August 31, 2017

A good old fashioned foot race

A couple of weekends ago I toed the line at another race for a bit of fun and in an attempt to try work my way back to fitness.  I had never raced Squamish 23k before, although in past years I had raced the 50k and 50 mile distance, but both of those are beyond my capability levels right now and so instead it was time to attempt to run fast and yet what is also a long distance for me currently.  It was a weird mixture of having to remind myself to work harder and push a higher intensity on trails that I am used to exerting an ultra effort on, and yet I also knew that I am not really fit enough right now to really push hard for 20+ kms.

The gun went off and so did the front of the field, I had placed myself a little bit back as I didn't want to get in the way of the handful of speedsters who I knew would be considerably faster than me.  Not surprisingly my super fit and speedy buddy Anne-Marie pulled ahead right away but I was a little disheartened to see my other buddy, Ramsey Ezzat, running stride for stride with AM up the initial climb.  My last experience of racing with AM & Ramsey was at my last ultra, Chuckanut 50k in 2016, and during that race we had spent a bunch of time together as a happy little trio trudging up Cleator Road together and yet now it was clear that (a) I was much slower on uphills than them and (b) this was a sub-ultra race and I didn't have the speedy wheels that they did.  Hey ho, a reminder to focus on running my own race.  I had only had a couple of loose goals heading into the race - position was not one of them as I had no idea of the other ladies racing and nor did I have a time target as I had never run the race before.  So instead my goals were to run as hard as I could and to aim to be just under ten minutes behind AM at the finish, a sensible target given we had raced together two weeks previously so I had a gauge on our relative speeds, it wasn't that I was racing AM but I just wanted to use her as a good motivator to work hard.

The nice thing about Squamish 23k compared  to the two other races I have done so far (Buckin' Hell 15k and Green Race 25k) is that Squamish was a bit of a bigger race and so I had fellow racers in sight for 99% of the race.  This made it easier to work harder, to strategise and to stay focused on pushing a good effort.  In the early kms of the race I zig-zagged back and forth with a good little group of men and women and this was great to keep the energy levels up.  Compared to Green Race where the long 12.5k uphill didn't really play to my strengths, the Squamish course weaves up and down, back and forth - it's fun, it's dynamic and it keeps you constantly changing gears.  It reminded me how much I had missed running on these trails and whilst I typically lost contact with the runners ahead of me on each small uphill, I was still pleased with my ability to rally and run more uphills than I hoped.

AM has won SQ23k every darn 6 years the event has been held.  Amazing.  Photo: SQ23.

 However I soon got a little confused along the race course - each twist and turn would bring back memories of having raced the 50k and 50 miler here, and yet it didn't make sense - these landmarks were really close to the finish and yet I had only just started racing.  Something just didn't add up.  It was then that the reality hit, yah - 23kms used to be the finishing push in a race for me, and now it was my entire race course.  Ok, ok - best to not just think about that, afterall I had more things to be concerned about - like the fact that I was 11kms in and could I really carry on at this effort for another while 12kms?  I really wasn't sure.  Having done no tempos runs at yet, running this distance at a higher intensity was well out of my comfort zone and so I was grateful that at this point I started to catch Ramsey and have some company to distract from my fears.

From there on til the finish, Ramsey and I would shift back and forth - he'd pull ahead on an uphill, I would rally and often catch him on a downhill.  Whilst my cardio fitness and leg strength for uphills are currently lacking, it was fun to be able to weave through the roots and rocks somewhat proficiently on the downhills.  The final 2kms or so of the race course end on some very flat tarmac and gravel trail.  As I headed onto this long drawn out straight away I saw Ramsey's bright blue shirt ahead of me - ok, time to put the hammer down for a head to head.  I can honestly say that that was one of the highlights of my race - my lungs were burning, my arms were pumping and my legs felt like they would not hold on for very much longer at all, and yet I caught Ramsey, we both passed another runner, and then Ramsey re-caught me before we both stumbled, pretty worked, over the finish line.  As Ramsey so perfectly put in a text message to me later, 'Thanks for the good old fashioned foot race today.  Good to be able to see you able to push that hard too'.  There is nothing more fun than a head to head with a friend and there is no better way to really work on your fitness than chasing right to the line.


Womens podium: AM, me, Vivian (despite a little detour!).  Photo: SQ23.



August 8, 2017

Baby races

Running in Castlegar ahead of The Green Race 25k.  Photo: Martin Cai.

So after very, very, very little racing in 2016 I launched off my 2017 race season with a local 15k trail race ... in July.  Sometimes I find it's better that I don't over analyse that sentence as it's just not exactly encouraging.  Sure, I have since followed that 15k race up with a 25k race just two weeks later - but that still amounts to just 40 kilometres with a race bib on ... when I used to consider a 42.2k race as a mere training event.  In 2012 I raced a total of 950kms ... in 2017 I have so far raced 910kms less and I can't see that I will be making a huge dent into that 'deficit' in the remaining three months of the year.  I guess that's ok.

Buckin' Hell 15k finish line with a couple of local running friends.  Photo: Scott Robarts.

I guess I should be a little optimistic - I mean, I have managed to string together some weeks of running that made me think I could race 25kms and not suffer too many injury setbacks afterwards.  I say not too many as I am far from running without any aches and pains.  Sure, I know many of you reading this will say 'well, I always have aches and pains, get on with it' and that has certainly been the reasonable feedback many folks give me - but I just don't know how much discomfort in the form of possible injuries I'm prepared to run and race through.  Time will tell.  For now I am still a very long way from creating anything that resembles a training plan or a race schedule, and I am still very unsure if I will be able to reach the minimum distance (50k) that is required to be able to call myself an ultra runner again.  But most weeks I am trying to add a couple of kms to my long run and I will see if I can build on that week on week.  I have made it up to a long run of 33kms so far - I almost died but didn't - so that's a positive!  I have also been making it back to my run club weekly trail intervals which was a huge goal of mine as I love those workouts and those are definitely what is needed to try get me back in any sort of shape again.  You may think that getting back into running shape is easy but I assure you, it's not.  To put things in perspective - I ran 25kms on July 1st of this year and that was my longest run in 14 months (since BMO Vancouver Marathon in May 2016) - yah, my endurance is shot, my legs are not strong and you can now see why I am unsure if I can build to ultra distances quite yet!  But I'll keep plugging away and see where the coming months and years take me.  Weekly strength work with my trainer (Michelle) is a big part of that too.


Hill repeats with VFAC.  Photo: Nic Browne.

I certainly have made enough progress that I only see my physio every two to three weeks now (yay time and money savings!) and I am hoping to start working back with my running coach as I feel I have a somewhat shaky but still workable base that we can springboard from to get me back running a little faster and maybe even further.  In the two races I have run so far I had no goals other than making it to the finish line as fast as my current fitness would allow and not getting injured.  If I came dead last - fine, so long as I was exhausted and no more injured at the finish than I was at the start.  I successfully achieved these goals at both Buckin' Hell 15k and The Green Race 25k, and came 2nd in both (against some great runners)!

As many runners might be starting to wind down their race season, I'm hoping I can soon get out of the starting blocks without too many false starts.  But that's ok, because running has no seasons - it's a lifestyle and one super lifestyle that I hope I can lead again, ideally in the not too distant future.


Making my way up the 1200m climb of Mt Sentinel in The Green Race 25k.  Photo: The Green Race.

Dr, race winner, Salomon teammie, friend.  With AM in the smoky Kootenays.

April 14, 2017

One massive, complex & confusing jigsaw puzzle

Firstly, please ignore if you are looking for a post with scenic trail pics or race reports.  I appreciate the injury updates can be pretty boring stuff for most folks out there but it's a month since my last update so I figured it was time to update again on my progress ... or lack thereof ...

When I last updated I was in the middle of a series of prolotherapy injections to try stabilise my lax sacroiliac (SI joint).  This involved a weekly visit to the doctor for six consecutive weeks to have 60 injections at a time into my SI and lower back area.  Luckily I got local anaesthetic injections each time too so it felt like not much more than an intense session of IMS, and Dr. Gillies - an older British woman - regaled me with stories of cycling in Thailand to distract me.  Many folks react quite strongly to the injections and have limited mobility for a few days, but I found I didn't react too badly and was fairly mobile after each session - but that doesn't indicate that the injections (which are dextrose and tighten ligaments) aren't working and in fact they did.  After six weeks Dr. Gillies was very pleased that my SI was much more stable, though I will be going back for a booster session in a few weeks time to increase chances that it stays that way.

Throughout the course of prolotherapy I was not allowed to do anything that might make the SI shift so that basically meant to activity - no running, no gym work, no hiking, no biking, no swimming.  I knew I was getting desperate when I asked if I was allowed to do yoga or not - I'm not sure if I was relieved or not when I was told that that was not allowed either.  I was allowed to walk for 2 x 15 minutes day, oh well - at least I could go grocery shopping then!  After six weeks of zero activity and much over eating and youtube video watching (I don't have a TV) I was allowed to try a 30 min jog.  Man oh man, I can't tell you how terrible that felt.  I'm super out of shape right now (but that's the least of my concerns) but everything just hurt - I was tight, tense and my legs were sore to touch.  I knew that a lot of this was because I was simply deconditioned to running (or really any movement) and even after a few days of 30 minute shuffles I began to feel a little more human again - my shoulders and back had loosened up and with thanks to the foam roller my legs were beginning to feel a little less like concrete blocks.  I wouldn't exactly call it progress but I was getting back to not feeling much worse than before the prolotherapy so that was a positive.

My doctor has been checking my SI most weeks since the completion of the six weeks of prolotherapy and so far it is (almost) as good as it was right after prolotherapy, despite a slight increase in activity.  So far I have been allowed to try some easy hiking, easy cycling and easy runs, all wearing an SI belt as an insurance policy to hold the SI in place.  There's nothing better than wearing a tight band around your hips when you already feel pretty chunky ;)  But the basic problem remains that my left leg just doesn't work like my right leg does.  This is pretty darn frustrating as I was hoping either the prolo or the six weeks of total rest would really help (and I wasn't too fussy which would help, so long as one did).  Don't get me wrong, having a stable SI is pretty much essential for an ultra runner, but getting that tightened up has not really resolved the underlying issues of my original injury at all.  The original pain in my groin of a year ago is not there (for now) but my adductor is constantly overworked, my left glute refuses to do any work and since around Christmas time my hamstrings have been shouting and so far have not piped down much.  Of course with being injured for this long it becomes pretty obvious that it's unlikely fixing one thing will solve the puzzle or that the puzzle will be solved overnight - there are many components at play and it's trying to get them all lined up at the same time that is proving the tricky part.

For now I am running a small amount every other day.  I really have to emphasize that it is a little - so far 8km/ 5 miles is a long run for me and I don't plan going over that sort of distance any time soon.  It's not pain free but it's tolerable and it's keeping me sane - some folks might under estimate that but if a short jog is only slightly uncomfy but keeps my overall body feeling ok and gives me 30 minutes of enjoyment then I feel that is important.  For now, SI stability permitting, I'm easing in some other activities to try just maintain my minimal fitness and to get outside, these privileges will be revoked by my doctor at anytime she feels my SI is getting worse.  I've been a little scared off strength work for now (a gym incident in January truly showed that my body was fragile) but I'd like to get back at that when I can as I know I have lost pretty much any strength I had, but that's what six weeks of lying on the sofa on the back of 10 months of curtailed activity does to you.

I'll be seeing, yet another, physio next week to check out a new angle and I'm waiting to get an MRI (which could be a few months) just to double check the hip area again (I had one back in July but worth re-checking and this should be a contrast MRI which can show more detail).  I made two goals at the start of the year - 1, that by December I hope to have run a 10k race (I don't care how slow but at a proper race effort) and 2, that by December I would also run a local trail route that's about 15kms (Headwaters to Norvan Falls for any locals reading).  Now we're in mid-April  I'm not sure if these are realstic goals but there's still a few months to start making progress.

At this stage I am truly grateful for both my sponsors and the medical folks who have helped me along the way.  I am also super proud and grateful to my coaching clients - I currently have about 35 clients all over the world training for anything from a half marathon to a 200 mile race, I absolutely love my coaching work and it's always a pleasure to help guide folks to achieve their dreams and personal goals.  Whilst my own personal running goals might be on hold for now, I'll never tire of talking about running and helping others to weave their running ambitions around family commitments, busy jobs and sometimes far from ideal training grounds.

Special thanks go to:

Salomon Running
CLIF bar
Drymax Socks
Sundog Eyewear
Flora Health
Suunto

and

Dr. Jim Bovard (he says he's getting stubborn, I'm glad because I sometimes feel like giving up).
Dr. Jean Gillies (prolo treatment)
Bobby Crudo RMT (especially for saving me at 4pm on a Friday when my SI gave out in the gym that morning).
Chris Napier, Marylou Lamy, Carolyn Bliss (physios)
Joe Uhan (physio and gait analysis)

 Happy trails,
Ellie

I helped iRunFar with race coverage at Chuckanut 50k.  It was a fast and furious race to watch!

Hiking in the rain.

25% off sunnies til end of April!

It's not really been great cycling weather but hoping for more sun for more skinny tyre miles.

Fun times hanging out with CLIF bar in Whistler.

Trail conditions in North Van, April 10th.

March 13, 2017

And the slow train rolls on ...

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Month One.  OMG I cannot do my favorite race that I have trained for months for.  OMG I am in such great fitness and this is the worst thing ever that I’ve got injured a month before my key race of the year.  So, so sad.

Month Two.  Ok, this injury is really dragging on longer than I’d like, ack – it’s worse than I’d previously thought but ok, I’ll be back running 100% in a few weeks time.  No problem.


Hiking in North Van.

Month Three.  Hmm, this next race is looking questionable.  I mean maybe still doable, I’ve been cross training a lot and I’m making some progress so maybe I can do it.  Think positive, think positive!

Month Four.  This is gosh darn ridiculous!  I mean I’m an ultrarunner and I’ve just had to pull out of a 23km race.  Since when can I not run for two hours without getting injured?  Ok, ok, more cross training it is.

Slow miles, sore ass.

Month Five.  I’m making some progress, I mean maybe just a little but surely I’m getting there!  Let’s race a 10k road race, let’s ignore the fact that I’m a trail ultra runner.  Ack, that 10k race did my leg no good at all.  Fine, let’s scratch next months ultra that a really wanted to race.  Boo hoo.  Silly running.

Month Six.  Winter is so less conducive to cross training.  Cycling in the dark and rain in pointless.  I so don’t want to go pool running. Fitness is pointless, I can’t run.  Fine, fine – I’ll carry on with more expensive physio, it’s got to help at some point, no?

Month Seven.  Ok, final dream race of the year well and truly scratched.  I give up.  100%, I’m done.  How long can you do without running properly and still call yourself a runner?  ‘Cause I sure as anything don’t feel like one now.

Low impact gym time.

Month Eight.  No pressure.  The race year is done, the boat has left the harbor and I well and truly missed the sailing.  That’s ok, everything will turn around in the New Year next month, right?  Right!  New Year, no injuries, new races to aim for.  I will do this!

Month Nine.  How come it’s January and I’m still injured.  Has anyone every told you how unmotivating physio exercises are after nine full months?  Sure, different physios, different exercises, same result.

2016 was my worst year of running by far.  An injury struck at the worst time, right before a key race, a race I love with a passion and that I had trained so hard for, and yet it was taken away from me just moments before the start line.  The last now ten months, and counting, have been about constantly adjusting goals to the tides of my injury. It goes without saying that when you’re used to running 100 miles a week then a pretty big void is left when your body only seems to want to run for a tiny fraction of the distance it once did.  Don’t get me wrong – no broken leg, no deathly disease, it ‘just’ seems to be an overuse injury that steadfastly refuses to go away.  There have been many a time where I say, ‘fine, I give up, I’m done’ but then I get out for a short run and I love the crunch of gravel under my feet, the fresh air on my cheeks, the sounds of nothing but the rustling trees and my breath, and I daydream of races of past and I want to be back there and know I can’t give up the hope of getting there just yet.  It’s not just the races I miss (which of course I do), I miss the structure that daily training brings, I miss chasing my friends at club workouts and I miss those familiar trails and those mountain views that, for now, seem like a distant memory.  Right now I don’t class myself as a runner and whilst the memories of past running often seem more like a dream, I want to chase that dream.  I hate the physio exercises and the mind numbing cross training but you know what?  I didn’t win Western States and Comrades by giving up, and I’m not giving up on this nightmarish injury ultra just yet.  Why? Because I want to be that 70 year old lady that still runs around the neighborhood and shows up at local races.  Sure, a few more competitive ultras before then would be nice too, but for now – I just want to run.


One step forward, and hopefully not two steps back.

December 5, 2016

7 months and counting

Good lord, I could have almost produced another human life in the amount of time that I have been injured!  Seven months and counting since that fateful day where I went for a totally normal run and thought, 'hmm, that's an odd pain in my groin'.  There has been a serious lack of blog posts since then as by and large I reserve my blog posts for race summaries and recaps and other than one 10k race and a 3km/ 800m hill climb (both in September, both for fun) there has been no racing in recent months.  But I guess I am due to post an update.

10k race in September with taped leg that didn't feel great afterwards.

So what's the injury?  Ah ha!  The million dollar question!  I don't know.  Yes, that's right - after seven months of weekly Dr and physio visits there is still no real definite answer to this.  At various times, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes in seemingly random rotation, I've had groin pain, adductor pain, inner quad pain and knee pain.  Am I incapacitated and in agony?  No.  Can I run without discomfort and normal volume?  No.  My longest run since BMO Vancouver marathon in May is about 22km.  I used to run more than that day in day out.  Maybe that's the problem, maybe I've just run out of miles in my legs?  I don't know and I kind of doubt it, but many days I believe that.  I've had some 80 - 100km weeks with only annoying discomfort but I've never had a stretch of pain free running and certainly never got anywhere close to my previous usual of 160kms or so per week.  It's like my body has just decided to quit running.  I've recently taken a week off and then tried 3 x 30 to 40 min jogs over the space of 5 days, I've still got niggling pains.

I don't want to make this a pity party and nor do I want to use Dave Mackey as a benchmark for everything, but let's just say - I've not had to have a leg amputated.  Yes, Dave has and if you don't know him and need some perspective on life, then read this.  We're cheering for you all the way Mr. Mackey! He's just going about life being himself but he doesn't need to do anything else to be hugely inspiring - both in past years and now.

Dave and I, American River 50, 2011?
Needless to say I have zero race plans for 2017.  I cannot plan when I cannot go for regular runs pain free.  If I can get to moderate volume and pain free I'll toe a line and happily run mid pack, but I'm not there yet.  Besides, ultra race plans can become tricky when you have zero qualifiers for an awful lot of races.  I've got an invite for a half marathon in February, I would like to run that but realise that it likely won't happen.  My oh my, and to think I used to run ultras.

Most of all this is a post to update but also give out some thank yous and hugs.  I have seen many medical professionals who have gone above and beyond to try fix me.  Dr. Jim Bovard does not give up and that is a very valuable quality in a sport medicine Dr because there are times that the athlete wants to give up.  He hasn't let me.  I've seen three highly qualified physios - Chris Napier, Marilou Lamy and Carolyn Bliss.  The sort of physios who see you in their own home on their day off or lend you their own personal core shorts to see if they can help.  More recently I have also seen Dr. Jean Gillies who examined me from head to foot and had to show me how to get out of her building when it was all locked up as the appointment had gone way beyond clinic hours.  It's back to more physio tomorrow to look at a slightly new angle.

More thank yous should go to my sponsors: Salomon, Clif Bar, Drymax Socks, Flora Health and Sundog Eyewear.  I would understand if any one of them dropped me as ultimately I was signed to represent them through running and racing, something I'm not doing an awful lot of right now, but they are still here with me and I truly appreciate that.

A huge thank you should also go to Michelle Ford.  Michelle is a friend and personal trainer who I have worked with since the start of this year (pre-injury).  She's challenged me with tough but fun workouts and modified things when needed to work around the various aches and pains.  I might not be running fit right now but I am decently strong thanks to Michelle.

The hugs should go to Abby Zoomer and Anne-Marie Madden.  AZ tolerated a very slow cyclist over the summer months and now the snow has started to fall, we've had some fun snowshoe hiking adventures at a less than brisk pace.  Dr. AMM is not only a very smart Doc but most importantly she is a very good friend who is there for advice, hiking and runs when I feel able to try that, despite having a very busy schedule of her own.  Thank you you two for being awesome!

My longest and most fun run since May with two superstars :)

I would say roll on 2017 but who knows what 2017 will bring.  But I will wish you all a super time over the holiday season and good luck in your races for next year (especially to my super Sharman Ultra Coaching clients who have made me very proud with some excellent results this year!).


As I coach online it's always fun to meet clients in person rather than on Skype.  With Steve in The Lakes, April 2016.




October 14, 2016

Team Red White & Blue Trail Running Camp

Liza demonstrating how to deal with problems on the trail ... problems are always more manageable when wearing an octopus hat:)

This past weekend I had the honour in attending the Team Red White & Blue trail running camp in Rocksprings, Texas.  I was lucky enough to be asked to take part by fellow Sharman Ultra coach, Liza Howard who is one of the main organsiers behind this annual camp - she assured me that I didn't need to do much other than show up, be enthusiastic and chat trail running - well, I think I could manage that!

As explained on their website the Team RWB trail running camp is 'a camp of learning about the sport of trail running and the joys of the active life. A camp to help veterans reintegrate and reconnect with the civilian life. A camp to showcase community, compassion, and the connectivity of all of us'.  As someone who is neither American nor at all involved with the military it was a little step into the unknown for me, but as soon as we arrived at Camp Eagle (some two hours drive outside of San Antonio, TX) I knew it would be a super weekend.  The camp was pretty much in the middle of nowhere and yet we had all that we needed - comfortable bunk cabins, great food and plenty of trails to explore, and a somewhat unreliable wifi connection to ensure we could stay connected with the outside world when needs be, but on a very minimal basis.  Perfect.

Chris - friendly giant and group B leader - educating our pack mid trail.

Discussing trail techniques on the run.

The campers and mentors were split into 4 groups based in running ability, but there were plenty of times throughout the weekend that the groups mixed so it never felt that we were divided based on how fast or how 'good' a runner you were.  I was with group B (purple power!) - runners who had some running and likely trail experience but certainly not folks who were big time ultra runners.  Sure some had run a few 50ks or so, but had maybe then taken a break, or some had never put their running shoes on a trail but were quite experienced road runners.  It was such a delight to see folks learn about technical trail running skills, tentatively jog down a rocky trail and then most of all see their smiles at the end of each day as they slowly learned more and more and gained confidence with what they could do.  But just as much time was spent in workshops as on the trail - how to run downhill, how to run uphill, nutrition for running, strength training, and so the list goes on.  More often than not I felt like I was the one learning too, through great discussions and presentations with experts like Liza Howard, Alison & Jason Bryant, Meredith Terranova, Joe Uhan and others.  Of course, it is never possible to cover everything over the space of three days but certainly the camp equipped participants with the basic knowledge and tools to take back to their own regional chapters of Team RWB.

Matt Hart and Mike Ehredt, camp mentors, leading the pack.
Google this man.  Mike Ehredt.  He's run the length and breadth of the USA ... and planted a flag every mile to commemorate those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He's a super person too.
The whole experience has certainly 'sold' me on the Team RWB concept - such a great community!  It also showed me the value of trail running camps in general.  Whilst there are numerous books out there, websites to read and races to run, nothing can quite replace that hands on experience of just hanging out with a bunch of runners all weekend.  In North Vancouver, where I live, I think that runners can often be spoiled with the access to training groups, trail running clinics etc but many folks live in parts of the country where there is not such a strong and established trail running community, and for runners like those especially a camp like Team RWB trail running camp is invaluable to aquire skills, make connections and inspire each other to reach for bigger goals


We all made it down that trail ... with no spills!

Final morning run, a chance to say goodbye to some super trails and some super people.

Beautiful Camp Eagle in Texas Hill Country

This is BAD running form ... drop those shoulders, Ellie!  But the trail was a treat.

With fellow Sharman Ultra coaches and camp mentors, Sean Meissner and Liza Howard.

June 2, 2016

Dreams are made to be broken.

I remember the night of the workout.  It was my usual weekly VFAC trail interval session on a Thursday evening in Stanley Park.  It was late April and so the light was lasting a little longer and the weather was getting a little more enjoyable, and certainly far better than the winter months where we hammer our way through fast interval sets in the pitch black and all too often pouring rain.  I'd started to have a few decent workouts and that week I just rocked up as normal, put my head down and tried to hang onto the t-shirt tails of my club mates as we stormed our way through the undulating ups and downs of the repeats.  It's the highlight of my week.  The first repeat was fast, the second was really fast, the third ... well I slowed a little but wow, I felt strong, I felt fit and I could tell by whom I was keeping up to that I was fast.  Later than evening I was tucked up in bed with tea and Coach John texted, 'that was by FAR your best workout ever'.  I've been a member of VFAC for eight years.  I wasn't excited that this was 5 1/2 weeks pre-Comrades, I was just excited about that workout.  Man, it was fun.

Ten days later I ran BMO Vancouver Marathon is 2:45 something.  I fielded messages of congrats from friends in person and online - 'wow, so fast!', 'top Canadian!', '3rd woman!'.  I'd politely say 'thank you' but honesty I was disappointed with my race.  Maybe I'd though I was fitter than I was?   Maybe I'd set my targets too high?  Even although BMO was not a goal race in itself and just meant to be a hard long run fours weeks before Comrades I was convinced that with the shape I was in that a 2:45 marathon should have felt far easier than that did.  It was honestly one of my roughest marathons ever, but I chalked it down to lack of proper taper, took a day off and then started to ease back into running ... except I didn't.  With each passing day I ran less, I hobbled more and the pain would move variously from SI to hip to quad to adductor to knee.  At least it kept my physio, Chris Napier, busy and so he would work away and squeeze me in for one extra visit after another.  In between I hit the bike hard and the BCMC (an 800m hike over 2.5k with gondola ride down) like it was my second home.  I kept on top of yoga and strength work (which I had diligently done two times a week each since early January, you know ... to help avoid injury) and the day I was due to fly out to Africa I saw Chris, I was pain free so he suggested a 20 minute confidence boosting run.  It shattered my dreams - I got on the plane limping that evening because I'd run for 20 mins at a 5 min/ km.

And so that is a brief story of what led me not to be at the start line of my most favourite race in the World.  I continued with thorough physio and short run/ hobbles when in South Africa but when the Nedbank manager, Nick Bester, phoned me 6 days before the race I heard the words come out of my mouth 'I definiltey can't race on Sunday'.  I felt uneasy with those words as by then I was walking pain free, so to be sure I ran 3 loops of the perimeter of the safari camp we were staying at at 5am the next day - well, no - I once again hobbled the 4k that made up those 3 loops with odd looks from German tourists and finally gave up hope.

As of now I still have no idea what really the issue is.  I will be seeing my sports medicine doctor tomorrow and physio Chris again on Monday to really try delve deep into what is going on.  I have not run in 8 days and will try a short jog tomorrow before going to see the doctor to be sure the pain is still there - I know it will be, I mean I stepped sideways to avoid someone opening a door into my face the other day and even that wrenched the hip flexor.  Don't get me wrong, it's not agonising pain but it's enough to make me run with even worse form than I normally do and to want to turn up my music to try distract me from the discomfort.

Anyone who knows me knows The Comrades means the world to me.  Last year, after the bike accident and interrupted training, I placed a disappointing 6th.  I was under no illusions that I would win again this year - sure, I would do my darn hardest to try - but more than anything I just wanted to improve on that 6th place.  Who knew that looking back now I'd have been gosh delighted with 6th this year, heck - if I'd had just made it to the finish line that would have been better than not starting at all.

Who knows when I'll get back on track, I hope it's sooner rather than later as fundamentally I don't think this is a serious issue - it just needs the right treatment and adjustments and rehab work.  There are of course more races I'd had on my calendar for this year so hopefully I can be ready for those.

With huge thanks to:

- Chris Napier of Restore Physiotherapy
- Nick Bester of Nedbank Running Club (for making me useful over the Comrades weekend).
- Gillian James - Sports Scientist in White River, South Africa.
- My sponsors - Salomon, Sundog, Clif Bar, Drymax, Flora - I hope I can be back toeing the line for you all soon.
- Max King - my sounding board who so very tried to keep me on track with my training.
- My friends and family.

Happy trails
x Ellie
Kruger National Park, South Africa.

With the North American Nedbank runners.  Cassie, Sarah, Traci, Max & Zach.

Oh yeah - I helped with the SABC live TV commentary on race day.  That was fun!  The pros Helen, Bruce and Arnaud at work.

Aha!  Maybe it was getting trampled by a rhino that is causing me leg pain!

Hippo watching post breakfast with Ma & Pa.

With the wonderful France, 1992 Comrades winner.

When you are injured it seems everyone around you is running ... even elephants!