‘Cunning Running’; my smashing time in January and the subsequent road back to running
As many of you will already know, one dark night in January I was orienteering – sorry Pete for use of the ‘O’ word – in a wood near Tadcaster. The wood was on a slope and the underlying strata was silt and clay. Worse, it had been used by those on quad bikes, which had left deep and narrow tracks in the sea of mud comprising the slope. Having only had an operation on my eye a fortnight before, I was taking it very steady when – oh dear – was looking at the map instead of the way ahead and ended up falling on my left leg into a muddy track. Nasty cracking sound ensued but frequently fall going over rough ground orienteering so got up; tested foot; and assured kind young man who had stopped to help that I could walk back to the finish unaided. Foolish words as, after about 200 metres (we think metric in orienteering) fell into another track.
This time I knew I had done real damage to left ankle, which resulted in my having to be scoop-stretchered out to waiting ambulance to take me to Leeds General Infirmary. By now the temperature was just about on freezing and the way to the ambulance was across brambles and fallen trees. Such japes.
On arrival at the ambulance it was confirmed that I had dislocated the ankle and the poor ambulance guy was very concerned because I eschewed the offer of Entonox and air and did not feel particularly cold – frantic feeling for pulse in foot followed with amazement that it did not really hurt as he said it was a common rugby-players’ injury and the noise they made was unbelievable. Told him that, as I was a woman, such trivial pain was of no consequence and we spent the journey discussing outdoor pursuits.
On arrival at hospital, my leg was x-rayed and it was found I had broken the bottom of the tibia – the big leg bone – and shattered the bottom of the tibia – the little one at the back – as well as dislocating the ankle. More problems as they had to cut the laces on the shoe but resisted cutting off the sock, as I threatened mayhem if they did. But they then cut up my brand-new, first time worn, winter running tights – nearly in tears at that, much to the amusement – callous perishers – of the staff of A&E.
After two attempts at relocating the ankle – fortunately with my being put to sleep for each one – they got it back in place and I was taken upstairs to the ‘Trauma Ward’. Cripes. The next day a consultant surgeon put two large screws in the tibia and seven little ones and a plate in the fibula. Minor difficulties with that were, first, the other anaesthetist had to come out of theatre to ask the first to hurry up and get me put under, as they were waiting to operate and did not want us chatting about exactly why he was administering a nerve-blocker below my knee – meanies, as it was just getting interesting. Second problem was consultant said afterwards that, as my foot was so skinny, he had had a real job to cover up the screw heads with flesh – yuck.
Transfer of notes to HRI presented another delay and had to return to Leeds to get a lighter plaster. They offered me a purple one but immediately refused that and went for an EHH red one instead – the cheek of them. Thereafter treated at HRI with frequent visits from the Intermediate Care Service to my home – they were brilliant.
By 11th February lost the red plaster and instead got a split one – fine to take off but took a strong man/woman to help put it back on. By now had missed out on, the East Yorkshire Cross-country League at Welton, the Riverbank race and the orienteering night league events in Cottingham and at Oak Road Playing fields – suffering from severe running withdrawal symptoms.
By the time I got a walking boot – loved my boot to bits, although horrified physio when I was stomping round the house without using the crutches – on 3rd March, I had also missed the Nationals at Nottingham, the Northern Night Orienteering Champs which our club was organising at Knapton, near Malton, the YVAA Champs and the orienteering pub league event at Louth. Although I also missed the pub league at Barton and the Sproatley Pack Run, I did manage to get to the Compass Sport Orienteering Trophy event near Louth, where I stomped round in my walking boot getting it really muddy on the tracks and paths but did not actually compete.
Wednesday, 15th March saw my having the walking boot replaced with an ankle support only and this meant I could again drive my car – whoopee. Did not manage to get to the Paull winter league event but was able to marshal on the first three Champagne League events and walked/jogged around an orienteering event at Primrose Warren, near Scunthorpe – oh the joy of going cross-country again without a plaster. The orienteering was repeated at an event in Willingham Woods on 12th April without any awful effects from the ankle but had to miss out on the 7 mile Brantingham Hill Race, much to my disgust. Marshalled at New Ellerby on the 18th April, competed in a four-hour bike orienteering at Bishop Wilton on 22nd April and then, finally, got to run – very slowly – on the Lockington 3.7 CL race.
From then on back to the usual, silly season for racing/orienteering including all of the 10 summer league orienteering events in Lincolnshire; the rest of the Champagne League races; two orienteering races in Paris at the beginning of May; a sprint and urban orienteering race in Bradford; two days of urban orienteering in Bristol; walking/running on the 26 mile ‘Part of the Story’ event round Holderness; and seven days of orienteering at Ballater, near Braemar, in Scotland at the beginning of August. The right ankle was whingey for the orienteering having had to do all the work for three months but the left ankle only complained when having to dance for two and a half hours at the Ceilidh on the Thursday evening. Lincoln City Race tomorrow – urban orienteering which is fast and furious – and then four days of orienteering camping north of Helmsley next weekend.
As orienteering has featured so largely in my comeback to running, it is time, then, to introduce those of you who do not already know about it to the sport of orienteering, or ‘cunning running’, as it needs use of brain as well as stamina and muscles.
Basically, the idea is to run as quickly as you can between places marked on your map and choose the best route between them. This might sound relatively easy but it means having to be prepared to scrabble up rocks; wade across streams; wallow through bogs; and negotiate fallen trees, tussock grass, bracken and heather, all without losing where you are on the map. For the last ten years or so it has also included the chance to sprint like an idiot around complex sites of buildings- some on more than one level – and parks, or longer courses around town centres with blind alleyways, snickets and cobbles but yet you are not allowed to kill any passing pedestrians or cyclists who get in your way. Worse, you can always compete in events on a mountain bike, which adds to the fun and exhaustion.
One of the best bits of orienteering is that you check into each control site using an electronic ‘dibber’, which records your time. At the end you download and get a print-out which enables you to compare your splits with others. This is so much better than the old system of having to clip a control card when you arrived at each point and has since been taken up by those competing in the various mountain marathons. Orienteering maps are also colour-coded according to the runnability of the terrain. As most orienteering events take place in wooded areas, confusingly enough fast runnable woodland is shown in white with fast open being shown in orange – the darker the green for the woodland, the denser it is. It certainly is a runners’s sport although you can always walk round if you want. The top girls and guys are very, very fast and go over anything – Charlotte Ward, of City of Hull and Brian Ward’s daughter, is ranked 14th in the world in sprint orienteering.
To me the mainstay of my life is running to represent East Hull Harriers in cross-country and road races and competing in all the types of orienteering – classic cross-country, urban and sprint. Am also now hooked on competing abroad in ‘city’ races orienteering although quite fancy having a go at one of these half-marathons somewhere else in Europe after reading all the interesting reports from other club members.
Orienteering is just another sort of running event but has the advantage of including all ages. About 3000 people from all over the world competed in the Scottish Six Day Orienteering earlier this month and where else can you be competitive in age classes from under 10 years to over 90 years with separate courses for all age groups and both long or short/male or female? Why not try mixing both sorts of running and become as mad as Mad Mary?