Free Fallin'

It has been a while since I have written here. The reason? I fell out of a tree. I fractured a rib. Yes you read that correctly. I fell out of a tree. An actual tree.

The infamous tree that I fell from. The leaves on the ground were a small consolation.


What was I doing in a tree in the first place you ask? I will get to that but let’s go back just a little further to the events leading up to my tumble.


Sunday morning, cold but bright and I needed to get some more miles in the legs. I set out at a decent pace and held that for 16.5km and made it home as the rest of the city was just waking up from its slumber. I was feeling good and I felt on course to get a decent time in the half-marathon in May. I was feeling so good that I announced to the kids as soon as I stepped through the door that we should go to the woods and play.


Within five minutes of getting to the woods and in the middle of a game that, as usual, involved a combination of pirates, monsters and goblins I spotted a tree that would be excellent for climbing whilst also providing a teachable moment. I was planning to teach them how to climb and the lesson was going well until the branch I was holding snapped. Like roadrunner going off the cliff, I seemed to have enough latent time to see the branch still in my grip before gravity took over. I made a desperate scramble to get a foot and then hand onto another branch as I fell past it but I knew all hope was lost and the only thing stopping me was the ground.


It turns out that I don’t bounce like I did in my tree-climbing prime. My brain still felt like it was bouncing around in my head but I was acutely aware that my two sons were watching me in total bewilderment. A man walking his dog saw me fall and came to check I was ok. I was not but managed to stand-up and make a show being a capable dad.

And so kids, that is exactly how not to climb a tree.


I could barely breathe and even without a medical degree it was pretty clear that I had done some damage. The doctor at home laughed and decided that I had probably just hurt some muscles and it was nothing that some painkillers wouldn’t fix.


Like most injuries, it was worse the next day. I sneezed and the pain was so that I almost cried. I went to the bathroom at work and crouched down in a cubicle in an attempt to handle the pain. From then on I could not sneeze. I don’t think I sneezed for a month. Laughing was the same which was especially hard for me as I love to laugh.


It was clear that running was going to be impossible. It was horrible knowing that the race was getting closer and I was getting slower.


It has however given me a new appreciation of the mental torture that athletes must go through when they are injured. I was thinking about Chris Froome. In line for a tilt at winning a fifth Tour de France he slams into a low wall on a recce of a time trial course. With that one split second misjudgment the rest of his year was a write off. Getting back on the bike wasn’t a given never mind getting back to being the best GC rider.


I have a new respect for the way their determination to force their way back into contention. Whilst I am in no danger of winning any races, not being able to exercise still takes a mental toll on me. Exercise brings balance in my life. It is a time to forget everything else, the brain can switch off and the only feeling is pain. Pain and joy. When I can’t get outside and exercise, I feel myself becoming more irritable and stressed.


I tried to maintain some level of fitness on the turbo trainer but even getting on the saddle is an effort in itself.

Trying to smile through the boredom that is the turbo-trainer. Needs must to keep the weight off whilst the rib heels.


Since I had time on my hands and time off my legs I decided to take a look back at my running stats. Looking at this data veered dangerously close to what I do at work but it was illuminating.

The beauty of stats. It is always nice to see improvements. It is not nice to see that you have reached a plateau.


But data is nothing without some context. Back at the start of 2018 I was getting back into running off the back of a few years dedicated completely to cycling. I was fitter than I had ever been but all that fitness came from sitting on the saddle. For various reasons (kids and job mostly) I was finding it more and more difficult to find time for the bike and so I started to introduce more running into my routine.


I was fit and I used to run cross-country at a relatively high level so how hard could it be to get the form back. I mean it was only a few years since I had ran a 38 minute 10km race. It was incredibly hard. It was sickeningly hard. It felt like I had never ran in my life.

And the stats back me up on this one.


On my first run of the year in 2018 I managed an average pace of 4 minutes 57 seconds per km. I ran 6km and each of those were a lesson in the fact that any cycling fitness does not in fact relate to running prowess.


It was pretty demoralizing but the data clearly shows that improvements came thick and fast. That is why I always recommend that people record their training as it acts as a great motivational tool and can be a great way to see areas where you need to improve.


The obvious spikes in the data tend to be runs where I have been doing intervals or have gone on a recovery run with a colleague.


Since the start of 2018 until now my average pace hovers around 4 minutes 20 seconds per kilometer. I thought I would be faster than this but the stats don’t lie. My best pace in that same time period was 3 minutes 45 seconds when I was running a fast 5km.


My average running distance is just over 7.5km. This stat is dominated by the fact that I squeeze most of my running into a lunch break and I also like to do fast short runs to work on my pace.


My maximum distance is only 16.5km so this is clearly something that I need to improve on as I build up to the half-marathon race in a few months.


As long as I stay injury free and the kids don't jump on my ribs then I am hoping to break 1.5 hours. Stay tuned to see how I get on...

The ribs have healed and I am back pounding the streets in preparation for the half-marathon.

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