For the first time in 2 years, I’ve managed to get through November and December without succumbing to some sort of ankle injury. Ish.
The end of 2020 and 2021 saw something getting sore in my right foot, probably either the Peroneus Longus or Brevis tendon inflamed where it attaches to, or crosses under the foot. Both times it knocked me out of action for probably 2 months while it calmed down. This then meant 2 more months getting anywhere near fit again, leading to really not getting many sharp fast races in at all in both years.
At the end of last year, I changed tactics a bit. I’m ignoring the specific fast races right now just to take the training pace pressure off, and instead trying to be careful. This nearly didn’t work. :/
After The Ring of Steall in September, I ended up with COVID, presumably picked up from someone at the race, or the road there. I spend that following week pretty laid up in the attic, neither my respiratory system, nor my thighs really letting me get back to much.
13 days later, I ended up in Whitby and did my first run since the big race, Whitby Parkrun. I took that pretty easily at the start, but sped up as it went to see what would happen. If I remember rightly, my thighs still felt pretty rubbish and I was still feeling a tired post COVID, but was I was pretty happy with how it went. A couple of days later we did the coastal path run to Robin Hoods Bay which was the run which ruined the foot last year and that was ok!
By now the painfilled memories of The Ring of Steall had started to fade, being replaced by an urge to do something just as crazy, and… well… I signed up for the Scafell Sky Race in June. FECK!
Feeling enthused, I started to bring the runs back in, and then added some regular walks out and back to The Foundry for twice a week climbing but then I started to feel my OTHER foot getting sore. Eh? This didn’t feel deserved at all!
Being as I really couldn’t face another 2 months off, I put my coach training on pause a month and just popped easy runs in the calendar just to try and keep it moving without straining it too much.
The coaching restarted in November and we’ve just been working around it. It’s been sore on and off, stiff, often easing off as it warms up which definitely points to some tendonitis or similar going on but it was at the front of my ankle which is a bit weird. :/
The good news is though that it seems to be improving without having taken me out completely. As part of my ongoing training for the Scafell Sky Race, I added the Winter Half Tour of Bradwell, Grindleford Gallop and the Hathersage Hurtle as local races into the calendar, each of them of significant distance and with plenty of elevation (but nothing really quite the size of Scafell or the Ring of Steall) as things to test me out on
Slow Motion Suicide: Winter Half Tour of Bradwell
So, yesterday was The Winter Half Tour of Bradwell, first of the big local races I popped in my calendar as something to build in the distance and elevation on the route to Scafell.
Weather was looking weird, as it has been much of this winter so far. It had swung from near freezing temperatures, to a rather warm looking 8-9 degrees that morning, but with a nasty cold westerly wind blowing. MWIS were predicting a -5 wind chill. Brr! Just like with the Ring of Steall, this again produced a clothing dilemma. In the end I chickened out of shorts and long socks and went with my Ron Hill tracksters. It worked out I think, but I probably would have been ok in shorts.
The Half Tour is basically four big hills, the first being a bit of a shocker at around 18%. Mercifully, it’s not that long and soon softens into a more gentle climb along a track to Shatton Moor. I was expecting it to be cold up here, but it wasn’t nice and warm… until we swung left just after the first check point into an absolutely freezing cross wind. Thankfully, we descended quickly at the point… and in my case, far too quickly.
Overall on this race I finished in 81st place. If you look at the splits from the start of the race, to the Hope Road, which is the end of the descent down this first hill, I was the 19th fastest. Basically I messed it up.
I leaned into the hill and enjoyed it. It felt great, not hard, just nice and fast. However, it’s bloody -11% and each stride was hammering my quads. Not that I was feeling it…
I got to Hope Rd, dibbed out (the road is busy here so there is a time out and in check in point on either side of the road) and pondered if I should stop and cheekily retie my shoelaces as my left foot seemed a bit loose. I decided against it, crossed the road, dibbed back in and started running again, this time following the Thornhill Trail to the Ladybower reservoir and the next climb up the shoulder of Win Hill.
It was at this point I realised my mistake. I was knackered! My legs really didn’t want to shift. I had a sudden realisation that I’d buggered the race really by going too fast on that downhill. The next section was usually nice easy gentle climb, but I really felt it, all the while dreading the next hill.
Thankfully, we weren’t climbing all of Win Hill, nor doing Parkin clough. Instead we ran past the clough and up the track just after the start of the reservoir. I walked it all, suddenly very aware that I was running on limited energy and started trotting again once we swung left to start circling the hill. After crossing the clough halfway up it was the first of the real bits of the run I was nervous about navigating. We were looking to head up the right up a “dry ditch to a water trough”. Was I going to even see this or just run straight past?
Luckily, I’d just dropped in behind a lady who spotted it; I’d have definitely just run straight past it! From here the next downhill started and all of a sudden my legs were alive again. So, I can’t do hills anymore but I can downhill. I’ll have to cope with that!
13 minutes later I was back down at the road into Hope. It should have been quicker than that, but there were a number of times where I had to stop to look ineffectually at my map trying to work out where the hell I was on the roads through Aston. I never worked it out though, just stared at the map long enough for someone to catch up with me who actually knew the route. Bugger.
The run through Hope was nervy. I knew what was coming and I really wasn’t up for it. I mean, I wasn’t up for it before I started with fresh legs, but now I’d have to climb Lose Hill with 2 floppy sausages for legs. Ugh.
Lose Hill you utter bugger. 23 minutes of SLOOW trudge watching the other runners around me start to leave me behind and people start to catch me up and overtake me. Including some walkers. Once we’ve got out of the trees the wind picked up and made it even worse. It was freezing, and continually kept ripping the condensation out of my nose and onto my face making it even worse. I’d planned on grabbing a selfie at the top but instead I ploughed on to try and get out of the wind.
Head down, focusing on feet as the ground is pretty loose up there, a short descent, then back up a bit to the top of Back Tor which has a fab rocky descent down it. Here I could actually test my new shoes; some neat feeling Merrell Long Sky. I’ve never owned Merrell running shoes before, but I needed something for the mountainy trail stuff which wasn’t the Peregrine STs which I hated on the Ring of Steall. These felt fab on the rocky steps down Back Tor. I had confidence in each step, rather than significant amounts of worry that I was about to trip over in the STs! (Which is good, as tripping on the way down Back Tor is REALLY not advised!)
From here was a fun downhill down to Castleton, but again I didn’t really know where I was going and the ground was far too lose and tricky to consider getting the map out and looking at it. Luckily there were just enough runners about for them to pop up in the distance as I reached a point I was uncertain at. If you run this race… DO A RECCIE BEFORE HAND!
One last hill to go I told myself trotting along to Castleton. This would be ok right? No. Halfway through Castleton, before you get to Cave Dale, the road inclines again. It’s only probably 5% but my legs just gave up and I was walking again. And then Cave Dale.
I’d don’t think I’ve ever been up Cave Dale before and I suspect I need to revisit it under happier circumstances. I didn’t really see anything of it. It was just one long head-down death march, made worse by the treacherous nature of the ground: uneven and wet! I spent much of this bit just wishing it was over!
Once finally over, and the last checkpoint passed, it was pretty much downhill from here, and a bit of head scratching over the map. Dirtlow Rake was a fun but difficult downhill covered in lose rocks. Finding Pindale Rd along the trail through the bushes was hard work, but again someone came to my rescue and then we were at the bottom of hill and in the middle of the cement works. Not far from here yeah?
I’d been running again for probably 20mins or so and feeling like it was almost over to be suddenly hit with one more hill. Just a little one, but 50m or so of 20-30% hands on knees climbing. There was someone in front who seemed to be in worse shape than me, properly zombified and I couldn’t get the power in the legs to overtake him till I hit the top. We crested together and he kept walking, but the legs started turning again and it was the last k down into Bradwell.
Once back I staggered into the small at the finish and despite not really wanting it, grabbed a mug of tea and bought a cup of leek and vegetable soup and a lump of cake. I then found a bit of path outside to sit down on contemplate just how badly I managed that run and try and learn some lessons.
So, what did I learn as prep for Scafell?
- The Merrell Shoes are MUCH better than the the Peregrin STs for rocky ground. I think I’d much rather be in those on Great Slab coming off Bowfell!
- Bits of Greggs Vegan sausage rolls aren’t tolerable to munch on when running hard. I got on really well with meaty sausage rolls last year on longer runs, but the Vegan filling is a bit sickly and I ate hardly any of it!
- Hold back on those descents! I need to work out a good balance of still taking advantage of them, but not blowing myself up. The next two longer races are longer than this one and have similar amounts of ascent and descent so I should have a few chances to work it out.
- The left foot is getting better. It didn’t really complain during the race, and I’ve not really noticed it much today. That might be the thighs screaming and drowning everything else out though!
- If the temperature is nearer 10 degrees than 5, go for shorts!