Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Obstacle

Hello my name is Eddie, I'm a runner and I'm injured. I have finally faced the fact that finishing everyday hobbling, running in constant pain and eating painkillers in order to run is not healthy and not sustainable in the long run. 

From the middle of March, I have noted in my training plan- foot hurts. I carry on training, couple of days later, foot hurts more. And from then on every single session, the foot is mentioned. I had 2 weeks off before SDW 50 and ran that in pain, but it was manageable pain. After that I took another week off, got back to running, it was sore, but I wanted to get training again. I raced Wings for Life on road, it hurt, but I carried on. After Wings for Life I had an easy week, then ramped up training again. Holding high mileage week in week  out, 3 quality sessions, training like a pro, but running constantly in pain and not running to my potential because every step had to be managed. Why didn't I stop? So easy to say now. Why didn't I just stop the moment I felt the first twinge. Because part of what makes me a gritty and determined runner also makes me a stubborn and single minded athlete. I can take high levels pain, I can take high levels of pain for hours on end. I almost enjoy the painful part of racing and training, I live for the lactate burn....and so I don't accept my body being injured. I cannot accept that it is showing signs that I am over training, overstretching it.  I am completely focused on being the best runner I can be, plus working, looking after the kids, the house, I do not have time to rest and face the truth that this is going to end in tears. I push and I push until I crack. 

Sad hobbit foot
On my second recce weekend at the Lake District, having made it through one with the foot strapped, but feeling every flex of the foot over the rocks, I go over on my ankle and almost feel the plantar fascia give one big sigh and finally just give up on me. The pain is now at a new limit. We get round the course, but my ankle is pretty swollen and descending brings tears to my eyes. I refuse to acknowledge it. Don't even look at my foot, for fear of what I see, I set out the next day to cover the last 16 miles and I cant even bend the foot. I cant get any flexion off the floor and am grimacing in pain. My husband is concerned. This is real now, I cant hide anymore. I have to stop. I stop. I sit on the floor and weep. Knowing that its my fault. I wanted this so badly I have run myself into the ground. 

I have never been injured. I have never had to cope with the disappointment of missing a large block of training or a big race. I have pushed my body training for triathlons to the absolute limit. But when I was training for Ironman I had rest. I slept. I had lie ins. I had time to stretch, to warm up and cool down well. I had time to listen to my body. My life now has become so hectic, rushing from this to that, a constant background noise of other things needing to be done. My training happens, but it means very limited rest, recovery and down time, vital components of a programme when you are working hard. So in some ways this was a train crash waiting to happen. 

Wonderful service at Profeet,
showing me how to tape my foot
and checking my trainers and gait 
So, 3 weeks no running, after 10 days I tried a jog, felt ok, but not entirely pain free, the next day I tried another jog, I tried to pick the pace up a little bit, felt ok, pick the pace up a little more, just try a mile rep, see if its ok. Felt ok. Try another one. Starting to hurt now, stop now, just do one more, might as well finish the set (you see where this is going). End of the session. Hobble home. Next day, running client at 6am, cant get to clients house because the foot is so sore. Am so angry with myself. Am I learning nothing . I refuse to be one of those athletes who is constantly injured, comes back to training, gets injured again. I am not that person. So I have a self inflicted ban in place now. Not a step of running until I can feel no pain in the foot. Not a step of running until I can go about my daily life without 'feeling' the foot. And when that moment comes I will give myself time to build back into running. Running may rule my life, but it will not dictate my health and happiness anymore, that is my responsibility.

The pain face, Nice.
Many many tears have been shed. Not for the injury really itself, but for the disappointment in myself, why didn't I just rest when I felt the pain? Why didn't I do more rehab work? Why this and why that? Many whys of which I cant answer. But what I can answer is my need to get stronger. The need to improve my functional strength, my resistance to injury and holding form whilst fatigued. I can still do all this. I can swim and bike, I can swim and bike hard. I can match the sessions I would have been doing running. Its fun being back in the pool and on the bike. Its fun training with new people and using different muscle groups. 

This battle is not one which will be rewarded by a trophy, a course record, a flurry of twitter followers, it will be won by a quiet, steely determination. Hours of listening and working with my body, not against. Not punishing it for showing weakness, but working with it, using my inner strength to scaffold a structure of formidable mental and physical strength. Or as my husband says, its just a foot injury, get over yourself and come back stronger! 

Picture by James Eric Elson
So I am using every ounce of my positive self talk to remain optimistic. I am working harder than ever in the gym. I am using the time to make sure I rest a little more, I am trying to smile when inside I am crying a little, I am trying to not let my life revolve around my foot. I am more than that. I will not spend another 4 months in pain ever again. I will show my foot who is boss. I will have abs of steel that could climb 5,000m by themselves. And then once my body is strong, I will begin to plan again. I will never run the miles I just have without adding in some cross training, without adequate gym work and without listening to when I am tired and need to rest. I think I got a little lost in my running, in my need to achieve and to prove myself, but I'm finding my way out again.

Monday, 2 June 2014

The Fear

I am just back from an amazing three days of running with The Centurion Team. I covered 59 miles, climbed a lot, ran down hills a lot, laughed too much, ate even more and spent some real quality time with the amazing Debbie ( Martin -Consani who I am just in awe of (she carries lipgloss in her running pack whilst smashing apart 100mile races) and Danny Kendall the coolest and fastest GB man in the desert having recently finishing 4th at the MdS. Esteemed company.

The trip  was a chance for the Centurion Team to get together and for those of us who are racing over Lakeland 50 and 100 to recce the course. My idea of heaven, running, friends, tea on tap and hills out the back door. I am very much at the lower tier of the Centurion running pile and still feel that I need to earn my place amongst such athletes. These guys and gal are epic, I spend most of my day to day life cleaning porridge off the floor and making cars out of sofa cushions, sometimes it feels so surreal to have to switch to the part of me that runs till I cant run anymore.

On the Friday James, Paul, Robbie and I ran the 3rd leg of the Bob Graham round. Saturday we ran from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside and by about 2hrs into this run I started panicking. We were running super easy, but my legs were feeling it. I was scared.

In my head, I composed an e mail to James Elson (team manager at Centurion) telling him that I was really sorry, but I was withdrawing from the Lakeland 50.  In my head, I would get to the opening gambit....Hi James, really sorry but I am not going to run in the British Trail Champs because...and that is where I got stuck. Why wasn't I going to run? I have a niggly injury which I can manage. I am getting the miles in. I am coping with the exhaustion of the miles and the kids. What excuse can I use to withdraw from this race? Whats the truth?

'Hi James, really sorry I am not going to run because I am scared. I'm scared of the pain I know I am going to inflict on myself over that course. I'm scared of how every single step is going to be an effort. I am scared of all that climbing, I am even more scared of the descending. In short, I'm scared.'

But on the third day out on the course the fear turned into something else. I began to find my lakes feet a little more. The uphills weren't quite so daunting, the downhills not quite so steep. The hand that had gripped my heart with fear, lessened its grasp and my heart began to beat with fight rather than surrender. I could hear my inner voice echoing off the hills, knowing, just knowing that if I didn't toe that line and smash myself over the course, those surrendering words would live with me. I would have hidden from something I knew had the potential to break me. I had ran with some of the best runners in our sport, they were normal people, but held inner strength that most would never have the courage to call upon. And so, I realised,  its not the course I am scared of, its myself. Its my potential to push myself to the absolute limit. Its my ability to dig deep and then dig even further. Ive been there before, I know I can do it again. And this is exactly what this course needs. The profile may not suit my running completely, but it will suit my mental strength and competitive nature.

From the start of this running adventure I have had to constantly face my fears, coming back from baby one, purely running again not hiding behind a bike split, having another baby again, putting myself back on the start line. A body pretty battered from two babies, fear it wouldn't hold up to long distance running, it holding up. Every race, every session, diminishing that fear, shouting down that voice telling me I couldn't do this, I shouldn't do this.

And so every race, every result the fear isn't getting any smaller, but I  am learning to cope with him.  I am learning to talk to fear, to negotiate and to use my huge doubts to build my inner strength.

When race day comes, when I am up there all alone in the hills, legs burning, heart pumping, calves straining, Ill listen to that fear, Ill let it tell me I cant do this. 'You should be at home with the kids!' I'll show fear the hills, Ill show fear the air, the purity of running over trails and Ill use the fear to make me into the runner that fear does not want me to become.

So I wrote James another a said 'Thanks for a great weekend. I cant wait to smash that course.'

Me and Fear we will do it together.