When rest is best

I have a confession to make: “I’m an ultra runner! And sometimes I do really stupid things!”

It’s not just the distances I’m on about – it’s my ability to not stop when I should do. However, I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone on this one, and there are plenty of other ultra-nut jobs out there who just keep on ploughing away when they should be putting their feet up.

Sometimes I just need more of these and less running!

Sometimes I just need more of these and less running!

The Wadi Bih ultra last February went well. The perfect execution of a carefully thought out plan, and feeling on a high I underestimated my recovery. I stupidly thought, I could be back training within a week and running in a fortnight. This may all be very well for many people, but I know from prior experience that I don’t do a fast recovery. My body likes to chill and take its time, and while my muscles felt fine my back was asking questions. Questions, I answered incorrectly. The first mistake I made was to try something different. Fitball, that sounds promising, I thought and signed up for a different gym class, thinking to myself well I use a gym ball anyway. I reckoned this would be a core-based class, but it wasn’t and far too much twisting later, my lumber spine was feeling annoyed.

Second mistake, a couple of day’s later I got up early morning to run and instead of sitting at the table, spine neutral and hips level, for breakfast, I sat round-backed on a foot stool. Ten minutes later I stood up to discover my back was doing its spasm thing. The best way to describe it is that it feels like I’m being wrung out, all twisted and out of alignment. In my wisdom, and not wanting to miss some cool Qatar weather, I committed my third mistake. I decided a slow 20km would be just fine and dandy.

I survived, six minute per km felt manageable, and after the first 10km I couldn’t feel anything anyway. Okay, so I couldn’t actually sit down when I reached the coffee shop at the end but my back had been much worse in the past – like the time my friends had to drive me home from the stables laid out lengthways, face down on the back seat of their car, before dragging me out and carrying me by my arms and legs into the house – now that was bad. Emergency doctor, temazepam jab in the butt, and three days in bed, I could finally walk again. No, this latest stunt was nothing, plenty of ice, anti inflammatories and I’d be as good as new, wouldn’t I?

Sadly not, a week passed, as I hurriedly reintroduced the physio exercises I’m supposed to do every day, and if anything my back felt worse. Eek! Activate emergency plan.

A quick email to the physio revealed that I’d need another doctor’s referral… problem is the sport hospital I go to isn’t really supposed to treat backs. Spinal injuries are a no-go area here with very few hospitals having the guts to touch them.

Right, I’d have to justly blag this one. I’ve had back issues for over 20 years, I know that the cause of my problem isn’t my spine, yup it’s deteriorating but that’s because my pelvis is totally crap and refuses to do the job it’s supposed to. My poor old spine is taking the strain and when it gets all too much goes on strike. My pelvis is what needs the work.

Another email, this time to the doctor, begging for an appointment and I’m in filling a cancellation. We chat about running, I explain how dim I’ve been, that I’d picked up a niggle in my right adductor before Wadi Bih and perhaps that this was the trigger this time. He’s confident it’s not a good ole stress fracture and I’m in to see the physio.

Bless her, she’d taken note of my doctor’s appointment time and squeezed me in straight after. Visibly shocked at how I was hobbling, doubled over, in my shrunken bad back pose, she got to work. Odd leg length, pelvic misalignment, shorten erector spinae on the left side…there was plenty to do before I emerge sore but straighter and much less wrung out. Fellow bad back sufferers will empathize with that feeling of relief and exhaustion. It’s like the body has been so highly strung while trying to deal with holding it all together when your foundations are crumbling, that it’s quite happy just to relax and chill when it’s all over.

Two sessions every week for the next couple of weeks and no running would see everything settle back down…until I do the next stupid thing.



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