Non-optimal preparation

As I crossed the line at Brighton Half Marathon on Sunday 22 February in a new PB of 1:26:29 my running had been going well for several months. Several minutes later as I waited for my pre-booked post race massage I noticed that my right calf/Achilles was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, but the post race massage ameliorated it such that as I travelled home it wasn’t a matter of concern. I was looking forward to Paddock Wood Half Marathon on Sunday 29 March and an even better time.

My plan for the intervening period was a recovery week, two hard training weeks and then a full two week taper to maximize my PB potential on race day.

week #1 – ending 1 March – 7.1 miles total

Mon 23 5.5k recovery @ ~5:28/km
Fri 27 6k easy @ ~4:49
On Monday my calf/Achilles was very sore during my recovery run even though my pace was very gentle. Then, at around midnight on Tuesday, I began to suffer severe abdominal pain and this continued intermittently for several days. My sleep was interrupted every night and the combination of this disruption, the abdominal pain itself and my calf/Achilles discomfort, meant running really didn’t seem to be the best idea. I managed just one more run in the week when my ankle did seem quite improved.

week #2 – ending 8 March – 29.5 miles total

Tue 3 8k easy @ ~4:59/km
Thu 5 19.3k easy @ ~5:02/km
Sat 7 10.5k easy @ ~4:37/km
Sun 8 9.7k easy @ ~4:39
On the Monday of the second week, my abdominal pain finally subsided. I had one previous episode of serious abdominal pain in October 2012 and the diagnosis then was kidney stone pain. In the interim I have often suffered relatively mild abdominal discomfort and have retained the assumption that kidney stone transit was the cause. I saw my GP on the Wednesday who was able to confirm the presence of kidney stones and referred me for treatment. Free of distracting pain I returned to my running. Unfortunately each run, after Tuesday’s fairly comfortable one, became progressively more uncomfortable in terms of my calf/Achilles and so I resolved to rest and seek advice and treatment. I booked a sports massage for the following week.

week #3 ending 15 March – 3.7 miles total

Wed 11 6k easy @ ~5:00/km
Resting until Wednesday I was pleased to find my calf was significantly recovered; the closest to a totally comfortable run I had experienced since Brighton. I attended the sports massage session later that day and my therapist was able to confirm there was no injury to the Achilles, but that there was a small tear low down in my calf. I felt much better after the massage, but was quite disappointed to hear the recommendation that I rest from running for a week.

week #4 …

Tue 17 7.1k easy @ ~4:39/km
Wed 18 9k easy @ ~4:53/km

And so here I am in what would be, if my preparation had gone as planned, the beginning of my pre race taper. Having followed my massage therapist’s advice my calf does now appear to be all but fully recovered – I have no pain when running or applying direct pressure to the muscle. I am just still aware that there is the remnant of an injury, but I am confident, having now run twice this week, that it will recover fully in time for my race.

As there has been no hard training a full taper is clearly redundant at this point and so I am going to take each day as it comes and complete the final weeks pretty much by feel. As of now I am planning another easy run, about 11k, tomorrow and after resting on Friday I may parkrun on Saturday if I am feeling absolutely 100%. Or if, as I anticipate, my recovery is not quite complete by then I will run easy again and aim for a longer tempo run on Monday or Tuesday of next week before a short four day taper into my race at Paddock Wood.

So pretty non-optimal preparation or, as legendary Scottish ultra-runner Robert Burns might have it, The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley. [The transcribed text at the end of that link barely hints at the genius of the original performance. You may need to buy the DVD to achieve the full effect.]

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