“I am going to have to defer my London place”. These were my first words at the end of the Gade Valley 17 training run last Sunday. Delivered to a lovely lady, Debs (and anyone else within earshot!) she has been through hamstring tendonitis herself and knows the annoyance that it causes.
I was pleased to see her, she is an awesome athlete and someone whose ability I have long been an admirer of. She has finished 2nd in the London Marathon (age category) a couple of times, her ambition is to come first. She has undergone surgery to repair her tendon problem and is well on her way back to peak form. Also she is an amazing and inspirational coach to many young athletes and I am so pleased to witness her running so strongly again.
So back to my first words. I am building the mileage slowly, week by week increasing the total distance. Last Sunday was the Gade Valley 17 mile run, I had notched up 18 miles that week so this would have topped me up to a nice round 35 mile total.
The weather last Sunday was superb, a little chilly to start but wall to wall sunshine all day. I was running with Paul (read this blog back a few years and I used to call him Tall Paul then) and we covered the 3 mile towpath bit without too much fuss, the surface was bone dry, a contrast to the 12 mile run the previous month when it was full of muddy puddles. Paul was a little slow to come off of the towpath so I waited for him at the bridge which is where the major ascent starts. He kept apologising and telling me to run off at my own pace. I was glad of his company however, having someone to chat to helps pass the miles, it wasn’t a race so the time didn’t matter anyway. The hill was it’s usual one mile long of nastiness until the first water station. I had dropped Paul but waited at the stop for him, let him get some water down and have a breather so that we could set off again. Now we were in the National Trust property of Ashridge and with the sunshine and blue sky it looked lovely. Paul was a little behind me as we passed the 5 mile point, I waited again for him. He kept telling me to go on but with the next uphill bit looming I preferred having someone to talk to. He had a St Albans vest on and we got some shout outs from passing Verulam CC riders, this pleased Paul as he is a fairly new member to the cycling club. With his spirits up we soldiered on.
I pulled ahead again, this time along the front of the Ashridge Management College building when I felt a sharp burning sensation in my troublesome hamstring. ‘Oh dear’ I didn’t say loudly. Best not to write what I actually said in case I get banned from blogging on here!
It wasn’t too far until the next water station so decided to plod on and assess the damage there, I could also wait for Paul. He wasn’t that far behind and after a gel and some water we set off again, Paul however wasn’t up for running at my pace now, although I did say that I was going to be taking it very carefully, he stopped and insisted that I run on ahead.
I did although it was now going to be somewhat lonely. The loneliness of the long distance runner and all that. I wasn’t enjoying it so much now. Those of you have done these training runs in the past will know that there is a long gradual climb from Nettleden, past Frithsden and up towards Potten End. I walked for a bit at the beginning of the uphill, and I wasn’t the only one, plenty of others that were having a bit of a rest too. I knew that this was just prolonging things though so got running again. I got the hill over and done with, stopped at the next water station to see if Paul was anywhere near me ( he wasn’t) so after a second gel I set off again. There were no more hills after this, no more ups anyway, but one downhill ahead.
Through Potten End heading towards the jelly baby station ( that little treat cheers tired runners up for the final 3 miles) I felt my hamstring burn again. This time enough to make me stop and swear.
A nice guy caught me up and asked if I was ok, ‘just a hamstring’ was my reply. I waved him on with a smile. Or was it a grimace?
This was no fun now. Onto the jelly baby stop and a mouthful of sugary goodness. The downhill was ahead, the hamstring was threatening to make me stop, luckily the views here were enough to take my mind off of it. Hill descended, on past the rugby pitches, not far to go now. Hamstring had other ideas. It decided that it had had enough. It hurt. Really hurt. I had to stop for ages. I got going again, it hurt again. I had to stop again. This was getting serious, I got over the little hump backed bridge and onto the canal towpath heading for the finish point. The pain was enough that I was thinking of when I should make the decision to run at London or not. Not just defer but never run it at all. Is my hamstring just not going to be able to cope with the stress and strain? Should I give up running and stick to cycling?
I finished although there was no feeling of happiness or even relief that I had got there. Just a feeling that the London Marathon was out of reach, I wasn’t going to be able to continue my training now.
The first person I saw as I went to collect my bag was Debs and that’s where this latest post started.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone else after that, just collected my bag and sloped off, limping back to my car. Driving home the pain started burning again. Luckily I had a can of Deep Freeze in my bag so stopped and managed to get my shorts down enough to get the spray onto the troublesome area, without getting arrested for exposing too much in a residential area!
This did the trick, the pain subsided so I got an ice block out of the freezer as soon as I got home and sat on it. I followed that with a warm bath and the iced the area again. I continued the hot and cold alternate for the rest of the day and it seemed to stop the worst of the burning sensation. Obviously running was now out of the question and I continued ice and heat as soon as I got back from work on Monday and Tuesday. It was feeling better for sure.
Wednesday was another recce of the half marathon course. This was badly needed as the first recce with the route organiser the previous weekend wasn’t too successful. He didn’t really know the course and we went wrong a few times. Can’t have that happening on the big day! Riding the mountain bike wasn’t affecting my hamstring so all was good and I have better feel for the route now.
Onto today (Saturday) and I have now had a week of no running whatsoever. Does any marathon training plan have such a week? Eight weeks before the event just don’t run? I doubt it. I had planned to rein the miles back this week before building again next week just to break it up a bit and keep things interesting. I also decided that maybe a race would spice it up a bit so entered the County Cross Country Veterans Championship.
Well, you know what? The hamstring has settled down a bit, maybe I could try a little run? Saturday is parkrun day so what harm in a little test? Ellenbrook Fields is local, a mixed terrain, just the start and finish on concrete and the rain last night would have softened the ground and most importantly is pretty much flat which seems to suit the hamstring.
I ran with a new style that didn’t put much strain where it would hurt, I kept it controlled and concentrated hard on holding it together. Even on the finishing straight I held it steady, letting people overtake me. I had just one little twinge while running but get those anyway, other than that no real problem. Back home I was back on the ice straight away.
So it’s looking better than a week ago now, there is still some way to go but London could still be in sight. I am not pulling out just yet.
Feeling more confident I will get to the cross country start line tomorrow and see what happens. I am hoping for more rain tonight as I think a soft course will absorb a lot of the impact and may be better for me.
I can’t believe that I am looking forward to XC, I haven’t run one for years and that’s because I don’t enjoy it, it is my least favourite of the running events. More about that the next time.
Oh.. one last thing.. in case you were wondering what happened to Paul?
I don't know either but I'll let you know next time I see him!
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