins)
The guys from the Cro were extremely kind as I stood in the fountain in the main square to chill my feet and legs, delivering me a panini and cappucino. I slept a bit, and then had an amazing 5 course meal at Paolas house with the others for the properly authentic Italian meal. I did not contribute too much to the conversation other than the odd "Multo Bene"! When I got back I popped the three blisters I could see, but I couldn't do much with the really deep ones.
Friday was spent chilling, dozing, registering for the Cro, reloading my back pack with supplies, and then the pasta party and briefing. Pietro, after introducing the pros and favourites for the races, very kindly introduced me at the briefing to the other participants and mentioned I had run to Limone the day before and for the cause itself, Diabetes UK, to help further raise the profile of this terrific charity. Bed at 9pm with the alarm set for 2am.
At 9pm on Wednesday 19th June - 3 weeks and 2 days from now - I will be setting off on one of my toughest challenges yet. Something like 250km in 4 days, nearly half of it unsupported, more than half of it (and likely 3/4 of it) across mountainous cross country trails, from Monaco to Limone to Cap D'Ail. As is normal under the circumstances, nothing really runs smoothly, and there is too much snow for the Cro Magnon to remain safe, so the organisers are looking for an alternative route. Plan C is obviously to cancel it and perhaps just have the half from Breil to Cap D'Ail. Whatever happens, the Col de Tende is open (my highest point on the pre Cro run), and my intention is to run from Monaco to Limone via whatever route I can, and then back again. If the Cro is cancelled in favour of just the 80km from Breil, then I will run back from Limone to the start of that race and do that instead.
Why am I doing this? Diabetes UK remain focal in our ability to deal with Alice's diagnosis. At first it was painful and raw, and we still had to deal with the practicalities of the diagnosis. Diabetes UK personally helped us with education and support. We are now much calmer about the whole thing - it is still there to be managed, and the various mood swings can be pretty tiring when her sugars are low or high, for whatever reason. It would be easy to become either tied up in just the diabetes management - putting our social life on hold and not pursuing a normal family life. It would be similarly easy to become blase about the treatment of her condition. Alice is currently looking forward to her Diabetes UK summer camp in August - a sort of Outward Bound for diabetic kids in a completely safe and controlled environment. A lot of the volunteers are themselves Type 1 diabetics and have benefitted from the camps in the past. As a parent I can see how important these types of "normalizing" events can be for children, but also the safety and experience aspect makes it a lot easier for those parents that would be in the former camp - wrapped up in just the diabetes to the detriment of the rest of their life.
I knew Diabetes UK funded research - I have recently found out that the development of the injection pens was a direct result of their research funding, moving away from glass or disposable syringes.
I have blogged before about the feelings that we had when Alice was diagnosed, likening it to bereavement. I am pretty sure that as a family we are more in the fifth stage than any other, now - acceptance. The last few months have not been easy, but it is now a part of life and we have to get on with it.Of course we still worry, and dealing with an almost teenager with this condition is most definitely not easy, but from advice we picked up at the Diabetes UK family weekend from parents that had blazed a trail before us, it is most definitely easier than it would be otherwise. I would obviously love to put Alice on the Paleo diet, gluten free, no processed sugar or wheat, as her sugars would be a lot easier to manage, but try reasoning all that with a 12 year old girl? We do what we can with gentle words of encouragement, and of course try and treat her as we would the other two with the appropriate boundaries. At the end of the day, how she eats in the future will be her choice, and she knows the pros and cons of every ice cream, bagel or packet of crisps.
In the meantime, training is proceeding according to plan. It is not always easy to fit it in, and it would be very easy to get a few more hours sleep a week and try to persuade myself that is ok. But it is not. Yesterday I got up early and ran just under a marathon, uphill and down dale, on the roads and tracks around Vence. It took a while to get into it as I left Jack at home (the roads around Vence are too unforgiving), and the pack was heavy, but it was nonetheless fun. Although I was a little bemused at the cyclist waggling his finger at me as he came round the corner north of 60kmh with me gripping the side of the cliff that formed the hard shoulder. Clearly he had no sense of irony, and if he had seen me move the boulders and tree limbs that had come free in the night and littered the road just after the corner, he may have thought slightly differently. Having been on the receiving end of a few waggled fingers - and worse - on my bike from cars, there is definitely a road hierarchy out there with runners seemingly on the bottom of the pile!
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There can be few more heart wrenching words than when your child turns to you, their face impossibly blotchy red and tear stained, and plead "But Daddy, why me? Why not someone else? What did I do to deserve this?" I felt helpless and gutted. Not gutted in the way that you feel if your team is thrashed, or you failed to achieve a personal goal in some way, but like someone took a serrated blade to your stomach and pulled out your intestines with their hands.
It was 10.30am on 23rd December and my daughter Alice had just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Admittedly it was not something else - worse, like a terminal illness, but also it was not something like a broken arm which could be fixed with a plaster cast for 6 weeks and then life would continue as normal. Diabetes in both forms - Type 1 or Type 2 - is completely manageable assuming you want to manage it, and there is always the possibility of a cure in 5 or 10 years' time, but our lives will never be normal in the old sense, again. Especially for Alice, who is now saddled with endless blood tests, carb counting and at least 4 insulin injections a day for the rest of her life. If I could take the condition away from Alice to have it myself I would do so in a heartbeat.
It has been two weeks since the diagnosis, and it could not have come at a worse possible time - Christmas. Long, drawn out meals at odd times of the day and night coupled with all the sweets, chocolates, mince pies and Christmas Pudding have meant spiking blood sugar levels and for a family that is trying to get the blood sugar levels down to a stable range this has meant testing blood sugar levels at 1am and then 6am as well as every 2 hours during waking hours. Going back to school has also been one of the most stressful experiences of my life. Alice was terrified that everyone would look at her differently - stigmatize her for having special privileges such as being able to eat in class (where necessary) and for having to inject. In the event, Day 1 went quite well, and although Alice's condition is not yet common knowledge amongst her peers, her blood control was good and she met another Type 1 girl 18 months older than Alice, and that has proved infinitely more beneficial than chatting to her grandparents - two of which are Type 2.
Alice loves her food - it has not always been the case, as she was quite a sickly baby and then hated the first 2 schools she went to, frequently vomiting on arrival. Music, sport and food has become her salvation. She plans her meals and snacks religiously to fit in with her extensive extra curricular activities, and often bakes cakes to sell for extra pocket money, sampling her wares of course! She loves trying different types of food from all around the world- curry, snails and sushi being some of her current favourites
Type 1 diabetes is where the Pancreas stops making insulin. There is no current scientific conclusion as to why this occurs - it is in no way related to diet, obesity or lifestyle (not that Alice should have been worried as she leads a very active lifestyle and eats very healthily anyway). In fact, the latest theories couple some unexplained Genetics (although there is no history of Type 1 in either my or my wife's family) with a viral trigger, as Diabetes Type 1 occurs in clusters - basically some sort of infection. Diabetes Type 1 is more often than not diagnosed in children - often between the ages of 11-14, although instances have occurred in much younger children and adults too. In contrast, Type 2 Diabetes is intrinsically linked with diet and exercise, as well as obesity, and is far more common in adults. It is often called Mature Onset Diabetes, and it is where the body becomes resistant to insulin and this needs to be augmented. Type 2 diabetes can often be controlled through diet and pills, whereas Type 1 can only be controlled through insulin injections, as the insulin would be broken down by the acid in the stomach.
The symptoms of both types of Diabetes can often be similar - unexplained weight loss, thirst, passing urine more frequently, extreme tiredness and genital itching or regular episodes of thrush. However, the symptoms presented in Type 1 Diabetes tend to occur rapidly.
We noticed several symptoms towards the end of the summer, and especially since restarting School in September, Alice had noticeably lost weight. At her age this can be put down to a growth spurt, as well as increased levels of physical activity given she has risen up through the ranks in Diving - her chosen sport. She had also had several yeast infections, but was not noticeably more thirsty - at least to her parents, and as such was not passing urine as frequently as all that (with four girls in the house someone always seems to occupy a bathroom / loo somewhere). She had visited the local GP who commented on the weight loss but was not overly concerned. When we arrived with my wife's parents in Yorkshire, we observed the usual family practise of using his blood sugar monitor to test the whole family. My father in law has been Type 2 diabetic for some time. Everyone came in with a blood sugar level of between 5 mmol/l and 6 mmol/l, and Alice's was so high that the reading was just "High". After 12 hours of just water, Alice was still 19. We went straight to the York District Hospital Pediatric Ward, and within what seemed like a few seconds, our lives had changed forever.
The ramifications of this diagnosis have been varied. There are the obvious ones such as carb counting (something which can annoy all the family especially Alice, although we also find quite fascinating and enjoy the maths behind it). There is the decision - for Alice - to eat what she wants and just increase the insulin dose (the higher the dose, the more the discomfort or even pain of the injection), or to eat fewer carbs and inject less insulin although for Alice perhaps enjoy her food less. She absolutely adores fresh white bread. There are also other ramifications - Alice wants to be normal, and does not want to be labelled as different or even disabled. She is worried about telling people in case she is accused of having caused the condition herself, and being bullied for having a sweet tooth or perhaps greedy - even though we and she understand that this is nonsense. She is worried about the teachers in her school not allowing her to test in class if she feels a bit woozy, and perhaps eating in front of the others. Theft of the equipment. Having a hypo in class and being teased for it - perhaps being labeled insane....the list goes on. And of course, as her parents, we take these worries on board. One of the toughest issues to deal with currently, is trying to persuade an 11 year old girl that she needs to plan what she eats beforehand - the insulin takes 20 minutes to work, so injecting just before a meal is optimal. Weighing out exactly what she is going to eat, measuring the carb content, and then injecting the commensurate level of insulin, and then all of a sudden she changes her mind, fancies something else entirely and has a meltdown. She is after all only 11.
We are currently trying to get enrolled in the French / Monaco system, although have not yet met anyone else in Monaco with Type 1 diabetes (even though Alice has). I am sure there will be some, and it would be great for Alice to meet them to discuss her fears and know that someone else has blazed a trail already, and that she is not alone. We have also applied for a couple of British events - for families and a sort of Diabetic Outward Bound holiday for Alice, in order that she can be educated and that she realises that she is not alone and can in fact lead a normal life as long as the condition is managed.
Since Christmas has effectively come to a close, and we are now back home, we are making far greater progress in controlling her blood sugar. We have been told to target a range of between 4 and 8. Below 4, and she risks a hypoglyceamic episode. These were explained to us in three stages. The first is a mild attack - perhaps fatigue, going pale, tingling lips, inability to think rationally, stroppyness (she is an 11 year old girl - this is perhaps not so much a symptom of a hypo more a normal state of affairs). A moderate version might be all of the previous symptoms, but coupled with extreme drowsiness and even inability to swallow. The third and most severe level of hypo - defcon 5 - is unconsciousness, seizures and eventually coma. It is therefore important to monitor blood sugar levels versus the amount of insulin injected in order to avoid the hypo episodes, and to treat as early as possible. In some cases, this may no longer be possible to self treat, and the diabetic may rely on those around her to help - perhaps administer some lucozade (not Isotonic as this is too slow acting) or emergency dextrose liquid that she carries around with her now.
At the other end of the scale is Hyperglycaemia - this is where the blood sugar level is above 8 for a sustained period of time. The symptoms are thirst, peeing more frequently, headaches and tiredness. If Hyperglycaemia is not treated, then ketones can build up in the blood causing Diabetic Ketoacidosis. This is where the body uses the fatty acids and proteins in the muscles, and is often the first symptom of untreated diabetes, although if untreated can cause life threatening complications. Vomiting, deep breathing, confusion, and occasionally coma are all symptoms.
Diabetes is manageable and it is of course necessary to manage it. There are plenty of examples of Type 1 Diabetics that have led healthy and successful lives, with top flight sportsmen and women competing and winning at the highest level. At the moment we are just trying to get on top of the condition and to get the glucose levels within the target range. The phrase one day at a time rings very true. In time, I am sure we will learn to live with the condition and to lead a normal life. Life will never be the same, and I still don't know the answer to "But Daddy, why me?"
Is that a controversial title? Probably. I am often called obssessed, but actually I don't feel that I am 100% dedicated to my hobby. I cannot afford to be - I need to first of all be dedicated to my family and my job, otherwise I'll be homeless and divorced. Getting the balance right is not always easy. However, they do say that the family that plays together stays together.
With that in mind, the kids and Mrs R fully embraced last week's No Finish Line. The concept of the race is that a 1.3km track is coned off around Monaco port. The race begins at 2pm on a Saturday - this year on the 16th of November, and the track is open 24hrs per day until the following Sunday - 24th November. 8 days in total. There are a hardcore group of around 50 runners that are on the circuit and are in some respects semi professional runners on the 24hr and multiday "circuit" The top 4 or 5 tend to manage about 900-1000km in the week - each. There is also a 24hr race on the last Saturday from 9am until 10am. Every year for the last 5 or so a group of friends and I have got together under the name Pussy Footing Around and entered the race, with the aim of beating previous year's totals. In 2012 I managed 317km, and the team was 15th overall. This year I was going for top 50 personally (out of nearly 10,000 entrants) and I wanted top 10 for the team. I recruited the usual suspects and we even got a t shirt sponsor - the Skin Society Monaco, and I coopted them to pay for some booze in order that we could have our own 24hr party on the Friday night, but also putting in some laps. We had done the same thing in previous years with devastating effect on the opposition.
The plus side of the whole event is that for every km run, several local businesses underwrite with Euro 1 donated directly to charity. The event was targeting to raise Eur300,000.
Unfortunately, the week got off to a bad start - firstly I had #3's 8th birthday party. We painted bowling pins and had McDonalds. It was nice but I didn't even get off the mark. Then we had a 50th birthday party in the evening, so after tidying up from 12x 8 year old girls, we got dolled up and went out. #1 & 2 put in a decent couple of hours, however, and with others managed to get the team off to a good start.
Sunday morning arrived, and after a late night at the birthday party we went off to church. A quick lunch and we finally managed to get on track for around 2pm. I ran a full marathon - slowly, and socially, chatting to various friends and acquaintances. The dogs were also coerced into doing a few laps. Mrs R joined for a 10km, and then took #3 home, but I stayed on track with #1 & 2 for a long time. It was really nice to spend some time with #1 actually. Life has become very busy with various activities - hers and mine, and her boyfriend / homework / hormones all conspiring to keep us apart and arguing when together. This week helped - in a small way - to change that.
Monday morning and I woke at 4.30am - did some of my overnight work that tends to back up, and then scootered down to the track. I ran 21km which was nice because it was entirely empty, and then I returned home for brekkie and cold bath. I went to work in tracksuit and sports gear and in the evening, I took Jack down to the track for a cheeky 10km walk, returning home on the bus with #1 and a nice chat.
Tuesday - another spanner in the works. Overnight we had had a big storm - the back end of a cyclone, and as the waves were coming over the docks the race had been suspended. This was infuriating as I would have done another 20km or so given I was there at 5am, and yet I did not manage any at all and only 4km in the evening. So a whitewash. My rivals however had managed to lap a few times as the track reopened at 7am!
Wednesday and Thursday followed the same pattern as Monday and I was able to bring up the ton fairly easily, although was well behind the previous year, but the team as a whole was doing really well - 18th place overall and we still had the Friday 24hrs to come.
Friday morning arrived and I had to meet Dom with my truck and the Skin Society wagon at 5am to drive down to the port - reserve our parking spaces next to the track, and fill the truck with supplies.
We had a fantastic turnout on the night. In the end, we had 4 cars parked by the track, about half way around. My truck was full of beer, wine, water, coke, gin and tonic, rum and cokes, crisps and assorted snacks. Others brought soups. I resolved to stay off the booze and put in some decent clicks for as long as possible. Adrian (a fellow Mad Dog training buddy, but sadly not on our team as he was doing the 8 day event and brought up >550km over the week) was also there and was stoked to participate. It was a real party atmosphere with 45 of the team there at the off. The track was a lot more packed than previous years, but we put our heads down and I jog/walked round. Others walked, or ran for a bit as they liked. The kids loved it - I took round Jack and Dog at times looking like a dog sled crew. As the evening wore on, the bars and clubs near the track became louder and more lively. We lost Dom for a bit as he made some new friends although he was back on track after some lively conversation with 4 American (female) teachers out after attending a conference. #3 went home with a friend reasonably early, allowing Mrs R to put in some laps, and enjoy a coupe of g&t's - for warming purposes, obviously. Gradually we lost team members as they disappeared to warmer duvets, Mrs R and the dogs included, around 2am. #1 & #2 stayed with me, and periodically would get into the car to warm up. I spent a bit of time switching the car on to put the heaters on, turn it off again, settle #2 with a sleeping bag, feed them, water them etc etc. But I was still putting in the laps at a steady pace. A hardcore group of about 15 or 20 of us were there for the whole night. Some slept for a couple of hours in the car or a couple of deck chairs, but most of us carried on lapping. At around 6am, one of the chaps' wives turned up with fresh coffee and pain chocolat from the bakery. It was delishus! I had by that time done around 70km and was feeling a little stiff having only really eaten soup and lucozade to that point. #2 was grabbing a couple of hours rest, although #1 was still lapping - slowly. She had bad blisters too which did not help. One of the cars had a long boot - an estate car, and peering in through the window were 4 kids all wrapped up like kittens in a basket. In my car every seat was full of teenager. It was pretty funny.
I carried on lapping as did most - and I spent the next 10km chatting to the vicar - also on our team. Was a hoot, although it was still cold, overcast and trying to rain. I got to 84km and stopped for a sausage sandwich and cup of tea - all cooked on a little primus stove. Was great fun and the kids have not stopped talking about it - a bit like camping although with even less sleep. I then walked as much and as fast as I could until lunch time. The kids were both back on track, although Mrs R was slow to show up! The track got busier with more and more coming to do laps. At 12 we all bailed to a local restaurant for a steak and a glass of wine. Very civilised. I then went back on track with #2's lunch - she was so focussed she ate on the go! I was pretty tired and had actually fallen asleep at the table but the minute I got up I was able to keep going again - jogging very slowly and walking round with various people including the kids. The atmosphere at the track became very party like - Zumba dancing, and a live country and western band. The track was packed and became very difficult to move, although we kept going until 6.30pm before calling it a day with a ceremonial lap of the circuit - all in our matching t shirts. I went home, had a cold bath and some food, walked the dogs (who had slept all day), and as you know went back for more the next day. I had covered 111km but as team we put on 2600km from 6.30pm friday night until 2pm Sunday afternoon. Phenominal.
After the 24hr session, having slept until 7am or so, #2 got up and dragged herself off to the track. She then carried on going non stop until 2pm - the finish. She managed to hold off her competitor but it was touch and go - the other girl turned up and we identified her, and I took #2 to just behind the other girl and told her to keep her in sight. In the end the other girl buckled mentally and went home which enabled #2 to relax and have a hot dog although she carried on going to the bitter end!
It was a similar story for #1. She also won her age group. Jack came 3rd in his category behind 2 huskies. Jack and I walked around, jogged a little, but mostly walked on Sunday morning for 4.5hrs and racked up another approx 20km - 265km in the week. I was 69th overall and 16th in my age group - out of 1251. There were 9021 entrants overall. I had obviously missed a couple of days because of #3's birthday and the storm, so potentially could have been more, but there is always next year.
It was not always plain sailing and was very tiring, but it was great fun nonetheless and the kids showed impressive dedication to the team and the race itself. It was a shame that there were no prizes for the kids (or dogs) but there is always next year...and we aim to be sponsored next year! Watch this space.......
On Saturday, Mrs R and I picked up #2 from diving, and registered in the Stade for the Monaco Run - Mrs R for the 23km (Ventimiglia - Monaco), and me for the 10km. I did laugh to find out the race was sponsored by the French railway and they were providing transport from Monaco to Ventimiglia in Italy for the longer run - and they were on strike! They did manage to put on a train for the runners in the end though.
Sunday, Mrs R got up at 7.30am and had some brekkie, and went off for her run. She was very nervous and quiet all day Saturday - Sunday was to be her longest ever run, and pretty hilly taking in Hernia Hill too. She went off about 8am to get her train, and I hung with the kids, spoke to my parents on Skype and drank coffee - no food though.
After the baby sitter arrived, I jogged a bit of the way to the start, and met up with some of the troops sporting Dom's beauty salon's t shirts, and before too long we were off, heading straight into the tunnel that cuts through the Rocher and into Fontvielle, to circumnavigate the Stade.
I was due to pace Dom and Stu for a sub 50 minute 10km, and omens were good - it was chilly but not raining. The course wasn't as flat as I had hoped for, but it wasn't too bad. We had muscled our way to the front of the pack, and then I held back with Dom and Stu behind me slightly. We covered the first 2km at a very comfortable conversational pace - 5min 30 per KM or so - it was difficult to use Garmin too much as we went through a few tunnels, but I used the timer and the marker boards, and we were about 10 mins 50 after 2km. Then I speeded up a touch, and already we started to overtake people - they had obviously gone off way too quick, which made me laugh. We went up the hill behind the port to the Voie Rapide that dissects Monaco, through a few more tunnels, and we were running at a steady clip - about 5mins / km. I felt ok if a little chilly, but Dom and Stu were starting to feel the pace I think.
We hit 5km and I speeded up a little more - to about 4 mins 50 / km, and after 6km Dom was dropping back. He was having a crisis - I thought he might recover, and obviously still had to pace Stu, so I stayed on strategy, using the drop down back to sea level to my advantage, making up some time. Stu and I then continued to tick off the km's, with the field really thinning out and people walking by the side of the road having miscalculated their pacing. I was flying along happily and kept shouting back to Stu who was dropping back but still keeping pace.
We went through the Grand Prix tunnel and I shouted Oggy Oggy Oggy but noone responded! It echoed nicely though. Out the tunnel, and I could see the 9km marker board - I was well on schedule and Stu was still about 50m behind me so I thought I would just open up for the last km. I rounded the last bend round the Rascasse, and flew across the line in 48 mins 40 seconds. Stu was about a minute behind me - well on target to beat 50mins, and unfortunately Dom was another minute behind that.
We wended our way to the recovery area picking up our medals - the race was sponsored by the Brasserie, so beers were on offer, but I just grabbed some water, hopped the fence, and went in search of Mrs R - I had spent about 2 minutes walking or stopped, so not a major break. I cheered all our team mates as I passed them - Rozz, Tim, Mark and then Pietro from the Cro as well.
Exiting Monaco, I found the steep hill to the Baisse Corniche pretty tough, but once on the flat was able to keep a decent pace with no danger of blowing up. About 1km out of Monaco, I saw the first runner on the Riviera Classic powering along - he was about 3.5km from the finish and had covered 20 odd km's in 59 minutes, and was practically sprinting! I cheered him and the motorcycle and car entourage (with timing device on the roof), and carried on - the marshalls were loving telling me I was going the wrong way! After a minute or 2, I saw the 2nd placed runner sprinting, and then nobody for about 5 mins! The pace of those front two was amazing. Number 6 or 7 was someone I knew, a great runner from Monaco, and I cheered everyone that came past me - pro or amateur alike, and the further I got the more grateful and smiling the response! I descended Hernia Hill (A different route down it to normal though) and at the beginning of the tunnel I saw Mrs R and cheered! Turning round, I then accompanied her back - cheering her on, grabbing water and orange slices for her, and generally being annoying!
I was scheduled for 24km so as long as I went out for 7km then I could accompany Mrs R back and I would be on track. I met her after about 8.5km so well on schedule!
Once we'd crested the hill, it started to become very windy and rainy, so I ran ahead of Mrs R at her pace, and sheltered her from the storm, although my hands were flipping freezing as I was carrying the water and it was sploshing over my hands! I know the route very well as it is my daily running route, but it was nice to do it with no traffic, despite the rain! We carried on into Monaco, the weather obviously having put a lot of runners off, as there was virtually no pack, although I was playing the fishing game - getting Mrs R to fixate on another runner, and then gradually reeling them in. It was keeping her moving nicely, although a slightly slower pace than I am used to.
We descended the hill into MC, and then just had to run along the sea front - Mrs R was feeling it, but I was chivvying her along every step, and it was nice for me to run with someone for a change! Through the Grand Prix tunnel, and past the last marker board - 23km, round the port, and the boys and girl that had done the 10km came out the Brasserie to cheer Mrs R along - her stride lengthened and she speeded up. Round the Rascasse corner and a slight incline, and then the final 100m sprint. I was cheering her as I ducked off the track, and Mrs R was racing 2 other women like a 100m sprinter! She crossed the line in 2hrs 28. I had covered an extra 19km in 1hr 51, and was certainly feeling it!
I grabbed some apple juice and a banana, and then home on the bus - I did 4x chairless chair on the bus, with the kids! The baby sitter had delivered the kids to the finish and they had cheered Mrs R too. I had a cold bath, and then we went to the local to meet every one else and their families, and have a nice roast beef lunch and a couple of beers - Mrs R did not take off her medal all day, and I suspect is probably wearing it round the house today as well!
I have started carb depletion as it is now taper week for the Marseille Marathon on Sunday 24th March. I am looking forward to that - only my 3rd race of the year so far!
It has not been the best lead up to a first marathon of the year for me. I have only done one race, and had some interesting experiences which I could have done without. As a result the discipline has suffered, and I probably haven't trained as much as I should have done. However, persist I have, and I am now scheduled for 2 races - the first of which is 17 March - a 10km, where I plan to act as a pacer for friends, and the 24th March, the Marseille Marathon, which I plan to do for fun with a buddy.
After a tough week of meals, drinking and working, I ran 32km on Saturday morning, and actually it went ok. We were in MC this weekend due to a plethora of kids' activities, but I enjoyed my run out to Italy and back along the sea front with plenty of other runners also taking advantage of a little sunshine. I think I saw 100 other runners - some in big groups. The 10km this weekend is partnered with a 23km race from Ventimiglia which Mrs R plans on running, so I guess these other runners are planning on the 23km or the 10km, both local. I wondered to myself what the correct attire is for a runner? One chap was wearing garish Bermuda shorts and a plain white techinical t shirt. One chap was in a full cotton tracksuit. Many wore simple black running tights, myself included, and brightly coloured tech t shirts commemorating various events, again, myself included - sporting a bright yellow Milan Marathon t shirt. One chap - amongst a group of what could have been police or firemen, was wearing heavy boots, shorts, t shirt and covered in silly string. Perhaps it was his stag party - who knows?
I reached my half way point in pretty good shape, and turned around just as the rain started. Nice. Persisting, I had to make decent time if I was to get negative splits and still mount Hernia Hill. I used faster runners to draft off, and motivate me in the run up to Hernia Hill, and enjoyed the help. Stopping at the Dog tap, I filled my bottle back up, as despite the rain I was pretty hot, and then the home straight! I made it home with a minute to spare for negative splits. Not my fastest time over 32km by any means - 2hrs 55, but it was still an achievement of sorts, and presuming I pace myself in Marseille, I am ready. Now, just to get through the next couple of weeks unscathed!
Ben Rolfe, married, father of 3 gorgeous girls, English, living in the South of France, working in Finance
Ramblings of a running nature
I will be posting on an ad hoc basis my thoughts, adventures and challenges on here. I welcome anybody's thoughts and constructive criticisms, but generally I am not interested in contacts requiring me to give over my passport and bank account details in order to transfer €10 million to my account.