Monday 11 April 2016

1st week of rest

It's been a week after running the half-marathon of Berlin and I think I should keep track of my recovery and my mistakes, to avoid doing them again!

Let's recall the facts shortly: after a gentle training of 10 weeks, reaching a distance max of 16km, running mostly on trail and smooth surfaces, I attempted to run the 21km half-marathon last Sunday. Overall everything went well, despite the big step in distance and changing for a hard concrete route. I finished in a reasonable 2h30, not bad for a crippled runner like me :)

The after race went well too. Except for some stiffness in my muscle and sole, I had no pain or discomfort and I could walk normally back home. The next morning, nothing more to notice, apart from light muscle pain in the legs. I was delighted, already planing to resume my training on the next weekend!

You would think I should be wiser and really careful, and you would be right! That's the thing: I was so focused on pain during the event that I forgot to pay close attention during recovery too. Although not feeling anything, my plantar fascia was undoubtedly weakened after running 21km on concrete, and I should keep it at rest fore some time.

However, the next day was one of these Mondays when nothing goes right and I had to run to catch the subway... 3 times! Wait for the next one? Nah, that's for losers. I had just tackled the half-marathon, I could do a few sprint sessions... Well, as it turned out I couldn't!

A massive pain stroke me on Monday evening after running for the 3rd time. The kind of pain I haven't felt since the day of my injury. Fortunately I was almost at home but I could barely walked the last hundreds metres. I was furious at myself - I still am - and decided I really should take better care of myself if I ever want to run long again.

As a start, no running until next month! My foot needs a lot of rest. I resumed and intensified icing and stretching sessions of my calves and plantar fascia, rubbing Voltaren on it three times a day. I also got my tennis ball and foam roller back to work. Finally, I am wearing my Asics all day long and my orthotics in my slippers at home, to get the best cushioning possible and give my foot some well-deserved rest.

It's been a week now and my foot is already getting better, though I feel I am still more injured than two weeks ago. I hope I will be back on the trail for some short runs next month. In the meantime, my four favourite letters are R-E-S-T ;)

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Half-marathon Berlin 2016

Here we are... 

The big day I have been waiting for 10 months, since I first injured my foot... The 3rd step of my recovery plan after a 5k and a 10k... The day I will strike and put 21km between me and this dreadful injury... The day I will be convinced that my foot will heal one day completely...

Today is the day and I will attempt to run a half-marathon!

It's funny how relaxed I feel, picking up my bib at the event, looking at all these marathon ads thinking which ones I should run next, preparing everything for race day without worrying a bit about it. That's because I'm terrified and I force myself to concentrate on sth else! My foot hurts just at the idea of running the event. It's not really the distance per say, 21km is not such a huge step after my 16k a few days ago. I can see myself covering the extra distance, slowly and carefully. What scares me the most is to run the whole distance on hard concrete ground. I ran mostly on trails and soft surfaces during my (easy) training and it felt right. How will my foot react, hitting a wall of pain every step of the way? I pray that my Asics are still in good condition (about 300km old) and will cushion my stride to minimise the damages.

Fortunately, I am running this year with my sweetheart, thanks to grandma keeping an eye on our little cheese cube. I feel so motivated, and the sunny weather makes it just perfect. I have to be careful, motivation makes me do stupid things!

The atmosphere at the event is awesome, as always. 35 000 runners lining up at the starting line (and at the legendary porta potty!), warming up, dancing, clapping. The gut-wrenching music right before the start and the rush of adrenaline when you are pushed forwards by the mass, with no turning back! A last blurry selfie, starting the watch and let's go!

The first and last kilometres are the hardest. You don't really control your pace when you start, you are caught by the mass during the first kilometres, and like swimming in a river, it is hard to speed up (overtaking a lot) or to slow down (blocking everyone). But since we start amongst the last wave (though I was allowed to start in group C thanks to my finish time at Potsdam last year), the pace is relaxed, we cover the first 3km at an easy 6'45.

Right after passing the Brandenburger Gate, we arrive on the large boulevard along the Tiergarten. Much more space here and the mass spreads. My lady aims at a new record today and she won't do that by staying at the back of the heard with the grandmas and the crippled like me! So we wish ourselves good luck and she disappears at the horizon. I am all alone now, my foot is grumbling and I still got 18km to go... More than the longest run of my recovery!

Caught by the excitement at the start, I forgot to warm up and stretch my calves. The first kilometres therefore feel a little stiff and my foot doesn't like this hard and inhospitable floor. I did run a few times on concrete in the last weeks of my training, but way not enough to be prepared. Hence, I keep a relaxed pace. My only goal today is to cross the finish line before the limit time (3h30). Due to my body size (1m92), I cannot really slow down more than a pace 7'00 or this is too hard on my knees. Which means that I should finish the race in about 2h30, providing that I don't walk too much or stop more than necessary at the supply points. Also, to give my foot regularly some time to rest, I am planing to walk a few hundreds metres at each point. Let's see how long I can hold that pace!

Around the 6th km I meet a firemen squad from Paris and start chatting with one of them about living in Berlin. This is perfect, since it drives my concentration away from my foot for a few km. After passing by the Charlottenburg Castel, he's pushing up the pace and I eventually let him keep on to slow down a bit. We are at km 10, almost half of the way, and I am still in the game!

After a well-deserved break at a supply point and a quick visit to a porta-potty (you wouldn't miss that for the world!), I am back on the road. Water, sweat tea and a power gel in my belly, I am enjoying the ride. The sun is shining, music bands and people cheering along the road, happy runners smiling all around me. The back of the pack is really nice, you don't feel this competitive way of running, people here are just happy to run and finishing the race is all that matters! Today I am one of them too :)

When I hit km 15, right after Kurfurstendamm, I know I am entering the danger zone. My average pace until now has been an easy 7'00, I did my walking breaks at every supply points, but my foot is having a hard time and complains a little more every time I resume running. I try to run on the dirt and grass, along the road. People look a me like I'm crazy!

When the 16th km bips at my watch, the first wave of pain and discomfort hit me, and I start thinking about quitting for the first time. I see the dome of the Sony Center and the towers of Potsdamerplatz so close to me! I decide to walk a bit and lower the pace until it feels better. Is it wise to continue? Well, let's find out. Life's kinda boring without risk!

With Potsdamer Platz behind me, I resume running slowly towards the Checkpoint Charly. My foot does not hurt anymore but I feel pain is not far away and might rush back any moment. I also feel some pain in my right knee. Unconsciously, I am putting more weight on my right leg to relieve my foot. I stop now and then to take some pictures, check Milady's performance on the event page and I'm happy to see that she just finished in 2h09, a new record for her, congrats! She calls me quickly after and ask me to take it easy.

I cover the last kilometres half walking half jogging. My average pace updates to 7'09. Excited supporters yell at me to keep on running, that I will make it. I'd like to explain to them that I am everything but tired, almost bored to go that slowly, but my foot just cannot keep the pace! All around me, runners are turning red, sweating and crying, fighting the inner voice imploring them to stop, while I am strolling around like a tourist!

I cross the finish line 2h32 after the starting one and raises my arms, not because I beat my previous time (47min more!), not because I am exhausted and this is my last drop of energy left, but simply because this is a new step on my recovery road and I trained hard to succeed. Three months ago I was incapable of running more than one or two kilometres pain free and today I just finished a half marathon! That's the beauty of this sport: we may have different goals but we are all winner in the end :)

Medal around the neck, plastic sheet on the shoulders, banana in one hand, a beer in the other (I love Berlin)... I find my way amongst the euphoria of finishers to join my darling who's been waiting for me and we head back home. This was a big day for both of us. Now it's time to take some rest, since the next step in September will be a whole other adventure!


Monday 4 April 2016

26th run and 16km

New record today: 16km!!

Yeah! Another victory to my board :) It's Easter Monday and only 6 days left before the big event! I need to run long one last time before resting until Sunday. Let's increase my max distance by another 2km. It seems a lot but I got no choice if I want to nail the 21km on Sunday!

I go out on a sunny peaceful morning and head for an old route I used to like, well, until it hurt my foot so bad! That's kind of like going back to the crime scene... Spooky! As usual, my foot complains on the first 5-6km until my muscles get warm, then calms down. The weather is perfect. I am all geared up for a long run: bottle of juice, carbo bars and pepper spray for the old ladies dogs... I mean, for the wild bears!

I follow the route, amongst kids, bikers and old couples wandering hand in hand. I am breathing the early spring with all my heart, hoping this will be the spring of my comeback too!
The kilometres beep at my watch. At 14km I start worrying a little, but the last two just feel right, I don't feel like pushing it too much. Heading back home, ready for 6 days of rest and the head full of questions... Am I ready for the half? Will my foot cash in another 16km an the additional 5 up to 21km? All that on hard concrete floor? I guess there is just one way to find out... See you all on Sunday at the starting line ;)

25th run and 5km

Small 5k run on this Easter Saturday. I am giving my foot some well-deserved rest between two long runs. Only one week left before the big event... Will I make it? Oh what an unbearable suspense... ;)