Thursday, 15 September 2011

Injury, self doubt and 60 fantastic miles coming soon?

Call me a wimp, but I didn't want to write a more thorough report of what happened at the UTMB. It was such a great atmosphere pre and post race and at times great fun taking part. A lot of the detail isn't reflected in my 'picture tour' blog entry before.

The eventual end to my event was pain slowing me down and tiredness making my progression unsafe. I think without the combination of the two I could have got on ok. As it was after losing loads of time on my ultimate stage, cooling down too much and just making a cut off at Arnuva it would have been foolish to go on and attempt Grand Col Ferret. Maybe with a few strong coffees and a bout of 'runners high' I might have made the next cut-off, but it may have just been several miles of misery and the further ruining of what had been a great experiance for the most part.

So injury, I mentioned this was a factor in my UTMB performance. The sore knee seemed to disappear almost straight after stopping. The ankle was worse, distinct swelling a few inches above my foot at the front of my ankle afterwards. I might have been ok with pain management during the event. But the aggrevation mentioned in my post-UTMB blog, catching my toe on a tree root or planted stone before Refuge Bonnetti, really didn't help. I was running along, not knowing what was causing the pain, whether it was serious or not.

After the event, with RICE, the swelling and pain both went. All was looking good, but then last Thursday on my first hard outing since - 13 days post-UTMB - I was burning up local hilly trail, pushing hard on the 7 hills route that my club regularly run in training. I was well up in the group of club runners, I'd regrouped twice, but then ran straight on as others stopped for another regoup - only one descent and ascent from the last... stopping would have been lazy. I was feeling pretty good, I felt I could tackle the remaining 3 hills in one blast at pace without too much hardship.

Then it happened, slam! So fast.... descending fairly steeply, but at controlled pace, I landed on the outside of my ankle and it rolled over so fast I didn't, seemingly couldn't, react to prevent a sprain. I held the fence, grimacing as others went passed. I was offered help but I said I'd "run it off", in reality this didn't feel like something I could run off. I ended up limping back several miles to the start point, via a road shortcut, somebody kindly picking me up as soon as they'd finished so my pain wasn't prolonged.

I'd sprained my ankle, probably not badly, from Internet research it looks like 'bad' grade 1 at the worst. I visited the doctor the next day, who didn't seem concerned enough to even examine my claim (maybe I didn't look "pained" enough?), but he did prescibe some heat rub and a tubigrip bandage. The combo and innactivity have helped. I even ran a few miles this Tuesday - probably too soon - but I felt good, ableit at very slow pace on very flat ground in a very supportive road shoe. And the a similar distance tonight, but slightly faster.

The mental aspect - self doubt - is something I really need to work on. Why have I retired after roughly 60m of my last two 100's. I'm not overly bothered that I didn't complete, 60m is good distance but I would like to have and wonder if some mental weakness is just jumping on convenient excuses, making pain and tiredness (both muscular and sleepiness) bigger issues then they actually were? Maybe thats an easy presumption in hindsight and now the reality of the moments is a somewhat hazy summary in my mind. Was UTLD 2010 a fluke? Am I not prepared to work that hard, suffer that much again. The answer seems to be, right now..... yes. I have no guarantee of improvement every time at any distance even if I've trained hard. So when you factor in the mental battle of a 100, the miles may have been run to prepare my legs, but were they in my head. Or am I just overthinking this?

There is no clear answer. But it seems sensiblethat I change something and that something would be to back off from and remove the 100mile obstacle - respect the distance (and the big hills). 100 is just a big number in terms of miles, but 60 is still a good one, 79 was also a good one when I completed the Wold's way unaided a few months ago. So I figure I'll bring in a three-figure mileage embargo for 2012, see how that goes. There are some great events that must be classified as long, tough ultra's I can test myself on, but are 99.9 miles or less.

How about the Hardmoors 55 (March) to start with, it's got a deceivingly easy opening 22m, which in two attempts has lulled me into an over-eagerly paced start. I can do better here, a great first long ultra of the year.

Then a step up to the Lakeland 50. Even with the 100 on offer by no means am I shirking if I train hard and do this one justice, finishing before the sun dawns on Sunday (e.g. sub 15 hours or so).

And how about the TDS (Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie), the tough little brother of the UTMB at 70-or-so miles. Ok, so its shorter than the UTMB, but it packs in more elevation change per mile, a tougher 70m is hard to imagine.

A return to the Fellsman is also a must, even if they move the date. The Woldsman will be a good substitute in the space between Hardmoors 55 and Lakeland 50.

Before all this I hope I have the potential to complete 60 fantastic miles in the inaugural Hardmoors 60. It will be a joy to run along this part of Yorkshires undulating, hilly and often wild coast and to complete the course would be a 60 mile run I could be very satisfied with. And satisfaction that I can still complete a long event. Here's hoping the sprain keeps healing quickly and I can have a steady and safe saunter around this one.


  1. for what it's worth (and please dont shoot me) i'll give you my take from a distance. had you been injury free all year you'd be in a different place im sure and completed all your challenges. but you weren't and my assessment is that you ploughed on regardless when maybe adjusting/reducing your planned challenges would have been more sensible. your more that capable and utld 100 2010 was no fluke but i feel in 2011 you kept popping straws on the camels back when maybe full resolution of any problems might have been in order. also i know we talked single vs multiple goals..given you were doing the latter maybe spacing them out a little more might have helped. personally if i were you i wouldn't do H60 but back off a while and let everything've years of great adventures ahead de. that said, as you'll be in before me and SP can you get us both a pint in as we might not make last orders! cheers.

  2. Cheers UC, your right and I know it really. I was trying to do too much. It may have been possible in a perfect world, but the foundations were shaky which is evidenced by injured withdrawals from runs. Rarely ever the same injury too. As for H60, I'll play that by feel and will be taking it easy if I do start. Definately taking it easier after that! I'll ask Mark to get us all a pint in as I'll be having a pretty long day I suspect.

  3. As feared, no Hardmoors 60 for me. doing the sensible thing for now. Enjoy it all those who are running!

  4. Sorry you're still injured DE. UC spoke a lot of sense, but it's not just the events you need to back off, it's the training runs as well if they exacerbate anything. Just maintaining a relatively active day-to-day lifestyle with walking and cycling may be advisable, then ease back with a bit of jogging as and when the discomfort allows. As you build up ankle strength with years of long distance events, you should no longer get ankle sprains even if you do go over on them. (That's what I have found. I hope the same will apply to you.) Best of luck.

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