So as we launch into 2016, at full speed (that’s about 9:30min/km for me), some home truths are starting to sink in; in 2 weeks I have the Tussock and in 6 weeks, I would have popped my proverbial Hillary cherry and will be enjoying an ice(bug?) cold beer. To say that the nerves aren’t kicking in would be a lie, and after reading Zara and Rob’s blogs, I can say with absolute certainty, that I am the least experienced runner of the Inspirers and the only one not to have run the Hillary before.
So now I’m running along with a little voice in my head – in between the kids’ show’s theme songs – asking questions: How the hell are you going to make it to 13km? You know the Hillary is 3km’s longer again! When are you going to fit in the training? Was this really such a good idea? What will the trail be like? Gravel, mud, soft dirt? Do you think it’s a good idea to do a recce of the course, and when? What flavour energy gel should we get? Do we need a gel? Really!!!! There is a maple bacon gel???? Well we do like bacon, maybe we should get one to try? What should we get the wife, for our 6 year anniversary, the day before? Maybe a maple bacon energy gel or maybe fudge brownie? Off topic, now where were we? Crap, watch that root. Too late you caught it and … down we go. Quick look around, did anyone see that?
After not doing anything physical for a number of years, I was bound to have a large quota of sore muscles and joints coming my way. Anyone that starts back into physical activities after a time away is always going to hurt and to be truthful, it was a bit of a barrier to me getting off the couch. In the past I’ve had my share of injuries, mostly rugby related as rowing is pretty low impact, and the thought of not being able to move the next day was less than appealing. But you know what they say: “No pain, no beers afterwards” or is it, ”the beer justifies the pain”?.
I’m lucky to have been blessed with the ankles of an octogenarian, which makes them prone to rolling and sprains. Running the trails has definitely put them to the greatest test they have seen in a long time. I quickly learned I needed to lift my damn feet and look where I’m putting them; otherwise I’m limping home again and off the trails for a while. I’d be lying, to say that at the start, these little breaks were not totally unwanted.
When I started running again I fell into the trap of trying to go too hard, too quickly and gave myself a case of shin splints. Being an engineer, I did some research into ways of preventing the damned things and have since found that compression calf sleeves and socks have helped out, no end. On finding out that I would be getting a pair of CEP socks or sleeves in my care package, I once again hit the web, to work out which ones to get. When I found out that their Run Sock would help support my dodgy ankles, I knew I had my sock. When I received them I must say that the 9 step instructions for putting the socks on, were pretty funny. I mean, can it really be more than one or two steps, tops?
Step 1: Put socks on feet. The one with L on the left, R on the right.
Step 2: Go running and stop reading this.
The story goes that CEP’s parent company, Medi, makes medical compression wear and so their knowledge of anatomy shows in the socks, with differing amounts of padding and compression, in different areas. With my legs being like small tree trunks, I’m at the high end of the biggest size they make, but they don’t feel like I’m wearing a pair of boa constrictors on my legs. Here is the real selling point – they are easy to take off at the end of a run, wait for it … BY YOURSELF!!! Taking your socks off shouldn’t be as hard as the run as ain’t nobody got time for that.
– Sales pitch over, back to my abused body –
Having not done much downhill running before, I quickly made enemies of my knees by, for lack of a better term, clomping down the hills. I found myself not “using” the downhill and trying to slow myself too much and to a point I still find myself holding back a bit too much. My first race, the Shakespear Xterra, I ruined for myself by destroying my knees in the first downhill. Thankfully they have now toughened up and combined with having to carry less load, aren’t giving me as much grief. However, occasionally they let me know they are still angry with me, by making a grinding sound when going up stairs. Finally rounding out the list of what ails me is my lack of core strength, which as it turns out, is the key to preventing back pain.
Finally, there are two things that I have found unpleasant about trail running. Not injuries per se, but I guess detractors from the overall enjoyment. They occur at night and in the morning, and they are both insect related. Now we all know that flying insects are attracted to lights at night and running makes you breathe heavily. For me that’s through my mouth (due to a broken nose from rugby). So you would think that strapping a light near your mouth mightn’t be a good idea? And you’d be right, as I’ve found out during night runs. But at least the bugs are good for protein and low in cholesterol. The second occurs in the morning and although it feels like breaking thousands of tiny finishing line tapes, running through spider webs woven across the path during the night are just plain annoying. It only results in you looking like you’re fighting off invisible ninjas or having a bad acid trip as you try to remove them from your face.
You might think these sprains, scrapes, cuts (I swear cutty grass only grows where I’ll try to grab it to prevent falling), and other misadventures may have put me off and I can see that it might for some. However my body is beginning to accept that we are going to be going running, it is hurting a little less each time and I’m getting a bit quicker. I like to say; “Go hard and then go home and have a beer and/or nap”.
But in all seriousness, trail running does carry with it certain hazards that you don’t get on the roads. While running at night I’ve run off the trail a couple times and even slipped off a bridge into a stream. I would recommend everyone should be prepared for the worst, not just for yourself, but also if you come across someone else in trouble. Just before my first race the news broke of a runner going missing at a Wellington Xterra race. Knowing that if this was to happen to me I would struggle to sustain myself in the same way she did, I now have living in my pack:
- A silver survival blanket
- A whistle
- Some paracord, woven into a lovely bracelet that also happens to have a flint and whistle.
- A basic first aid kit
- A survival bar
- Plus a phone of course (I got a cheap prepay, so I don’t kill my smartphone in a fall).
- Wipes because sometimes leaves won’t do
It might seem like overkill, but for about $70 and two hundred grams, I have peace of mind that in an emergency I can be useful. So can anyone guess who was a scout and is in charge of health and safety at work????
Plus by carrying a phone with a camera you can get to take pictures of things like these:
Stay tuned for next time when we get all deep and meaningful with whom and what inspires and motivates me.