As Serious as ….. a Heart Attack

I had a heart attack last Saturday evening.

Which was a hell of a shock, but might explain why I have felt like crap and been unable to run for several months.

It was almost amusing watching the Emergency Department doctor running through the heart attack risk assessment questions –

  • Over 65 – No
  • High blood pressure – No
  • Diabetes – No
  • Overweight – No
  • Smoker – No
  • Ever been a smoker – No
  • Heavy drinker – No
  • Stressed – No
  • Family history – No
  • Previous attacks – No

I could almost see them stop and ask why the hell I was there.

I have been home for a few days now, and am recovering well. They tell me that it was “only” a mild attack, which is a relief of sorts –  I certainly wouldn’t want to experience anything worse, it was excruciating at the time. Apparently I should recover fully and be able run again in a few months.

So although this blog was set up with the sole purpose of chatting about my 5x50km efforts, if I celebrate my return to running with another crazy ultra-running scheme I will post about it here.  I am in no hurry though. At the moment I am happy to just be breathing in and out.

Ann and our daughters Olivia, Antonia and Hillary have been fantastic. It would have been so much harder to get  through this without them and the support I have received from our wider families.

Denise, Fiona and Noeleen are doing a marvellous job of keeping the business running while I am recuperating, and I have been humbled by the messages and support from my friends and business colleagues.

Sorry, this is meant to be a running blog. Check back in a few months to see whether I am dong any.

Day 5 – The Final Session

Well, it’s all over, and it feels great.

Today’s course was Antonia’s fault. She is going to have a crack at a 24 hour track race in London later this year, and she thought ti would be good for me to set a time so that she can smash it.

50.4 km, 5:53:49


10k      1:10:55

20k      1:09:20

30k      1:11:29

40k      1:10:10

50k      1:09:35

The GPS tells me that 50km arrived in 5:51:32. That’s your target Antonia.

Here’s the GPS log of today’s course – not very interesting viewing 🙂


The huge benefit of this run is that it was easy for friends to support me.

Ann was going to get me underway and then get on with her day. As it turned out one thing led to another and she stayed all day. I am extremely grateful for her help and support for today, and the previous 4 days.

Dennis & Ruth spent an hour or so in the morning, and Dennis walked a rest lap with me. They came back for the last few hours as well, which was great.

The big surprise was when my parents, Alex & Doreen walked in during the afternoon, having come up from Hokitika to see me finish my madness. Ann apparently knew about this and kept it from me – something we might have to discuss later.

Greg was also there early, and walked my first rest lap with me. He eventually made 4 visits, including one to drop off a banner that he had made for me.

Joanna brought her own chair and some work to do, then got a Mexican wave going – this initially looked odd as she was the only person there at the time, but it was still impressive, and got even better as others arrived and joined in.

Jo & Ruth (no, the other Ruth) ran 10k with me. I don’t think that they intended to run that far, but we were having a good old gossip, and I think they could see that I needed the company about that time.

Viv brought me a delightful balloon, and cheered me through several laps.

Phil from Chocolate Velvet and Darren The Irish Coach both took time pout to come and watch the lunatic in action.

And Terry, who I used to run with in the  Trafalgar Harrier days back in the seventies spent several hours there and walked a rest lap.

I’m sorry that I didn’t stop to talk to everyone, I wanted to keep my groove going. It must have been boring for everyone to watch me go around in circles.

The middle part of the day is a bit of a blur, I am sorry if I missed mentioning anyone, you were all fantastic support.

I also got a lot of support messages via text (including 2 fromScotland, thank you Scot and Antonia). I didn’t stop to reply to them during the day, as I wanted to keep moving.

Another advantage of this course is that I didn’t have to carry any gear for the day – I just left all of my stuff on a table at the side of the track. This meant that I didn’t have to carry a backpack or wear a fuel belt, and it felt awesome to be unencumbered. It also meant that I could wear my official “5x50km” event shirt that was sent from theUK. Up until know I had not wanted to wear it in case it got damaged by rubbing against my pack or belt. It is a great shirt to run in, and I will wear it with pride at harrier club events this season.

The final benefit of running on the track is that I could run with my eyes shut when I got tired. I do this quite often, but it does need a reasonably smooth and straight bit of track – which I hadn’t seen for a few days. It was vey relaxing as I got tired to close my eyes by about 80% and just drift along.

I had one final technology issue and couldn’t skype with Olivia inLondon. We were going to run the first few laps together, and it didn’t work. I was a bit disappointed with myself, because if I had tested it at home the night before I could have fixed the problem. Hey, isn’t it amazing that I expected to stand in a paddock in the back of Stoke and video chat for free to someone inLondon!

Instead Olivia gave me a countdown via text, and I was away.

We had beautiful weather all day, a nice crisp early winter day with a cooling breeze later in the afternoon. Perfect running conditions for me, I don’t like the heat.

The day on the track wasn’t as tough mentally or physically as I expected.

I had my GPS set to announce every 2km, and every 4k I changed direction and walked 300-400 metres. This gave me something to focus on and look forward to, and it was only over the last 6 or 7 km that I was starting to wish it was over.

We lost count of laps at about 7 out of a theoretical 120 – “have I done 7 laps now?” “No, only 6” “I thought it was 7…” so we stopped counting, and I just relied on my GPS to tell me how far I had run.

All the usual niggles made their appearance and I struggled a bit from the late twenties to mid thirties. As Antonia says, it was at that point that I “got my plod on” Then things eased up (or I got better at ignoring them) until my calves tightened up over the last 4 km. Wasn’t enough to make me stop though, I just battled on.

I changed shoes at 40k, which I haven’t bothered with before. This made a small improvement (possibly psychological) for a few laps, until I remembered that the “fresh” shoes were the ones that I had run 7 hours in yesterday.

So I just kept going around as the GPS counted up the km, and eventually finished a bit earlier than I had expected. Also earlier than Ian Courtenay expected, he arrived to run the last few laps with me – about 5 minutes after I was done. He did bring some Sprig & Fern IPA with him though, so I forgave him as we had a beer together. Then he had to go for his run.

My recovery drink tonight is Sprig & Fern Porter. I might have an extra glass or two, given that I don’t have to go running tomorrow.

What it is like to finish the epic 5 days? It feels awesome. I am delighted to achieve what was a personal challenge. I will give ita bit more thought and post about it later.

When will I run again? That has yet to be determined. I feel as though I could do a few quiet hours tomorrow, but I don’t feel the motivation. And I have to see a client in the morning. I might have a jog on Sunday, if there is anyone in town. A lot of my usual running mated will be in Christchurch for the half marathon, and I am definitely not running that.

Starting to Feel the nerves Now

That countdown box has a very scary low number in it.

I published a draft programme about 2 weeks ago, and there has been nothing since then to make me change it.

Kick off is 9.00 Sunday morning at Rabbit Island

Graeme, one of my Athletics Nelson clubmates, is going to do the first 20 or 30 km with me.

Graeme is training for the San Francisco marathon in July, so it is very generous of him to give up a serious training session to come and muddle about at ultra-running pace. And I will certainly appreciate the company.

Hillary has been offered that use of a bike for the day, so she will be able to follow us around most of the island.

The forecast is for rain, heavy at times. That doesn’t worry me too much, I don’t think I will rust or shrink. It just ups the ante on the chafing front 😦