My first 100 (actually 110)k bike ride

Foot update: it is getting better. I’m walking, doing quite a lot in the gym, and doing yoga once a week. The foot no longer hurts to walk, and isn’t throbbing at night any more. It is definitely healing, and I’m hoping that I will be able to start to reintroduce running towards the end of this week.

At the weekend, on a whim, I decided to enter a 102km cycling sportive. I’ve never ridden further than around 40k before, and I had no idea how I would feel going that much further. I guessed that my fitness and strength training would help, but honestly, I didn’t know how I would feel after a few hours on the bike.

It was a lovely day, not hot but sunny and still. The starting pack of around 30 riders quickly splintered and I stayed towards the back of the front group for the first hour. Apart from one bad gearing incident at the first proper hill, I felt quite good. I’m really not an experienced cyclist, having only had a road bike for six months and having never cycled clipped in before that. I fell into the rhythm of the ride quite quickly and felt comfortable.

After the first aid station, I found myself completely alone as the group I had been with dropped back to wait for a friend. I was alone for around 80km, until I found another group and rode with them to the finish. The countryside was beautiful, the roads were quiet and the hills were stiff enough to keep me interested. Unfortunately, my eyesight isn’t the best and I misread the directional signs twice, blithely going left instead of right, and adding nearly 8km to the course. Luckily it wasn’t a race!

Coming up to the 90km mark, I was expecting to feel tired but I still didn’t. My back was hurting a bit (think I need to have the bike set up by an expert as it isn’t quite right, I’m reaching for the hoods and that is straining my lower back), but my legs were still strong. I had taken one gel and a bottle of tailwind, and two slices of maltloaf with some almond butter in the middle. When I joined a group of guys towards the end of the ride, they were very surprised when I told them that I wasn’t a cyclist.

It was a fun experience and I’ll definitely do more, aiming for 100 miles next time maybe. I did 100k in 4 hours over a hilly course without pushing myself, and really enjoyed it. The next day I had some stiffness and my body knew it had worked but by the day after that I was back to normal. It is great to feel that I can do something other than running to give me my endurance fix.

Sadly, I’m going to have to sit out the BUPA 10k this bank holiday monday, which is a shame as I’ve done it for the past four years and it is a great race, finishing along the route of the London Marathon. But my foot is not even close to being ready to race on. I’m hoping that it will be ok when I travel to Lanzarote the following week, as I’m supposed to be doing mountain training while I’m there. It feels good, and if I don’t push it, I think there is a good chance I will be running in the mountains again very soon.

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Musings of an injured runner

My foot is slowly, frustratingly, improving, but it is still a long way from being healed. I can ride, cycle, and drive without pain but it still hurts to walk. Until I am walking without pain for a week, I can’t even dream about running. It throbs in bed at night, perhaps because of the blood supply – I’ve read that this is a common effect of tendon/ligament injuries.

I’m cross training – doing weights, step machine, and elliptical at the gym, cycling a lot more, and have started a yoga class once a week. I think that, while I’ll lose some fitness, hopefully I’ll stay strong and conditioned while I’m healing.

I’m puzzling over nutrition issues. While running, I feel like I am more in control of my appetite – if I’m hungry, I know why, and I feel that I’ve “earned” that hunger. When not running, I get hungry and I struggle to differentiate between real hunger and fake “boredom/habit” hunger. I wish I could give myself permission to eat to hunger, but I don’t trust my own bodies signals. I know that once I start eating I just want to keep going, and it does scare me. Rationally I know I need to eat a bit less than when training, but still normally, but irrationally I know that I’m taking a bit extra here and there to satisfy a hunger that is not real, and I get frustrated with myself.

Once this foot problem is gone, I am hoping to start training again using the MAF method. I’ll do all my runs and cycles at a heartrate below 145bpm, and try to get fitter by building from this base. As my main aim is the 48km Peak SkyRace in August, I’m hoping that this type of training will benefit me for my longterm fitness and help me stay injury free. Being injured makes me realise that running is a gift not to be taken for granted.

I would like to learn how to be kind to my body, as pushing myself and hurting has been part of my training psyche for so long. It is a different sort of discipline, learning to run at a certain heartrate and not allowing yourself to go over that limit. I like discipline, and I think this method will help me to allow my body to recover better.

In two weeks I’m supposed to be going on a training holiday in Lanzarote, running in the mountains. Whether I’ll be able to run or not is still unclear. If I can’t, I’ll do a lot of hiking, and I know I’ll still enjoy it. If I can run, I will be so thankful, that would be the best gift anyone could give me.

From the sublime to the utterly stupid

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I’m an idiot. I will learn from this.

In the week following the London Marathon, and I felt really good. The weekend after the marathon I did a 20 kilometer off road run, really enjoyed it, and didn’t feel tired or sore. I felt like I was running normally, and wasn’t worried about having entered Wings for Life, exactly two weeks after the marathon.

Wings for Life is a great concept run: all around the world, runners start at exactly the same time. They run for as far as they can on a set course, until a catcher car overtakes them. The car goes as a predetermined speed, progressively getting quicker until all runners are swept up. According to the calculator on their website, if I ran at my marathon pace, I would make just under 40km, which seemed eminently do-able, at least in my head.

Things started to go a bit awry on the Tuesday before the run. I was doing a tempo run along the canal when my foot started to hurt. It was not severe, but enough to make me worry. The pain was over the top of the foot, and it seemed to get worse with running. I took a few days off, then decided to just give it a go and see what happened. A trail run over 13k on the Friday was a bit painful but bearable. In retrospect, I knew it was a problem. But I really wanted to do Wings for Life. Last year the top woman did 35k, and I knew I could go further than that.

On the day, the weather was really hot, the hottest day of the year by far. We were to start at 12 noon, and run through the hottest part of the hottest day of the year, with no heat conditioning as two weeks previously it had been snowing. I went off towards the front, a little bit too quickly, but soon fell into a rhythm with two other women, running just a bit quicker than my marathon pace. I didn’t feel great but I was ok. I don’t wear a heartrate monitor, but I could tell that my effort levels were too high for the pace I was running, and that the heat was getting to me already.

I had only run around 6 miles when the pain started. Very quickly, it got severe. I dropped back from my group, and withing a few meters, I knew I had to stop. I’ve never dropped from a race before. It is a horrible feeling, doing the limp of shame back along the course, with pain in my foot now bringing tears to my eyes.

It felt very like a stress fracture, and it was getting to the point where I could barely put any weight on the mid part of my forefoot. I was upset: worried that I would be facing many weeks off running, terrified of putting on weight, terrified of losing my fitness, just plain terrified.

To cut a long story short, I had it xrayed, and it isn’t a stress fracture, but the ultrasound scan showed a lesion in the extensor tendon that runs along the second metatarsal. Tendon injuries are painful and stubborn, but should heal more quickly than a stress fracture, and I can keep a lot more active than if I had to be immobilised for bone healing. I’m relieved. But a lesson has been learned: I thought I was fine coming out of London. But I didn’t give my body a break. I had done the training carrying a foot injury (plantar fascitis, same foot). Something was going to give, and I am very lucky it wasn’t a bone.

At least two weeks completely off running for me, possibly more. I can cross train, cycle, and am starting yoga classes. It gives me a chance to try to work on my mental state, as this has made me realise that I have a very unhealthy attitude towards food and exercise still. I have already put on around 2 kilos since London, and while rationally I know that is normal, and probably healthy to help my body recover, the irrational side of me hates it and struggles to cope. I want to deal with this and get over the negative feelings around it, and hopefully breaking the training cycle (albeit enforced) will help with that.