Things rarely go as planned. When do they ever. The mark of the champion is to cope with adversity and make the most of what is possible. So here I am, doing what is possible, which currently is Week 3 of a Couch to 5k programme and a rethink of my early season. How did this come about?
Well, in December I finally went to the physio to get my angry right ankle looked at. All of the rest I had given it post-Frankfurt Marathon had done nothing to calm it down and I was at the end of my limited wisdom. Even cross training seemed to aggravate it now. By pure chance, I found the most capable physio around: Mike at PhysioKinetic. I first got the talk of doom, after telling my story (all the way from the shattered ankle when I was 16 to my marathon adventure) and, no, he wasn’t impressed. He gave me a set of exercises, but there was to be no running. Sad face.
To give you an impression how bad it was: with my big toe touching the wall, I could not get my knee to the wall. Negative 0.5 cm range of motion in my right ankle. Yes, negative. So, I launched myself into what is so innocently called foot gym to strengthen my ankle, get some balance and to loosen off my calf. A minimum of 30 min daily and anywhere and everywhere (while watching the kettle boil in the office, for instance). Over Christmas I was in the pool aqua jogging and impressed my parents with my foot gym efforts. Meanwhile, I started getting e-mails about the run training I SHOULD be doing to be in tip-top shape for the Paris Marathon in April. I wasn’t even running for a minute and the plan called for 6 miles. Slowly I started to acquaint myself with the thought, that it might not be such a good idea to do Paris. While I would last the distance, what would be the point of running if I wasn’t fit and if there was no way I was going to run the qualifying time for Boston next year, which is what the whole point of Paris would have been.
I also started to ponder why Mike kept insisting to keep my foot flat. In one particularly wobbly session, it hit me like lightning: I realised I had been lifting my big toe up excessively to give my foot supposedly more range of motion which had destabilised the ankle on impact, which put additional pressure on the posterior tibialis tendon, which over time gradually wrecked my ankle. The realisation that I started to get lots and lots of holes on the big toe in my running socks started to make sense and then I thought about when this started to happen. It coincided with switching to Newtons for my running trainers back in September 2013. Due to the limited range of motion and the lack of strength in my ankle, the 4mm drop was just too much to handle for my foot and hence I started compensating. While I was sad to see the super-comfy Newtons go, I went back to Saucony Triumphs which I have used before and never had issues with.
Back in Brum, I got myself a physio appointment to get my foot gym efforts assessed. The results were astonishing. On the right, I had gained a whopping 4cm range of motion and on the left, I now had a third of a my foot length. My balance was vastly improved, my ankle joint lose, my calf a lot loser, and generally, there wasn’t much reason to stick with the talk of doom. Ha! Nevertheless, I announced that I would not run the Paris Marathon, which only produced one word as an answer: Good.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a hard decision, especially as it meant that Boston was definitely off the plate for 2016. I was gutted. But, I thought about the longer term, that it would be more sensible to build up gradually and then be healthy and fit for the summer races. And also to have a dig at qualifying for the ETU Triathlon Championships in Lisbon in 2016. Yes, I said, I’d give up the blue suit for now, but hey! I’ve not been in Portugal and the shorter distances my body will manage. And so it evolved: Season Planning 2.0.
I’ve scrapped all the early races and will most likely start with a bit of bike racing in April and May. Possibly do a Sprint qualifier in June. And then get myself onto the old season plan with key races in July, August and now also early September. I am extremely confident that I will manage this, because apart from massive gains in range of motion, I got some more dynamic exercises to build up strength. And I was allowed to run! But very little. So, I decided to put myself on a Couch to 5km programme. You cannot imagine the excitement this caused!
The C25k programme allows me to very slowly get used to the impact again and also to monitor my running form. Doing this, I’ve learned a lot of things about where I take weight on impact and it has been a difficult process to re-learn all this. But I’m getting there. In week 3, 3 min of running seem like a very long time and I’m huffing and puffing even though I’m only going at less than 10km/h pace. I’ve been sensible, for once. Treated the running as rehab as I was told. Otherwise, I’m fighting for a couple of more cm or even just millimeters of range of motion in my ankle. Any improvements I can make will greatly benefit me. This is where my sole focus lies: in a couple of centimeters.
It is quite astonishing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it. Even if it’s just in the range of what seems a ridiculously small measure. But let me tell you, it is getting harder and harder. Season planning 2.0 is taking shape and I’ve got a rough idea of what I want to do. It all hinges on being diligent with the strength and stretch work. That’s easy then, isn’t it?