Saturday, October 03, 2015

Slow Recovery

It's now been one week after crossing the finish line touching the toes of Leonidas and I can say that without a shadow of a doubt that race really brought me up to my absolute limits.

The day after the race my calf muscles were both swollen and the right one was very sore to the touch. I don't know how close I had come to a race-ending injury but something was definitely not right and I was correct to be concerned during the last few miles. That swelling and the soreness went away after 2 or 3 days only to be overshadowed by two grotesquely swollen feet. I've never seen misshapen hobbit feet like that on a human before and instead of getting better it actually got worse, especially on Tuesday, the day we travelled back to Ireland. I guess sitting in the aeroplane did not do my feet any favours, not that it could have been avoided. On Wednesday morning it was back to work and sitting in the office chair for hours wasn't ideal either. Still, after Turin my feet were swollen as well but after 3 days or so everything started going back to normal.  It has been a full week now and the swelling has only just started to recede, still leaving the feet in a bizarre shape. It took until Friday evening that I could finally make out something remotely resembling an ankle.

One toenail on my left foot is dark and may fall off but it had gone the same colour after Turin and still never came off. My left calf is now hurting quite a bit (that's the other one, not the one that had given me troubles in the race) but all I can do is rest. I have no idea when I'll start running again, Right now I still have no desire to hit the road any time soon but going on past experience Niamh will soon kick me out of the house, throw the shoes after me and tell me not to even think about coming back for at least an hour.

Just before the end I felt a sharp pain in my right foot and thought a blister had burst. However, when I inspected the area afterwards there was a blister in exactly that place but it had not burst. It's since healed just fine.

I have been really tired all week and I still have not caught up yet. I am perfectly aware that I have to recover properly before starting training again - anything else and I'm headed straight for burnout and overtraining.

As for the race, of course I am chuffed that I finished it, which was always the main aim. However, there is that little voice in my head that tells me that I did not do myself justice and I should be able to cut a minimum of 2 hours off my time, quite possibly more. Of course I do wonder what I would have been able to achieve had I been able to train through the summer, while at the same realising that it was the previous 11 years of training that got me through, not something I would have done in the last few weeks or even months.

I spoke to Jan Uzik afterwards, who had an absolutely amazing race until he mashed up his feet coming down the mountain. He thinks I should have a sub-30 time in me. That seems a tad ambitious but then again, you should never set yourselves limits, I think I have proven that a few times already.

Thomas K and me are 25 seconds apart in the official timing. Looking at the photos I can see that I stood on the timing mat at the foot of the statue and he stood beside it. It obviously took 25 seconds until he finally happened to step across the mat. I don't care what the timesheet says. We finished together and we touched the statue at exactly the same time and as far as I'm concerned we both finished equal in 73rd position.

Basically we did pretty well for 200k but the last marathon was the one too far. Others fared a lot better. Isobel Wykes, who overtook us right at the start of the climb for mountain number 2, finished in 32:33 - basically she put an entire hour on us over than one marathon. I know Isobel is a class runner but there is definitely room for improvement. Thomas K could have finished at least 10 minutes faster had he gone ahead on his own. Over the last 10k I was definitely holding him back but he refused to go it alone.

This year saw a better than average finisher race of 46%. I think it's mostly down to the fact that they changed the entry criteria so that runners who exceed the qualification mark by 20% get an automatic entry, ensuring a greater percentage of runners of higher quality.

My own automatic qualification mark will still be valid for 2016, so I could avoid the lottery if I ran it again next year. However, next year my main target will be to qualify for the 2017 world championships and for that I need another good 24 hour run, which would in any case renew my automatic qualification (assuming they don't change the criteria).

Spartathlon was my 25th ultra, and obviously the longest as well as toughest.


  1. We need photo's of the feet!!! What's the point of doing a 246Km race if you can't show us the war wounds just like Robert Shaw in Jaws. ;-) No chance of you trying to PB a marathon next year?

  2. Really sounds like you've pushed your body to the limit. I'm happy not to see photo's of broken feet.

    I'm sure the extent of your current discomfort and struggles in the last marathon were done to limitations to your training due to injury. If you can keep run/walking more in the last 50 miles you'd easily knock several hours off.

    Getting back active should help, while running might be off the cards, and swim and sauna would probably really help loosen things up. If you can walk without pain then this too could help. I could imagine getting on/off a bike might be fun so might have to wait. I wouldn't wait though, active recovery is better than sitting.

    Best of luck with recovery.

  3. What a wonderful review..
    All the best, have a good recovery