Friday, August 22, 2014

Hernias & PBs

About 3 weeks ago, towards the end of a particularly hard treadmill threshold session, I noticed some pain in my lower abdomen/groin area. Thinking it was just a strain, I didn't worry too much about it, but it got progressively worse over a week, culminating with having to cut short an easy run while I was in Wollongong visiting a client.

After some internet research, I confidently self-diagnosed with Osteitis Pubis (I TOLD YOU, I'M NOT THAT KIND OF DOCTOR), and visited a massage therapist who had claimed some success with treating that sort of injury. He agreed that my ligaments seemed very tight through that area, and proceeded to subject me to all kinds of torturous manipulation that had me yelling in pain, for which I thanked him by paying him $80 and was on my way.

In the few days prior to seeing him, the injury had settled down enough to continue training, and in fact the Tuesday of my appointment, I broke my 14k lunchtime loop PB, an effort I improved on again two days later. The massage didn't seem to improve the injury though. Sitting up was difficult, coughing hurt as well, and sneezing was agonizing enough to have me doubled over in pain.

The running itself was bearable, with the pain at about a 5/10, sometimes worse. After a few kilometres though, I tend to be able to block it out, particularly as I get fatigued and concentrate more on keeping form and cadence. Apart from every stride being painful, it's actually been a pretty successful training block leading in to Surf Coast Century. The two 14k PBs came after a weekend where I did the 42k Arthurs Seat Triple on consecutive days, and by the Friday, I'd clocked 179k in 7 days, easily my biggest ever.

I treated myself to an easy weekend, hoping the injury would show signs of improvement, but by Tuesday, after a hard interval session on the Seaford Trail where I blitzed one of my splits in a quick (for me) 3:42, I was pretty sore again the next day, and decided I better go see the doc. Well it turns out, I almost certainly have an Inguinal Hernia, which wasn't the best news I have heard for a while. The doctor was pretty careful about advising whether I can keep running or not, but obviously once I got home, I jumped on the web again to suss it out.

The upshot is, the risks of doing serious damage are pretty low, and if I can cope with the pain, then I can probably keep running. The first available appointment with the surgeon was not until two days after Surf Coast Century, so I figured that was a sign to forge ahead. That decided, I celebrated by taking a couple of Panadol, and heading out for a hard 15k road/trail loop, which I completed in 1:03:18 at 4:13 pace. This is way quicker than I have ever done that loop before, which makes the injury news even more disappointing. Once I do have surgery, there'll be no running for 6 weeks, and at my age, it will take me ages to capture this sort of form again (if ever).

Given that I don't have private health cover, the waiting time for surgery could be at least 6 months, which means if it doesn't get substantially worse, I can probably still do Two Bays in January, but everything after that is up in the air at the moment. I'm trying not to be too despondent about it. There are plenty worse off than me, and I can still keep running for now. I'm fit, in form, and ready to give SCC a real shake, hoping to break 9:30, and run top 8. While it will be painful, I imagine that by 50k, it won't even be in the top 3 things bothering me, and by the end of 100k, probably not even top 5!

Two big runs coming up this weekend - back to the Arthurs Seat Triple on Saturday afternoon, then on Sunday morning, Andy Turner is coming down to join me for an epic 58k Greens Bush to Rye Back Beach return. It will be interesting to see how it holds up. Slow steady runs don't seem to bother it as much as the harder sessions, so if I get through the weekend OK, I'll have a lot more confidence for the race.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Leeches and Stingy Things

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go away for the night with the kids to celebrate my partner Allie's 36th 29th birthday. I'd seen some nice photos of Tarra-Bulga National Park in the Strzelecki Ranges about 2.5 hours drive south-east of Melbourne, so I booked a cabin at the nearby Tarra Valley Caravan Park, and after a lazy Saturday morning, we headed off about 11.

The caravan park was great, with a combination of cabins, powered and non-powered sites, and communal barbecue sheds where you could sit around an open fire and toast marshmallows, if you happen to like marshmallows and other people. It was also only 40 mins drive from Port Albert at Ninety Mile Beach, so really it is the perfect spot for winter or summer holidays.

As soon as we arrived, we drove about 10 mins up the road to the Tarra Valley Rainforest Walk, has some lunch in the shelters at the car park, then spent an hour walking through beautiful rainforest, including the lookout at Cyathea Falls. It was truly an amazing place, and we all agreed that we will definitely be coming back on a regular basis.

Tarra Valley Picnic Area

The next morning I got up at 5am for a run. Although it was a family getaway, there was no way I was going to miss out on a trail run in such a great spot! Rugged up with beanie, gloves and head torch, I headed out of the park, and ran up the road for about 10 mins before branching off on to the Link Track, which was supposed to take me up to the main Diaper Track, then on to Balook.

The track was heavily overgrown and basically headed straight up. My third km took me 18 mins as I battled up the hill, regularly losing the track in the dark and having to retrace my steps. Fortunately, there were track markers with reflective arrows along the way, which were easily picked up by my head torch, so I never got too lost. Also about half way up I started to see course flagging ribbons on the trees, which I assumed were left over from the Duncan's Run ultra held in the area last December. The other little surprise was the stinging plants which left nasty rashes on my legs for a few days, and the leeches which jumped on board for the ride!

Finally, I hooked up with the Diaper track, which was still overgrown in parts, but much wider fire trail, and settled into some easy running up a gradual climb. It was still dark through this section, and there was lots of tree debris on the trail so I had the head torch pointed down most of the time, trying to avoid a face plant. After a while, the fire trail widened into access road, and as the light peeped through, I found myself running through a plantation area. This was a bit boring, but after a another km, I was back in the park for the best part of the run.

The pay-off 

Huge Mountain Ash trees soaring into the mist, giant ferns hanging over the trail, soft and mossy underfoot, it was an awesome way to start the day. I ran on for another couple of kms, almost making it to Balook, but turned back, conscious of the time. The climb up Link had taken a lot longer than expected and I didn't want Allie worrying about me. The return journey back along Diaper Track in the light was lots of fun, leaping over the fallen branches, and hurling myself down the descent. Back on Link though, it was a scramble back down, slipping on mossy rocks, getting stung again, and picking up another batch of leeches. Maybe they were the same leeches just wanting a ride back.

I'm not smiling. I'm grimacing at the leeches ATTACHED TO MY LEGS.

I cruised back down the road to the caravan park, feeling very happy with the morning's work - 16.88 km in a very slow 2:30 - and washing my very muddy Trailrocs in the freezing Tarra River on the way back. Link to the run below:

After brekkie, we checked out, then drove up to the Balook Visitor Centre to do the walks from there, which were even more beautiful than the day before. Checking out the Corrigan Suspension Bridge and back through the Fern Gully walk. It was a great weekend, and I can't recommend it enough. In fact it could well become our regular family holiday spot, as we are planning on buying a camper trailer later this year, and the powered sites make it a cheap option for an extended stay. Duncan's Run will definitely be on the radar now, depending on how I recover from Surf Coast Century.

Corrigan Suspension Bridge