“We suffer to survive. Are we desperate creatures crawling in the dirt? Or are we lonely preachers hiding our beating hearts? We sow the wind and reap the storm. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. No future’s written. There’s endless possibility. We suffer to survive. If hope is a prison, then maybe faith will set me free.”
Honestly, “Holy Hell” by Architects is one of those albums that comes around every five to ten years that just leaves me mesmerized and in awe by its deep lyricism and instrumental complexity. I seriously have not listened to an album this much in a long time. The quote above is the opening sections of the song “Damnation” from that album. I really like the opening line, “we suffer to survive”, as a metaphor for coming off an injury. In a sort of masochistic way, one of my favourite parts about distance running is the suffering that comes with training and racing but suffering also can relate to injury. I guess one can say that injuries lead to suffering when trying to run through it or having to struggle with not being able to do something you love everyday. In my last blog post, I was deep into the longest injury stint that I had ever dealt with. I ended up being out from running for the duration of February and part of March. I have been blessed with few injuries as a runner but truth be told being out for a little over a month was something I was not used to and honestly not sure how to cope with.
With the IAU Trail World Championships coming up at the start of June, I began to get desperate to get back to training. For the duration of this injury as well as when I started to return to training, I was secluded and hidden from things like social media or any running related thing. Starting training again after an injury is odd. The first few runs back I felt like I was a new born child taking their first steps. Determined, but trying to be cautious as I felt fragile. My lack of cross training seemed to be a poor choice on my part but I could not stand running in the pool or biking for any lengthy stretch of time. Despite this, I was kicking myself for not cross training for at least two hours everyday. I should have paid more attention to my diet and cut back on my usual massive portions but I did not and there was nothing I could do now but learn how to handle injuries better next time.
My first week back of training was extremely minimal, just 42.8k with a lot of strength exercises to work on my posterior tibialis dysfunction. Every now and then I would feel a twinge in my ankle in the same spot but it was always pretty dull and nothing that was painful. I remained cautiously optimistic in my second week back, running 92.8k with a 20k run with some of the Backroads Bandits on the Sunday. After two weeks of low, all easy mileage, I decided to try a workout on my third week back. All I will say is wow, it was awful. I could barely muster up 12 minutes at a pace that would be slower than half marathon pace. It was definitely a wake-up call but I got in a 25k run that week and hit 121.3k for my third week back. Easy runs and long runs felt alright but running fast was a whole other entity. I still would feel a bit of discomfort in my ankle every now and then but I was staying on top of my physio exercises. I probably was doing them a bit too often actually, about four times a day, but was feeling strong in my legs.
Going into April, my fifth week back, I was starting to feel almost back to normal. 174k with a 34k long run and a couple decent workouts helped me get some confidence back. I kept telling myself that I should not hope to just magically be back in shape, but rather have faith in the base that I built over the last few years that I would be back if I put in the work and was patient. Instil faith in myself and the training I have done. I felt like I was almost invincible before getting injured but injuries really make you question yourself. Maybe as a bit of a coping mechanism to figure how things went wrong and better yourself for when you are healthy but all the time I spent questioning myself, it was all negative. Something I wanted to do in 2019 is try to take a more positive approach to every aspect of my life but this injury hit me with some adversity. Thankfully, the next four weeks really gave me some self confidence and helped me shed my negative state of mind when it came to running.
The sixth week back from injury, I strung together possibly my most consistent four weeks of training ever. 197.2k, 197.2k, 197.9k and 197.8k with two quality workouts and one or two solid long runs with the Backroads Bandits. On the Sunday of that 197.9k week, a few of the Bandits decided to hop in the Forest City Half in London. I was not really sure what to expect but was planning on using it as a tempo workout and running around 70 minutes. My legs were fried all week going into what was my longest workout back from injury but running 3:20/k for 70 minutes felt so damn easy. Before the injury, I did 60 minutes at 3:16/k for a tempo but running 3:20’s for 70 felt way easier. The three Bandits went 1, 2, 3 and it was a good tempo effort at the end of a pretty big week.
I signed up for the Seaton Soaker 50k on May 11th, which would be four weeks before IAU World Trail Championships. I was a bit nervous as I had not ran further than 40k since JFK back in November and it is always a risk running for over three hours when it comes to recovery. I was mostly just worried about how my ankle would feel in the mud as late April into May has been plagued by rain and flooding in Southwestern Ontario. This combined with my SI joint acting up a bit had me worried. I went to the chiropractor and took a day off which thankfully helped my SI feel fine. 50k through mud and river crossings could lead to injury or too much fatigue so I made the conscious decision to not race all out but rather use it as a hard and steady training run to see where my trail specific fitness was at. Doing at least one trail specific workout per week made me feel confident that I could not run all out but still grab the 4:05 course record.
I took the race out a bit quicker than what I was hoping for. I came through the first 12.5k in 55 minutes with only a few minutes lead. With the double out and back nature of the course, it was easy to assess the lead. Typically I would analyze the course well in advance and know every aid station, hill, turn and what not, but I had no clue where things were which led to me pushing the pace more than anticipated in the first 25k as I began the second loop just under 1:51. I decided to ease off the throttle a bit and just focus on the beauty of the trails this second loop. I missed quite a few nice little views and the trilliums which were blooming in full force. It was a glorious day and I ran a conscious four minute positive split to win in 3:46:07.
My legs were a bit sore and stiff after the race but nothing too bad. I was able to shuffle 16k and 20k the next two days and am feeling fine. Being less than four weeks out from a big race is an interesting point of time. I have two more weeks of solid training before I back off on things but I am beyond excited to take on the best trail runners in the world in Portugal June 8th. Judging by the start list, it will be a stacked field and this being my first race outside of North America, my expectations are somewhat difficult to gauge. I have no idea what to expect racing a mountainous 44k but I know the fitness is there right now. This injury actually gave me a much needed mental break from running if I am being quite honest. Often times I find myself fixated on the sport but going through a month of not thinking about it leaves you with a fresh perspective on it. As previously stated, I’m not sure what to expect next month but as Sam Carter of Architects says, “No future’s written. There’s endless possibility. We suffer to survive.” I have suffered and that suffering has led to a faith and believe in myself that I will be ready for anything. I can not wait to see where I stack up amongst the best in the world.
Thanks for reading,
Also, if you are a fan of symphonic metal/metalcore and have not listened to “Holy Hell” by Architects, you are seriously missing out. One of my favourite albums of all time and I can not recommend it enough. My personal favourites off the album are “Death is not defeat”, “Modern Misery”, “Dying to Heal” and “The Seventh Circle” but I thoroughly enjoy every song here. I kind of want to do a blog post specifically about the intricacies of metal but I don’t know if that will happen as I started this blog to be geared towards running. Maybe though.