Doing exactly the same thing again and expecting a different result is madness (Einstein I think). But we do it.
In my first year of ultra running I developed Plantar Fasciitis. If you're aware of this condition you'll need no further explanation, but for those who have not experienced its joys I'll just say that it turns up as a pain under the heel which varies from making running uncomfortable to feeling as if you have upturned drawing pins inside your shoe. The detective work at the time suggested that I probably increased distance too quickly, but it was also clear that trail shoes and long distances over rocky ground didn't suit my style. I had run the 2007 Highland Fling (my first ultra) in trainers, but was then recommended Montrail Hardrocks in which I hammered round 55 miles of the northern section of the Anglesey coast path at a good clip, resulting in not being able to run at all for about four weeks.
I consulted the right people and did the right things, the stretches, the sole rolling, the night splints and so on. The condition never really goes away but so long as I'm careful I have developed a coping strategy, a key plank of which is to wear comfy shoes for running in. In the last three years I've dallied with a few types but always come back to, and now finally settled on, Asics Nimbus road shoes which seem to suit me fine. I must have had a dozen pairs by now. At the end of 50 miles or so my heels are always a bit sore but never bad enough to stop running.
So why tempt fate and change? Well, I've been doing a bit of work on the route of the Lakeland 100 which starts on Friday evening. This is a rocky trail for much of its length, far harder underfoot than say the West Highland Way or the UTMB. I was finding from my training runs that I was getting sore soles from the battering they were taking on the uneven rocky surfaces. A trail shoe would give me better protection....... I looked around and discovered that Asics do a shoe called the Trabuco; it also promised gel in the mid sole so I assumed I would get similar comfort to the Nimbus (I didn't). I bought a pair and tried them out up and down the rocky paths of Snowdon on a wet, wet day 10 days ago. They seemed to do the trick so last Tuesday I went for the last three sections of the Lakeland 100, about 20 miles or so, plenty of up and down and plenty of rocks. When I finished my soles were trouble free. The only problem was that my heels hurt - rather a lot. A couple of recovery runs confirmed it, the PF had returned. What an idiot.
I decided to have at least a week off running until the start of the Lakeland 100 - something that I haven't done this year so far. Half way through the week and I'm not sure that I've detected any improvement yet. I guess the sensible thing would be to pull out, but at my age I think I'm excused being sensible, so I'm sure Friday evening will see me on the start line, equipped with a few pain killers to get me through until something else starts to hurt.
Apart from the foot incompetence, I'm looking forward to the event. The forecast so far is for showers at worst so we may not get the soaking competitors have had in previous years. But it's still going to be the toughest event in my calendar this year, more than 100 miles and over 20,000 feet of ascent to add to the hard going underfoot. I'm targetting about 36 hours, so with a 5.30pm start that means two full nights out. I was pretty tired after 30 hours in the Heart of Scotland earlier this year (falling asleep tired rather than can't walk any further tired) so I'm contemplating whether I need a few minutes sleep after 24 hours or so - we'll see how we go.
I'll let you know next week.