Because today's forecast was for torrential rain and gales, I very wisely did my long(ish) run yesterday when there were only gales. So I headed to the local forestry commission paths for a bit of off-road adventure.
The first two miles were on a steady but gentle incline and I felt relaxed and strong...until I started hearing what sounded like a dog running up behind me. The first couple of times, I stopped and quickly turned, ready to shout at errant dog owners but there were no humans or canines to be seen. I became increasingly freaked out by this and my thoughts turned, as they do, to werewolves...after a half-mile of adrenaline fueled running (as though I could realistically outrun a werewolf but, hey, I wasn't thinking clearly), I realised that the sound was from the small bits of snow and ice that I was kicking up behind me with each step. I'd like to say that this made me laugh, but I was just relieved that I wasn't about to have my jugular ripped out.
I turned off the main path onto a new-to-me path that would take me downhill to another main path. It was a bit overgrown but looked passable until I got to the first rise; a muddy and water-logged concourse stretched before me but I thought that a REAL trail runner wouldn't be deterred by this so I sloshed onwards. I passed two crows in a burnt-out tree, both of whom were commenting on how ridiculous it was that I was trying to keep my shoes clean, but as they were just taking the piss and not behaving in a supernatural (i.e. scary) manner, I ignored them and carried on.
I ended up walking probably a quarter-mile of this section because it was SO muddy and SO flooded that I had no choice but to detour into the slightly less squishy woods to get around the worst of it. Still, I managed to run, jog, slide, and curse my way through enough mud to feel that I had accomplished something by the end of this section. And then it was a right turn onto another main path that would take me back to an uphill section leading back to the main path to the car. It should have been uneventful. It really should have.
But as I was running up the hill to the main path, I began to hear something in the woods. At first it sounded like a deer or maybe a pheasant and I didn't think much of it. But then it sounded like it was moving along with me. I kept peering into the trees but couldn't see anything, although you wouldn't see a werewolf until the very last minute, would you? I didn't stop but maintained my running-on-the-flat pace, heart pounding (and not just from running uphill) and adrenaline flowing...and the noise in the woods continued to track me. I have never been so glad in my life to see a dog walker as I was to see someone & their dogs coming towards me at the top of the path.
By the time that I passed the dog walker, she had her two spaniels on their leads which was a good thing, as they both were leaping and snarling and barking as they stared down the hill past me. 'That's odd,' said the dog walker, 'they never behave like that.' No, not unless there are werewolves about...but I didn't say that, I just grimaced and huffity puffed my way to the top. It's everyone for themselves in the big dark woods.
No scary things accosted me on my way back to the car and I didn't hear any more odd sounds. That may be because I took off my neck buff when I got to the top of the hill as I had overheated (through fear, I'll have you know, and not because of lack of fitness), and maybe it was the buff rubbing against my jacket that was making the 'I'm coming to get you' noise. Maybe. But just in case, I think that I'll give that particular path a miss for a while.
I'll bet that REAL trail runners don't have to deal with things like this.
Saturday, 13 December 2014
I ended up paying for a private MRI scan (thank you, unexpected work assignment, for funding this!) to get the definitive answer about what is wrong with my knee. The scan confirmed that I do have a tear in the body of the medial meniscus as well as some roughness of the medial edge. There was a lot of fluid behind my femur which the consultant thought might be from a resolving burst Baker's Cyst, but I don't particularly believe this because I never had any symptoms of a Baker's Cyst, burst or otherwise. And, of course, I know best...Otherwise, my knee is in good shape with 'good preservation of cartilage thickness' and healthy tendons and ligaments.
Julie the Physio gave me a huge pep talk after seeing the results (as well as giving me some more exercises to promote fluid drainage and a better range of movement). Her view is 'treat the knee, not the MRI,' which meant that she encouraged me to keep running as long as my knee wasn't too unhappy. And, unless I completely misunderstood her, it's really my pain tolerance that should be the deciding factor about how much I run as opposed to some arbitrary random mileage or frequency limit.
Her final words were, 'Stop running like you have a torn meniscus!' So that's what I've been trying to do. And she's right, if I didn't know what the MRI showed, I wouldn't be worried at all about how my knee feels. I've certainly run through worse pain than this before; in fact, my knee now twinges only occasionally during a run. It's afterwards that I feel the effects and even then, it's discomfort rather than pain and generally resolves by the next day. So, I'm up to running three times/week now with the longest run 5 miles. And it's all going fine.
Also on the advice of Julie the Physio, I've been running off-road to give my joints a bit of a rest. There are woods which are a five minute drive from the house but in the over ten years that I've lived here, I have never been there. Ever. What was I thinking???? Because running in those woods is AMAZING! It's not just the softness underfoot, it's the lovely trees, it's the views of the distant hills, and it's realising that I really really like running uphill. Who knew? I've always avoided significant uphills (and downhills) on the road, partly through laziness but mainly through fear that I'd tear another calf muscle unless I stayed on the flat. Those days are long gone, though, thanks to Chi Running and, to paraphrase Julie the Physio, 'run the legs that you have, not the ones that used to give you so much trouble.'
So, as proof of my off-road adventures, here's what I got up to on today's five mile loop:
|My new trail shoes! Very pretty, very comfy.|
|At the start: 1.5 miles gentle(ish) uphill, then turn right to...|
|A lovely half-mile downhill.|
|Turn right onto a flat bit for 1.5 miles, then...|
|Turn right again onto a lovely half-mile uphill (this is taken from the top; I did run up it!)|
|And home for soup and cake.|