Saturday, 31 December 2011

Who's the boss?

It's been a difficult week.  Not necessarily physically - all tendons, joints, and muscles seem to be coping with the slowly increasing mileage - but psychologically.  All four of the runs this week have been preceded by lengthy arguing with myself about whether or not I should do the run.  The only way that I could get myself out the door was to promise myself that if I really really hated it, I could turn around and come back home. 

Of course, once I was outside I felt much better and all four runs went well.  Even the 7 mile run on Friday went okay, despite being drenched by the sleet that started half-way through (leading to major head-freeze) and despite being chased at the end by one of the hunting dogs that had escaped from its kennel at the Big House.  I was kindly rescued by two of our neighbours who were having a gossip in the lane and who distracted the dog long enough for me to get home and unthaw my head, and who didn't make me feel like a big girl's blouse for needing to hide behind them while the dog meandered past. 

So what's the problem with the running?  Sigh.  I'm afraid that the problem is me.  Or, more specifically, my refusal to be told what to do by anyone, including myself.  I run because I like it, not because I have to.  But now that I've committed to the marathon, this means that I HAVE to run whether I want to or not.  It means that I don't have any choice anymore, and I don't like that.  (Yes, that was written with a scowl and a pout and a stomp of the foot.)

It took me all week to figure this out but, now that I've gotten there, what to do about it?  I'm not about to let myself get in my own way so perhaps it's time to be a grown-up and say, 'I'm the boss of myself and I can do whatever I want.  And if what I want to do is run a marathon, then that is indeed what I will do.  And you can't stop me.'

So there.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Walking by choice

I was not looking forward to today's 6-mile run.  Blame it on last night's yowling cat and snoring husband, who timed their respective yowls and snores so that just as one of them stopped, the other one started up.  So I was tired, tired, tired this morning.  If the weather wasn't meant to turn very rainy and windy over the weekend, I would have put today's run off until tomorrow.  But winter running means taking advantage of the weather when it's good, so I felt that I had no option but to gear up and get outside.

Now, one of the training programmes that I have been considering is Jeff Galloway's run-walk-run strategy.  He argues that by alternating running with walking, your muscles don't fatigue as quickly which means that you don't slow down towards the end of a long run and your finishing time can end up being faster than if you had run the whole way.  He gives lots of examples of runners who have dramatically improved their times using this strategy, including those who have finished their marathon in under 2.5 hours.  In theory, this approach makes sense.  For other people.  But not for me.  I don't want to walk, I want to run!!!

However, in my sleep-deprived state I thought that I might as well give the run-walk-run thing a go, if only to rule it out.  Focusing on my time wasn't going to happen anyway because I really didn't have any energy, so there would be no harm done by allowing myself to walk.  I randomly chose to run for 5 minutes/walk for 1 minute and to let my speed be whatever it wanted to be.

Aside from wanting to shout at passing cars, 'I'm CHOOSING to walk!', I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt.  No tiredness in my legs, even at the end.  No pain in my Achilles tendon.  Much more relaxed and comfortable with my stride and feeling like I could have gone a lot faster during the running phases. Without even trying, my time ended up being more than a minute faster than the last time I ran this route. 

So, can I see myself as a Jeff Galloway convert?  Maybe.  I want a fast(er) time but I also want to run every single step of the way.  Is it possible to have both?  And if not, can I cope with people thinking that I'm walking because I'm not fit enough to run?  I have one week to decide.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Running update

Yesterday's run was a pain-free yomp through a sepia-coloured landscape; the only flash of colour was my fuschia jacket.  The snow on the roads was the right kind of snow to give good traction, which was fortunate as I couldn't figure out how to get the Yaktrax on.  I did manage to determine which side was the bottom and which bits went over the heel and the toe of the shoe, but I couldn't get them to go over the heel and the toe at the same time.  I was afraid to be firm with them in case they pinged off the shoe into my face and put my eye out. 

I'll have to ask Bassman to give it a go using his superior strength and spatial skills.  However, unless I can learn to put them on myself, I'm not sure how useful they're going to be. Perhaps I'll be reduced to having my lovely husband follow me around in the car (no running for him!), acting as a Yaktrax porter, ready to leap out at a moment's notice to fit them to my feet.  Actually, I kind of like the sound of that.  He could carry a flask of tea and some emergency biscuits as well.  But I digress...

Today I ran on the treadmill at the gym, as I had to be in town anyway to have winter tyres fitted onto the Mini.  Another pain-free run, and I even structured it as a pyramid run to get a little bit of speed work in.  I'd like to say that I've now begun an actual training programme for the marathon, but this feels like tempting fate.  It also feels wrong and out of balance to start a training programme in the middle of a month, much like it feels out of balance to eat three chocolates, for example.  (The rules are, it's either two chocolates or four; nothing to do with greed and everything to do with symmetry.) 

Anyway, it would feel more right to start training on 1 January (nothing to do with laziness, everything to do with symmetry) so that's what I'm going to do.  Until then, I'm just running.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The spirit of Christmas, with pictures

I accompanied Bassman to the Culbokie Farmers' Market this morning where he had a stall selling his book along with cards and prints of his photos.  My plan was to keep him company and indulge in tea and cake while doing so, as well as collecting the Christmas wreath that I had ordered in November from a local craftsperson.  Unfortunately, the wreath that was waiting for me was not the wreath that I remember ordering.  I remember lush greenery, small white flowers, and a red velvet bow.

What I got was greenery that is drying out and yellowing on the ends, a couple of big plastic white flowers that don't even attempt to look real, and a red plastic bow.  I'm also sure that I paid for it at the time of ordering but the seller insisted that I hadn't and, because I didn't have a receipt (hey, it's a local market - everyone knows everyone, so I never thought to make it formal), I ended up having to pay for it again.  With hindsight, I wish I had refused to pay and just walked away.  Unfortunately, I suffered an episode of politeness and didn't want to make a scene, so now I'm the owner of an ugly wreath that's hanging funereally on the gate outside because I refuse to have it in the house.  Perhaps the pine martens will appreciate it.

The afternoon improved, though, because I decorated the Christmas tree.  I managed to put the lights on without my usual bouts of cursing and tears, and I had a joyous reunion with the Sparkly Reindeer and their adopted son.

 The Boys, looking macho in their marabou boas

The festive spirit even made me almost forget about the woman who nicked my first choice tree out from under me at the tree shop yesterday - I turned my back for just a minute to look at other possibilities, leaving the garden centre guy holding the tree that I kind of wanted, and the next thing I knew this woman was walking away with my tree!  Bassman will say that that's what I get for dithering, but I think it's just rude.

Making the day perfect, however, was the arrival of my new boots from Susie's Sheepskin Boots.  They are beautiful, warm, and comfortable.  Merry Christmas to me!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A visit to the physio

Today I had an appointment with Jan, the physiotherapist who over the years has seen me through several bouts of Achilles tendonitis (or tendonopathy, as the preferred phrase now seems to be), a torn calf muscle, a subtalar joint injury (it's one of the joints in the ankle), iliotibial band syndrome, and an impingement of both shoulders.  They were all running related with the exception of the shoulder impingements, which apparently are related to being middle-aged.

I phoned Jan after last week's runs in the wind triggered a recurrence of Achilles discomfort.  It seems to have settled down again -  no pain during my three runs this week - but I thought that a focus on prevention of further injury was called for.  Besides, it's been months since my last visit to Jan and I think that she misses me when I'm not there.  According to her, I'm one of a small number of her patients who actually does the exercises that she prescribes.

Her assessment identified that my left Achilles tendon (the one that is currently causing concern) is a lot weaker than the right one and that there is some minor tenderness but no lumps, bumps, or thickening that would indicate scarring.  After a friction massage of the offending tendon and then some ultrasound, I was sent on my way with some strengthening exercises to do as well as the all-clear to continue running.

It's nice to have an official sanction for what I was planning on doing anyway.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Slip sliding away

Today is the first day that I've been able to run since the disastrous Storm Run in Shetland on 2 December.  Not only was there foul weather both there and then back home to contend with, but I was struck down by a migraine on Friday that lasted until Sunday.  Sitting quietly on the sofa and trying not to move my head was about all that I could manage; running was not an option.

But today I was feeling better, the sun was shining, and there wasn't any wind - there was no excuse to stay inside.  Besides, I kind of had it in my head that my official training was going to start on the 4th, which means that I'm behind before I've even begun. 

I planned on doing an easy 3 miles, taking my time after the 10 days off, and just enjoying being out again.  And I did do the 3 miles.  And I did go slow.  Very slow.  Not because of lack of fitness, but because of the black ice that covered half of my route.  I alternated between a quick shuffle, walking, sliding, skating, and occasional bursts of normal running where the ice had melted - it took me almost 10 minutes longer than this route usually takes, but I also avoided the broken bones that my accident-prone nature invites.  The Yaktrax are still in the post, so tomorrow morning's 7am run is going to be at the gym. 

Shopping update:  After a quickish trip to Run 4 It, accompanied by the ever-patient Bassman, I am now the happy owner of a Gore winter running jacket (in a fluorescent fuschia) and a Gore mid-layer top (black with fuschia accents) - I had no choice but to buy them both, because there was a 'spend over £80 on two items and get 20% off' offer - and another pair of Saucony running shoes (with a bright pink swish along the side).  I got 20% off the running shoes too, possibly as a thank you for single-handedly keeping the store in profit.  I also looked into getting some winter tyres for the Mini (not at Run 4 It, at the Mini garage); if Pirelli made tyres in pink, maybe I'd have gone for them too.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Reasons, not excuses

My enthusiastic embracing of the '3 weeks hard, 1 week easy' training philosophy has overshot the mark a bit.  It seems to have evolved into '3 weeks hard, 1 week easy, and 1 week of not doing very much at all.'  I blame the weather.

I was awake at 1am, listening to winds of over 75mph hurl snow and hail at the windows.  I tossed and turned until 3am, when I remembered that I had some earplugs with me.  I gave them a try, but quickly took them out again as feeling the house shake without any sound attached to the movement was extremely disturbing.  I fell back asleep around 5, but was woken at 6.30 by the roofers in the flat below shouting at each other.  They probably had to shout to be heard over the wind.

C gave me a lift to work at 9 - no way was I going to attempt to walk in that storm!  By noon, when I had wearied of watching the snow squalls descend then lift then descend again, I phoned the leisure centre to cancel my induction for tonight.  Another bone-chilling trek into a headwind through the darkness did not appeal to me at all; I know my limits.

It will come as no surprise, then, to hear that by the time I left work at 5, the wind had died down, the skies had cleared, and it was an absolutely gorgeous crisp winter's evening, complete with a half-full moon shining over the water.  If the pavements hadn't been covered with ice and snow, it would have been the perfect night for a run. 

I need to do something so that this break in training doesn't happen again; I did think about not coming back to Shetland until after the marathon in April, but decided that that might possibly be an overreaction.  A quick search online turned up Yaktrax, which would have allowed me to run tonight.  And this past week has shown why I really do need a Gore winter running jacket.  (Hurrah!  I knew I'd find a reason eventually.)  A quick gym induction session on my next visit here in January, and I'll have all the bases covered. 

They say that it's a poor workman who blames his (or her) tools but, sometimes, the right tools make all the difference.  That's what I'm hoping, anyway.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Defeated by bureaucracy

Depending on which programme I end up following, today had the potential to be the official start of my marathon training.  So despite being woken up entirely too early by the six roofers staying in the flat below me (I know that they're roofers because that's what it says on their van; I know that there are at least six of them because that's how many were standing outside, having a fag in the sleety snow, when I peered through my blinds at 6.30am to see who was making all the noise), having a full-on schedule at work, and coming down with a migraine, I was determined to do a 3 or 4 mile run tonight.

There's too much snow and ice on the pavements to run safely or comfortably, but there is a reportedly very nice leisure centre that is a 20 minute walk from my flat.  So despite the wind, snow, slush, freezing temperature, and lack of appropriate winter footwear, I made my way to the gym.  I arrived with my shoes and winter running leggings soaked through from the driving snow and from the slush sprayed onto me by passing buses, and successfully navigated my way past the group of local youths who were having a snowball fight in front of the leisure centre.  I presented myself at the reception desk to purchase entry to the gym...and was told 'sorry, you have to have an induction first.'

Now, if I had thought this through, I would have realised that this would be the case.  Every gym I've ever belonged to has required this; I imagine it's so that if you hurt yourself, you can't sue them.  But it just seemed So Unfair.  I've been going to gyms for longer than the gym receptionist has been alive. I was wet, cold, headachey, and had demonstrated my commitment to exercise by coming out in horrible weather.  I just wanted a 30 minute run on the treadmill.  Was that really too much to ask?

Apparently so.  The rules are the rules, and the wee receptionist was not about to bend them.  Some rules are made to be broken and others I can often find a way around, but even I knew that the only possible way of getting to use the treadmill was to give in and make an appointment for The Induction tomorrow night.

An extra day's rest can only help my achilles tendon and I'll be home from the gym in time to watch MasterChef:  The Professionals, so it's not all bad.  Smiling in the face of adversity, that's me!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Relaxing in Shetland

Despite yesterday's post-run fatigue, I had a lovely time at the departmental Christmas night out.  It was at the Peerie Shop Cafe, which we had all to ourselves.  Chef James Martin put together a fab buffet including tattie soup with reestit mutton (much praised by the non-veggies in the group), smoked mackerel pate and homemade oatcakes, roasted vegetable couscous, parmesan bruschetta, and a roast tomato pie.  There were three choices of dessert, and the tiramisu alone was worth the journey to Shetland.  The company was good too, although I did end up knowing rather more than I ever wanted to about what pregnancy and childbirth do to your body (cheers, C and S for the detailed descriptions!).

The official night out ended at 11.00.  Some of our number were continuing on to one of the local pubs, described by C as the kind of place where you want to wipe your feet after you leave, but I chose to give it a miss and was happily in bed with my Kindle by 11.30 and asleep by midnight. 

There was no running today; instead, I took a chance on the weather (wind at almost 40mph, intermittent driving rain, and very cold) and walked into town in search of Didrikson parkas.  On the way, I was taken aback to see two runners heading towards the harbour, both of them wearing only shorts and T-shirts.  Either they were tourists who didn't have a clue about Shetland weather, or Shetland runners are well hard.

I found the parkas, but none in my size, and by the time I left the shop the rain had returned with a vengeance.  I had no choice but to duck into the Peerie Cake Shop when the rain turned to hail.  Five minutes later, the hail had stopped and I was on my way again, accompanied by a 'Chocolate, Chocolate, and More Chocolate' cupcake. 

What can I say, it's an ill wind...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Defeated by the elements

I've decided to adopt the training philosophy of 'three weeks hard, one week easy' in an attempt to keep injuries at bay.  Because I've increased my mileage and speed over the past three weeks, this was meant to have been an easy week of running that should have let my body rest and recover.  The weather gods had something else in mind.

I managed okay on Monday and Wednesday.  The wind was blowing at about 15-20mph but, as the runs were meant to be a slow and relaxed pace anyway, I didn't push myself to maintain any particular speed.  However, the effort of running into the wind quickly tired my legs on both days and I even felt the first twinges in weeks of my Achilles tendon.

Today, I flew to Shetland, Land of the Perpetual Gale Force Winds.  Our department Christmas night out is tonight and, as I would have been coming up for work on Sunday anyway, it seemed like a good idea to arrive early so that I could partake of the festivities.  It's been blowing a gale here (of course) for the past week, and ferries and flights were cancelled on the worst days.  The winds dropped enough for my flight to get through today, although 50mph cross-winds still made for an interesting landing.  I've had plenty of bumpy flights to Shetland, but this is the first time that I thought that the pilot was going to attempt a barrel roll.  The right side of the plane dipped by 45 degrees, giving a close-up view of the swell of the sea beneath us.  No one screamed (not out loud, anyway).

By the time I got to Lerwick and unpacked, stopped by work to catch up on gossip and finalise plans for transport for tonight, and nipped into Tesco for some groceries, the wind was less severe and the rain had stopped.  There even was blue sky to the east.  Tomorrow and Sunday are meant to be even windier and rainier than today, and I really didn't want to miss out my long run, so I bundled up and headed out for what was supposed to be an easy five or six mile run.

Except, a mile in, it started to rain.  And then the wind picked up.  And then it sleeted.  And then the sleet turned into very heavy rain.  And then the temperature dropped.  It wasn't too bad for the first half of the run because the wind was at my back, but when I turned the corner to start the run around Westerloch (which I had planned to do twice), I was running into driving, sleety rain.  I couldn't really see because I had to keep my eyes scrunched shut to keep out the needles of sleet, so I kept running through instead of around puddles.  My shoes were so wet that their squelchiness sounded like a pair of heaving, gasping lungs.  This was so NOT FUN.

I only did one loop of Westerloch and slushed my way back to the flat.  My achilles tendon was aching by the end.  I was annoyed that I only managed about four miles.  I'm exhausted.  And I'm worried that I'm really going to struggle with this winter training.  I did have a look online to see what other runners have to say about training in the wind and the rain and the snow and the cold, hoping that the consensus would be 'it's okay to stay inside in the warm.'  Imagine my dismay to find that the advice is 'stop whingeing and just get out there.'

I'll bet that they don't have to run in Shetland.