Lead-in and Training
The lead-in and training went really well - no sessions missed, the niggle count was very low, and my pace on long training runs on rough trails was 15-30s ahead of where it was the year before. I was happy with improvements in the gear for this year, with shoes less likely to cause blister issues and a kilo reduction in gear weight had everything setup well. In the last hard run I did a week out, there was a little tightness in the hips, but nothing unusual or important, and I took extra effort to stretch it and make sure it was lose and in good shape.
I dialled 7.30 into the Garmin as virtual partner pace, and set off in the middle of the first pace. The first section on the road felt great - none of the usual heaviness from excessive card loading or carrying too much gear, and I was running easily and feeling good. I reached CP1 in around 2.10, with the nutrition on track and everything feeling good.
Along Narrowneck, the running was easy, and I was about 10 minutes up on goal pace by the time I got to Tarros Ladder. This is where it seems things were beginning to go not so great. Getting onto the ladders, my hips felt a little tight and it was a little difficult to move my feet onto the steps with a lot of speed. After the ladders, its a rough descent and includes some decent technical single-track before you drop down onto the road. Its here that something went really wrong. During a pretty minor descent, my right foot slipped into a hole, and something gave way in my right hip. I felt a small tearing/ burning sensation, and a ring of tightness all the way around the right hip developed.
I spoke to my dad (who was a doctor for 40 years) after the race, and he's great a diagnosing stuff based on vague descriptions. He reckons I'd done a groin in much the same ways as a league player does. This page on groin injuries summarizes how it felt better than I could:
Then what are those sportsmen always talking about (in relation to a groin injury)?
In sports, a groin injury is an injury caused by training too heavily, by straining or rupture of the muscles on the insides of the upper legs (adductors, especially the adductor longus). The injury is mostly situated near the transition of muscle to tendon or at the connection of tendon and pubic bone (adductor entendinitis). The symptoms in the muscle are often the result of a wrong move while conjunction problems have a more structural cause.
Where would it hurt?
Most of the times, there is a sharp pain in the groin or the muscles on the insides of the upper legs. Also, it will hurt if you put some pressure on the muscles and the pubic bone. The pain can radiate to the stomach.
Putting both legs together will cause the pain to increase because the injured muscle is put to work. You could quite often find a swelling or a bruise visible at the injured area.
Both the cause ("the symptoms in the muscle are often the result of a wrong move") and the symptom descriptions match exactly what went happened and what I felt. It was actually quite bizarre to read this after a web search as it seemed to be almost a description compiled by a doctor after a consultation post-race. I think I had the double-barrel of causes - too heavy training leading to ongoing fatigue in the area, and this meant a wrong move wasn't properly handled.
After the injury, I tried to hobble on for a while - the frustrating thing I was still otherwise feeling great and still well ahead of goal pace - and I tried to walk it out for a while. This is where things became ridiculously slow - average km pace was around 30 minutes, and it was clear the right hip/ groin was stuffed. Folks were streaming past me, and everyone was really supportive and caring, with heaps of folks offering kinds words, salt tablets and pain killers. All my running mates didn't seem to recognise the figure hobbling by the side of the road in a Yoda like stance as me initially - I copped about 20 "Are you OK champ? (then as they passed) Oh shit Nick - its you".
After hobbling along with a stick acting as a walking pole for an hour or so, I was picked up by a checkpoint vehicle doing a sweep along the road out from CP2, and Linda was allowed to come up from CP3 to grab me along with 5 other injured runners including our good friend Dean Cox who had taken a nasty fall along Narrowneck.
After some ice and resting, the hip feels a lot like a dead-leg this morning - tightness and dull pain but nothing too worrying. I don't know why, but the pain seems to have actually moved around the corner to the glute more in the day after the race. I'll be off to the phyio tomorrow to check the diagnose and get a recovery plan happening. As the injury is in the same area as the upper hamstring strain that annoyed me the back half of last year, I want to clear it up totally rather than limp along with it constantly flaring up.
In terms of injury treatment, I'm going to see the physio to confirm what is wrong and work with him on a recovery plan. Strengthening of the gluteus has totally fixed the ITB issues I used to have, so I'm keen to work out the correct program to fix the problem long term. I think its clear there was a bit of 'second-year syndrome' in my training this year after a really successful 2011. I attempted to add a fair bit more speed work without dropping the volume back, and it was clear that despite a good taper and some great runs leading in including PBs at 800 repeats, 10k and 30k, I should have eased back sooner (maybe mid-April) and come to the race fresher.
Knowing there was some weakness in the core, I tried to introduce a core strengthening routine into the program for this years prep, but I was often so physically exhausted after Saturday's 10k race and Sunday's 40-60k long run that the workout wasn't effective. With speed sessions on Tuesday, a long 28k run to work on Wednesday, a chinup/ pushup/ crunch routine combined with a 13k temp run on Thursday and Friday a recovery day, there wasn't any other days to schedule the core strengthening session.
In retrospect, the combined volume and intensity was too high, and my supporting muscles weren't sufficiently recovered/strong enough on race day, and that turned a slight stumble into a race ending tweak. Injuries aren't acts of God (generally), and my injury was definitely something that could have been avoided with different preperation.
If I had my time again, I would have dropped the long run down to once a fortnight and either paddled the kayak or done a short, sharp session on the Sundays to strengthen the core more.
So, the comeback plan is to focus on the Salomon Century in September incorporating the learnings coming out of TNF100. Once the hip has settle down, I'm going to add two weekly sessions of the Runners World IronStrength Workout and make sure that I get at least one rowing or kayaking session completed.
Huge congrats to training partners Rob Costello and John Howes who really smashed it and came in with awesome sub-13 hour finishers. First-time TNF100ers Naomi, Jodie, Luke Doyle, Karolyn and Kermit all had awesome runs, and a huge PB for Jaci Richards. Well done to Adam Connor for a great finish. Commiserations for other DNFers - its a hollow feeling after all the training.
Finally, a huge thanks to my wonderful family and particularly my fantastic wife Linda who was wonderful as support crew and was also super supportive (as ever) of my training and racing.