Today I learned a very important lesson. Never, ever, stop running.
Last week was Race Week here in Cheltenham. For the uninitiated it is the biggest horse racing meeting in the country, with 220,000 people attending Prestbury Park over 4 days of the best horses running in the circles and jumping stuff. For many Irish lads this is their summer holiday, for the people of Cheltenham it is a 4 day party or traffic jam depending on your age and for the unemployed it is a few days of guaranteed work.
I currently fall in to that last bracket. I’m reasonably certain I couldn’t do a 4 day party any more and having sold the car traffic doesn’t bother me, but I am definitely unemployed and so I signed up for some hard labour. I had an offer from a good friend to pull some strings and use some contacts, and never one to look a gift horse in the mouth I took him up on it. Subsequently I was employed to set up and supervise 5 bars in the busiest section of the course, with my six 14-15 hour days earning me enough to cover the rent for an extra month if something permanent doesn’t come along soon.
How does this relate to running…well with two great performances in the bank I looked at the coming week and decided there was no chance to pull on my trainers and I was okay with that. I was on my feet all day every day and I figured that would be stamina training enough, and getting as much rest as possible would be key to surviving the week. The race meeting went by in a blur, work/sleep/work/sleep/work/sleep/work/sleep, when Friday came around I was done, finished, kaput, all in. Saturday was a day of family catch ups followed by 6 hours of watching rugby with booze and another 6 hours of just booze, so Sunday was a sofa day, easily justified as head and limbs battled for the right to ache more.
And so we come to this morning, and a determined effort to get back out there and inflict damage on the pavement ahead of this weekend’s FoD half marathon. It’s only been 9 days, right? I’m in PB shape, right? I’m a runner, right?
That has to be the worst, most painful, poorly executed run I’ve done in a year. I stumbled my way through 4 miles wincing as old troubles flared anew (Anterior Compartment Syndrome anyone?) new troubles flared from nowhere (definite muscle damage in my left quad…definite, must be, can’t possibly just be out of condition) and persistent troubles did some flaring of their own (that ankle thing, it just won’t go away). I found myself aiming for road junctions as a justification to stop running while I waited for traffic. I paused to read a plaque I’ve passed a hundred times (general gist: someone planted some trees because the Queen is old) I even took a good look at a planning application taped to a lamp-post (my opinion: Mr Duncan is welcome to a new conservatory even if the roof is visible from the road). It felt like the first time I had ever put on trainers, not just the first time in 9 days. What a disappointment.
So, what could I have done to avoid this? Let’s not forget that every setback is a set up for a come back and the real failure here would be not learning something for the future. Looking at my week, there are a few things I could have done that might have helped…
- Run home – It was only 2 miles, but each evening I wrapped up against the cold and walked for 40 minutes home when I could have pulled on my trainers and run for 20. It may have been the end of a very long day but that’s even more reason to get home sooner isn’t it?
- Run short – For some reason I had in my head that going for a run meant strapping in for a 5 miler, trying to find an hour before 6am or after 9pm to get out and run. What I could have done is throw in a speed session, or some intervals. I could have done a 5 x 1km sprint session in about 35 minutes, 40 if you include the warm up and jog home.
- Recovery – I was vertical all day, for 14 hours, walking back and forth and up and down, carrying crates, lifting kegs, with a heavy weight of expectation on my shoulders. I ached by the end of it, more so than I do after a run, and yet did I do anything about it? In hindsight, my efforts warranted time spent stretching, getting the foam roller out, even just a nice warm bath would have helped, But the things I’d associated with running recovery just didn’t cross my mind when it was something else causing the aches and pains. That was a mistake, stretching, rolling and recovery should be a constant irrespective of the miles I’m covering.
So, lesson learned, I won’t be making those mistakes again and hopefully this morning was a minor glitch and I’ve got my bad run out of the way. Out for 10 miles tomorrow and looking forward to the Forest Half on Sunday. No aspirations of running fast for this one, I’m in it for a medal and a justified carvery!
Race report coming soon.