Rebuilding Body and Mind
As I turn my attention to compiling my book, Racing the Reaper Man, I realise that I need to have some kind of continuity in my running blog. I’ve completed my specific blogs Racing the Reaper Man Year, and Racing the Reaper Man to Ultra, albeit leaving the latter rather open ended on my quest to run 100k, then ultimately 100 miles. I have learned a great deal as to the various affects of lifestyle, running, diet and core work on a veteran body, so I’m changing my monthly blog into both a diary and subject related essay. I think this may make the content better for a wider audience. I’ll be asking for subject matter topics on my Facebook posts, so feel free to ask questions that are related to a lifetime of running, fitness and wellbeing. Thus, my new title headline will be, Racing the Reaper Man Forever.
I didn’t quite hobble into June, but it did become my rehabilitation month in two different ways. Firstly, I was back to work and testing my mental recovery from burnout and PTSD symptoms. I have also come to realise I have a form of agoraphobia – crowds or social gatherings push my anxiety off the scale. Secondly, I needed to make sure my right knee and right leg injuries were given the time and treatment they needed to repair. As I said in May’s blog, I wanted to move beyond coping with the injury, so decided to deal with the root cause and be free of it.
Most runners get so used to niggly pains, me included, that we often ignore oncoming injury. Or worse, we continue to run, hoping they’ll go away, especially if they don’t seem to get any worse with time. In effect, we make a false normal, if you will. In my case, I’d noticed a crampy right hamstring for a year or so, often manifesting itself on long drives, whilst sitting in one position. It became a noticeable issue in running last October in the Run to the Sea 50k. By focusing on core strength and ignoring the pain and numbness, it became my false normal. April’s big runs were the turning point, where the injury limited my speed-over-distance. The 4:15:44 marathon I ran, could have been 4:10. My big 32 mile training run could have easily been 30 minutes faster. Having to drop out of June’s 100k was my wake-up call. It was time to get fixed.
This is life – the reality. We all hit unwanted barriers, self-generated or inherited. The solution to each problem depends on our ability to deal with issues, creating a strategy based upon experience. If an issue is new, it can become harder to solve, especially if one has no idea who to turn to for help or advice. For myself, I had eventually found strategies to regenerate both my poorly mind and injured right leg. So, June was also a month for following two sets of exercises – physical and mental – which I did in my usual way. I built them into my day so they became part of normal life.
Instead of seeing my physical injury as a setback, I’m using it as an opportunity to target my weak points and introduce proper, regular strengthening and stretching exercises. The key areas are my Achilles tendons and lower back. Having woken up to the reality that my right leg issue has been around in various forms for many, many months, maybe years, I intend to get the whole thing fixed. This means additional routines for both left and right legs, to maintain balance for the future. Ricky, my physio, added some back exercises too, so my full daily workout takes around 30 minutes – time well spent. By mid-June, the exercise regime started to show results. My back seldom shot pains through my glutes into my leg, and my knee was no longer swollen, and far more stable. The pain had polarised to my right Achilles tendon which, although annoying, had reduced the overall injury to a single, final location. My running improved through the month, but if I pushed too hard it took a couple days for my right calf to settle down.
One point I must make clear, is I am not resting in the true sense of the word. I run every day, so have accepted that my full recovery will take a little while longer. My mileage is lower and I’m very careful with my leg, but I’m treading a fine line between exacerbating the injury, and getting better. So far I seem to have it right. By month’s end my running streak stood at 551 days and I had put together 19 months of getting to 100 miles or more. My reasoning is, I will take longer to heal, but will have no extra burden of getting fitter and trimmer again.
My mental health remains fragile. Running is my saviour, the one thing I do that makes me feel whole, confident and happy. That is another reason for taking the course I have with injury – keeping running. I continue with CBT and it is showing results. I’m now able to rationalise things and ignore assumption. I started a phased return to working in June, so this is an important mantra to remember: focus on facts, strategise positively, avoid confrontation and be kind. The hardest thing is managing my fragile mental health – it is often ignored by people who should know better and be kinder. So far, I have walked the line reasonably well.
Being anxious about crowds and intense social gatherings has crept up on me for a year. I noticed in my Facebook posts that I’m only ever alone, with Passepartout or my immediate family, on irregular visits. Testing myself on various trips has been frightening at times, and having my Passepartout with me has been invaluable support. This one anxiety-inducing issue seems to be getting worse, so I’m trying to use CBT to come to terms with it. I’m not overly worried, as my interests are usually in wild places or solo runs, but at times of enforced communion I can get to a point of anxiety that leaves me exhausted for a couple days. Flashback dreams still wake me at times. Recently they involve my very ill younger brother. Sleep remains a place of irregular rest and sudden horror.
Running gives me hope. Running gives me time to de-stress and decouple from the pressures life seem intent on throwing at me. Running gives me a chance to make sense of it all. Giving up is not an option, ever. I want to race the Reaper Man forever and I fully intend to. Writing Racing the Reaper Man will show anyone interested how to get fitter from your fifties into older age, based upon what I’ve tested and what I live by. I hope to write in layman’s terms and not get too technical with training.
In the meantime I’m getting fitter, getting stronger and pencilling in a couple of possible autumn ultras. Get in touch if you have any questions about rehab exercises, diet or anything to do with, well, anything, and I’ll try to cover it in a future blog post.
June selected statistics
- Weight: 11st 12ish (stable)
- Daily calorie balance: 1746 kcal – back to a good lower level.
- VO2 Max average: 43
- Average resting pulse: 50 bpm – a slight improvement.
- Total miles: 103¼ (stubbornly getting to the ton+ is my minimum.)
- Unbroken running streak: 551 days
- Belly: 30½”
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