Friday, 14 September 2012

Signed up: Kielder Marathon and Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra Marathon

I have finally stopped my dithering and signed up for two up coming events, the Kielder Marathon on Sunday 7th of October, and the 38 mile Jedbrugh Three Peaks Ultramarathon three weeks later on the Sunday 28th of October.

Why the dithering? The Plantar fasciitis in both feet and right knee pain that arose at the beginning of August still hasn't cleared up.  These injuries are slowly getting better, but slowly isn't ideal when you have races coming up.  For the last month I've stepped off the intensity and distance in training, and added daily foot massage and stretching to help the healing process.  This has helped but progress is slow making it difficult to know exactly when the injuries will be fully healed.

Plantar fasciitis is known to be an injury that can take time to heal so I'm certainly not alone with these troubles, and I have to be realistic in my expectation of them being fully healed in the next three weeks - i.e. I'd be very lucky for them to be fully healed.  This leaves me pragmatic question - will my injuries be healed enough to know I'm not taking a big risk of exacerbating an injury in running in an event?

For the last six weeks I've been balancing the reward of doing events vs risking further injury.  I ran the Killin 10k with my feet tapped up and did a PB and got away without making the injuries worse.  However, I had planned to run the Aberfledy Marathon following Saturday and as the week progressed the Plantar Fascia's didn't improve as hopped, and right on the Thursday before the I did a 4 mile marathon paced test run and my feet just didn't feel good enough to handle 26 miles on the road so I canned entering the event.  This was hard to do as I knew given my training and 10k PB I was shape to set a big PB for the marathon.  The Shakespeare quote "Discretion is the better part of Valour", and the "Live to fight another day" phrase were using coming to terms with missing out on a PB.

So Fight Another Day (or two) I will, the 7th and 28th October it will be!

Now I've entered I can stop worrying about whether I'll be fit or not and just get on with preparation for doing both events and making sure I'm in the best shape I can be for each event.   If I were just focussing on the Jedburgh Ultra I'd be planning to do a final marathon distanced run three weeks before so the Kielder marathon fits perfectly for this.  The proximity of another big race after the Kielder marathon will also change my mental state for the marathon - it'll be as much a last big training run as a race, so I'll have it in mind not to push to hard or take too many risks.  I tend to get overly anxious before big races and struggle to sleep, so taking some pressure off may well help my performance and subsequent recovery.

My plan is focus of getting myself fit for the Kielder Marathon, and not worry about specific training for the Jedburgh Ultra - as long as I complete the Marathon in good shape then I'll be all set for the Ultra.  My primary concern with getting "fit" for the marathon will be primarily about healing my Planta Fascia and my right knee, and secondly about maintaining the aerobic fitness that I built up during first half of the year.

I've been tracking my efficiency (calories per mile) on training runs using my HR monitor through the year and know that my fitness has slipped around 5% over the last month.  I think this is combination of having a bit of cold over the last few weeks and backing off on the weekly mileage (down from mid 40 mile's per week to mid 25's).  I would dearly love to be able to get my efficiency back up to where it was in time for the Kielder Marathon, but this can't come at the cost of not healing my injuries. 

This leads one on to the question of how best to train and aid injury recovery.  Do I add cross training, if so what type is best for Planta Fascii and Knee injuries? Do daily short runs or longer runs with days of rest in between? Do I curtail specific types of such long runs, fast runs and hill runs? Do I add particular stretching or strengthening exercises?

I don't have any answers yet, feel free to make suggestions :-)

My current approach is to do modest test runs of different types to see how my body responds during the run and the subsequent recovery in hours and days after.  Whether my injuries get better or worse or just stay the same will hopefully give me a guide to what I can safely do.

While I am a bit anxious about injuries I know I'll be it pretty good shape, in fact even if nothing changes from today I'll the best shape I will ever have been on entering a Marathon.  I could do an easy jog around Kielder Water and beat my time of 3:55 set last year, and beating my PB of 3:32 set back at Edinburgh Marathon in spring of 2010 should be well within reach.  I'll do a follow up post to provide some estimates on what time I might be able to do...

For now I'll not worry about details and allow myself to get a little excited about just getting out there and running, Kielder Marathon and Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra here I come!! ;-)


  1. Robert

    I have enjoyed reading your blog, and also looking at the wonderful pictures of the Trossachs.

    Your description of the dilemma regarding keeping injuries at bay will resonate with many runners. The vast numbers of different suggestions on how to deal with plantar fasciitis and knee pain that you have no doubt already found on the internet simply demonstrate that there is no single remedy. As you own descriptions emphasize, you need to find out what works for you.
    My own experiences over many years have convinced me of a few general principles. The first is that when what you are doing makes things worse, stop. But this must be balanced with the principle that mobilization and strengthening are just as important as rest in promoting recovery. While I am sure you were wise to cancel the Aberfeldy marathon, entering the Kielder is likely to prove to be a good plan.
    I have congenitally deformed feet (and am envious of your straight toes). One consequence of my odd-shaped feet is that the heads of my second metatarsals protrude downwards, and my plantar fascia is constantly under excess tension just behind the metatarsal heads. Although if have never had PF in the classic location near the heel, I am very susceptible to chronic inflammation of the fascia behind the MT heads. In Dec 2000 I trod on a sharp stone at just the wrong spot and suffered fasciitis at the site for 8 years. For years I assumed I would never again walk barefoot on a hard floor without wincing in pain.
    Over the years I tried many things and did learn a few tricks. Most important was that provided I warmed up slowly and mobilised the fascia well, I could in fact run with much less pain than I could walk. The second lesson was that placing variously shaped gel inserts under the arch so as to prevent the arch flattening fully did provide relief, but this was no panacea. The third thing was that getting into the habit of moving the small muscles of my feet in all the ways that they can possible move while seated at my desk appeared to promote a gradual resolution of the problem – after eight years. In Feb 2008 I trod on a stone under the left 2nd MT head and that problem lasted 3 years – pain on the two sides actually overlapped in 2008. But looking back, I realise that these problems with fasciitis have not appreciably curtailed my running at all, simply because by mobilising the fascia well I could run with less pain than I could walk. For over a year I have been pain free, both walking and running, though even as I type this, I am flexing and extending my toes to keep the fascia flexible. I hope your problems are nowhere near as enduring as mine.
    Good luck for Kielder and for the Jedburgh Three Peaks.

    1. I wriggle my toes in appreciation of the suggestions in your comment ;-)

      Sorry to hear that you've struggled with plantar fasciitis as well and in particular for how long you've had to endure the discomfort. Makes me wonder if other things might have been hindering the repair process.

      My feet and knee has been slowly improving. I took two days off running while the recent storm was raging and hoped that the extra rest would help but it feels like both my feet and knee are worse than they wore this time last week when I was running most days. I've run ~7 mile marathon paced runs yesterday and today and while I can run relaxed and comfortably both my feet and knee ache more afterwards than before the runs which suggests that both sets of injuries are stressed a bit. However, it's not worse today than yesterday so over the whole day my body appears to be able to repair things sufficiently. Like you I've found a warming up slowly is key to easing into a training run, once I'm a couple of miles into a run I little discomfort.

      Ten+ miles into longer run I tend to be more susceptible to discomfort so have to be wary about running too aggressively, be it uphill, rounds bends, downhill or simply running faster. I'll need to be careful when running the Kielder Marathon as it has lots of hills and bends.

    2. Robert,

      With regard to why my fasciitis persisted, I think that congenitally abnormal geometry played an important part. I have had foot trouble even since I was a youngster. I remember vividly my disappointment when I bought my first ever pair of cushioned running shoes almost 50 years ago. Innocently I thought these would surely be the answer to my problems, but in contrast, my rather minimalist Onitsuka Tigers proved to be the best shoe I ever owned.

      In retrospect, in more recent years, I might have been better to have done things differently after the acute trauma of standing on the sharp stones. Almost certainly rest immediately after the acute injury would have led to a quicker resolution. But it is scarcely practical to discontinue training after every instance of standing on a sharp stone. Unfortunately once the problem becomes established, complete rest does not appear to be helpful. So in the end one relies on judgement about whether or not what one is doing is exacerbating the situation.

      I can appreciate your present quandary regarding preparation for Kielder. There will be a strong temptation to go for the PB that you can reasonably expect on the basis of aerobic fitness. I am inclined to think you will have to be prepared to adopt a mental approach that accepts that if the hills and the twists and turns are putting too much stress on the fascia, you will need slacken the pace. But it might nonetheless turn out like the Killin 10K - you probably have the fitness to achieve a PB with a fairly conservative pace.