Then I was exposed to any endurance athlete’s worst nightmare. I started purging on Monday night, and spent the week with a severe case of the squirts, accompanied by the usual cramps. Lethargy, if not outright fatigue, was ever-present. If this had hit me in the middle of Epic, I would have had to withdraw.
I should add that I have a cast iron stomach. This shit just doesn’t happen to me. I grew up on a farm drinking damwater, which must have helped my body build up resistance to a wide range of bacteria. Unless it’s obviously ‘off’, I’ve never shied away from eating anything, whether it’s street food in Asia, or several days’ old leftovers from the fridge. Except for India, I drink tap water wherever I go. In fact, during our little boot camp, I thought that proper Epic preparation would include drinking tap water from various points on the route, not just riding the major climbs.
Anyway, I came down with a bug, the identity of which will be revealed some time next week when the results of the pathology are available. Blood samples are collected by nurses, whether pin prick to finger, or fully-blown draining of a vein. Collection of DNA samples involves a simple swab of the inside of one’s mouth. Urine samples are also quite straightforward. Stool samples, on the other hand, require some precision. Consider, firstly, the three-quarter inch diameter of the container, not to mention its double-tot capacity. And, by virtue of simple anatomy, one is essentially flying blind.
The required level of precision may not be on a par with dropping a bomb down a chimneystack from an altitude of 30 000 foot, but it’s certainly a bit more tricky than landing an A380 on the deck of an aircraft carrier. I’ll spare you the balance of the details, but without any mess I successfully collected and sealed a sample.
A portion of the week was earmarked for recovery, so my training programme wasn’t dramatically affected. I had to call off gym on Wednesday, but I managed Thursday evening’s easy ride. It rained on Friday afternoon, although I was in any case not up to doing anything. Saturday morning, also, did not start well.
Buoyed by Sergeant Hardy’s runaway win under top weight on Saturday afternoon (earlier reports about him here), I headed out for an interval session (ten repeats of two minutes in zone four, interspersed with three minutes of easy riding).
This wasn’t the only time during the week that my heart rate got above 150. There was also a drive home, when my entire body was in a clench to prevent a massive explosion. When I reached safety I was very thankful to be pulling down trousers, rather than having to extricate myself from a bib short. It would not have ended well.
Lezandré’s programme included a three-hour ride on Christmas Day. My family is fully supportive of my Epic journey, but I suspect that would dry up quickly if I deserted them today. While on the subject of Christmas, I’ve had the perfect preparation for a day of overeating (in training terms, this week has been what athletes call a ‘taper’).