As the sun sets on this rainy Saturday evening, so too it sets on my hopes for a sub 3 hour marathon in July.
Today the training plan called for 30km, with the first 10km fast (sub 4min/km pace) and the next 20km comfortable. This was to be a key session in my Gold Coast Marathon training plan. But unfortunately today ends the same way the previous 16 days have: with me unable to run a step. With only 5 weeks to go until race day, it’s the final nail in the coffin.
Everything changed so quickly.
Six weeks ago I tore my left groin muscle, and followed that up with a nasty stomach virus. A week later I had the run of my life, setting a 10km PB and placing 5th overall. Things were going so well that I adjusted my 2:53 marathon target down to 2:48. I needed a week to recover from that race, but during the following week I felt some lower stomach muscle tightness at the start of a fast run. I pushed through it OK and then had a couple of easy days leading into the Byron Bay triathlon.
Loading my bike into the car the night before Byron, I didn’t feel quite right but couldn’t put my finger on it. Was it just race nerves? I finished packing the car and decided to see how I felt in the morning. The next morning my lower stomach/groin felt noticeably tender and I reluctantly decided not to race. Over the next few days it didn’t improve and I realised I’d made the right decision. This was confirmed by a visit to the doctor who immediately booked me in for an ultrasound to look for an inguinal hernia.
I’ve had an inguinal hernia before, but on my right side. The pain felt similar but not exactly the same. With a day to kill before my ultrasound, I consulted Dr Google and came upon the “sports hernia” (also known as “Footballer’s Groin”). Notably, this starts with a groin injury, then gets better with rest, but returns with activity. A sports hernia is loosely defined as a strain (or tear) to the muscles/tendons/ligaments of the lower stomach wall and/or groin. Regardless of whether it was an inguinal hernia or a sports hernia, some marathoners out there appeared to be able to train through it (with some discomfort), and defer treatment until after their race.
Could my marathon be saved? I decide to head out for my scheduled 15km “fast” and see.
I’d been dreading this run even before the injury. My last 10km “fast” had been a sufferfest and I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do 5 more.
But I did.
The stomach muscles hurt but were bearable, and the pain in my lungs and legs soon drowned them out. I just managed to sneak in under the target 4:02min/km pace. I came straight home – not even a warm down – and then the pain began. And grew. And GREW! The rest of the day was a blur of lower stomach/groin pain, and it was pretty clear that I would NOT be training through this injury.
That was the 16 days ago – the last time I ran.
The following day the ultrasound revealed a slight “indirect” inguinal hernia. The doctor called to tell me she’d put me on the public waiting list for surgery, but also that the hernia was small, had probably been there for a while, and probably didn’t need an operation. She didn’t think it was the cause of my pain, suspecting that it was perhaps some torn stomach muscles. She expected that if I listened to my body and didn’t aggravate it, the pain ought to clear up before I got summoned for surgery, and then I could remove myself from the list.
So this was GOOD news: probably no operation required. Hooray!! (my last hernia operation was a train wreck and had to be redone). But hang on, what say the pain hasn’t cleared up when I hit the top of the list? Do I end up having an operation I perhaps don’t need?
For the last two weeks I’ve exercised to pain tolerance. I’ve been able to cycle, and I’ve been able to swim (but no kicking so pull-bouy only). To be honest, I’ve been smashing the bike and absolutely loving it! I’ve had three long mountain bike rides and found a whole warren of new trails. The injury’s a little better, but even a run across the road is enough to tell me I can’t run yet. Today’s 30km run is certainly not an option!
So the Gold Coast marathon in 5 weeks is out. No worries. Another time.
The next problem is the Challenge Gold Coast half ironman which is 12 weeks away. Even if I just treat this race as a social affair, I still need to be able to run/walk for 21km. I tried a 5km walk last week and that left me aching, so I have some way to go.
The time has come to get a second opinion from a more sports-focused medical professional. I’m hopeful that 12 weeks is long enough to get me running again, but more importantly, I want to confirm whether an operation is required… BEFORE the hospital surgeons strap me down and cut me up!
Crikey, this getting old stuff is… well… getting old!