Typing away this blog whilst resting my leg up with an ice-pack on the hamstring. What a downer of a feeling. To many in the diabetes world I am known as ‘The Diathlete’ – the diabetic athlete that runs crazy endurance challenges and ultra-marathons to aid the cause of diabetes. Right now I’m not feeling as though I’m this ‘Diathlete’ identity at all… all I’m feeling is more dia-defeat.
Hamstring Injury Setback
Gav’s GBR 30/30 Challenge… 30 miles a day for 30 days covering the length of the United Kingdom – 900 miles of running all to raise funds for Diabetes UK, but also, which is especially the main reason I pledged my time and effort into making this challenge a reality, bringing inspiration across the diabetes world. I also spoke to the likes of DWED (Diabetics with Eating Disorders), the GBDoc, the newly formed Diabetes UK young leaders advocates and many voluntary diabetes support groups in many areas of the United Kingdom with bookings being made or discussed for me to speak to groups whilst running through their regions. The gold Olympic Torch that I had the honour of carrying, as the Olympic Flame burned proudly from it before the incredible London 2012 games got underway, was set to be a further symbol of hope and inspiration to accompany me into each town and city I passed through in GBR 30/30.
The injury was quite sharp and sudden. Months of planning, months of working, creating letters that I’d then re-wrote time and time again as the hours and days and weeks drained away so that my approaches to companies/potential sponsors, to celebrities and sports stars to support, to diabetes support groups, to borough and county councils, to mares and members of parliament, to sports clubs or public locations and so on were perfect. The time spent researching locations, where I could run, where I couldn’t, what roads I’d be using, where the starting and finishing points would be and where check-points along the routes could be located for me to rest a moment, stretch and check my blood glucose levels. The time spent on the phone to Diabetes UK members or again contacting every possible sponsor or press department, pushing it all out there… and not to mention, the time spent putting the work in to training. Some nights/mornings I’d be getting to sleep at 4am only to then wake and go for a run by 8am and then go and meet Ray – event manager – for 10am in Kidbrooke to then spend the day working on the event. I’m very grateful to Ray for his time and continuing support with this.
Strengths in Training
I also thank very much personal trainer Gary Pettengell for his time in supporting me and giving the training sessions to build muscles in the right places, strengthening my joints for such a challenge. The training was good, I felt stronger in my legs in the right areas and in a training run of a 30 mile distance along the Thames path – 15 miles one way, 15 miles back home – I completed the challenge with far too much ease to the point that I took the micky! Matt, who was filming parts and cycling in support through the route said just before the final part of the ultra-marathon:
“I am not cycling up my hill!”
His hill (the road he lives at) is very steep in incline, a sudden climb that hits hard.
“It is impossible to get up there on a bike; I’ve never seen anybody do it!”
In hearing this I guess the thought challenge entered my adventurous-mind.
“Alright, when we get to the hill give me the bike and I’ll do it!” was my response.
It was steep and I had just run 30 miles… not to mention I am a runner not a cyclist (and have type one diabetes).
“You’ll never do it!”
I got on the bike, had to pedal quite hard and will admit when the hill takes a sudden swoosh out of nowhere into a difficult angle it did get very hard to cope with indeed… but my legs kept working away and I still had all the energy in the world to burn, I finished the cycle then headed back down the road as I still had to finish my run… this meant a cool sprint up that hill once again.
At that point confidence was back in my system, I always knew I could run long distances and finish well, I’ve done it many times in the past, but it was good to get myself back into it and although I weren’t running with the pace I also have the ability to put in with long distances, I was running smart – saving energy at a constant pace, and therefore had the energy to cycle and sprint up a high incline at the end and wake up feeling good the next day. When I told Gary the news of my injury he blamed himself at first, saying if he had trained me properly it wouldn’t have happened. This in my view is absolutely not the case! My joints and muscles around the joints were the key points we were working and aiming to build on, in completing that run so comfortably it shows how good condition I was in.
The injury… a few days off of training after doing a form of training and work consecutively for 3 weeks; long distance runs such as the 30 miler, short distance hill training runs, weights and stretches with Gary, mainly at Crayford Weights and Fitness – who I am also very grateful for allowing me to use their facilities in preparation for the challenge. I come down with a bug and just was completely dead to the world and unable to train. Had it have been the event itself I would have continued running, despite being that unwell, but it wasn’t and I was really poorly. So 2 days off on a weekend and I wanted to get back into the swing of it all quite desperately, with the countdown to November approaching and in my view still much more training work to be done. I went out in the morning and clearly was still unwell, even sicking up during my 12 mile route. I recovered with stretches and a meal once returning home and in the evening went to resume part 2 of training, hill runs short distance. I wanted to include 2 lots of training in the same day as I had done so the previous week to ensure I was at the same level of fitness minimum. It was dark out and suddenly I recall taking a bit of a stumble at Brook Street, a hilly road near to my home. This possibly could have been caused by my lowering blood glucose levels. In the stumble I felt a awkward twinge in the back on my left hamstring area, which instinctively I thought stop on, I did and decided to stretch the tweak before walking home… this turned out to be a bad move, possibly the muscle would have gone on the walk anyway but I leaned to stretch and as I done so a sharp pain jerked my hammy! I was in a bad discomfort from then on. Some bruising and swelling followed on the injured leg and the report after was that I’d be out of action for 4 weeks minimum, with also the fact that having diabetes may also delay the period of recovery. The treatment… ice, hot baths and ice baths, more ice and resting.
A gutting feeling of disappointment was matched by a feeling of letting everyone down, the support groups, the charity, the sponsors, every person with diabetes. I said I’d be running 30 miles a day for 30 days through November, I’ve always been one that acts – in many diabetes societies, even perhaps within the charity I am supporting in Diabetes UK, there is a lot of political debates that in many ways are necessary, but my views on politics in general is that it is all far too much talking and not enough action, and perhaps in Diabetes UK’s case is a reason as to why (until quite recently) there has been little interest from the younger generations – therefore, I feel like I’ve talked and not kept my word and acted upon it. It’s a setback, but these things happen. The bottom line is, GBR 30/30 challenge will 100% happen, I’ve planned and spent far too much time for it not to happen, it is just that it won’t be happening during November 2012 or this World Diabetes Day, as I am unable to run without causing further damage for at least the first week of November. The weeks and months to follow November are the worst of the winter, particularly up in Scotland, and so the event will be postponed until Spring 2013.
Making the Comeback Rocky Balboa Style!
In situations like this it is very frustrating, especially for someone with my level of competitiveness – I’m a full-on adrenaline-junky! 5 or 6 months is a long time! But, that said, I’ve already had great support, made some great contacts – the likes of David Haye, Sir Geoff Hurst, Jasmine Harman to name a couple have taken time to record supporting messages! They are champions, Geoff Hurst – the hero of 1966 who scored a hattrick for England in a world cup final! Jasmine is regularly popping up on the TV, Rosemary Conley who was tapping her feet away on Ice earlier this year, Caroline Pearce a tv gladiator, Martyn Rooney who came 4th in the 400m hurdles for Team GB at the London 2012 games, or the mad and enthusiastic presenter of UCMMA cage-fighter on Sky Sports Cage Rage Dave, and David Haye who if he isn’t in the headlines for being the best heavyweight about, he’ll make them for popping up in press-conferences… That kind of support is great! Thos people were saying my name and sending messages to me, I had to check twice on each of them as I couldn’t believe it! Now I have to rebuild and get myself back out there. It is easier said than done, however, I need to get my confidence back and ultimately my life. It has been hard grafting since uni as I committed all my time to this challenge and now will have to live like this, with not much (if any) money, late nights and early mornings, hard training, getting by for another 5-6 months! After the challenge I can progress with my life, but this is something I am committed to and am determined to complete – a once in the life time challenge for a person that loves a challenge.
The bottom line is I’ve already shown I can control my diabetes, I’ve shown I can run that endurance comfortably, I’ve gained good contacts… I just need to allow the time to recover and make use of it by getting in more deals/sponsors/press/celebrities and look to make this even more publicised so more funds and awareness can be raised – the negative setback I’m now aiming to turn into a major positive.
…What’s that I hear?
Music cue, Rocky Theme Tune…