The first time I pulled out of a competitive race since taking up running again was back in 2014, at Wrekenton XC.
I wasn’t to know the cause of the withdrawal, less blissful ignorance – more confusion and bewilderment.
I had never felt that way before. I’d completed a circuit of the 3 lap XC course. I was struggling badly with breathing and I trudged to a halt on the 2nd lap with nothing more to give.
I gained a little comfort later in discovering I was badly anaemic. My iron levels were very nearly zero as a medical condition unrelated to running was leading to a loss of blood. The heavy training of course didn’t help either.
Fast forward to 1st October 2016 and I was back on the start line at Wrekenton again for the first race of the 2016/17 XC season.
But I was doubtful about whether I should be starting at all.
The upper right leg issue that I had picked up a week or so earlier in training had not resolved.
My warm up had been OK but it was there in my mind, affecting my pre race feelings.
I run best g’d up. Really have to get “in the zone” for want of a better phrase. Almost angry to run hard.
It wasn’t possible to get in that frame of mind. The injury doubt was clouding my mood.
So I was thinking more to be very conservative on the 1st lap and build if all went to plan.
If not well…not sure.
Cross country being cross country it is very difficult to start conservatively. The majority of the field will go off far too hard. And so it happened again and to go through mile 1 in 5.51 was daft from my side.
I was aware that at the end of the 2015 season, running one of my best races ever at Wrekenton, I’d managed 6.06 minute miling in very similar conditions (perfect with no mud). That day I was fit and managed to qualify for the Fast Pack.
So although cardio wise I did feel capable of a similar performance I was also unconfident I had the legs to run as well again, compounded by the injury worry.
The first real doubts about whether I would end the race came on the uphill and downhill sections (of which there are many at Wrekenton).
That’s where the upper leg issue felt weak, and I was struggling to push and dig in given the discomfort of each right foot fall.
Despite all of this I wasn’t running badly as such. The second mile was much slower but the first lap was completed and I was making progress through the field.
But into the 3rd mile the decision was made to pull aside at the appropriate place close to the club tents.
Each step was hurting, to push on pointless.
I felt disappointed but also felt like I accepted that I decided to give it a go and it didn’t pay off. With the benefit of hindsight I would have sat this one out.
I don’t feel like I did any further damage as such to the injury.
On Sunday I got out later in the day to test again how things were. As usual the first mile or two were OK. But then the rest of the run I felt more pronounced discomfort to the point where, again, each right foot fall was hurting and leading to an over compensation and forcing a change in my running gait to the point of a slight hobble.
On Monday I had a phone consultation with a physio who has recommended I need 6-8 weeks rehab.
This wasn’t something I was expecting, certainly not on a phone consultation. So that hasn’t quite sunk in to be honest.
What has sunk in is the need to get stronger. I have to admit that I think my general core and leg strength isn’t what it needs to be. I will need to address and correct that to have any chance to handle the workload I need to complete to reach my goal.
As with any setback it is easy to get negative. But you have to accept that there is a reason for everything. And to continue to ignore and not accept something is not right would be both foolish and destructive.
So I’ll be spending at least some weeks on strength work and I’ll also need to look into a new gym membership as it looks like I’ll be spending some time on an exercise bike again…