So there is less than two weeks until my 2nd big race of the year, the Spartathlon, 153 miles across the dry, hot, arid landscape of modern day Greece from Athens to Sparta in homage to an ancient ultra-runner, Pheidippides.
I’m out here early, sitting in the 28 degree heat of the morning, just so I can get used to it a little bit more before race day and relax a little. I’m usually the exception to the rule that everyone starts an ultra marathon with an injury, the irritating chap at the start who says “No, no, I feel great. Really looking forward to this little jolly” and I always mean it.
This last fortnight though it has been a little bit different. Just after the Death run with Mark Woolley and James Adams in Malaga I made an error that I’m not proud of and something I try to push onto all of my coaching clients. I didn’t pay the respect due to running over 150km in the space of 3 days, I didn’t rest properly and I’ve paid the price. It only started as a wee niggle, one little pain on a hard, trail session on the Monday night in Spain, but I ignored the warning signs and cracked on anyway.
When I got up to jog to a track session with Rebecca and her chum Grimmers the following Saturday I thought a couple of days rest would have done me well, even though my legs were tired still. I didn’t even make it to the end of the road.
3 weeks before a 153 mile race and I couldn’t even run 153 metres. Shit. Back home I went, RICE was implemented straight away and I sat on my backside for the rest of the day. A quick email to Simon Lamb (Six Seconds High Sports Massage) and I was looking at all the possibilities.
If it was ligament or cartilage damage then Sparta was out of the window. I could only hope it was due to tired legs and rest was what I needed, so that is what I concentrated on, putting all my efforts into recovering from that. If it is more serious then I would have bigger issues anyway, one being my work with TomTom, which is keeping me fed (as well as a few 9bars).
Simon was great, working on the “knot the size of an orange” and some seriously tight quad muscles. It was possible that the tight quads were pulling up on my knee when I exerted myself, especially on the downhill. If this was the case then Sparta was not out of reach, I would have to rest but everyone loves a taper right?
3 sports massage, nightly self massage and heat treatment on the leg every chance I got this week and I’m feeling better. I managed to pace the 1.50 group at the Bristol Half at the weekend for Tom Tom and the leg felt stronger, not 100% but getting there. With 2 more weeks of rest I am confident, 95% confident, that I will line up at Sparta feeling good and just a wee bit anxious about my knee.
Why am I telling this to everyone who reads my blog? Why not keep an idea that I don’t do injury and am fully fit for the race for any potential competitors? Well at Spartathlon my only competitor will be the race itself and I’m pretty sure Greek roads don’t gain confidence from reading blogs, they’ve stopped enough runners in their time to be very cocky about their destructive ability.
The second reason is because many runners flirt with injury so often and we always forget just what we put our bodies through. We wonder why we feel tired the Sunday after a sub 7 hour 50 miler or a fortnight after winning a 135 mile multiday race (Austin, Rick, that’s you two) and forget that we should feel f**ked some times. Proper f**ked.
Rest is such a key element of ultra running and it is so often over looked and as hard as I like to think I train, I rest even harder. I make it a competition with myself to rest as much as possible and if it was an Olympic sport I’d like to think I’d be quite good (although many Pro Athletes make this an art form).
You aren’t going to “toughen your legs” by running on damaged, tired muscles, you are just more likely to injure them and the joints and bones they work with. Just because we’ve got away with it thus far, don’t forget that if you push your body and smash it up without giving rest the respect it deserves them it is when, not if, you pick an injury.
So with that in mind, I’ll be crossing my fingers, sitting by a pool, reading a stack of books and sleeping for the next two weeks before Spartathlon and I will maybe do a little run or two. Just maybe.
Anyone recommend a good book?