Everything to live for by Turia Pitt- book review

As you may have read in my last blog post, I’m injured. For the record, that actually got worse today as I, without thinking, went to run up some steps to catch a train. The fact I actually heard something tear in my leg might tell you that it wasn’t a good outcome. I stood shocked for a little while before gathering myself enough to hobble to the train. Bleurgh. I’d already planned to take a couple of weeks off, now I’m doing at least that on doctor’s orders.

The ‘wallowing in self pity’ thing was threatening to take over as it had already been brewing since Saturday. So I searched for a remedy – one that would help me balance and remember that this really is just a little injury and not the end of the world. Hence why I found myself re-reading ‘Everything to live for‘ by Turia Pitt.

For those not familiar with her story, Turia (along with several other runners) were injured during an Ultramarathon in the Kimberley in Western Australia in 2011. ‘Injured’ really is a completely inadequate word – Turia received burns to 65% of her body, resulting in four fingers and a thumb requiring amputation, extensive skin grafts and ongoing operations.

The book opens with an introduction to Turia’s life and leads you up to the event. The account of the event itself is nothing short of horrific. It’s the second time I’ve read this book and I still cried – that they lived through what they did is simply incredible. The remainder of the book is dedicated to her long and painful road to recovery, surrounded and supported by her wonderful family and friends. I found myself willing her on, joining in as her personal cheer squad. For someone to have been through so much but to continue to aim high and push towards her goals is beyond inspiring.

If there is one book capable of making you grateful for what you have and aware of how cruel, painful and torturous life can be, this is it. What stands out above all of that is Turia’s spirit – never broken. She is one of my heroes – someone whose tenacity, perseverance and sense of gratitude I have often drawn on during long runs. Now I’m drawing on it when I can’t run. What Turia has been through is unimaginable and yet she’s come out the other side and conquered things I only dream of. She’s an ironwoman! In comparison, my ickle calf tear really is just a blip and not worthy of the theatrics I wanted to give. So, yet again, I’m in her debt for providing me with a sense of perspective.

If you haven’t read this book, you must. Probably with a box of tissues. Just don’t expect to come out of it the same as you went in. (And I’m really, really looking forward to her next book.)

meh

Today should be my long run day. My brain clearly knew it as I was awake at 6am and feeling enthusiastic and eager. My body, unfortunately, has other ideas.

From the first few steps at parkrun yesterday, I knew that my calf was still not quite right, despite a great morning run on Thursday without pain. By 1km into parkrun, I was walking and not happy. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve contemplated not finishing a parkrun – yesterday was one of them. I did finish it and managed to walk pretty quickly (45 minutes with 4km of walking isn’t bad) but really had to work on not feeling miserable the whole time.

So I’m not doing a long run today. And have decided to take 2 weeks off running. Even typing that hurts. What will I do if I don’t run? Early apologies to my husband and cats for my moods that will inevitably result. The only consolation is that at least this is now and not when I’m halfway through my marathon training plan. My next event isn’t until early April so this really is a blip and not a major setback.

Here’s to fast healing and a quick return to running!

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training plans – changing plans

Having signed up for my next half marathon a couple of weeks ago, I hunted out a training plan and got to it. I opted for the my asics plan which is very easy to use – you put in a current time for a distance, put in the date of your event and what your training commitment is (3 or 4 times a week, easy, medium or hard effort) and it gives you a calendar of training runs which gradually increase in distance and intensity. Logging runs is straightforward and it lets you know how you’re progressing towards your overall plan.

So far, so good. However, only into week 3 and I started to notice that my foot hurt. Again. I have spent most of the last year nursing my achilles and calf through their various bursts of drama and it was clear that, regardless of how slowly this program was pushing me on, it was too fast for my temperamental foot. It wasn’t the speed – that was definitely kept low but the distance it pushed me to was a bit too much, too soon.

Instead of pushing through it or giving up totally, I’ve changed plans and, so far, have noticed my foot calm back down again. I’m back using Jeff Galloway‘s training plan with planned run/walk. I used this while getting ready for the Maui half marathon in January so I know that it works for me. Most importantly, it feels flexible. I know that, technically, all plans are flexible as you do as much or as little as you want but I have a tendency to do things because it says to. A perfect example was my run on Tuesday where I kept pushing on even though I didn’t feel like running and I was tired and my foot was hurting and I wasn’t enjoying it. Any one of those factors should have been enough to stop me but, once I’d seen that I had to run 7km, I had to run 7km.

With Jeff’s plan, I don’t feel I have to stick to times or paces so I end up running a lot more on ‘feel’. Tonight’s run was magical – lots of bits where it felt completely smooth and almost effortless (almost!) and any pain was fleeting and fixed by throwing in an extra walk break. I know it’s a long road ahead – will keep you updated on how I travel along it 🙂

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What to do when running isn’t an option

I’ve managed a couple of runs this week but wasn’t impressed as my achilles gave me grief both during and after both runs. It was doing so well during the first half the year but obviously hasn’t coped well as my mileage has built, no matter how slowly. And while I know I need to take a break to let it heal, that thought causes me a huge deal of stress. Running is certainly important for my physical health but a lot more important for my mental health – it’s my stress release & something I look forward to, no matter how tired or how long my day has been. What will I do if I don’t run?

In searching for solutions, I’ve dragged my bike out of the garage, cleaned it up and replaced the inner tubes to get back to working order. Despite it not being used for 8 years, it looks to be in ok shape (with just the odd spot of rust here and there – probably as many on the bike as on me!). I used to love riding my bike as a kid but have always hated it as an adult so my hopes aren’t high but I have to remember that I never liked running either and have clearly had a huge attitude change about that.

Would love to hear about anyone else who has been reluctantly forced into another sport or leisure pursuit but ended up loving it – I need all the motivation I can get!

my week in running – a creaky tendon and a new challenge

I pulled up a bit sore after last week’s Run for the kids but not in a muscular kind of way. Regular blog readers would know that I have had problems with my achilles for about a year now which come and go. This week, it flared in a big way and saw me hobbling around at work on Monday like an old lady. I was really gutted as it hasn’t been more than a pesky niggle for a long time. By Wednesday it was starting to settle back down again but I rested it for the week anyway. Not only that, but I’ve started back with my calf strengthening, eccentric heel drop exercises (that I should have been doing all along) in an effort to get it back under control.

On Saturday, it felt good enough to test it out at parkrun and I decided to set myself a bit of a challenge too. I’ve always adopted a run-walk approach and have been quite happy with that but a niggling voice in the back of my head has recently started to ask ‘why’? I wondered if, deep down, I run-walk because I’m scared of failing if I just try to run. So I set myself the challenge of running as far as I could before I felt the need to walk. To my astonishment, I made it 3km before even thinking about walking. The last 2km, I did my usual run-walk intervals but felt pretty good and proud of myself crossing the line. I’m still a fan of the run-walk approach but feel like I’ve got options now and aren’t just doing it because I can’t just run. And, foot willing, it’s given me something new to aim for in my runs this week.

born to run

I recently blogged about my running wishlist and was very lucky to get some of these for Christmas, including the book ‘Born to run‘ from my lovely friend.

Having just finished reading it, I’m finding it hard to put into words how I feel about it and how amazing a book it is. However, for the benefit of any of you who haven’t read it yet, I’ll try.

McDougall writes about his own experiences with running and injury – an all too familiar tale which I instantly identified with, as I’m sure every runner will. His quest to find the answer to the question ‘Why does my foot hurt?’ leads to an incredible tale about the Tarahumara people of Mexico. These incredible (but very real) people are perfectly evolved running machines, capable of running for days across all terrain and without the benefit of version whatever of your favourite running shoe.

McDougall’s writing style is concise yet descriptive enough for me to picture myself right there, with incredible ultra-runners from different worlds. Interwoven within the story is a plethora of scientific fact, both about the running in general and about human evolution.

In short, it’s an absolutely fascinating book (which I finished in 3 days but that’s because I was stretching it out, not wanting it to end) which has got fired me back up to run in a way nothing else has been able to. If you haven’t already read it, you must.

Of course, I’m now in a quandry. To try barefoot or persist with modern shoe technology which, so far, has done nothing to reduce my risk of injury. I’m definitely thinking of going for a more minimalist shoe and doing some more research about re-training myself in terms of running technique. And, if nothing else, this book has sold me on getting out to do trail running, away from concrete and tarmac.

What are your favourite trails? Are you a barefoot running convert or have an recommendations for minimalist footwear?

when things don’t go according to plan

I know my tag line for my blog is that I’m not running towards anything but that isn’t strictly true. Like many runners, I’m the sort of person who signs up for events months in advance so that I have a goal to work to and, usually, this strategy has worked out ok for me. I don’t usually feel pressure, just like the idea of having a goal and planning my way to reach it.

Earlier this year, I signed up to run the Maui Oceanfront half marathon in January. It will be the first time I’ve planned a holiday around a race, the first race I’ve had to fly in for and my first half marathon so it’s a pretty big deal. As well as the fact that, around the same time, I’m celebrating one of those ‘decade’ milestone birthdays that always make one contemplative.

The first 8 weeks of my half marathon training plan (adapted from Jeff Galloway‘s fabulous plans) was going perfectly, right up until my second injury for the year. The last 2 weeks have pretty much been a write off with me managing a total of about 15km over that time – nothing like the planned training.

So here’s the thing – I’ve planned races before then been unable to run through illness, lack of training or life, generally, getting in the way. And I’ve always been ok with that. Ultimately, I love running and do it for fun, not to compete or finish a set schedule of events. But this one feels different. I’m worried that the stakes feel a little high – what if I get injured again? What if I don’t manage to get back into the training and can’t cover the distance? I know I still get an awesome Hawaiian holiday out of it but will the disappointment be more because of the build up?

Perhaps I’m just stressing too much. I’ve got 12 weeks to go so there is still time to build my fitness back up. I think my goal has just changed – it’s now to get to the start line uninjured and take it from there.

How have you bounced back into training for an event after injury? What have been your ‘pinnacle’ running events?