The year could be summed up in a single sentence. Injured and did not run much. End of review.
But that’s not particularly positive, is it? So, here is a reasonably light hearted look at my year of not running.
2023 in short:
- Lots of physio. So much physio!
- Lots of rehab which all became a bit Groundhog Day.
- Zero races: see above.
- One 60k Diamond Odyssey challenge completed, which was a bit of a miracle and which surprised the hell out of my surgeon.
- 1,832 miles of combined running, walking, cycling: not bad all things considered.
- One surgery: my first rodeo as one of the nurses put it.
- And finally, my first baby steps towards running again and normal service resumed (this is going to be a long haul I think).
Over the course of 2023 I have learned quite lot proving once again that every day is a learning day. Here are a few musings.
I will never be complacent or take the ability to get out onto the hills and trails for granted. The mental and physical value of getting out there is invaluable. Having had my feathers clipped for a large chunk of the year I realised that being able to return the trails was non-negotiable. When the surgeon asked what my objective was, the answer was unequivocal: to be able to hike long distance at the very least and ideally to return to long distance trail running.
One thing that did surprise me when contemplating whether or not I would be able to run again was this. As long as I could long distance hike, I would be content; and I would be content because of what I had already achieved to date.
It’s always good to have an objective and a plan, even if it doesn’t quite go the way you want. In June I turned sixty and in order to celebrate I came up with my Diamond Odyssey which was intended to be a series of adventures and challenges that would take place over twelve months from June. It was ambitious and, as it turned out overly so. But I did manage one of the challenges: a 60k for Sixty in Canada. Some reflections:
- You feel pretty stupid running around the Loch Ard trails and woods shouting ‘hey bear!’
- I can confirm that bears do indeed poo in the woods having narrowly missed an encounter with one that had just dumped some scat on the trail ahead of me.
- I would rather encounter a bear than a cougar. Have you seen the size of them? Plus, they are sneaky: lie in wait, pounce and maul you about.
- Beaver fever is a thing. Honestly. Read my Canada blog entry or have a google.
- Even a small amount of altitude will monumentally kick your ass
- The Rockies and surrounding hills are awesome.
Things did go a bit a bit pear shaped after that and in September it was rodeo time. My first ever surgical procedure and other than giving birth to the girls and the odd minor injuries visit my first time in hospital. My thoughts on the experience.
- General anaesthetic: best kip ever. No drifting off to sleep just a vague sense of euphoria and bang out.
- Coming out of anaesthetic. Nothing gradual there either. Bing, lights on and bright as a button (although brain fuzzy thanks to the opiates).
- Keyhole surgery is amazing. It looks like teeny tiny elves with teeny tiny instruments did the job.
- I experienced surprisingly little post-surgical pain and the swelling went down surprisingly quicky.
- A positive experience with a successful outcome (so far and long may that continue).
I would be writing with rose-coloured ink if I were to say that negotiating my way along the recovery and rehab path had been bump free. It hasn’t and I have been the muppet responsible for the bumps. Some words from the now wise (possibly).
- Put a mousetrap in the rehab cookie jar. Over indulgence in those short sweet sessions will not end well. Ration the treats. I overdid it with the exercise bike and walking in week four post-surgery and had to fast for a week.
- If you overindulge learn the lesson and don’t do it again. Best leave the mousetrap in the jar. Epic fail there for me: and yes, I did it again in week nine, resulting in two weeks of resting. Doh!
- Believe the consultant when he says it will take a while to fully settle down. This means there will be times when it gets uncomfortable; and not just because you have overdone it.
- There is a significant chance that you will turn into some crazy neurotic mess. I can shamefully report that I have spent an unhealthy and uncharacteristic amount of time focused on every twinge. ‘Oh god, I’ve re-injured it’; ‘What if the surgery hasn’t worked’; ‘What if the surgery has made it worse. The surgeon said there was a tiny chance that would happen’. Stop! Just stop! You are being ridiculous.
- Knock the neurotic worries on the head and stop over doing it. Be patient and expect things to ebb and flow: numpty.
Finally, I have learned to have other adventures and challenges. It doesn’t have to be just about the running. First ever white water rafting on the Kicking Horse River in BC. A bucket list trip to Iceland where we had an absolute blast highlighted with snorkelling between the continental plates and glacier walking.
I do not know what 2024 has in store for me. How much running there will be remains to be seen. I sincerely hope that I have learned my lesson and accepted that my knee will take its own good time to settle and that it will be a challenge in itself figuring out what I am able to do when.
There are still five months of my Diamond Odyssey year left, but then it does not have to stop there. I have a diamond decade ahead. There is hope; there is positivity; there is motivation and there is a plan. There is always a plan. A return trip to Namibia to bookend the Diamond Odyssey year one is in the making. As I have alluded to in the past, I have unfinished business there. But it is not just about unfinished business. It is about my love for the country and a sense that I want to see and experience more of it. If I can run my 60k it will be a wee ‘Brucie’ bonus.