So there I was enjoying a perfect run-in to the VLT Triathlon on 9 September. My training had gone well. I had completed a good 10-week block of training including an intense focus on my swimming in the sea while we were on holiday. I felt as though I had improved my bike and swim and was routinely clocking quick times (for me at least) on my runs which were typically 4-6 miles.
With a week to go I had mapped out a “taper week”. A running session with Andover Tri Club on Monday night, a gentle swim session on Wednesday before work and an easy 4.5 mile run a few days before the race. Just when it all seemed to be going well, out of the blue – bang – I injured myself. I wasn’t really paying attention and I was being careless. It was my own fault.
It happened at the track in Andover during a session with the Tri Club. I arrived early and did a bit of a warm up but was far more interested in chatting to everyone. Once we started, three of us who were due to race the following weekend were given a “race week” specific work out to do. Very simple really – 4 x 200m sprints with 3 minutes recovery between each one followed by a warm down. Didn’t seem like much – but these guys knew what they were doing.
The first three repeats were uneventful. We sprinted for 200 metres around Andover Athletics Track and walked around the remaining 200m chatting while we recovered. Dan timed us and counted us down each time. On our recovery walks he told me that he was off to Bala in Wales at the weekend to try to qualify for next year’s European Championships. My other colleague on the session was Janet, my ex-next door neighbour. She and I were both doing the VLT at the weekend.
Dan was quick and on each 200m rep – he was faster out of the blocks than me. Once we were up to full speed though, I don’t think there was much in it. The gap didn’t grow much over the second 100m. So on the final rep I decided to try to stay with him from the start. For the first 15m I was fine but it was an effort – I could feel I was pushing myself. And then it happened – that feeling like someone has stabbed you in the back of the thigh as my right hamstring tore. Luckily I felt the pain start and immediately took the weight off my leg and hopped. I think that saved me from a worse injury.
I hobbled around cursing. Eventually once I had stopped cursing, I hobbled over to Sam who as well as being Head Coach for the evening, is the club physio. She quickly had me focused on keeping it moving and then stretching it. I asked her what she thought the chances were that I would be OK to do the VLT. She was nice enough not to say “no chance” but I think we both knew. All I could think was bollocks, bollocks, bollocks. I was cross with myself – and here’s why. They say every set back is a lesson. Here is what I learned:
- Never do hard sessions on consecutive days. I had done a fast 4.5 miler on Sunday afternoon and I could feel it in my legs on Monday. I should never have done that and gone to a track session the next day.
- I didn’t warm up thoroughly. I am usually fastidious about warming up. But because the track session was different to my normal run routine I didn’t do my usual warm up. I just did the quick warm up that Sam took us through. Last time I went to the track I did my full running warm up before I left home. If only!
- My warm up was more suitable for a middle or long distance run. Having done it I then went and did a sprint session. I should have done some strides to bridge the gap between jogging and sprinting to prepare my leg muscles for the explosive effort I was going to ask of them. They were ready for a low intensity workout. No wonder they objected.
- Six days before a race I should be wrapping myself in cotton wool. What on earth was I doing trying to out sprint the best runner in the club, a guy who has just been selected to run for GB in October? Madness. I should have been content to cruise round at 7 minute mile pace.
So the result of my carelessness is that my carefully planned last race of the season which was going to lead me perfectly into training for the Salisbury Half Marathon is now a non-starter. I do want to finish the season properly rather than on this low note. Apart from anything else I have done weeks of training and I am ready.
My new schedule is to start training for the Salisbury Half as planned later in the w/c 10 September providing the hamstring is recovered by then. I will then try to fit in an Aquathlon at Eastleigh Lake on 27 September. That is a 400m open water swim and a 5k run. This is not confirmed yet but at least it will enable me to round off the season properly rather than let it fizzle out. I am not going to get too uptight about it, I can enter on the day and it is unlikely to fill up before then so I can make a last-minute call based on how I feel. One thing is for sure, if I do race in the Aquathlon, you won’t catch me doing sprint training 6 days before it!!