It’s been a while ….. now for the #BIG50

Wow, it’s been such a long time since I last posted on my blog, I suppose that being injured and really struggling to cope with what I thought was an impossible recovery, I could hardly talk running to anyone let alone sit down and write about it.

Looking around, I realised that there are far worse things that people deal with on a daily basis and overcome their challenges – if I was going to recover, it would be entirely up to me and how hard I was prepared to work at getting strong again that would determine not if I would run again, but rather when.

My niggles first surfaced way back in October 2016 when I had to receive treatment for a stiff neck, which included some physiotherapy and chiropractic sessions. I was able to train despite my neck being “stiff” and uncomfortable and managed 357 km for the month. In November I was keen to do well in our Save Orion AC 21k which was awarded KZN Championship status, knowing that trouble was on the horizon. I managed 85:14 and 3rd Master on the day but struggled on the down hill sections and both my hammies were extremely sore.

I decided to have an ultrasound scan as the pain was really bad the day after. The prognosis wasn’t great with Ischial Tuberosity Bursitis being the diagnosis! I was advised to take at least 6 weeks off and resumed training on the 20th December with runs of between 6 and 15km, really being cautious and gradually increasing the effort and distance. By the end of January my highest weekly mileage was 77km; and 270km for the whole of January 2017. I finished the month with a 21k at the Johnson Crane race in Benoni (94 minutes) and that was a struggle in terms of my fitness but I felt that my injury was a thing of the past.

During February I tried to increase my mileage to around 100km/week and broke down the week after running the Hillcrest 21km in 89:41. I took another 3 weeks off and tried again, building up from 70km – 125km in an attempt to prepare for the OMTOM. The 2017 OMTOM was probably the toughest race I have ever had to endure. Whatever “imbalances” I had been struggling with, combined with managing to run through by compensating for a weakness in one area & loading somewhere else, hit me hard at around the 40km mark. I hobbled home in 4 hrs 16 mins with a very sore left foot and a bruised ego, my slowest time ever at this race.

Despite this setback I was determined to line up at the start of Comrades 2017 and grinded out 539 km in April, managing a fairly comfortable 3 hr 16 min Deloitte’s Marathon. My foot was still not happy but the discomfort was bearable. I continued to have massage and some physio treatment and pushed through May with 450 km training looking forward to the taper and some healing in the process, aided by rolling an iced bottle and a hard ball  under my foot, foam roller treatment and massages with arnica oil.

I lined up on the 6th June not feeling very confident or optimistic at all but hoping that I could sneak under 7 hours. This proved to be a tad optimistic, and I finishing in 7 hrs 4 mins.

Comrades 2017 nearly finished me, and I was forced to take almost 5 months off running, dealing with a “mild plantar fasciitis and heel spur” – nothing minor about that I promise you!! I consulted with specialists, had an MRI scan done to confirm the problem, had orthotics custom made, wore a moon boot, shock wave treatment, ice treatment, massage, the list was endless. The turning point came in mid November when I was given a pair of Step Forward orthotics, which took a while to get used to but they really got my foot working and strengthening it in the process.

After a couple of weeks in the Step Forward orthotics I cautiously started running again, on the grass, slowly and for 30 minutes at a time and monitoring pain levels after every run. Only if I was pain free did I run again, every second day to start with and only after 2 weeks progressing back onto the road. During December on our family holiday in the Cape I was able to run almost every day; not fast at all but comfortable and by the end of December I had managed a couple of 20 km runs – progress at last.

I’m feeling optimistic about 2018 and would really love to strive to achieving the goal of completing my 20th Two Oceans voyage and 30th Comrades Marathon in the same year, hence the #BIG50. I have already had a highlight for the year in running my first race ever with my eldest son, Luke, who managed a PB at the McCarthy 21km in Pretoria a couple of weeks back (sub 94 minutes). I’m looking forward to many more races with him and who knows, maybe a Comrades side by side.

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My January log book was pleasing, managing 430 km – including a sprinkling of speed and hill work, something I haven’t done in a few years. I’ll post some more updates and stories in the near future. If you don’t already, follow me on Strava, Twitter, etc. and I hope to see some of you at the races or out on the road training!

Train smarter not harder,

Shaun