Normally at this time of year I’m nursing some long seated leg injury and praying I can keep it together for a long picnic in Scotland (note: long picnic = ultra marathon) in September.
The shock of reducing myself to a one-mile wonder in late May/early June has stuck with me and my focus (since then) has been on recovering so that I don’t suffer the frustration of pedestrian activity again.
When I look back on the period before the injury it becomes apparent that my running load (frequency as much as volume) was unsustainable on a never-quite-right left knee. Hindsight is the perfect form of vision but I am trying to learn from it by adjusting my approach to my next set of long picnics.
June, as a month was very busy for work so the maximum mileage was 4 miles per run. The busy work scene helped keep my mind off the big focus of my year, the west highland way race.
If the truth be told, I knew that I was doubtful for the race as early as early May of this year. I was descending a mountain at mile 22 of the Ballyhoura Mountain Marathon and I knew that the pain in my left knee was unsustainable for an ultra marathon.
The road to recovery started in July and the hills and heat of Italy were key to this. At this stage I was still carrying a lot of common sense with me from the memory of what too much running does to you so a sensible (a rare adjective in the world of running) routine started to emerge. The heat and the hills controlled the pace of the running (slowed it down) and the fact that I was on holidays meant that the running was only allowed every second day. The side effect of this was that the legs had nearly 48 hours to recover from the previous session. This meant that strength started to return to the left knee. Strength means that there was not an oyster opening knife pain under the knee cap with every step on the downhill sections. This was a good sign.
After the holidays I tried to return to the usual routine of 4 – 8 mile flat runs around the railway line in Blackrock/Mahon but the lack of a goal (no target race) robbed me of my motivation. I’m one of nature’s coasters. Plenty of innate ability (possibly not necessarily at running) but I tend to coast. A bit like a skateboarder with a strong leg. One big effort and then lots of coasting.
At that stage I decided to think about what I eventually wanted to do with the recovery work (run a long way up and down hills) and then shaped a plan that wouldn’t be too taxing (mentally or physically).
So, August has seen that plan put into action. I’ve been putting in 10 mile runs every second day. My on and off strategy. This is the right distance to keep the endurance/fitness/work-life balance in place (work-life balance is a special dad-code for drinking wine).
The run itself is a simple out and back 5 mile course that has 3 miles flat from my house, down the railway line to the Rochestown Inn and the 2 miles of the hill up past the monastery and on towards Monkstown Golf Club. This covers all bases with 3 miles to open up the run, 2 miles of climbing (for strength and aerobic fitness), 2 miles of descending (for leg strength) and 3 miles back home for endurance. I’ve started to extend this run to take in the Rafeen hill as well to turn it into a 13.5 mile run. I’m doing all of these without water (what you’d call hydration if you were talking to another runner) which is as much to do with laziness as any sort of plan. That said, a glass of water with an Aldi Energise tablet (a poor man’s berocca) before the run makes it go much smoother.
This also means that for a rolling week I’m knocking out 40 – 45 miles which is satisfying for someone crippled in June.
What next? I have a list the length of your arm of races I’d like to enter but I think September should have more of this on and off work before I commit to anything (although the Brandon Mountain Marathon in October is sorely tempting).