I am sure you have heard it before, assuming you've trained for a running race and followed a training plan, had a coach, read up on the proper way to prepare and build mileage, but the old saying holds true: build gradually and always listen to your body.
I am not sure if it was intentional... Well I definitely know it wasn't intentional. Though I should probably get to the injury first. In short, I have been out with a toe injury since mid-May (2018) and it's fast approaching August (2018). I forget the clinical term for it (update: it was bursitis) but it's a bubbling of the basket of nerves around my big toe on my left foot. Basically that translate to excruciating pain at its worse.
To back up,my next running goal/race/adventure was going to be my annual Birthday Run. This was something that I unintentionally started back in 2015 with my first ultra marathon, a 50k on my 30 birthday. So basically 30 miles for 30 years. I didn't do anything for my 31st in 2016. Well I went skiing with friends in Australia and that was a lot of fun. Then my 32nd birthday was approaching in 2017 and I got the idea to start the annual tradition, officially, of running one mile for every year old that I am on or close to my birthday (I had a chat with a friend about this this year and we decided the birthday run should be within 2 weeks of your birthday, otherwise it's just another run. Ha!). So I went off and ran 32 miles (actually 33 miles) for my 32nd birthday - that's a story for another post. :) Sorry, I make that sound simple, but in 2017 I had ran a 75k plus a 28 mile training run with some friends, so I could ramp up quickly for this birthday run. Anyways, and again, more on that run another time.
Back to my injury...
Training for my 33rd birthday, I wanted to make the 33 miles a challenge and I had a number of ideas going through my head. One from the year prior was doing all 33 miles around Princes Park (about a 2 mile loop track in Melbourne, VIC, Australia). This way friends could easily come out and join in for a loop or more. This is definitely still a good idea for the future. Though this year I decided to go with a slightly different and more elevated idea.
The idea was 14 laps of Lyrebird track up to One Tree Hill, which is in the Dandenong Ranges an hour east of Melbourne. For those not familiar with this track. It is parallel to the 1000 Steps track but is a wider recreational track. Also, by going all the way up to One Tree Hill it is just shy of a 1,000 foot climb over 1.2 miles. So 14 laps would be some 13,000/13,500+ feet of climbing over 33 miles. To put that in perspective, my 75k race (which was actually close to 50 miles/80 km) was 15,000 feet of elevation gain AND loss (5,000m). This birthday run was going to pack in almost as much gain and loss in just over half the distance - so quite the lofty goal, literally and figuratively speaking.
Though I admittedly had never trained for something this ambitious climbing wise, and was not finding a training plan online (or not searching hard enough) that best fit the goal. So I reached out to the fellow Victorian Ultra Runners (VUR) via the Facebook group for insight. I had read and was aware of a race, Neverest, up that same track that in the end had you doing the same elevation as Everest, and I knew some VUR folks had done it solo or as a team. The responses I received, upon asking, were fairly obvious - get out on Lyrebird (the track) and just do laps. No one offered a training plan, not surprisingly, but one did offer a coach to get in touch with (maybe next time). So in the end, I hashed out my own training plan, following a similar building technique as my 75k training plan, and then I got to it.
That's where I got the best of myself...
The first week was not very structured and really just getting in a run here and there. 2nd week meant really getting into a more structured training plan, and what I really wanted to focus on was building elevation gain and loss over the course of each run as much as building distance. Going into week 3, I was feeling great, noticing gains in runs when running a similar or the same course from the previous week. Though between the 2nd and 3rd weeks I started to notice a dull pain in my left big toe, especially on hill climbs, and then swelling in that toe later when I had my shoes and socks off.
And this is where I went wrong...
Instead of taking even this minor pain and slight swelling as an indicator of needing rest, I forged ahead through the end of the 3rd week, ending with a massive but rewarding final run (4 repeats of Lyrebird Track = 10 miles and about 4,000 ft of elevation gain and loss).
And that was it, my final run...
The next week, Monday was a rest day and Tuesday I could not get out for a run. So I decided, okay Wednesday night I'll get out. Well, throughout Wednesday I felt my toe hurting more and more. By the time dinner time came around, it was excruciating pain and I couldn't walk. I literally had to walk backwards in order to get around, because I couldn't even straighten my leg to walk normally.
So now, not having running as a release and way to get out of the house on an almost daily basis, it's rough.
Sure, could I hop on my bike or hit the pool?
Do I want to bike some of the roads around where we live?
Not really. Though I really should because it's a beautiful area and likely not as treacherous as I assume it will be. Later I found out that I could not even get my foot into my bike shoes without it hurting - so wasn't an option in the end.
And for whatever reason, driving to the pool just seems like a chore. Yep, total excuse. Ha! (Note: This was initially written in the winter months and the outdoor pool 5 min. walk away was not open).
I sound bitter and full of excuses, while I sit and wait for my toe to be back at 100%*, but I don't know neither biking nor swimming is the same as cruising down a single track, on the verge of wiping out on slippery mud, with a big smile on your face. :)
*I would say my toe is somewhere in the 85% to 95% range back to normal. I can walk fine but running is still out as of the question (as of the end of July 2018).