Well, this post should have started off with a sigh of relief that I'd finished the long runs; that the 5 o'clock rises to squeeze a run in before work were done for now. It doesn't. It starts with an "ouch!" and the sound of fingers and toes crossing firmly with the clear intention to summon a bit of luck that I will in fact make it to the starting line in Fort William in less than three weeks.
I'm not sure what happened. I'd felt a bit niggled after last Saturday's long run; sort of out of kilter. There was nothing I could put my finger on, but a swim and yoga session got me back to normal and nothing hurt so I just put it down to being disgruntled and tired and ready to taper.
So I headed off quite chipper for my middle distance run on Wednesday lunchtime. Despite the awful weather we've had, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Okay it was a bit blowy and a bit nippy, but you don't run on Scottish East Coast beaches without getting used to that! I'd dressed warm with my polar leggings (not worn for several years, it's not been cold enough); gloves and even Ali's neck warmer. It felt great and I felt good and started to think I might go for 10 miles given how lovely it all was.
I trotted along and a very large friendly (and rather tubby) dog came up to say 'hello'. Nothing untoward and he was certainly better behaved than many of the dogs you meet on the beach. I stopped and greeted the beast but he jumped up on me and his weight shoved me over on my ankle. Not a big dunt, it wasn't even sore and of course I've done the twisted ankle thing before and then run 20 miles, so I didn't worry unduly and just headed off again.
Gradually I noticed a sort of stiff pain in my outer left thigh. I've got quite used to pain over the last few months and I've learnt just to relax and wait for it to move around as my body accommodates and adapts. But this was different and it didn't budge, I seized up more and more. By mile 5, I couldn't keep going, my leg just wouldn't move like it needed to. It wasn't horrendously sore, my leg just wouldn't work; some bit of me was not happy and wasn't going to play anymore. I stopped running, turned round and started walking home - I didn't want to risk an injury so close to the big day.
Walking is really slow, it takes sooo long to get anywhere, but at least I was warmly dressed and the sun was shining. The pain eased quickly over the next day or so, and luckily I'd got a general maintenance check with the physio scheduled and got the all clear. I had a massage and it all looked okay for the last long Saturday run.
Saturday came. It was baltic, absolutely baltic with snow forecast for the second half of my run. Out came the winter gear. In went the porridge. A gentle warm up of the body and mind and then off I went into the breach. It was cold and windy but how exhilarating! I started off very slowly, thinking just how good I was going to feel at the end - thanks to my Twitter chums cheering me on. After about 5 minutes I had a sharp pain down the thigh muscle and everything seized up again. It was worse this time, much more painful and it came on quicker than Wednesday. I did momentarily think about running on but that would have been madness. I knew I had to abort my mission - this was not the time to experiment running through a new and rather ominous pain. I might be able to do that in the marathon, but now I needed to listen to my body and head home.
I got great support from physio and runner Tom Goom (@tomgoom) who helped me get a handle on what was going on; reminded me that I'd done most of my training and I had a chance if I focussed on healing. There's lots of very good advice on his website too. After two twenty mile runs I do feel confident I have it in me to do the full 26.2, but not with a gammy leg! I surrendered to taper and accepted my lot.
To mark the end of long runs and the start of taper, I celebrated with afternoon tea at Greywalls in Gullane. It didn't matter too much that I'd not managed the 20 that morning. It wasn't just a reward for that one run, it was a reward for everything; every early morning, every treadmill torment, every niggle and every lesson learnt over the last 3 months. And I have to tell you it tasted every bit as good as it looks! Carb loading can indeed be fun and not too onerous!
I'm now focussed on healing with my trusty compression tights on and my fingers crossed ready for my physio appointment tomorrow evening. I must admit I'm tired, despite (or maybe because of) not running much this week. It isn't just the muscles that get all fired up and busy when you're training - it's mental and adrenalin fuelled too; it's odd not to have my mental calculator going non stop to work out how to squeeze the runs in!
So I'm in taper. Physically it started last week, mentally it started yesterday. It's not quite how I'd planned it, but none of the training has gone to plan, and that's part of the learning. As I sit here I've suddenly started to notice streaked windows and dusty corners. Spring is coming and I feel the urge to clean. I add a taper to-do list to my to do list!
So fingers crossed til tomorrow night when I hope to get a verdict. Will I run Lochaber or will I yet again watch a marathon?
Whatever you're up to in your training, good luck and watch out for big friendly dogs!