Not Much Like A Fish At All

14 Jan

So, last week ended on a pretty low note.  On Monday, as the pain started to recede, I joined the University Swimming pool, and started swimming.  The first few lengths I could really feel the ankle and was a bit worried it couldn’t even cope with swimming, but then the soreness eased off and thankfully it felt better after 30 minutes of swimming than it did before.  I followed up Monday’s swim with another 30 minutes on Tuesday.  I then went and had my sports massage.  O, my massage therapist, was able to show me some strengthening exercises I could start doing straightaway to begin to try and help the damaged ligaments and tendons heal, and to try and ensure I’m not losing too much strength from the big muscle groups that runners use (hamstrings, glutes and quads).  Wednesday was a long day concluding with an orchestra rehearsal, and my arms were a bit sore from the swimming, so I took a rest day.  I’d also been a bit disheartened that a total of 3.5 miles walking on Tuesday had left the ankle sore and tired.  In a typical training week my shortest run will be 5 miles, and there’ll be several miles of walking on top of that.  I couldn’t even walk my shortest run!

On Thursday I didn’t finish in chambers until 7pm, so I simply headed up to T’s for dinner.  The thing I find most annoying about swimming (apart from the fact I’m abysmally bad at it) is the time it takes: time to get to the pool, time to change, time to shower afterwards, changing, drying your hair, time to get home…  A 30 minute swim can easily take 90 minutes or more of a day!  Thankfully on Friday I was able to get to the pool again and the exercise helped me feel a bit more normal.  I miss the endorphins and – strange as it sounds – the pleasing gentle soreness in your muscles which tells you that you’ve trained hard.  I was encouraged by the fact that on Friday I was no longer the slowest person in the pool, although I have a sneaking suspicion it was because some slower people were around rather than that I had become faster in a matter of days.  It’s a bit like becoming relatively nearer the front of a queue because more people join it, even though there are still just as many people in front of you…

On Saturday I did 45 minutes in the pool, which I repeated on Sunday, to bring up a grand total of 3 hours’ exercise.  That’s something like 20-25 miles (if swimming was as intensive as running, which it probably isn’t) in a week when I should have done 63 miles. But there is no point pretending I could have done 9 or 10 hours of swimming this week from a base of no swimming in the months/years beforehand.  I’d have just added a shoulder/back injury to the glute and ankle injuries!  It does mean that it is highly unlikely I’ve maintained my fitness over the past week, but there it is.  It can’t be helped.

Thankfully the ankle does feel a fair bit better today.  Quite a lot of the swelling has gone and the range of movement is improving (sufficiently that I could do proper squats again today: hurrah!).  I’m hoping this means that from the middle of next week I can start to introduce some gentle cycling and time on the cross-trainer in the gym.  It has to be said I didn’t think I could miss the gym, but at least I am not as bad at things there as I am at swimming.  Oh, and the Farnborough Half Marathon next week is my first racing casualty of 2018.

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Not A Light, Just A Train

6 Jan

So, the week began alright. 6.5 miles on Monday. Hey, it was January 1st, so that means the year began alright! I squeezed in 30 minutes at the gym on Tuesday but took Wednesday as a rest day as I was rehearsing that night. Thursday was a long day and so I plodded around 4.5 miles then caught up with some sleep.

And so to Friday. I decided to try 11 miles, with a view to 13 on Sunday if the 11 was ok. I felt a bit stiff and there was some hamstring tightness after a day at my desk, but I was moving reasonably well, nearly 8.5 miles in and then in an instant everything went horribly wrong. I felt myself lurch to the left as my left foot went under me, and then some sort of instinctive reflex must have made me lurch back to the right to stop me falling into oncoming traffic. After years of running and sprained ankles aplenty, although – after a couple of shocked, gasping minutes, where I grasped the railings as I winced in pain – I tried to jog through it, I knew this was a bad one. Several miles from home, with no phone, and unable to recall T’s number to even bother borrowing a phone from the kindly fellow runners who did break stride to check if I was ok, I began a lonely, painful walk back. It was pretty cold, and I was shivering violently by the time I hobbled to T’s. This blog post comes from the sofa, as I’m icing the cankle. Whether this has to spell the end of the marathon this year I can’t be 100% sure, but I’m realistic it is now in doubt. I’m not interested in just finishing: either I toe the line knowing I’m in reasonable shape for a decent time, or I don’t race. At least my accommodation is refundable until the last minute, so I don’t need to decide any time soon.

And You See Me, Somebody New…

31 Dec

I’ve been pretty quiet, blog-wise, for the last 3 weeks.  It’s fair to say that, with the glute/hamstring injury taking time to settle, I was struggling.  Like a fair few other runners I know, running really helps with my mood, and when I can’t run I find I can feel up and down much more than usual.  The fortnight during which I didn’t blog was no exception.  I had been cleared to try some easy running again, but initially could manage only about 4 miles every other day.  Even then the last half mile or so could well be a bit painful.  It was hard not to feel despondent, knowing that I was supposed to be running 55 miles a week and following my training schedule, and that I am supposed to be racing 26.2 miles at the end of April about 90s/mile faster than I was managing for these 4 mile plods on the treadmill.  And I couldn’t really bring myself to blog about that at the time.  It would have been something written by Marvin or Eeyore.

Last weekend saw me begin to turn a corner, both physically and emotionally.  It started on the Saturday, with 5 miles outdoors which was actually pretty comfortable.  It made 2 hours in the gym on Sunday feel that bit more tolerable, knowing that perhaps I could at least do a short run outdoors every other day or so, and wasn’t stuck indoors, feeling I was going nowhere.

Monday was of course Christmas Day, and although I would usually run on Christmas Day I decided to make it my rest day this week.  I didn’t wake up particularly early and I’m not sure my niece and nephew would have tolerated waiting for me to do my strength and conditioning routine (an essential precursor to any run at the moment), run 5 or 6 miles, shower and then eat breakfast before they were allowed to open any presents!  On Tuesday morning I ran 6 miles.  And it felt pretty ok, even with the gentle undulations involved in running around the perimeter of the park near my parents’ home.  On Wednesday, still away from home and without access to a gym, I dared to run again, and things were once again ok: I’d survived running on consecutive days!  Things even felt ok after 3 hours spent sat in the car coming back from time with T’s family.  On Thursday I went to the gym for an hour and then on Friday I ran 8 miles steady.  Running for over an hour felt like some sort of breakthrough.  And again, there was no adverse reaction.  On Saturday I went to the gym for an hour and a half, and then this morning I ran 10 miles steady.  My legs were a bit tired afterwards, but no adverse reaction so far.  I probably should have squeezed another 30-60 minutes of cardio work in at the gym at some point this week, but I think that as I’m doing quite a lot more strengthening work at the moment my leg muscles are certainly getting a workout (I’ve been told I need to do some new, tougher glute exercises, and to focus on working my quads a bit more as – like many runners – I’ve got strong hamstrings but ridiculously weak quads).

And so farewell to 2017.  I was hoping it was going to be a great year for running after a disappointing 2016, but instead it’s been pretty tough.  I’ve achieved none of my goals!  But I think what I have learned is that as I approach 40 my body is beginning to change.  I can’t train in the same way I could between 25 and 35, and in particular my muscles seem to need that little bit more time to recover from tough efforts and niggles.  I think this means that London 2018 is going to be a bit of an experiment in how well I can race off slightly fewer miles, but supplemented with gym-based cardio cross-training.  Certainly in January and February I think it is going to be smarter to do 4 or 5 runs per week, and 1 or 2 gym sessions than to try and get back to 6 running sessions per week too quickly.  40 or 50 miles per week with 2-2.5 hours of cross-training will be close enough to 60-70 miles of running per week (I hope!).  It’s a bit frustrating to be starting the New Year playing catch-up, but there it is.  It’s much better to be running a bit than not running at all.

I don’t want this to turn into a round robin update pastiche, but I’ll finish by noting that away from running it has been a mixed year, with too many reminders of quite how fleeting life can be.  It has certainly made me take stock about what really matters (and, let’s face it, it doesn’t really matter whether I run 2.45, 2.55 or 3.05 for the marathon next spring.  The world will keep on turning and life will go on).  Chief amongst my blessings has been T.  He may not make very regular appearances in this blog, but he is a brilliant support to me in the background, and without him the ups and downs this year has thrown at me would have been so much harder.

Thanks as always for reading, and see you in 2018 x

If Only I Could Turn Back Time…

11 Dec

On Monday, after a round trip to Worcester, I did 5 miles steady.  Things didn’t feel great.

I had a massage on Tuesday morning, and my suspicion that things hadn’t felt great for a reason was confirmed: the glute, hip and hamstring were really, really tight.  My sports masseur very gently suggested that this ‘continuing to run’ phase was not helping the injury heal.  I think I’d begun to realise this (having spent a few weeks in the Denial Phase of Injury), but it was still pretty gutting.  The rest of Tuesday was pretty hectic (a meeting, a hearing, then going to a concert with T, having inhaled dinner beforehand: apologies to the restaurant that we selected food on the basis of speed of preparation…), so there was no time to train, and Wednesday saw me working until 9.30pm, so was a rest day by default.  I had a second treatment session on Thursday, and things were a bit more positive, but I was advised to consider further rest if at all possible.  My tentative suggestion of an easy run on Saturday didn’t get the warmest reception.

After spending Friday feeling sorry for myself (2017 has been the Year of the Moderately Severe Injury, after all, and if I’d been sensible enough to take a few days’ rest as soon as this flared up I could almost certainly be running pain free again by now), I returned to the gym on Saturday.  20 minutes on the cross-trainer (fine), 20 minutes on the rower (not entirely sure that was great for the glute) and 20 minutes on the static bike (ok, apart from being extremely dull).  I returned on Sunday and did 15 minutes on the rower (definitely sure this is not great for the glute), 45 minutes on the bike (ok, but still very, very dull) and 1 hour on the cross-trainer (yes, definitely ok, and actually seemed to loosen the glute/hamstring up a bit).  I also learned that my triceps are really, really weak, as they have been tired since that first gym trip.  Food for thought in terms of overall strength and conditioning.

So, here I am, so-say due to start my build-up (for various reasons I’m actually spreading the 18 week programme over 19 weeks which means today is day 1 of my schedule), and it looks like the gym is going to be where my training takes place (at least in part) for the next few weeks.  I’m seriously contemplating whether I should do some of my recovery runs as cross training at the gym for all or most of this build-up, bearing in mind the injury problems in my last marathon preparations.  In the past I have run reasonably well off 4 runs and 2 cross-training sessions per week, and it may be that losing that little bit of training specificity is the trade off for getting to the start line without further injury woes in the next 4.5 months.  We shall see.  It would certainly make me mentally strong having coped with all that boredom!

I Am Not (very) Worried, I Am Not Overly Concerned (possibly…!)

3 Dec

So, I began Monday with 7 miles steady.  The hamstring/glute didn’t feel great, but I don’t think my pace was too restricted.  Tuesday I ended up having rather a lot of reading to do, so took a rest day.  On Wednesday I had an early start as I was in Plymouth, but I squeezed in 6 miles after work.  All of the sitting down travelling didn’t help, and I felt pretty creaky during that 6 mile run.  Thursday wasn’t brilliant, either, when I did a 5 mile run after work.  I was starting to feel a bit despondent that such short runs on the flat were giving my gyp.  That probably affected my decision on Friday to do some violin practice rather than train.  That, and the fact that after a memorial service I needed the emotional release of playing some beautiful music.

On Saturday morning I did a 7 mile run, and although things were better on the flat than they had been earlier in the week, hills (only 2 of them) were still a problem: I could definitely feel a ‘tug’ when I either lifted my leg to run uphill or tried to extend my leg to run downhill.  Sigh.  It lead me to decide that racing cross-country in Pembrey today was not going to be a Good Idea: the travelling coupled with undulations and a potentially slippery course just sounded too likely to set me back, and with marathon training due to start in earnest all too soon, I had to look at the bigger picture.  I declared myself unfit, and just did 15 miles steady instead.  The hamstring/glute probably felt about as good as it has until about 11/12 miles and then began to tire and tighten a little.  And there was still a bit of grumbling going on when I was sat down working this afternoon, but overall the last 2 days have shown some tentative signs of improvement.  Now, that is in the context of having done only 40 miles this week, when marathon training is 55-70 miles per week, and all of that running has been very steady, when marathon training would include at the very least some strides, but I guess if I can manage 55 miles steady per week whilst the injury resolves I’ll take that.  My body certainly doesn’t seem as robust of late as I would like, but fingers crossed this injury is not as severe as I feared.  So, I guess I’m a bit worried, and slightly concerned, but hoping that perhaps I’ve turned a corner…  Safely, of course!

Oops, I Did It Again…

26 Nov

This week started ok. My legs were a bit tired, but I did 6 miles easy on Monday and then 11 miles including my club session on Tuesday. The pace for the session was a fraction slower than I’d have preferred, but I’d started cautiously to ensure I looked after the hamstring/glute I’d tweaked the previous week. My 5 mile run to work the next morning was certainly a lot more comfortable than last week’s Wednesday morning effort!

On Thursday I did 7 miles steady before having a long overdue massage. As I had suspected, the left hamstring/glute were pretty tight and painful, but I walked out feeling that I was finally moving much more freely again. It did tighten up a little that evening but after some stretching felt ok, and I was able to do 15 miles pretty comfortably on Friday.

I wanted to keep Saturday free because I was travelling up to London for the National Pupillage Fair (pupillage is the final part of a barrister’s training, and most barristers’ chambers offer pupillages. This fair is where we go to charm students into applying to us!). The train up was rammed (sorry, in train speak “full and standing”), and unfortunately when there was a very hard jolt, I felt the left glute/hammie tighten again: exactly the sort of spasm which caused the problem a week and a half before. Damn! Saturday ended up being pretty hectic and I didn’t squeeze in the decent stretching session I should have done.

All of that sets the ground for today: the Sri Chinmoy 10k in Battersea Park. It was very cold, which didn’t help, and wearing leggings might have looked after my tight muscles better than shorts. I’ll never know! I didn’t have any significant pain warming up, although could feel the hamstring was tight. At the 5km point I tried to lift the pace a little and felt the familiar catch of pain in the glute/hamstring insertion point. It was quite clear I couldn’t run with a full length stride, so took advantage of a multi lap course to drop out and jog back to my accommodation. I’ve done some stretching, and I’ll do a bit more stretching/foam rolling/sitting on a tennis ball later. Fingers crossed it will settle quickly: I need to start marathon training soon!

Quiet Sleep And A Sweet Dream When The Long Trick’s Over

19 Nov

Another 60 mile week: it’s becoming quite a habit again!

It started with a rest day, which let the legs freshen up a little before my club session on Tuesday.  It was a big session: 8 x 4 mins off 1 minute recovery.  Unfortunately part way through the session (which was on grass/mud), I slipped a little, and did feel my left hamstring/glute tighten a little.  I was able to finish the session at an ok pace, but it was a bit tight over the following few days.  As a consequence, I restricted myself to easy jogs on Wednesday (6 miles), Thursday (7 miles) and Friday (6 miles).  It also made sense to do that because I had rehearsals on Wednesday and Friday for my concert on Saturday – and I was finishing off what ultimately became an 8 day case over the first 4 days, and was beginning to feel pretty emotionally drained.

I had a bit of a lie-in on Saturday, and although I still felt a bit tired, my legs felt rather better and so I set off for 12 miles, including 20 sets of 1 minute faster, 1 minute slower.  In the afternoon I had a rehearsal and then the concert.  I’d not known the Walton Cello Concerto before we started rehearsals, but I am now a total convert.  I was blown away by the piece, and by how brilliantly fellow orchestra member Jane played it.  It was followed by Mahler’s First Symphony, which I’ve always loved, ever since I first played it the best part of 25 years ago.  Although I think I can play it rather better now – a bit of bluffing may have gone on at the back of the second violins back in the early 90s!  All in all, it was an absolutely amazing evening, and we were all buzzing afterwards.  Post concert beers were definitely called for, and very much enjoyed as we dissected the concert to our heart’s content.  It meant a rather late night, followed by a lazy morning.  I eventually headed off for my long run late morning, and although the pace (8.26s) was by no means great, it was a lovely sunny day to be out there enjoying the autumnal colours.  And in a rare treat, no need to work this afternoon.  Bliss.