Unstable

I think I’ve worked out why I broke where I broke, but it’s all speculation I suppose. I ran Gold Coast half marathon with no increase in back pain – indeed, my range of motion improved over the weekend. I’d been super diligent about good posture and lumbar support all weekend and on the plane (hooray for Qantas and new A330s), and overall I went OK, back wise.

The day before the race we headed north towards Brisbane to run Logan River parkrun. Ran it easy, just keeping pace with Jeremy. Back south on the Gold Coast we went to the Race Expo and shopped madly. Woke up on time for the half, got to the start line, ran my race (didn’t have the GPS going on my watch so it was measuring distance off my cadence sensor – at some point I really must calibrate it, so it doesn’t read 25km for a race that has been IAAF measured as 21.1km, but hey ho). Didn’t get a PB, didn’t get a PW either, and while I posted on my Facebook that I was happy (and in a way I was, because I hadn’t completely buggered my back), I wasn’t truly happy with my race.

When your best laid plans go to crap and nothing goes particularly right you shift your goals, you shift your thinking. You go into a race knowing that it isn’t going to be a PB, and your focus shifts to just enjoying the day and the atmosphere.

But your day is dampened slightly – you run along, and you see people lining the streets, practically the full length of the course cheering on runners whom they’ve never met, whom they never will, and you know that you would have run that PB and it would have been sweet. It sounds selfish, wanky and overly dramatic, but I think you need to mourn not being able to run your race the way you’d planned.

After my race the balls of my feet felt flattened and bashed. I’d run in my newest Mizuno Sayonaras – the first pair of Sayonara 2s that I’d owned, the previous two pairs were Sayonara 1s. I’d run long in them before, but this was the first half marathon I’d run in them. As the week wore on, the ache in my left foot disappeared, and the ache in my right moved to the edge of my foot. The soreness was constant, and increased some days, decreased others. Judging severity, it didn’t help that I was on paracetamol loaded cold and flu meds for a day – post flight colds suck, but at least they’re shortlived. The ache climaxed on Friday evening, as I walked through the underground train station. My knee gave out as the pain in my foot peaked, and I grabbed the handrail on the barrier in reflex.

I limped all Friday evening, booked in to see the doctor 10:30am Saturday and volunteered at parkrun instead of running. At the surgery the doctor examined my foot, and sent me off for X-rays to see if it was a stress fracture. She said that it probably wouldn’t show up on an X-ray because it would be too fresh, but Medicare only pay for scans in this situation if you’ve gone for the X-ray first. She also prescribed Celebrex. After the X-ray I went to the shops to pick up some bread and filled the prescription. The pharmacist said to take it with meals, and I’ve since spoken to someone who is on Celebrex long term, and she said that the day she discovered the pharmacist was very very correct on that point was not a fun day. I took my capsule with my lunch.

Celebrex is a wonder drug. A standard NSAID, I only need to take it once a day, at breakfast. It keeps my inflammation to a minute amount, and all discomfort disappeared, which meant when I went to the physio on the following Monday he was a bit sceptical that I had a stress fracture. He gave me treatment on my back (it really is improving no end), and afterwards offered to try and diagnose what was wrong with my foot. I trust him, so I said yes.

He got me to point at the general area where it was sore, then took my right foot in both hands, one on the heel and one cupping the toes. He compressed my foot and if I recall correctly he tried to twist it. There was no pain, and I said so. He said “Then it’s not a stress fracture, because there is no way I’d be able to do that otherwise”.

He poked around: “does that hurt?” “no”, “does that hurt?” “no”, “does that hurt?” “no”, “does that hurt?” “no”, “does that hurt?” “JESUS CHRIST OW OW OW OW OW HRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“You’ve torn a tendon. Not a complete tear, but it’s just … there.” And he poked the skin on my foot in a way that I could SEE THE TENDON. This is not something I wish to repeat. But sure enough, he showed me on the anatomy chart the peroneus brevis, the tendon that I’ve torn, and it looked awfully like the shape of the tendon I’d seen underneath my skin.

I must differentiate the two diagnostic techniques of my doctor and my physiotherapist. Now, in the defence of my doctor, that was the first time she’d met me, and I suspect you don’t want to induce a great deal of pain in a patient, particularly a new one when you’re in a General Practice Surgery and not an Emergency Room. My physiotherapist has no such qualms. He knows me, he knows my pain threshold, and he’ll dig in with this thumb if he thinks that he needs to dig in. Apparently he thought he needed to dig in.

So I’ve torn my peroneus brevis. It’s a stability tendon, and it’s quite useful. The fact that it’s a stability tendon has given me a few ideas of why I broke where I broke.

I’m going to be blunt and point out at the moment I’m fatter than I have been in a while. While we trained for our first half marathons I did my first round of Michelle Bridges 12WBT, so when I was heading into the longer runs nearing race day, I was lighter than when I started out. I was also running long runs in a pair of supportive volume trainers – ASICS 3030s, while my race shoes were Mizuno Elixirs.

I’ve been halfarsedly trying to save money, and I never really bothered properly regularly replacing my volume trainers. Mizuno Sayonaras have been super cheap at a local sports shop, and the Sayonara 1s only had a couple flaws in comparison with the brilliant and sadly missed Elixir. I bought a pair of Mizuno Inspire 10s in London when I decided if I walked another 20km day in Birkenstocks I was going to do something I would later regret. They became my volume trainers and indeed, I ran part of my Six Inch training in them until I realised the trail had worn them smooth and I trashed them and bought some Salomon trail shoes to run in instead.

I also bought a ridiculously cheap pair of On Running Cloudrunners which would qualify as volume trainers but I never really used them on a long run except for the weekend after I got them. I’d taken them down to Geographe Bay parkrun for their first outing and when I realised I forgot to pack the Inspires too I had to use them to run 25km from Dunsborough to Busselton. But since Six Inch I hadn’t really done many long training runs, and with my bloody useless preparation or lack thereof and my crappy preparatory races in the lead up to Gold Coast I tended to run the distance only at races and not in training.

I’m heavier, and I’m running in shoes that don’t have sufficient support for long distance running. I’m not running enough long runs in training and mongrelling races when I need to, relying on the fact that the half marathon distance doesn’t scare me anymore. A half doesn’t scare my head, but I think I need to remember that my body isn’t as strong as my will. My brain will get me through a lot, but my body will break down without proper preparation. And by being heavier and not running in more supportive shoes, I’m giving my body more weak points to fail at.

I am giving myself until November. I will come back, I will train, and I will assess the situation in November. If I feel that my preparation for Six Inch isn’t what I need it to be, then I will withdraw. There will be no mongrelling of Six Inch. I like the race too much to do that. I will withdraw, transfer my spot (or defer it until next year), and volunteer instead. And then I will enter February’s Lark Hill Dusk till Dawn 50k.

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Catchup – back to the beginning

A very quick post to say post-Europe we decided we couldn’t really justify the cost of flights to Sydney for the Blackmores Marathon (for Jeremy) and Half Marathon (for me), so we withdrew our entries.

While we were away the backache that I had after Longest Run returned occasionally (probably due to running and walking on average 20+ kilometres a day sightseeing) and I could rectify it simply with stretching until I managed what what my physiotherapist has diagnosed as another sprained facet joint; this time in my lower back. I’m under treatment, but the City to Surf Half Marathon might be a little iffy – I’ve entered anyway, via work, and will change my entry to the 12km if I have to. I’ve the OK absolutely to do the 12km run; my back will probably hurt afterwards – that’s a guarantee, but it won’t worsen. We’ve got another few weeks to get me back to relative normal before then.

I did a similar injury back in January 2012 in my neck which took about 3 months of physiotherapy to fix, so my past two weeks of dramatic improvement has made me quite pleased – I was dreading my second appointment after my diagnosis, because the thought of 3 months of therapy stretching out in front of me was horribly depressing, but I started out with 65% of full movement, and now I seem to bob around 90-95% which is pretty good.

My plan is still to do the Six Inch Trail Marathon this December, and this shouldn’t stop me training for that, but it has emphasised my need to work on my core strength, my gluteal muscles and hip flexors. Having a solid core reportedly wouldn’t have prevented the facet joint sprain but it will help my running and assist my swimming technique become less ‘powerboat’ style, with my legs providing drag in the water. The physio has advised that I need to develop a better posture when sitting, as my tendency is to slump. My posture when walking isn’t too bad, but when I sit I slouch and that won’t assist my healing now and would likely impact on free movement when I become elderly.

I think around the tail end of the Longest Run my technique suffered as I tired, which was what lead to injury and soreness. Jeremy’s calf muscle problems were caused by a similar situation, so I think some work on strengthening muscles to decrease the likelihood of poor technique should help some. Very little will fix tiredness at the 30km mark, but I hope this will make me less prone to injury at that point.

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I have a post in draft form about the Hockenheim F1 that will go into more details – the how and the wheres and when, but let me tell you that it was absolutely fantastic.