Friday, 28 September 2012

Why why why? (Or, whine whine whine)

I've diagnosed myself with a posterior tibial tendon issue.  I don't think that it is truly injured, more irritated and annoyed (much like myself at the moment).  I know that I didn't have any pain in my ankle when I was running on Sunday but, now that I am trying to connect the dots, I was aware during the run that I was developing a blister on the outside of my big toe.  I suspect that I was unconsciously adapting my gait to avoid the pain associated with rolling off my toe (a function of my overpronation) and therefore put more stress than usual on the PTT.  This also explains the completely new pain/tightness in the inside part of my calf (as shown by the light red section in the drawing) which then explains why the weak part of my calf popped again. 

Why did I suddenly develop a blister on my big toe?  The most likely explanation is fatigue.  I had done two fast (for me) runs earlier that week, and then got carried away by how good I felt during the long run and let my speed increase then too.  It makes sense to me that my foot and ankle muscles will have been tired, leading to poor biomechanics.  In other words, my foot got tired of working.  Maybe I've finally learned that 'long slow run' really does mean 'long SLOW run.'    

So, here I am, still not able to walk without pain (although it is gradually getting better).  I'm strapped up with KT tape, am using the foam roller and The Stick a couple of times each day, and am doing gentle stretching.  No running until I can walk without pain.  At least that's one lesson that I have learned!

Here's to you, Running Gods!
A leap of faith:  Yesterday, my official Virgin London Marathon 2013 acceptance pack arrived.  Today, I booked our hotel room in London.  It feels a bit presumptuous, given the current state of affairs, but I felt compelled to make a statement to the Running Gods.  Give up, me?  Never!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


I am injured.  Again.

Last week's relaxed, enjoyable runs culminated in a long run of 11 miles on Sunday.  The first 10 miles were great.  My legs were relaxed, I felt that my form was good, and I dared to think, 'It's all going to be okay from here on in.'  I should know better than to tempt the Running Gods.  A few steps into mile 10, my left calf muscle popped. 

There was no sound to it and no pain, but there was a definition sensation of something giving.  Just like last time.  There was minimal pain (more a feeling of stiffness) as I made my way home.  I gently stretched, put on my compression socks, iced my calf, and hoped that it all would be better by Monday.  It wasn't. 

It wasn't better by Tuesday either.  The pain seemed to be not just in my calf but also in my ankle and was sharp enough that I was limping.  Fortunately, I had an appointment with Adam after work.  His assessment, after causing me great pain as he worked on my achilles tendon, ankle, and soleus muscle, was that I hadn't done any serious damage to myself and that the AHM might still be doable.  He said to not run today and probably not tomorrow, but to go for a gentle run on Friday to see how it feels.  I still have time to fit in a 12 mile run before the race but, even if I decided that one more long run wasn't a good idea, I know that I'd be able to do the 13.1 distance anyway.  Assuming, of course, that I don't need to be stretchered off the mountain.

I'm not upset because of the implications for the race; the AHM was primarily to give me a goal for structuring my training so if I can't do it, it isn't that big a deal.  What does upset me is not knowing why this has happened AGAIN.  I increased mileage very gradually, I listened to my body and took days off when I felt that I needed them, I warmed up thoroughly before the runs and stretched thoroughly after them, and I put a lot of effort into running lighter and more efficiently.  What else is there to change????  Maybe I just am not meant to run long distances.

Feeling sorry for myself?  Yes, indeed I am.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Just along for the ride

Although I am following a training programme for the half-marathon, I haven't faithfully stuck to it.  I've either been too busy with work and/or cats, unwell with migraines and now a cold, uninterested in venturing out in the wind and rain, or giving yet another niggle an extra day's rest.  Missing out a day here and there could be seen as progress for me, as I usually follow training programmes without deviation regardless of what my body is telling me to do, which possibly goes some way to explaining all of the injuries.

Anyway, today's run - according to the schedule - was supposed to be 4 miles.  However, given that I've missed out a run in each of the last two weeks, doing a 4 mile run today and the planned 11 miles on the weekend would be a big jump in total weekly miles.  I've been trying to stick to the 10% rule (where mileage only goes up by 10% each week so as not to stress your body too much), but the ease of Tuesday's run briefly tempted me to do the 4 miles anyway.  

My sensible side prevailed - I'm so close to the race now that I don't want to do anything that means that I might not make it to the start line.  But my 'go on, do it anyway!' side needed to be appeased, so I compromised by running only 2 miles but running them at a faster pace than normal.  I wasn't about to run flat out, but thought that a pace that put my breathing into a 3:2 pattern would be a sufficient challenge. I had no idea what that pace might be because I'm paranoid about pushing myself during my normal runs.  Bopping along at an 11:00 to 11:30 minute mile pace doesn't stress out my breathing but it also doesn't stress my ankles and achilles tendon.  Much. 

But I was up for a challenge today.  My 2 mile route naturally divides itself into four half-mile sections:  flat, downhill (good practice for the AHM!), flat, and uphill.  By the time I got to the downhill section, I was running at 10:00 mile pace.  By the end of the downhill section I was at 8:30, the second flat bit was at 9:00ish, and I managed to maintain a 9:15 pace on the uphill for all except the very last bit.  I finished in 19:00.  Nothing hurt.  And I could have kept going.

I was thrilled, but I don't understand what I'm doing differently.  ChiRunning is about the 'aha!' moments, where everything clicks and you say, 'I got it!'  My moments are more like, 'WTF???'  Everything clicks, but I don't get it at all. 

I'll just enjoy being clueless.  Even if I don't know what I'm doing, my body obviously does.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I almost didn't go...

But I'm glad that I did.  Go running, that is.  After a long day at work, my throat hurt, I was sniffling, and I just wanted to come back to the flat, read my book, and have a nice cup of tea.  But the half-marathon is looming and there aren't that many running days left before I start the taper, so I told myself that it was better to go out for even a short run than it was to do nothing at all.

When I left the flat, the sun was shining and there was a brisk but manageable wind.  Normally it takes me at least a mile to warm up and to relax but today, for some reason, I felt great.  The first mile came and went, nothing hurt, my speed was reasonable, and my breathing was settled.  Weird.  I carried on past the lochan where the Geese of Death lurk (no sign of them and their vicious beaks today) and up the steep hill that gives an amazing view back over Lerwick, and still felt good. 

Half-way back down the hill, it started to rain.  Then it sleeted.  The wind picked up.  My hair froze.  It briefly crossed my mind to go home, but my running felt so relaxed that it seemed a shame to cut it short so I headed on towards the loop that runs around Clickimin Loch.  I saw a runner in the distance coming towards me who stopped on the path, walked back and forth a bit, then minced his way forward through what looked like a bit of water.  'Wuss,' I thought scathingly.  And then I got closer and saw that the puddle was actually an ankle-deep flood that had to be forded since there was no way around it.  I minced my way across too, leaving me with shoes and socks that were soaked by icy water.  I'd like to be able to say that it felt refreshing, but actually it was just really cold.

And still I carried on.  I ran up all of the hills and didn't need to stop to stretch out my calves once because they DIDN'T HURT.  I ran until I had completed 5 miles, which is what I had been scheduled to do today, but felt as though I could have run a lot further.  Some days, it all just fits together.

Monday, 17 September 2012

A bit of this, a bit of that

If I didn't leave so long between posts, they would be 1) easier to write and 2) much, much shorter.  However, I will attempt to do a brief round-up just to bring everything up to date.

Running:  I only ran twice last week - 4 miles on Wednesday and 10 miles on Sunday.  I gave the Friday run a miss because I felt a cold (helpfully supplied by Bassman) coming on.  It still hadn't fully developed by Sunday and I was loathe to miss a long run, so I dragged my sore throat and aching muscles out into the rain.  And then dragged myself 5 miles down the Cromarty road and back again.  The rain stopped 10 minutes into the run so I was over-dressed and over-heated, and there was such a stiff head wind for the last 5 miles that I frequently gave up and walked.  My legs were exhausted, my achilles tendon wasn't happy, and my iPod died so all I had to occupy myself with was my thoughts.  And very cheery they were, too. 

I'm in Shetland:  I don't write about work because, well, it's work.  And if it isn't interesting to me, it certainly won't be of any interest to anyone else.  Although I love Shetland and I love my Shetland work colleagues, I don't love my Shetland work.  After much soul searching and obsessive discussions with anyone who would listen, I flew north yesterday planning to resign from my job here.  However, after a long chat today with the lead person for my department, we came up with a way of restructuring my job that would allow me to give up the bits that I hate and start doing some different things that are more in line not only with my skills but also with my interests.  I still might give it all up eventually but, for now, I'll hang in there.

My throat hurts:  My cold is still at the sore throat stage with some sniffles just beginning to emerge.  I had planned to go to the gym after work but instead left work early to bring my infectious self back to the flat, where I am dosing myself with LemSip, vitamin C, and echinacea.  I'm meant to be working on some reports but I'm afraid that I got sucked into watching Wanted Down Under.  And then Helicopter Heroes.  And then Deal or No Deal.  I have no work ethic at all.  Nor do I want to develop one.

Cats:  They are fab cats and I'm so glad that we have them.  But I still miss Tess.

There, all caught up.  And just in time, too, for Come Dine with Me!

Monday, 10 September 2012

We have cats!

More accurately, we have one cat and two kittens.  These are the ones that I liked when I was at the SSPCA last week; following the debacle that was the Cats Protection visit (and I STILL haven't heard back from them as to whether we have been deemed appropriate to have cats), I went to the SSPCA the next day and reserved the black cat and the two kittens, all of whom were awaiting the final vet visit before they could be rehomed.  And, on 7 September, they came to live with us.

Maia is a 2-year-old black cat (best guess by the SSPCA, although she might actually be younger than that).  I don't know what made me think that she was petite; compared with Tess, she is huge!  She is 9.5 pounds (or 4.3 kg) of sleek, muscular gorgeousness and is almost frantically affectionate.  She quickly has become a lap cat and has staked out her territory on the sofa.  She has begun to play with the cat toys and seems to enjoy a very lively game of 'chase the mouse.'  The only difficulty is that she's on steroid tablets to help control the itching from a stress-related skin condition, which make her absolutely ravenous.  We can't move without her leaping from the sofa and racing to the kitchen, where she meows piteously in the hopes that we will feed her yet again.  Mostly, we manage to hold firm.

The 8-week old kittens are Willow (grey with a tidy white bib) and Pandora (grey & white tiger stripes; yes, she is a tabby!).  Willow is much smaller than her sister and was close to death when she was found; she's healthy enough now, though, and more than keeps up with Pandora in their rampaging romps in the second bedroom.  That's where they're living for the moment, as they're too little to be given the run of the house and too little to be given unsupervised access to Maia.  We're doing a very slow introduction.  A few days ago, Maia did some major hissing at their little paws poking out from under the bedroom door.  Today, after a day or two of exchanging bedding so that they could get used to each other's scents, Maia calmly looked at them in their carrier (from a distance; even treats couldn't convince her to go closer).  I'm sure it won't be too long before they are snuggling up with her just as they snuggle up with us.

As I write this, Maia is softly snoring on the sofa next to me.  Willow and Pandora have just gone quiet, after 15 minutes of bouncing off the walls in the bedroom.  It's lovely having cats in the house again.  It definitely was the right decision, but it's funny how it's taken three of them to fill the gap left by one very small puss with a very big personality.  She's still very missed, and always will be.

Running Update:  Just in case anyone is wondering, I am still running.  It's going well, too.  I did a long run on Sunday of 9 miles, running all the way (except for brief moments of walking when cars came zooming around corners and I had to leap to the verge to avoid being smooshed).  The niggle in my left leg, which I self-diagnosed as originating in one of the peroneal tendons, has been addressed by a vigorous sports massage and the use of that miraculous KT tape.  No pain at all over the past week.  Everything feels good, but I worry that I'm going to jinx it by writing too much about it, so that's all I'll say for now.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A vist from the Cat Police, and a decision (almost) made

My sadness over the loss of Tess has shifted.  I'm not dwelling so much on the trauma of her death and am better able to remember her funny, quirky ways with affection rather than tears.  I still miss her and always will but, over the last two weeks, I've become aware of missing a generic cat presence as well.  I miss The Cat, but now I also miss having A Cat.  The Rural Retreat is too empty without one.  If you can bear reading something else as lengthy as this post, this blog entry perfectly encapsulates what I feel about getting another cat.

Kitten posed by model
Fortunately, Bassman agrees, and we have made some preliminary steps towards sourcing our next feline companions.  Yes, that's plural.  This time, I AM having two cats.  Actually, following a visit yesterday to the SSPCA, it may be three...I only wanted two.  And I said to the staff person, 'Don't show me the kittens!'  To be fair, she didn't.  But while I was getting acquainted with a petite 2-year old black cat who had been living as a stray and who had given birth to an entire litter of still-born kittens and who was HATING everyone and everything (yep, I'm a sucker for a challenge) but who flung herself against the door of her unit and shouted at me as soon as I walked into the room and who let me stroke her head and who kept head butting my hand and leg in an attempt to get my attention, I happened to glance up and there was a teeny tiny grey and white kitten with its face pressed against the glass of the room at the far end.  Her sister (a teeny tiny grey kitten) was equally gorgeous.  And the black cat apparently didn't hate there may be a black cat and some kittens coming to live at the Rural Retreat!

But first, I had a home visit today from the local Cats Protection rehoming officer whom I had contacted a couple of days ago.  I have supported Cats Protection for years and think that, in theory, they do an amazing and much needed job.  I haven't, however, experienced that amazingness for myself.  When I was looking for the cat who became Tess all those years ago, I phoned CP but they never phoned me back.  This time, I made it as far as the home visit but I think that's as far as it's going to go.  I suspect that we are going to be turned down as prospective cat owners.

The visit didn't start well.  The first thing that the rehoming officer said to me was, 'You're really hard to find here.  No, really, you are VERY hard to find.'  She sounded most annoyed.  Then she gave me a limp fish handshake, marched into the house, sat on the sofa without being invited to do so, did a big hair swish (which didn't work so well on hair that was more than a bit dandelion-like in texture), and said, 'So, what did your last cat die from?  Was it hit by a car?' 

That set the tone for the interview.  She snapped accusatory questions at me and I snapped defensive answers back at her.  She insisted that the B-road that runs at the bottom of the garden was a 'very busy road' and did not seem to believe me that none of the previous cats had died of road traffic accident related injuries.  She made assumptions about what I wanted - 'How many cats do you want? You'll want one. What? You want two???'  and 'Do you want a cat or kittens?  You'll want kittens.  What?  You'd rather have a cat???'  We disagreed over the need to keep cats indoors at night, which is a Cats Protection requirement and which I don't feel is necessary in a semi-rural location.  And she said that the house was 'quite small, isn't it?' and then was taken aback when I drew her attention to the staircase leading to the upstairs. 

The interview ended with her telling me that there now would be a meeting about whether to approve me and that I'd hear 'sometime soon,' and with me telling her that it didn't sound like I was the kind of person that they were looking for and that I was happy to get my cats from the SSPCA.  Bitch.

If I'm being charitable (but why should I be?), I know that she is acting from a position of passion about doing the best thing for the cats in her care.  I understand the need for her to ask the questions that she was asking.  It was her condescending, aggressive, confrontational way of going about it that I objected to.  I also objected to her limp handshake and the way she kept swishing her hair, but perhaps that's not really relevant.

She's much prettier than this in real life!
Even if we get approved, I'm going to say no thanks.  The SSPCA has been helpful and welcoming; they actually ask the same questions as Cats Protection, but do it in an entirely different way...and anyway, I seem to have fallen for a shouty, demanding, traumatised puss with an attitude who has decided that I'm the one for her. 

Anyone see any parallels?