Friday, October 30, 2015

We all have a limit

I have yet to DNF a race just because it sucked.

I have DNF'd due to a technicality, a broken chain, and a broken wrist. None of those are the same thing - in the first two cases I actually completed the event (or at least crossed the finish line), and in the latter I was completely incapable of doing anything except whimper and absorb enough painkillers to stun a very large, angry rhinoceros.

Conversely, I have flogged myself to finish races in which I was in horrible condition. My first half marathon was a sufferfest from mile 10. I raced a 50k mountain bike event and an Olympic distance triathlon within 5 weeks after breaking my wrist (both while still in a cast). I have been injured for almost every single race this year. I'm pretty good at getting the job done in sub-optimal circumstances.

I really have no idea where my actual breaking point is, but I suspect I may find out tomorrow.

You see, I messed myself up pretty solidly at the Vulture Bait 50k two weeks ago. Fortunately, the toe that needed its nail surgically removed (by me - with pliers) has healed up remarkably well.

Almost human-looking.
On the less-than-stellar side, my left knee has not been nearly as cooperative.

I waited a full 4 days to run again, but when I did get out last Thursday evening, it was only 20mins before the knee was screaming STAHP at me almost as loudly as it had at the end of Vulture Bait. Friday being my day off, I waited until Saturday before trying another run - this time on a trail I had been informed was totally flat.

It wasn't. There was a good-sized hill I had to run up and over, then up and over again on the return trip to the trailhead. I made it 30mins this time before the knee got rather ornery about my decisions, so I figured at the rate of 10 pain-free minutes gained per 2 days I ought to be ready for the Horror Hill 6-hour by December 29th.


With a slightly more accelerated schedule than that - you know, a measly two month difference - I have been foam rolling and working with mini bands to try to sort out this nasty little issue. I am convinced that the knee pain is actually a result of an overworked muscle tightening up as I pushed far beyond my longest run since the spring, so have been making every effort to loosen things up and get everything functioning properly again. I took Sunday off of training (except a swim) to go ride motorcycles and hike at Devil's Punch Bowl Conservation Area in Stoney Creek. Knee was stunningly unhappy with some of the sketchy, steep bits of Bruce Trail we hiked, but I made it through ok. I also discovered that stretching my glutes and hamstrings can virtually kill the soreness in my knee, at least enough to walk on it.

Looking into the basin from above.
Usually a riverbed, now just awash in leaves.

Down in the bowl - the waterfall is dry this year.
Note the 2 people at top right for scale.

Back to the top rim, as the sun sets over Hamilton and Lake Ontario.

I ran again on Monday, and again made it 30mins before the knee really started to complain again - not a badly as it had on Saturday, but still painful by the end. I gave it Tuesday and Wednesday off and was walking completely pain-free both days, then tried running again on Thursday evening just to shake my legs out and keep them from getting too heavy.

It was only 22mins, but it didn't hurt! I ran gently on fairly level ground, and took cornering really easy. I could feel a couple of times that the knee isn't perfect, but there was no actual pain.

This is good.

I went into last year's Horror Hill 6-hour with a calf injury that happened just 4 days before the race. I had no idea how long I would be able to run while operating almost solely on kinesiology tape and hope, but managed to finish the entire six hours and even set a PR distance by a couple of hundred metres.

I have every intention of taping my knee before the race in order to support it, and will try the stretches that seem to help ease the pain when it starts to build. I don't, however, hold out much hope of repeating my near-miraculous run from 2014. I'd also like to think I'll be smart enough to shut things down if it looks like I might be doing serious damage, as I don't particularly want to wreck myself in a way that might carry on and keep me from running for weeks, months or even years. This, however, may be impeded by my powerful desire to run (or at least make forward progress) for as long as I possibly can tomorrow.

As I've told Tanker the Wonder Sherpa: this will likely be either a very short day, or a very long one.

The only question left is, where is my limit?

Come 9am tomorrow, it'll be time to find out.

..and see if I can push it.


Go on, have at me!