100k’s too far
One of my anticipated events of the year has become something of a disappointment. The 100k Trailwalker event had been a rather big focus for me. Every day I had been treating my ankles in the hope of hastening their recovery from the chronic pain I had had. In the last month I had been frenetically training looping through the city and country. But either through poor strategy or just pure insufficient preparation, I had to pull out at the 63 km mark of the event.
The walk started well although in retrospect, we probably went too quickly. The first leg of 17km was relatively easy and I was happy. The second leg of 10.7km was horrid with the front of my ankles flaring up but nothing excessive. We had to cross hilly farmland on an angled route traversing sheep tracks that ran horizontally (hard to explain sorry). This had been a problem in the past for me because if you follow the track, your ankle will be constantly rolling to one side and would be aggravating part of my ankle. I decided to take my usual strategy of going either directly down or going completely laterally along the sheep tracks. In retrospect, this may have been the wrong choice as later on the pain in my ankle was chiefly in the front part, perhaps from the impact of going straight down a hill quickly.
That being said, the third leg of the journey, 10.2k was quite good for me. The pain in my ankles completely disappeared and only friction on my heels caused any discomfort. My back started its usual drilling under my left shoulder. As a team, we skidded into the Checkpoint 3 with our first real signs that our team’s condition was starting to deteriorate.
The fourth leg was the worst for most concerned. The longest section of the course at 18.7kms, it injured most of the team in some way. I was fine to start off with and enjoyed the soft surface of a forest grove where I could move smoothly even though I had pain in my knees and ankles. Night fell and the headlamps went on. At the 50k point, I uttered the rather foolish comment that I had a strong pain threshold and despite my pained ankles, knees and back I would be able to finish the course. Unfortunately, from that point on we were walking on Whangamata road and my ankles were increasingly aggravated, possibly because of the harder surface. The speed I was able to do dropped.
At the end of that leg we realised we wouldn’t be able to meet a 10pm cut off point to get to Checkpoint 5. If we could have done so we would be able to go home for a rest in the middle, which would have been desirable for the injured (although with the feel of being a little bit like cheating). We stopped and had a chance to recuperate before our march to Checkpoint 5. Although I felt fine at the stop – as soon as I started the 5th leg my left ankle suddenly became unbearable. I had to stop at the side of the path and give it strapping and extra cream. It was worse than any of the preceding pain that I had with my ankle. From that point on, I was focussed only in putting one step in front of the other. It impaired my balance a little slowing me down more. Fortunately there was a walking pole on hand (thanks AJ), which helped quite a lot. In addition to my foot trouble, I started to feel rather nauseous too, occasionally feeling that the bushes were beckoning me to puke on them. In other words, I was a mess.
I believed I had re-injured my ankle but in a new location; the front hinge part rather than the inner side that was hurt previously (the inner ligament). With over 40kms still to go and at least 10 more hours of walking on the track I resigned myself to pulling out at the next stop to prevent further damage. We stopped at Checkpoint 5 for two hours and I gave myself some treatment. They had free massages for all trailwalkers. I started to have second thoughts about pulling out. I may have been able to do the next leg, but alternatively I could have injured it more and needed a team sent in to pull me out. So in the end, I quit.
After I got back at AJ’s house, I regretted pulling out again (did that many times subsequently). I gave my ankles good treatment with heat and various therapeutic gels and creams, slept several hours of broken sleep and in the morning I felt a lot better. I walked/limped the final 5kms with my drenched, injured and exhausted team-mates (hooray for James and AJ!).
In retrospect, I think I made the right decision about pulling out. My eldest sister told me about how she had pushed on through an obviously damaged knee on a tramp and still has problems because of it now. Right now, embarrassingly, my ankles are feeling well except for a small issue on the left outer ankle (another spot which was not previously damaged).
I have resolved to walk a 100k, with sufficient training, in the near future (probably within two months) once my ankles have settled down at their own pace and I have had the chance to prepare myself and a training plan with my other fallen comrade, Edwin. My sister suggested I do the UK Trailwalker in July (another cunning way to get me over to England for a looksee), but finances may hold me back ;-)
Trailwalker, though arguably an act of masochism, is a genuine challenge and one I will attempt again and again till I finally finish the damn thing.