Handle With Care

Been beat up and battered ’round
Been sent up, and I’ve been shot down

The problem with having a target goal, is that once you have achieved it there’s a sense of what next? Plan B isn’t needed so it’s time for a bit of downtime before a new target.

After a very wet short packrun on Wednesday and another Run Directing at Watergrove parkrun on Saturday, I was itching to go on Sunday at the Woodland Challenge near Bradley, but legs were still in recovery period from Scarborough so wasn’t planning on a hard run.

After a very steady loop around the streets, I started gaining places but made sure I kept it comfortable for the first km, before building a bit as we headed down into the woods. Everything was going well, picking up the odd place when I got stuck behind a couple of runners, along a narrow path in the woods, took the opportunity for a bit of recovery and dropped back a few paces to get a clearer view of footing.

The woods opened up a little and I could see a drop down to a wooden bridge, instantly accelerated to get past them both before the bridge, at the same moment no.2 moved right to overtake, so I switched left through some leaves.

Just as I drew alongside – Bang! – I was flying upside down? Skidded back to ground and rolled over nearly taking them both out – apologised – and continued the roll back onto my feet. Glanced back to see guy behind shifting a sizeable boulder off the path, so that’s what I hit – thanked him and hared off all in what seemed like half a second.

Over the bridge quickly ran through a body check, foot a bit sore, knee buzzing, but otherwise legs ok. Body felt fine and shoulder felt like it had taken the bulk of impact. Having only been talking about dislocations the day before, I tentatively moved it around to be reassured that it seemed to be moving normally.

Happy there was nothing serious, I quickly closed back in on the pair, still running checks in my mind on everything just to be sure. Finally decided I was ok and shot past them, gaining a few more places before adrenaline shot faded.

The route involved two loops and as we came round 2nd lap it began to feel like hard work, as various aches started making themselves known.

Worked hard to stay with a couple of girls on 2nd lap but on the long climb back towards the finish I wasn’t able to live with them. Glanced down and noticed knee was covered in blood, shoulder had stiffened a while back and with about a mile to go I decided to ease back slightly as things were starting to hurt.

WP_20141019_001 (3)Lost a few places and struggled on final slope, before a token effort to the finish line, for the crowd! Disappointed to find that once I was cleaned up knee only amounted to a tiny scratch and shoulder had a couple of shallow scrapes. Hand was a bit sore, and it was until later I realised it was possibly fractured!

42nd place for number 42 in 45:32 GPS. Decided to give the prize ceremony a miss – which was a shame as they had a wheelbarrow spot prize!

 

I had recovered enough by Weds to risk a packrun, and it turned out to be a long one – 15.2km. Took it carefully as last thing I wanted was another fall.  Fairly certain I have a fractured hand – very consistent with previous occasion – but things seem in the right place so can’t face the ordeal of a visit to A&E.

In the quest for a new goal, decided to go for a long run the next day and clocked up a 28.6km run! Happy that I would manage the distance, promptly entered the mini Transvulcania mediamarathon in 2015. At 26.6km will be a doddle… only 2000m of constant climb in the first 18km before a bit of undulation to finish!!!  May need to get a few long runs and hills in over winter.

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Saturday was a tail run at Watergrove parkrun and dropped plans for Sunday’s Tandle Hill Trail to protect hand – it was tough enough helping out on results so the right decision.

Decided to reduce running a bit and following week was just a 9.8km packrun and then onto Sunday’s Through the Villages 8.45 mile race.

I hadn’t really decided on a plan, had a vague desire to beat my previous best for the course and a lovely sunny day with clear if a little cool air boded well.

After a gentle start, picked up pace on first hill and started gaining places. All to plan until our Watergrove ladies record holder glided past and I decided to latch on and see if I could manage 5km at her speed. It would make the rest of the race then a battle of fatigue to keep going but I was in the mood for a (mad) game.

The climb up past the quarry was tough and lost a bit of ground but reeled her back on the way to Abbey Village and wasn’t feeling too bad at the 3 mile point. Unfortunately it was round then a big hill arrived that I had forgotten about and started to struggle and dropped away.

At the 4 mile M65 turn I was hitting a low, mentally as well as physically and dragged myself back up another hill, thinking that I would be lucky to finish. A well timed water station meant a nice cold cup over my head shocked me out of the negative spiral.

Instantly refreshed, I was back on it and my legs quietened down. It was still tough but I started gaining again. Worked hard to catch another down into Withnell and along the bottom road, to the final big hill through Brinscall. I was sure I was on for a good time and so took it very steady up the hill, before pushing hard downhill as I realised I wasn’t doing quite as well as I thought. A pleasing 56:55 for almost a minute of previous best – GPS.

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A Forest

I’m running towards nothing
Again and again and again and again

A steady trot around the Littleborough 5k route on Monday, at 30 min pace, was followed by the first in Cannonball Littleborough 5k series on Wednesday. The plan was to take it steady and come in around 22:30, so 22:42 was about the right pace, but a combination of a pollution smog made breathing very laboured and a weird wind storm that blew up just before the start meant effort was far too high.  Spent most of first km over 180 bpm when I would have expected 170 max and was forced to back off to get it back under control, the lack of warm up & a quick start may have contributed a little, but suspect mainly down to smog.

 

trace 050414 keswick parkrunSaturday was the inaugural Keswick parkrun, an out and back along a former railway line. Obviously it’s a long way for a 5k, so meant a weekend away with an excellent stay at Hazledene Hotel, who kindly allowed us a late breakfast post-run. This meant for the first time ever, just a short run to the start!

The plan was to run 12:30 (5min/km) out and then faster on the way back. I hadn’t quite decided but was thinking of 11 min on the way back but was feeling good and upped it to a 10min target. Pleased to record 12:34/10:07 for 22:41 but possibly should have saved the fast bit for just the last km?  Added a 9 mile walk up Bleaberry Fell in the afternoon as the big hills were shrouded in rain clouds.  A big meal out and a couple of pints at the fantastic Pheasant Inn to re-stock energy topped off a fine day.

 

Sunday was the big test – The Great Grizedale Forest Trail Race – my first 10 mile race for over a year. The route through Grizedale Forest was on the opposite side to where I know, so whilst expecting rocky track and hills it was a bit unknown as the exact nature of the course.

trace 060414 grizedale10The plan was to run 5min/km for 1:20, which on the one hand seemed realistic after recent shorter runs. However with only one run at that distance in the past year and the hilly course meant I had major doubts about my endurance. Last year’s 10 mile pancake flat race saw me fade a little at 6 and die at 8 miles, with more miles in my legs. And I hadn’t run a 5k and hill walked 9 miles the day before that one!

The weather didn’t help either, windy and wet with the course map revealing that we would spend roughly 5 miles straight into the wind, including the last three.

The start was very steep and I positioned myself in the back third of the 150ish field, but still slipped backwards as we climbed the first few hundred metres to a cattle grid. I concentrated on my own efforts and didn’t worry that I was almost last. Over the cattle grid it levelled off and I got up to speed, regularly checking watch pace which because of the hills was all over the place. Generally seemed to be below 5:30 but after a high start HR was around 160 which I reckoned was about right, so switched to HR view and decide to run on that.

Every time I glanced down and saw 157/158 I upped effort, every time it was 162/163 I eased back. This allowed me to steadily move on settling into a nice catch-recover-move on pattern.   Whilst it felt sustainable, after 4km each split was way behind target. Whilst it had mainly been up, there had been downs and I wondered whether too much time had been lost already to make the 1:20 target, when finally km 5 popped up at 4:30.

By now the field had thinned considerably and there were only a handful in site in front. With less climb but still plenty of ups and downs I rattled off a few quicker kms to reach halfway just a few seconds over 40 mins. Target back on as surely it was nearly all down from here?

That gave me a boost and combined with feeling in good shape I now pushed on to catch first woman and another guy. Just as I made a move to get past on the right side of the path, I suddenly wondered if we were supposed to turn off left. Slightly confused as there was a runner up ahead, who we shouted out to. A bit of tape off to the side and some orange paint on the ground were not really obvious.

The path then descended steeper on rockier ground and I eased off to protect foot. As it flattened off there was an unexpected water stop, and I dithered over whether to get a drink, which I did but then after walking a few steps found it hard to get going. The combination of these three events in succession interrupted my relaxed rhythm and took nearly a km of chasing down first woman to get past her again, having dropped the guy at the water stop.

Once past her there was no-one in sight ahead and after nearly missing a turn I kept a sharper eye out. The route was fairly twisty and I upped effort to try and create a gap behind to get out of sight. Whilst I hadn’t looked behind since the start, I knew there probably 10 runners within a minute or two.

At 12 km, every km was still blasting past sub 5 mins, so I knew even if I slowed a little then primary target of sub 1:20 was assured. The hills were non-stop though and every time it went down, I knew another up would follow, but overall it was feeling slightly more down than up until the 12th which was a tough one.

With just 4km to go, I decided to push on and put in my fastest km split so far of 4:17 in the hope of building a bigger gap to those behind. For the first time since I had overtaken first woman, I caught a glimpse of a couple of runners through the trees but they were well over a minute ahead, so I ignored any hope of catching and concentrated on keeping cadence going, playing alternate games of lifting heels/ lifting knees as I had throughout.

It was good to pass the SportSunday photographers, as I’d been feeling very lonely for 20 minutes or so. With a couple of km to go I finally saw another runner ahead walking on a hill, just maybe? My legs were tiring but I pushed a little harder to try to close the gap which was down to under a minute but he started running again and extended it out. The same thing happened on the next hill and a muddy section (due to some forest works) took the last out of my legs as I crested a rise and I settled for concentrating on my time again.

After clearing the last bit of mud I got cadence back up and after a near miss with an out of control dog on the steep rocky descent to the finish – I was tempted to ‘comment’ to the stupid moron that passed as its owner but couldn’t think of a polite response or one that wouldn’t involve violence, so resisted – and concentrated making it to the finish grateful that I had no broken bones.

A very pleasing 1:16:11, still feeling good despite the just out of the lake look and even had the energy to jog back to the car!   Feet felt a bit battered, tendon a little sore but no major issues.

 

A couple of rest days off was followed up with the Joe Salt Cowm 5k on Wednesday. I’d been a little unsure about entering beforehand, and didn’t have a clear plan, all of which lead to a well paced 4:30 first km, and then stupidly upped pace for remaining 4km to set a season best 20:34 but with a pain in my left calf when I stopped. That then developed into a very tight plantar fascia the next day and wrecked weekend plans. Will I never learn?

I generally use the 1 mile a day recovery rule i.e. after a hard 10 mile race, no hard efforts for the next ten days. I broke it. I broke me!

 

After a couple of rest days I decided on a tentative Oldham parkrun on Saturday to work out how much damage had been done. There was no specific pain, so ran at a decent pace for 21:46 but always within myself. Probably too fast as both calves sore and tight afterwards, which was good as it meant injury to left is minor. Will rest for a few days and make a decision on Wednesday about when/where I run next.

Footloose

The 3 month ‘taking it easy’ plan is proving a lot harder to stick to than I thought, partly because of a complete lack of fitness and partly as my heart rate is much higher than I anticipated at slower speeds making it difficult to keep below 150. On the plus side, I’m finding the mid 150’s relatively comfortable effortwise.  At least I‘m almost sticking to the +1 mile a week plan, ‘almost’ because last week was supposed to be 7 miles (11.3k) but due to pains in tendon, I carried it forward to Monday. Dropping the car off at the garage allowed for an 11.95km linear run back home for the longest run this year.  I have 2 spare week’s in the 3 month plan, but want to hang on to them for now.

My tendon continued severely bothering me all week, not helped by having to wear ‘proper shoes’ – which my feet never enjoy – on Wednesday and particularly Thursday’s trip into Manchester. Things were further not helped by the stop-start nature of the club packrun on Wednesday night. However, it was good to back out for the first time in a year, and with the run there and back totalling 12.4k for my biggest daily mileage for 18 months. No wonder I’m not fit!

trace 050314 packrun
An easy 5.27k on Friday felt a little better – after the initial km or so when I nearly turned back. After a quick stop and stretch things seemed to improve but not promising.

Saturday was an Oldham parkrun where I had a vague intention of running around 25 or 26 minutes as the speedier effort last week certainly didn’t help things. I set off still a bit hazy about effort and decided to go for a steady first km and then decide, despite that failing last week. Spotted a couple of regulars who usually were over 26 mins and tried to stay behind them but lost sight of them in the crowd at the first chicane. Another good turnout meant it was busy up to the first corner and I patiently held back until it opened out and I started slowly working my way forward, going through the first km in 4:59.
The slightly more up on the second km saw me 10 secs down on target, but a decent effort in the 3rd km got me to the end of the two short laps just a couple of sec behind. A misread of my watch at 4km when I thought I was 4 secs up, but was actually 14 up, meant I pushed more than necessary through the woods on the tough last km and even with easing off on the final straight still came over the line in 24:46.

trace 080314 Oldham parkrun
A little quicker start, a steadier mid section and a more observant finish may have brought HR average of 155 down slightly but overall roughly happy with time splits. Think I learnt that having a definite target at the start would have helped with pacing as didn’t commit fully until 2nd km. I will see if I can be a little more precise with next week’s parkrun.

Tendon felt the best it had for a couple of week’s so +1 meant at least an 8 mile (13km) run on Sunday. Sunny and warmer meant shorts and t-shirt were more than comfortable for a 9.5km loop with two 800m & one 400m hill reps thrown in near the end for a total of 13.7km (8.5m) topping Monday’s and Wednesday’s distances.

Weekly mileage of 37.93km (23.5 miles) and at least my foot feels better at end than during the week, but still too early to say how much of the tendon damage is reversible.  The realistic view is this is not a comeback yet and I can’t shake the feeling that my foot is permanently a bit loose.

Testing Testing 1-2…

…3km test run completed in about 20 mins or so – twice this week!  And a 6k walk up and around Gadding Dam today in strong winds.

Gaddings Dam

After 10 weeks, and with a lot of encouragement from ‘whiplash’ physio, finally braved a test run on Wednesday, a very slow and gentle 3 km.  Foot still obviously not right and back very stiff and painful following car crash but it was good to be at least moving in a vaguely run like manner!

Repeated test run again after Friday’s physio session had loosened me up and back felt a little better but stiffened badly afterwards.  I’m confident that problem should improve in the short-medium term, but it’s clear that my peroneus brevi tendon problem will continue to hamper any efforts at motion.

After my tendon brought me to a shuddering halt in April 2013, when I couldn’t even walk for 2 months nevermind run, at least I can now get my foot to function, if still painful.  However, the NHS has in the main been worse than useless, ranging from a prescription for NSAIDs when no inflammation is present in the tendon (and goes against common thinking) which just resulted in messing my stomach up for months that they then had no interest in dealing with; to a disgracefully disinterested GP telling me that “ALL sprained ankles heal fully within 10 weeks” and pretty much saying that if I am still suffering after 8 years then I am lying, accompanied by a refusal to ever see me again about it!

Fortunately the ‘foot’ physio was slightly better qualified – and could actually be bothered to carry out an examination unlike the incompetent GP –  to narrow the main problem down to a degenerated tendon.  The podiatrist was also of the opinion that I did have a real problem too, so not all in my head then! After initial rehab exercises failed to lift the ‘block’ I had in operating my foot without agonising pain, I was moved on to acupuncture and had a miracle improvement after 1 session, instantfr15_11_2013075523ly being able to walk again.  Even with some pain it was such a relief after weeks of despair.

There was sadly little further improvement with following sessions and so have been cast on the rubbish heap as far as the NHS is concerned, with a “well, you’ll just have to live with being crippled” goodbye.  If I can dodge the incompetent GP then there maybe a possible option to pursue surgery, but with a 60-40 chance of it making it worse it’s not really a solution I’m going to press for, even if I could persuade them to spare the funds.  There appears to be a second issue with my ankle-foot but whether it is a consequence of the tendon or a completely separate problem is destined to remain a mystery!

After years of things improving to a point where my foot breaks down, rest and repeat, I need a radical new approach after the last catastrophic halt… as they say insanity/stupidity is repeating the same thing and expecting a different result.  Prior to the car crash I felt like I was making a little progress but was getting dragged into too much too soon again, so it will be hard but will be working on a ‘no speeding’ approach this time.

After much internet research, I am looking at a recovery plan involving 3 months of low effort running (HR zone 3 and below), whilst simultaneously continuing with rehab exercises with the aim of retraining my biomechanics to take some of the strain off the tendon and back to where it should be.  Assuming this happens relatively pain free the next stage would then be to focus on building distance with any speed gains occurring organically rather than deliberately.

After nearly totally giving up on running last year, maybe there is a faint glimmer of hope reflecting off the storm clouds above the blackened horizon?

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