To race or not to race? – that is the question!

So this week I came face to face with my first injury induced ‘to race or not race’ dilemma.  Following my intensive 10 week training programme and then the actual ironman race itself, I have been experiencing during my recovery weeks what can only be described as a couple of ‘niggles’.

The first issue to present itself was a weird feeling in my upper arm when swimming.  I couldn’t even call this a pain, just a bizarre awareness of something not quite right in the area between my biceps and triceps.  This started in week 1 of my training plan when I was in the Lake District and doing a lot of open water swims.  Because there no pain as such I assumed the sensation was purely because I had increased my swim sets from around 2 hours a week swimming to more in the region of 4 hours a week.

Post ironman I had a week of gentle swimming which felt OK, then following my MDot tattoo I had a week of no swimming at all. After the week of ‘swim rest’ I had my normal club swim session on the Monday evening and my arm was really hurting so I ended up a bit disheartened after a really slow and weak swim set followed by  a night of constant pain and throbbing in my upper arm. Needless to say, I went to see my physio the next day and it turns out I have an inflamed bursa on one of the tendons in my shoulder. Plenty rest, icing and TENS with twice weekly phyio and its actually healing up really well and I couldn’t feel the sensation I had previously been experiencing in swims at all during  my race last weekend….. but thats when the next injury reared its head!

Injury/niggle number 2.  So during some of my longer training sessions I have to admit to losing the inclination and time to perform proper stretching afterwards.  When you’ve been out on a 6hr bike followed by a 90min brick run, the last thing you want to do when you cross the threshold is get on the floor and stretch, particularly in my household as Chilli seems rather fond of licking sweaty legs and arms post training (I love my dog but I’m not one of those dog owners that likes to have their face or any other body parts licked – I know what that dog has had in her mouth!).  So some days after training or sometimes during a session I sometimes feel that a particular muscle of part of me is tighter than it should be and I put this down to poor warming up and stretching.  In recent weeks I have been aware of a tightness in my left hamstring.  So on my last visit to the physio to see my shoulder niggle sorted, I mentioned the hamstring thing to him.  Now my expectations were that it would get a good pummelling, kneading and unknotting, not what actually happened next!

The next half hour was basically me, wearing not much clothing, bending over, twisting, stretching and do all kinds of things whilst the physio had his fingers stuck in various parts of my hips and back.   The next thing I had to do was lie on the physio bench in various positions whilst my legs were pushed and pulled in all directions with a variety of noises and shrieks from me!  After this half hour of manipulation I had to repeat the stretches again and was amazed at the results – I had regained the flexibly i hadn’t had in weeks. RESULT!  The diagnosis was a locked pelvis, apparently common in endurance athletes and runners and a result of bad posture and rubbish glutes – mine don’t fire well apparently!

So anyway – I’m well on the road to recovery but the upshot of all this is I had to pull out of my triathlon this coming weekend.  Because of the locked pelvis I had some minor bruising and tears to the muscle fibres in my hamstring.  Not an issue if the triathlon was a standard olympic or sprint, but the race I had planned included a 30% climb up ‘the struggle’, a ride along several large and hilly passes in the lakes and then a fell run up Helvellyn to finish it off.  When I told my physio this, his eyes said it all!   He didn’t tell me not to do it but did warn me than when muscle fibres are already bruised and torn its quite likely a massive effort on them can result in a major muscle tear which would put me out of training completely for at least 6 weeks.

So decision time – am I risk taker? Do I really want to jeopardise my autumn training, arguably the most important block of strength building and technique work?  The answer was staring me in the face, so rather reluctantly I emailed my friends to tell them I wouldn’t be doing the race – this weekend instead I am going out with friends, drinking wine (i don’t drink at all during each 12 week training block), and enjoying myself – the start of my 4 week ‘off season’ where all training is optional and non structured, the only rule is I must run 3 times a week and do my strength sets 3 times a week – anything else is social or recreational exercise.

Now where is that bottle of Rioja??…….

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