VLM Training Update – No Distance Left To Run

After four good weeks of training for the VLM, spirits were high as I began week five. Monday morning saw me run 10km on my familiar out and back route through Grantham’s three parks. From the off I felt fresh and very comfortable for a recovery run – indeed the final four miles were all run without difficulty in under 6:50 per mile. I stopped near the end to chat to Scott, who was doing his rounds. We commented on how well I’d recovered from injury and how my average pace over the training runs was, without really trying, the quickest it had ever been.

That evening I had the opportunity to train, guilt free, on the elliptical trainer, so I put in a very easy hour. The following evening it was marathon heart rate run time – the key session for the week. Now my training partner Janis had gone to Norway for a few months, it was back to me pacing myself and my music player as my companion. Despite the lack of company it was a good run, possibly the best marathon heart rate run I’ve ever done. There was a touch of shin pain in the first mile, the left knee ached a bit too from where I’d accidentally whacked it against a door. Other than that everything felt good and relatively easy. For the 10.5 mile run I averaged 6:13 pace – this included a 6:57 first mile and then three miles at sub six minute mile pace. The music was a good motivator – Blur’s No Distance Left to Run came on at three miles. Normally I skip these slower tempo songs but, for some reason, I decided to let it play and then thought no more of it.

Wednesday morning firstly saw me knock out an easy recovery hour on the elliptical trainer. My training notes indicate no issue except a touch of tightness in the left Piraformis. I then headed out an hour or so later for a 10k recovery run. Once again this felt good for a run the morning after a tough session, averaging 7:10 per mile. The left Piraformis ached ever so slightly, as did the left hip. I also got one sensation of some tightness right in the base of the spine. I thought nothing of any of this however as the aches felt very minor – I’ve run through aches 100x worse.

Thursday morning and I was on the elliptical trainer for another easy hour which saw no issues. That evening I headed to the running club for what I hoped would be a fairly casually paced run with a big weekend of training planned. All was going well, but as we neared the top of Somerby Hill and passed the barracks, the ache in the left glute / Piraformis, which was an occasional affair the day before, became more pronounced and more uncomfortable. As the run continued the discomfort intensified. It was still nothing that I hadn’t run through many times before, but it was disconcerting.

As we returned to Grantham near the end of the run, I instinctively quickened the pace and ran back alone. Passing the local triathlon club runners at the end of the run, I still felt discomfort but nothing too disturbing. The run complete, I waited for a few minutes for the rest of my club mates to return. We chatted for around ten minutes and then I set off to run the mile or so back home. Alarmingly I found that in standing around for a few minutes I was now no longer able to comfortably put my weight on my left leg. This felt alarmingly similar to last October when it transpired I’d fractured my sacrum on the right side of my body.

I walked for a hundred yards or so then attempted a slow jog. Somehow I managed to make it home, but the pace had dropped from around 6:30 per mile to 9:00 per mile. Once home I showered, but found I could barely move. I had to resort to crawling around the house. I was in agony. Something was very amiss. I couldn’t stop singing that bloody Blur song: It’s over, you don’t need to tell me… I’ve got no distance left to run…

The following morning and I was still resorting to crawling around the house. My wife, who last time this happened had wanted me to head straight to A&E, this time put her foot down and literally drove me to the doors of the Grantham branch of this much maligned NHS service. I must have looked in pain, for the moment the assessment nurse saw me, the first thing she did was offer me additional painkillers to the ones that I’d already taken, with little effect, at home.

I was fortunate to be seen by a doctor who is a keen runner and who saw that I was given a CT scan there and then (Well an hour or two after being seen, but this is pretty amazing for the NHS). The results came back negative but he was quick to stress that a stress fracture would not appear this quickly on a scan; if the pain was still significant in 10 days or so I should return to request an MRI scan.

I was already doing sums to determine whether, if it was a fracture, I could still participate at London. My initial thoughts were no way! and part of me still believes that, but at the same time, the romantic in me really wants to be at the start line, even if I may be in no shape to achieve the kind of time I was looking for at the start of the year. Saturday and I dragged my pained body onto the elliptical trainer, where I managed a painful hour. I was mindful that this was thirty minutes more than I’d managed at the same stage back in October, which brought optimism. I also rode ten minutes on the turbo trainer to see how things were on that. I was expecting it to be less painful, was surprised to see that it was nearly pain free.

With that in mind I headed to Witham Wheelers on Sunday morning to take part in their Reliability Ride. I could barely walk, but on the bike I was at around 85% capacity. I couldn’t really accelerate nor stand on the pedals, but could happily spin the pedals with the merest of discomfort. I managed the 65 miles at an average of 18.6 mph which I was pleased with, especially as I was dropped from the quickest group at around 45 miles, but managed to dig in and claw them back in the final miles.

Monday saw me on the elliptical trainer for two hours. It was a laborious affair – the first hour was on the threshold of being too painful, the second less so, but unable to put too much power through the leg. The only solace was that the session was less painful than when hobbling around the house. I rode for an hour on the turbo trainer on the Wednesday, it was nearly pain free but so interminably boring that I decided from then on to concentrate as much as possible on the elliptical trainer, with an hour straight after the turbo trainer completed.

I decided that day if I was going to get any positives out of this injury and if I wanted any chance of being able to run at London, I needed to train at a level similar to what I was doing in December last year, where I tried to be on the elliptical trainer for two hours each day. Thursday saw a day off through work, Friday and Saturday saw two hours on both days, spread over several hours and numerous stops as I covered the F1 test. Sunday saw me still working, but a quieter time in Barcelona allowed me a run of three hours broken into two chunks and a long lunch break. It was the first time I’d managed three hours on my elliptical trainer since 2001 – it was so painful back then that the memories are still firmly etched on my mind. I was relieved that today was a far more pleasant affair, albeit with the left side still sore.

Monday saw an hour on the trainer in the morning before a trip to A&E, which after several hours of waiting, allowed me to allow my GP to make an urgent request for an MRI. The pain was still significant, still very similar to what went before me a few months earlier. The comfort is that I know this inability to walk properly should diminish significantly in the next couple o weeks. I then need to know whether there is a fracture so I don’t make any efforts to run before I should.

That evening saw my first swim in many years. It was hard going – the left leg unable to effectively kick in the water, but I managed a km, timed and monitored by my Gamin for the first time (It made for fairly depressing reading). Making full use of my recently acquired leisure center membership, I then put 40 minutes on their elliptical trainer, finding myself able to reach heart rates far higher than my creaky machine at home.

Tuesday saw two hours on my elliptical trainer at home. Wednesday saw an hour at home on the trainer in the morning followed by 4×20 minutes on the gym elliptical trainer at approximately marathon heart rate. Quite sore in the back and glute area, this was a real challenge as to attain those heart rates required some rather rapid cadence (Around 120rpm). I was pleased though in how aerobically strong I felt, very frustrated in being unable to translate this into running at present.

F1 testing resumed on Thursday and bringing us up to date it was three days of two hours on the elliptical trainer, each session taking considerably longer thanks to gaps where work had to be done… I was tired on Thursday, Friday felt easy, Saturday was feeling distinctly fatigued.

Things are still pretty painful but at least for the last few days I’ve been able to sleep undisturbed and walking is improving slowly but surely on a daily basis. Thanks to some amazing work by my GP I was given an MRI scan on the Friday – hopefully I’ll have the results in a week or so. Once I have this information I can better decide my strategy training wise. Currently I am assuming a 6-8 week layoff from running, which will allow me 2-4 weeks of running before London. This is a tall order but I’m keeping it as an option to keep me motivated to train. If it isn’t a fracture then I’m very much at a loss as I’ll then have no idea what the injury is. So perversely I am kind of hoping it is the same injury as last time but on the other leg, that it heals stronger and that will be the end of it. Time will tell.