At mile 27 during the 2017 South Downs Way 100, I started to suffer cramp in my legs. This was bizarre as I was well hydrated, I thought my salt intake was OK, I was eating well, and cramp was not something I normally suffered with.
To make matters worse, I had a guaranteed place in the 2018 Ultratrail du Mont Blancs (UTMB) providing I finished inside the cut. Aggghhh! So I continued. Still suffering from cramp, I almost pulled out at the 46 mile check point, but the crew were really excellent (thanks guys) and they stretched-out my hamstrings. They persuaded me to continue to the 50 mile CP where there was warm food and better facilities should I indeed decide to pull out. After some warm food, I continued to the 67 mile CP, but at 1am in the morning pulled out because I was moving so slowly I could not see myself completing within the cut. To this day, I wonder whether I should have continued regardless. Next time I will…
Anyway, I gave myself a couple of weeks’ rest from running and booked myself in to the Cotswold 100 in September and the Autumn 100 in October. I was confidently expecting to complete one of the races and to secure my cherished UTMB place. However, this was not to be because I was not dealing with reality.
The cramp was the result of a locked right hip and, because I did not give myself enough time to recover, it led to an Achilles problem and then to Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot. I missed the cut at the 27 mile CP at Cotswold and felt faint a few miles after the 50 mile CP at the Autumn 100. So I found myself well and truly in my ‘winter’!
I decided to stop running until Christmas which would bring ten weeks of rest, but I was lost for a while. Being goal-orientated I did not want to commit to a new goal until I knew that my foot had properly healed. There was no point in setting a goal which would remain unachievable thanks to injury.
So, my brother-in-law (thank you Simon!) got me a bike and a turbo trainer off eBay and I started to spin, lift weights and to continue with my WaterRower, all in an effort to maintain at least some level of personal fitness. The foot continued to hurt whilst walking for weeks, and at times I did wonder whether I was getting too old for this ultra-running lark. However, I remained positive and started to enjoy a different way of training!
Slowly, the foot improved and I started to think about setting some 2018 running goals. I did not have sufficient qualifying points for the UTMB so decided upon the CCC, which is in effect the last 60 miles of the UTMB course. But I wanted a really big goal, something out of the extraordinary (like the MdS) and I remembered the Kennet and Avon Canal Run 145 (KACR145) which had taken place for the first time in 2017, and this captured my imagination.
Why the KACR? It’s a 145 mile non-stop race from Temple Meads Station in Bristol, along the way-marked Kennet & Avon Canal towpath, Thames Path National Trail and Grand Union Canal towpath to Paddington Station in London. As a boy, I have fond memories getting on the train at Temple Meads and going to Paddington Station so that we could visit my grandparents who had a café in Shepherds Bush. I missed the closing deadline at the end of November because I did not want to apply until I was back running again, but as Christmas approached I knew I would be OK and, thanks to Keith Godden at Canalrace.org.uk, I secured my self-supported place in the race.
The week before Christmas I put on my running gear, walked down to a local field and did my first mile (yes, one mile) on grass. It felt amazing to be running again. The next day I did the same again, followed by two miles a few days later – and a week down the line, I was up to six miles. Three weeks later I completed my 18 mile Long Slow Run (LSR) route, although I only just finished within four hours. Almost an hour longer than a good time for me! But the time was not so important; I had clocked an LSR and was back on my ultra-running journey 🙂
Are you recovering from injury? Or do you feel like you’re stuck in your own ‘winter’ phase of life? I now offer one-to-one mentoring to help you achieve your goals and overcome the dips. Drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.