Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Matchgirl's weekend away

Bassman and I were away in Kirkcudbright over the weekend.  He was attending a photography workshop and I tagged along with a shopping and hill-walking agenda.  Before we could head off, though, I had a seven mile run to do.  It was a cold and cloudy morning, but I didn't realise just how cold it was until I got to the farm lane above the house.  Yikes, ice!  My Yaktrax were, of course, safely tucked away in their box at home and I couldn't be bothered to go back to get them, so I decided to carry on carefully.

The first three miles weren't bad at all but then I had to resort to walking up the farm track to the main road; actually, I had to walk on the grass at the side of the track because the track itself was a sheet of ice.  The main road was okay, but the road along the Cromarty Firth was icy as well.  The result:  lots more walking than planned, cramped and sore calves from running with a baby-step shuffle, but at least my hip pain stayed well within the discomfort zone.

Kirkcudbright itself was a success.  On Saturday morning, I did a bit of shopping and bought myself a Didrikson's parka.  The actual colour of the parka is more of a softer pink and not as fluorescent as the one shown in the link and looks better on me than it does on the model, but I do like the idea of owning a coat that comes with an instruction video.  I also bought a long zippered cardigan from the local posh clothing shop - £100 on sale for £25.  It would have been rude not to indulge.

After shopping, I went hill-walking up Screel Hill near Auchencairn.  It was a not very high and not very long walk, but the views from the top were incredible.  I haven't been hill-walking in years, and my legs certainly felt it by the end.  Running muscles and walking muscles are NOT the same.  I went for a short walk on Sunday as well, although this one was all on the flat and followed the coastline of St Mary's Isle (which is a peninsula, not a real island).  I thought that this might help me to recover from the previous day's walk, but I was wrong.  I'm not sure that it was possible for my muscles to be any more seized up.

Anyway, I'm back home and back to running.  Monday was just three miles and, despite feeling like there was nothing left in my legs, I managed a quite respectable time and there was only minimal twingeing from my hip.  Today's run was six miles, and was actually enjoyable.  My hip didn't hurt at all, my speed increased as the run went on, and I amused myself by visualising crossing the finish line in London. 

Today, it's all good.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Snap, crackle, pop

Today was my appointment with the new physiotherapist/osteopath, Claudio.  I am a bit nervous about the osteopathic component of this and was alert to any indication that some unexpected cracking of my joints might be about to occur, but Claudio was very reassuring and explained everything before he did it.  He also promised not to do any of the big noisy manipulations...

After a fifteen minute exam, he was ready with his diagnosis.  Starting at the top, my neck has limited range of movement (probably related to whiplash from when someone crashed into my Mini in 2006); my upper back muscles are weak; various upper arm muscles are weak which isn't helping the shoulder impingements to heal; my glutes are weak and my hamstrings, quads, calves, and ankles are tight tight tight (especially on the left side).  The pain in my hip - or, to be exact, on my ileac crest - is probably radiating from a tight piriformis muscle, but Claudio also thought that my nifty new bottle belt is irritating some of the nerves in the region as well. 

I felt overwhelmed by the whole thing - where do you even begin to start with this - but Claudio is an experienced professional.  He looked me in the eye and firmly said, 'I can help you...if you do what I say.'  Yikes, what has he heard about me???

He showed me new stretches for my achilles tendons/calves, hamstrings, and shoulders.  And then he did some osteopathic manipulations of my hips and ankles.  The hip ones were very gentle and I didn't feel anything except relaxed - but my hip stopped hurting.  The ankle manipulations were a bit more ouchey and I could feel (but thankfully not hear) little clicks happening - and suddenly I had a greater range of movement in my ankles as well as more relaxed calves.  Amazing.

Claudio also advised me not to wear the bottle belt or anything else that fits tightly across my hips.  I was too embarrassed to tell him that that would involve buying a whole new wardrobe.  Perhaps it's time to consider cutting back on the cake.

Anyway, I left the appointment feeling much better physically and feeling optimistic that my running days aren't over yet.  Doing what someone else tells me to do will be a small price to pay.  I think.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Not quite ready for the Zimmer frame

Yesterday's gym session, combined with copious amounts of ibuprophen and a good Sticking, meant that I was only in mild discomfort from my hip this morning.  I thought that it was worth it to try running, especially as Bassman offered to wait by the phone in case I seized up half-way and had to call for an emergency Mondeo. 

I set off at a very slow jog, and was relieved that what I felt was discomfort, not pain.  As Jan the Physio once said, 'If it's just discomfort, stop being a baby and run through it.'  So I did.

For the first three miles, I walked occasionally when my calves felt too tight, when my Achilles tendon grumbled, and when I felt that my hip deserved a break.  And if I'm honest, my calves were causing me more grief than my hip.  By three miles, as always happens, I finally felt warmed up.  My calves and Achilles tendon relaxed and, without trying, my speed increased.  This resulted in an escalation of ouchiness from my hip - teetering on the pain edge, in fact - but I wanted to do the five miles that I should have done yesterday so I ignored it and carried on.

The last two miles felt great (aside from my hip, but the pain wasn't constant and sometimes it disappeared altogether).  And when I entered the data from this run into MapMyRun, I was thrilled to find that - even with all of the walking and the 12-minute mile start - this run was only 6 seconds slower than my fastest one on this route.

Not bad for someone who, only yesteday, was facing a hip replacement.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Put the mouse down, and move away from the computer...

I woke up this morning with a hip that was just as painful as when I went to bed last night.  Sometimes you can run through pain but, when you can't walk without hurting, that's probably as good a sign as you're going to get that the five miles you had planned is not going to happen.  

So, while I had my morning cup of hot water, I had another look on-line for what might be causing my problem.  There is a lot of very useful and in-depth information on the internet.  This is, however, not always a Good Thing for someone with hypochondriacal tendencies and a vivid imagination, and explains why I ended up sitting in tears in front of the computer. 

Not only did I come across numerous stories from runners about the 3 or 6 or 12 weeks that they needed to take off from running in order to heal their dodgy hips, but I somehow I found myself sucked into the universe of osteoarthritis and hip replacements.  Cue much sadness about missing the marathon - I could see myself so clearly, standing at the finishing line with the spectators, womanfully holding back my tears of disappointment at my fate - and also cue much depression about getting old and having my joints crumble away from under me and regretting all the times that I didn't go out for a run because I was too tired or the weather wasn't quite right or I just couldn't be bothered.

Sheesh...somehow I managed to get myself out the front door, into the car (still crying), and off to the gym where I did 16km on the exercise bike and a couple of miles on the cross-trainer.  My hip didn't hurt during the exercise at all, and even seemed to have loosened up a bit afterwards.  I took 600mg of ibuprophen when I got to work, and again when I got home, and this seems to have made a difference too.

I'm tempted to try to run tomorrow morning, but without a specific distance in mind.  If it hurts, I'll stop and go to the gym.  If it feels okay, I'll carry on.  Either way, I'll try to not worry about it.  Much.

Monday, 23 January 2012

A pain in the glute

Today's run was just three miles and, with one exception, went well.  For the first time, the pain near my hip was there while I was running.  Not enough to change my gait or make me slow down, but I was certainly conscious of it.  And I'm certainly aware of it now because it hurts to walk, at least until I stretch it out a bit.  I've been icing it all day and taking ibuprophen and Sticking it, but to no avail.  It still hurts.

I have no idea what muscle this is.  It's very localised, just at the top of and slightly behind my hip bone.  I did a bit of research on-line (much more interesting than writing the reports that I was supposed to be doing) and I'm guessing it's either the gluteus medius or the extreme upper part of the gluteus maximus and that it's related to my non-existent core strength.

However, instead of ignoring it or pretending that I know what I'm doing, I made an appointment for Thursday with a physio that I used to share office space with.  Jan the Physio is great, but I fancy another approach and this new physio is also an osteopath as well as trained in something called Global Postural Re-education.  GPR apparently addresses muscle imbalances, and I freely admit to being imbalanced.

I don't trust that my body is going to last until the end of training without doing something to address this drip-drip-drip of physical deterioration, and I'm not giving up without a fight!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

10 miles, more or less

Yesterday's run, again out the Cromarty road, was one that I approached with trepidation.  I was worried about the impact that a long run would have on tendons and muscles that already were feeling not quite right although, psychologically, I was looking forward to it.  But I Sticked my legs before I left the house, gave myself plenty of time to warm up before starting the run, took some raisins to nibble if I got hungry, and agreed with myself that I would follow a planned run/walk pattern for at least the first seven miles.  All sorted.

However, I have a bit more control over my body than I do over technology, and I have absolutely no control over how my mind understands anything to do with numbers.  Although the stop watch started immediately, the GPS in my phone didn't pick up a signal until somewhere towards the end of the first mile, and then flitted in and out until I was well past Jemimaville and out along the water.  I thought that I knew what I was doing; once it kicked in, I was going to run until the GPS said five miles, turn around, and run until it said 10 miles.  I knew that this would end up about a mile and a half from home, giving me a longer cool-down.

What I didn't take into account in this grand plan, and what didn't finally hit me until last night, was that I already had been running for close to a mile before the GPS started up, meaning that I actually ended up running nearer to eleven miles.  And, considering how difficult the running this week has been, I felt really good.  A bit of stiffness here and there, but no pain, and I even ran the last five miles five minutes faster than I ran the first five miles.

Last night's post-run soreness in my achilles tendon and the pain in whatever muscle it is that sits at the top of and a bit behind my hip bone (which seizes up if I sit down for too long) have pretty much disappeared today.  Today and Sunday are rest days, and next week is a planned reduced mileage week.  I'm almost disappointed that the long run will only be seven miles.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Stick

One of the things that I've tried recently, in my never-ending attempt to improve flexibility and decrease stiffness, is a foam roller.  Jan the Physio recommended this the last time that I saw her.  It's meant to mimic the effects of a sports massage; basically, you have to support your body weight with your arms whilst moving said body back and forth over the roller.  Here's a view of what it's meant to look like, as demonstrated by a very fit person with a very flat stomach.  It doesn't quite look like that when done by a more normal-sized person who is still suffering from shoulder impingements and can't put her arms behind her.

Because I was finding it next to impossible to roll myself, a couple of nights ago I asked Bassman to roll me.  (Get your minds out of the gutter; this isn't that kind of blog!)  He used his superior strength and endless patience to roll the roller up and down my calves.  It was absolutely amazing.   I don't think that my calves have ever felt that relaxed, and there was a very obvious knock-on effect for my achilles tendons too.  The advice is to use the roller pre- and post-run as part of the warm up and cool down, which I'm happy to do but Bassman won't always be around for rolling duties.  So I did what any geeky gadget girl would do and looked on-line for something that would let me attend to my own massage needs.

Hello, The Stick.  I ordered one, and it arrived today.  I had some experimental rolls of my calves and hip flexors, and I think it will do nicely.  It's no replacement for Bassman, of course, but sometimes a girl just has to be self-sufficient.

Running update:  Following yesterday's debacle, I took today off from running.  Instead, I went to the gym and did 20 minutes on the exercise bike and 15 minutes on the cross-trainer.  Less impact on my joints and other bits while still getting my heart rate up.  Tomorrow is a rest day, and Friday is 10 miles.  Plenty of time to Stick myself.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Slowed down by sensible shoes

Tonight's run (a theoretically easy 3 mile one) was a disaster.  I was in a good frame of mind and I warmed up properly, but within five minutes of running I knew that something was wrong.  It started in my achilles tendons (both of them) and then moved to my feet, ankles, calves, left hip,  right glute - all of them ached and cramped and tightened and, in general, just hurt.  Not all at the same time, mind you.  If that had been the case, I would have sat down by the side of the road and waited for Bassman to come looking for me. 

Instead, I tried slowing my pace down, I shortened my stride, I stopped and stretched, I walked...nothing helped.  I did manage to finish the run, although describing what I was actually doing as  'running' probably contravenes the Trade Descriptions Act.  I felt like crying by the time I got home.  I've had no pain and even very little discomfort over the past couple of weeks, and I was starting to believe that I had moved on to a different stage of fitness.  So what happened?

Thinking back over the day, I realised that my achilles tendons had been twingeing on and off since this morning.  And why might that have been?  Today was the first time in ages that I wore my very flat ballet-type Rocket Dogs, which are pretty much equivalent to going barefoot.  In fact, I can't remember the last time that I wore footwear that didn't have at least a small heel to it - winter boots, biker boots (not the proper ones, the fashion ones), work shoes...all of them have heels.

Walking barefoot (or in very flat shoes) does put extra strain on the achilles tendons.  So, if they were feeling aggravated by being stretched out more than usual, then that would go some way towards explaining why it felt during the run as though my ankles weren't bending.  And that would have put strain on my calves, which would have put strain on my hip flexors...anyway, that's my explanation and I'm sticking to it.

I'm not unfit.  I haven't over-trained.  I'm just not cut out to wear sensible shoes.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Plans are for changing

I have finally settled on a training programme.  Unsurprisingly, this has turned out to be an amalgamation of three programmes.  I decided to follow Hal Higdon's programme for the way that he structures the increase in mileage over the 16 weeks, Sam Murphy's programme because I like the combination of speed work that she does, and Jeff Galloway's run-walk programme for the long runs.  I won't do too much shuffling around of the actual mileage, but I'll tweak the rest of it depending on how I feel on the day. It's important to retain a bit of autonomy and individuality.

It's in that spirit that I rearranged this week's runs to accommodate an unaccommodating work schedule.  Today's run was 5 miles, rather than the 3 that it was meant to be, because I don't have time for a longer run on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Well, I would if I got up at 6.30 but that would imply a level of dedication that I don't have.  

By the time I got home from work, I was tired and headachey from spending most of the day driving (2.5 hours to the north, a 1.5 hour meeting, and then home again) but I headed back out again, complaining all the way.   I think that I've embraced the run-walk concept a bit too enthusiastically as it was a challenge for the first 3 miles to motivate myself to keep running.  I suspect that I've misunderstood the concept; run-walk is meant to be structured and planned, not something that you fall back on when you can't be arsed.  Fortunately, though, my mood lifted and my muscles loosened up for the last 2 miles and I finished feeling strong.  And in not a bad time, either. 

This week's revised programme carries on with 3 miles each tomorrow and Wednesday, in preparation for 10 miles on Friday.  Unless, of course, I can think of a good reason for changing it...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Nine miles - woo hoo!

Today's long run was 9 miles.  I felt a bit nervous about it, not only because it sounds like such a long distance, but because I had decided to run on the road to Cromarty.  I don't really believe that the road is cursed but when nothing happened as I passed the tree where, five years ago, I felt the pop as the fibres of my calf muscle tore , I breathed a sigh of relief. 

I had a great run.  Although the temperature was -1, the sky was blue and there was no wind.  Seeing the views across the Cromarty Firth to snow-covered Ben Wyvis and the surrounding hills, the buzzard that flew above me for a while, the swans and ducks and herons on the water, and the sheep and horses in the fields reaffirmed yet again my belief that I am so lucky to live here. 

I did a run-walk combination for the first three miles, by which time I felt quite warmed up and energetic, and then pretty much ran the rest of the way home (aside from a few walking breaks when I had to walk on the verge to let cars pass).  I felt a bit tired at 8 miles, but some of this was psychological as I was thinking ahead to the uphill bits waiting for me at 9 miles. But even those weren't as hard as I had anticipated they might be.

In fact, the only jarring note during the whole run was the clash between the red of my bottle belt and the fuschia of my jacket.  Not nice. Even the sheep looked appalled. 

Fashion errors aside, though, it was a good day and I was left feeling a bit more confident that maybe, just maybe, I can do this.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

I'm not complaining, but...

After the calm and serene run of two nights ago, and the slightly more windy but still enjoyable run of last night, it was too much to hope that tonight's run would continue in that vein.  It didn't seem that windy when I left work with a friend (at whose house I'm staying tonight because the flat was only available for three days), so when we got to her house I immediately changed into my running gear and headed out before I got too comfortable.

My friend was going out for the evening to a prior engagement and had very little in the fridge as she's only eating breakfast and lunch these days (no, I don't understand that either), so my plan was to run two miles (going the long way) to Tesco to buy something for my dinner and then another mile back home, carrying my Tesco bag with me.  It's only three miles; how hard could it be?

Well, I will tell you how hard it was.  I just about got blown off my feet when I rounded the corner from the side street where the house is onto the main road.  And it was raining, fine misty rain which I hadn't noticed in the more sheltered areas of work and the side street, but which I could see gusting in huge curtains under the street lights.  I was running into the wind (bad decision; I thought it made sense at the time, but I was wrong), which blew my hat off (I rescued it), froze my face, and lasered icy raindrops into my ears.  I couldn't see where I was going because my eyes were watering so much and ran through numerous puddles, so my feet were soaked.  I had to come to a standstill a couple of times when particularly brutal gusts of wind hit me.  But hey, I'm a runner.  I persevered.

I got to Tesco and nipped in to buy one of those Innocent veggie pots.  People gave me a wide berth in the aisles.  Can't imagine why.

And then it was back out into the elements, but this time carrying a bag.  I thought that the wind might at least be at my back but no, it now came at me from the side.  Twice I tripped over my own feet when I got blown sideways.  The bag acted like a wind sail and kept pulling my arm up, down, and all around.  I was hanging onto my hat with one hand and hanging onto the bag with the other, and trying to look as though I knew what I was doing.  And then I had to run by the outdoor track where all the serious runners were.  I noticed that none of them were carrying bags...

I checked the weather when I got home; I seem to have been out in 40mph winds.  My wet gear is now hanging on all the available door handles in my friend's incredibly neat house.  I have the sniffles and a sore throat.  But my Achilles tendon feels fine and my Gore jacket proved its waterproofness and tomorrow is a rest day.  I'm going to bed now - might as well start the resting early.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Miles by moonlight

Last night's storms had cleared away by the time I left for work this morning, giving way to blue skies and gentle (if a bit nippy) breezes.  And, with the exception of a hail storm just before lunch that set off several car alarms outside our office window, it has stayed that way all day.  In fact, when I left work at 5pm, it felt almost balmy.

Of course, the reason that it felt warm was because I was wearing a cozy winter coat and was walking with the wind at my back, something that I only realised once I emerged from the flat in my running gear and walked (into the wind) the half-mile to the start of the run at Westerloch.  Definitely bracing. 

It was a beautiful night, though.  The moon was full and low on the horizon, hovering just above the Lerwick skyline and reflected in the waters of the Loch of Clickimin, and I kept sight of it for most of the run.  Running in the dark feels wilder and more joyful to me than running during the day; it feels like I'm running for the sheer pleasure of it rather than because I have to.  Tonight, I felt like I could have run forever.  It even crossed my mind to do Friday's 9 mile run tonight - the way that I was feeling, I certainly could have. 

But training programmes are structured the way that they are for a reason, so I was sensible.  However, I did switch this week's 3 mile and 4 mile runs around and did the 4 mile run tonight instead of tomorrow.  This was sensible too, though, as it's meant to be storms again tomorrow and I'd rather do 3 miles in a storm than 4. 

Fabulous night.  Sometimes I can't believe that they pay me to be here.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

It's raining, but I'm smiling

I'm back in Shetland, land of the horizontal rain.  It's like I never left - the wind is howling, the rain is torrentially pouring, and my jeans were soaked through just walking from the plane to the terminal.  The only thing it's not doing is snowing, but I'm sure that's just a matter of time. Still, as an aspiring glass-half-full person, allow me to focus on the positives.

I was met at the airport by my favourite taxi driver and we had a wide-ranging and interesting conversation on the half-hour drive into Lerwick.  We covered a new career direction for Bassman (offering photography/writing/publish-your-own-book classes on cruise ships; apparently partners of the class-givers get to accompany them for free); why, when one has given up drinking, buying tulips as a treat after a rough day just doesn't give one the same pleasure as a gin & tonic; whether we should do a house-exchange so that I can see if I like living in Shetland and she can enjoy being a bit closer to exotic things like cinemas and shops; and how her phone-sex job is going (quite well, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know). 

By that time we were in Lerwick, where she very kindly took me to the Tesco and waited for me in the taxi while I did my shop for the week so that I didn't have to walk there and back in the rain from the flat.  And then she carried my heavy suitcase to the front door for me.

Entertaining, thoughtful, and able to lift heavy objects - my kind of woman!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A self-employed person's work is never done

Actually, if this particular self-employed person stopped procrastinating and putting things off until the last minute, then maybe she would have a less stressful life.  I spent most of yesterday and today, and will spend most of tomorrow (until I leave for the airport to go to Shetland), catching up on reports that should have been sent off before the holidays.

Yes, I had two weeks off over Christmas and New Year and, yes, I had grand plans of finishing these reports then.  But the lure of a comfy chair, a mug of tea, and a good book took precedence over doing anything that required a bit of effort.  You'd think that the fact that I get paid for these reports (once they're finished - my clients aren't daft!) would be motivation enough.  Hah!  My laziness laughs in your face and then reaches for another piece of cake...

Still, it isn't completely my fault that I'm behind with things.  One of the companies that I work for sent me some documents by email that I needed to complete their report.  The documents were password protected but, unfortunately, no one seems to know what that password is.  Cue a Big Flap at the company.  Resending the documents with a password that someone manages to keep track of doesn't seem to have occurred to them and I'm not about to suggest it - it gives me a bit of extra time to finish the bits that I'm behind on.

Inefficiency, as long as it's someone else's, sometimes does work out for the best.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A pleasant surprise

I woke up this morning to wind, rain, a flooded garden, a weather forecast that wasn't going to get any better as the day went on, and a 4 mile run that needed to be done.  I maybe could have faced running in the wind and rain, but wading through the ankle-deep puddles that I knew would be on my route didn't appeal.  I headed off to the gym.

The post-Christmas crush was still in evidence (including a woman trying to use the rowing machine whilst clutching a Starbucks grande coffee in one hand).  There was only one treadmill left by the time that I got there, and it was sandwiched between two guys who were running at speeds that had their sweat flinging itself onto the neighbouring treadmills.  They say that one needs to make sacrifices to train for a marathon, so I ignored the droplets winging their way towards me and started my run.  

The treadmills work in kilometres, my head works in miles, and my memory is appalling.  So when I had to choose a speed for what I intended to be a slowish steady run, I chose what I thought was the speed from my treadmill run last week.  I couldn't really remember, but I took my best guess.  Then I turned off the display because I get too bored watching how slowly the kilometres creep past; instead, I keep a general eye on the wall clock and turn the display back on towards the end of the run.

I noticed that I was struggling a bit more than usual for the first five minutes or so but then my breathing settled into a relaxed rhythm, my legs felt strong, and I had to resist the urge to increase my speed.  When I finally turned the display back on, there was a bit less than 1km to go.  I couldn't figure out, though, why the time was less than I had expected it to be.  I put it down to poor maths on my part, finished the run, and left.

When I got home, I entered the distance and time into my MapMyRun log, which calculated that I had been running a 10:12 mile.  Really???  After my public tantrum yesterday about how I might as well GIVE UP NOW because I JUST CAN'T DO IT???  Oops.  How embarrassing.

Research update:  Runner's World recently did a survey of readers and asked what motivated them to run.  Top answer?  'Being able to eat more.'  Perhaps I'm more of a runner than I thought!