As May began, I was in a positive mindset. Rehabilitation had been going well, and I was picking up the miles along with the climbing volume, slowly but surely.
As I type this, it’s three months to UTMB® and most of the administration in respect of the travel and race has been finalised. Only the Schengen Visa application needs finalisation and then its go time. Super amped and stoked to have reached this stage.
May has, however, did not go as smoothly as anticipated. Having done just 224 kilometres of training (with some 5000 metres of climbing) I felt apprehensive about toeing the line for the pioneer race of Mac Mac Ultra 100 miler, knowing I was under-trained and only about 60% recovered from the tendon injury I sustained at the beginning of April.
May 24th rolled on and I stood at the start line in the quaint old mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest, in Mpumalanga. The run started smoothly and injury felt fine as the kilometres rolled by. Until we hit a big climb through a natural indigenous forest about 12 kilometres into the tough 100-mile course.
The undertrained legs already started to feel the climbs when a pain slowly started developing in the injured area. Reaching Blackhill Hut aid station, I felt completely spent and even race director Eloff Hoffman commented on how quiet I was. A rare occurrence! The injury really started flaring up at the top of the climb to this aid station.
As the miles of solitude clocked by, the dull injury pain kept raising its head as I kept on grinding down the course. Reaching Morgenzon aid station (40 kilometres in) I felt like pulling the plug as I got caught and past, by the top by three ladies, having a serious race. I decided, after having spent most of the time so far on my own, I would join up with two other runners, Riaan and Herman, for the long dark night stint ahead. We chatted and shuffled our way back to Pilgrim’s Rest on the next section of the route. The time went by relatively well; the chatter drowning out the growing injury pain. Our party of three became a party of four as we were joined by another runner, Innes, at the Pilgrim’s Rest aid station up to Mac Mac Hut aid station.
But as we progressed up the mountain to Mac Mac Hut aid station, it became progressively difficult for me to even keep up the walking sections with the other three runners. I made the call about 3 kilometres from the Mac Mac Hut aid station that I will drop out at that point. Those 3 kilometres to Mac Mac hut was death on my mood and mind, as I kept fighting and arguing with myself on whether this is the correct call and whether or not I was just being a big baby, not being mentally strong enough. This chain of thought had been with me for the last two weeks leading up to Mac Mac Ultra because UTMB®, my main goal race, was merely three months after Mac Mac. I didn’t want to cause more damage and possibly not make it to UTMB®, at all.
When I pulled out at Mac Mac Hut on that Friday night midnight, I had covered 72 kilometres and almost 3000 metres of climbing in about 12hours, which is still long tough day out in the mountains.
The Saturday morning, after having some time to think, as I walked into the race village to support the finishers, I felt that, even though I knew I made the right decision, I had let myself, my friends, family, supporters and sponsors down.
I got in touch with my biokineticists (Nicolene) so that we could get an aggressive treatment plan in place urgently, as the injury felt the way it did two months ago when this all started.
In terms of rehabilitation, I will focus on strengthening the abductors, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps muscles. This will provide a more stable base and platform for both the hips, knees and the rest of the kinetic chain to do its job correctly and get me back running strong and ready for UTMB®. The timelines are tight but with my team’s backing, as Linda has said, we will be ready for UTMB® 2019.
Never truer the words I used at end of part one of this series, which I repeat here now, “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.”― Dean Karnazes