The School Of Hard Knocks

3 Dec

Another 3 week gap in blogging. Oops.

So, just after my last post I sought physio advice. The view was I’d still got some inflammation in the knee and it needed a bit more rest, but didn’t appear to be serious. I rested it and was pleased the pain seemed to be reducing and then got norovirus, which led to 3 days of total rest and 5lbs of weight loss. Once I was up and about again the knee felt ok, but I soon found out this was because I’d done nothing, and the pain returned with a vengeance. I was gutted. Thankfully after a few days it receded and at the start of last week I told myself that if I had 7 days with no pain on normal walking and aqua jogging, I’d reintroduce some easy running. So it was with a smile that I tucked a set of running kit into my suitcase before departing for Valencia.

It’s a gorgeous city. Having arrived fairly late on the Friday we had dinner and then slept ahead of a packed day’s sightseeing on Saturday (including going to the botanical gardens to see the cats. I also glanced at the plants!). On Sunday we were up and out early-ish so I could support clubmate Jen who was racing. I was so nervous for her – watching is definitely tougher on the nerves than racing – but she ran brilliantly. T and I popped back to our hotel to collect some bits and bobs, intending to cycle to the beach for an afternoon of pottering around. We’d been cycling for all of a few minutes when I somehow caught my front wheel in some narrow guttering and clattered to the ground. Once again I took the fall through my knees.

I couldn’t really believe it. I was helped to my feet and T – who was a bit ahead of me – came back. I tried to flex my left leg and felt pain. I began to cry (and, I’ll be honest, swear. Apologies to any Valencians whose children now know some bad English words). I limped back to the hotel and got some ice from reception. And began an afternoon of RICE.

This morning, when I had imagined trying my first easy run in 3 weeks in the lovely Turia park opposite our hotel, which was going to be so symbolic (the first steps of the next marathon campaign in the ashes of the broken last one), I’m sitting with my feet up.  No trip to the rice fields as we had hoped (yes, they grow rice here: it’s why paella is so popular!). Instead, an anxious eye on my emails, waiting to hear when I can get an MRI. The knee swelled up very quickly and so it seems sensible to ascertain what I’ve done. Then I can know whether there is any point trying to get fit for the London marathon, or if my return to marathon racing has to wait until the autumn.

It’s fair to say that 2018 is proving a test of mental strength and resilience in running terms. I will dip in and out of blogging, but don’t be surprised if, as I lick my wounds, there are gaps.


I’ve Come To The End Of The Road…

11 Nov

So, I was pretty gloomy last week.  How was this week?

I ran a very easy 4 miles on Monday and the knee was ok.  I swam on Tuesday, but kicking wasn’t particularly comfortable, I guess because (certainly with my admittedly rubbish technique) you do actually use your knees a fair bit to swim.  Wednesday I took as a rest day to let the knee settle.  Thursday I was knackered and worn out after a stressful day.  Friday it was incredibly windy and I knew I’d end up tensing against the wind, which couldn’t help.  So I didn’t run again until Saturday.  And it was a lovely 5 mile run.  It was bright and sunny and my knee felt fine.  Encouraged, I ran 10 miles today, with 3 individual miles at marathon pace (that’s sub 3, not pb marathon pace of sub 2.50 pace!).  And it was ok until about 7.5/8 miles.  And then the knee tightened, and tightened, and tightened.  And it’s still sore now.  It was sore walking about in chambers when I went in to work.  So that’s my answer.  I haven’t been able to run more than 7 miles without pain in the last fortnight.  A mini-break to Valencia it is, and I can support the friends I have running, and watch Steph Twell’s marathon debut.  In a way, the fact the pain is coming on after a relatively short distance, although bad in terms of how long it might now take my body to completely recover and let me train properly again, is a relief: this isn’t a finely balanced decision where it is worth even considering risking it.  For whatever reason, the knee just hasn’t settled, and if anything is much worse than the immediate aftermath of the bike accident.  I just need to rest, regroup, and yet again restart the process of building my fitness up.

A Tale Of Two Weeks

4 Nov

So, I last posted a fortnight ago, shaken after being knocked off my bike, but hopeful no serious damage had been done.

Last week was generally ok: I rested on Monday to let things settle, then ran a really comfortable 12 miles on the Tuesday ahead of an emergency sports massage appointment.  That seemed to both help and unsettle a bit, as my 10 miles on Wednesday was only ok until mile 8.  Then the knee (left) was a bit sore again.  As a consequence I decided it wasn’t worth heading over to Weston to race on Thursday and just did a light-ish speedwork session close to home instead.  My legs felt tight and I felt a bit wonky, but my pace-to-effort ratio was great, which was encouraging.  I rested on Friday and then on the Saturday ran a really comfy 15 miles.  After a wonderful concert that night I had a lie-in and then, encouraged by Saturday’s run, headed off for 18 miles, and dared to be brave: I ran my normal 18 mile route rather than loops close to home.  And at 14 miles my knee started to hurt…  There was no easy way home, so I stopped to stretch out my quad, adductor and hamstring every mile.  It brought up 65 miles for the week, and my knee seemed to settle much more quickly than it did the previous weekend, so I hoped I’d got away with it.

I rested on Monday (partly precautionary, partly because I’d cycled for the first time since the accident and didn’t want to overdo things, and partly because I had to work a bit late) and then ran 5 very gentle miles into work on Tuesday.  The knee wasn’t amazing, but not terrible, and when I had a sports massage my sports masseur said the knee was certainly no worse than when she’d seen me the previous week.  Feeling slightly encouraged, I dared to think of running 6 days this week, albeit I only had time for 3.5 very easy miles home on Wednesday.  The knee felt fine.  I ran 8 very easy miles home on Thursday and from about 6 miles the knee was less happy.  I ran 8 miles after work on Friday (having cycled in) and the knee was extremely sore from 5 miles in.  I was stopping to stretch things out every mile.  I then cycled to meet T for dinner, and it took plenty of nice food to cheer me up.  The knee had been extremely painful whilst cycling and I knew that something just wasn’t right.  As a consequence, I’ve taken this weekend off training altogether.  The not-running is to give the knee a rest.  The not-cross-training is because I can’t face it: I’d be cross training because yet again I can’t run.  I can’t quite get my head around how unlucky this year has been: a slip on some mud leading to an horrifically bad ankle sprain; re-spraining that ankle simply turning a corner in the woods; and then getting knocked off my bike because a driver couldn’t wait until she actually had a gap in the traffic which meant turning right was safe for her to do.  I was starting to get into good shape.  My times were finally coming down again.  There was a tiny part of me which was daring to dream of keeping my sub-3 streak alive.  And now, realistically, unless things go really well in the next fortnight, I’m looking at a weekend break in Valencia, but no marathon.  I feel more at peace with that now than I did on Saturday, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Hey I’m Here But Hey You Can’t See Me aka I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again…

21 Oct

So, I started this week with tired legs. I also started it with 5 very slow miles in the dark, the wind and the pouring rain. Lovely. On Tuesday the only sensible time to run was in the morning, and I plodded 14 miles in to work: it took until mile 7 for my legs to loosen up!

Wednesday was a rest day as I had a hearing, a rehearsal and then a micro-date with T to mark 2 years since our first date.  Unfortunately the pub where we planned to go for a quick half pint was closed, so the ‘date’ was over a few seconds after it started…

Thursday was also a bit busy, but I squeezed in 8 miles with 8 X 500m in after my hearing and before my orchestra meeting.

And so to this week’s turning point: Friday’s commute to work. To cut a long story short, a driver cut across me trying to turn into a car park, and knocked me off my bike. How the driver didnt see the cyclist in a hi viz jacket who had right of way I’ll never know, because she took my number but didnt honour her promise to contact me.  It was scary and painful, but I got away with bruising and grazes, although my knees took a lot of the impact. My front wheel was bent and my confidence shaken. I had crazy plans of trying to run Friday night but commonsense prevailed.

To an extent, commonsense sense prevailed yesterday: I did 11 miles instead of 13 and reduced the quality component. It also prevailed today: my left knee began to feel tight and sore, so I bailed at 14 miles rather than grind out another 4. I’m icing it at the moment.

So, it’s not ideal. I’ve got 6 weeks to go and have to get a few more long runs and quality sessions into the next 4 weeks if I’m to run well in Valencia. But the show’s not over until the fat lady sings/the caterpillar can still become a butterfly, etc. I’m not giving up yet/now. It’s time to walk the tightrope of training as hard as I dare without breaking my body. It worked in 2013 and I am so very desperate for it to work again now.

Could It Be Pace Lift…?

14 Oct

So, I’m behind with blogging after a busy fortnight!

Last week started with a rest day, and I actually didn’t get to run until Tuesday evening as I was in Plymouth, which meant an early enough start as it was (the 6.34am train to Bristol, as it happens).  I did 9 miles that evening and then 6 miles in the morning on Wednesday ahead of the second day of my trial.  It was lucky I did run that morning, because we finished rather late, and the 6.25 train home from Bristol meant I wasn’t home until pretty close to 9pm.  It was another 9 miles on Thursday ahead of a sports massage and then 8 miles on Friday at a fairly steady pace.  This was all part of a cut-back week, fairly well-timed because of the National Road Relays on the Saturday.  I was a reserve for the B-team, as befits my not-particularly-fit state at present, and was called up to race.  After a bit of confusion in the handover zone (I was on leg 2 and although I spotted my incoming runner, for some reason this year the marshalls didn’t tap us to tell us to run, so I wasted 5 seconds on the start line!), I was off, and ran a fairly similar time to last year.  It was about 20s/mile faster than the Prom Run, which tells you quite a lot about the weather in Weston, as Sutton Park is pretty undulating and there was a reasonable breeze to contend with.  Here I am, looking a bit pensive at the bottom of the short hill which finishes the loop:

Rather conveniently, seeing as I had a concert on Sunday evening, I only had to do 15 miles on Sunday morning.  It came out at a fairly good pace (8.12s) which is a marked improvement on long runs of late.  But I told myself not to get too excited, because it had been an easier week.

This week also started with a rest day.  I slept really badly on Monday night for some reason, and felt pretty rough on Tuesday, so I postponed my run until the evening just to check I didn’t start feeling even worse.  However, once I got running I actually felt fairly ok, and my 12 miles came out at 8.09s, which is getting towards ‘fairly fit’ pace for a medium long run (albeit my legs should have been fresh: they’d had over 48 hours to recover from the 15 I’d done on Sunday morning!).  I did 5 very steady miles on Wednesday (8.36s) and then 15 miles on Thursday, which came out at 8.03s.  This is when I started to wonder about pace-lift: the phenomenon when your fitness improves and you find that most of your key training sessions are a good chunk faster than they were 4 weeks previously.  It’s a nice, and reassuring feeling.

Just to bring me back down to earth (almost literally), Storm Callum arrived on Friday, and so my greatest achievement during that evening’s recovery run was always moving forwards, albeit at times incredibly slowly!

On Saturday it was a case of another weekend, another race: the first race in this season’s Gwent League cross-country (runners have a generally poor sense of geography: Bristol is simultaneously located in the Midlands and Gwent).  I headed over to Cardiff with some team-mates, revisiting where I’d done my last race of last year before various muscles started going ping.  I started fairly conservatively, but spent the second half of the first lap and first half of the second half overtaking people, which is always fun.  I then pretty much held my own apart from getting caught by someone with a finishing kick in the home straight.  The only annoyance about this race was that – in contrast to last year – we had a fallen tree to negotiate.  I don’t hurdle, and so I was very much in the one foot on, jump down camp, and consequently lost a few metres to people who could hurdle on both laps.  When I first compared my time this year with last year’s time I was pretty gutted, as I seemed to have run well over 2 minutes slower.  But then I discovered that in fact last year we only ran 3.5 miles, whereas this year we must have done a slightly different course, and did 3.9 miles.  My pace was almost identical, despite a stronger wind this year (Callum again…).

After an orchestra rehearsal this morning, that just left today’s long run.  It was my longest of the build up (22 miles) and my fastest (8.11m/m), which is a pretty good combo.  Were it not for the fact I live on top of one of Bristol’s many steep hills it would have been even faster: I’d got into a nice 8.05m/m rhythm on the flat after a steady few miles to warm up, and then the final climb home completely zapped my legs.  I guess yesterday’s race was in there somewhere!

But it’s been a good week’s running: 70 miles, which I think I last managed in the early part of last year, and a bit of pace lift.  I’m still not going to name a target, because I want to see how a few key sessions go over the next few weeks ahead of the taper, but with 7 weeks to go it feels like I’m in a better place than I expected.  Here’s hoping!

A Tale Of Two Race Entry Fees

30 Sep

Picking up where I left off, I did last week’s long run of 20 miles on Monday. It was slow (8.25s) and I never felt great, but it was done. I guess I’d done 78 miles in 8 days and spent 13 hours in the car that weekend. Plus cycling with a rucksack on has been giving me a tight neck and shoulders. Thankfully I’ve now had a pannier rack fitted, so can now cycle rucksack free!

I took my rest day on Tuesday as my legs felt rubbish and I was knackered. Plus it meant I could cook our evening meal for the first time in ages! I was out early on Wednesday to do 10 miles steady as I had afternoon hearings from Wednesday onwards, with rehearsals that night and Friday, so evening training was unlikely to be possible. And morning runs at this time of year can be a delight: you get the daylight and it’s cool without being cold. On Thursday I did 15 miles steady: the longest midweek run my schedule prescribes. On Friday, with half a mind on racing on Sunday I did 6 very gentle miles. However, it became clear that the volume of reading I had to do over the weekend meant neither of the half marathons I had pencilled in was feasible: Folkestone had always required a free weekend and the Forest of Dean still needed more free time than I ended up with once you factor in travel, number collection and general faffing.

Still, it was a nice weekend: 7 miles with some strides on Saturday, an afternoon in chambers and then an evening with some of T’s music friends. This morning, 16 miles with some marathon pace chunks using the measured 4km section on the Portway.  And the paces were better than I feared: 17.38, 17.13, 17.08 & 17.15. 17 flat would be sub 3. Food for thought, but also encouraging. On the third rep I was joined by every female runner’s favourite training companion: The Man Who Doesn’t Like Being Chicked. I reeled in and then overtook this man pretty quickly within the first kilometre, at which point he suddenly decided he would up his pace. Never enough to share the work into the wind, but just enough to sit a few metres out for the next 3km. I guess it’s a compliment of sorts. Possibly…

Anyhow: 74 miles for the week and my biggest month’s training in over a year. And that’s the best thing of all about this week, running wise. Although the post run brunch T cooked was pretty awesome and will fuel my afternoon in chambers nicely.


24 Sep

Back to blogging on a Monday!

Last Monday I started the week with 5 miles easy on tired legs. Tuesday was a double day: 6 miles into chambers in the morning, and 4 miles home in the evening. I was home just in time to inhale dinner and then go to see Crazy Rich Asians with T. It was a fun film, but I was very relieved that my own introduction to an Asian family had been less dramatic and stressful!

Wednesday was my rest day as I was in court in Oxford and then had a rehearsal that evening.

Thursday saw me toe a race start line for only the 3rd time this year, I think. It was the first Weston Prom 5 miler of the season. In my head, based on just about managing 4 mins/km, or 6m26s/mile, for 1200m reps, I wasn’t expecting much better than 6.40/mile. And then the weather intervened: it was really windy (think up to 40mph, according to the forecast!) and a bit rainy, too. I was late arriving so had to cut my warm up short, but things still went ok for the first 2 miles, when I was in a group and had some shelter.  When I turned into the wind I wanted to push on and try to bridge the gap to the next group. No one else wanted to try, and for the next 3 miles it was a solo effort. 2 of those miles were mostly into the wind and crept up to 7m/m. Now, I should be devastated to only just slip under 34 mins, as at my fittest I was on the cusp of breaking 30. But I know I’m far from fully fit, and that I never cope well with strong winds. The next race is in the series is in 5 weeks, and how I run then, after 5 more big, fitness-boosting weeks, will be more important!

I had high hopes of getting my long run done on Friday as we had a family weekend away, but my legs were a bit tired, the strong winds had not abated and then it started chucking it down so that I was freezing cold. I bailed after 13 miles to avoid hypothermia.

On Saturday I summoned my inner Joss Naylor and tried 6 miles off road in the Lake District. It was slow. I am no Joss Naylor.

On Sunday I stopped pretending I’m anything close to a fell runner and ran into Keswick them did out and backs on a fairly flat bike path. The only sting in the tail was the run back up the hill as I left Keswick! The 13 miles I did was ‘borrowed’ from the next week’s training, in the hope I could do the long run at the start of the week.

So, 58 miles is light compared to the schedule, but the combined total of the two weeks will be the important thing. Sneak preview: I did that 20 miler today. Fingers crossed for a good rest of the week!