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Learning hard lessons

By the end of 2017, I’d fulfilled all of my 2017 triathlon objectives, and with relatively few hiccups. I’d gone from Sprint triathlon to one of the toughest middle distance triathlons in the world – The Brutal.

I’d also completed one of the country’s toughest duathlons – the Human Race Ball-Buster. All of this had required significant sacrifices on my part, and a considerable ¬†amount of support and understanding from my wife.

In doing this, I had completed dozens of events, and spent a small fortune. So, what was next?

A Marathon

I’d sworn never to try and take on a marathon, but surrounded by standard distance triathletes who ran marathons after a 3.8Km swim and a 160Km bike ride, I felt it should be within me.

I entered the London Marathon ballot, and didn’t get a place. Brighton appealed as a place to go drinking, but not running. Manchester seemed to tick most boxes (except the “being local” one).

I signed up for Manchester.

Crutches
The product of poor training

I downloaded the Virgin London Marathon training guide, and lined up some events that would motivate me along the way:

  • Hogs Back Road Race
  • Polar Night Half Marathon
  • Surrey Half Marathon
  • London Landmarks Half Marathon
  • Manchester Marathon

The Build-Up

Through November and December all went well. My distances increased, my times improved and my motivation was high. The proof of the pudding was when I competed in the Polar Night Half Marathon in Tromso (Norway) in early January. My time was 20 minutes quicker than the previous year, and my place was very satisfying.

Into February, I maintained the training plan pretty accurately, and cheekily extended some of the shorter runs, just because I was enjoying it.

I started to find that my left hip was stiff at the start of a run, I’d run off the stiffness, be basically fine on the run, and then stiff for a day or two afterwards. With a lot going on in my work-life, my home-life, my health and my training, I struggled to find time for stretching…

A 3.5 hour run over the Surrey Hills in the slush and snow left me arriving home close to tears due to both mental and physical exhaustion. 2 days later, I got a heavy cold that sat on my chest. This was the end of my Surrey Half Marathon 01:45 attempt. I suspect the run had reduced my physical reserves to hold off the cold that I’d been sensing that I was on the edge of.

As I was due to run the London Landmarks Half with a mate, he and I chose to run together to find our pace for the day itself. I ran 7Km, he joined me, and we ran a sub 2 hour half marathon in mud, before starting my final 7km home. While we were running together, I felt tired but OK, but when I stopped for less than a minute to bid him farewell, I struggled to get going again. 4Km later, and my run was over after I stopped for a gel and some stretching. I just couldn’t start again. My wife collected me in the car.

By the end of the day, I was reduced to crawling on all fours across the carpet, and my wife borrowed some crutches. I was on 2 crutches for 2 days, and 1 crutch for another day. That was the end of London Landmarks and my Manchester Marathon.

Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with a damaged hip flexor, and started having some treatment. I don’t know the extent of the damage.

Over three weeks later, I have managed a 15 metre “run”, and I attempted a treadmill run yesterday, and couldn’t manage more than 3 paces. I can exert no downwards running pressure on my left leg, and have something of a mild limp walking at the moment.

Lessons learned

By training exclusively for the marathon, I have chosen to neglect swimming and cycling since November. Even if I can resume any form of run training, my next booked event is the AAH Slateman in May. I did it last year and enjoyed it, so was returning to better my time. It’s a tough event, but well within the level I had got to. With 6 weeks until the race, this looks doubtful.

Getting from where I am now back to the Brutal in September in 5 months is also doubtful. While my fitness is there, my swimming and biking are not. I was brilliantly prepared last year, and acquitted myself well in the final results. It’s not an event to turn up un-prepared for.

Reflection

I find myself in the situation where my brain and body are equally matched. It’s normally my brain that I wrestle with. I’m kicking myself for not having a rigorous stretching regime. Absolutely bloody kicking myself.

Still, I took charge of the situation today. I’m booked in for Manchester 2019, and will set new goals for 2018. I think I’ll monster the Ball Buster instead!