And Still It Goes On

This blog is really a continuation from the previous episode.

Spurred on by the fact that my latest back problem didn’t seem to have affected my racing too badly, I stuck with my plans to race at a local League match two weeks later. I’ve been a big fan of Kent Masters League for nearly twenty years now. Although my own squad are only a Division 2 team now, and constantly struggle to get a team together, I try to support it as often as I can. The quality of racing can be high.

I’d not expected the “ambush” I experienced on this occasion, at Tonbridge. It was a windy evening. No electronic timing, so no wind gauge, but take it from me, it made a difference. I had a great 100 metres, despite the wind. It would have been an even higher-ranking time in my national age group without the wind. I won by quite a distance, too.

As I turned to go back and collect my gear from the start, I was aware that the announcer was saying something about me, other than that I’d just won. I was suddenly surrounded by friends and team management (the two are the same) while the announcer shared with everyone there that I’d now been a member of Blackheath and Bromley for 50 years. Actually, that milestone had passed last December and it’s something I am very proud of – even more so because I am one of a very small number of athletes indeed in the Club who have reached their 50th anniversary of membership while still competing on the track. That was particularly why the Kent League match had been chosen as the opportunity to present me with the glass trophy that all members reaching 50 years continuous membership receive.

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Photos were taken, and the match continued. I finished the evening running a very fast first leg of the sprint relay, which we won on this occasion. My back hadn’t troubled me excessively once I was warmed up, but I was looking forward to a few weeks off to get it properly rested and sorted.

That was a Friday evening. I don’t quite know what possessed me to make a last minute decision to enter my Club’s open graded meeting the following Monday evening. It was one of those it was possible to enter on the night, which I quite like doing, as it saves gambling entry fees on how I might be feeling a few weeks in advance. I also love the open graded meeting format. You declare a target time for your event, and get seeded into a race with others declaring a similar ambition, be they men, women, boys or girls. It makes for amazingly close races most of the time.

Warming up, I felt fine. My back was a bit stiff initially, and my knees had developed an occasional twinge, but hey, 65 year old athlete, and all that! I got a very good start too, and was running hard when, at about 40 metres, I suddenly felt a very unfamiliar pain on the inside of my left thigh. Two strides further and I knew this was something bad. I stopped as fast as the pain would allow. I realized what it was, pretty much immediately – an adductor tear, most commonly known as “groin strain”.

I was given some ice and spent a miserable 45 minutes in the changing room, as the realization hit me that I had yet another injury to contend with, and one I had never experienced before. Why? How?

A bit of reading when I got home clarified for me the probability that my sore back had led to more general mechanical malfunction all around my left hip. The muscle that had been put under greatest stress from this was my adductor.

I gave it a week, as recommended, before seeking sports massage, to sound out how extensive the problem was. Mike got right in there, and said he didn’t feel the tear was too bad. He said to continue regular icing, and take it easy. Right in the middle of the season leading up to British Masters championships in August, followed not long after by the European Masters, “taking it easy” had not been on the agenda. I’m usually a good patient and did as I was told. The bruising in my adductor began to come out a few days later. I always like that stage of an injury – it gives you visual evidence that you weren’t imagining it!

However (and these days, there always seems to be a “however”), while resting that left thigh, I began to realize that the pain in my knees (right knee in particular) was becoming more of a problem; particularly walking up and down stairs or after sitting still for a while. I’d had some more minor knee pains and instability earlier in the year, after repairing my garage roof, and shinning up and down a step-ladder while doing front room decoration, but they had seemed to go away fairly quickly. Fortunately I had a chiropractor appointment in the diary.

Guess what? I have patella-femoral pain syndrome, caused mostly by an inflamed patella-femoral tendon, and probably triggered by over-training, and poor mechanics in the knee joint. It’s commonly given the rather dismissive name “runners knee”, but that covers a multitude of sins (or is that “shins”?) and almost implies that not running will sort it out. What I was finding, by jogging on a treadmill at the gym as part of warm up for a stretching session, was that I could actually run fairly comfortably, and without knee pain. This was good, because it was helping rehabilitate my back and my adductor. The knee pain came back later, and was getting steadily worse, unfortunately.

I also think I found the reason for the sudden onset of the knee problem on this occasion. Worried that I was losing out on aerobic fitness etc, I had done a number of spinning bike sessions at the gym, because they didn’t hurt my back and were relatively low-impact (I thought). I like these sessions, because I can switch off my mind, and just work. Now, I’m somewhat splay-footed. I have been all my life. It got me given grief at school. The toe-clips and straps on the spinning bike were holding my feet straight forward, and my knee joints were the points around which my legs were “adjusting” things, leading to my knees not “tracking” correctly. I’ve done a lot of hard training on a WattBike (see earlier blogs) and not suffered this. That’s because my good old cycling shoes have cleats that fit the WattBike pedals, and they have a degree of what is called lateral “float” in the movement as I pedal. The pedals on the spinning bikes at the gym don’t allow me to use those shoes, and hold my feet more rigidly. I specifically wanted to work part of my cycling sessions standing out of the saddle, and the WattBike doesn’t accommodate this. “Catch 22” for my knees.

Cue several more chiropractic sessions to diagnose what was going to suit the knees best for recovery. The answer was a significant amount of stretching exercise, aimed at triggering the muscles in the thigh to hold the kneecap in proper alignment, and to tone up the leg generally. As I write, this is in full swing, occupying about an hour and a half of every day. Fitting this into and around other routines and responsibilities is hard. A simple “runners knee” strap is helping make warm-up, etc relatively pain-free, although I am trying not to become dependent upon it. Kinesio-taping seems less useful at the moment.

I’ve had to face two other realities: the further loss of training is not going to help me be competitive at the British Masters Championships in a few weeks from now. Nor are my knee problems going to be helped by working on the track for two days as a photographer if I don’t run. So, when It came to time to book my accommodation for them in Birmingham, and pay an entry fee as an athlete, I simply didn’t.

The other reality is that this is not the build-up I need for nearly two weeks of racing at the European Masters Championships in September. So, I’m not going. Simple as that.

It might be a while before I blog here again. Hopefully. That will mean things are proceeding “uneventfully”. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know what I mean.

2 Responses to “And Still It Goes On”

  1. Denny K Says:

    Best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery!

  2. Take Me Back | Blog from a Faster Master Says:

    […] I’d hit 50 years’ membership. Actually, I blogged about this, in passing, back in the summer, here. The anniversary, and the fact that, we’ve calculated, I am one of only two Club members to have […]

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