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Endurance training; pain and how to ignore it...


Just a little forewarning - it might be better to skip this if you are eating right now, or have a sensitivity toward the more squeamish elements of bodily functions, particularly the female anatomy.

The battle of endurance training; Pain vs Boredom.

It has been more than a full year of physical preparation for this run; the big, big run from Adelaide to Melbourne, it's not been completely smooth sailing - I have had broken bones; little toe and big toe (for those who know me well, I refer not to the great big toe breakage that resulted in surgery two years ago, just far more low key, more recent toe injuries) but for the most part there have been no disasters.

One of the biggest factors for this level of sustained endurance training is finding continuous motivation and enough fanciful thoughts to fill my mind during agonisingly long periods of monotonous, repetitive movement- hours and hours on the stationary bike, 200 laps at a time in the pool, even the repeated early morning starts begin to take a mental toll.

The other factor is pain management; learning the difference between the pain that can be ignored and moved through and the pain that signals an end to a training session or run, and possibly a few days of rest.


Boredom 1.01

I have found cheats to manage boredom. I take books to the gym, I now have a way to read while peddling away on the bike. Books have the added bonus of acting a little like an invisibility cloak in the gym setting, it seems no-one wants to talk to a nerd and the introvert in me is delighted with this discovery...so much so that I take more than one just in case I run out of pages in the first!

In the pool I find myself doing little mathematical sums, fractions to keep track of the laps, counting forwards and backwards, adding and subtracting...holding my breath every now and again until the end of the pool. I also host mini conferences with myself and endlessly debate the merits of finishing early; once upon a time these debates were about extension but now that training is at a level of finishing near exhaustion there is a solid persuasion to cut it short - almost always the failing argument .

There is no boredom for me in running however, even very long runs- hours and hours out and about are filled with sights and smells, obstacles and adventure. There is a certain amount of fear to work through before each run though - which might surprise some as I am a fierce advocate for the rights of women to run, walk, ride and train as and when it suits them - but there are times that I worry that something might happen while I am out, mostly that I will misplace myself in the great urban wilderness due to an defective sense of direction and a colossal capacity to get lost even in my own neighbourhood. But I am BRAVE - for truly, bravery is being scared and doing anyway. That is how I manage to run when I do, how I manage to train in the gym despite being self-conscious and introverted (and deaf)...and how I manage pain.


Pain 1.01

Pain is without question an unavoidable part of training for this run - and it will almost certainly be my constant companion while completing the event so I have worked hard to develop a warm and caring relationship with it.


Pain comes from a variety of sources:

  • Chaffing under the arms, between the legs, on the nipples, on the labia..anywhere where clothing rubs

  • Blisters

  • Grazing and bruises from falling over

  • Eye injuries from low branches

  • Cuts and grazes from unfriendly plants hanging over the footpath

  • Twisted ankles

  • The occasional bad case of DOMS

  • Pulled muscles

  • Muscle cramps

  • Knots and muscle tension

  • Lack of padding on the stationary bike seat

  • Torn tendons

  • Dehydration headaches

  • Gut pain from too many gels

  • General pain and stiffness from training so, so much !!

I think that my response to pain was already a little unusual, for example the aforementioned toe breakage. Two years ago a 20 kilo disc weight dropped onto my foot at the gym and exploded my left big toe. Rather than make a fuss I continued with my trainer for the remaining 20 minutes of our session, then collected my daughter from her appointment and went home to bed. The next day I hobbled to work and attended a meeting before popping off to the GP who turned pale when he saw the state of my foot - the result was a stay in hospital and surgery, followed by crutches I refused to use. It was the reaction of others that indicated that I may not have handled the situation or the pain the 'normal' way.


Three weeks ago, my darling hound accidentally knocked me over while we were running, I twisted as I fell and landed heavily on my side. It hurt but not enough for me to stop...though I did pause to express my displeasure to the pup, who looked suitably disgraced. For two days everything seemed normal-ish, sore but manageable. Then on the third morning I woke up and found I could not move my left leg. This was alarming, not least because I was desperate for the toilet and I sleep in a loft with a spiral staircase down to the area of the house in which the bathroom is located..but also because I am training for something that MUST happen.

I dragged myself down the stairs, literally, with a loud guttural groan escaping with each misplaced step on the left side...took some pain killers, after the bathroom of course, and then continued to take them regularly to make it through each day. Three weeks on and the issue has considerably subsided but not enough, so today I had x-rays and scans. The results were somewhat shocking to the sonographer and the attending DR, who quickly administered a large needle of cortisone and anaesthetic which will magically reduce the inflammation by next week.... I can continue on and the run WILL be run!


Up until now I have managed any pain associated with the training with:

But today I thought back to the single most painful (physical) experience of my life. My third daughter was born in an awful hurry, so fast that my uterus missed the memo that the little person previously renting space had in fact vacated...and subsequently stayed lax, filling with blood as I haemorrhaged. It was quite a while before anyone realised that something was amiss, we were all focused on the babe - concerned that the rapid birth may adversely impact her. I lay very still while she was checked, and checked and checked again, silently and unknowingly bleeding out. When the huge volume of blood announced itself rather rudely by cascading out of me onto the floor, the staff set to a flurry of urgent action.

I had given birth without any pain management so I was fully conscious and my nervous system was fully reactive...now to stem the bleeding I was given an injection of a drug that would force my uterus to clamp down, and stop the haemorrhage BUT because I had been bleeding for some time there was a risk that some of the birth sac might still be attached or that clots might have formed...to manage this in the emergency situation, the DR, a very kind and generous soul who preemptively apologised, put her whole hand up into my uterus and scrapped the sides to remove any debris.

The PAIN, on a scale of 1-10 was easily a 50, I thought I would die from it, I thought I would never stop feeling it....but I survived it and I stopped feeling it, perhaps not as soon as I would have liked.


Now, all pain is relative to that experience, and transient. I know that pain comes and goes, and holding out til it passes is good but so is pushing through it if the end goal is worth it...and if I can do something, anything, to ease the pain of those experiencing homelessness it is more than worth it. That is why I run, at least that is why I will run to Melbourne.




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