DNF

DNF – Did Not Finish… Did Nothing Fatal
Thoughts on my first DNF and hopefully how I can learn and grow from it.

Sunday was the Brighton Marathon. It was a lovely day, rather hot but I I’ve done hotter and hillier (Stour Valley Marathon comes to mind).

I had a great morning, had a breakfast beer (sometimes I must come across as an alcoholic) and enjoyed meeting fellow members of the running group. The atmosphere in the corral was great. Chatting, joking, smiling and a little bit of dancing. What I do remember saying is that I probably shouldn’t be running, but I’ve paid for it and going to see how far I can go and enjoy what I do. I promised myself and others that I would make the decision to pull out if I needed to. A few of us headed off together and after a few miles we had spread out, we may run with friends but at the end of the day a marathon is one’s own race.

I really quite enjoyed running half way with David from the group, chatting all that way. I was feeling the heat and having to take more and more walking breaks.

Twelve miles in I was starting to feel some twinges in my injured ankle, I had badly sprained it October last year. I was still pushing on, checking my watch on the walking breaks. Just before twelve miles I reached the point where if I didn’t run anymore and just walked I would have got in under cut off.

During the run, I had been noticing that my heart rate was running a bit high, not surprising, it was a hot day after all. As it runs high I always wear a chest strap and keep an eye on it. I was noticing it wasn’t recovering that fast on the walking breaks. Each break this was gradually getting worse.

Just over 23 km into the race I made the decision this race wasn’t my race. I walk for a bit, looking at my watch which was saying I should still be sub 6 hours by walking. However also my watch was telling me that my heart was going as fast as if I was running, my ankle was telling me that I was damaging it. My soul said carry on, get the medal, make everyone proud. My rational side said don’t be silly, you’ve got other races booked, you don’t want to end up in an ambulance, or worse put everyone through the upset if the worse happened. There was a while with the angel and demon on my shoulders battling. Normally in a marathon I end up fighting against the voice saying give up, I remind myself I have done this before, I’ve done longer even; this time I was fighting the voice saying carry on, get that medal. It was odd for it to be that way round.

It was heart breaking leaving the course. I felt like everyone was looking at me and judging me, thinking I’m weak and pathetic, that I’m a quitter. I was crying behind my glasses as I headed back to meet Michelle. I decided to walk back along the route, I may have given up, but I’m not going to give up on my tribe. I couldn’t run, but I could cheer as I walked along.

Rationally, getting over half way is an achievement. Since my injury in October my training had been five parkruns (5k) and a marathon. I was lucky to have been able to blag getting through the Barcelona Marathon less than a month ago, the swelling on my ankle from that had only just gone down.

However I really do feel like a failure. Part of me thinks that even if I’d have hurt myself, I’d have least not given up.

I had a bit of a blip tonight, posted about it on Facebook and have had so many lovely comments. That really helped.

One part of a comment actually put it in perspective; “Was it your first DNF?”. That’s the thing, when you push yourself to beyond where you think your limits are, you’re going to hit snags. How can you test your limits if you’re not going to reach them?

This is a chance to learn and come back stronger.

I’ve still ran 10 marathons (five in twelve months, two in thirteen days), I’ve still ran an ultra-marathon, I’ve still run six obstacle course races (including two in one day, and two at night). Whatever happens, those facts will not change.

Doesn’t stop the upset, doesn’t stop the what-ifs, but those thoughts will fade. I will run more marathons, I will run more ultras. But this time, I will give myself time to heal, I will train properly for my next one.

 

A Quote from Mr. Robot

“Maybe it’s not about avoiding the crash.

But it’s about setting a breakpoint to find the flaw in the code, fix it, and carry on until we hit the next flaw… the quest to keep going, to always fight for footing.

Maybe we’re all just stumbling from the right questions to the wrong answers… Or from the right answers to the wrong questions. It doesn’t matter where you go or where you come from, as long as you keep stumbling.

Maybe that’s all it takes. Maybe that’s as good as it gets.” ~Elliot Anderson

RED January

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I’m just going to type and see what this ends up being. More a stream of consciousness than a curated article.

I’ve been keeping up with the people doing RED January and finding them so inspiring. Many people who are like me, getting out and running every day. This is MIND event to raise money and awareness for mental health. I had intended to do this myself but due to my injury I hadn’t been able to.

I’m gutted to not take part and run as much as I’d like to, but that’s not what this is about.

Seeing the people the group has really inspired me. These posts that’s prompted me to try to post a bit more about me and what goes on in my head. This isn’t really about me though but it’s about the guys I’m seeing posts from. In fact I’m watching some vlogs from one of the regular posters that has really inspired me, it’s not hard to be open, I know this very well but make myself to to help others. I see her opening up to the world and feel so inspired and it validates what I’ve been doing and making me want to do more.

These people shows that we are not weak. So many people think we almost choose to be mentally ill, that mental illness is a choice. There is this awful meme showing woods and a tablet, the caption on the woods says “This is an antidepressant” and a caption on the pill saying “This is shit”.

How fucking dare they! Would they tell a diabetic that insulin is shit? (well many of these people probably would, would have some kind of ‘remedy’)

Yeah nature and the outside do help, I love being outside, and in the woods and enjoying all that the world that offers; but some of us need the pills to keep us alive, productive, able to get outside to enjoy these things.

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These people on this group have been getting out everyday. For many of them I can imagine how hard that must be, with the moods ebbing and flowing, in the dark and cold. I take my hat off to you all.

What’s also so inspiring is that it’s more than the running. There is so much support and love in this little community that’s been fostered. We’re not alone. We’re sharing the accomplishments together, we’re sharing the dark times together. Over £50,000 has been raised for MIND, people have spread the word, and personally, these people have made me feel less alone.

Running CV

18 March 2013
First run… 4.21 km
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/286149021

21 March 2013
First 5 km
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/287171414

16 June 2013
First Half
https://www.nike.com/GB/en_GB/p/myactivity/activity/26941115000

13 August 2013
First 10 km
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/359003742

14 September 2013
Entire Flitch Way
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/375436178

*22 September 2013
First Race
10km
Takeley 10 km
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/379461302

*6 October 2013
First Half Marathon
Royal Parks Half Marathon 2013
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/386709523

*10 November 2013
Stebbing 10 (Mile)
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/402439769

*15 December 2013
Ayutthaya 10 km
First International, Thailand
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/415885777

21 December 2013
Angkor Wat 12 km
Cambodia
https://www.nike.com/GB/en_GB/p/myactivity/activity/4412000000020612807100019061169176570336

*16 March 2014
Half Marathon
The Swan Half and Quarter – With Clare
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/462018870

*13 April 2014
First Marathon
London Marathon 2014
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/479332335

*11 May 2014
Second Marathon
Halstead
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/497445341

28 June 2014
First parkrun
Great Notley
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/529892823

*9 August 2014
10 km Trail
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/560970927

*19 October 2014
Chelmsford Marathon

*8 November 2014
First Ultra
Kings Forest 50 km
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/639396980

*6 December 2014
Cross Country
7 km
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/646178521

*21 December 2014
Crazy Stebbing Mudfest
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/654859355

*4 January 2015
Cross Country
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/665030983

21 Febuary 2015
Panshanger parkrun
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/718529488

*29 March 2015
Braintree 5 (Skyline 120)
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/731855909

5 September 2015
Color Run Night

*11 October 2015
Munich Marathon
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/928456525

*15 November 2015
Fullham 10km
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/958203522

Touch the Bird 24
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/969799303

*13 December 2015
Stratford 10km
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/981586131

*28 February 2016
Cambridge Half Marathon
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1066605523

*10 April 2016
Rome Marathon
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1120247860

*15 May 2016
Flitch Way Spring Marathon
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1169415521

*5 June 2016
Stour Valley Marathon
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1199528448

11 June 2016
Bubble Rush
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1207649372

*18 June 2016
Midnight Sun Marathon
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1219138226

*Nuclear Blackout
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1366259873

*9 October 2016
Peterborough Half Marathon
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1397843995

*23 October 2016
Chelmsford Marathon
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1417341563

*12 March 2017
Zurich Marató de Barcelona
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1616707769

6 countries
4 International Marathons
10 Marathons

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health day, time to talk and time to run.
The running group I’m a member of, Michelle’s Running Group invited me to say a few words. It was painful, but my motto was if it helps one person it’s worth it.

Here is mostly what I said tonight:

 

As it’s Mental Health awareness day Michelle asked if I’d say some words, which I’m more than happy to do so.
I’ll try not to talk to long and you might have to forgive me as I might not find all of this easy.
I’ve never done anything like this, and it will open some wounds, but if it helps just one person it’s worth it. The other thing is, I feel like I can be open with you guys, this group have been so supportive to me and feel safe with you all.

What links:

Sia
Stephen Fry
Carrie Fisher
Gazza
Marilyn Monroe
Demi Lovato
Robin Williams
Amy Winehouse
Kurt Cobain
Britney
van Gogh
Florence Nightingale
and Mark Brown

The answer is bipolar disorder; previously known as manic depression.

My diagnosis is Rapid Cycling Bipolar I with psychotic tendencies, broken down it means I have four or more episodes of mania which is the highs and depression a year, psychotic tendencies is detachment from reality. Yes I do also sometimes hear voices and hallucinate as well, it’s been a while thankfully. We also have another trick up our sleeve, something they call mixed state “defined as a state wherein features unique to both depression and mania—as despair, fatigue, morbid or suicidal ideation; racing thoughts, pressure of activity, and heightened irritability—occur either simultaneously or in very short succession.”

Even though this talk is about my experience, I’m the only person I can talk for. Today isn’t about me, it’s not a poor me or a ploy for sympathy. I’m one of the lucky ones; I have a stable long term job, I have friends and family that are amazingly supportive and have a wife that tolerates me. I’ve been through the mill and, well can’t say I’m out the other-side really, you’re never better, but I cope. This is about all those feeling alone, all the people who aren’t getting the help they deserve, all the people who feel different, get bullied, get let down and abandoned by society.

I’m going to present a bio of some bipolary incidents.
Growing up I was always a different child. I had mood swings, banged my head against walls, dented a few lockers. Had EEGs because they thought I was epileptic, which turned out to be fugue states.

Was estimated A* or A’s for all my GCSEs, ended up getting the range from A to ungraded.
Kicked out of college
Racked up loads of debt pretty much as soon as I turned 18 and was able to.
Lost my driving licence before I even passed my test, it was because of being diagnosed not anything I did. Still that felt bad, then had only short term licences.
Related to that, paying a lot extra for insurance, both car and travel.
Being told if I have children social services would be involved, which is the right thing and was presented as to give me extra help.
Being told I might not be able to visit the USA because I could present a risk to myself or others, based on a history of self harm.
Substance abuse is quite common with bipolars, known as self medicating.
The highs, can be amazing, too amazing.
You end up naked on a roundabout in Chelmsford at 4am, you end up having the police called by a manager of a club because they think you’re on drugs when all you’ve had is water, you end up jumping out of cars because you’re invincible. You end up thinking you’re a god or the next coming of Jesus. In a different time or a different place I’d probably have been stoned to death or hailed as a prophet.

Even though we’ve got a long way to go; things are much better now. I take tablets that stablise me, previously people would have such things as Electro Convulsive Therapy (it’s still used, but normally a last resort now a days).

There is self harm, which is far from attention seeking, most my scars are in places nobody will see. I’d managed to go quite a few months but ended up cutting last week. I almost needed skin grafts from a burn I did on my arm, bit by bit with matches, it was almost 9 inches long and full thickness by the time I was finished. Well with what they were saying the risk of infection is that I could have died or lost my arm even.
I’ve had memory loss, I have photos of myself on trips that I have absolutely no recollection of at all. Not even when looking at the photos.
Most mornings I’m upset when I wake up, even if it’s a good day; I know they’ll be a bad day soon, I know I’ll hurt people that love me. If only I didn’t exist no one needs to get hurt…

Anyway… there are more but we’d be here all night…
I do find exercise and particularly running helps. If you’re slightly low but can drag your carcass out it can give you a boost, if you’re a little up it can use up some energy.
Risk taking behavior; do a Nuclear Race! Having races booked also gives something to aim towards, something to look forward to, to fight on for. Running something like a marathon helps, you learn to fight, when part of you is screaming at you to stop and you push through isn’t dissimilar to when part of you is telling you how awful you are and that you should purge yourself from the world. Perhaps that’s why I’ve taken to marathon running, I’ve been fighting for as long as I remember, which isn’t that long, bad memory, another bipolar trait.

Talking of purging…

People with bipolar have an estimated 1 in 5 chance of committing suicide, 1 in 5… to put it in perspective the odds of getting something on the National Lottery is 1 in 10. 1 in 5 is also the same odds as a millennial in the USA having tried a Big Mac. And relevant to this week, the same odds as getting into the London Marathon. Our life expectancy is 9.2 years less than the average.

My friend Sheryl took her own life last year, think about the wording there. I know it’s technically correct, but if someone dies from cancer, they’re brave, they fought until the end, they’re inspiring. Someone dies from bipolar, they’re called such things as selfish and coward. Personally I’ve been told, it’s just in your head, you can choose to be happy, don’t be so dramatic, you don’t need to be taking all those tablets, you don’t look ill, you’re usually so happy, just do yoga, and don’t get me started on that victim blaming toilet tissue of a book they call the Secret. People said after Robin Williams died that he should have got better help. Getting help was how he lived long enough to reach 63. Many of us know the voice that tells us to stop running, why not walk, it’ll be okay; how many of us have ended up giving in to that voice and walking. How about that voice saying you’re worthless, you’re a burden, you should end it. It’s hard to fight when the enemy is yourself. This is the primary reason I’ve opted to not have children, how could I bring life into the world when I know I could hurt them so much?

But now for the positive.

I’m here.
I have amazing friends and family.
I have a wonderful life.
I have a good job.
I enjoy my life.

I’m living proof that with the right care and support system, which includes all of you, we can live an almost normal life.

If anyone has any questions feel free to ask during the run, even if you think it might be too personal or rude or whatever, if I don’t want to answer I won’t, but don’t let it stop you asking.

Digital Horder

A small part of CERN's tape storage array
A small part of CERN’s tape storage array

An out of space message on my laptop got me thinking, am I keeping too much data?
My laptop is two months old and I’ve almost filled its 500 GB drive.
Partly that’s due to me enjoying how quick the SSD is as opposed to accessing data from the network storage, and part due to the fact I was rebuilding my storage array, but mostly due to the fact I’ve just got into video and been keeping EVERYTHING!

I’ve managed to get away with it with photography, But video files are just huge, especially when you start playing with 4K. However it made me wonder, should I be even keeping all the photos. At the moment every photo I take is being kept, even ones that are totally out of focus, badly exposed, So files I’ll never have a use for I’m keeping, just because I can. Oh and they’re saved in RAW format as well, so about 13 MB an image.

I do have 4.6 TB free space on my network storage, but unless I change my ways this will be gone far too quickly and used up with files I don’t really need to keep.

So I’ve decided… delete the crap…

The other issue this brings to mind is people’s digital legacy.
My Nan had thousands of photos to sort through when she passed.
I’ve got tens of thousands, accounts everywhere, things on facebook.
What happens to all that? How will friends and family even access most of it?
Luckily I’m not having children so I don’t need to pass on that worry to them.
I guess really everything will be lost into the aether, other then the fading echos of my data out there on the net.

There is a good TEDx talk on just this subject