I was delighted to be invited to be part of the inov-8 team following a successful 2012 season. Coming from an orienteering and athletics background, 2012 marked my first proper assault at fell running and it was great to be part of a committed and motivated Dark Peak fell running team that came so, so, close (it still hurts to write this) to winning the English championships series. I was pleased with my 5th place overall, selections for England and my first attempt at ultra running. The Dragon’s Back really was something else and pushed me in ways I couldn’t quite fathom or realise at the time.
Unfortunately, as all hill runners know what goes up must come down, and since October 2012 I have picked up an injury to a key muscle and I am not sure what has caused it. Sure it came on after the Dragon’s Back but I had no indication at the time, or immediately afterwards that there was any problem. I am not entirely convinced it was due to the race. The thing is, unlike any other muscle injury I have picked up in the past (in over 20 years of serious running), this one is very different and at times alarming. I have picked up an injury to my heart.
At the Senior Home International Orienteering champs in October 2012, where I was running for England, I suffered what I thought at the time was an asthma attack. I became short of breath, my breathing became shallow and I was reduced to a walk in the forest. After a few minutes of walking, I slowly managed to pick things up again but quickly was reduced to a crawl again unable to catch my breath. It was only after a couple of these “attacks” that I realised that my heart was going like the clappers beating irregularly.
Putting this all down to over exuberance after the DB I took it easy for a bit hoping my injury would clear up, never to be seen again. As with most injuries this burying head in sand approach did not work -as I suffered a number of similar attacks in the following weeks despite scaling back my running efforts. I was lucky to get referred to the hospital quickly and had a check of my heart which appeared normal (for a runner) and had a number of increasingly tough treadmill tests which frustratingly failed to trigger the palpitations / fibrillations (without catching it on a ECG in hospital it is not easy to define the problem precisely).
Again with any injury I have had to be flexible with my plans and aspirations trying to focus my attention on rehab and recovery. So since October, I have been on a very light exercise plan, trying to take things easy adjusting things on a daily basis based on how I feel. Whilst I had hoped to represent Great Britain at the orienteering World Cups in New Zealand during a 2 month unpaid break from work this was not possible. I had to satisfy myself with completing (rather than competing) the accompanying spectator races. Acting my age (I have now moved into the M35 age group) meant that I could run shorter, less competitive courses.
I am due to have a hospital ablation procedure at the end of the month. Fingers crossed this will allow me to start training properly again at the end of May and my focus is now on the second half of the year. In the meantime, I am having to settle for a slower and steadier exercise strategy. This is certainly an injury that I can’t afford to ignore and need to sort. I am currently managing to run 2 -3 times a week at a steady pace. As I am often reminded, we don’t race because it is easy, but because it is difficult. My time off has given me a fresh perspective and passion for the hills and I can’t wait to lace up my shoes with serious intent.
In other news, I was fortunate enough to feature in the recent Dragon’s Back film premier at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival. I knew that Richard Heap and his team had collected a lot of footage from the race but I didn’t know to expect from his final cut; and which of the many stories and characters would be included. As it turns out the race between Steve Birkinshaw and I featured in one of the narratives and it was frankly a bit bizarre to see myself up on the big screen and even stranger to hear myself. I was particularly impressed with the editing as it portrayed me as semi-articulate! It is difficult for me to be totally objective but I thought the film was fantastic and it picked up 3 awards at the festival. I just hope the footage inspires others to take on an adventure the way the other films that I saw excited me.
One of the best things about ShAFF was watching the trailer on the big screen. Check it out (with the volume up) -I defy anyone not to want to grab their inov-8’s and play outdoors….
And here is the Dragon’s Back trailer