This week I want to introduce you to 51 year old triathlete, Yukiko Delatte.
Yukiko is a distinguished masters athlete (here in Okinawa) who is making a comeback after being forced to take time off due to a lower back injury. I was astounded by her recent PR victory on the Okinawa marathon course, not just because of her impressive 3:29 finish, but because she managed to run so well after struggling so long with terrible back pain. Curious to know more, I asked Yukiko if she would be willing to share with us her training and racing journey over the past three years.
What was your previous best time on the Okinawa Marathon course, and how long ago was it?
About 3 years ago – 3:37:43
Describe your injuries (before this year’s Okinawa Marathon), and what you did to treat them.
Progression Of Events Leading Up To Injuries:
- Tour De Okinawa - Nov 2011
Naha Marathon – Dec 2011
Finished in 3:28; back pain started
Miyako Ultra 100K – Jan 2012
Finished in around 11 hrs, but experienced back pain
Okinawa Marathon – Feb 2012
Finished in 3:37, back pain getting worse
Miyako Strongman Triathlon – Apr 2012
1st place, but this race really took a toll on lower back
All-Japan Road Bike Race in Iwate – May 2012
Opportunity to ride with female Olympic level athletes; didn’t want to pass up. Back pain is now crippling.
Ayahashi Triathlon – Jun 2012
Final race before back pain became too severe to continue training and racing.
My back problems probably began before I ran the Naha marathon in December 2011. I had been training pretty intensely for the Tour de Okinawa (weekends consisted of a 275km bike ride at 28km/hr pace, followed by a 6 mile run, and swim training too), and two weeks after the race I ran the Naha marathon (finishing in 3:28) without having trained for it. It was during the Naha marathon that my lower back began to hurt.
While training for the Miyako Strongman a few months later, my back pain began to get worse and my running pace got slower and slower. It was depressing to look at my watch, so I stopped wearing it and used a heart rate monitor instead. I gave myself a goal of keeping my HR between 158 and 163 beats per/min, and if it dropped to 140 I would force myself to pick up the pace.
Finally, by the time I finished the Ayahashi Triathlon in June of 2012, my back was done; I could no longer continue training or racing like I had been. It was at this point that I began to visit various sports doctors to try and get a firm diagnosis and the proper medical care. My performance had deteriorated so much that I could no longer keep up with the faster male cyclists, and at my lowest point I could not even keep up with the beginner females.
I went for MRIs at both the Naval Hospital on base and Rokuto Hospital off base, but the MRIs did not reveal the problem. After that I started a rehabilitation program which consisted of physical therapy, and at the same time I went for regular chiropractic treatments, as well as massage. I also went to another hospital to receive a cortisone shot to help relieve some of the pain.
Once you had recovered enough to resume your training, what changes did you need to make? And can you provide an example of what a typical week of training looks like for you?
The main difference is that I used to run and ride long distances all the time; now my overall training time is much less but it is intense. I get up every day at 4:30am, make breakfast and lunch for my kids (I am a single parent and I work long shifts at a hospital, so time management is very important), then I get on my bike trainer and ride anywhere from 90 minutes to 2.5 hours. Later in the morning (or evening if I work a day shift), I go for a run but I don’t give myself a set time or distance; I just run as long as I feel like it, but usually between 3 and 6 miles. I like to do some type of fartlek free play; if I see someone running ahead of me I will try to catch them. Or, if I feel good, I try my best to run the last 3 to 5 miles at a 7:20 min/mile pace, and run as hard as I can during the last mile.
I also pay more attention now to my running form; if I feel pain in my knee while running then I try to change my form to see if it makes a difference. It has also helped that I switched from lightweight to cushioned shoes.
One more thing; I never allow myself to take more than two consecutive rest days.
Do you have a coach?
No. I use a Nike running application, but I have to adjust the distance due to my schedule. My runs are much shorter than they used to be but much more intense, yet my performance has been getting better and better.
What was your goal time for this year’s Okinawa Marathon?
I was hoping for 3:19:59, and was sure I could make at least 3:25, but during the last miles my pace dropped and I ended up finishing in 3:29:09. I think though, that considering my back pain, my actual finish time was probably more realistic.
What is your next goal?
My next goal is the Ayahashi 10k. I wanted to do the Half Marathon and try to PR, but I missed out on registering before the race closed. So now I will try and run the 10k at between 4:20 to 4:30km/min pace (approx. 6:46 to 7:05min/mile pace).
I am also running the Tsutsuji (Azalea Flower Run) 20k race this weekend. My goal is to ride to the race (60km), and then attempt to run the race at 4:45km/min pace (7:10min/mile pace). I’d like to place among the top 3 females. After the race I’ll ride back home, another 60km.
Finally, do you have any advice or tips for those recovering from injuries?
If you are dealing with some type of sports injury, try various types of treatments; don’t limit yourself to just one diagnosis and recommendation. Also, try to maintain a certain level of fitness by doing whatever your body is capable of doing (without aggravating the injury). And if you need to take medication at times to control the pain, then do that too.
When I couldn’t run at my usual pace, I felt kind of depressed. So to take my focus off my pace, I started focusing on my heart rate instead – that helped a lot. I couldn’t see how fast or slow I was running, but I could see by my heart rate if I was working hard enough, and that helped to distract me and keep me motivated.
The main thing is to listen to your body and do what feels comfortable and enjoyable; you’ll be a much happier runner!