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Ankle operation and recovery – Time for some Maintenance

“How’s the recovery going Jayson?” A frequent question at the moment, especially when throwing myself into a social situation with lots of other runners. Not that I mind though, it is always nice when people ask and are interested. Unfortunately for them I proceed to bore, daze, bemuse the unsuspecting victim with my ramblings and life story of the last 3 months! Now taking it a step further I wanted to do the same on here. Ok maybe I will keep some things out so that people still talk to me afterwards, but I am aware there has been a significant gap since my last post and, although I have nothing exciting to report on the race front, I thought sharing something from the less intense side may still be interesting.

For those I have not seen for a while, last November I went in for surgery on my ankle. Without going into too much gory detail, the peroneal tendon and supporting ligaments had deteriorated to a point where ongoing physio treatment was not responding. This was an issue caused more from pre-running days and youthful exuberance in various states of wellbeing than anything significant since running became my passion. With my bigger races complete for the year and last couple of key events hampered by this issue, things had got to a point where I felt nervous even going down the stairs, so getting it sorted was the right time and way forwards. To do this just needed a few hours in hospital for surgery and 6 weeks of wearing a cast/boot, plus being a slight pain in the arse to those around me: easy right? Well it was different for me anyway!

Tea time, this was my "hands free" alternative to crutches

Tea time, this was my “hands free” alternative to crutches

What I didn’t realise beforehand was how different my approach to things would be after having 6 weeks of no running. It was a great opportunity to reflect and think about how to tackle the next year, as well as build a stronger core and platform to begin 2015. With running out of the equation and after the initial post op rest period I looked to other activities, I found there are things called “swimming pools” which you can throw yourself up and down as much as you like but don’t put huge impact and stress through your body, making you really stretch the lungs and giving you a great workout. I also rediscovered my enjoyment of cycling and after a while on the turbo trainer ventured outside. Since having the boot off I have gotten into a nice routine of biking the 30 mile round trip to and from work a couple of days a week – luckily for me the road is relatively quite so I don’t feel too intimidated by traffic rushing past. Now I have found the right balance of warm/waterproof clothing it has become quite an enjoyable part of the day I look forward to.

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Still a bike geek at heart, a perfect afternoon alternative to being outside training was building this up from scratch, aah

With this new routine of regular swimming and cycling, I have had to make a conscious effort to squeeze the running back in. Slowly building this up, the ankle already feels better than pre operation days, though as good as it does feel I am still aware that there is a long way to go, ligaments need time to heal well and I want to give it that chance rather than rush back. Plus I am still not even close to the fitness level I had previously. Just getting back into running again has been hard, building the spring back into my leg which was immobile for so long has taken time and patience. With physio and strength work being key, things are progressing and I am confident that I will be stronger throughout than before.

Realising how much my form dropped off certainly left me open to feeling demoralised, with negative thoughts and doubts about ever returning to form creeping in.  I seem to be overcoming this by keeping my mind set on shorter term goals, doing different routes/types of running so as not to compare where I was last year. Delving into a few park runs to satisfy my racing itch and also provide a great way to measure improvement is helping me stay focussed and positive.

Early January now feels like a age ago when I first took the boot off and hobbled along on the treadmill at more than 12 minute miles before stopping after a mere 15 minutes.  But in reality it was less than 6 weeks and now things are looking up, the volume of training is back up. Though the ratio of running is still relatively low, the hard quality sessions are creeping back in and feeling more fluid each time, I even managed to max out the treadmill last week on 800m intervals which felt great! Beat the machine ha.  Though I think it is a bit out of calibration and still has some incline to go before I completely master it!  Certainly a fresh new routine with less running impact and more cross training is helping with the return of speed and motivation; I am keen to see how this translates when I start pushing up the pace on longer trail runs.

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So we can just run right over the top of it then?

Planning the year is proving tricky as it is hard to know when I think I will be strong enough to race at my best and I am reluctant to try anything too soon, going with the flow is the way forward at the moment. There are still a few plans going on and other things in addition to my own racing. The main one so far has been Kim`s plan to complete the Hardmoors Grand slam, the culmination of 4 Ultra distance races throughout the year: the 30 mile race on New year’s day, the HM55 in March, HM110 miler in May and the HM60 in September.  She is certainly putting in the training and looking on form at the moment, making me work hard to keep up and surpassing my long run capability at the moment. Unfortunately she was really ill for the event on New Year’s day, but still went out there and got through it. Now looking forward to the 55 in a few weeks, I can’t wait to see her get stuck in!

For me, nothing big is set in the calendar until June/July.  I have an entry for the LL50 in July so that will be a key race this year, followed by the Matterhorn Ultraks Skyrace in Switzerland in August, which ties in well with a two week holiday around the Alps! I am also keen to return to Ireland for the Mourne Skyline Sky race again, I feel I have a score to settle with that course and want to go back and do it justice. Definitely some more Hardmoors races in there too, plus some support of friends doing Bob Graham rounds. I am keen to see what that is all about and what is involved. There are some other potential developments in the planning stages, so watch this space for those too. For now I am just really happy to be back out there and running around, having a blast with friends and seeing some fantastic achievements by other people. Spring is coming, bringing with it the growing buds of the winters hard work, looking forward to seeing it all blossom in an array of coloured lycra and excitement!

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