It's been a busy time for us all. We've been incredibly focused on preparing for our races and in that we've maybe not been as regular with the updates as we wanted. The team thing has been really good for us all. It's not a big sponsorship or promotional thing but just a small core group of athletes with great focus and a similar ethic when it comes to training and racing. We don't always talk that much, but we know that we are there for each other and that there's another level of support come race day or on that 'bad' week. We care about what we do and we're proud when we run in that shirt.
So, rather than just provide very short updates or race results, we wanted to give you a chance to hear from the athletes about the stuff that really matters.
First up we have the talented James Stewart with a very personal account of where he's been since he lined up at the 24-hour World Champs in Belfast.
Recovery: James Stewart
Patience. I’ve struggled with that. We all do when the pursuit of what we love doing has to be stopped, postponed, when it has to be, well, taken away from us for the sake of our own health.
I am James Stewart. I am a Team GB 24 hour and Pyllon Racing runner. I made my GB debut in July after a 2 year journey of training, qualifying and anxiously waiting on selection. It was the peak of my running career to date which has included big wins on both sides of the pond. It was massive.
Can you imagine how I then felt about having to drop out injured partway through the race when in a good position?
At the time I was OK about it. Then an itch developed. The next day. In fact, that night. A bastard itch. The kind no amount of scratching could get rid of. The kind that scratching only opens up sores. Only makes it worse. Like a mosquito bite.
For me the scratching equivalent would be trying to run.
Now, 6 weeks on, and the injuries have cleared. The purpose of this series of blogs is to bring to life for you the process of getting fit for my next “A” race which will be the Centurion Racing Autumn 100 in October. That race is where I intend to scratch the itch. Between now and I then I need to first recover, then rebuild, get race ready and then, finally race. I’ll write about each of these phases here.
Before the Autumn 100 I have the River Ayr Way ultra as well as the Tom Robb Memorial Trail Race to sharpen up.
So how has my recovery been? Well, it has been bloody frustrating, that’s what. I am rarely injured. I never miss a training run set by Paul and I look after myself as much as possible.
After getting injured in Belfast, and with the manner of having to drop, I was desperate to get back to running so as to make amends. Who to, or for, doesn’t matter. Getting back out was to be my release; mentally at least.
The inconvenient thing with injury is that it kinda stops you running. Luckily, I was getting managed through that. And you know what? When I did go for a tentative 3 mile run the injury was fine! But aaarggh! As can happen a lot after 100 mile plus races, there were other areas of pain which only a light jog would flesh out.
On top of that my heart-rate was sky high as my body recovered from the exertion of the training block and race. And, of course, tried to deal with pain during the run. Here are some excerpts from my training notes in that first few runs back:
“My body had tightened up badly as you can imagine. It was a shock to the system to be running again.”
“My right hamstring is absolutely no problem. Left glute and groin were tight and I was probably limping.”
“Big test on Saturday and I will proceed with caution.”
Being honest with my feedback helped make sure I didn’t either get pushed or push myself too hard. To put in context. The mileage I did in my first 3-4 weeks back running was less than I’d do on a long Saturday run at peak.
Importantly, what I did do, and did lots of, during the recovery period was to stretch, roll and strengthen as much and as safely as possible the areas where I was in pain. Not just those areas but focusing extra time on them specifically. The time not spent running was given over to these. The incremental improvements I felt week-on-week gave me confidence what we were working on was the right things. I just had to be patient. By not jumping into anything too soon helped me stay patient. I chose the Autumn 100 as my next target race to give time.
Patience is hard when you see your fitness rating on Training Peaks career south. If we take the fitness measure on there as a start point, I’d lost 36% of my fitness from pre-race to starting to rebuild again. I have arrested that slide in the last week or two.
Here’s the rub. I am only able to arrest that slide due to the fact I didn’t try to do it too early. By not jumping in too hard, too soon, I am now finally confident I am able to start the rebuild process. Even that will be in increments. I have faith that Paul – aided by the very detailed feedback I share with him – will guide me through to the right level of fitness to have a shot at doing well in the Autumn 100. Everything we do from here forward is now focused on that date – the 21st of October.
You might notice that this is all about the body. The mind was injured too, I was pissed off. I was wanting to get back to running for the wrong reasons. Also, that journey to the World Champs had taken a toll mentally. I’d lost a bit of perspective and instead of running for the love of it I wanted to get back to running to prove to myself and perhaps others that I wasn’t a weakling. I wasn’t a let-down. There was a certain level of machoism about wanting to show myself I was indestructible. After a few weeks I realised when I was looking forward to a run it was because I was excited to get out in the fresh air. I was excited to stretch myself. I had fatigued myself mentally. But careful management and patience (that word again) has helped me regain a massive amount of freshness that genuinely means I get butterflies about a session I need to do or being able to put a few more miles on my long run this week. As John Lennon sang, “it’s just like starting over.” And that bespectacled poet is often right.
I’ve recovered physically and mentally. Now I am rebuilding. I’ll let you know how that has gone in a few weeks.