Monday, September 24, 2018

A Cautionary Tale - Part 2

Following on from  “A Cautionary Tale - Part 1”

At the beginning of March, having not run since the beginning of November, I had surgery for the bilateral inguinal disruptions. I got back into ‘training’ very gently – some walks, some walks with a little running downhill, a bit more running. I made the policy decision to stay completely of road and stick to hard, technical routes to reduce running time but increase strength. By the end of April I was running relatively freely.

At the beginning of May, Jenny and I spent 2 weeks walking on the Camino during which time I managed one 40 mile day.

Back home I started running more. I entered the Lakeland 5 Passes Ultra at the beginning of June, a tough technical 33 miles. I decided to go all old school and stay off social media – no need for a fanfare. After a couple of weeks of glorious weather, it decided to hose it down all day. It was bitterly cold going over Harter Fell but I was so happy to be out running again, to be in a race. I was absolutely delighted with 7th but that wasn’t the important bit – I was back!

Although my groins seemed almost 100% better, I was becoming increasingly aware of the pain in my knee. During 2017, my groins had been the limiting factor but now that I was able to stretch out and run freely my knee was really becoming an issue. I had a marked reduction in knee flexion which was causing me to stumble over rocks quite frequently. 

This was hardly surprising since an MRI had revealed a complex degenerative meniscal tear, a further posterior horn tear and a parameniscal cyst. 42 years of rugby, triathlons and running had caught up with me.

However, I was running and I was happy. I had a place in the Lakeland 100 which had always lurking in the back of my mind. Being an ultrarunner and indestructible I decided to go for it. I put in some really good miles. I felt fast. I felt strong. I had lost all the weight I’d gained. I set several PB’s for my local climbs including Gatesgarth Pass. All systems go.

I felt great. And my knee was OK…if I took pain-killers prior to running.

After all, ultrarunners are indestructible…aren’t we?

2 weeks prior to the Lakeland 100 I stumbled and twisted my knee. Probably tore my calf a little too but what’s a bit of a calf strain to an ultra-runner? I did no running for the final 2 weeks up to the race. 

Only a couple of people knew I was running – no need to advertise, to validate – those important to me knew where I was at, and why I wanted to run.

On race day my head really wasn’t in it at all. For many of us it was a day of great sadness, a day of remembrance for a friend no longer with us. I had more than a few tears in my eyes as we started.

Going up the first few hills, I felt physically great. I felt comfortable and was well up the field. However, going down towards Seathwaite my knee wasn’t haven’t fun so I took it gently and managed not to trip up over the loose rocks. Why was I doing this?

Going through the woods after CP1 I tripped over an innocuous tree root – foot not picking up properly. Gashed my elbow, hand and knee but more critically really wrenched my knee. Tried to walk it off but after 10-15 minutes, I knew it wasn’t going to get better. I started the 2-3 mile walk back to CP1. It felt like a walk of shame.

Back in Seathwaite I discovered my good friend Jamie Hauxwell who had beaten me to the 1st place in the drop out stakes by tearing his hamstring before the CP. It was good to chat and therapeutic for us both, I think.

I haven’t run since. My knee got worse, was hurting on a day to day basis.

Last week I had knee surgery and it’s back to square 1 again. Is it worth it? Well I bloody hope so. I just want to be able to go out all day and play. Whether that is running or walking I’m really not too bothered at this present moment. I just want to be able to do the stuff I love consistently. And I don't want any more operations this year!

Apologies for repetition but…

Listen to your body.

We all say it but how many actually do?

I often see posts along the lines of “I’m doing a certain race, would it be Ok/sensible to do another the weekend before?” Or “I’ve got this niggle, would it be OK/sensible to do…?” Well it might be OK, and you may be absolutely fine. However, somewhere along the line you may suffer the consequences.

I ran over 3000 miles in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and would have in 2017 if I had managed to run all year. I had a fabulous time, seeing new places, meeting new people and had some great experiences. But I also broke myself and that leaves a big hole.

For the 3 months of May-July this year I was back in the bubble, I was running free…and then I broke again. 

I’m an ultrarunner but I am not indestructible.

Or perhaps it’s time to say I was an ultrarunner.

We’ll see…