Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Starting all Over Again

When runners develop an injury they often take a break from the impact of running but keep up their fitness by crosstraining, whether it be on the bike, in the gym or in the pool. Unfortunately, although I had tried to do a bit of crosstraining (mainly to try to hold onto my sanity as well as some fitness) I found that it was neither fixing my RED-S nor my stress fracture. Going back to the drawing board for a last ditch "kill or cure" solution, I stopped all exercise completely. For about 6 weeks, I did no running, no cycling, no swimming, no aquajogging, no visits to the gym and in fact hardly walked more than a mile or two. After that I spent the 4 weeks gradually reintroducing some exercise, though still making sure there was no impact. I went on a few bike rides (nothing fast, but a couple of "sportives" for the endurance aspect of it.....well actually, just for the cake at the feed stations, swam a couple of times and did some hiking. All through this time I kept up my food intake (yeay) and actually managed to put on weight and fix the RED-S, so that eventually I could restart running (though I did check with my orthopaedic consultant friend, William Hage (www.williamhage.com) that this was the right thing to do).

A sportive finishes with beer...
I have to admit that it has been a struggle - I used to run for the love of running (hence why crosstraining in a gym has never held any appeal for me) but suddenly I didn't love it. It was hard. My short "easy" run loop that started and finished at my front door would take at least 50% longer and have to incorporate a couple of breaks (not due to leg pain, but lack of fitness). I feel that in some ways I've had to go back to the beginning of my running career and start from scratch all over again....building up the distance, never mind the speed. I would have to force myself out the door, as it isn't exactly pleasant to find yourself struggling to breathe when going a much slower pace than you can ever remember running before.

Or a medal....I'd rather have cake
than either!!

I've also had to maintain my calorific intake (and keep reminding myself that I'm "healthy" rather than "heavy") to ensure my hormone cycles don't go awry again. This has led me to discover the benefits of wearing capris or tights......as shorts tend to cause more chafe these days (nice) !!!

My new mantra!!!
After a few weeks, I realised that I was starting to enjoy it a bit more again - OK, so I'm not back to where I was before, but I could make it all the way round my easy loop without stopping, and then started to increase the distance or the pace on occasions. I was very reluctant to run any set distance as I knew I would find myself comparing "current me" to "former me". I decided to give myself a good talking to and get over it - no-one would care (or even notice) except myself, so I started out with a parkrun. At the end of the first one, I was bent double, gasping for air, shattered, so I thought I must have set a fast time......and then realised that I'd just about managed to run 1.5 minutes/mile slower than my best time!! Still, at least I was running again....and that was something that I'd thought I might never do again.

"Enjoying" a race again (although
maybe not breaking any records)

Since then, I find that I still have to give myself a few stern chats.....but I have done a couple more parkruns, and 2 other races. Each time I have to try to remember where I am NOW, not where I was when I stopped (though to be fair it would only take a few hundred metres of me not remembering before I would be bent over double and gasping for air again). My injuries seem to be holding up, so I'm hoping that I can now gradually regain some level of fitness in order to enjoy my running again, and so that I can travel and hang out with all my running friends again (I admit that I had been avoiding some catch-ups and races so that everyone didn't get sick of my constant moaning and grumpiness!).

When 24 people of differing ages and
abilities turn up to your track session
it can be rather intimidating!!
In the meantime, I have managed to keep up my British Athletics coaching course with trips to Birmingham and Loughborough, and am actually really enjoying designing sessions and programmes now - with some of the local runners being used as willing guinea pigs - so here's to spending a bit of time on both sides of the fence :-)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018


I have never really considered myself to be a "proper" runner, still less an athlete. Don't get me wrong, I am in awe of those that have the commitment and determination to put themselves through the mill by training really hard, being strict with their diet and sacrificing a lot of their "social" life, but I see myself as more of a fun runner....running for the love of being outdoors, being fit, and discovering new cafes to run to "just to check out their cake selections". I would look at some (rather) slim runners and wonder how they had the energy to do what they did and why they didn't break. I honestly never expected to be one of those "broken" people. However, a nonhealing stress fracture, a DEXA scan showing osteopenia and a diagnosis of RED-S made me take my head out of the sand and investigate further.

I feel like I have been talking about RED-S for a while now, but I fully admit that when I first heard of it (ie when I was diagnosed with it) I did not know much about it. It is good to raise the profile of this condition as a lot more people are affected by it than realise it, so spreading the word is vital for diagnosis and treatment..

On chatting to a friend last weekend, she admitted to (very sensibly) googling RED-S when I mentioned the condition, but other people seem to think I'm talking about anaemia and red blood cells, so I thought I'd give you a little bit more information about it.

RED-S is a condition caused by low energy availability, where nutritional intake is insufficient to cover the energy demands of both exercise training and normal physiological function.

Unintentional low energy availability can arise with an increase in training load not matched with an appropriately timed increased of nutritional intake or an underestimation of energy expenditure from exercise outside of training schedule, for example active transport (eg cycling) to/from training sessions, study or work.
Intentional low energy availability is more prevalent in sport where low body weight confers a performance or aesthetic advantage, eg endurance running, cycling, dance, gymnastics.

The Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) model was first described by the International Olympic Committee in 2014, and published in the British Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine. Prior to this, there had been a lot of research in female exercisers, with what was known as the female athlete triad (low energy availability, menstrual disruption and impaired bone health). It is now recognised that this triad is a clinical spectrum, reflecting varying degrees and time scales of energy availability, menstrual function and bone health.

Energy availability can range from adequate, with healthy eating patterns matched to requirement, through to low  due to disordered eating and severe energy deficit with an eating disorder involving a psychological aspect. Menstrual functional can vary from regular menstruation, to lack of periods (amenorrhoea) and bone health from normal for age, through to weak bones (osteoporosis). The female athlete triad model evolved into the RED-S model as  growing evidence showed that the consequences of low energy availability can affect males as well as females, and at all ages and levels of exerciser from recreational to elite.
  • RED-S involves multiple systems and hence bone stress injury may not necessarily be the presentation; particularly in acute low EA and/or in non-weight bearing sports.
  • Recurrent illness, fatigue, athletic underperformance and psychological issues rather than injury can be presenting features.
  • In young athletes, RED-S may present as delayed puberty, fall off growth centiles for height and/or weight
  • In any woman of reproductive age in the absence of pregnancy, whether exercising or not, if menstrual cycles are not regular then this requires medical investigation, as RED-S is a diagnosis of exclusion. The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG) defines primary amenorrhoea as no menarche by 16 years of age, secondary amenorrhoea as cessation of periods for >6 months in a previously regular menstruating woman and oligomenorrhoea is defined as less than 9 cycles per calendar year. this does not include withdrawal bleeds from hormonal contraceptives.
  • The equivalent of normal menstrual cycles in men, is morning erections indicating reproductive endocrine axis function with adequate testosterone levels.
  • Athletes with RED-S may first present with injury to a physio, eg a bone stress response, including stress fracture typically of the lower limb/pelvis.
  • Recurrent soft tissue injury could also be a presenting feature of RED-S.


RED-S is a diagnosis of exclusion presenting a multi-system dysfunction caused by a disrupted periodisation of nutrition, training and recovery. For an athlete to reach their full athletic potential, they must address these imbalances - reaching this potential is compromised in RED-S.
Drugs are not recommended as first line management in amenorrhoeic athletes. Oral contraception (OCP) masks amenorrhoea with withdrawal bleeds. OCP does not support bone health and indeed may exacerbate bone loss by suppressing further IGF-1 (a growth factor). Although transdermal oestrogen, combined with cyclic progesterone does not down regulate IGF-1, any hormonal intervention cannot be a long term solution, as bone loss will continue if energy availability is not addressed as a priority.
So clearly, the mainstay of management is to deal with the energy availability imbalance in terms of increasing the intake/type of nutrition or decreasing the expenditure, or a combination of both.

And finally, re me...

As for myself, I naively thought "it could never happen to me" as I've never restricted my diet, love my food, have a normal BMI and although I love running, I've never taken my training that seriously. Yes, I became amenorrhoeic about 6 years ago, but I hadn't lost really lost weight or increased my training. I do remember going away for a few days with a group of running friends at this time, but I wasn't actually running at the time as I had PF (I was helping time their sessions instead), but even so, after eating meals with all of them, I found I was still hungry and so I would go and eat extra food by myself in my room. I guess this shows that I wasn't getting enough nutrition, but I didn't realise what longterm damage might be occurring. I've previously had horrendous problems with my menstrual cycle, having been admitted to a gynae ward while a junior doctor due to pain and heaviness so I was actually happy when they seemed to stop. Since the stress fracture and the DEXA scan, I have done a lot more research on the matter and now realise that I need to be "healthier". I've been told that my fracture may never heal, but at least I have managed to treat the RED-S with a combination of eating (even more than before) and a total break from any exercise. I am no longer amenorrhoeic (humbug to remembering how horrendous periods can be all over again) and am now teaching myself that I am not so much "heavy" as "healthy"......onwards and upwards...and if I can help others learn more in advance of having to deal with fractures and osteopenia then I've achieved something!
For more information, have a look at this open access educational resource on RED-S

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

On the Other Side of the Fence....

Packing again...
After having no event in 2017, the World 100k championships were back for 2018.....this time being held in Sveti Martin na Muri in Croatia. As the only female to have run under the ladies' qualification time, I had a difficult decision to make this spring when selections were being made. I could take a chance on my leg healing and be able to compete, or I could ask to be considered as part of a team (as 2 ladies had run the team standard).....but I did not want to put myself under pressure to run before I was ready and I also did not want to let the other ladies down. Luckily, British Athletics was able to use the "wild card" rule and enter a team without all of them having achieved the required standard and I was asked to go along as a team manager.

I wasn't sure if I could do it....help and support the others without just being plain grumpy at not running "my" event (in 2016 I was the sole representative of GB),  and also see all of my 100k friends from other countries, but once I'd agreed I threw myself into it. It wasn't easy as I just tried to remember what I'd wanted to know/not know prior to attending events myself, without ever saying "in my day...." or "when I ran the 100k..." to our current athletes.

There was a lot to do before the event....contacting the athletes, setting up group chats, ensuring flights and transfers suited everyone, getting the right accommodation arrangements, dealing with kit issues, working out how to include family/friends coming along, discussing race plans and nutrition, dealing with dietary requests and also any injuries arising (I liaised with both individual doctors and British Athletics to see if any TUEs were required....and luckily they weren't).

Team GB on parade
I flew out a day early (as I did not want anyone to have to go through the sagas I had in 2016....finding myself on my own at the race venue with the accommodation having been booked for the wrong dates, so I had nowhere to stay and was in danger of failing a drugs test) but I think I had enough travel dramas for the whole team (a cancelled train, a lady collapsing and fitting in the scanner queue in front of me in the airport and then a very delayed flight so I arrived at 2:30am).

My "feed station"
Once the athletes arrived there were accommodation glitches to sort, race and nutrition plans to revise, the course to be reccied, shopping to be done, technical meetings to attend, numbers to be collected, masters' entries to be paid (and then I had to work out whose number was whose and what age group they were, so that I could attach the right stickers to the right numbers), and the opening ceremony to attend. Add into this, an athlete missing a connection so having to stay a night courtesy of an airline and arriving (without his luggage) just as the opening parade started. I managed to get enough gels and drinks for him from various sources (but it did involve donating some of my GB clothing to other teams for goodwill purposes).

The race started at 7am and consisted on 7.5k out and back loops from the hotel. I was manning the GB aid station (well, I had a chair at the side of the road) at the far turnaround so I had to leave prior to 5am to get up there with everyone's drinks, gels and chews before the road was closed. It was still rather chilly and dark as I hung my flag up in the trees behind me.

Drafting Lisa in to help out
Lisa was "allowed" to offer her husband
more encouragement than the others
During the race I kept in touch with the feed station at the start/finish point of each loop, and we let each other know how the athletes were feeling and if they wanted extra things not in their race plans (which did involve begging, borrowing and swopping from other nearby country teams - I was between France and Germany). I would spot my runner coming, cross to the centre of the road to check what they wanted, and then be back at my chair ready to "stand and hand" while they went the extra 50m to the turnaround and back. It was easier at first when the lads came along followed by the lasses, but as they started lapping each other it got more complicated (and so Lisa, the wife of one of the runners, came and helped "spot" for me).

Catching up with Nikolina pre-race
Supporting Nikolina
I had caught up with several friends before the race and explained to them that although I would do my best to cheer them on during the race, my priority was the British team and so they'd have to excuse me if I ignored them on the day. Luckily, I managed to see (and shout to) my Croatian friend Nikolina (she was second and I was 3rd in Spain .....no further mention of the rule breaking we saw on that day) on every lap, as she led the ladies' race practically from start to finish finishing in a well deserved new Croatian record.

Feeding Sue on the run..
I couldn't abandon my post to see anyone finish but did run back alongside our last runner (a good friend who I've been fortunate to have run with for years), trying to encourage her for the last bit of what had been a long day out, and then whipping a Union Jack out of my bag for her to raise aloft as she ran in.

Our runners were fantastic and I felt so proud to have been able to be a part of it, even if not able to run. My job was still not done as I spent the rest of the day trying to offer individual congratulations, support, encouragement etc as it was wanted/needed.....and then making sure people felt well enough for the closing ceremony,only and that transfers and flights were all sorted for the way home.

I "think" Ant was happy with his run!!
After the race, I managed to sit down and grab a drink with a couple of our runners, and celebrate Ant's huge new PB and V40 win, but I needed to go and check up on all of the others (some were feeling a bit low as they'd found it a tough day out and one had had to DNF due to injury). I spent the rest of the day trying to offer individual congratulations, support, encouragement etc as it was wanted/needed.....and then making sure people felt well enough for the closing ceremony, and that transfers and flights were all sorted for the way home.

I took the bad luck on the way back as my airport train morphed into a rail replacement bus but I finally made it back to Scotland and fell into my bed. I'd averaged 4 hours of sleep a night since leaving home, but it was worth it as I felt I'd done a decent job (though it's a steep learning curve and so I've asked for both positive and negative feedback to improve for the future) and had been able to help share some of the enjoyment of the event. I have always run for the love of running, and so if I can help smooth the process for others so they enjoy it as much as I have done, then that's good enough for me!

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Another week......another Sportive....

My non-changing X-rays 
The results are definitely in.....my leg isn't healing. I'm not sure whether to be impressed with the NHS or just its level of IT, but it did seem slightly weird to be sitting having a coffee with an old  friend (as in we've been friends for years, not as in he's in his dotage) in his kitchen, while looking at all my X-rays on his laptop. It does rather help that he's an orthopaedic surgeon (www.williamhage.com) and so has been great for discussing different treatment options. Option A was to offload the leg, rest and fix the REDS and hope for healing , but as that hasn't work, he suggested Option B ("that you might like more"). This was pretty much along the lines of what I'd been thinking.....if to gradually introduce running back in again, but be very alert to any worsening of the leg, ie more swelling or pain (Option C would be surgical fixation but this would have its own problems, eg 30% of people get anterior knee pain after tibial nailing, or large scarring and metal reactions after plating/grafting).

The main thing is to look out for my bone health, ie trying to limit/reverse the osteopenia as much as possible but keeping the REDS at bay. I think I've been managing this element quite well......without going into too much detail, I didn't have a "period party" at the end of my amenorrhoea but it almost felt like I should (the first time you think it's a fluke, but then a month later you realise you might actually be on top of this, and then another month down the line you start to relax.....well, except for remembering just what a nightmare periods and their associated pain can be every month!). 

You might think that after being told to start running, that I'd go out for some crazy long run to celebrate, but if I'm honest, I'm scared to run. Not only do I think that I've actually forgotten how to run, and I'm too unfit anyway, but I don't want to cause more harm. I think it will be difficult to work out if any "pain" that I feel is real or psychological/paranoid pain. However, I've bitten the bullet and been for a gentle run. To be honest, a lap of the grass near my parents' house (all of 5 minutes) was enough for me, as although I was barely going faster than the dog walkers, I was puffing and panting, but at least it felt OK.....and I "refuelled well" afterwards!

I will gradually try to build this back up, but not push it, so I must still look to other ways to regain my fitness. Hence this weekend saw me try another Sportive. This one was a 50 mile loop from Lanercost Priory called the Crossborder Raid as it dipped into Southern Scotland. 

The start was rather a shock to the system with a 15% climb up onto Hadrian's Wall but I really enjoyed the ride after that. Although it certainly wasn't flat (my glutes and vmos are definitely telling me that now!) the roads were practically car-free and totally new to me. We had some decent views.....though the Scottish ones weren't so impressive (but that was due to the weather as we had more rain the further north we went...and then returned to sunshine in Cumbria).

I could have done with a feedstation before the 30 mile point, but when we got there it was great...with sausages, sandwiches, cakes, crisps, fruit and hot/cold drinks. Unfortunately there wasn't any at the end, but there was a lovely cafe just nearby so a hearty meal was possible (and I had another one as soon as I got home......as I, taking the refuelling seriously). My friend Doug and I had a lovely day cycling together and chatting all the way round, but other people really didn't seem to be getting so much fun out of it. They would pass us in single file with their heads down (usually on the descents......well they'd pass me as Doug isn't a scaredy cat like I am....but then we'd almost always go past them again on the climbs) and not say a word either to us or the rest of their cycle club mates strung out behind them. It certainly didn't make us want to join a "cycling club". 
It was nice to spot the priory
and know we were almost back!

I'm no cyclist....though at the minute I'm no runner.....but I do enjoy a day out with friends (especially if there is cake involved at some point) so I think I'll keep doing it my way :-) Onwards and upwards...

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Like a Lamb to the Slaughter

After a couple of months of being a virtual couch potato, it's amazing how unfit I have become. I didn't want to believe the specialist who said that he thought my leg would never heal, but wanted to be satisfied in myself that I'd given it every chance before accepting this fact. I think that I have managed to fix my REDS (relative energy deficiency in sport), but unfortunately there appears to be no change to my tibia.
I guess it's time to accept the facts and think about trying to run again and ensuring that the fracture doesn't worsen. I want to do this gradually, and keep as low a level of impact as I can, at least initially (OK, so I admit that I'm actually now scared to restart running!) so I've decided to try to make friend with my bike.

I know that I'm innately lazy and would look for excuses not to go for a ride of any distance (even more so if the weather isn't the best) so entering a sportive was my way of making sure I got and there and rode. I found an event called "The Winking Sheep" and entered the "baby" option of "The Lamb". I thought this was the short/easy ride that is usually attached to a longer event, and I suppose that you could say that is was even I this case, but it was actually more like a "lamb to the slaughter" as the pre-ride info kindly made me aware that it was 55 miles long and involved 5500 feet of ascent and descent.

The forecast for the day didn't help, as it was predicted to be windy and wet, but when I left Durham early in the morning, the sky was clear and there wasn't a breath of wind. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the event HQ in St John's Chapel, the sky was an ominous colour and it was distinctly cold.

My friend Mark was cycling with me, and although I insisted on starting right at the back of the starting groups, we soon found ourselves overtaking a few cyclists on the road up to Alston. It gave me a bit of confidence to realise that I wasn't going to be by far the slowest rider on the day, and I felt slightly smug to be overtaking people who were walking up some of the early hills. 

Pic by sportsunday
The routes (and feedstations)
The ride was divided up into thirds by "feed stations"......definite goals for me, as I'm always led by my stomach, but now I have the excuse of "keeping the REDS at bay". The first section didn't feel too bad....well apart from all the ups and downs. I actually prefer to climb than descend hills, no matter whether on a bike or on foot, but I did rather gulp when I saw the gradient up to Nenthead. I unclipped one foot in case I needed to get off and walk, but made it fine right to the summit (albeit with some nice lactic in my quads). Luckily for me the descent, although steep at 17-19%, wasn't too twisty, so although Mark shot off into the distance, he didn't have to wait too long for me.

It was starting to rain by the time we got to the first feedstation so the hot mugs of tea (and chocolate brownies.....obviously) were very welcome. The middle section had a punishing start with a 90 degree bend off the main road straight up a very steep "stand up on your pedals" climb, but it was short lived and we got a nice cheer at the top. I found the next section rather tough as the weather had definitely deteriorated and the road climbed gradually uphill into a strong headwind for what seemed like forever. Going over the top wasn't much better as the wind was so strong that even I, queen of the "braking during every descent", had to pedal relatively hard just to keep going. 

Pic by sportsunday
I felt rather cold as we rolled into the next feedstation in Middleton-in-Teasdale and was devastated to find that I couldn't have a hot mug of tea there, as I'd been thinking of not going much else for the previous few miles. As a slight recompense we did get the "feedstation food" but also were offered the leftovers from a wedding buffet that was about to be thrown away.....how many people can say they had wedding cake on a sportive?

The course was set out
on a nicer day!
There was a similar sharp climb from a 90 degree turn off the main road soon after this stop as well. Unfortunately there was also gravel on the road just where the turnoff was, so I came to a halt and had to pedal further up the road to take a "run-up" after the climb. From there we climbed higher and higher up out of Teesdale to head back into Weardale. There was a rather scary hairpin bend on a descent between the two valleys, which appeared to have already claimed an unwary driver as there was a smashed car on the apex with a note in its window stating "police aware". Mark shot past and didn't spot the damage but I had a long time to observe it as I inched my way round the wet steep corner.

The "Winking Sheep"
Soon after that, we reached the worst part of the day for me.....the descent down into Stanhope.....as it was very steep, wet, and consisted of tight steep hairpins with a horrible camber. My arms were full of lactic acid from having my brakes on so tightly, and I wanted to cry as it looked too steep and narrow for me to be able to actually get off and walk. This time a lovely motorbike marshal came to my aid and flanked me as I inched my way down. He asked me if I didn't trust my brakes, and I replied that I actually didn't trust myself.

Still, I eventually made it to where Mark was waiting patiently at the bottom, and we enjoyed the final 7 miles of "rolling hills" back up Weardale to the start. We were given a Winking Sheep beer for completing the ride but by the time we'd tucked into a sandwich and slice of cake, it was bucketing with rain, so we'd clearly timed it just right.

Not a "flat" course
Except for those not so lovely descents (including the one on cobbles in the middle of Alston, where I met a car driving up at the same time) I did enjoy the day and was happy to have managed to get round without having to get off and walk, though it did teach my exactly how poor my fitness really is! I would say "more work to be done" but the couch is looking rather appealing again!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The Juan de Fuca Trail

Loving the views from a kayak
The challenge for the rest of my trip was how to make the most out of my time in beautiful BC without stressing my leg. Kayaking seemed to be a good option so I enjoyed a bit of paddling around looking at the views, but we also decided that hiking would be a good compromise.

We decided to hike the 47km Juan de Fuca trail on the west coast of Vancouver Island - it doesn't sound far but is very "undulating" so we were going to aim for 4-5 days, but we ended up walking a bit more each day and cutting the trip down to 2.5 days.

All set for the off...
Typical trail sections
The initial plan was for me to carry a large daypack so as to be putting less pressure on the pesky shin, but my 2 friends are no MM veterans, and hence are less skilled in the art of packing and travelling light, so it became impossible for me to escape carrying a full pack after all.

It had been really hot and sunny in Vancouver so it was nice to escape to the reputedly wet west coast in Fogust (as they fondly term August).

It was actually ideal walking conditions as the days were overcast, it didn't rain (so the knee-deep mud we'd read about was mostly dry), and the night were cool so you could actually get some sleep.
Trying to skirt some of the mud

Luckily I was small enough that
minimal ducking was required
The odd scramble
I'd recommend the hike to anyone (especially going the way that we did - North to South - as most people were travelling in the opposite direction) as it was an amazing few days.

We walked through forests, skirted some muddy patches, hauled ourselves endlessly up and down hills between creek crossings, staggered along shingle beaches, and camped on the sand listening to the sound of waves crashing nearby and waking up to foghorns out to sea.

A log bridge

A tree made into a staircase
We ducked under trees, scrambled over boulders, used log bridges and tree staircases and hid our food in "bear-bins" overnight (luckily we saw neither cougars nor bears while hiking....though there was lots of fresh bear poo on the trail).

No bears but definite bearpoo
I was actually rather disappointed to reach the southernmost part of the trail as we suddenly came across lots of daytrippers and no longer felt that we were out in the wilderness (though there had been some forestry road access points scattered along the route).

No bear-bins....hang your
food high up using a tree branch 

We'd had no phone or internet signal so there was peace and quiet (though someone was hiking the other way with music blasting from their pack) but the one thing I didn't enjoy was all the "yellowjackets" (ground wasps).

Not a bad view for a (dehydrated) dinner
Sunsets on the beaches weren't too shabby
These sneaky insects do not seem to buzz so there's no warning (well, we did occasionally see warning written on paper, but usually after the event due to us going in the opposite direction to those kindly trying to write down locations and notify people in advance) and appear out of small holes in the ground or under logs/sleepers/wooden steps. The first person walking past seems to wake them up, then the second one angers them......and the third one gets stung....and guess who was usually at the back of our troop!!

Camping on the beach
One seems to sting you and "tag" you alerting the others the then join the chase.....and I wouldn't allow myself to run (not that I could with my pack on) to get away. I ended up reacting so badly to the stings that my leg swelled up so that my knee would neither bend nor straighten fully, my shoes and socks didn't fit, and it looked like I had a DVT.

Survivors (including my leg
which was just starting to swell)
It took about a week for the swelling and itch to settle down - a nice souvenir of the hike - but even so, I still enjoyed it and would love to go and explore more of that coastline!