I feel like a penitent Catholic returning here. I have sinned and not blogged for some time. I seek forgiveness. There’s not much deep wisdom in this post. Well, to be honest, none at all. It does, however, serve to plug a bit of a gap.
Truth is, for some of the time since my last proper chapter, I really didn’t have much to say, nor much inspiration to say it with. I wasn’t racing. Training was progressing, though running seemed some way off. That was three months ago, I now realize, and water has flowed under the proverbial bridge.
One promise I have made to myself in recent years, since my dalliance with depression, is that I will not beat myself up in training. At least, if I realize it’s happening again, I’ll back off, or change my routines. I realized also that progress was made from the accumulation of small gains, so I set myself small targets.
I took stock in early April of where my winter of steady but less than earth-shattering training had got me. I had none of my usual benchmarks, you see. I’d raced no indoor events. I’d had some very low moments mentally mid-winter, and had many times asked myself whether the injury to my left foot’s medial arch was “the one” that would eventually end it all. I speak as someone who had serious and persistent back trouble in his 30s, following quite severe trauma, and was obliged to be a non-athlete for almost 15 years, until the age of 46. You’ll maybe understand that I’d faced that thought before, though in those days there was a certain amount of youthful optimism that seems hard to replicate now.
I began, very tentatively, to run on the gym treadmill in April, just five minutes or so at a time, increasing slightly each session in distance and pace. The aerobic/anaerobic work I’d achieved in the winter on a static bike held good, and that little amount of running felt a bit pathetic. I almost seemed to be teaching my body again what running felt like. My strength training regime, attention to diet, sleep, etc all seemed to have served me well too. I was reaching each training session rested and recovered. I thought (and was being told) I looked well. My daily “ithlete” HRV figures were also a very positive mirror of my feeling of well-being.
The temptation to rush things was there. I’m a sprinter, after all. But I held back. My first proper track training session, in late April, was pretty modest, but without mishap and I committed to such races as I’m going to do this summer. However, I really had no idea whatsoever how I was going to perform. That hadn’t been the case for many years.
Cutting a long story short, I lined up on a cold, damp evening in mid-May for a local League 200m race. I was running below my age group, to fill a team vacancy and, if I’m honest, also so that I could hide somewhere where a poor performance would to some extent be masked by the youthful vigour of my competitors. Hey, but I came third! It wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t pretty. My racing brain only woke after about 50 metres, and as I came off the bend, my left ankle tightened. I was happy to stride most of the rest of the way, but with enough speed to maintain a top three place. It was really only when I crossed the line that my ankle reminded me that adrenaline can often mask pain in a race. I was hurt. Again. Oh, not again.
Ice is great. I got some on my soleus muscle very quickly. That’s the bit between calf and ankle, to save you looking it up. Next day I hurt. Two days later, Mike, my sports masseur supported my opinion I had a small tear, and he worked around it to disperse the bruising etc. Very successfully, as usual. The following week, I seemed to have function restored, and had another race looming in ten days. I had no plan to really test the leg out before then. I hardly gave my troublesome arch much of a thought. It had held up in the race. It was the next-weakest link in the chain that had failed this time
Last Friday, then, I found myself in a 100m race. I was properly warmed up, but nervous as hell. Telling myself that the worst that could happen would be that something would fail again was no comfort. I got a great start, led the race at 60m and finished third scorer. I’d run at about 90% for most of the way – and at the end, nothing at all hurt. It wasn’t hurting either when I took the baton for third leg of a very competitive 4x200m relay later that evening. We were leading at that point, and this was a crack at a decent Club and League record too. Only 100% would do.
100% it was. It felt wonderful. I can think of only two or three prior occasions where my running has flowed like that. We still led at the end of my contribution, we won the race convincingly, though we missed the record.
And I had no hurt the next day, or the day after that. I think I have a basis for progress now, though it remains one training session at a time, one race at a time and no counting those chickens.