Monday, 22 April 2013

Anti-taper : Ben Ledi and Callander X 10km race report and Fling Prospects

My preparation for the Highland Fling has gone off the rails due to injury so for the last 6 weeks have done little running, and none of the key long training runs.  To try and maintain some semblance of fitness have been on the bike and up the hills walking as cross training with a few short runs thrown in.  With conventional training thrown out I've also given up on textbook taper and rather than take it easy this weekend did two tough workouts back to back.

On Friday the weather was brilliant, warm, sunny, light winds, in theory I should have been resting but the days was just too beautiful to squander so I cycled to Stank Glen Car park and walked/run up Ben Ledi and ran down, 2500ft ascent/descent in 1hour 25minutes.  Not racing but brisk enough to get the HR up on ascent and to stress the quads a bit on the descent.
Approach Ben Ledi summit from the south, with views looking west towards Ben Lomond
The next day was the Callander X 10km race, it's a great local event so just had to enter as a competitor.  Last year the race was the day after the Fling so I run/walked it as sweeper finishing in around 1:30 so this year I had a time to beat, and guessed might even be able to half that time.  In theory one doesn't prepare for a 10km race by running a mountain the day before, and in theory one doesn't run races one week prior to a big ultra.  However, things have gone so badly injury/training wise I've given up doing things right and went into the race thinking that if the race exacerbated my foot injury then I'd have a good warning to pull out of the Fling, if somehow I survived intact then perhaps I might still have a chance of pulling off the Fling as well.  Do or Die!

Stiff from the mountain run the day before I lined up at the start line in Dreadnought car park with 135 others.

We had time to exchange a few words with familiar faces then we were off.  The route goes straight up on the lower crags path climbing for the first 1km.  I started a few rows back from the front, but still far up enough to get caught up with pace and excitement of the faster runners.  I know to take the hills easier but still found my ego overriding common sense as other runners jostled around me all seemingly breathing much harder than myself - if they were putting in the effort then so should I, I knew it was too fast too early though for my present level of fitness. 

The second and third km takes you back down into streets Callander, thanks to gravity assist I put them away at 6min/mile pace and caught and overtook a few runners.  As the course flattened out the level of effort required to maintain pace became an effort, with my quads aching from the previous days run and my HR up in the high 170's, I knew that it would be too fast to maintain for the final 7km so relaxed a bit on try catching runners ahead.  There was piper in front of the St. Kellogs and a good crowd cheering which made tearing through the town center a delight.

The route crosses the river Teith, the 5km runners then headed right back to finish at the Meadows, while the 10km runners head out of the south of town past the Primary School and up the Creep to Cohallian Wood and with it another 1km of climbing up to the half way point where a lone piper spurred us on.  I check my watch I go through the half way point in 22 minutes as the half way point was at the top of the second hill, and only one more hill left figured that I should be able to get under my target time of 45 minutes.

The next 1km was a fast one descending down to Cohallian wood car park, then next two km's are initial flat then rising as one skirts underneath Samson's stone.  A short undulating descent then takes you down to Bochastle carpark and across the road to join the cycle path for that takes you back to Callander and the finish.   The mile along the cycle path is flat with a slightly overall descent so is fast, despite my attempts to muster an increase in tempo in the last mile I can't catch the runners ahead. My last mile was completed in 6:20 so I wasn't sloughing.

Once you cross the river Teith it's only 100m's to go but you can't see the finish through the trees, instead you turn right and pop out into the Meadows with just 20m last to the line.  My wife and girls cheer me on and greet me at the finish, while I stagger a bit incoherently and rather out of breath.  My final time was 42:13, 16th overall and 7th male vet.

The time was way faster than I expected to do on such a hilly route (580ft according to my gps phone app), with fatigued legs from the day before and very little running in the previous 6 weeks let alone anything resembling like race specific preparation.   My calf and quad injuries were not at all evident, but the problem in my left forefoot was still evident, not enough to slow me down but not a confidence builder given the the imminence of the Fling.  Overall a great run, on flatter course I would likely have gone under 40 minutes - not far off my PB so despite my dreadful last 6 weeks training wise it does look like I still have maintained a descent level of aerobic fitness.

Following the 10km a 1km fun run was held within the confines of the Callander Meadows park.

I and rest of the parents were rather taken a back by the sheer pace of the children that tore off at 6min/mile pace - the winner, a P4, maintained the pace this pace all the way to the end. 

My wife and follow helpers took Herbert the Hungry Caterpillar for a walk while my two eldest girls run together finishing well ahead of Herbert.

Thanks to the floods over previous two days the route was a bit damp in places but this seemed to just cause more hilarity as everyone splashed through the remaining puddles. 

The atmosphere was excellent, and while the wind was a little cold the rain stayed off and the sun even tried it best to squeeze through occasionally.  The BBQ at the finish was welcome addition to the prize giving, where. No surprises with the winners, last year's winner Prasad Presad retained his title in 34:14 while Elke Presad won the ladies race in 40:42.

Skidaddle have posted the race results up their facebook page, but it mixed in the 5km and 10km results making it a bit awkward to see the individual race placing, so I did a sort on the race category, attached is the resulting race result spreadsheet (in Open Document spreadsheet format.)

Epilogue: Reflection on prospects for Fling

Two hard runs in less 24 hours left me pretty stiff and fatigued and as there was a visiting sports message therapist in town I took the opportunity for a message.  While my calves coped well with the deep massage the manipulation of my quads was excruciating.  Two days on and my quads and hamstrings are still tender, more Continued Muscle Soreness Syndrome rather than the usual DOMS.  I'm pretty sure the level of discomfort is far more down to the massage than the back to back hard runs, but it all feels like it's all going to settle down nicely as the week progresses.

Today I went to my Physio to get her opinion on the lingering injury to my left forefoot and how fool hardly it would be to run on the injury.  The diagnosis was a bone bruise to lower/front of my metatarsal heads.  I believe the injury was caused back in March by running too my miles in my worm out Trailroc 245's.  After 800 miles the mid-sole had become compressed and eventually creased underneath the forefoot causing a very local hot spot of pressure on the front on my metatarsal heads.

I had done the right thing my cross training and getting new shoes but looks like adding in hill walking with running descents probably enough stress to hold back full healing.  Had I stopped all weight bearing training perhaps I might have been well on the road to recovery now.  However, without the hills I'm pretty sure the rest of my running capability will have suffered so it's rather been a case of be between a rock and hard place with training.

The big topic for today's session with the Physio was how likely was I to cause more serious damage to my foot my running the Fling in 5 days time.  Looks like the risk is there, but the nature of the injury looks like a stress fracture isn't imminent.  Most likely will be that I will set back my recovery but if I'm sensible and pull out if discomfort increases too much then it should be able to manage the risk.  My Physio recommend getting some Full Strike Sorbothane insoles for the race and carry my original soles with me as backup, and to not run this week.

I have an old pair of Sorbathan insoles that are a half size too small for the Trailroc's but might experiment with these to see if they are comfortable.  Without running this week it's kinda hard to know how well they might work though...

So where does this leave me?  We'll I'm still torn about the risks of running a 53mile ultra with little mileage in my legs over the preceding 7 weeks.  My longest runs this year were a series of hilly 15 milers back in February and early March - these went really well.  However, my planned marathon and 30+ mile training runs were pencilled in for late March early April but instead the furthest I've run has been 10miles.

Part of my thinks I'm crazy to consider running the Fling, but also other parts of me just loved the race last year and want to be back, and another part of me - the mad scientist just wants to know what happens to my body when doing a long race with such sub par training.  Given my lack of long runs finishing under my 10:46 time of last year is out of the window, simply finishing in one piece will be a great challenge.

To run or not to run, that is the question? I welcome opinions :-)

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