I have recently started running a lot more seriously – see THIS post if you want to catch up on that. My goal is to run the marathon distance of the Sierra Nevada Ultra race in July, which is 40 km up a steep mountain, with 2700 m of elevation. The goal is to finish, so I’m not trying to beat anyone, but myself. I have been doing quite well with my training, doing a good amount of strength and mobility work, increasing the difficulty and distance of runs quite steadily. However, two weeks ago I got injured, and that really put me behind schedule…
Running the Vereda de la Estrella
The Vereda de la Estrella is one of my favorite hikes around Granada and I’ve walked it in all kinds of conditions, both in good weather and in torrential rain, as well as snow. Eventually the thought occurred to me to try running it. It is a similar distance to the race I’ll be doing, but with less elevation to deal with. It was a solid training run 2 months before the race – if I could do this, I would be ready for the race by July.
So, two weeks ago I set off from Güéjar Sierra running along the valley of the Río Genil, along the route of the old, dismantled tram line (Tranvía de la Sierra Nevada), then all along the Vereda de la Estrella, an old mining track leading up into the mountains along a very lush valley. It runs on a trail high above the river, full of trees, streams and all along it, you have a stunning view of some of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada. It is a really good route for trail running and I started off with a great pace, but also giving myself enough time to enjoy the area and take in the view, shoot some photos with my phone and have an ample amount of snacks. I wish I had a proper a camera with me, because the phone photos don’t do the place justice! The total length of the run was 34 km with 1180 m of elevation.
Getting Injured & Recovery
About 25 km in, my right knee really started hurting. I probably took a bad step or something and pulled it, but I can’t pinpoint where it happened. My solution was to bandage it up and jog back to Güéjar Sierra. There was no real way to get off the route or stop earlier, and the jog hurt less than walking. I bandaged it up to have a makeshift knee brace, but by the time I got back to Güéjar Sierra, I had a serious limp, so I knew it was not something that would go away quickly.
It was time for ice, heat packs, sports cream, ibuprofen and lots and lots of rest. I am not a fan of sitting in one place for too long, so this is a challenge. In the first week after the run, it was slowly getting better, but going up and down stairs was extremely painful. I went to the doctor who gave some tips on how to get it to improve faster. I asked her about running the race in July and she didn’t seem too phased. As long as I took enough time to rest and recover now, I should be able to be back at running soon. After a week of rest, the knee began to recover very quickly and about 10 days after the run, it felt like it was almost back to 100%, but I am taking extra time to rest just to make sure everything fully heals. This has tested my patience a lot and I am also simply just frustrated by the injury.
What This Means: Training & Race
I still plan on running the race in July (obviously!), but after some rest, I do need to do a serious reevaluation of the training plan. The lesson I’ve learnt from this experience as that while my overall leg strength is very good, I really need to focus on training the muscles around the knee to help protect it more. So, this means I had to add some more knee-strengthening exercises to my training plan once I had a sufficient amount of rest and recovery time.
“But Marci, This Is So Dangerous!”
I get this a lot: “Marci, what you are doing is so dangerous!” whether I’m doing one of my more extreme hikes or I go trail running and it is honestly starting to piss me off. Yes, obviously there are dangers in doing these sports, but I am quite prepared, and I carry the right equipment. It’s not like I just decided one day that I’ll go run off into the mountains. It takes a ton of training, planning, safety prep (e.g. first aid kit and first aid course!). The people who complain about the dangers of what I do (beyond the healthy amount of worrying from my parents) also have an I-told-you-so attitude now that I got injured – but it’s important to realize that injuries like this are part of outdoor adventures. You do your best to avoid them, but sometimes they do happen no matter how careful and prepared you are.
How can I do something so dangerous like this? Many people who ask this have also coincidentally spent the entire winter sick, running to the doctor all the time. So, let’s ask ourselves, is physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet not very dangerous? Now I am not suggesting that everyone should pick up trail running and long-distance hiking, that would be a bit extreme. But I do think there is generally an unhealthy amount of worrying about outdoor sports, while discussing a lack of sports or bad eating habits happens much less frequently. Well, this is my way of staying fit and healthy, along with a healthy diet and I accept that occasionally some injuries might happen every once in a while. I’ll overall still spend less time at the doctor that most people…
While the last 10 km of the run was painful, overall it was still a good challenge and I really enjoyed running through such a beautiful area. The recovery after the run has definitely been testing my patience, since I want to get back to running as soon as possible, but that could quickly lead to re-injury. This has also helped me to focus my training more on the areas that really need it and I am very stoked to continue working on this and to run the race in July!
PS: The necessary rest time also gave me a ton of time to read and I got through several books that have been on my reading list for a long time!