Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

Over the last couple of years I have had a lot of good fortune in the running game. To be clear I don’t just mean on race days when I have maybe ran above myself, opponents haven’t ran as expected, opponents haven’t shown up or I’ve taken risks that have paid off, nah when you get to my sort of age there’s a lot more luck you need.

I have said it before that all you can do is get in the best shape you possibly can and on the day be prepared to take advantage of any opportunities. But for all runners, and particularly us oldies, there is an even bigger slice of luck needed just to get there.

It’s keeping injury free. It’s keeping healthy. It’s how you behave during your layoffs and how quickly you can bounce back and I’ve been fortunate. My health has been really good and any injuries that had presented themselves had cleared pretty quickly but you know that’s not going to go on forever.  Things will happen to just about all of us and in many cases how we respond can shape what happens next. I’d love to say I practice what I preach but I don’t. I have no excuses. I am an impatient, ill-disciplined eejit. Hey you, fellow runner reading this, you’re probably the same. No matter our advancing years and experience, we rarely get it right.

Now I have no complaints about hitting the trough after an enhanced megapeak. The slump was going to come at some time but I could and should have been wiser. My last race was the International Cross Country over in Dublin on 12th November when I ran below par. Had a bit of a cold, the legs weren’t where I wanted them to be, no excuses at all but I was a bit done in. Had a few days off as the cold got heavier, but to be honest I should have taken a couple of weeks off or even just eased back, but I didn’t. I started hammering sessions again in prep for the indoors and everything just felt heavy, I was lumbering, and it wasn’t really a surprise a week or so later when my body gave up. The major thing was the knee, but everything on my right side was conspiring against me. From big toe to shin to knee to quads to hip I was gone. A few weeks with stretching and all sorts to try and sort things out, with limited exercise and as usual, especially with the festive period being in full swing and lovely culinary options everywhere, Fat Marko bullied me into submission. I have no excuses once again, I ate more than I did when I was actually running, how was I not going to put the weight on?

Before I go on I know the usual messages will come in. The “offensive” siren is going haywire. I have had it before. This is my blog about my experiences and the same way that people are faster than me and slower than me, also there are people who are lighter than me and heavier than me. I am (literally) not making light of weight issues, only my own inability to eat a disciplined diet and how it affects my running and racing.

Things got better, couple of easy runs then a tempo long one and a couple of track sessions. Three weeks out in the grand scheme of things isn’t actually that bad, a week of really good training and the thoughts that potentially I could get back into shape for the indoor 3000m at the end of January, and the 1500m a couple of weeks later. Track session on the 27th December, feeling more like me again, here we go, then boom, the double whammy, the next day COVID hit the house. We as a family had been fortunate to avoid it for so long, but it hit, and every single one of us. I was lucky compared to others in the household, only one really bad day then each day after that I picked up a little more but I never got to rest at all. For various reasons apart from that first day where I couldn’t even keep my head off the pillow I had to work from home the best I could. The first few days of that were really tough but I don’t want sympathy, it’s simply how things were and are. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the symptoms of “a lack of appetite” and I ate like a pig. It’s post xmas, there’s sweets everywhere. I set a PB and possibly an M50 world record for the demolishing of a tub of Celebrations. There was no ticker tape parade through the streets of Newarthill to celebrate the Celebrations. I have no excuses apart from a total lack of self discipline and a massive case of feeling sorry for myself as I struggled to cope with everything I had to try and do and easily added over half a stone to the same that I had already added when injured.

Daft auld goat.

So there I am, I start the new year having had 4 or so weeks out, over a stone heavier, and with a body that’s not quite back where I want it to be. The first couple of weeks after COVID have been difficult but again I know I have been fortunate that I have been able to do anything so soon afterwards, so I am not complaining, merely documenting. Obviously my speed isn’t quite there but that I can work on, but it’s my endurance that’s been affected the most. My heart rate was crazy high for a while but it’s getting better. The resting heart rate in particular was amusing, it was as if I was doing an interval session when I was just doing sums at my desk. Long runs I am trying to get back into but am I managing to run the whole way? Not yet, but it’ll come. On reps I have been finding recovery and number of reps a problem, but have adjusted where I have to. It is a long road back. But I have to confess, I am also finding it difficult to shift the extra timber.

So it’s the 19th January, this Saturday will see the second race this year I have withdrawn from already and it’s not nice. But I am running again, I am training again, and I am grateful. My next step now is to embrace where I am. I am heavier, I am slower, I don’t have the endurance I had, but I have to put my ego to one side and admit where I am and that’s what I am doing. In November I had planned (with help) a schedule to run my fastest ever 1500 and 3000 in their respective Scottish Masters Indoor championships. By doing that I felt I could challenge for a medal, but I am a mile off that (ok a mile off in a 1500m doesn’t work, but humour me). All being well though, and as long as neither my knee or my health suffer over the next week, then next weekend I plan to run the Scottish Masters indoors 3000m. From hoping for a medal it’s now a line in the sand run. Try and hold a pace, try and finish, see where I am. There is a very strong possibility I will be a remote last and with it being a 200m track a real chance I could be lapped, and maybe even more than once. But it’s what we have to do. It’s peaks and troughs, and although some troughs can be difficult to get back out of, the sleeves get rolled up and we start again. Pride has to do one. I have been last before, and it’ll happen again. My legs won’t be there next weekend so I am relying on the head to see the job through and that job is simply to run the best I can for where I am right now.

As Billy Bragg said in the song that titles this particular blog:

“Oh, it’s a mighty long way down rock ‘n roll
From “Top of the Pops” to drawing the dole
You’re waiting for the great leap forwards”

Aye that about covers it, but I do think it’ll come. I just need to be patient.

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