Injury; dream over?

Road to Berlin Blog 7 - Weeks starting 13 and 20 August 2018 (5 & 4 weeks to go)

Over the next few weeks I'll be explaining how a normal guy with two daughters, a wife and a full time job can try and realise his dream of running a sub 2.30 marathon in Berlin on September 16.  

Writing is really easy when things are going well; when they aren't it's not a fun with to do.  It's taken a couple of weeks so I've lumped two blogs into one.......

The problem with pushing your body to try and get as fit as possible is that you're susceptible to injury.  When normal people get small injury niggles they simply stop doing exercise.  When I get injury niggles I try and ignore them and hope they go away. 


Sometimes this strategy works; it's amazing how a race can sort an injury out that you've been worrying about for a few days (or weeks) and then miraculously after a mile or 2 it has gone.  Unfortunately, this has not been one of those times. 


I first felt a bit of discomfort down the outside of my right calf at the start of last week and at different points I can feel it from my ankle upto just below my knee.  I have pain (approx 3/10) when I land my foot and push off.  I wouldn't say it's got worse, but by lingering on it's now at the forefront of my mind.    


I sent a photo and a description of my symptoms to my excellent sports massage therapist Campbell who sent through a list of things to do straight away to target the peroneal tendon (flexibility, ice calf/achilles/plantar of foot, foam roll, squats, calf stretching) and essentially I've been doing them ever since!  I've since read a lot about the peroneal tendon; it causing me issues is not good news.  Having it hadn't actually stopped me doing anything, but running was becoming uncomfortable and the fear that it could turn into something bigger shook me up.  

With the 25 miles from the last Friday still in my legs and a full rucksack on my back, Monday's commute into work was tough, not sure I enjoyed any of it.  

Last week when I looked at the plan with 8 x mile (400m jog/2 min recovery) I thought it would be easy, but my legs and body didn't feel good at all.  At least I had some company, Rach and Woody were also doing their sessions and I was able to drive to the track with them and share the warm up.  Unfortunately with tired legs,  discomfort from the tendonitis and the 6am start I found the reps tough going.  They started around 5.30 (when I was hoping for around 5.15) and I had to battle very hard to get any quicker.  My heart rate was around 170 at the end (which on fresh legs is very manageable and may well be my marathon pace HR), but on the track it felt like I was running through treacle.  

On Friday I again wanted to really get a consistent just above marathon pace long run in and see if last week was a one off.  I had to set off very early again due to family commitments (alarm at 4.30, out the door at 4.55), it was colder and darker and didn't feel like it was going to be a good run.  How wrong I was!  After a few miles I couldn't feel my injury and there was a clear sky and lovely sunrise! 


I did the same route as last week and Joanne from Momentum Hire was there again to take photos/provide water again.  Running at 6.00 per mile is not easy, but I tried to break it down as much as possible.  At a certain point on one of the earlier laps I thought of my good friend David Hudson (who ran 2.29 at London in the heat); he's been knocking out some brilliant long runs recently and I wished that we could do it together.  I probably did 5 laps of that part of the lake and so thought of David each time, it helped me.  


To try and help the injury I was desperate to get a sports massage, but Campbell was away.  I didn't have much time with family responsibilities so I needed someone to come to me.  Fortunately, my mate Paul put me in touch with David Down who as a one off was able to arrive at 8.30 at my house; just an hour after I finished my run; perfect!  My eldest daughter Lexi thought it was great and climbed all over me while David was working his magic (and putting me through hell!).  

I decided to take the whole weekend and try and let my body recover.  And by recovery I obviously mean drive my friends to Luton Airport at 4am on Saturday morning.  Not ideal, but they'd do the same for us!  

Week Summary (starting 13 Aug)

Mon AM 8 miles PM 5

Tues AM 15 (inc 8 x mile) PM 4

Weds AM 6 (inc 2 TM) PM 5 

Thurs AM 7 (inc 3 TM) PM 4

Fri AM 25 (6.11 avg)

Sat 0

Sun 0

Total: 80

On Monday (20 August) I was hoping the pain was all in my head; it wasn't.  I ran a slightly extended 'easy' run to work, it wasn't easy; getting home was not fun.  

Tuesday was session day, it was the big test to see if I really did have a problem.  In the build up to London I averaged low 5.30s for each of the 4 x 18 min efforts; I wanted to match that despite my problems.  It's always tough to get going, particularly so early in the morning, but it just wasn't happening.  In the first 18 mins I didn't even make it to 5k (goal marathon pace around 17.40 per 5k). I stopped on the side of the road panting with sweat dripping off me like a waterfall; I was panicked.  I stretched and managed to talk myself into going again (run the mile you're in as Russell would say).  Phew, just made it over 5k, things were getting slightly better. 3rd and 4th reps weren't pretty, but I got through.  Whilst running the injury didn't bother me, but it can't have helped; particularly in my head.  

On Wednesday my run to work was so tough, tired muscles were pulling on the tendon and I crawled in; I needed to take immediate action and knew I couldn't ignore the injury any more.  I set about working out if my marathon dream was over.  

I texted a few people to ask for advice and different options came back.  The one I thought was most feasible was cross training.  I've seen quite a few friends bounce back from injuries almost as if they hadn't been away from working hard on a cross trainer (XT) so I got in touch with Joanne at Momentum Hire who was happy to lend me one and we arranged for delivery on Friday afternoon.  That just left me with almost 48 hours to keep stretching, flexing and rolling!  The Nomad Glide XC8 arrived and it is a beauty!  

I'd heard different things on how to use cross trainers, but advice seemed to be keep the resistance relativity low and try and just keep pace consistent.  I put my heart rate monitor on and gave it a go.  It was very cool and I had the fan on, I'd seen friends dripping with sweat using them before.  It felt like pretty hard work on my quads and ankles but I couldn't get my heart rate much above 110 and only when I really went for it did I get to 115.  For context, my standard easy run pace is about 130-150 (depending on conditions and how tired I was).  I finished an hour which felt very difficult with next to no sweat and a feeling on confusion on how on earth this would work.  Losing fitness suddenly became a very real worry.  

On Saturday I thought I'd see if I could push the pace and see if that helped; it was 9 degrees so I didn't bother with the fan.  I was able to do a couple more km in the hour, but no matter how hard I worked I couldn't get my heart rate up past 120.  I went again in the evening with the same result; the hardest part just seemed to be the mental battle to get through the hour.  120 HR wasn't the end of the world, an hour of that was a lot better than sitting on the sofa putting on weight but it wasn't quite what I wanted.  

One benefit I noticed that without the impact of running my ankle started to feel a bit stronger.  I decided to try and go for a run on Monday to see how things were. 


After 3 hours on the XT on Fri/Sat I thought it best to rest on Sunday to let my body recover.  Even with a lower heart rate it was still exercise that I wasn't useful and over doing it would have been stupid.  

Over the weekend I got some very good advice from different people and was looking forward to see how the run would go on bank holiday Monday.  The plan was to get up at a relatively normal time and drive to Willen Lake for a good marathon paced tempo.  Not a good two weeks, but if I could get the session right and keep quality high and get my heart rate higher on the XT then all was not lost.  See how I got on in the next blog!  

Week Summary (starting 20 Aug)

Mon AM 6 miles PM 5

Tues AM 15 (inc 4 x 18 mins) PM 2

Weds AM 4 


Fri PM XT Hour (HR avg 115)

Sat AM XT Hour (HR avg 120) PM XT Hour (HR avg 120)

Sun 0

Total: 32 miles + 3 hours XT