Tuesday 29 June 2010

Last minute training

This coming weekend is The Saunders Mountain Marathon. My friend Mike asked me to partner him in this event a few months ago. Mike has done plenty of fell racing in the past, but this will be his first full mountain marathon. I’ve done a couple of MM’s in the past so we are both relatively new to this. Due to my on-going injury since March, and schedule clashes we have only (ever) been out on a run together once, and that was 2 weeks after the Atacama Crossing in March. That was in the Kipling Caper, the last time I managed to do a distance of more than 3 miles without pain. We decided to try and schedule in one last opportunity to train this weekend just gone, and so Mike found The Staffordshire Moorlands Anytime Challenge, which starts and ends at the Cat and Fiddle pub in the Peak District near Buxton and visits 5 Trig points. You can take any route you choose. The idea behind this was that we practice our navigation skills, rather than try and run it all. This was always going to be the case as I’m just not capable of running these kinds of distances at the moment. The route we took is shown below. The flags are the Trigs.

We actually started the route from Hen Cloud in the Roaches (bottom of the route marked), rather than the Cat and Fiddle pub, so we visited The Roaches trig point first. It was the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures around 30C. Mike carried his event weight rucksack, but I opted to carry just a few kilo’s (mostly water), as I knew I would struggle anyway. We took a steady walk up the Trig point and then plotted our route to Axe Edge trig point. The route was a mixture of footpath and road. Unfortunately we appeared to make a navigation error at the bottom of The Roaches. We didn’t spot a footpath to our right and so continued straight ahead, heading down into a valley. After a few minutes I realised, but neither of us could recall seeing any footpath split, so we decided to carry down and then cut right later. This probably cost us 10 minutes as the terrain was rough (no path), over heather and gorse. Eventually we got onto our intended route and carried on. Returning that way towards the end of the day it transpired than the footpath split was gone. There was some barb wire over a broken wall, so I wonder if a either the path has been diverted (no notice there) or the landowner of a nearby house has illegally removed it. I’ll contact the local council and ask them if a footpath divert was in effect. My ordnance survey map was 1 day old, so I’d be surprised if it was wrong.

Back on the route we climbed out of the valley and onto a road, climbing further until we reached the village of Flash, which boasts as the highest village shops and pub in England. We crossed the busy A road here, over Oliver Hill and then across rough moorland and up to Axe Edge Trig, then down and up over rough moorland to Burbage Edge which sits overlooking Buxton. We had done about 10 miles at this point, and my stomach pain was just beginning to kick in, which was an improvement but nevertheless an unwelcome reminder that I’m still injured, some 4 months after Chile. The most direct route across was across the valley to The Cat and Fiddle and nearby Shining Tor trig point but we came to the decision that although about .6 of a mile further, taking a wide arc on good footpath and quiet roads would be faster, not least because it meant remaining on higher ground, and not losing all the height in a descent to Goyts Moss valley, before a tough climb up to the Cat and Fiddle. Later on at home, I checked this out and it was a good decision, we would have had to climb 300ft more by going direct over the tougher terrain.

When we got to the Cat and Fiddle we decided not to go and tag the nearby (mile each way on a wide and often paved path) Shining Tor trig, due to my discomfort, and would so take a direct route to the next trig at Shuttlinsloe. Normally you would likely drop down from Shining Tor and head up through Macclesfield Forest and approach Shuttlinsloe from the back. It’s a very steady and easy climb this way. However, from where we were we took a direct route down to the base of the next valley down a stony path, which is frequently just like running down a river. However, the current dry spell in the UK had totally dried the river up. We stopped to check our nav and felt a sharp bite on my quad, looking down to see a horse fly cutting into me. I swatted it away but damage was done, and i’ve since grown an extra (not to mention itchy) red quad muscle in the last 24 hours. From there was a short run followed by an unpleasant hike up the front of Shuttlinsloe which gets gradually steeper almost to the point of involving a scramble to reach the Trig. We came down off the top quite fast, but I was already really beginning to struggle so Mike had to slow up significantly for me. We lost all the height we had just gained, then straight back up again, and then lost it all once more as we descended to Gradbach Youth Hostel on the River Dane. From there we ran for the next mile or so then hiked up through the woods climbing back up to Roach End, where I noted the missing footpath. We had taken longer than anticipated, due to my struggle, and so opted not to go back up to Roach End, which would have meant another 10 minute climb on top of the route, and so ran the 2 miles or so back to the cars on the road at Hen Cloud.

I was in quite a lot of pain as I struggled those last couple of miles and was glad to see the car. I had used my entire water ration, and even drank some water that Mike had refilled from a stream en-route. It had been a very long and hot day. I checked the route back home and it was 23 miles in total, from car to car, and had over 4300ft of ascent. Including all the walking I had to do it had taken 5hrs 50 mins. We were happy with our navigation, which was the main aim, though to be fair there were some sections which both of us could have run blindfold.

Next week we will face around 20 miles with about 6000ft of ascent on day 1, and perhaps 15 miles and 3500ft on day 2. I was pretty shattered after the run, my stomach, back and gluts all hurt, and my fitness is a pale shadow of what it was in March. After a days rest my stomach pain wasn’t as bad as it has been of recent, however I couldn't get up out of a chair without using my arms for assist, as I had severe lower back isssues on the left side, causing sharp nerve pain and weakness. It has been locked up in there for months and no one has been able to release it. My pelvis is tilted and rotated permanently, and it’s highly likely that is the central issue to my woes. The torsion is putting stress on my stomach muscles etc and causing me pain. That’s the latest theory anyway. It’s now Tuesday and I can up out of a chair again, but my back is still locked up tight, and my stomach and gluts are sore. I have a sports massage booked in at midday. From what I understand the therapist is in training as an osteopath as well, so he’ll likely try and get my back to release a little. The sad thing is, there is no chance that it will be successful in just one treatment. So, I will go into The Saunders in a pretty sorry state, hopefully patched up enough that I don’t have to pull out before the start line, let alone half way around.

In other news, I’ve sent best wishes to some friends all running in the 4deserts Gobi March event in China right now. Tremaine, Diego, Christian, Lucy, and the two Samantha’s are all taking part. Good luck to them all, I’m sure they’ll do well. That’s it for now. Good luck to me this coming weekend, I’ll put a write up as usual, assuming I’m well enough to go.

Have a good week.

Tuesday 22 June 2010


I've ran a few times since the last post but not a great deal has changed.  I was ok running short distances of about 3 miles, and kept up my daily strectching routine.  All this seems to keep the pain down, though I was still aware of it.  However, I let the stretching slip last week as I had to work in Krakow in Poland.  I was working long days, so by the time I got back I really just had time to eat and then go to bed.  Only on Thursday did I get back to my hotel for 5pm and then decided to go out for run along the river and around the old town walls.  It was my first visit to Krakow and I thought it was a very pretty city.  I'd go back as a tourist I think. I ran about 7 miles.  The following morniang I had the familliar stomach pain which then lasted for a few days. 

I got back home on Friday evening and went over to Doncaster on Saturday morning, to one of my Uncle's chiropractic clinic.  He gave me some treatment, which was some very painful massage on my illiopsoas and also on a few areas around my hip joint.  He also cracked my back and fixed my neck which I have been suffering with for a couple of weeks since falling when running.  I haven't run since then, but plan to run a few times this week, 3-5 miles each time.  At the weekend I plan to do a run with my Saunders Mountain Marathon partner Mike.  We are going to run some kind of anytime challenge in the peak district, from a bunch of grid references, so it should be good practice.  Mike is in very good shape at the moment, so the 20 mile route will be no problem for him.  I however have not run 20 miles since March, so I suspect I'll fare badly!

The Saunders event is the weekend after this one, so I'm not going to be in particularly good shape for this event, but there isn't much I can do about it.  I'll just have to turn up and do what I can.  Neither of us have done this event before.  I have only done a score class event twice before, and this isn't a score class event.  This is where you get given a list of about 8 grid references and have to go and tag each of them in order in as quick as time as possible.  You then do another course the following day and the culmulative times are added together.  Hopefully the weather will be ok, but you just never know with mountain weather.  I've got to get a few bits of kit together for the event, but most of it I have already.  I'll let you know how this weekend training goes.  It may go so badly that I realise I just can't enter the event at all, that's how bad the injury is unfortunately.  When I did the last 20 mile event about 3 months ago, it was all I could do to walk in the end, and on this event I have to do the same the next day.  So, this weekend will be quite a test.

Have a good week.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

I'm still alive

You might have thought otherwise in the 2 months since the last past. As those last few said I have some kind of stomach injury that I picked up in the Atacama. I ran once, two weeks after the event in mid March and then didn't run again for 2 months, assuming whatever it was would have gone. I was wrong. So that was a month ago and after 3 miles I got the same stomach pain, and had to stop. I thought it was a strain of my rectus abdominus, but this seemed pretty unlikely with no improvement after 2 months. I saw a physio at work who was, frankly, an utter waste of money. Her expert diagnosis was, I quote, "Well it could be a lot of things but it's definitely muscular".
Yeah thanks for that; that was well worth £50...
I started to wonder if it was my back referring pain to my stomach so I saw a local chiropractor. My back needed some attention anyway as it was very tight. The chiro said my illiopsoas muscle (a deep stomach muscle) was very tight. It's a very tough muscle to get at, and incredibly painful to work on. He's had a couple of goes at that as well as my back in the last month. My friend Mike, who is a physio where I live said he'd have a look at me, and he believes it is my hip flexor. He's given me some treatment in the last couple of weeks, at the same time I've been having the chiropractic. Between the two treatments I think I am starting to improve. I have run a few times, just 3 miles each time. The following morning though I have still been getting stomach pain. It's very low down above my pelvic bone, just above to the right. It hurts if I sit up from lying down, and it hurts if I lift my right leg. The pain usually dulls after a couple of days rest.

Last weekend I went camping in Wales. I climbed Cadair Idris, which is a mountain near Dolgellau. The weather was terrible, with heavy rain and low cloud. There were no views from the top (supposed to be very impressive on a good day). Instead I could see about 20-30m, and that was it. The substantial summit shelter (with a roof!) was very welcome. I was in full waterproofs at this stage. It happened that it was the day of the local fell race from the town to the top and back, so there were people running up to the trig with shorts and singlets on. Brave people! It was a 10.4 miles course they were running with about 900m of ascent, which the winner completed in about an hour and a half. I was just walking and only doing about 6.5 miles in a horseshow route on the Minfford path, though the same amount of ascent.

I camped that night in the Lleyn Peninsula where there is very little mobile phone cover in places. I got a waft of a mobile signal at 8am and then had to drive 6 miles to get a signal, responding to a text from my (5 year old) son's mum to call me, sent at 00:45 saying I needed to call her.  They had been travelling back from Wales themselves the previous night when they were involved in a head on collision with a drunk, and uninsured driver, who had tried to overtake another driver on a blind hill, in the dark in poor weather conditions. To make it worse he was also already banned from driving. They are alive through a mixture of luck (they were in a loaned car and not their own little Smart car) and the quick reaction of my Son's Mum to brake to almost a stop. The pictures of their car are sobering, even the police can't believe they survived. Anyway, they escaped with cuts and bruises, and minor injuries. The other driver was breathalised and then arrested. He's in court on Friday to enter a plea, let's hope they lock him up when he gets sentenced.

After being reassured they were ok, and there was nothing I could do I did then stay for the rest of the weekend. I did a 20 mile route on the Sunday, with a couple of small hills (less than 600m ascent overall), and managed to run the last 7 miles.

I did pay for it in stomach pain the next day. I have been doing daily stretching, so stretched out in the morning sufficient to allow me to complete an 8 mile circular walk from Beddgelert, climbing Moel Hebog and 2 or 3 neighbouring mountains afterwards, returning through Beddgelert forest.

I ran 3 times in the week, again only 3 miles each time, with plenty of stretching in between. On Saturday I went for a trail run in my road shoes (foolish), slipped and fell hard on my back with my neck at a funny angle, to an unpleasant crack. I got up, established that I could turn my head left and up, but not right or look down. I figured I'd locked a facet in my neck. It was very painful but I elected to run on since I was almost half way through the run. I got back having completed 10k, and iced my neck, but already knew that it was going to do little to east to pain. Mike came around to give me some more treatment on my back and stomach. Better news is that on Sunday I had less stomach pain. I slept very badly on Sunday, the slightest turn of the head causing a lot of pain. I got a cancellation appointment with the chiropractor early on Monday and put my neck back where it was supposed to be. I'm now on Diclofenac for a few days. It's still sore but I can now turn my head again. Hopefully I'll be up to running on Wednesday or Thursday.

So, I've had some rough times over the last couple of months. I just hope that this is just my hip flexor and it will go away with all this treatment.

One reason Mike has been treating me is that he is my teammate in the Saunders Mountain Marathon in a month's time. It's being held in Sleddale which I've never heard of. It's somewhere near Shap, in the Lake District, apparently. We are entered into the Bowfell Class which is one of the tougher classes I understand. Minimum distance is 15.5 miles and 1800M of ascent on day 1, and 11 miles and 1000M of ascent on day 2. It's likely that we will do closer to 20 miles and 15 miles respectively, I suspect. I've only taken part in a couple of mountain marathons, so I'm really very much a newbie to them. This is Mike's first, but he has had a lot of fell running experience, and is in much better shape than me right now. He completed the Helvellyn Fell Race a couple of weeks ago, and did a 19 mile Paddy Buckley support leg last weekend. Needless to say, the last time I ran more than even 7 miles was more than 3 months ago, in Chile!

All I can do for now is keep running short distances, to hopefully prevent this injury getting worse, and try and muddle my way through the Saunders. 3 months ago I was at peak fitness, but that's all gone. My recent attempts to run just 3 miles have illustrated that. So right now, normal service is not yet resumed, but I'm trying to work through it. I'll keep you posted. Have a good week.