When plans go to pot

my heels as of November 2022. Still looking a bit angry!
my heels as of November 2022. Still looking a bit angry!

Well you’ve probably noticed that there hasn’t been a lot of activity on here since the summer. This is actually a post I’ve repeatedly put off writing. Mostly because I’ve wanted to work out exactly where I am with things. And also there’s a feeling of putting this stuff out there and how it’ll be read. But I’ve learned a few things and feel that getting them out there onto the blog might help others, which is one of the reasons I maintain a blog.

So here’s what happened to my 2022……..

Busy busy busy

To be honest, the year wasn’t ever going to be jam-packed with running things. In part due to a crazy period year with work. But also being realistic about my fitness after the tendon (??) issue that wiped out much of 2021. I booked 5 events for 2022. The first I missed through a twingy glute but I managed to get to the next two which took me through to the end of June.

Cat in a basket

Gratuitous photo of Squeak sat in a basket as I couldn’t think of a more sensible photo for this bit!

But I still had 2 planned races for 2022, namely ‘The Lancashireman‘ trail marathon and my annual trip to ‘Escape from Meriden‘ to see how far I could run. The theory being that with a decent amount of training throughout the year perhaps I could go a bit further than I did in 2021.

It never works out that way. Not, at least, for me.

Another duff foot

At the beginning of the summer, my right foot decided that it hadn’t had enough limelight (after the left foot spectacular which wiped out 2021) and therefore decided it was going to start to ache.

I kept a check on things but, due to working all hours of all days, there wasn’t really any risk of doing any running on it. Yet it continued in its angry-ness and a trip to the physio confirmed my fears that the bursitis that plagued me in 2016 had returned.

Haglund’s Deformity – no I’d not heard of it either

A discussion as to the reasons why the flare-up didn’t yield any useful explanation, aside from the fact that I’m more prone to suffering from it due to apparently having a Haglund’s Deformity on both my heels.

my heels as of November 2022. Still looking a bit angry!

my heels as of November 2022. Still looking a bit angry!

But that’s nothing new (aside from it being pointed out in 2022) – I’ll have had that since puberty as the suggested reason was a rapid bone growth, something I’ve not done since the age of 13!!! I never realised that my feet were deformed; I’ve never compared them to anyone else’s, and I naturally assumed that everyone’s feet protruded a little way behind where the back of the foot was!

So the ‘diagnosis’ (I’ve not had an X-Ray to confirm so it’s based purely on the funky shape of my feet) has just given me a label, nothing more. It’s not suddenly appeared overnight and therefore causing my Achilles Tendon to suddenly become stretched like a violin string over the calcaneous (heel) bone and thus upsetting the bursa that sits between the two.

In short, whilst I’m possibly more prone to issues with my heel, my body has grown this way so the deformation is ‘normal’ as far as my body is concerned.

A cause, or just a thing?

From what I’ve managed to learn (thanks YouTube) the bursitis (and thus the suggested Haglund’s Syndrome that I’ve suffered with) would generally come about by a sudden change in the tension in the Achilles area. Such things like suddenly doing a lot more running, or switching from a heeled shoe to a flat position.

But this is where I’m a bit flummoxed because I haven’t really loaded my feet that much during the year. And I’ve maintained the same footwear whilst including a gel heel cup in all my shoes as per recommendations in previous years.

Gel heel cups

Gel heel cups are a simple and cheap way to help relieve some of the discomfort

One possibility is that I’ve caused trauma to the area which has resulted in the bursa losing its cool, but I can’t remember anything that might fit this category. But then again, I’m a clumsy oaf at the best of times so this is as likely cause as any other!

An interlude (holiday)

Anyway, the hope was that by the end of August the heel would have been esctastically happy again, ready to go on holiday at the beginning of September. The physio had suggested this might be a thing assuming I regularly iced the heel and rested it plenty. This was a big thing for me as it was a pre-pandemic cruising holiday to Norway with my immediate family, and I’d hoped to get some trail running in whilst I was there. And after 8 months of working 7 day weeks I was ready for a holiday.

Norway is very pretty!

Norway is very pretty!

The reality was that my foot was in no shape for any fun, aside from gentle walks along the sides of rivers and lakes. Which was very pretty but not quite what I had imagined I’d be doing. Trying to wear proper shoes for a formal night on the ship nearly crippled me completely, so I knew that I was a long way from getting back to normal.

I still had a glimmer of hope that by the end of September I might be fit to run ‘Lancashireman’ but as September drifted on it was looking increasingly unlikely that I’d make the start line.

Oh, that pesky C-word

In fact, what completely derailed any hope of running was catching COVID-19 after I returned home from holiday. I believe I picked it up at the barbers where I went the day after I returned; the rest of the family with whom I travelled on the ship were all fine, and getting the beard tamed was the closest contact I’d had with any person in quite some time.

covid-19

Stock image used for Covid-19

Despite the close proximity of the COVID-19 to the race, I actually felt reasonably OK once the initial fever had died down and my sense of taste had returned. However there was a blanket ban on entries who had been infected within 14 days of the event so that kiboshed that!

In reality though this was a good thing. Firstly the foot was still not right, and doing a 28 mile trail marathon probably (!) wouldn’t have made it feel any better. But secondly, I was taken out completely by the aftermath of the COVID-19. A good week or so after I had stopped testing positive I tried running, and whilst I had no issues with my breathing, I was floored by the fatigue. And it went beyond running, seemingly doing anything left me exhausted for days afterwards. So it was fortunate from a work point of view that the crazy period in August had reduced significantly.

And the final race falls

The fatigue itself lasted about 7 weeks in total, consuming all of October and a chunk of November. So with that, coupled with the fact I had done no meaningful training since July, the likelihood of a successful Escape from Meriden race was basically nil. Now were it a race that started in the daytime I might have given it a go, knowing that I could find a way of getting home should it go wrong (very likely). But with starting at midnight I’d basically be stuck until morning when the chance of finding a bus or train service running was above zero!

So it hurt not to be involved, but it was the right decision. Yes I could have gone and done something, but the last thing I would have wanted would be to prolong and extend this period of broken-ness any more. At this point, I feel that it’s “not an injury” per se, but something that has happened to my body. (Yes I appreciate this is just semantics but I’m trying to see ‘injury’ as something that I did which was avoidable…….)

So where next?

Having had another 4 month break from running it has had me thinking about the bigger picture. I used to love racing, but I’m at the point where I’m reluctant to enter anything in the future because it seems to be swiftly followed by some reasons that prevent me from being able to take part. And I appreciate this is just silly mind games, but there’s a serious point beneath.

You see when you enter a race, a part of you is imagining being there, taking part, hopefully succeeding. But the impact mentally of being unable to participate is a real issue which, for me, is getting increasingly difficult to deal with.

As such, I’ve taken the decision that I’m not going to be entering any more events in advance going forward. I still have two in the diary for 2023, but then that’s it.

Really, is that it?

It’s unlikely that I won’t ever be doing events again in the future. But instead I’ll keep the running training going for my mental health, and should an event come along that I’m free to do (and fit enough) there and then I’ll drop onto it. This isn’t generally an issue with the sort of events I like to do. Many don’t sell out. And those that do tend to have a healthy ticket resale market immediately prior to the event.

So it allows me to keep myself in shape (or as it is at the moment a chance to get into some sort of shape that isn’t a blob) without the pressure of staying intact to be able to attend something I booked in a fit of enthusiasm, a year prior!

I’m enjoying my coaching and leading the groups that I do. It’s less about me and more about helping others get better with their running and hopefully get to enjoy it as much as I did. I’m not being morose about what may not be in the future, but instead thankful that my body was able to get me this far.

Me, in Norway

Me in Norway

So that’s really a wrap on my 2022. A frustrating year, but hopefully one from which I can bounce back from.

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