Jack Gammon: Journey to UTMB - Part 6

Welcome to blog Number 6 peop……….

‘Hold on?’

‘Is that Luther Vandross I can hear Playing?’

Two poured glasses of wine sit on the kitchen table. Your intrepid Blog writer (Yep, that’s me) is in his dressing gown, freshly out of the shower and heading down the stairs displaying his trademark ‘Rodney Trotter’ allure. He enters the living room and the long suffering Bee can’t hide her excitement. She gives him the old shake of the head and eye roll with a kind of half sigh/half laugh!

We’ve all been there right guys... Yes People, If you hadn't already realised it, it’s all about to get pretty sexy up in here!

So without further ado…

Groins People! It's all about groins!

Now in a bid not to be that stereotypical bloke who rattles on about being an expert on every body part in the book (hopes for a collective smirk from lady readers) I will admit to not exactly knowing where one’s groin begins er ‘middles’ and ends but from what I can work out it seems to be mainly focussed around the elements your meant to keep covered at swimming pools.

Unless you're German of course, and I respectfully base this on my first exploration into a sauna on a family holiday to The Black Forest in ‘82 where believe me the young Jack was left in no doubt where groins were as he stumbled backwards out of the steam panicked and apologising to the 8 or so middle aged er ‘liberated’ locals.

I want to make sure that you guys can fully focus on this month’s blog and I know it’s going to be difficult but I’m going to ask you to put aside the excitement you're bound to be feeling about my intro and let me clarify a little why the author of a blog about mountain running is rattling on about personal body parts…

Wherever your flipping groin is? I’ve strained mine!

Other than being obviously pleased that I can do a load of groin jokes, I’m really annoyed about it! Talk about hero to zero! For a silly old duffer like me I was flying. I don’t know about you guys? But my form definitely comes in waves, kinda’ peaks and troughs, and I was definitely on a peak. I was really enjoying cruising around my local runs that minute or so a mile quicker than normal. Something had definitely clicked. Believe me, I’m not one to go on about my own form but there was no hiding I was going well. As we all know though running can be a cruel mistress and you're never too far away from that trough.

One Sunday morning, I’m taking great delight in hammering my buddy Craig, and then a week later he’s running away from me like I’ve never run before. Craig is a classy runner. I should have known better. Anyway, limping home on that second Sunday was a fortnight ago now and I haven't run since...

So, you may be thinking this is where I go into a super slick section about my well thought out regime of rest and rehab in an upbeat paragraph about how it will all be OK and how we can all come back stronger right!? Well, I promise to try but for now I want to focus on my tried and tested injury regime of:

  1. Instantly thinking it is all over and contemplating never running again.
  2. Kicking the kitchen bin so hard down the hall we now need a new one. (Which probably didn't help my groin)
  3. Not wanting to engage in any exercise at all that might actually help that isn’t running.
  4. Going to ground and ignoring calls from life long friends who are genuinely trying to help.
  5. Fighting off the blind panic that I’m entered in the biggest mountain race in the world and I haven’t run for a fortnight...
  6. Being an all-round impossible person to be around.

Once again nailing it... proving to Anthony that I am just the kind of guy he needs as an XMiles Ambassador.

‘Ooh Hang on’ I can hear that Luther Vandross creeping back in again….

So, let's help Luther out and return to the frankly electrifying energy that was paragraph 1...

In all seriousness, maybe we should remind ourselves of who I live with? And indeed why I would be waving my groin at the long suffering Bee… (can you wave a groin?)

Now, I will confess to having tried to produce a romantic evening for Bee here and there over the years but this ‘dressing gowned’ appearance was performed purely in the vain hope that she might be able to help somehow. Let's also remind ourselves that Bee is a Senior Physiotherapist with more than 20 years experience and if anyone can pummel my groin back into life it's Bee ….What? ‘Get your minds out of the gutter!

Bee works hard and I completely understand that the last thing she wants to be faced with when she gets home from a long day at work is my groin! (OK that's the last groin quip, I promise) I guess it’s similar to asking a chef to cook you dinner after a 12 hour shift in a hot kitchen... I have to choose my moments very carefully. That said, Bee is great and I get an inspiring glimpse into her day to day life as she takes me through a series of exercises and drills on the living room floor that once again, I’m nervously hoping Peter the neighbour doesn't spy through the nets!


Bee gives me a list of exercises to do daily and imparts the dreaded diagnosis that all runners fear the most… ‘Rest it!

Living room consultation over and I skulk off with my treatment regime. As much as I would like to write a whole blog full of cheap ‘goolies’ jokes, it's time to get anatomical…

It seems I have strained my right adductor, part of a group of muscles at the very top of my leg that provide guidance and control.

Injuries!…

We've all had them, If you haven’t then you've been very lucky.

Our sport demands a lot from our bodies and by the very definition of what we do we take ourselves to the limit time and time again. It’s ULTRA running right?

It’s not meant to be easy. I hear the term ultra-running a lot these days and that's great. I am super thrilled our sport is getting it’s moment in the sun, but with all the trucker caps and tattoos, in my humble opinion it's easy to forget the bottom line from time to time and that is that ultra running is meant to be difficult.

Is it wrong of me to want ultras to remain as big/mad and sometimes even as savage as possible?

Whether you're Kilian trying to drop everybody down an Alpine pass, or you're nervously picking your way through your first ultra not knowing if you can do it or not I believe there will, and probably even should be a certain level of hardship at some point (this is where the magic happens right?)

This may come at a slight cost though?

What I am saying is that maybe our bodies can only do so much? Every now and then that physical ‘tipping point’ between healthy and broken can sneak up on us when we’re least expecting it (rather annoyingly it almost always seems to be when we’re going well).

It becomes more and more clear to me (especially as I get older) that as much as our bodies are the vehicles that power us along, the real petrol in the motor is in our heads. I have worked hard on my mental game over the years sometimes winning, sometimes losing, but I think most of the time I do OK.

I rely mainly on a blend of family, passions and interests and now and then I employ 100mg of prescribed Sertraline to fill in the ‘gaps’ (Another story for another time). Believe me when I say I remain fully aware of how hard it can be to push the 'I can’t do this demons' away in training and on race day, but...

PUSH I DO! AND PUSH YOU MUST!

I think I’ve run the whole gambit of mental Issues with training and racing over the years (although I’m sure there are still a few out there ready to pounce on me) I worked so hard to complete The Lavaredo Ultra trail a few years ago, that I was in tears and spitting out blood walking back into Cortina and my head was so scrambled after 120k in the Dolomites, I genuinely stood bewildered at a crossroads unsure of which way to go within sight of a waving Bee stood on the finish line...

Bee takes great delight in recounting the time she found me lying on the floor of a public toilet warming myself under the hand dryer at mile 80 of a Centurion 100 miler mumbling like a dying ship’s Captain doing the whole ‘Hold me Bee, I’m so cold!’ thing.

Bee 'inspired' me to get going again with one of her renowned pep talks made up largely of rolling her eyes, trying to stifle laughter and helping me to refocus on the fact that it was 10am and I was in Reading town centre and not the North Face of the Eiger. I remember that morning well. There was definitely nothing wrong with my legs, so what had made me curl up on that toilet floor ready to throw the towel in? Ladies and gentlemen… once again I give you...

THE MENTAL GAME.

It can be tough keeping your head together on race day huh? It sure can…

I did stumble over the finish line at Alvarado and I look back on the race with pride and joy. It was stunning and whilst the last 10k or so went a bit psychedelic, I didn’t do a bad job of the rest of it, so although I am focusing on the la la land bit maybe I actually won the mental battle that day?

Are you allowed to ‘come loose’ a bit in the last 10k of a big mountain race?

Is that normal? Maybe even to be expected?

I’m willing to limp and babble my way to the finish line in order to get a dream race in the bag. Maybe, that’s actually good going and you should reward yourself for the 110k in the mountains that went well before your mind let go.

I started out this month’s blog wanting to address my physical injury and how I’m going to try and deal with it and somehow I’ve wandered into mental health a little bit… but I’m not sorry I did.

It seems to me that we can make a massive impact on our performance on race day by how we conduct ourselves in the lead up. Now, I know that's not rocket science, you train hard, you go quick...

Yeah I get that, but the more I think about it the more I feel sure that if we overlook the whole Mind Body and Soul thing the physical training doesn't really stand a chance.

Now, don’t worry, Dear Reader, I promise you I’m not going to start collecting carved onyx dragons and dream catchers (it’s cool if you do) but if you take away nothing else from this month’s blog then maybe take this?

Let's make a deal to be good to ourselves.

I'm guessing if you're reading a blog about endurance athletics you've probably already 'done a bit' to be proud of...

Enjoy the way that makes you feel. You earned it.

Maybe it's time to get some old photos out and reflect on some of those adventures instead of just chasing headlong into the next one?

You've done some ULTRA cool stuff.

Give your broken bits time to heal. Eat well. Sleep well. Give yourself a break when things go to cr*p! If any of us get to our collective finish lines without a ‘blip’ then we’ve done flipping well.

Whether it be physical or mental, when that pothole opens up in front of us let’s be ready! Go Team XMiles! OK I’m clearly getting a bit excited now.

I need to go and rest my groin.

A sneaky google search tells me there’s around '600 muscles in the human body' and I have only hurt one of them. That still leaves 599 I could be focussing on whilst resting the 1.

I’m pretty sure getting round UTMB will use all 600 in the end...

My sore bits will get better...

It’s not ideal but they will...

I’ve had my time off kicking bins and being sulky. But, now it is time to take a deep breath and try to follow my own advice and re-focus on UTMB. In order to make sure that goes well I intend to get better at using the most important muscle I have….

MY BRAIN!

What's that… The brain’s not a muscle?! Oh for..!

It's a super weird time we find ourselves in Dear XMiles crew. Look after yourselves... inside and out.

Jack x


About the Author
JACK GAMMON
Check out Jack's Instagram & Strava.
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