I was secretly very happy this year when the You Yangs 5050 was postponed due to flooding in July because it meant a) I had more time to train and b) It would fit in nicely as a decent long run before GOW which is 4 weeks after.
Unfortunately (what I thought was) my achilles troubles has been holding me back from specific running training. I’ve been hitting the trails once a week, aiming for difficult terrain with GOW in mind. I’ve run in ankle deep mud, through thunder, hail and snow, and climbed up hills that would have been easier with an ice pick. Although I haven’t done long distances, I’ve done long times!
Last weekend was the You Yangs 50km and I was terribly under prepared. Since my running partner for most of this year is in hospital due to a tragic experience in a race, I did this for her. I have done some crazy runs with Kate this year, and her strength always amazes me. It doesn’t matter how tiring it all is, how long and steep the hills are, she just keeps going. Running when able, walking the hills the rest of the time. So this year even though I knew I would be slow at the You Yangs, when the going got tough, I always asked myself, “What would Kate do?”.
The course changed again this year, and I think for the best. I liked NOT going to the top of the hill and back multiple times, and I enjoyed the technical circuit around the hill. The first 10km went quite well for me. Although slow, I was feeling good. At 15km I was still feeling good and hopeful I was on track for under 8 hours. At the half way point, although I was starting to get even slower (how is that possible?) I was still on track for under 8 hours and I thought if I could just keep running on the flats and downhills that I would be ok.
My achilles (which now isn’t that… more later) issues meant my running speed was walking pace. I had no power in my right leg and I was going so slow that I was naturally breathing through my nose much of the time. There is a section through gum plantations that is quite flat. Flat bits are a problem for me as you really need to keep up your momentum. I just couldn’t do it. At 30km I was feeling ok but then at 40km I was back at the plantation area and it was a real struggle. I ran as long as I could (at walking speed), while knowing that Kate would be running there too. It was so unnaturally slow but I just did not have the power in my right leg to run at any normal running pace.
At around 45km I started walking. This run was much harder than it should’ve been. There were (dare I say it) too many flat runnable bits! I realised I was going to be way over 8 hours and decided my ultra career is over until I sort out this leg problem. If you can’t train, you can’t run at any speed. My leg strength from weight lifting enables me to complete these distances, but is not enough to actually run properly. Getting over the injury and being able to run in training is the only thing that is going to help.
I decided I would pull out of GOW this year. I couldn’t get my money back on the accommodation so worked out a really nice weekend away. I even planned some nice walks and it was going to be the relaxing holiday I’ve been in need of all year! At this point in the race, I had reached a calm. This was it for me! The last long race of the year! Yeah!
With Kate in mind, I still kept running when able, and walking when I couldn’t. I don’t know what time I crossed the finish line, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I came dead last! I quickly found Andy to withdraw from GOW before I changed my mind. But he told me to think about it… ugh…..
So anyway, since then I have had some acupuncture and it’s been discovered that my achilles is fine. A bit thicker than usual, but functionally fine. It’s the flexor hallucis longus that has been killing me. This muscle originates near the calf behind the achilles so it has been making me think the achilles is to blame. This makes perfect sense as I had problems with my big toe a long time ago, and it is still quite tight and inflexible. Now the source of the pain has revealed itself, the acupuncturist reckons it wont take long to fix. I am hopeful this time! And I am doing GOW! Even though I shuffle at a snails pace, provided I don’t get lost, it will still be enough to make the cutoffs.