Friday, September 10, 2010

Setbacks and MORE Recurring Lessons

So I went out for a half hour run on Friday morning, to see if my metatarsal had healed. I cycled up to the Chapel Hill Road (CHR) trailhead, and broke into a good rhythm as soon as I had gotten off the saddle and on to my feet - it was as if I had not taken any time off at all. I ground up the first climb on wide fire-trail, and then entered the single track which heads up to the CHR trail. My body warmed to the task, and the climbing was surprisingly easy (easy being a relative term); I was only really working in the final 100 or so metres. I debated power-hiking to the top of Mount Coot-tha from there, but thought it better to just hit the road for a few minutes to round out the run. As I descended CHR trail, I saw a wallaby shoot into the bush - the first that I have seen on Mount Cootha or even in BFP. At this point, I was starting to be reacquainted with my body, listening attentively to every little pang of pain, following the rhythm of my breath, and ensuring that my form was tight. If for nothing else, this run was valuable just for that reason. It helped me to remember another reason why I enjoy running - to achieve a level of intimacy with my own body that is impossible in any other discipline, mental or physical - for me at least. I saw some single track to my right that I had not touched before after descending a little more, and turned on to it. This is definitely a contender for best trail on Mount Coot-tha - it was technical with rolling hills, allowed me to pass by groups of beautiful, singing Currawongs and even gave me a view of Mount Barney at one point. All of this, in just 20 minutes, and my metatarsal had not said a word!!! Imagine what it will be like when I get back to 2-hour long outings! I can just do half an hour of this per day to build fitness now, I thought - and started, as is my usual habit, to make training plans for the future.

Alas, all was not well in the realm of my body though. I first noticed a small twinge on the top of my knee, and then to the side, especially as I was climbing. I was focusing on my form, but the pain persisted and worsened when I exited the trail on to the hard top to get back to my bike. I went up a gradual incline, and it became a lot worse. I then looked at my watch - it said 30 minutes - so I decided to walk the final 100 metres to my bike to prevent myself from worsening the problem. About 50 metres from the bike, I saw a group of walkers, and in my foolish pride, I ran the final bit back to the bike. That made it unbearable. It is very likely that it is an ITB problem, as there are very few other causes of lateral knee pain.

Here are the factors that I think may contribute to the pain:
- Being undertrained for Flinder's Tour but still running it, and causing a similar problem,
- Returning to training too soon after flinders tour,
- Reducing the amount of hip and glute excercises as a result of substituting gym with climbing,
- Cycling alot, especially on hills out of the saddle, thereby overdeveloping the lateral component of my quads - causing poor form when running uphill,
- and Running with soft and uneven shoes.

From this, effective remedies can be extrapolated as follows:
- Resting from running if necessary, then building up slowly,
- wearing flat-soled shoes,
- strengthening my glutes and hips,
- stretching my quads and ITBs,
- desisting from cycling where possible and trying to stay in the saddle when I do cycle.

I will be seeing Ann (the physio) on Tuesday to get some advice from someone who really knows what they're talking about.

It seems fairly simple, but my motivation to do anything but just get out there and run at the moment is fairly low. Seeing as I am currently quite sick as well, I am considering a week-long exercise hiatus. It may do me some good - allowing ALL connective tissue to heal, my endocrine system to recover, and my motivation to return. I have been flirting if not engaged with burnout and overtraining for basically the whole of the past two and a bit years since I stopped playing rugby and started getting fit. This has especially been the case since I started ultrarunning. My strategy in the past was to take on a training load that was well beyond my capabilities and hoping not to get injured or sick, but for my body to make the necessary adaptations to handle such a load after three or four weeks. This worked when I was training for the 11km birthday swim and the canoe trip, and it worked for those beautiful five weeks earlier this year when I was training for the Glasshouse 50 mile. However, in the first instance, I succumbed to extreme endocrine fatigue after the second day of my supposedly three-week-long canoeing trip in Spain, and was barely able to walk a kilometre for the next two weeks without having an emotional breakdown, after having given up the trip on the fourth day. In the second instance, I had actually managed to make the adaptation, and was in brilliant mental and physical shape after Yurebilla; nevertheless, I had adapted so well to running slowly over hilly terrain, carrying a few litres of water and a few snacks, that when I made the error of doing speed training and running to uni with a backpack on the Monday after that 56km beauty, I managed to injure my calf - putting me out of consistent running for five weeks, and warranting a DNS for Cook's tour. I am starting to see a pattern here.

A better approach will be to build up slowly, placing periods of recovery into my training program, and trying to remain content with the amount of running that I am doing at any given time. To this end, I have employed the services of a coach, who has written an eight week program for me that I may begin once I have built up to 1 hour of running, five days per week.

As always, the key word is patience: patience in allowing myself to heal, and in performing the necessary exercises to rehabilitate my injury; and patience in building up slowly and allowing myself to recover when necessary.

Some people would quit running if they kept getting frustrated like this. Aside from the fact that I enjoy running too much to do so, if one analyzes the root cause of any problem in which one finds themself, it is ultimately one's actions and one's perception of reality that are the causes of the problem, or the causes of them viewing a potentially beneficial situation as a problem. I acknowledge that all my injuries have been my own fault, and WILL correct my mistakes now. That's another reason why I love running; for the lessons that it provides and the virtue that it instills in the practitioner.

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