Wednesday, 2 July 2014

It's a thin line we tread...

For those who don't already know I have been forced to pull out of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow due to picking up a seemingly out of the blue injury in the form of stress fracture to my sacrum (the sacrum is the bone at the bottom of your back where it meets your hips). A fairly uncommon injury in the general public and whilst not overly common in runners it is something runners on higher mileage can be susceptible to. Contrary to other reports and comments about my fitness I wasn't battling with my fitness or any other injury. All the above were not without there challenges in past year but on my arrival to Font Romeu (a couple of weeks ago now) I was in good place, injury free, seemingly in my best shape for some 2 years and ready to crack on with the training.  Unfortunately though the onset of my symptoms started on only the second day into my trip. Seemingly just a minor muscle tightness in my left hip to begin with over the following 24 hrs this became somewhat more uncomfortable. Even walking was uncomfortable. A visit to nearby Spanish chiropractor (Ront Fomeu whilst in France is right next to the old French/Spanish boarder) gave what was false hope at first. Whilst it appeared to be my SI (sacro iliac) joint was just out of alignment this turned out not to be my problem. The treatment seemed to give some initial relief from my symptoms at first but whilst this would normally start settling down within 48hrs, in my case it didn't. A few days later I was driving down to Perpignan for an MRI Scan...

The hospital in Perpignan is able to provide a fast turn around in terms of performing the actual scan and providing the results, so I was able to get a scan and result all in the same afternoon. Going in for the results was quite a crushing experience though as you can image. Ironically I have been in this positions before in the same hospital. Before the London Olympics I had a bone scare in my hip/femur but then the results were good news on that occasion and training continued as normal and no games dream were ended. This time it was different and when the french doc said those fatal words in his broken English my heart sank. I asked him if he was certain... unfortunately he didn't really understand my English but after a bit of broken communication back and forth is was clear it was not good and there would be no Glasgow Commonwealth Games for me.

The drive home was a pretty quiet one, poor Alex (the physio who'd driven down to Perpignan with me) was probably the most uncomfortable with the situation, not really knowing what to say. Strangely whilst I didn't feel all that bad about things (other that initial reaction to the news) I think the more I had time to think on the drive back to Font Romeu the more the reality started to sink in. Having got myself back into good shape after what has been a rough 12 to 18 months, it was frustrating to say the least to know that I would now be out of action again but that my ambitions to medal at the games couldn't even be attempted. When I got back into the apartment in Font Romeu the others were there about to start dinner, I think they knew they didn't really need to say anything, I just got a few sympathetic looks. It was just as well no one asked how I was though as I'd probably have started blobbing if they had!  

Having had 24hrs to digest the news I decided it was best to get back home, the thought of being in a training camp environment not able to do anything, even cross train initially, would have sent me stir crazy. Plus I spend enough time away from my family as it is so I was eager to be back with them.

On reflection I've become all to aware that my sport is about balancing those highs and the lows and seemingly there's no season of middle ground, perhaps it would be boring if that were the case!  It's also a thin line tread between being in great shape and picking up that injury where it can feel like the end of world. Whilst on this occasion though it's not quite worked out in my favour I will be back. There are too many things I still want to achieve, furthermore despite all the set backs I still love the sport so won't be going anywhere just yet.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Back in the thick of it

Well after making noises about being a runner again it was about time I update my blog with details about how things have progressed, and how they haven't at times.... I have been racing regularly, finally, a little later than I had originally planed (more on that in a bit) but I have now strung a few races together. In the past, even before my injury hit 2013 I had been fairly selective with my racing however as soon as I knew I was able to race again I just wanted to do so at the first opportunity. Some of my early races were nothing to write home about but they were never going to be about PB's.

As I alluded to though after looking like I was ready to start cracking on with things in January and February time, starting with a training camp in Kenya and with a view to racing off the back of this I unfortunately pick up a new injury. Half way into the camp I picked up an injury to a small muscle in my foot/ankle, a not too uncommon injury when faced with the testing terrain of Iten but a frustrating set back to say the least having been out for so long previously. At first I thought this might just mean a couple of easy days, however over 3 weeks later with no running (I was home by this point) only then was I finally able to start to running again. It took another 3 to 4 weeks of regular treatment and a gradual build up in my running before a full routine was resumed. This didn't stop me racing during this time mind, helping Newham to bronze in the Southern Road relays in March and also a half marathon in Berlin, in what I can only describe as fairly average performance at best. Most importantly though I was able to come out of these relatively unscathed and with the motivation that there was work to be done! 

More recently I have been able to string a few weeks of regular training together in the region of 90miles a week alongside regular work in the gym... the conditioning work has been something I have done much more regularly since my operation last year. The idea being to work even harder on the general conditioning and injury prevention side of things in order to keep my body robust going forward. With a short family break wedged in immediately before the Easter break I then ran a local event in the Guernsey Easter Festival. I raced in the Keith Falla Cross Country, a race with a lot of tradition and history for us Guern's so it was nice to win the race and post a respectable time feeling quite controlled. It was especially nice to run this having been watching this event from the side lines last year, having been only a few weeks post op. Last weekend  I raced in the Great Edinburgh 10mile race, racing a certain Mr Thompson, who was only 2 weeks post London. I was little unsure what I might be capable of going into this but knew I was in better shape than I was for Berlin. Admittedly I was looking to sneak under 50 minutes but when faced with the course - a somewhat testing and undulated route through the city centre I was pleasantly surprised with a 49.54 clocking.

So what now... well with little more 12 weeks until Glasgow the marathon work will soon begin, I guess technically the transition has already started but the nature of training will progress more like what I'd associate with marathon specific work, the longer runs/tempo's for example. Racing wise I've still left this open but realistically at this stage it will likely just be one or two low key events which I will use as part of my marathon training. In June though I have a 4 week camp planned in Font Romeu which alongside Iten in Kenya have been like second homes me the past few years. 

I must admit the Great Edinburgh race was just what I needed, but the last few weeks have seen noticeable progress within my fitness generally. Training is now starting to feel like it's some I am using to get prepared for Glasgow, whereas previously is was about just to fit generally! Don't get me wrong there's still work to be done and whereas earlier in the year I could claim to feeling like a runner again, now I can start being actually being a competitive one again.... roll on Glasgow!       

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Being a runner again

It's been a while but I've finally pulled my finger out and got a post together.

When I last posted an update at the start of the year I was out in Kenya for a training camp seemingly on the way back from injury, as it turned out that was not the case. Funnily enough I write this update from the same place, thankfully in much better place than I was then.  Back in January I was also starting to build my running back up and despite excuriating treatment (for which I gained the nickname triple M - Mucky Mouth Merrien apparently) things did at least seem to be getting better. Towards the later part of the camp however  things just didn't seem right, whenever I sneezed I was aware of discomfort in my low abdomen and my adductor problem seemed to be getting worse. When I got home I was referrred to a specialist and before I knew it I was booked in for a double sports hernia operation. Apparently I had two of the biggest he'd ever seen.... I'm talking about the hernia's of course :)

The operation took pace back in March and unfortunately getting back into running wasn't as quick as I'd have hoped for, rehab was proving a slow process. Even when I was able to perform what I'd constituted a proper run I was not without uncomfortable symptoms. This has proved the case through most of this turns out these types of injuries when they have persisted for as long as mine had can take a while to shift.

Despite the frustrations of the past year I'm now finally starting to to see significant improvements, my symptoms are minimal now and no longer result in having to cut my runs back as has been the case previously. My running volume is as high as its been all year.  I'm got myself up to sufficient running to make a training trip worth while and despite the lack of sessions I feel surprisingly fit in a general sense. I have been cross training fairly diligently now for the past year alongside the running I could do, and it appears to be have payed off as the transition to more running volume has been easier than I thought it might. Not having been injured and out of action for this length of time at any point in my running career this cross training lark was all a bit new to me, initially! I think having had clear goals beyond the injury though has helped... even my wife has commented on I how I have been 'ok' to live with (compared with previous injuries - even short term sidelines have meant I've not always been a bundle of joy to be around!). Plus if there's one benefit to not being able to run as much it's that you have more time to spend doing the the little extra's that often get sidelined more when the big mileage sets in. Furthermore I've also been at home more than I have done at any point in the last 3-4 years and there's been no better distraction than being around my family.

My first few runs out here in Kenya this time around have felt really good and despite the challenging terrain I've had no real issues with symptoms. Admittedly it's still early days but the past few weeks have felt like a corner has been turned and this is as good as my body has felt for over 12months. I feel like I can now give myself the tag of being a runner again!