Welcome to 2017 this is going to be a marvellous year, I turn 55 and all going well in September I will be running across America.
2016 wasn’t exactly the best year for me in terms of running but on the positive side it has given my joints a proper rest (something I haven’t done for years) and more time to enjoy my family, perfect.
Last year began with the Ice Ultra in Sweden a 230km self sufficiency race over 5 days. My trainer Ray Zahab was insistent that there was to be no more racing as I had to focus on my Transcon that originally was due to kick off on the 6th September. I loved the race, it was the first cold event I have done since the 6633 Extreme Ultra Marathon in 2007. Two completely different events and the Ice Ultra although still cold was much warmer than the Canadian Arctic had been. Due to the unusual warm weather, minus 10, competitors spent 90% of the race in snowshoes, not something any of us had trained for but nevertheless made it a great adventure. Seeing herds of reindeer walk in front of me on the frozen lakes was quite amazing, such beautiful animals.
Luckily as this was my only race for 2016 I managed to finish as 1st female and 4th overall although slightly frustrated as my asthma played up big time not allowing me to run some of the runnable sections.
Once home the training continued for my American adventure. Everything was going well, I incorporated some tyre-dragging, speed work and of course long back to back runs on the road. Many people don’t like road running but as I’m not the most gifted technical runner they suit me perfectly.
In May I was able to go to America to drive the route I had planned with the help of Google Maps, together with some proper maps. Thank goodness we did as some of the route we discovered was not possible to run on, another section went through an Indian Reservation and they told us we couldn’t drive through so we spent ages trying to find alternative route (luckily eventually found one), made copious amounts of notes, took photos and drew lines on the maps we had. All fun and games but extremely hard work as we drove about 350 miles each day allowing for detours, filming and stopping for much needed coffee. We did become experts in hunting down the best coffee shops along the route (quite difficult at times as the Americans don’t appear to love coffee in quite the same way as us Brits – perhaps I’m wrong!)
It was a privilege to be able to drive across such a massive and magnificent Country, I couldn’t believe how much the scenery changed as we drove from West to East.
With the trip completed HWMOB & I returned homefeeling fantastic knowing that we had done everything possible to ensure my route was correct, of course other things will come into play when I do the run such as road closures .
The two weeks in the USA had been treated as a recovery period as my training before hand had been pretty intense, although I still continued to run as and when I could the distances were never more than 10k. The run I was most excited about was running around Central Park, something I had always wanted to do – such an amazing and buzzy place.
Over the next few weeks I was struggling with what started as a niggle in my right knee. I stopped running, saw my osteopath, began running, same thing happened but the pain got worse and no amount of taping was working. Eventually my Osteopath suggested I had an MRI scan to see what was going on as by this point even walking was painful.
Unfortunately I don’t have private health insurance so paid for my MRI scan and was told that I had a Horizontal Lateral Tear of the meniscus – not good news. While waiting for an appointment with my surgeon I stopped running, then gradually as the knee became less painful re-introcued cycling (in the gym) and some light weights to strengthen the knee. Eventually after 6 weeks I was pain free.
I asked the Surgeon if having rehabbed my knee I could do without surgery but he said that the tear was bad and it would quite quickly cause me pain again and stop me running. At this stage I was unable to completely straighten my leg as the torn meniscus was getting in the way.
Long and short of it is I had the surgery – I did NO running until I saw my surgeon 6 weeks later but continued to do my exercises I had been given and returned to the gym to start cycling 3 weeks later. I did my first run 1 minutes/walk 1 minute once I had been given the all clear by my seen my surgeon – however because he had also sorted some of my cartilage out it meant that the recovery period is longer and slower (very frustrating as I expected, stupidly to be running again fairly quickly).
There must have been someone up there looking after me, I put a post up on FB asking if anyone knew of an underwater treadmill in Kent as I thought this would be a great way to rehab safely. A lovely lady replied putting a post up about an Alter G Treadmill – I immediately google and discovered that Kent University had one. After a few phone calls they very kindly agreed to support me during my rehab and Deana has been absolutely fantastic, I really don’t think I would be where I am now if I hadn’t had her support together with my osteopath.
It’s been tough and I mean tough but I have stuck to the plan. Deana and my osteopath are the professionals and their knowledge is invaluable so however hard I have found it I needed to trust them to get me back to running safely.
There have been moments when I have taken the dog out for a walk in the forest and have been so tempted just to have a little jog – no-one would have seen me or known about it, but I haven’t. I’ve watched friends running every weekend, taking part in races and people who have also had knee surgery get back to running quicker than me – I’ve felt as though a large part of who I am has disappeared but through it all I’ve tried really hard to stay positive.
HWMBO has been amazing putting up with a wife that can’t run, bursts into tears because I’m feeling sorry for myself or gets stroppy because my leg hurts, he deserves a medal!
Body image has been another massive issue for me, I’m never going to go back to how I was all those years ago, but I had to avoid looking at myself in the mirror, I noticed at my worst that I didn’t really care what I looked like as long as everything was big and baggy, I found my body disgusting and my legs seemed massive. The truth is actually I could still fit into my jeans, albeit they were a bit tighter but I mentally couldn’t cope so had to block it all out otherwise I don’t know what I would have done.
I’m now running 3 times a week, twice on the Alter G treadmill, I’m now running for 45 minutes at 95% of body weight and 1 session is outside. Each week my body weight percentage increases as does my time and my run outside began with 1 min run, 1 min walk x 10 building up to this Saturday when it will be 10 mins run, 2 mins walk x 6 (nervously excited!) I’m also going to the gym, swimming, weights and rehab exercises.
2017 has begun well, my running is increasing and by mid January I will be handed back to my coach Ray and I can start building up my distances.
I know running isn’t the B all and end all of the world but it’s a very important part of my life, I’ve missed it so it’s now onwards and upwards heading towards my dream.
Here is to a marvellous year ahead whatever your goals.