What I learned about myself during and after the Tarawera Ultramarathon

tarawera-ultra-re-chalk-it-up It has been a while since I last posted, but I have been recovering and recuperating. I ran the 60km Tarawera Ultramarathon on 16 March. I completed my mission, but not without some trouble.

The 60km course was very hilly and pretty technical in places - lots of roots, rocks and clambering - so this kept my speed down. I also thought I had completely messed up my nutrition and hydration strategy and hit the wall at about 37km, and the dizziness and generally feeling rubbish lasted until about 48km - more on this later. I fell 3 times: (1) Smacked my head on an overhanging branch so hard it knocked me clean off my feet and I saw stars for a few seconds. We started the race in darkness so I had to have my cap on backwards for my running light. Once I turned my cap the other way around about 2 hours later, it obscured my vision, but I had quite noticed that yet. Until I smacked my head. Lesson learned; (2) a spectacular tumble which flying downhill which resulted in a lot of blood caked on the left side of my face which I wasn't entirely aware of. Must have been disturbing for people; (3) As I was making my way along a narrow section of track with a steep drop off in the period she I was feeling pretty crap, I planted my foot and the ground gave way. As I fell down the side of the track, I managed to grab a rock and hold on. The drop was quite far. It probably wouldn't have hurt too badly, but it would have hurt. Another runner was passing at the time, and helped haul me up. He looked kind of freaked out. That's when I found out about the blood on my face.

I completed in 9.5 hours. About an hour and a half over what I wanted to do it in. But it looked like everyone had a hard time, so I'm ok with something of an adventure. Longest race I've ever done.

However, once I 'd finished the race, I started noticing a few things over the following days. The day after the race, I noticed that I was having trouble remembering people's names - even kind people who I spent quite a lot of time with - which is unlike me. Unfortunately, weather-related issues meant I had to stay an extra night in Rotorua, and I flew straight back to work about 48 hours after completing the race. When I started talking to people, I noticed a few things going on, the most disturbing of which was slurring. To cut a long-story short, it's been a rough few weeks. I ended up at ED twice with investigations for a possible stroke and / or further subdural haematoma a few weeks later. I was then also under investigation for glandular fever. As it turns out, I probably had / have a concussion and am recovering from that as well as a simultaneous bacterial and viral infection - though it doesn't appear to have been glandular fever.

So what have I learned?

  • That I can get through a 6okm ultramarathon even when feeling the acute early effects of a concussion.
  • That your balance gets really badly affected when you hit your head hard.
  • That I easily confused this concussed state with a poor nutrition strategy and execution.
  • That my immune system was probably compromised by running 3 marathons, a 75km+ walk, and an ultramarathon in 5 months.

And finally, that it is taking me a long time to recover. The headaches have reduced in frequency a little (though I actually have a humdinger now), but the fatigue persists. Please bear with me as I get back up to speed - but I also need to heed my advice.