It has been almost a year since I posted on this blog. Part of the reason for that has been the sheer amount of work I’ve had on (self-inflicted book writing mostly – dry academic stuff), but predominantly due to a severe lack of interesting things to say with regards to running. I’ve not done a big run since the Costa Rica Marathon (September 2012) or an Ultra since the Speyside Way (August 2012)
It was probably the worst prolonged period of asthmatic nights this last winter for many years (and by winter I mean through until May). I think I picked up a bug in Borneo last October – and it stayed with me for months. Worse, the same calf muscle that tore back in 2011 inflamed again in January this year. My running regime took a hit and all (well nearly all) races were cancelled. The forest tacks froze and became sheet ice forcing me onto the roads for running. The hard impact took its toll.
I took a ten day running sabbatical to try to let the muscle heal and thinking it was just one of those twinges. Nope. I thought it was getting better and managed a half marathon in March but knew as soon as I started it was a bad idea. I limped round in just under 1:50, but also had one of worst asthma attacks on the run for over a decade. It’s a curious problem – running helps my asthma, breaks in running mean I have to rebuild that relationship with my lungs. And with the Borneo bug aboard, this just took so much longer than it should. It’s hard to motivate yourself to run when you spent half the night gasping for breath.
I took another 10 days off running to let things with the leg and lungs settle down. In the meantime I got frustrated as the season’s race results started pouring in on the Twitter feed; Folk smashing PBs, running further, faster and having a great time. It felt strange not to be part of that. It even made me jealous, angry and frustrated. So it was back into the Tentsmuir on the short loops – building up from 3 mile runs four times a week slowly, not rushing (I’ve been here before in 2008 & 2011). The lungs healed but still the pain in the leg remained.
Perhaps more frustrating was waiting for the physio appointment to come through. I waited for months only to be told in the end that there was no need for a second appointment as my leg was not giving me sufficient pain (Aye but it was in January, February, March and April!!!!). Apparently I didn’t need anything other than some stretching exercises. On the sheet I was given were the exact stretches I already do …..! But at least I have a name for the condition now “Posterior Compartment Syndrome“.
Frustrating as the enforced indolence has been, my slow build up seems to be working. I dropped the mileage down to only 12 miles per week for a month, then building up to 18 p/w for a month and 24 p/w for another. By July I’d cracked the 30 miles a week for the month again. August has seen the return of the 40 mile week and though I still have an awareness of the calf pain, I can run. Hallelujah.
These are often not spectacular runs (at least not to me – too familiar) – very often the same six mile loop at the same steady pace. They are punctuated by some blessings though – the red squirrels, the roe deer, the sea eagles, the seals and the dolphins – they all take the mind off the repetitive routes. But the last five weeks have seen a change with 10 or 15 milers thrown in at least twice a week, very often on the very soft sand of Tentsmuir Point. They are even starting to be done at something approximating my old pace (which, by the way, is not that quick).
At last the distances seem less daunting and the running is becoming enjoyable again. I can hold 8:30 mins per mile for a dozen trail miles, and importantly I can breath at the end of it. It feels good. So much so I’ve finally plucked up the courage to put my name down for an ultra in October – a nice re-introduction to the distance running community with a 50k forest trail in Sweden (Sörmland Ultra Marathon). I’m starting to get excited!