Athens 24hr Jan 2018 and General Update

Just a brief update…

I’d finally managed to get three months consecutive training in after a torrid year in 2017 which I was glad to see the back of. I was really hopeful of trying to start 2018 positively with a decent showing in Athens and apart from some interrmittnent knee pain I was quite optomistic, although I was concerned about the cold temperature, always my achilles heel.

Well weather forecast said it would be an average of low 7-11 with a high of around 14. This turned out completely wrong as it ended up being colder in Athens than Norwich UK, a bitter 3 degrees!

I’d decided to go alone for this event with no support at all so I knew I had to be disciplined with nutrition/hydration. I flew out the day before and had a pretty decent journey, but worryingly I twisted my knee either on the steps up to the plane or hotel, I can’t remember. I quickly dismissed it though as most runners bave had knee pain of some description before and my knee seemed to be no more troublesone than the usual pain I’d been having.

Come race day and I behaved myself by starting conservatively for the first time in a big ultra and was disciplined with my nutrition intake. I had plan a, b, c, d as usual and knew that I was capable of better than Barcelona where I debuted in 2016, hitting 218km.

I was going pretty well and ignoring all the fast starters which in itself was an achievement for me, but several hours in I felt twinges of pain in my knee and it just kept giving way on me. I battled on for a while but increasingly it looked like my race was over.

I didn’t know if it was Patella Tendon or ligament related but I knew I couldn’t continue at that point. Rather than call it a day there and then I decided to leave the track and rest my leg by laying on the ground indoors. I made a quick call to Gill back home who by this time would have gathered something was wrong. I said I’d continue if I could but things didn’t look good.

I knew it was early in the race but I had been steadily climbing the field up to 7th and had felt energised and encouraged by that despite the bitter cold.

After about 10-15 mins rest I tested my knee out and after a few false starts managed to get going again, although by this time I’d dropped from 7th to 13th. Surprisingly I managed to get a good sustained run going, but then the knee kept giving way on me time and again. Every time it happened, I stopped, walked a bit then tried resuming, which I managed, but increasingly it was getting more painful and frequent so I guessed I’d have to call time at some point.

I was now 19.5 hrs in to the race, 167/8 km and I had climbed back up to 5th, much to Gill’s surprise who was following me from home. However, I knew all my targets were now out of reach and I was potentially doing damage to my knee if I continued to run.

Yes I could have walked the next 4 1/2 hours but that’s not for me and running was the only way I could stay warm in the bitter conditions anyway. I had been running in a heavy duty Hybrid Montain jacket for many hours and still struggling with the bitter cold. If I was reduced to a walk, I knew it would be a pointless exercise, so I made the sensible but tough decision to stop.

It was dissappointing, as my pacing for this 24hr had been decent and I had high hopes of hitting decent numbers. It wasn’t to be though and as I sit here writing this about a month later I still have an issue with the knee frustratingly.

I’ve strenghthened my legs and hips incredibly over the last few months but I must get to the bottom of my knee issue if I’m to avoid a repeat of last year. All my issues have been on the same leg, so I know it’s likely that its probably alignment issue which all starts at the hip of course.

This would affect knee, ankle hamstrings, in fact everything in the leg, hence all my woes last year.  My focus has therefore been glute, hips, hams and quads work primarily, which I am encouraged by. I am certainly much stronger.

I am determined to have a better showing this year so in addition to the races I already had scheduled (GUCR, Liverpool to Leeds and Spartathlon) I wasted no time in registering for Belfast 24hr where I feel sure I can hit the numbers.

Of course this could all be undone if my knee issue isnt resolved, so I’ve researched extensively on rehab. I hope that if it is Patella Teninosis I have caught it in the early stages so I can take remedial action to address it. If its anything more serious then I will have to hope I can manage the issue until end of season and then get it sorted, but I’ve nevertheless booked an MRI and XRAY before my scheduled races start.

I can run my standard training runs and so far without any pain at all. Also no pain at rest. So I’m hopeful that with my comprehensive strength and flexibility program, all will come good! I’ll be testing progress via some longer runs shortly just to test stability more than anything.

Here’s to a great 2018!





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