Category Archives: 12 in 12 for 2012 Challenge

Making lemonade from lemons

Serious food for thought

When I started running again last year, I knew the risks. I also stuck my head in the sand about the extent of my existing leg injuries: shin splints and ITB in my left leg, sharp pains in the arch of my right foot and a spot on my back that no one could touch. I’ve battled through this far (15 months) with my head buried in those tiny grains you find on the beach.

When I decided on the 12-in-12 Challenge my first stop was the physiotherapist. I knew that I couldn’t get through it without getting some attention on my legs.

What I didn’t expect was for my shin and ITB injuries to respond so well to treatment. They responded so well that I forgot about them long enough to overdo it in the garden last weekend. The physio strapped the calf this morning to help it rest and recover more quickly. I’m confident it will respond well to the ongoing physiotherapy and my homework.

I remembered to tell the physio about the pain in my foot this morning. It’s the first time I’ve remembered to mention it (I actually marked the painful spot with a pen before I went in this morning). After poking and prodding my foot, the physio told me he suspects a stress fracture. That’s pretty bad news for me. At the end of our session today, the physio also strapped my foot to help it rest. He’s going to have another look at it on Monday to see how it responds to a week of rest. MRIs are expensive here in Australia so he said he’d prefer to wait to see whether I need to shell out for the test.

So here’s my lemons: best case scenario I have a serious soft-tissue injury in my left foot and worst case scenario is that I have a stress fracture. Either way, I’ll be unable to run for 4-12 weeks.

Here’s my lemonade: these are chronic injuries I’ve had for years and I know I’ve found a physio who can help me fix them. Even if my 12-in-12 Challenge is off, I have gained so much confidence in the past two months and know that I have what it takes to run ultra marathons. The injuries are long-standing problems, they haven’t been caused by the ultra running. In fact, if it weren’t for the ultra running I probably wouldn’t have gone to see someone about getting them fixed.

I’m going mountain biking with friends this afternoon. I’m allowed to cycle so long as I take it easy. Tomorrow I will go swimming for the first time in months. I’m still doing Tough Mudder next weekend but will just be doing it for a laugh and will be walking up the hills. It will probably be my final event for the year. That means I have three months to work on endurance by swimming and cycling, strength in the gym and flexibility if I can find an affordable yoga class.

When I can run again I’m probably going to focus on either the Northface 100km trail run in May (solo run) or the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km trail run in June (team event). And this time I’m going to do it right rather than just jumping in. I’m enjoying reading two blogs by runners training for ultras (Run Nature and Run Bike Race) and am inspired by their systematic approaches to increasing mileage and running well, rather than just bumbling through.

I hope the news on Monday is good. But I am preparing for the worst. Either way, I can only grow from the experience.

A tough decision

That’s it! I’m calling it! This Saturday’s 50km trail race is off 😦 .

I was supposed to be running the 50km trail run at the Glasshouse 100. It was going to be my third event in the 12-in-12 Challenge. However, I aggravated my shin splints on Saturday. My leg hurts when I sleep and even hurts when I walk. Even if it did recover by Saturday morning, all I would be doing is risking further injury.

It’s totally gutting but at the same time, the Glasshouse Trail Runs are not that great. The course is not all that scenic and just follows sharp, gravelly fire trails. If I had a choice of events to pull out of, this is the one.

I’m not giving up on the 12-in-12 Challenge. I am still forging ahead. I already have two events scheduled for June so I still have 12 events in my 12 month calendar. And otherwise I can always do the Gold Coast Marathon in the first weekend of July 2013 to still have 12 events in 12 months (my first event was 29 July 2012).

But I need to be realistic. I can’t run this weekend and still be fit for the rest of my races. I need to get stronger. I haven’t done the miles and I was carrying a long-term injury into the challenge. I went in eyes wide open that this would be tough and that there would be set-backs along the way. The real challenge is to overcome those set-backs and make the best decisions for my success in the challenge.

Besides, I have Tough Mudder Sydney on 22 September and I would much rather participate in that than the Glasshouse trail run.

So my next 12-in-12 Challenge event is now the 50km trail run at Washpool on 14 October. I think that’s going to be a magnificent event. It’s a flat course with no cut-offs and beautiful wild flowers.

More Annapurna Circuit dreaming

Image courtesy of TeddyBear[Picnic] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m still resting today because my shin and calf are still sore from Friday and Saturday’s gardening efforts. While ordinarily I would push through, I have a 50km trail run at the Glasshouse 100 on Saturday so can’t risk injury. I think my leg is just trying to remind me of the epic nature of my current 12 marathons / ultra marathons in 12 months challenge.

It’s also my first day back at work after three weeks of holidays. So at least I can stay busy during my rest day.

Today I took the first few steps in my Annapurna Circuit project:

  1. I set up a savings account and automatic transfers so that the money side can take care of itself.
  2. I set a photo taken from the Annapurna Circuit Trek as my computer backdrop at work.
  3. I got a leave pass from my partner to use our joint money and next year’s leave days to pursue my personal dream.

Sure, my next challenge might change. I might never get to walk the Annapurna Circuit. But at least I am moving in the right direction. It’s always better to have a goal and change direction than to drift aimlessly and never end up doing anything. Or at least that’s my experience.

Rest day mischief: Dreaming of the Annapurna Circuit

I’ve had a long-standing dream to trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. It’s not an uncommon dream; the Circuit often turns up in lists of the worlds ‘top ten’ walks. But it’s a dream I’ve always thought was out of my reach. I always thought it was too expensive and took too long to be possible for me. So I never went further than dreaming of the images of the trek that I saw in a book when I was in high school.

It was my birthday this past week and while out to dinner with my parents, we started to discuss hikes we might like to do. Mum mentioned Everest Base Camp but that didn’t really interest me; instead I went home and did some internet research about the Annapurna Circuit. What I found gave me hope of one day living my Annapurna Circuit dream: the strong Australian dollar and highly competitive Nepalese tourism industry means that the trek is now within my price range (if I use some self restraint and actually save my pennies for a year).

Today I had to take a rest day because my shin splints are playing up after my two days of pushing the wheelbarrow uphill in my garden. With my next race only 6 days away I’d rather skip my long run than risk injury. A whole day of rest had led to me getting stuck into some Annapurna Circuit research on the internet.

It’s now almost dinner time. I’ve gone from just idly surfing the net to phoning a friend to ask her which dates would suit her for the trek. She’s a teacher so we would have to go during the Christmas school holidays. I think it would be too soon for my bank account to go this December but it would give me something to work towards after my 12-in-12 Challenge is completed. And something a little more achievable than running the Bibbulmun Track, which was my other crazy post 12-in-12 Challenge idea.

I know that I will go round in circles for the next six months deciding on the next big adventure. I also know it seems silly because I’m only two months into my current challenge. But that’s just the way I am.

Having said that, this time it is the Annapurna Circuit … I’ve already told my partner that I’m going to save up and just book the trip as soon as I have the money (and have decided on which trekking company I want to use).

Who said rest days weren’t dangerous – LOL.

Rest day ramblings: Physio magic

Magic tools make it possible for me to touch my shin

Like many runners, shin splints and ITB syndrome have been an ongoing battle for me. I first started to get shin splints when I was a junior elite triathlete during the mid-1990s. My ITB became a problem in the late-1990s shortly after I stopped racing triathlon.

The pain from my injuries caused me to stop running from 1998 to 2004; swapping the sport for cycling. But I never really loved cycling like I have always loved running. In 2004 and 2005 I ran again. Every run was excruciatingly painful. But I had a lot of demons to exorcise so I ran in agony until I could no longer run. And then I stopped. Until July 2011.

When I decided to take up triathlon last year, it was because I was too scared to take up running. Scared because I didn’t know how to run without pain. And this time, I wasn’t taking up the sport to exorcise demons; I was taking it up to experience the joy that comes with doing what I love.

Fortunately, I discovered barefoot running, which allowed me to run pain free. But the injuries were still there. I could run without pain but my right shin was still always sensitive to touch and my right ITB would still get tight when I walked with a backpack or ran in shoes. The injuries didn’t get worse but they also weren’t getting better.

Just before the City to Surf Marathon, I went to see a Paul, the physiotherapist at Body Leadership Australia. I’d heard about him through my running club. I didn’t expect much from my first visit, given that I’ve had these injuries for over 15 years. But I was wrong.

Paul assessed my legs and back to identify weaknesses and inflexibility. The short version is that I have very short calves, extremely inflexible ankles and a right leg that doesn’t track straight (I knew that because it whips around so much I can see it when I run). If that all sounds dire, it’s not: I seem to be able to run and there’s no reason for me to stop doing what I love.

I’ve been to see Paul twice and have been doing my homework exercises every day. I press the ball against my ITB trigger points and hook my fingers into the trigger points in each of my calves (I found some in my left leg so decided to work them too to prevent shin splints starting in my ‘good’ leg). I use the foot ease roller on the muscle at the outside of my shins, the three sides of my calves, my gluteals and my ITB. I do my stretches and I am sitting in cold baths after every run that is 10km or farther.

I am excited to announce that for the first time since I was about 17 years old, I can run my hand down my right shin without pain. It’s amazing! I haven’t been able to touch my shin like I am in the photo above in 15 years because it was all swollen and sore (there was a big rock hard lump where the muscle and bone joined). But the swollen lump is already gone and I can feel my legs loosening up.

Here’s to years of pain free running because I’m loving the joy it brings. And I can’t wait until my injuries are fully healed.

Margaret River trail run

Trail along the Margaret River

After a week of rest, relaxation and food, I just had to go running tonight. I checked my Geocaching.com and saw that there was a geocache with a travel bug in it in the bush about 3km from the B&B we’re staying in here in Margaret River. I took it as an omen and pulled on my running gear.

Short section of fire trail

I crossed the road from the B&B and set off into the bush along a flowing section of sot brown single track. Unlike the trails near my home, this was soft brown dirt that felt great under my feet. I followed it down to the edge of town when I ran along the road verge for about 1km before setting off down a short section of fire trail. Again, this was soft underfoot.

Trail signs

Flowing single track through the wattles

I found another section of single track that led me to a carpark where I had a choice of three trails to follow. They all went past the geocache that I was looking for so I didn’t have to worry about which trail to follow. The air smelled sweet with wattle flowers, which were blooming along the track under the huge Karri trees. It was magical.

Travel bug I dropped off

I found the geocache and dropped off the cute little travel bug I’d been carrying with me since Fremantle, last Saturday morning. I’ve been logging it’s travels online on geocaching.com and have enjoyed posting lots of photos of it’s travels. But it was time to let it go so someone else could enjoy furthering its journey. The travel bug I thought was going to be in the cache was there too so I collected that and will take it with me on my onward journey.

After dropping the travel bug I returned to the B&B the way I came. It was a really good run. I didn’t have any trouble with my hamstring either. The week off must have been just what I needed.

In other news, I have picked up a free entry to next weekend’s Stampede 10km obstacle course mud run back home. I’m going to go give it a go. It will be good practice for Tough Mudder, which is just three weeks away. I won’t be racing the course; I’m going to take it easy because I have my next ultra marathon the following week.

Total: 7km trail run at unknown pace.

Denmark doddle

Denmark sunrise

It’s the fifth day after the City to Surf Marathon and I was desperate to get out for a run this morning. I set off in the darkness just before 5:30am. We stayed in Denmark last night (not the country, the town on the southern coast of Western Australia) so I decided to do a bit of exploring.

I felt good for the first kilometre; a little tight after not running for a few days but good. The full moon was setting in the west. At first I couldn’t work out what the bright light behind the clouds on the horizon was; it was as though a big city had all its lights on. Then the clouds parted and I saw the moon.

A shooting star shot through the sky above me as I reached the 1.5km mark. It started white and burned up into a feint trail of yellowy-orange. I made a wish and kept on going.

By the 2km mark I started to feel my hamstring again. It didn’t hurt but was warning me to take things a bit easier. If it weren’t for the 12-in-12 Challenge I might have just run through the pain. But I can’t afford to get injured so I listened to my body. I walked for about 100m before slowly jogging again to the 3km mark. At 3km I decided to again walk about 100m to rest the hamstring before running again.

At 3.8km I decided to call my run off. The hamstring wasn’t getting any better and I was concerned about causing injury. The hamstring is such a big and powerful muscle that I’m sure I could hurt it pretty badly and that it will take a long time to heal if I do.

I found the Bibbulmun Track along the waterfront and followed it back to the B&B I was staying at. It was a gorgeous flat 3.5km walk along the Track. I watched the sun come up over the inlet, and listened to the frogs and birds singing their morning songs.

I won’t be running again until I see my physio on Tuesday. I won’t loose fitness over the next few days but will put myself out of action if I pull or tear the hamstring. I guess that’s part of this challenge for me – learning to listen to my body and to take care of it properly.

Total: 3.8km slow run and 3.5km walk.

Post marathon stuff

Holiday snap: Fremantle Markets

I thoroughly enjoyed my marathon on Sunday and am still on holidays in Western Australia with my partner. I’ve not been blogging because I’m spending quality time with my partner.

I’m feeling really good after my marathon. Immediately after the race I stood thigh-deep in the icy cold ocean and then I sat in a cold bath when I returned to my hotel. The cold water treatment seems to have helped a lot because I have none of the leg soreness that I had after my first 50km trail run. The next morning after the marathon my body felt great again.

The only exception is my right hamstring. I have a light strain in it so am resting this week to give it a chance to recover. I bought an ice brick so have been using that yesterday and today to try to speed the recovery of the strain. I’m keeping off the hamstring as much as I can but we’re driving around for a few days and I need my right leg to operate the car’s controls, so I can’t totally rest it.

Holiday snap: South Beach, Fremantle

If it weren’t for the hamstring strain I’d be back out running already today, just two days post marathon. But perhaps this is my body’s way of making sure I rest to fully recover from my effort before preparing for my next 12-in-12 Challenge event, which is just 17 days away. I’m not too concerned about the hamstring strain. It’s only light and there’s no swelling. Besides, my physio is a miracle worker so he’ll get me right as rain.

Holiday snap: Swan Valley

I’ll probably not post a lot until I return back home to Brisbane next week unless I go out running. But don’t fear, I’m still alive. I’m just enjoying my vacation with my partner. We’ve been eating lots of delicious food and finding a few geocaches while we’re out driving.

Holiday snap: Canola fields near Williams

Enjoy your weeks and I will be back blogging either when I am able to run again or when I am back in Brisbane on Monday, whichever comes sooner.

City to Surf Marathon, Perth

Today I ran my first marathon. And I’m proud to say that I completed it in just under 4:17. It’s also my second 12-in-12 Challenge event. I’m a little tired so I’m going to be lazy and just post some photos and videos, rather that typing a lot of words. I hope you don’t mind.

Pre-race breakfast salad

I started the day with a delicious breakfast of salad. I’m finding my body loves being fueled this way. Today’s salad was mesculin lettuce mix, spinach, carrots, beetroot, broccoli stems, slivered almonds and macadamias with a creamy garlic dressing.

I got to go into the ‘marathon’ room

The marshalling room at about 5:15am

I got the marshalling area 15 minutes early, which left me time to calm my nerves with some Qi Gong.

1,201 marathon runners walking to the start

One of the cool costumed runners

It was a long walk to the start line and everyone was chatting nervously to randoms.

Robert de Castella’s motivating and rousing speech at the start of the marathon. I also filmed myself crossing the start line. I was so nervous that I had to stop about 500m down the road at my hotel to use the bathroom in the lobby for a nervous wee.

The view back to Perth at the 12km mark

The run along the river with the sun coming up was amazing!

Somewhere around the 17km mark. I was loving life at this point and running at about 5:40 pace.

I ran through the halfway point (half marathon) at 2:00.53. That’s pretty good for me.

The top of The Terrace at 22km

The 5km from the river, through the half-way point and up to King’s Park were all uphill. But then we got to enjoy running along the boulevard of gum trees that I love so much.

The half marathon runners joined us as we ran through King’s Park. It was tough because they were still fresh and were running so quickly compared with us marathoners. To be honest, it was almost disheartening. Then, just before the 32km mark, as we left King’s Park, the 12km runners came heading up the hill. I felt so emotional when it happened because here I was, settling into my own little world of pleasure and pain when suddenly I became part of something so much bigger. The sound of the tens of thousands of foot steps was surreal.

I won’t lie: I struggled from about 32km onwards. I started needing to walk a lot more; largely because my right hamstring was tight and two toes on my left foot were stinging. But I made it a power walk and still maintained a fairly positive attitude. I didn’t want to get negative like some of the runners around me.

From 37km on I started counting down the kilometres by texting both my partner and a running club friend. It made it seem so real.

And then, at 40km, just when I thought I was almost there, the course had a nasty surprise of four big hills. You can tell the marathoners in this clip: we are the people walking or shuffling. The other runners are the half marathoners.

And then I finished! This was my first marathon. I almost feinted when I crossed the line and struggled to keep my feet. The recovery tent was a long way from the finish line and I couldn’t make it. I lay down and it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears. I asked two medics for help getting water but they just told me to stand up and walk to the recovery tent. I don’t think they realised that I was in mild trouble. But perhaps they weren’t runners.

My post-race pile of mess

City Beach Perth after the race

After I spent some time in the recovery tent (I eventually got there but it was touch and go), my partner and I walked to nearby City Beach. She waited patiently while I went down to the water and stood thigh deep in the icy cold ocean as a pseudo ice bath.

We then caught the free shuttle bus back to Perth CBD. While waiting in the queue I needed to use a toilet to urinate urgently (for the millionth time since finishing). The bus monitor man got all angry with me telling me that the toilet I used was for staff only. I simply told him that had I not used the bathroom I would have urinated on his bus. He got angry with me so I walked off. I wish I’d taken the inappropriately behaved man’s name because I would have reported him to TransPerth for his behaviour. There were no other toilets anywhere and it really was a matter of use a toilet or wet my pants. And given that I do not have a penis, I can’t just find the nearest tree.

All in all, it was a brilliant event. I had a fantastic run and surprised myself with my time.

Total: Marathon run in 4:17 (gun time)

One final run and packet pick up

Perth Royal Yacht Club, Fremantle Annex

My body woke me again at 2:30am and then at 3am. But I manage to go back to sleep until just before 5am, when I decided to step outside and head off for one final pre-marathon run.

Stars shone in the sky as I ran down to Fremantle’s fishing boat harbour. The town was quiet but for cleaners and street sweepers tidying up after last night’s Friday night excesses. It’s a scene that I’ve seen repeated in cities around the world where I’ve run or walked in the early hours of Saturday mornings; something that binds us all together.

I ran to the end of the Mew Street harbour wall and found the ‘Evans Above geocache (GC2KZZV). While there, I marvelled at the expensive boats moored in the Perth Royal Yacht Club, Fremantle Annex marina under lights. I took a cute little travel bug from the geocache, which has traveled from the US through the Middle East and SubContinent; I’ll move it along throughout my travels here in Western Australia.

From Mew Street I ran to the Round House and down to the Fremantle Passenger Ferry Terminal where I found two more geocaches. My run was very light today. I just ran slowly from cache to cache, not wanting to overdo it on the day before my first marathon (and second 12-in-12 Challenge event).As I ran back down South Terrace I had a giggle at the cyclists sitting at one of the many cafes. They were all wearing their lycra outfits but had clearly not yet been out cycling because none of their bikes had lights on them (the sun was not yet up).

Breakfast of champions

I have recently started eating salads for breakfast. I was inspired to try this dietary change after reading Born to Run. Despite being away on holidays, I am still eating my salads because without them I actually feel pretty ordinary. The other bonus (as mentioned in Born to Run) is that I know I am getting my five serves of vegetables a day. Today’s salad is mesculin lettuce mix, spinach, carrots, beetroot, broccoli stems, macadamias, slivered almonds and a creamy garlic dressing.

Packet pick up … I’m number 550

I wrote a sign for my partner to hold up

After breakfast my partner and I made our way to Perth where I am running the City to Surf Marathon tomorrow. I collected my race packet, which is just a race number and clothes transfer bag. I also picked up a sign provided by the sponsors. The sign is for my partner to hold when I run past her. I wrote my name and a silly message on it. She’ll only see me at about the 500m mark and then the finish but that’s okay. I like the sign.

Total: 4.2km in unknown time. 3 geocaches found.