I’ve been lucky. The abdominal injury I’ve had seems to be under control and (touch wood) going away, yay! I’ve been a good boy and done my exercises, day and night, and was back out the door running again only 7 days after speaking with the physio. That was a relief after my injury at the beginning of last year when I had nearly a month out and then a long, slow build back up to ‘proper’ running. There were lots of weeks where I could only run for an hour or so and a few set backs on the way, which was frustrating. This time though the fix seemed to have an immediate and increasing effect and the few weeks I had to have off were probably needed anyway, to get over all the racing I had squeezed into too short a time. (Note to self – running too hard, too often, is risky) I’ve also managed not to put on weight, by not eating like a bear before hibernation as I did when last injured, which has helped too.
My first few runs back were short, and a bit painful still, but then when we were seeing our friends Jo and Neil up in Ipswich I ran for an hour, helping pace the last 7 miles of Jo’s final long run before the Brighton Marathon (Go Jo!). It was a nice relaxed, trail run around a lake and was a nice way to get back out there. (It was less relaxed for Jo obviously, she had done two laps of the lake before I joined her so was 14 odd miles in already. My babbling and inept pacing technique, and poor drink’s bottle etiquette, probably made it tougher still…).
With that I felt confident that things were on the mend, so I kept up the ab exercises (bored now) and increased the miles. I wouldn’t be me though without doing something silly, so the next weekend me and Claire ran our local parkrun at Great Lines in Gillingham, to keep our ‘one parkrun in every month of 2017’ extravaganza going. I was thinking I’d run a fast-ish effort, but when we set off I hoofed round in strong winds for just under 19 and half minutes (just a few seconds short of my home course record). Thankfully my stomach didn’t protest at the fast pace or my idiocy and I was pleased to get so close to my best time, especially with the interruption to my training. It gave me confidence I hadn’t lost all the hard won fitness from my training in December through to February.
Last week was another increase in mileage (I’d gone from 15 miles the first week back, to 19 the week after, to 26 miles last week). I struggled a bit to run at a relaxed pace however, and kept trying to push the pace a few times and locked in to too hard an effort. I was out of the groove of running at an efficient aerobic pace, which for me is a heart rate of around 150 bpm. It didn’t help that my Garmin is showing its age and the wrist based heart rate monitor has got a bit cranky, i.e. it lies to me. I’m experienced enough now to use my breathing to judge my effort however, so I was just doing a bad job of it! I went a bit too quick a few times but managed to slow down some and be closer to a useful, sustainable pace with each jaunt back out.
Last Saturday, Claire and I were going to run at Malling parkrun with our friend Sarah, to make up for the run we had to cancel with her for her birthday a couple of months ago. Unfortunately that had to be cancelled again (we will do it eventually!) so we decided to go back to Great Lines again, as they were running the course backwards in honour of April Fool’s Day (and also so I could wear my lovely apricot coloured parkrun t-shirt for the first time at my home course). We jogged up to Great Lines as a warm up and met a huge crowd of nearly 450 runners – clearly the reverse route was a popular idea.
After saying hello to a few people, and milling about to stay warm, we wandered to the start but facing up the long hill to the war memorial, rather than down to loop round the football pitches as normal. After a strong run last week, I wanted to get under 20 minutes again, but didn’t want to go as hard and be stupid again… Guess what? Yep after a few hundred yards, and with runners in front pulling away and the sound of runners behind me, I was at full 5K race pace and pinning my ears back. Muppet.
This was a problem, beyond risking damage, as the start of the reversed course was now a half mile up the long drag through the park (into the wind) and I was immediately working too hard. After looping the war memorial we thankfully were going downhill, which was a relief. As was going down round the football pitched which is normally a bit of a git with all the slopes involved. I was very much on my own by this point however, the runner way ahead in third was a hundred metres in front and there was no one close behind (that I could hear). Oh and joy of joys, it was now the long hill back to the top of the park, with the wind in my face. It was going to be a long second half…
I tried to maintain some speed but could feel myself slowing, my breathing get erratic and my legs start to do odd things. I went past Claire at this point and all I could manage was the smallest of waves and to stick out my tongue to indicate my distress. Finally after what felt like an hour I was back on flatter ground and I could recover a bit. As I tried to take in all the air in Medway a marshal at one of the turns told me ‘You can catch him’ about the guy in third. As I gazed at him disappearing off in to the distance that seemed improbable, without a rifle or moped to hand. On the downhill stretch I recovered a bit more and tried to pick up the pace. I was tired though and was having to go around and off of the path to pass some of the slower parkrunners I was catching up with.
With the wind behind me and a gentle slope helping me I tried to pick things up a bit round the football pitches as I started praying for the finish to appear. It took a lot of energy to make the turns here, especially the last one which threw you onto the slope up to the finish funnel. Where was the nice downhill finish we were used to?! I thought I heard another runner hunting me down so I tried to increase my stride and push on, but the pitter-patter behind grew louder! I went into a sprint which only actually increased my pace a tiny bit, and broke one my cardinal rules and had a frantic peak behind to see my hunter coming for me; there was no-one there.
I was close to the finish anyway but slowed down a bit with relief – I must have been hearing my buff or t-shirt flapping in the wind! The phantom runner strikes again… With the tiredness (and fear) I hadn’t looked at my watch since the end of the 2nd mile and now saw I had crossed the line for fourth in around 19:05 (I found out later my official time was actually 19:03). A new parkrun and 5K PB, whoop! I was pleasantly surprised (after a few minutes of desperately trying not to puke my guts up) and deployed full smug grin.
Clearly my cardiovascular fitness is good (for me), it’s just my weak, spindly body letting me down. I need to work on that… I also need to take notice of what time I’m running towards the end of a race; if I had known how close I was to sub-19 I may have been able to sneak a 18-odd 5K to my name, which would have been awesome (not that I’m unhappy with the time so soon after coming back, I’m not that greedy). After a few minutes recovery I spoke with a few people who I knew through Strava, but who I’d only ever said hello to previously. It was nice to catch up and hear what other people’s plans were race wise, and then to see Claire come home for a storming finish. All in all, a good parkrun and a good way to start a Saturday.
My plan now is to get back up to 30 odd miles a week for a month or so, whilst keeping all my limbs attached and in good working order. The key thing is consistency and limiting hard running, according to Sage Canaday anyway whose YouTube videos I have been watching recently. To be fair that’s what I already knew from reading Dr Phil Maffetone some time ago, albeit in a different form. With this recent injury scare however I’m more inclined to actually heed it. I want to then increase my mileage gradually, up to the magical 50 miles per week figure which seems to really boost fitness and results. Which I might need for my first multi-day ultramarathon which I’ve just signed up for! :S
I’ve heard about the Saltmarsh75 from a couple of different sources, and was pushed into signing up to get the early bird discount (as I’m a tight git). It looks like a well organised race with a picturesque route around the coast of Essex, and at 38 miles on the Saturday and then 37 on the Sunday in early October a manageable step up from the marathons and ‘short’ ultras I’ve managed already. I’m well aware it’s a tough off-road course however and at much further than I’ve ever run before, two days in a row!, I have to treat it with respect. With that and my running my nemesis, the Stort30, again at the end of October I need to get the mileage in and time on my feet to be ready.
Then there’s the 24 hour relay race we have in July and two marathons scheduled for August, plus the odd shorter race to fit in here and there. Oh and all the random places I want to visit on ‘adventure’ runs. I need to start building a good base of training for all that, and make sure I do it a controlled and thought out way. Not necessarily my strong point but it will be worth the effort. Now where did I put that spreadsheet…
Thanks for reading and enjoy your running. Adam 🙂