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!


  1. Cheer up, Ellie - better and bolder dreams are built from the bricks of the broken ones. It's hard to avoid injuries being an athlete of your level, but you will come back.

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  3. I hope you can figure out what is wrong. Kuddos to you for being brave and taking time to heal. You will be back for sure but for now take good care of yourself.

  4. Wow Ellie, you continue to inspire– such grit, grace and poise. To turn around and be able to do such a great job of the expert commentary on SA TV after suffering the disappointment of not running the race yourself is quite a feat. I watched most of the coverage on You Tube. We know you can win the down. I can't wait to see you conquer the up run next year. All the best for a speedy recovery.

    1. Thanks Angela! Hope that your running is going well and see you on Summerfast race day :)

  5. Ellie, did you figure out what your injury is and what caused it? Have you been recovering effectively? I'm also an injured runner who's racked up more DNS's then I'd like to admit and trying to recover with a full assault approach in the best way I can. It has been a frustrating, edifying journey but learning from other runner's experiences is helpful. Good luck to you!

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