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.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Gremlins !!

I seem to be having some issues posting comments on others and my own blogs. So I'm not ignoring any comments or questions on mine and also would like to comment on some of the fine blog posts of others I've read of late. When I get a spare few minutes I'll try and use my IT skills (hrmmpphh!) to get back my accustomed level of access.

Saturday 3 September 2011

An Ultra Trail experiance of Mont Blanc proportions

The UTMB didn't quite work out for me. After around 59 miles of huge ups and downs - both geographically and emotionally - and nearly 24 hours on my feet I threw in the towel at Arnuva, giving in to the urge to sleep that had plagued me since the first night - and had made the last few 3 miles on a narrow hillside path dangerous and slow. Not an issue I'd had before on overnight runs, well not this early on an event anyway. Apart from this I also had sore left knee and sorer and swollen left ankle, which had already slowed me and may well have stopped me if the tiredness hadn't. Here is my picture tour....

At the start, 6 hours later than expected as the start was delayed to let a weather front clear the mountains (risk of electrical storms). A wise decision by the organisers, but it was still raining steadily at the start so full body waterproofs were the order of the day.

Fuzzy action shot of headtorches down the valley on the second and longest climb on route, approaching La Balme CP (1706m).

A pause for pictures (and breath) at Col du Bonhomme (2329m). My legs were hurting, breath was short, clumsy legs, headache and I was almost falling asleep on my feet. Probably too low down for altitude sickness so guess it was an effect of lack of sleep. A few disturbed nights sleep in preperation and not being able to get sleep in the day before the delayed start.

Descending back below the clouds from the highest point on route so far where snow had been falling in a cold wind at Refuge Croix du Bonhomme (2443m). I'm still wearning the full waterproofs I've been wearing since the start and three layers on top, which will all stay on till Les Chapieux.

After a refuel at Les Chapieux (50km / 1549m) I struggled to get going beyond a steady walk on the steady uphill road to Ville des Glaciers. A cold wind started so I sheltered behind a building to get the waterproof top back on and have a quick sort out of myself, including ibuprofen for a painful knee and ankle which had steadily developed since the first climb and descent. When I got going again the head was down as I marched uphill. Suddenley I realised I was passing people, not just a few either, everybody within site I strode past on the ascent of Col de la Seigne (2516m) - pictured.

Spectacular peaks in the gloom pictured from Col de la Seigne.

Aiguelle des Glaciers, viewed from the path down to Lac Combal (65km / 1970m). The descent - one of the less technical - was going pretty well despite my uphill march slowing a bit towards the top of the previous ascent.

Looking back up Col de la Seigne.

Spectacular, Aiguelle des Glaciers. On the way up to Arete Mont Favre (2435m).

A long way down to Courmayeur (78km / 1200m). The route had already dropped nearly five hundred metres to Col Checroiut. Upon leaving here it was a further 756m in less than 5km to Courmayeur and the halfway food checkpoint and drop bag pickup. It was also now warming up, but on the dusty switchback path down the hill I was having fun.

After a 45+min stop in Courmayeur we faced a challenging switchback climb upto the next Checkpoint at Refuge Bertone (1959m). It felt difficult in the evening heat and with a larger meal to digest. But by the Refuge we were high enough to be exposed to cooler winds again.

The next few miles to Refuge Bonatti were undulating rather than hilly. No major problems for me except when I caught the toe of my left shoe on a branch as I lifted it pulling the foot to a fuller flexion than my sore ankle could cope with, exascerbating the left ankle pain. It was dark by the Refuge. I realised just before leaving that I was again rather too close for comfort to the cut off for Arnuva. My compromised pace and spending a bit too long at recent checkpoints to blame. As I started to fight sleep demons again, dozens of eventers passed me on the route to Arnuva, this 5k taking me over one-and-a-half hours. Time to call it a day! @ 95km / 5558m climbed.

I slept on the bus, then at Courmayeur where we were dropped and had to wait an age for a pickup. I got back to Chamonix at about 3am and slept a further 6hrs30 on a campbed in the peaceful gym at the race HQ area.

Its too early to decide if I'll return next year. But after a complete shut-out of finishes in the 100m+ distance this year I'm tempted to take focus of this distance and work on the mid range between the 30-somethings I'm pretty comfortable with and the 100m distance. After various leg and ankle issues this year I think I need a for now rest anyway. At least until the Hardmoors 60 in late September anyway.

A 'maybe' plan looking forward....
Sep - Hardmoors 60
Oct-Feb - 20-30m events
Mar - Hardmoors 55
Apr - Woldsman (50)

May-Jun - a few 30m+ events
July - Lakeland 50

Aug - TDS (Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie) (70)