Sunday, 20 December 2015

Tiredness Update

This blog is an update in how I am feeling. I have not written it as I feel sorry for myself; I have written it for two reasons. Firstly, I hope it is useful or interesting for other people who have been through or will go through similar experiences. Secondly, a selfish reason, which is that it is great to have a blog written down as to how I am feeling and my thoughts at the time. I can then look back at any point and see my recovery (or lack of it). I really enjoy reading reports from inspirational runners who have just won a race but many people are suffering from various injuries and illnesses and it is really important that all this information is out there for people to read.

My symptoms seemed to have settled down, instead of just complaining about feeling tired I feel I can now catalogue them.
1)    Persistent exhaustion that has now been going on for 6 months. But there were also signs ever since I completed my Wainwrights run. So even 12 months ago after a long hard race it would take me two weeks to recover and feel up to running again.
2)    ‘Brain fog’. I cannot think straight or concentrate and my short-term memory is absolutely awful. This normally clears around midday and by the evening I feel back to normal. But on a good day it might clear at 10am, on a bad day it might never clear. When the ‘brain fog’ is bad I find it impossible to write a simple email or even remember a simple instruction.
3)    The persistent wish to go to sleep even when I have just had an 8-9 hour sleep.
4)    Disturbed sleep. If I am in a bad phase, I wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep
5)    Regular headaches.

 I also now know three things that make it worse:
1)    A long fast fell run (90 minutes or more). Particular bad is a long hard run before breakfast. After this I can feel shattered for a week or more.
2)    A big drinking session. I have just had my works Christmas ‘do’. For three days after it I was exhausted and I found thinking and concentrating nearly impossible. All I wanted to do was lie in bed.
3)    A stressful situation, such as having to give a talk in front of a group of people. On the next day I will again by really tired and find even a slow run impossible.
What does not seem to cause any problems is a run (or jog) up to an hour, as long as I keep my heart rate down below 130 beats per minute. In fact being outside relaxing my mind seems to help.

As I mentioned in my last blog the doctors have given me a blood test and have found nothing wrong. So what is the problem? The symptoms are those that are found in either Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Over Training Syndrome. There are various theories about these illnesses and one of these concerns hormones, which brings me onto another possibility which is adrenal fatigue (where the adrenal gland is above the kidney and it is responsible for producing hormones particularly adrenaline and cortisol). This is still not a medically recognised condition and as such there is still a considerable amount of controversy about it, but the symptoms again correspond with what I am suffering from. At the moment I also like this diagnosis because there seems to be a scientific explanation of why the stresses I have put my body under for the last 18 months would have caused me to feel as I do.

Vicky Ware has produced an article for cyclists about adrenal fatigue here: 
Here are a couple more:

I am not a biochemist and with my ‘brain fog’ as it currently is, I still cannot work out the full details of all this, but it does make sense to me. For example, in general the hormone cortisol is highest in the morning, whereas if you have adrenal fatigue this is not the case. This would therefore explain the reason why I feel so lousy in the morning. Also loads of cortisol is released during a long hard run, so for the next several days all the stores are exhausted and I feel absolutely shattered.

As for the future, I feel confident I will return to running at a top level. My mind-set has finally changed. As an ultra-runner I need to ignore my body when it is telling me to stop. I have to carry on pushing it and pushing it, accepting it hurts but ignoring the pain. Finally my body has caught up with me. So instead of fighting my body I now need to be very gentle and work with it (which is basically the treatment for any of the possible diagnoses). I can now happily accept that I am not going to run hard again until I have fully recovered and then wait a while afterwards. I am also going to avoid alcohol. Avoiding stresses in my life is harder but I know I can do it. I have no more talks planned in the near future and the work will become easier once I can think straight again. The human body has an amazing ability to recover if you look after it and that is what I need to do.

Here are a couple of pictures to finish the blog. These are when I did get to the top of a fell (Threlkeld Knotts) in November.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Joss Naylor 60 at 60 Pictures

In 1997 aged 60 the legendary Joss Naylor ‘Iron Joss’ ran 60 peaks in 36 hours. To celebrate this amazing achievement Phillip Allder painted a picture of Joss and 500 limited edition prints were produced and sold to raise money for MS. My family now has the remaining copies of these prints and we are selling them to raise money for an MS charity called the Samson Centre (

When I completed the Wainwrights last year (beating Joss Naylor’s record) I was raising money for two MS charities one of which was the Samson Centre. But the reason we have the prints is not because of that. During the summer my older sister, Karen Parker, completed the Joss Naylor Challenge (I supported her on the 2nd half), with Joss, as usual when someone finishes it, coming out and offering his congratulations. My younger sister, Hilary, who has MS and gets treated at the Samson Centre (she can walk a short distance with a stick but mostly needs a wheelchair to get around), was there helping Karen with roadside support and she got talking to Joss who said we could have all the remaining 60 at 60 prints if we sold them to raise money for an MS charity of our choosing.

So now we have the honour and privilege of selling these last 100 prints. The print is 36cm x 55cm. The piece of paper is 45cm x64cm and includes some text at the bottom and Joss’  hand-written signature (individually signed on each print). The difficult question is how much to sell these prints for. We have decided that a minimum charity donation of £20 to the Samson Centre is reasonable, plus another £4 for p&p.  My Mum, Sue, has kindly decided to sort out the payments and send out the pictures. She can be contacted on
The prints are available on a first come first served basis. Knowing how popular Joss is I think they might go quickly.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

More resting needed?

In June I was struggling to run fast, feeling really tired and decided I needed a rest. This is a bit of an update on my progress since then.

I took a couple of weeks completely off running and felt fine again. So I started running doing short and gentle runs at first and then slightly harder and longer runs (up to about an hour). I thought I was over whatever the problem was. So in the middle of August I completed the Sedburgh Hills Fell Race. I took just over 2 and a half hours, which was about 10 minutes longer than normal. I was happy with that (considering I had not done a large amount of training) and felt no ill effects afterwards. I also competed in the short Round Latrigg Race again I was a bit slower than normal but happy that I felt OK after. 

However, three days later I did an hour long training run and felt absolutely shattered afterwards. I felt half asleep the whole time, a bit feverish and dizzy. I was definitely too tired for running. I started to feel a little better but was worried about trying to support my sister over the second half of the Joss Naylor challenge (my section was about 8 hours over the fells with lots of climbing). As I had promised to help I thought I would try and see how I felt. To start with I was really tired, but I picked up through the day and felt quite strong by the end and was happy to have helped her complete it. 

For the next week I felt OK and was running regularly but then suddenly one morning my run took more effort to run slower. Again I felt shattered for the next week. I had entered the Lake District Mountain Trail and the day before I felt just about good enough to start. I thought I would jog round if I felt OK and maybe make it to the finish. Surprisingly as soon as I started I felt good and was moving quite well. I was astonished to finish second. 

So what is going on? I wish I knew. Sometimes I feel OK and sometimes really tired. I managed to get a blood test from the doctors but it found nothing unusual. It seems most likely that I have a virus that I have never completely recovered from (is my body still not completely recovered from my Wainwrights run last year?). But if anyone reading this has any better idea then please let me know.

What I probably need to do is take it easy for a while. I think I should make sure all the runs I do are short and steady (the problem is that at my age is if you stop completely it is very hard to start again) and then once I know I am completely recovered then build it up again slowly. The problem is that I love running and I enjoy going to races and racing hard, but I need to think about next year and future years and not do myself any long term damage.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Time for a Rest

15 years ago I was doing a mixture of fell racing, adventure racing and mountain marathons. Over the summer I competed every weekend in a long race. I was fit and running well. However, I started to struggle, it was not very obvious at first but people who would usually be just behind me in a fell race were just in front. But it got gradually worse; I was working really hard but getting less good results. In adventure races and mountain marathons my team or partner started carrying a lot more of the weight so I could just about keep up. Finally my body decided it had had enough, I had overdone the racing and training. It got to the stage where I could not even run a mile and I had to get the lift up three floors to my office at work. My resting pulse was 10 beats per minute above normal but when I went to the doctors for a blood test they found nothing wrong. It took three months to recover and another three to build up my training and get fit again.

However, two years the opposite happened. Over a month I competed every weekend in a long distance Lake District fell race (about 3-4 hours of hard racing with a lot of climb). On the first one I ran really badly but then on subsequent ones I improved each time. By the end of the month I achieved some of my best performances in these races.

There is always a fine balance between getting fit from doing long hours of training and racing and overdoing it. It is very individual and I seem to be able to cope with quite a lot but after what happened 15 years ago I have been a bit more cautious not to overdo it.

By the start of this year I felt I had fully recovered from my Wainwrights run over the previous summer. I started to train hard and gradually my results improved. By the end of April I was getting close to my PB’s in races. After that I got a bit of a cold – nothing too bad but enough to take it easy for a couple of days. I thought no more of it and carried on training and racing. But as happened 15 years ago my results seem to be getting gradually worse with people beating me who are normal behind me. Over the last two races, Duddon Fell Race and Blencathra, I have done my worst ever times despite trying really hard. All the way round I have been struggling to breath and had a tight chest. Normally after races I feel brilliant but after these recent races I have felt shivery. My resting heart rate also seems about 5 beats per minute higher than normal. It is hard to know but I feel I have not fully shaken of the cold virus and it is causing me to struggle.

 So the time has come for a bit of a rest to let my body recover. It is hard to do with so many great races coming up but if I do not stop now I might end up missing the rest of the season or doing myself some long term damage. I will still go out and do a bit of cycling and running but nothing hard until I know I am back to normal again. 

Enjoying descending from Helvellyn via Swirral Edge

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Keswick Mountain Festival

Last year at the Keswick Mountain Festival I gave a talk in a tipi in the Festival Village whilst at the same time Joss Naylor MBE was talking at the Theatre by the Lake. It is funny how things have changed after my Wainwrights run, I have moved up the billing, and this year I twice shared the stage with Joss at the Theatre by the Lake with two very large and enthusiastic audiences. It was a pleasure and privilege to share the stage with the legendary Joss Naylor with Claire Maxted from Trail Running magazine doing an excellent job hosting both sessions.

I had talked to Claire and Joss about the sessions beforehand and we had a rough idea that Joss would talk for 10-15 minutes about his Wainwright run, then I would talk for 10-15 minutes about mine  (highlighting the differences and similarities) and then we would answer questions from Claire and the audience. But I had no idea how it was really all going to work which made me a bit nervous on the first night. However, it all seemed to go reasonably smoothly. A lot of people commented on our different styles: I need a presentation with pictures and film to talk around and I answer questions precisely, whereas Joss is happy just to talk, tell some great stories, and go off at a tangent, for example talking about his dogs.

After we finished talking a long queue formed to see Joss and get his autograph (Joss is obviously the star of the show!!). Some people also asked for mine, which I still cannot get used to or quite understand, but it is nice that they want it. Claire did a great job collecting money for mine and Joss' charities. Also Peter Knowles from Rivers Publishing was giving Wainwrights maps away for a £10 donation. Overall Claire collected over £400 for Joss and my charities and Peter collected over £1000 for community Action Nepal (CAN). So thank you for everyone who donated.

Normally I donate to MS charities as my sister has MS. This time I will give the donations together with my speakers fee to CAN, as there is obviously considerable suffering and hardship in Nepal at the moment.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Navigation Tips

Here is a link to a Berghaus article I have written on my top ten navigation tips:

I think I need to listen to my own advice a bit more after making lots of mistakes due to a lack of concentration at the recent JK orienteering event in the Lake District.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Favourite Wainwirght Fells

Here is a article that can be seen on the Berghaus website where I list my top 10 favourite Wainwright Fells:

 It is a very personnel choice. Which good ones have I missed?

Monday, 26 January 2015

Mamot Dark Mountains

The Mamot Dark Mountains ( is a Mountain Marathon for pairs taking place overnight in January. Obviously the weather overnight in January can be really tough, but that is the beauty of the event, it is a real test of mountain ability and navigation.

Last years event was in the Peak District and I was in the winning team with Tom Gibbs. This years event was taking place in the Howgill Fells. I was running with Jim Mann and we were expecting 10 hours of hard running and navigation. With two other top teams  (Kim Collison running with Adam Perry and Tim Higginbottom running with Alex Pilkington) it was going to be hard to win again. The weather this year was actually very kind. Patches of snow, but dry and a bit windy but nothing too bad.

Kim and Adam had a storming run to easy win in a time of 8 hours 34mins for the 53 km course with 3000m of ascent. So congratulations to them. I have run with both these two at recent OMM’s and I know how talented and determined they are.

There was something strange with the map at the 3rd control on the elite course. It was in a sheepfold and although it was in the right place the contours all seemed wrong, its altitude seemed to be around 20m higher than it was meant to be. Kim and Adam found it quite quickly, Tim and Alex looked for around 10 minutes found another bit of wall and decided it was not there, whereas me and Jim eventually found it after 35 minutes searching (including going back to three different attack points and trying again). We certainly know that slope well!

After that I started to struggle and the next three hours was really bad. Jim was brilliant and just accepted I was doing my best and carried my pack up the hills. But I am really disappointed. I thought I was running well again and it is hard to realise this is not the case. I do actually wonder if I am good enough to compete at the top any more. However, I always try to look at the positive side of a race so these are:

  1. We actually finished the course with a time of 10 hours 41 minutes. I seriously felt like dropping out at times but as I have said before feeling a bit tired is not an excuse to give up (
  2. After feeling absolutely awful for 3 hours I picked up a bit
  3. I am not injured and got round without doing myself an injury (which is probably surprising considering thenumber of times I fell over
  4.  It was great being out all night with Jim, navigating around the Howgills
Thinking about it I have not done a run longer than 2 hours since the OMM at the end of October. So I guess my body was just not prepared to run this far. 

Below are the before and after photos from Ian Corless ( The photos speak for themselves.

Thanks to Shane, Charlie and the team of volunteers for putting on a great event.