That difficult middle third – Bouncing back from a DNS at NDW50

The North Downs Way 50 was the 2nd of the 3 races which were my focus for 2016 and #Project41024. The original plan, admittedly very ambitious, was to run this in under 10 hours. This would have meant reducing my course and 50 mile PB by almost 2 hours. In the (pardon the pun) run up to the London Marathon I was feeling more confident about hitting sub-4 hours there than a sub-10 at NDW50. However, in the days following the London Marathon I knew that something still wasn’t right. I had experienced cramp in my right hamstring and both of my calves and set about trying to address the tightness of these muscles and my ongoing shin issue by using a massage (roller) stick on my legs for 5 minutes every day as well as resuming work with the foam roller (AKA #foamrollaaarrrggghhh) and a lacrosse ball. After a few days of this my legs definitely felt better and the lacrosse ball in particular was helping by getting at the really tight knots in my calves. Rolling the underneath of your feet with a lacrosse ball is also a good tip.

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Anyway, I rested from running for a week after London and when my shin still didn’t feel right I decided to rest for a second week. I booked a sports massage for the Monday before NDW50 in the hope that this would a) sort out my very tight calves, which I believed to have contributed to my shin pain b) get me ready to at least run the NDW50. By this stage I had decided that all hope of a sub-10 finish was gone and that if I got to the starting line I would be running easy and aiming solely to finish within the cut- offs. Advised by the excellent massage therapist Claire of Optimum Sports Massage to leave it a couple of days before going for a run to test the legs I promptly went out for a short run the following evening as my legs didn’t feel as bad as she said they would 24 hours later.Why are we runners so impatient??

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Sadly, my easy 30 minute run turned into a walk warm up (as usual) followed by less than 1/2 mile of running and a walk home, a total of less than 1 mile completed. As soon as I started to break into a run my right shin started complaining and I knew then that there was no way I would be able to (or should) run 50 miles 4 days later, so I contacted James and Nici at the wonderful Centurion Running to advise them of my DNS.

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Bugger. I had only had one DNS before NDW50, the excellent Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon in December 2012 when I had to pull out as my wife and son had been poorly all week and had not yet recovered. I didn’t let that get me down and ran the race solo, completely unsupported (only my 2nd marathon at that time) and wearing my race number on Boxing Day, 3 days after the race. I wanted to prove that I  could do it and did. This time I had to admit to myself that running the race would put my Autumn 100 race plans (the 3rd of the #Project41024 races) in jeopardy. My overriding goal now was to get my second 100 mile race under my belt at this race in October, still hopeful of the hallowed sub-24 hour finish. So I watched the NDW50 unfold online and decided to channel my frustration into rebuilding before starting A100 training.

I made the decision not to run for 4 weeks to give my shin a rest from the impact of running and see if it resolved itself – desperately hoping to avoid the possibility of a stress fracture and longer layoff from running – and focus instead on mobility and cross training. Having finally got around to fixing my mountain bike saddle after the unfortunate incident last October when the seat came off and I sliced my right leg open just above the knee by landing on the serrated pedal (nice scar as a reminder), I was overjoyed to at least be able to get back out onto the trails on 2 wheels if not 2 legs.

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So, 4 weeks after my last run I set off for an easy 3 miler on the trails with more than a little trepidation. To my relief, my shin felt okay. A few twinges but nothing unexpected. For now, I have decided to keep my running mostly on the trails to make the most of the light Summer evenings and avoid the pounding on the roads and pavements which I am sure contributed to my shin issue in the first place. All those long runs on the road in preparation for the London Marathon can’t have helped and running the trails is so much more fun as well. Even when you get lost less than a mile from home in your local woods!

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I have used my running downtime wisely, I think, and definitely noticed the difference that the Kinetic Revolution 30 day Challenge exercises made to the way my body felt. As is the case with so many things, I now have to find a practical and realistic way to ensure that my training for A100 includes running but also some regular strength, flexibility and mobility work so that I increase the likelihood of getting to the start line and doing so in good condition, ready to have a go at a sub-24 hour finish.

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So, what have I learned from all of this?

  • Road running takes its toll – especially if you’re not doing cross training to build strength as well as endurance
  • Manage injury risk by cross training – don’t just run, which I have been guilty of in the past like many runners
  • Prevention is, indeed, better than cure – take action as soon as niggles appear and try to resolve them (including more regular sports massages)

I have been back running now for 2 weeks and it’s going well so far. I have out together a 16 week training plan for A100 using my SDW100 training plan from 2015 as a starting point and taking all of this into account. Will I manage a sub-24 finish? I don’t know but I will give it my best shot. And after volunteering at the Thames Path 100 (TP100) and SDW100 so far this year, with the North Downs Way 100 (NDW100) volunteering to come in August, I’m already thinking ahead to 2017. I have taken my volunteer place for TP100 and will have another crack at SDW100 as well. After the A100 I’ll decide whether or not I want to have a go at all 4 and the Grand Slam next year. It’s a big ask and I’m under no illusions that it will take a toll on my body but it’s something I thought about last year and then discounted in favour of doing the TP100 and NDW100 in 2017. If I finish the A100 this October) then running these 2 races would give me the  opportunity to complete all 4 of the Centurion Running 100 milers. Yet having seen and been inspired by the achievements of Bryan Webster, Rodrigo Freeman, Roz Glover, Louise Ayline, Shawn Timmons and Mark Haynes (among others) in the 2015 Grand Slam and Dan Park, Tom Garrod, Roz Glover and Mark Haynes in the 2016 Grand Union Canal Race I’m thinking “What if I could do it?” quite a lot at the moment. The 2016 Grand Slammers such as Mark Thornberry and Dave Stuart have been similarly inspirational in the 2 races so far, seen from my perspective as an aid station volunteer. Maybe, just maybe.

Onwards to A100. Perhaps one of the motivational posters I put together for the QECP 22 mile aid station at the SDW100 gives me my answer?

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