I have been putting this off. For a month. Actually, more than a month. It’s silly and embarrassing and I feel ashamed for having been stupid but there you go.
So marathon training was going well; March mileage really on track, building on all the slow but good work since December- mostly sticking to the plan etc etc.
Until I screwed it up by going out for a 16 mile run and finishing it early, at 10 miles.
I didn’t feel great and really my heart wasn’t in it. Eating a pasty before a long run is not a good plan for me either, as it turns out! The plan does involve tolerating meals and then running directly after, but pasties are now off the list.
The pasty wasn’t the problem. The run that day wasn’t even the problem. The problem came when I decided that since I’d flunked the 16 miler I would go and do it properly the next day- or something like that (yes it was a punishment for being weak – idiot).
I started to develop a pain on the outside of my knee at about 6/7 miles, and struggled to run on the downhills in particular. Walk-run followed as it alternately eased and got worse again and by the time I’d hobbled all the way home – literally, for the last 2 miles; it was agony. I knew I’d not twisted it or torn anything but it was likely to be an overuse injury of the ITB, and not a knee injury in the standard sense, needing total rest for a couple of weeks. I found that out after having two days off and heading out for 6 ‘gentle’ miles, then crippling pain returned and I hobbled home again.
Once it was made clear to me that it wasn’t going to improve if I carried on training, I did decide to have a gap.
Resting has been tricky because we were lambing, requiring lots of steep walking to check sheep and bottle feed orphans at all hours of the day and night, together with the knee and back destroying game called ‘get the sheep and her new lambs in’. This game, if you don’t know it, usually gets played in the dead of night, and starts in the corner of the field the furthest away from the barn. Having gone up to check if anyone has lambed and marvelled at how the rain is driving upwards into your hood before running down your neck, and the droplets lit up in your head torch beam (if you re read this post, try a mk1 version of this game with a large heavy handheld torch, one of those million candle jobs). Head torch beam sweeps through the rain and picks up a set of eyes reflecting back from a long way off. Yellow ones. A sheep. The rest of the flock have already rushed off in a panic because it’s not like they don’t get checked four times a day when it’s lambing time! Fifty sets of yellow eyes could be a bit freaky if you didn’t know what they were (badgers and foxes’ eyes tend to red).
Armed with antiseptic spray and old towels, your job (once she’s done her job and lambed them ok) is simply to catch the new lamb, take it, any siblings it might have and their mum into the shelter of a pen. Easy.
Except they are slimy with mucus and can be heavy, and you have to keep them close to the ground so their mum can see them and follow the lambs into the barn. With a first time lambing mum this is a particularly frustrating exercise involving some steps with the struggling, slippery lambs, her panicking and running off to where she had them, having to put the lambs down and step away to let her find them again, picking them up and going another few steps backwards, hunched over to dangle them just above the ground, where sheep generally expect to see their lambs, not unreasonably. Repeat. Repeat. Singles are a pain but easier than twins. Triplets involves a special relay version of dropping two off partway and going back for the third.
Anyway, it doesn’t come under the category of complete rest for the ITB. Far from it.
I was surprised at how much I missed training too – losing my ability to train at that point showed me what benefits I get from running, which seem to include processing difficult issues, getting perspective and generally feeling more resilient and confident. Not training felt like being trapped. It felt torturous. It has clearly become very important to my wellbeing and self worth. Not the best time for life to turn upside down either, which it then did.
It took more than three weeks for the pain to settle, and I’ve had to re-evaluate my plans.
Firstly, the Scouts 30 – 35 mile walk had to be done, as they were relying on me to lead a group. On that walk I discovered Zapain at max dose, walking poles; great when you get the hang of them, and keeping the injury warm so I didn’t tear cold muscles on the coast path in the windiest Scouts C2C to date (it was painful, but two days after the walk I felt a great improvement in the knee pain).
Next, there was no way I could do the marathon as I couldn’t hope to get the mileage back in time to save my cardiovascular fitness, given that I couldn’t run, bike or even row due to the knee pain. Also, the marathon was prep for the ultra, and that is my goal event.
The ultra is sponsored so I have an obligation to those who have sponsored me and to the charity. If I am stuck I can walk it, although I will be running as much as I can, because I have more time to rescue the training and the fitness.
I won’t be as fit, I won’t have as many hours on my feet banked, I won’t feel as confident but I will finish it.
Having been so stupid as to get into this situation I hope that being sensible and dialling it back will be a smarter move in the longer term.
A lesson I won’t soon forget.
PS. I can’t open Strava yet. I can’t bear it.