London 2016

10/1/16 – (Gonna Run Down to) Lactic Avenue

The Brixton 10K! Ok, so it was in Herne Hill, went nowhere near Electric Avenue (or indeed the Brixton Academy as featured on the medal), but I’m sure Eddy will ‘grant’ me some leeway here.

A nice run as it turned out – yes it was a bit cold, there was a dire lack of toilets and plenty of elevation to overcome, but I was pleased with my time of 1:02:57 – my best 10K time for almost a year – which included a really strong downhill sprint finish, which I recovered quickly from. Sue managed to get in just under 1:16 for her second best 10K race time. An altogether satisfactory end to our first week of the ‘Hybrid’ training plan, however it was nearly a very different tale as both Sue and I nearly missed the race altogether.

Rewind back to Friday afternoon, I mentioned last week that we had booked an induction in our new gym with the focus of our session to pick the brains of the PT instructor for suitable exercises and machines to improve the strength in our legs. A sound and sensible plan, or so we thought…

Enter Steve, the 2012 Ultra Triathlon World Champion who is, it must be said, a lovely chap and some very firm ideas about what we needed to do to achieve our goal. He took us both through range of exercises and machines with the caveat that ‘you are using muscles you don’t usually use so you might be a bit stiff, tomorrow’. Understatement of the Century.

Sue managed to complete her induction ok, then it was my turn but I ran into problems early on. I’d been reading recently about ‘the wall’  which hits towards the end of a run or game, where lactic acid suddenly floods your muscles and seizes you right up. I can’t say I’ve ever really experienced that. I’ve pulled muscles playing footie and had the odd bout of cramp which have stopped me in my tracks. I have also suffered with the post-exertion stiffness brought on by lactic acid hanging around in the muscles, which can last for days. Nothing though, that really matched this book’s description of ‘the wall’.

As I went to do a second set of standing squats – literally as I parted my legs – my left groin felt as if it was filling up with liquid pain. I could not move. I couldn’t tell Steve what was happening as I’d lost the power of speech. When I did manage to marshall my groans into recognisable words, I said it was cramp even though I knew it wasn’t, yet neither did I think I’d pulled something. I wasn’t sure what had happened, all I knew was it bloody hurt like hell.  I could tell Steve wasn’t impressed. I think he’s already pegged me as a bit of a wuss.

After a few moments, the intense pain had eased but I was left with a seized and sore groin. An attempt at further squats or lunges were aborted as the joint just wasn’t mobile and the pain returned quickly if I tried to force it. Eventually it loosened off a bit, enough for a few what I thought were gentle leg exercises on machines, where I could let my right leg take the strain. After the session I could barely get down the stairs back to the changers. I was in a right mess.

After I had a prolonged visit to the spa, alternating between hot and ice-cold therapies,  in an effort to get my groin to a state where I might be able to walk 500 yards home, never mind parkrun the next day. It was in the steam room that it dawned on me that this sudden rush of pain might have been ‘the wall’ – the symptoms sure did seem similar.

On the walk home, I realised that not only was parkrun unlikely, but the 10k must now be in doubt, too.  I got home to find Sue with the onset of lactic stiffness, too. An early night brought forth contrasting fortunes in the morning. My groin was only a little stiff, my upper thighs felt worse, but manageable. Sue was in all sorts of problems and couldn’t barely get herself to a seated position and thence up again. We both decided to leave parkrun and hope that a relatively sedentary day at the football would give our muscles time to free up enough to run.

Those medals in front of our Brixton Academy picture, post-race.

Sunday dawned and I was absolutely fine, barely a twinge. Sue was feeling a bit better but still having problems getting up and down for a seated position – unless that squeal from the direction of the loo was something else entirely. But the lure of that medal was just too strong, so off we went. Sue had a bit of wobble after the first long downhill approaching the second mile, but she fixated on the medal and managed to run that off.

We both felt much freer and looser for having done the run and were pleased to have made the effort. As the day has worn on, some stiffness has returned, but only what we would expect from a normal Sunday run. The rest day should sort that out.

All’s well that ends well, but I am still incredulous that I could be in so much pain less than 36 hours before and still run a decent race without any sign of an issue. I’ve no idea whether my experience was the dreaded wall or not. All I know is I’m now completely terrified that it might unexpectedly strike again.

The next weight training session, when I finally pluck up enough courage to go back, will be scheduled well away from parkrun or Sunday’s longer run.