I made a mistake despite all the warnings from experienced trail runners. I promised I would not be as foolish as other beginners, and yet here I am. I’ve done too much, too soon and I cannot run.
I signed up to my first 100km race and dived off the deep end with training and inevitably caused an overuse injury. I’m just seven weeks away from my first 100km race, the Vibram HK100, and my leg locks up if I try to run downhill.
I was getting fitter with each week and loving trail running more and more as a result. I went to Nepal and ran the Annapurna 55km race. I felt strong over the brutal and steep climb to 3,800m, but it was the 20km of technical downhill that got me. With 14km to go, my left leg was in pain and I had to shuffle sideways downhill. I finished in just under 16 hours but the injury still plagues me. It is an overused iliotibial (IT) band, which manifests as pain in my knee on the trails.
I think the lessons I’m being forced to learn will stand me in good stead for the race itself.
The sunrise over the Annapurna range last month as I ran the @trailrunnepal Annapurna 55 was astounding. Video now online. Follow - @adventureagnew . . . . #ultrarunner #trailrunning #nepal #trailrunning #trailrunninglife #outdoors #adventure #tbt #sunrise #mountains #annapurna
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I’ve had to learn patience in my recovery. An inflamed IT band is not a massive deal. It’s more of a niggle than anything. I just need to rest it, foam roll it a lot and complete some exercises taught to me after a visit to the Hong Kong Sports Clinic.
But it keeps feeling better, so I think “great” and head back on the trails, reinflame it and put my recovery two weeks back. So now, I’m on an enforced break – even though it feels better – to give it the recovery I need.
It is deeply frustrating, but necessary. And I think it’s a good metaphor for the 100km itself. At the start, I’ll want to rush off and fly through the first 10km. It’s flat and I can complete it in under an hour. But, no doubt, that will cook me. By the time I reach 50km, I’ll pay for that opening stretch.
Like now, I need to do far less than I think I can do. I need to ignore my impulse to go faster, even though my body might feel like it’s ready to roll.
Patience has to be practised. It is not good enough to tell myself to be patient on the day, having been anything but in the build-up. This injury is subjecting me to a new kind of mental training I would have ignored had my leg been sound.
To replace my training, I’m trying to walk everywhere. It takes me about an hour to walk home from the office and it does not exacerbate the IT band.
It is time on my feet that could prove valuable when the race rolls around. The most I’ve dared do is a 15km walk on the flat. It’s very boring, but boredom is also a great training tool for when you are mentally spent on an ultra.
It does mean I’ve had to adjust my goals for the HK100. Unless I wake up tomorrow with a healed IT band, I now just want to finish, even if it’s one minute before the final 30-hour cut-off.
Now that I have learned to embrace patience and been forced to practise it, I’m far more likely to finish. Bring on the HK100.