Thursday, October 02, 2014

Injury! (or just a niggle?)

It's been so long since I last had to miss a day's training due to injury that I cannot even remember what it felt like. I've had niggles since, of course, and when that happens I reduce my mileage to nothing but short recover runs, but never anything that would have me miss a day; until now.

Monday felt pretty good, at least once I got past the 5-mile mark and the stiffness from the previous day had dissipated. I ran longer on Tuesday; the plan had been a 14 mile run around Rosbeigh mountain but one wrong turn (it was still dark and I don't know the road very well) meant I added a bit of bonus distance. Luckily I had gotten up a few minutes early, so at least it didn't cause any subsequent havoc with the real-life morning schedule. There was one very long climb in there (which forms part of the Glenbeigh 10k race) that had me working fairly hard, all the other miles were easy. I felt pretty good until about mile 11 but then got tired. I was happy to get home - the run had not turned ugly yet but was not far away from doing so.

Another easy 10 mile run followed on Wednesday with me taking it very easy to recover from that run.

All systems were go on Thursday morning. I got up bright and early (in contrast to the outside where it was still pitch dark), got ready and went off. I noticed it was freezing cold and it got even colder when I got towards Cromane, but that did not bother me the slightest. I felt really good and since I just happened to be in the vicinity of a certain strava segment decided I might as well bag that one, so I did (it's still a soft one - feel free to take it).

My pattern for the last few days has been to alternate easy 10 miles with longer runs and the longer runs usually contained at least one decent climb, which I usually ran at a decent effort. The idea was that running strongly uphill would not cause undue stress on the system because the pounding forces are much lower on the uphill.

I noticed at some of those runs that I always felt good until about mile 10 but sometimes started to feel the effort shortly afterwards. Today all still felt good and I was particularly pleased because at mile 11.5 I had managed to work out a solution to a work problem that had been bugging me all day yesterday.

Then, shortly after mile 12, my left hamstring started hurting. It's the same hamstring that had started hurting at mile 10 of the Dingle Ultra and I had felt it at times since, but it had always been very, very mild, never more than a 1 out of 10. Also, it felt differently; in Dingle I had gotten a sharp initial pain which improved quickly as I slowed the pace slightly and then dulled considerably for the rest of the race. This one, in contrast, just felt tight at first but within 5 minutes I was in agony. Slowing down did not provide any relief at all, and eventually I stopped and tried stretching it - a move of pure desperation, something I had never done before. Anyway, it did not really hurt when standing or stretching and stretching did not seem to have any effect, neither good nor bad, but as soon as I started moving again the pain immediately returned. Even walking was painful.

My immediate problem was that I was still 3 miles from home in the middle of pretty much nowhere and getting cold very quickly, so the only option was to clench my teeth and hobble home. Jogging at about 9-minute pace was just about bearable, running even the slightest downhill gradient was pure agony and never have I been more relieved to arrive back home than today.

So, now for the assessment. I can move about without much discomfort, so it's not severe, but I can definitely feel it. It would be obvious to conclude that I had injured the hamstring in Dingle and never properly healed, but since it feels very differently that may or may not be the case. I did ice it as soon as I got home, but I generally feel that icing does not make much of a difference.

I call any discomfort a niggle as long as I can still run through it without too much discomfort and there might still be a chance that this could be the case. I will assess it again this evening and once again tomorrow morning if I can still run. Compression gear might work, I will try and experiment, but the last thing I want to do is worsening it and putting myself out of the running business for a longer time. While I'm sure the general consensus is to rest completely, my personal experience is that things heal quicker if I keep running, but at a slow pace and always ready to go home if it gets worse. Cycling as cross training might be an option, but definitely not a preferred one.

I had been planning on doing an evaluation on Saturday to see if my body can handle the workload but it looks like reality has caught up a little bit quicker.

When was the last time I had to deal with a running-related injury? Several years ago, not sure exactly. I guess I can still count myself lucky. I probably have pushed things just that little bit too hard, but with my next goal race still 6 months away, this would not be the worst time to get injured, though it might jeopardise my pacing gig in Dublin at the end of the month,

29 Sep
10 miles, 1:17:55, 7:48 pace, HR 138
30 Sep
14.75 miles, 1:55:48, 7:51 pace, HR 143
1 Oct
10 miles, 1:19:41, 7:58 pace, HR 138
2 Oct
15.1 miles, 1:58:46, 7:52 pace, HR 138


  1. Fingers crossed it's a mere niggle...

  2. Sorry to hear about the muscle strain. Sounds like a proper injury rather than a niggle, so you have gone over the threshold of whether to rest or keep running.

    Resting up needn’t mean no exercise, if walking/cycling/swimming are comfortable then fall back on these. Active recovery is better than inactive recovery.

    Absolutely no stretching, if the muscle is tight it's a because the muscle fibres around the injury site are protecting the strain fibres, you don't want to release these protective fibres.

    No inflammatory pain killers, they'll dampen the immune response and the ability to know when to protect itself of damaging loads.

    Lots of sleep and relaxing, it's the healing time so get lots of it.

    Massage has been found in studies to be helpful, but not beat yourself up, you just want to encourage blood flood to the region not break up scar tissue at this point. At a later date if the site isn't healed cleanly then deeper and more aggressive massage might be helpful to break up scar tissue.

    As long as it's only a minor muscle strain then it should heal up fully within a week if you treat it properly. It might take less, but it certainly won't be fixed in less then a two days. So no evaluation, fixing an injury is 1000% more important than ticking off a training box.

    Best of luck.

  3. Oh no, I'm sorry! As you said, if you cannot run through it without discomfort, it's most likely an injury, so rest, rest, rest!

  4. Hamstrings require rest. Any soccer or GAA player would testify to that

  5. Come on Thomas, you never get injured! And now that you're on a national team you can't afford to!

  6. Welcome to my World Thomas. Back right off my friend or be prepared to carry that baby for 8 months to a year!