My first hit out on Saturday night was a 3k run where it felt I was running around the 4min/k pace which turned out a tad slower according to my Garmin. (see below) 5:45min/k average which would please my physiotherapist but did nothing for my state of mind. How can a pace so far off what I’m use to seem so hard ? Where has the last 9 years of constant running fitness disappeared to ?
Sticking to my plan I ran 4k today and again suffered the ‘post injury’ pace curse that makes 5min/k pace feel like a tempo run. No worries, I knew this was coming and it’s just good to be ‘out there’ running again, at any pace. I have the City to Surf Marathon in August and to be ready for this I need complete recovery, this entails ‘small steps for big gains’. Patience , when it comes to injury recovery, really is a virtue. Rush a recovery and you’ re only heading back down the same path, muscles need time to recover and there really is no shortcut. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt running so slow and feeling exhausted at the end but you need to keep in mind your pace will return with your cardio fitness.
Personally I feel the best way to look at recovery is something that everybody needs to do at sometime in their career and it really is all about taking it slow to make sure the recovery is as good as it can be. On the bright side your fitness does return quite quickly but more importantly it just feels so good to be out there running, pace is secondary. My two runs this week have been so satisfying as my calf feels good and I know it is well on the way to a full recovery. If I can adhere to my plan I’m sure my physiotherapist will give me the green light, and after a brief discussion about injury prevention, I’ll be let loose back into the world of double up days and massive weekly distances, heaven to me. It’s then be on for a big City to Surf Marathon, Rottnest Marathon , 6 Inch Ultra Marathon and the Australian Age Group 100k record at the ADU in January. Plenty of things to keep me motivated but first things first I have to rest before my big 4k Wednesday, baby steps…..
Well its been over 6 weeks since I tore my calf muscle at the Bridges 10k warm down and stopped running. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I’ve been coping and they can’t believe I could go from running twice a day , everyday, to nothing and not start climbing the wall. Well I’m happy to report (I think?) that I’ve handled not running very well, maybe too well.
Initially , as per my earlier post on the 5 stages of injury, I was in denial but seeing the ultrasound of the 5cm tear left me in no doubt I needed complete rest which would help me towards complete recovery. I have embraced this complete rest rather well truth be told and now enter my third week of no exercise at all. Of course there has been the obligatory weight gain and I hit the scales 3kg heavier than when I injured myself six weeks ago. Happy enough with that as I’m also using this time as ‘down time’ and letting my hair down. (in the literal sense only of course, I do miss my hair ? ) . I even treated myself to two glasses of wine over this six week period which for me is a lot. (my normal annual intake is about 4 glasses.)
So when do I start running ? This is the million dollar question. A calf tear of my magnitude would normally be a 6-8 week recovery period , minimum. ( Why do health professionals give you recovery windows ? All runners when told the recovery period is 6-8 weeks only really hear 6 weeks. They then take a week off because they are better than everybody else and then another week because health professionals are overly cautious. This brings it down to 4 weeks. Factor in the ‘ my injury is probably not that bad’ and you can justify another week, so we’re moving towards 3 weeks. Finally add in a bit of ‘ my muscle is probably stronger than most and also recovers better’ and we’ve turned a 6-8 week recovery window to 2 weeks max. ?) I have been very cautious with this calf injury as I cannot afford to keep tearing the calf and continually reinjuring myself, as is a common theme with calf tears. Being on the wrong side of 50 I need to make sure when I return I come back 100% so I can try and recapture some of that lost fitness. I must admit a part of me is holding back because I am worried about breaking down again. This is the first time I have had this worry and I’m putting it down to having such a good 2016, and start of 2017, and worrying I may never get back to that level of fitness as Father Time tried to ‘drag me back to the pack.’ I have also picked up a slight hamstring ‘niggle’ walking the dogs and this has also got me concerned as I know I may compensate for this when I start back running and do more damage.
Am I actually making excuses for not running ? This is the worry. Am I too worried about starting back and finding I cannot reach the same targets I set and achieved earlier in the year? This may be the real reason I have been ok with not running. Of course you also need to factor in I’ve moved house and brought two golden retriever puppies since my injury, so I’ve had other things on my mind. These ‘distractions’ will become less of an issue over the next few weeks so maybe that will help me realign my focus back to where it needs to be. ? On the flipside of this argument is the change in attitude needed for me to embrace this calf tear as ‘a setback and another challenge to be overcome’. Can I get back to where I was pre-injury and even get better , with the added rest helping reinvigorate my tiring muscles.? I was due a rest, I must admit but was not expecting it to because of a calf tear.
The right mental approach will be paramount for the success or failure of my return. I need to start slow and just start racking up ‘time on legs’ , distance fist and then add pace, rule no1 of my golden rules of running. It doesn’t matter how fast the pace is really, it is just time on feet and not doing any damage to the calf. To this end it will be grass running only initially, probably with two golden retriever puppies snapping at my heels . ( A recipe for disaster?) First sign of any calf problems and I will stop of course and reevaluate the next stage.
There is a stretch goal that is always in the back of my mind and the complete wrong thing to do, probably undoing all my good work. The Perth Marathon is on the 18th June. If I was to start running again tomorrow I would have a month to get into sub3 form and run with the boys. Currently Mark C., Mark L., Mike and Jon are all looking to run sub3 and it would be good to run with them on the sub bus (to be driven by my mate Ray , on my left in the photo below of the bridges presentations.) Can I do it ? If the calf holds up I think I can but there is no margin for error, even a few days setback will scupper the plan but there is a small chance if….
Of course this is completely the wrong thing to do. I should rest a few more weeks and then take it very easy for a month before looking to the Rottnest marathon in October. Even miss the City to Surf marathon in August (a race where I am one of only 20 people to complete all 8 previous marathons.) This is my physio’s approach but what do they know ? Even typing this I could be in trouble if he reads my blog.
I always said I’d need a full month for Perth and a sub3 ( to continue my sub3 streak which currently sits on 25 in a row) so tomorrow is ‘d-day’. I will try and run 6-8k on grass and then if that goes ok build up slowly. I’ll know pretty quickly as the last two previous runs I broke down at 4k both times. I have rested for 3 weeks since so I should be ok for this distance. If not, no worries, there’s always another marathon in the calendar and all this extra weight will keep me warm as we move into winter.