Chester Marathon: Weeks 3 and 4 of 17

It’s Sunday morning. A mile into my run I’m climbing a hill up towards where I work. But it’s not work that I am heading for, it is part of the bike course of Ironman UK.

I should have been one of the competitors.

Instead, I’m puffing my way up the hill and my mood vacillates between annoyance that I’m not one of the riders coming up the hill the other way, and sheer relief that I made the choice to defer so long ago. I have a place for next year and that is good enough for me.

It’s been a frustrating time of late. Despite being more motivated to work hard than I have ever been, my body, or more specifically, my left Achilles, just will not conform. The repeated cycle of inflammation and settling has caused Haglund’s Deformity. I’m following a regime of my own devising to alleviate the pain and discomfort. This is working well and most of what I now do is becoming a positive habit. The lump is less swollen, less vividly red, and less painful than it was earlier this year when I was forced to defer my IM entry until 2023. But it’s still not completely healed, and the energy that is required to simply stop it from getting any worse is immense.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  1. Wear Crocs as much as possible, including at work. This has made a HUGE difference. Having nothing pushed against the tendon is such a relief.
  2. Cut the back out of some older shoes. This allowed me to run and walk while it was settling down without causing further irritation.
  3. Wear appropriate shoes (when not wearing the ones above). New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo and Hoka One One Bondi 7 are exceptionally stable, well cushioned, and have plenty of room around the heel and Achilles.
  4. Stretch. Not just the obvious Achilles and calves, but everything. I’ve done this as much as possible.
  5. Strengthen. I’m 47. I can’t be strong enough. The chances are, you can’t be too.
  6. Lose the excess. I’m carrying an extra 18 pounds since my last marathon. Without Ironman training, it seems difficult to shift. I’ve lost 4 over the last few weeks. 14 to go.
  7. Ice. I find this helps before bed.
  8. Walk. Moving my foot through a full range of movement on a full range of surfaces has really helped to maintain my sanity and the routine of running.
  9. Swim and cycle when I’ve been totally pain free. 
  10. Stay positive, look to the future, give back to others. It’s not all about me and my foot.

At the end of week four of this marathon block, I’m up to running 11 pain free miles at 9:15 MM pace. I’m immensely grateful for this.

Training for a marathon while working round such a problematic injury might seem counterproductive. I have always said that the moment that my recovery stalls, or at the slightest sign of exercise induced pain, I’ll stop. I have always got to balance the mental health benefits that running brings, the improved recovery that exercise helps with (I totally seize up during rest days and have done for the past few years now), with the potential for any running to cause further injury (or for it to halt the recovery). It is a balancing act, but it’s one that I feel is working well. Besides, some thinkers on the subject suggest that Hagund’s will never fully go away.

My run ends some 90 minutes later. By that time my resolve to not just compete, but to do well next year in Ironman, is as strong as ever. It has been great to see so many people that I know on the course. Later that morning, I’ll be back out for the rest of the day, this time with my family.

Life is good.

Total miles for week 3: 19 miles

Total miles for week 4: 33 miles

Total miles for this block: 85

(Other training: a 48 mile ride with Gareth. By mile 10 I’m in trouble. I have so little energy that I know the rest of the ride is going to be a struggle. I finish, 38 miles later, very relieved. There is a lot of work to do.)

Chester Marathon: Week 2 of 17

The Stanley knife cuts through the heel counter of my New Balance with ease. One moment the fabric is there, the next a neat rectangular piece of foam and fabric resides in the kitchen bin. As first, it looks a little odd. Then I remember that I have been wearing a pair of Crocs at work for most of the week. Who cares? 

I’ve got Haglund’s Deformity on my left Achilles. Without shoes on I have pain-free, full range of movement. With shoes, or rather with shoes with a stiff heel counter, it hurts. A lot.

So for now, it is customised shoes for the win.

Adapted shoes to accommodate Haglund’s Deformity

With the modified New Balance I manage a very easy 10 mile run on the paths and trails where we live. I film some of it and chat to myself about what I am trying to achieve over the next block of training. I conclude that I am still unsure. I’m happy just to be able to contemplate running 26 miles. 

On Sunday I’m back in the saddle for an easy couple of hours. We’re out for a social coffee ride and as the miles glide by I’m filled with a deep gratitude that despite my troubles this year, I have my health, my family, my work. I often experience this when I’m breathing deeply, and in many ways this is reward enough for committing myself to a marathon. I’ve no idea where the next block of training will lead to, but I am determined to use the time wisely to reflect on just how lucky I really am.

Total miles for this week: 26

Total miles for this block: 52

(Other training: 35 miles of cycling; so much stretching that I dream I’m an elastic band on Tuesday night)

Chester Marathon: Week 1 of 17

It is Saturday and I am attempting to run round Bolton parkrun. I managed 28:40 last week without causing my Achilles to grumble, complain, or scream at me. This was progress. A week later, and importantly a week without any significant pain, and I’m back again. In my head, I think that progressive miles of 8:30, 8:00, and finally 7:30 are doable without causing any damage. As I jog through a warm up and complete some drills, these are the paces that I settle on.

I start towards the back of the field. The course is quite congested at the beginning and this means that I’ll have no option other than a steady start. The other benefit is that it will mean that there are plenty of people ahead of me to pick off as I change the pace slightly as the run increases. It is a strategy that works really well and I am rewarded with miles of 8:24, 8:01, and 7:26. My heart rate climbs predictably high on the hills, but even though it tops out at 181, it does not feel as painful as it might. The effort is hard rather than maximum, and although my lungs burn a little at the end, my foot does not and I walk home feeling really pleased with the morning.

Bolton Parkrun 11/06/22 – A pleasing morning

Sunday morning was an easy 8 miler with Mark and Linda. It felt great to be back into the habit of a slightly longer run at the weekend because these long runs are, undoubtedly, the backbone of a successful marathon. My foot was stiff when I woke up, but this very quickly subsided once I started walking around. One of the things that I am going to need to work out is the difference between pain and stiffness.

Other than these two runs, everything else was simply very easy running including a few miles around the park with a runner from Bolton that I recently connected with on social media. It was great to get a run in and chat about where all of these miles might eventually take us: me to a faster marathon, him to an ultra at some point in the future.

Total miles for the week: 26

Total miles for this block: 26