The Five Stages of Grief

It has been over a year since I managed to injure myself, and if I knew that I would still be in running limbo this far along when I first limped to the finish line of Crathes half marathon last year, I would have been inconsolable.  Now, I didn’t initially embrace the changes I have had to make to my training, but because I allowed myself to be hopeful, I could press on when I was feeling down, and throw myself into new experiences.  That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a difficult 12 months, and it doesn’t mean I haven’t grieved the loss of something I find important.

DENIAL

It’s nothing a few days of taking it easy at the gym won’t sort out, I told myself after my disastrous experience at Crathes in September, 2014.  After all, it has been over a week since Glenmore 12, and I had done a fairly decent week’s training at the gym with no ill-effects since, so why should I be worried about not completing Loch Ness marathon, or Amsterdam, or Pisa in a couple of months?  Crathes was an isolated incident.  Everything is going to be fine.  I just had an off day.

OK, so I’ll drop down to the 5k at Loch Ness, and if I have to I’ll speed walk Amsterdam.  No problem.

OK, so the 5k did not go to plan, and I had thoughts of kicking a small child en route (see the next stage), but maybe I just got overexcited and set off too quickly.  Amsterdam will be fine.  Everything is fine.

OK, so I’ll give Amsterdam a miss just to make sure I’m fully recovered by Pisa.  After all, Pisa is my goal race.  Everything. Is.  Fine.

ANGER

Everything is not fine.

I don’t know how long each stage is meant to last, but I have a feeling that this was where I spent the majority of the first few months.  Throw a handful of jealousy in the mix and season with a dash of wishing-ill-upon-anyone-with-a-fully-functional-set-of-legs, and you’re getting a clearer idea of my state of mind.  Oh, you had a great race and took twenty minutes off your PB?  That’s terrific.  Fuck you.  Of course, that was merely a representation of my internal monologue.  Externally, I was more like this:

I can tell you with certainty that when you’re injured it is impossible to experience other peoples’ success without feeling a little bit of anger towards them.  There is also a 100% chance that every asshole and his dog decide to go for a run whenever the weather is nice.  Which, for some reason, is frequently.

BARGAINING

In this particular scenario, ‘bargaining’ became more like, “please take my money and fix me.”  I had sports massage (which I would have normally, but I focused on the muscles around my knee), I had physio, I did all of the exercises, I foam rolled, I did yoga classes (not my forte, for sure), I allowed a woman to stab me in the leg and butt with long needles and run a freaking electric current through them.  I would have considered, should it have been made easily available to me, voodoo, witchcraft, and/or hypnosis.  Hell, I considered the restorative effects of aromatherapy.  That’s when I knew I’d hit rock bottom, and the fourth stage of grief.

DEPRESSION

I give up on life.  What’s the point in even trying?  Running is dead to me.  I want to become a hermit.  I don’t want to communicate with anyone.  I don’t want to enjoy myself.  Oh, some kid on the news has terminal cancer?  They don’t understand real misery.  Somebody please, just put me down.

This is pretty much the point where I threw myself a pity party.  Every day.  For weeks.  I was not a lot of fun to be around, but that was OK, because I didn’t really make much of an effort to socialize.  I basically lived in tracksuit bottoms and a hoody, and my diet consisted of beer and bread.

ACCEPTANCE

The last (running) race that I had already signed up to before my knee crapped out on me was Berlin marathon.  It was going to be my A race.  Every time I made any type of running progress over the past year, it has all been for Berlin.  But every time I faced another setback, I could sense that dream slowly slipping away.

Berlin came and went, and I stayed in Scotland.  With no scheduled runs for the foreseeable future, there is no added pressure on me to rush back into long distances.  Instead, I have accepted that progress will be restrained, and realized the importance of having other things in my life to keep me going.

Over the past 12 months I have accomplished several things I have always told myself I’d get around to “later” because it clashed with some running adventure or another.  With that obstacle out of the way, I could commit to completing my Exercise to Music, Gym Instructor, Spinning, and – most recently – Body Pump training.  I’ve started teaching fitness classes before school (which is disgustingly early, I should add), and I’m working on a Sport and Exercise Psychology course in my free time.  I’ve even completed my first (and second, and third) cycle sportive, and my first ultra-length open water swim.

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I’ve also started running again – but only very short distances.  For the next couple of months I’m going to focus on 5k, and if everything goes well, I’ll work up to 10k by January/February.  After two rounds earlier this year of quickly working up to 9 miles before getting over-zealous and trying for too much, too soon, I’m being very strict with myself to ensure I have the best chance of making a gradual but steady return to running, and taking up my goodwill place at Berlin, 2016.

Here’s to relentless forward progress.

IronRide Sportive (Aluminium) 2015

Time: 3:50:40

Position: 2nd place!

Medal: Yes

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I had been eyeing up the inaugural Tayside sportive for a few weeks, but I held off entering until the last minute for a few reasons:

  • I didn’t have a guaranteed ride (Ian wasn’t convinced that the course justified the entry fee, much of which went towards charity)
  • I wasn’t convinced my knee would hold up – after the Glasgow to Edinburgh ride, which was relatively flat, my knee locked out and was painful for a couple of days
  • The course was touted as a hilly one, and hills seem to aggravate my knee pain

With a decent forecast, and a few Fleet Feet triathletes signed up, however, I took the plunge, and despite my ill-advised beer and Prosecco mix the previous evening, was up bright and early on Sunday morning.

Ian eventually folded, and offered me a lift to Errol airfield, near Perth, where the event started.  When I arrived I quickly found Roz and Ny, and a couple of other Fleet Feeters, and we went about the business of registering, which was relatively quick.  The only minor complaint was that there were no more zip ties to attach our numbers to our bikes with, but as it was the first time the event was held, there are bound to be things to iron (ha ha) out for next year.

At the start - taking ourselves very seriously.

At the start – taking ourselves very seriously.

Although there were suggested start times depending on which of the 3 routes on offer you were cycling, the atmosphere was very relaxed, and we could essentially start when we wanted to, as we were being chip timed.  Once our group was assembled, the photographer snapped a few photos and then we set off at a fairly brisk pace along the relatively flat first few miles.

Quite quickly, the group split up, with the men going ahead, Roz, Ny and myself in the second cluster, and everyone else in the third group.  The three of us established a pace that worked for us, and soon the flat miles were over and we were glaring at the road sign declaring an elevation of 20% at the start of our first big climb of the day.

IronRide elevation profile (Aluminium)

IronRide elevation profile (Aluminium)

What goes up must come down, and we flew down off the first hill.  The descent was quite windy, and there was one butt-clenching moment when another rider braked abruptly in front of me and to avoid a crash I swerved and skidded downhill for a few seconds, but I managed to right myself, and I probably took the descents with a bit more caution for the rest of the day.  At the very bottom of the first descent, and with a neon-clad marshal directing us, we turned left to be face to face with hill number two: no rest for the wicked, I guess.

What followed were some more cracking descents and some undulating road before a long, slog of a hill began.  Roz, Ny, and I considered stopping to have a snack, as we were starting to feel energy levels slumping (we had been riding for an hour and a half or so), but we decided to crack on to the feed station which was meant to be around 29 miles in.

After the summit at around 25 miles, it was a fast, flat (downhill) dash to the feed station, which was a van and a couple of tables adorned with a smorgasbord of delights.  I had a tracker bar and some jelly babies, and necked a bottle of water as I realized I had barely touched the bottle on my bike.  We also ran into Colin here, and stopped for a snap before setting off again.

L-R: Ny, me, Roz, Colin

L-R: Ny, me, Roz, Colin

Roz and Colin mainly led the way, taking turns at the front while Ny was subjected to a view of my (colourful) butt for the next few miles.  We were going along at a decent speed, and then my turn for the front came – right at the start of the hill…  It was during the first short ascent that we lost Colin, who was struggling after running the Crathes half marathon the day before.  It was back to just the Dream Team for the final climb before a delightfully smooth road presented itself for our final, blissful descent!

Once off the hill, we all knew it was flat for the final stretch, and as we knew we didn’t have too far to go started picking up the pace, encouraged by the soundtrack of Ny crying out in pain every time she went over a rough section.  Roz pulled away, and Ny and I stuck together, struggling to go much quicker.  Eventually, familiar landmarks from the drive to the start began registering, and we got a real sense of exactly how far we had to go.  Whenever I get a sniff of the finish I seem to be able to find a last reserve of energy, and over the last mile I started to pull slightly ahead of Ny, ending up with a chip time a mere 6 seconds quicker.

Finished!

Finished!

We found Roz in the massage tent, and after grabbing our goody bags, t-shirt, and medal, headed back to the parking area and parted ways.  When the results were later posted, we realized that we had a Fleet Feet ladies podium sweep, taking first, second, and third place for the Aluminium length ride!  There are benefits to taking part in inaugural events, clearly!

Podium sweep!

Podium sweep!

More importantly, my knee held up, and I could actually get through a 45 minute spin class the following night with no real issues.  When I first tweaked my knee at the beginning of July (my good knee, as far as running goes, the other knee is still a wreck), I was limping the next day, and couldn’t cycle for more than 15 minutes without pain for a good few weeks.  At least one part of my broken body seems to be improving…

Overall, definitely a great event, and one that’s sure to grow in popularity.  I could even be tempted to try out the Steel route next year, but I have some work ahead of me if I’m to convince the Dream Team to reunite for that one.