What an eventful week I have had.
I have had a few minor aches and pains, bruises and bumps over the time, what with trail running and barefoot running, there is always bound to be something.
Two weeks ago I did two 34km back to back runs. epic. Saturday 34km was a thoroughly enjoyable and epic run. Repeated the same course on Sunday with disastrous results. Had a severely upset tummy, be it a food allergy or a tummy bug, I have no idea. It was a 24 hour affair, but bang over my runs. My word the difference when your body is depleted and you spend your time searching for big enough trees to duck under, when you run out of tissues (I had a whole new pack!) and then on top of cramps and discomfort you have to deal with external discomfort..what a dramatic impact. Tears, drama, sulks, exhaustion, pain, freezing cold shock at 26km’s..well I could whine all night. I lost over a kilogram over that period. For some one my size where 250g is obvious a kilogram is a massive weight loss, hence feeling awfully weak. Of course just because I was all of the above, I took a mis step off the edge of a road, felt my back jar hard, my guts dropped into my pelvis, and my ankle got a wobbly.
However during the week I persevered, but just did not run as fast as normal or as far as normal – my training week was reduced by approximately 10km, and my attempt at intervals was a non starter.
So prepped up and ready for another epic trail run race on the Saturday just past. As previously stated these are my fun time races for training, so I do not “race” them for time, I just run them for the hills training, the fun and the thrill with every one. My ankle still swollen I kept a compression bandage on, had worked out that so long as I ran on my forefoot and avoided dropping my heel, I could manage.
This was probably not the race to choose with an ankle injury run, as the hills were super steep and the downs were very steep so you virtually rolled down them.
Extremely challenging 15km, but I walked uphill and tumbled downhill. Now I realise I had lost more weight than I should have, and that I was a bit leaner than ideal. So having slogged up that first hill, we hit the first downhill charge. Downhill racing is my speciality. The trail runners on the course know this well and will call out as I come down clearing the way for me. It could be because I fly down so fast I cannot stop, my arms flaying around, every one has to get out the way, and I am taking number one priority on any decent foothold that can be had. The fellow trail runners know they nab me on the uphills, so they give me free reign. Except this time. As I start to pick up speed to a dangerous level, my lycra shorts starts slipping below my knees, the crotch straddling above my knee caps. Lucky I wear high waisted shorts, and with one hand I am able to grab onto them before I am flattened with my shorts around my ankles. But I am going too fast to stop, and need my arms for balance. Wailing out I hang on for dear life with no control over my legs, I vaguely hear some one call out “video” and my mind screams “nooooo”..Finally I get to the bottom, haul my shorts up to a decent level, and find the only way I can keep them on is to roll the leg portion up on top of my thighs, making it look like I am wearing very short shorts or underwear! These shorts are lycra and only 3 months old…loosing one kilogram is risky business!
The worst was proceeding up the last incline out (Out & back course so middle pinnacle on chart) there were these additionally carved in massively deep furrows, that consisted of freshly ploughed loose soil and tonnes of great big rocks that one had to try and clamber over, fall into the dale behind, and the stagger over the next wall. I think there were about 8 in total progressively requiring more and more scrambling on hands and feet.
I was wearing my neandersandals. We had been previously warned that this event was a challenge for “barefoot” runners. My oh my..That was putting it mildly. Aside from the very rocky terrain for most of the course, especially on the ups and down hills (ie the whole course) one had to deal with these loosely formed furrows. After attempting to scramble over the second one, my neandersandals were acting as personalised ploughs, just digging in and shovelling up dirt.
I took a deep breath and figured my options..take them off and go real barefoot. I have done barefoot trail running before. I can hack this. And so I removed my only foot protection, and had them laced onto my back pack. Yeee Hah! Yes, I was able to scramble so much more freely up these loose furrows. I got to the top and had a nice dirt single file track and slippery long grass track to skip along to the turn around point.
On the return back to the furrows, I was passing other weary and dusty trail runners, whom I am sure thought they were hallucinating when they saw this little critter covered in red dirt, come toward them in a barefoot neanderthal lope…
I thought I had carefully observed the trail and counted the furrows on the way up..my realisation being that one could not charge down this hill in my usual fashion and I had to really work out the most free flowing downhill route that would involve the least chance of face planting. Thought being the operative word here.
So the downhill charge commenced – racing down into the furrows skidding and sliding down the loose embankments and smashing my heels into the soft rocky earth for grip to bounce up on the next step, inevitably bouncing over onto my backside and skidding rear end down the next embankment. How on earth do those front runners make it look so elegant as they leap like springboks through here?
My eyes purely focused on missing all those flaming rocks. The first few charges worked, then I would be out of a furrow and basically barefoot skiing on the edge of the course where the long grass had been flattened, until I hit the next furrow. By now I could feel my feet getting smashed, (see cuts and bruises in photo) and rocks stabbing into my arches, so as I got past furrow number 8, I detoured to a bigger boulder, where I sat and re-strapped my neandersandals on, my feet feeling thoroughly tenderised.
Set off picking up speed..Only to discover at the last split second another smaller furrow I had not counted! That really took me by surprise.
I think I came down that hill at record speed! We then had the return up run..well actually walk. I did not see one single person running up that return hill. Near the top a chap began a little trot. To humour him I called out and told him “right behind ya mate!” ironically the little chap kept his jog up and further into the run continued with his trot. I just walked :).
Now as I said, I do not race these events, but enjoy them. I have a very sore swollen and weak ankle, my feet by now are smashed and bruised, there is a massive hole in my foot (full impact felt a day later with stones so deep they are touching my bone..and I have had to get them surgically removed..)..having said that I was so enjoying myself, and the last few kilometers in are a downhill, slightly gentler than the return furrow downhill. I set off at a steady trot, and found myself comfortably increasing pace, although mindful of my ankle and painful feet. I ironically did the last 5km of that course in 26 minutes warts and all… and actually over too the little uphill jogger chap. I have to say, this particular race was the most fun I have had on the trails, and the stories form every one afterwards was filled with the word “fun”. Very few people referred to the two massive uphills..I think the downhill adrenaline fuelled charges obliterated the uphill slog from memory.
Having completed this event, had an afternoon snooze, been for a bike ride, and actually spent some time with my family, Sunday approached for an early morning run i the hills. My program was supposed to be 38km, but due to my injuries I knew that would be asking for trouble, so opted to do 22km with my running buddy and her coach. So back into the hill sin the early hours. And we set off. Now this was supposed to be a long slow run, although I was happy to go a little faster due to the shorter distance. Well the running coach took off. We had to to a steady 5min pace just to keep her in site. My right ankle had been iced in a sock on the hour drive to our starting point, so the pain was not too severe but the swelling and the injury still made for difficult movement, and now I had the added discomfort of very bruised feet from the day before, and the hole in my left foot really made itself known. The pace was brisk but doable (with a grimace for me). When we got to the hills I implemented my ultra training strategy of a much desired walk zone. So did a 2 to 1 walk run affair up the hills. I even managed to jog up 2/3rds of Phils Hill (3km of 300m incline) , which is pretty epic for me. It was at this point I thought I would try the Hammer gel I had received in my trail race gift pack. Bear in mind I have never consumed a gel before, except for last week when I was so ill on that 34km and my running buddy encouraged me to try a sugar high, so I had a half a gel. Well…Now I know how these people manage to run so fast! I consumed said Hammer Gel (Vanilla) just before Phils Hill, approximately at 13km. Felt pretty cheery going up Phils Hill (normally my running nemesis), recovered at the top., and then it was time for the homeward run of 7km, at a 200m decline in elevation over the 7km’s, not to steep but gives a good run.
Remember, I have run the 15km hills the day before, injured and then more injured, I have pushed myself through 15 kms of hills on this day s run already, but suddenly I felt power. My ankle had warmed up so was not so painful, and I had mastered the art of simply not dropping my heel. My left foot was so beyond pain it was numb, except every time I felt that weird sensation of something clipping the bones in my foot. And off I ran. I managed to complete the last 5km in 23 minutes and still come in smiling, without too much puff, and feeling like I could really have gone a lot harder, except that it was not supposed to be a hard run, and I was weary of aggravating my injuries!
Was this either because I am fitter, my pain was so bad it was numb..or the effect of a Hammer gel?….I tell you what, after that run, the coffee was the most delightful beverage in memory!
The first thing I did at the cafe was order crushed ice for my ziplock bag, and promptly re-socked my foot filled with crushed ice, and secured a chair for me to sit on and a chair to lift my leg up onto.
By the time the coffee came to an end, I know that I had a problem with my right ankle and my left foot that needed proper medical attention. On Monday morning I could not get myself down the stairs in my house without shedding a few tears. I went to a physiotherapist near my house. No running for five days at least. Taping and all sorts of stuff, and luckily no tendon tears but sprains and tendon inflammation. Plus had to have the doctor surgically cut my left foot open to remove the embedded stone I could feel tapping on my bone. Physio and doctor both gave instructions, no running, no walking (or very minimal) and no standing for too long for a few days.
Whats the problem with that?
Well I have a 50km Ultra on Saturday and another one in a months time, plus a couple of marathons in between, all in training for the Comrades..I cannot afford time not to run..but I cannot afford risk of severe injury either…this is a well enforced taper week, recovery pull back week and injury management week!
Wow you are so awesome, I thought I was tough for running a hill with small unavoidable rocks but I didn’t get any embedded in my foot, geez! They feel so tenderized now, it hurts to stand on them for the last 3 days. I worry about nerve damage/loss of sensitivity that would defeat the purpose of running barefoot.