Wednesday, 29 February 2012

On the eighth day...

Recumbent bike, for those not in the know.
I went to the gym, as instructed by Adam.  I warmed up and stretched (gently) for 20 minutes then got biking.  There are two kinds of bikes at my gym:  the normal upright kind and the recumbent kind.  I tried the upright one for 10 minutes, but my knee cramped up so I tried the recumbent instead.  Success!  I managed 20 minutes before boredom (due to an inability of my knee to handle more than 80 rpm) made me stop.

I moved on to the elliptical cross-trainer.  I was a bit nervous about this, as it mimics running and I wasn't sure how my hamstring would feel about that, but it was surprisingly fine.  My heart rate got up to an appropriate level and I was able to work hard enough to sweat.  Mind you, I wasn't sweating as much as the very large fellow next to me but then I also didn't have my bulk oozing into his exercise space so that he had to reposition his arms to avoid body contact with me. 

Not all gadgets need to be high tech.
I stopped after 30 minutes because I didn't want to risk overdoing it.  I stretched for 20 minutes and noticed that I seem to be able to move a bit deeper into each stretch without causing pain.  A good sign.  Then I went to Tesco to buy a rolling pin (as suggested by Adam, not because I was about to engage in cooking behaviour) to help loosen and mobilise the bottoms of my feet.  I was very happy to realise that I was limping in anticipation of pain, not because I actually was in pain.  Another good sign.

It feels like I haven't run in months but, really, it's only been eight days since The Injury.  I'm meant to take tomorrow as a rest day and then go back to the gym on Friday.  That day's run would have been nine miles, so I'm looking at 1.5 to 2 hours on the cardio equipment.  I'll stop if it hurts, though; Sensible and Cautious, that's me!

Monday, 27 February 2012

I have a team...

I'm not giving up the marathon dream without a fight.  Tonight, I had my first appointment with Adam the Sports Massage Therapist and left feeling remarkably upbeat about what lies ahead.  He said much the same thing as Claudio, that all of the problems stem from my tight, inflexible ankles and feet.  On a more positive note, he also said that he couldn't see or feel anything that suggests that I couldn't do distance running.  (If I wanted to be a hurdler, however, there might need to be a reevaluation of goals.)  

The massage itself focused on my left leg and was mega-ouch, which I was expecting.  What I wasn't expecting was where the most mega of the ouches was.  I knew that my calf would hurt, and it did.  My hamstring hurt less than I thought that it would.  The massage of my achilles tendon felt really good.  But the tops of my feet and my ankles...OMG, I could have wept from the pain.  I'm sure that this is the reason why Adam has his appointments after hours at the gym's spa - there's no one around to hear you scream. 

When I finally stopped yowling, Adam gave me clear instructions about what to do about my training.  Much like Claudio, the advice comes down to 'Be sensible.'  Sigh.  I'm to go to the gym on Wednesday and Friday and use either the stationary bike or the elliptical trainer for as long as and to the same degree of intensity as that day's run would have been.  Two hours on the bike???  Yikes.

I'm to consult with him on Saturday and, if I feel okay after the cross-training sessions, then MAYBE I can do a short run/walk on Sunday.  But probably it'll just be a walk.  No running next week either, but lots of cross-training.  Adam is hopeful that by the end of next week, I'll be able to resume running.  He also thinks that I have enough base mileage and enough fitness from my pre-injury training to be able to get in enough runs prior to London.  Woo hoo!

Funnily enough, though, I actually feel okay at the moment about the possibility of maybe not being able to run London this year.  I've accepted that getting better from this, and corrrecting the things that have caused it in the first place, will take as long as it takes and I'm not about to do anything that will cause me further injury.  It feels good that I'm taking active steps to sort myself out and, even if it doesn't happen as soon as I'd like it to, I'm heading in the right direction.  With the help of my team, of course.

The newest member of Team Matchgirl.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Tears, tantrums, and decisions

Today's run - such as it was - was a disaster.  I only managed to run/walk for 3.5 miles before I gave up and came home.  The mid-hamstring muscle tweak seemed to be okay, but the hamstring tendon (which is what is causing the pain behind my knee) was not.  It faded in and out for two miles but was more of a dull ache than a pain.  However, at two miles it was hurting enough that I walked the next half-mile.  I ran/walked the next mile and even thought for a brief time that everything had settled down but a sudden 'ping' at the back of my knee brought me to a standstill.  Enough was enough.

I could have forced myself to carry on but there didn't seem to be any point.  It took me almost an hour to cover this distance, I wasn't enjoying it, and piling more stress on an already stressed-out tendon wasn't going to get me anything except a more serious injury.  I womanfully held back my tears on the walk home but gave full vent to them once I was safely indoors.  I can't describe how devastating it feels to think that I might not be able to do this.  Well, actually I could describe it but I won't.  It'll just start me crying again and I'm trying to think positively - and realistically - now.

I figure that it still will be possible to do the marathon as long as I'm back running within another week or so.  Bassman thinks that I should be at the start line no matter what and, even if I have to walk the whole way, it still would be worth it.  I disagree.  I've accepted that I'm going to be slow, but if I can't fit in enough training to get me safely around the course, then I'll defer my entry until next year.  We can go to London anyway (mainly because I can't get my money back for the flights and hotel), but I really don't think that I want to be anywhere that brings me into contact with runners.  It'll be a nice weekend in London, but that's all.

And there are other races.  There are lots of half-marathons this summer and even some marathons later in the year that I could enter when I'm healthy again.  I won't let the last five months' efforts go to waste and, more importantly, I won't let my rediscovered love of running fade away.

That sounds so mature, doesn't it.  And I'm sure that I'll even come to believe it.  Just not tonight.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Hammy the Hamstring visits the osteopath

Yesterday's appointment with Claudio left me feeling more than a bit despondent.  My self-diagnosis of a hamstring strain was, unfortunately, correct.  Claudio didn't seem entirely surprised by it; apparently I am so out of balance, misaligned, and inflexible that it's a miracle that I can manage to even walk without doing myself an injury.  (Mmm, I might be slightly exaggerating there.)  It was a cheery session.

I was pummelled, stretched, cracked, and stretched some more, and was given yet more stretches to do at home.  Claudio approved of my plan of not running until Sunday and advised not running more than 10 miles on the day assuming, of course, that I can walk without pain by then.  He wasn't overtly discouraging about whether I'll be able to 1) run the Inverness Half-Marathon on 11 March and 2) run the London Marathon on 22 April but I did get the impression that the Half is a 'probably not' and London is a 'we'll see.'

The session ended with me limping slowly away, Claudio's admonition of 'Be Cautious!' ringing in my ears. 

I'm feeling a bit better today, though, emotionally as well as physically.  I've managed to do my stretches, go to the chemist and the post office, and go for a walk with the cat (it's a sad state of affairs when keeping up with the cat is a cause for celebration), none of which have caused pain.  I figure that, even if I need to take a whole week (or even two) off from running, I'll still have enough time to get in my remaining long runs before the taper for London. 

I'm trying to be optimistic.  All will be well, and that includes my hamstring.
This is a flexible hamstring. Unlike mine.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Treading with caution

I didn't run today nor did I go to the gym.  My left hamstring is still tender, although not as much as it was yesterday.  The pain at the back of my left knee made a brief reappearance when I walked up the stairs to my office, but it quickly faded and hasn't been felt since. 

If my achilles tendon had the same level of discomfort that my hamstring has, I would have been happy to run on it.  However, never having had a hamstring problem before, I have no idea about how far and fast to push things and am trying to err on the side of caution (whereas I feel like I could set up shop as an Achilles Tendon Rehab Specialist). 

This hamstring thing has prompted me to rearrange my training programme a bit.  I've been doing my long runs on Friday, but I've decided to change them to Sunday.  My two upcoming races are both on Sundays which will make the long runs/race days the same; the additional advantage of making the change now is that I'll have four non-running days until the long run this Sunday.  I'm hopeful that this rest will let whatever is wrong heal up before I head out for my first 15-miler.

Yes, ever the optimist (or, more accurately, ever the idiot), nothing's going to stop my long run!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

If it's not one thing, it's another...part 2

Today's run was 7 miles before work.  The first half, as usual, was with the wind at my back; I felt absolutely fine.  I stopped at the half-way point to stretch a bit before heading home and, even though I was running into the wind I still felt okay.  I was a bit slower than on the way out, but wasn't struggling nearly as much as yesterday.

All was good until mile 6.  The bit of road at that point has quite a steep camber and I wasn't able to immediately cross to the other side as I normally do (where it is flatter) because of traffic coming each way.  I should have just stopped and waited.  Instead, I carried on and out of the blue felt a strong cramp/pain in the back and to the outside of my left knee.  That made me stop.  I stretched a bit and walked briefly and it settled down, and I was able to run the rest of the way home with no pain or stiffness.

This didn't really happen to me.  But it could have.
The outside back of my knee twice cramped up while I was getting ready for work to the extent that it hurt to put weight on it.  And the same thing happened again at work while I was just walking across the room.  I had errands to run in town and was able to walk with no pain (but quite gingerly and slowly, in case there was pain) for 45 minutes or so.   However, I also noticed that the very minor hamstring niggle that's been there for the past week or so was feeling a lot more major.

When I got home from work, I immediately iced and then put a compression bandage over the offending areas.  I used The Stick and did some gentle stretching.  And, of course, I looked on-line in a self-diagnostic flury of panic.  Based on various anatomical drawings, I figure that this is either an unhappiness of the biceps femoralis (one of the hamstring muscles) or a grumpiness of the popliteal tendon/muscle (a back-of-the-knee muscle).  Both of which seem to require NO RUNNING to heal. 

I see Claudio on Thursday; I suspect that he will roll his eyes at me again when I present him with yet another injury.  I'm meant to run 4 miles tomorrow but I think I'll give it a miss or, depending on how I feel in the morning, go to the gym and use the the stationary bike instead.  Hopefully, by Thursday this will all have settled down.  But I'm not happy tonight.  Not happy at all.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A windy run. Again. Is there any other kind?

When I went to bed last night, I had every intention of going to the gym to run this morning.  I knew that it was going to be very windy again and I desired to avoid the effort that running in the wind requires.  But 10am found me still in my jim-jams, just finishing my first cup of tea, and no indication that I was going anywhere quickly.  Anyway, it was sunny and the trees didn't seem to be blowing around too much and I really don't like running on the treadmill...

Okay, it wasn't this bad, but it was close.
I finally got out the door around 11.  The first half-mile was fine because it was sheltered.  Once on the open road, however, and WHOOSH!  I had a very quick mile and half down to the water with the wind at my back but, as soon as I rounded the corner at Newhall Point, I almost came to a standstill.  I fought my way over the next 1.5 miles.  Sometimes, I had to walk.  At other times, I had to stop until the wind died down.  I stopped several times to stretch my calves which had seized up with the effort of pushing me forward.  And I almost fell over twice when the wind that I was leaning into suddenly disappeared. 

The wind was behind me again for the last half-mile; the Garmin said that I was cruising along at a sub-9 min/mile.  I just have to sustain that for another 26 miles and I'll have my 4:00 marathon!  Fingers crossed for a good tailwind on 22 April.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Only 10 miles

Yesterday was my second 10-mile training run and was part of a reduced-mileage week.  This makes me laugh, as I when I first started this marathon journey I couldn't imagine that I'd ever be at the stage where I would consider 10 miles a shorter run. And where I'd be almost disappointed that it wasn't longer.  And where I'd finish 10 miles feeling strong and energetic and pain-free.  But that's what happened yesterday.

Because I'm so tired of running into the wind, I planned my route so that most of the time I'd have the wind at my back.  This included ending the run in Cromarty, at Bassman's suggestion, where he would come to collect me in the car.  He had strict instructions that, if he didn't hear from me by 11:45, he was to leave for Cromarty anyway.  The literary-minded amongst you can consider this to be foreshadowing.

The run felt great.  I used a 4/1 run-walk ratio for the first seven miles and ran the last three.  As always, it took me about three miles to feel warmed up but what's encouraging is that my warm-up speed is now what my top speed was a couple of weeks ago.  I didn't push myself but just let my body find the pace that it was comfortable at.  This seemed to be around the 10.30 to 11.00 minute mile pace.  I didn't feel particularly challenged cardio-wise and I felt like I could have gone faster and further; that's encouraging too.  

This was my first time using energy gels, so maybe that played a role as well.  I took one about 20 minutes before I left for the run and a second one about an hour into it.  I'd read that some gels are more palatable than others; the first one that I took was a mixed berry flavour and was relatively pleasant.  The second one was citrus.  Citrus flavour, to me, is orange.  It is most definitely NOT lime.  If it's lime flavour, then the package should say 'lime.'  I hate lime (unless it's a slice in my G&T), especially when it's unexpected lime.  Bleh.  Won't be having that one again.

 I didn't notice any huge burst of energy from the gels but then again, I also didn't notice feeling like I just wanted to lie down by the side of the road and have a nice sleep.  So maybe there's something to it.  I'll persevere.

I finished the 10 miles 10 minutes faster than I had expected, which I took advantage of by doing a 10 minute cool down walk.  By this time, Bassman should have been on his way in the car so I waited by the side of the road.  And did some stretches.  And waited.  And did some more stretches.  And waited.  Fifteen minutes later, it occurred to me that he wasn't coming, so I phoned home to find a husband who had forgotten about me.  A very sheepish Bassman showed up shortly thereafter; concerned readers will be relieved to know that I am speaking to him again.

Friday, 17 February 2012

All geared up and ready to go (as long as the batteries are charged)

I spent last couple of weeks in an orgy of on-line buying which was prompted by a state of huge procrastination regarding several big pieces of work that I have to do.  Deciding on what new gear I need to help me along the marathon path, obsessively reading reviews about which version of said gear is best, and then scouring various websites for the best deals...heaven!

It'll be like running on little pink clouds!!!
Packages from Amazon, Wiggle, and a couple of small independent retailers have been trickling in all week.  These included the Camelbak Rogue hydration system, two technical T-shirts (very plain, so no need for pictures), some proper compression recovery socks (very unsexy, so no pics of these either), and a pair of beautiful technical socks from Compresssport that are meant to cushion, stimulate, and generally love my feet.

However, the most exciting package arrived last Saturday and contained my new GPS running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 210 (the women's version with a lovely teal accent). I have a non-GPS Polar RS200 in snazzy red but, frankly, I could never remember which buttons to push to get to the timer, and I never got around to calibrating the footpod so that I could track my distance, and it was just a bit big for my delicate wrist - all of which made it pretty useless for someone who just wants things to be easy.  Lovely colour, though.

But the Garmin 210...all I have to do is push one button to locate the satellite and another button to start the timer, and I'm away!  It's certainly not the most advanced Garmin but it will do everything that I want including, when I'm finally injury-free enough to push myself again, interval training.  Perhaps I should qualify that:  it will do everything that I want, as long as I remember to charge the battery.

I've been playing with the Garmin all week and there was about a quarter of the charge left when I headed out for my 10 mile run today (which I will write about tomorrow).  Fortunately, my 'expect the worst, prepare for the worst' mindset payed off because when the battery expired at 5 miles, I was able to leap into action.  I had my phone with me, so that provided the GPS, and I had my very very old sports watch (not the Polar; this one is basically a stop watch and has never let me down) to guide my run-walk programme.  A few minutes of faffing about on the roadside, and the technology change-over was done.

I'd really prefer not to have to carry three separate time pieces on my runs (although the ones that aren't being used could comfortably live in one of the Camelbak's pockets).  'Check the Garmin' will now be on my getting-ready-to-run list, just after 'What colour mid-layer shall I wear today?' and just before 'Water, Lucozade, gels, and/or Colin the Caterpillar fruit flavoured gums?'.  Gadgets, fashion, and treats - I don't need anything else.