Sunday, 15 December 2013

Tempting fate

Since August, I've been running without a training plan.  No speed work, no hills, no specific mileage that I need to do each week, and no focusing on my Garmin.  Just running for the joy of running (with a few 10k races thrown in for fun).  My legs were happy with this approach and let me know this by staying injury- and niggle-free, as well as by being a bit more nippy than they've been in the recent past.  I was feeling optimistic about my running future.

And then I registered for the Malta Half Marathon.  And booked non-refundable plane tickets.  And booked accommodation.  And started to follow a training plan.  Yep, nothing like sending up a gigantic flare to the Running Gods inviting them to take their best shot.

In the last week, I have 1) tweaked my right ankle during a 7-mile run in high winds (I went over on it when blown off-balance by a particularly vicious gust.  Why was I running in such horrible winds?  Because I'M IN TRAINING, DAMMIT.)  and 2) tweaked my left medial arch - no idea how this happened, but it was a constant low level ache for days and days.  I'm walking a fine line between ignoring my fear that this could be the start of plantar fasciitis and making sure that I don't turn something low level into yet another race-stopping injury.  Oh, and 3).  The winter gales have arrived so EVERY SINGLE RUN now counts as resistance training.

Sheesh.  Who would have thought that booking one small race would have such an impact on my feet as well as on national weather systems?

In the interests of balanced reporting, I should say that I successfully completed a 4 mile run on Friday and a 7 mile run today with no pain or achiness whilst running and only a bit of medial arch grumbling afterwards.  Still, to be on the safe side, I'll take more care than usual in the weeks to come.

Just in case the Running Gods are paying attention.

Friday, 6 December 2013

You learn something new every day

One long run to go, and I'll be at the end of my first week of training for the Malta HM.  So far, so running-in-the-winter-in-the-Highlands.  One 3-mile run that started mild and dry and ended up with torrential rain and a freezing wind.  Several unplanned rest days due to gales, gales, and  more gales.  Today's 4-mile run with snow all around and a temperature of -1 (which meant that I got to wear my lovely pink Gore winter jacket) but with a blue sky and no wind...roll on Sunday's 7 miler!

My legs feel fine.  However, because they feel so fine, I've become less fanatical about doing a cool-down walk at the end of each run and have noticed that my hip flexor has started to tighten up again.  This could be because of the diminishing cool-down or it could be because it's so cold outside but, regardless, I resolved to go back to a 15-20 minute walk after running as this really seemed to help during my recovery from injury phase.

Today gave me a chance to test this out in a totally unplanned way.  I was doing an out-and-back for the last mile, part of which passes a cottage where some very large, growling, barking Hounds from Hell live.  They've chased me before but I haven't seen them in ages and had begun to hope that they had moved on.  No such luck.  As I passed their house on the way out, they came thundering to the far end of the garden to have a go at me.  There is a fence there so they couldn't get onto the road but, on the way back, they can get out of the garden via the drive to the house.  So, what to do...

Rather than deal with the dogs, I chose to run up the long hill to Balblair and then make my way home from the main road.  A bit longer but it would give me the chance for a proper walking cool-down and would allow me to avoid confronting my dog phobia.  Result!

Now, I've NEVER run up this hill - down it, yes, lots of times.  But up???  My head has always said TOO STEEP, YOU CAN'T DO IT.  But I'll do just about anything to avoid dogs and I only had 0.5 miles left to go at this point anyway.  How hard could it be?  The answer:  erm, not that hard at all.  Major anti-climax.  It wasn't as steep as I had expected and I would have been quite happy to continue on if I had had additional miles to do. 

John and Paul (if not George and Ringo) have advised me to learn to embrace hills, which I have scoffed at with all of my smug laziness.  But on this run, on this hill, on this particular day, albeit with the Dogs of War nipping at my heels, I kind of understood what they've been talking about.

Santa Run report:  Lizzie and I successfully completed the Inverness Santa Run on 1 December!  Although we wore our Santa suits with pride (and with numerous safety pins holding up our Santa-sized trousers), we didn't wear our Santa beards as beards.  Too claustrophobic (hey, Claus-trophobic!  Get it???) and just a step too far in the unattractiveness direction.  We opted instead to wear them around our necks so that it looked like our Santas had some very nice chest hair action going on.  In our part of the field, everyone was chatting, laughing, and generally seeming very relaxed.  However, photos of the front of the field showed some very competitive Santas who were taking it very seriously indeed...Next year, Lizzie, that'll be us!
We're in there somewhere!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Change is good

Ever since the Culloden 10k at the end of October, I've been pondering my running plans for the rest of this year and next.  Part of that pondering has involved taking a clear-eyed look at what has and hasn't gone well in previous bouts of training and I've come to the conclusion that even though I WILL run another marathon at some point in the future, I'm not going to be running the Edinburgh Marathon in May 2014. 

London was the third marathon that I trained for.  The previous two attempts saw me crash and burn with calf tears half-way through training.  London was the first marathon that I got to the start line of but, even then, I was running with an injury.  Looking back, my pattern has been train for a marathon, get injured, recover, start training for another marathon, get injured, recover, etc.  There were some 10k races interspersed in that pattern but really, most of my time in the last five years has been spent either training for a marathon or recovering from that training.  Why why why am I even considering the possibility of starting that cycle all over again???

I want this next year to be a year of learning from past mistakes.  I want to get stronger, to address muscle imbalances, and to keep working on my form.  I want to have at least a year of running injury-free at distances that my body can handle before I try to train for a marathon again because, the next time that I do one, I want to feel that I've done it to the best of my ability.  Even more importantly, I want this next year to be a year of fun running and, at the moment, having six months of my running year taken up with training for just one race does not feel fun to me.

So, I put together a new plan but didn't want to write about it until I got the official seal of approval from Adam.  We had a chat about my new goals today during my massage and he thought that I was being incredibly SENSIBLE and that the new goals are definitely ACHIEVABLE.  Here's what I've come up with so far...

1 December 2013:  Inverness Santa Run (5k, to be run with Lizzie; mulled wine & mince pies to follow)
23 February 2014:  Malta Half-Marathon (a reward for training throughout the winter)
23 June 2014:  Reykjavik Midnight Sun Run (half-marathon, hopefully to be run with Cathy & Paul)
12 October 2014:  Aviemore Half-Marathon (not as exotic but hey, it's all downhill!)

I'm sure that there will be some 10k races in there too as I continue my search for the elusive sub-60min...and maybe I'll try a trail race to see what that's like...and there are a couple of interesting Scottish 10-mile races over the summer that could fit nicely into HM training...

It makes me happy to look at this schedule.  And, for the foreseeable future, that's enough.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Culloden 10k (or, I'm really glad that I showed up)

I almost decided this morning not to do this race.  My training hadn't gone the way that I wanted due to knackering my back (an inflating-the-tyres injury, nothing to do with running), and a recce by car of the course a couple of days ago left me feeling seriously concerned about how hilly the course is.  The 'exciting, fast, mostly flat route' described on the website didn't bear any relation to what I saw on the ground.  Because I had it in my head that this was going to be THE RACE in which I was going to prove to myself that I could still run a 10k in under an hour, it kind of didn't seem worth doing because I knew that I couldn't achieve what I wanted...but I did the race anyway and, even though I didn't break an hour, I had a great time trying.

Bassman again very kindly acted as chauffeur, bag carrier, and (reluctantly) clothing consultant.  It was almost impossible to decide what to wear:  it was sunny but with a biting cold wind, and rain was predicted about half-way through the 10k.  Vest versus long-sleeved top?  Jacket and vest combo?  Long-sleeved top with vest underneath?  Hat?  Sunglasses?  Gloves?  Aaarrrggghhh!  Bassman stayed calm through all of the deliberations, although I suspect that the distant look in his eyes as I wittered on meant that he had gone to a Happy Place inside his head to help him cope.

In the end, I opted for just my vest, no  hat (too windy; it would have blown away), and no sunglasses (too pretentious; it wasn't that sunny).  And my tights - which I had changed 5 minutes before we left the house for the race - were the capri compression tights that I wore for the marathon to remind myself that I can face and overcome challenges.  You'll be pleased to know that all of my choices were the correct ones.  Anyway, the race...

View across the Moray Firth
As always, I was in the back of the pack.  As always, a brisk pace was set.  But this time, I kept up because I felt fine.  My race plan was to run at a pace that felt good without relying too much on my Garmin.  This worked for me in last month's River Ness 10k, so no reason why it shouldn't work here, right?  The first 3k were a joy:  gorgeous views across the Moray Firth to the Kessock Bridge and the surrounding hills and mountains.  We were running into a headwind the whole way and there were some gentle but long inclines, but on the whole I felt strong physically and cardio-wise. 

And then we took a sharp left turn onto a side road and started the climb up the almost 2km long hill that had looked bad enough when I drove up it in the car but felt endless on foot.  I really really didn't want to walk for any of the race but at 4km and struggling to keep my breathing under control (and feeling a bit sick), I gave in and walked for a minute or so.  This did help, and I managed to shuffle my way without stopping to the 5km point where there was a water station.  Normally I don't drink anything on 10k runs but I was so thankful to have a legitimate chance to stop and catch my breath that I accepted a plastic cup of gloriously cold water.  A few sips later, mostly taken standing still and pretending that I couldn't drink while running but really because I needed a break, and I was off again.

The next kilometre was a steep downhill section that I initially was cautious about, as I worried that my back might feel jarred by the impact but, aside from my lungs which were lagging behind, everything felt good so I picked up the pace.  At the bottom of the hill, there was a sharp left turn onto another small road, with lots of undulations appearing in the distance.  Sigh.

How it felt, not how it really was.
Now, I had spent some time last night reading about how to run up hills and the advice for short undulating sections was to run up the hill at your 5k pace and coast down the other side.  I don't really have a 5k pace - I have slow, normal and a-bit-faster-than-normal - so I tried to keep to the pace I was running (rather than slowing down as everyone else was doing) and powered up the hills using my arms for momentum.  And damned if it didn't work.  I didn't exactly float up the hills but I didn't struggle either.  Of course, there weren't really downhill sections - the pattern was uphill, level section, uphill, level section, etc - but I seemed to be coping better than a lot of the people around me.

At about 8.5k the road leveled off to a very gentle incline which I really felt in my legs, and I had to have a serious talk with myself about not walking.  Going slower was okay; walking was not.  With 1k to go, we were back on the main road heading for the finish.  I had miscalculated my iPod playlist - I was expecting to take about 70min to finish and had my songs arranged to fit this - so wasted a bit of time faffing about until I found my Finishing Music (Queen's Don't Stop Me Now).  My tired(ish) legs and heaving lungs perked up and I managed to run at 9:09min/mile pace for the last 0.2 miles.  Don't believe me?  Here are my official Garmin splits:

                                                 Mile 1:        9:30
                                                 Mile 2:        9:43
                                                 Mile 3:      11:33
                                                 Mile 4:      10:04
                                                 Mile 5:        9:39
                                                 Mile 6:        9:53
                                                (0.2 miles):  9:09

Finishing chip time was 1:01:28.  I was 22nd out of 40 women in my age group and 115th out of 184 women of all ages, and 252nd out of 332 overall.  Not the speediest, but not last either!  And faster than my River Ness time on a hillier and windier course.  AND if I hadn't had to slow down and then walk on that bastard hill, I'm convinced that I would have finished in under an hour.  I was (and still am) thrilled!

It's now six hours after crossing the finish line and I'm feeling okay.  I feel like I pushed myself but nothing feels like it's injured.  We'll see how I feel tomorrow but maybe, just maybe, it's time to change my view of myself from someone who is injured to someone who is...a runner!

Finally, a happy runner again!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

River Ness 10k Race Report

What a brilliant day!  I laid some ghosts to rest, had an amazing time while doing so, and even finished in a time that I'm not embarrassed to share.  Here's how the day played out...

Bassman drove me to the start line at the Inverness Royal Academy so that I didn't have to faff about trying to find a place to park my car.  I got impatient waiting for the queue of traffic to inch its way to the drop-off point so I leaped out of the car to walk the last 10 minutes under my own steam.  Once I got to the IRA grounds, I jogged to the portaloos, ostensibly as a warm-up but really because I was desperate for a pee.  I did my mobilising stretches whilst waiting my turn and then, on the back of some discussion on the Facebook Chi Running forum about what constitutes a proper warm-up, jogged slowly up and down the lanes of the car park for 5 minutes and then did a couple of strides to further wake up my legs.  And then I queued for the loos again.

I made it to the starting area with five minutes to spare, plugged myself into my iPod, and switched on the Garmin.  While we were waiting to start, one of the super-whizzy runners came tearing through the ranks (perhaps from his own last-minute toilet stop), hurdled over the fence keeping us all corralled, and kicked the runner beside me square in the face.  He didn't stop and she was more stunned than hurt, but his behaviour was a stark contrast to the banter and support going on amongst the mid-pack runners.

But I digress...I crossed the start line almost 8 1/2 minutes after the starting horn, at the usual mid-pack too-fast-to-be-sustained pace.  The first quarter-mile or so is up a steepish hill and there was much stopping and walking by overly-enthusiastic participants.  But not by me!  I settled into a very comfortable pace and made it to the top of the hill feeling fine.

I should perhaps point out that I did not have any kind of plan for this race and no particular finishing time in mind (although I did hope that I would finish faster than the 66 minute 6-mile run that I did in training).  The point of this race was to get an idea of my level of fitness in preparation for training for the 10k at the end of October, but I also just wanted to enjoy myself.  So, even though I had the Garmin switched on, I didn't really look at it.  I wanted to allow myself to run at whatever pace felt comfortable without holding myself back or forcing myself to speed up.  This was my 'Woo hoo, I'm running again!' race, and that was all that was important to me.

I had the race that I wanted.  The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze, and I allowed myself plenty of time to notice the gorgeous hills across the river.  I had small chats with various people - the guy running with his black lab, who wondered where the next water station was (the guy, not the dog, although I'm sure that the dog was wondering as well); the woman wearing amazing purple & green patterned tights that I had to express my appreciation of; the two women who ran the same pace as me for over a mile (until I pulled away - no, I'm not competitive at all!).  My legs were filled with Chi Running happiness; for the first time in a while, I knew that I was landing on my mid-foot and, for the first time ever, I really felt that I was floating my heels up behind me.  No twinges, no pain, not even any tiredness.  Wowzer.

The only small hitch was that I struggled a bit cardio-wise from mile 4.5 to mile 5.5 but, with hindsight, this needn't have been an issue at all.  I think that what happened was that I moved from the 4:3 breathing that I had been doing in my easy training runs (and, let's be honest, they all were run at an easy pace) to 3:2/pushing-myself-a-bit breathing but I interpreted this as 'Oh no, I'm going too fast, I can't make it, my hip/calf/achilles are going to get injured, I'd better slow down.'  Sheesh.'s all in your head.

I perked up for the last 1/2 mile and crossed the finish line with a total distance of 6.22 miles and a chip time of 63:07.  This puts me almost exactly half-way in the rankings for women in my age group, which I feel is a reasonable position to be in.  If I could figure out how to import the table of my splits from the Garmin, I'd put that here too, but that's a technological step too far.  So, in  a slightly less official format, here they are:

Mile    Average Pace

1             10.14
2             10.17
3             10.02
4             10.06
5             10.11
6             10.17
(0.22)       9.23

I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with my consistency as well as with my burst of speed for the last quarter-mile.  

So that's it.  I ran a race and didn't get injured (although, as Adam is fond of pointing out, what counts is how you feel the day after).  More importantly, though, I ran a race and had fun doing it.  I think that I had forgotten how much fun running can - and should - be. 

Friday, 27 September 2013

Curbing my enthusiasm

Did you know that there's a 10k race that runs alongside the Aviemore Half Marathon?  No, neither did I.  I don't know why I didn't know - the web page clearly states that it's the Aviemore Half Marathon and 10k - but I obviously only saw what I wanted to see.  Now that I'm 10k-oriented, though, I'm noticing them everywhere (including last night, when a perusal of a local What's On magazine confronted me with the news).

I had a huge burst of excitement - the Aviemore 10k is two weeks after the Inverness 10k and two weeks before the Culloden 10k.  I'm feeling great, the running is going well, so I could do this race too!!!  And then I'd be able to (sort of) run with Cathy and Paul at Aviemore rather than being merely a spectator!!!

Before I registered for it, though, I did the SENSIBLE thing and texted Adam to get his opinion.  And he texted back with what I expected him to say - doing three races in short succession might be more than my recovering body could cope with.  Two races, fine.  Three races, NOT FINE.  After a brief episode of pouty face and stompy feet, I reluctantly acknowledged that he was right.

Too much, too soon.  Sigh.

So, it's back to the original plan of the Inverness 10k on Sunday, the Culloden 10k a month after that and, in between, cheering madly for Cathy and Paul as they whizz across the finish line in Aviemore.  Not a bad default plan at all.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Just like old times

Yesterday's 6 mile run saw me leap (or rather, sensibly climb) over some psychological hurdles.  These consisted of:

Length of run:  Six miles is the point at which I think that proper long runs start, and I worried that maybe my hip wasn't quite ready for a Long Run.  Phew.  I managed the distance easily so now I know that I can at least make it to the end of the Inverness 10k in two weeks.

Location:  I have deliberately done all of my runs since The Injury on flat roads, avoiding even slight inclines for fear of stressing out my hip flexors.  But for yesterday's run, I ran entirely on the Cromarty Road.  It's not exactly hilly, but it is undulating in parts.  My legs were fine with this, and they're still fine today.  Again, phew.

Wind:  Because I lay part of the blame for The Injury on running 21 miles on the Cromarty Road in gale force winds, I've been a bit nervous about venturing out in windy conditions, especially on such an exposed road.  My six miles were pretty much into the wind the whole way, but I was so happy to be doing Proper Running again that I barely noticed. 

Getting wet and cold:  Another segment of blame for The Injury involves how cold I was during and after the Inverness HM, so I've been careful in this return to running to keep my legs warm while out, which includes avoiding running in the rain.  I thought that I was going to avoid being cold and wet yesterday too, but a surprise rain shower and running into a biting wind the last mile made me more than a bit shivery.  When I stopped, I definitely was aware of my hip flexor, quad, and adductor feeling tight - cue a brief panic.  However, the 20 minute cool-down walk back home helped to loosen everything up and, as above, phew.

Wind, rain, and long runs.  Just like old times.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The corner has been turned.

Those are Adam's words, not mine, although I certainly don't disagree.

'I don't want to jinx things,' he said yesterday (at which point I shouted 'THEN DON'T SAY ANYTHING!!!' but he ignored this as he ignores so many of my over-reactions), 'but I think that you've turned the corner.'  I had run five miles that morning before seeing him and all that he could find to work on in my legs were some slightly tired calves.  Even the little tendons on the top of my foot that usually make me arch my back and shriek as though I'm being tasered were only a bit sore. I even have his blessing now to start SENSIBLY adding in a bit of speed work.

How far I've come in just over a month.  All of that stretching, strengthening, mobilising, run/walking, worrying, and bucket loads of patience have paid off.  I'm still so grateful that I am running without pain that it almost doesn't matter to me how far or how fast I'm going.  I honestly thought that my running days were over so anything that I'm able to do now feels like a bonus.  And what am I able to do, I hear you ask?  Well...

I'm not doing the Aviemore Half Marathon.  I officially withdrew last week.  Although I could have pushed myself and gotten up to 9 or 10 miles before the race and then trusted to adrenaline to carry me the extra 3 miles on race day, I chose to relax about it and do something else instead.  So, I've signed up for the River Ness 10k at the end of September and for the Culloden 10k at the end of October. Now, just like a proper runner, I have an A race (Culloden) and a B race (Inverness).  I haven't done a 10k race in a couple of years so, with no pressure and no expectation of any finishing time in particular, I'm quite looking forward to them.

It's so lovely to be back!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Nothing to worry about

I'm now up to five repetitions of 5 minutes jog/1 minute walk.  That's 25 minutes of almost-running!  Even more exciting is that I'm pretty much doing this with no pain during and no pain after.  I say 'pretty much' because, following last Wednesday's flight home from Shetland, my hip seized up again. 

Not my legs (or my taste in shirts)
I was absolutely fine before I got on the plane.  Because of incapacitating fog over the previous two days, the flight was completely full due to the need to accommodate people whose flights had been delayed or cancelled.  I was the last person to be seated because of a computer glitch that had double-booked my seat, which meant that I needed to wait until everyone else had been seated before the flight attendant could attend to me and then boot the interloper out of my seat; by the time that I was seated, the overhead compartments were heaving with other people's things so there was no choice but to put my rucksack under the seat in front of me, leaving NO ROOM AT ALL for me to stretch my legs out.  Two hours of sitting twisted up like a motionless pretzel in those teeny tiny Flybe seats saw me limping off the plane back in Inverness with a pain in my hip and a pain in my calf.

My hip & calf (the site of my former injury, as opposed to DVT) continued to twinge for the next four days.  Not enough to keep me from my jog/walks but enough to have me reaching for the ibuprophen afterwards and enough to make me worry that I was experiencing a relapse.  Fortunately, I had an appointment with Adam today who reported - after 60 minutes of making me cry - that all that he could feel were tight muscles rather than any re-injuries.  I have his blessing to try 10 minutes x 2 of continuous running later this week as well as strict instructions to get back to doing the strengthening & stretching exercises that I've let lapse because I was feeling better.

It's a sure sign of progress when I start reverting to bad habits.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Trouble at t' gym

It was a slow afternoon at work today, and I left a bit early so that I could get to the gym before the Big Gym Guys got there and monopolised all of the cardio equipment.  (If there's any monopolising to be done, it will be by me.) As is my routine, I stopped on the way to the changing room to get a bottle of water from the vending machine.

Now, I've done this lots of times and I've never had any difficulties.  And why should I have?  It's a vending machine, not some high-tech piece of machinery that takes a Ph.D. to operate.  But today, when I put my hand through the little metal door to retrieve my bottle of water, I got stuck.  Not only could I not get the bottle out, I couldn't get my hand out.  I tugged.  I wiggled.  I eased.  I panicked....nope, still stuck.  I began to think about shouting for help - oh, the shame - but then, in my desperation, inspiration hit.  I just needed to let go of the bottle.

Yes, I was hanging onto the bottle for dear life.  My clenched fist got me stuck and kept me stuck.  Once I let go of the bottle, I was able to release myself with only minor difficulty.  I then had to brave  the little metal door again so that I could rescue the water.  I had a brief moment of panic when I went in up to my elbow trying to find the bottle, but I did manage to extricate myself with no further reversion to buffoonery or need to call out the fire department.

Going to the gym.  It's always an adventure.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Back on my feet

Slowly, oh so slowly, my hip flexor injury is getting better.  After a solid two weeks of gradually increasing my walking distance, I was comfortably managing 60 minute brisk walks.  I also put some effort in at the gym and worked up to a comfortable 60 minutes of cardio.  I was then ready to try to run.

With Adam's guidance, I started with 1 minute of jogging and 30 seconds of walking over 1 mile.  After a week of this, I graduated to 2 minutes of jogging and 30 seconds of walking over 1.5 miles and kept it at this level for another week at Adam's insistence.  BE CAUTIOUS and BE SENSIBLE and BE PATIENT were the foci of our conversations and texts.  I enjoyed my little forays into running but also enjoyed the longer walks that they were embedded into.  It was amazing just to be walking without pain again; anything else was a bonus.

Today, I moved up to 5 minutes jogging/1 minute walking over 2 miles.  It all felt good.

I am CAUTIOUSLY optimistic that I've turned the corner now and that, as long as I don't increase either distance or speed too quickly, I'll be back to proper running in plenty of time to train for next year's Edinburgh marathon.  Yes, that's right, I'm doing it all again!

From being unable to walk without pain to running a marathon - a journey of 26.2 miles starts with a single shuffle.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Breathe in, breathe out

Three weeks ago, I came down with a cold, complete with raging sore throat and mega-sneezing.  This evolved into a cough that was so ferocious that Bassman and the cats relegated themselves to the second bedroom for five days in an effort to find a bit of peace.  During one of the extended coughing spasms towards the end of the second week, I felt something pop in my left mid-chest.  Ouch.  Initially, I thought that I had just bruised myself with the underwire from my bra but the pain didn't get any better.  In fact, it got worse.

And then, on Friday night, my breathing started to become constricted.  Now, I am afraid of many things.  Spiders.  The dark.  Axe murderers.  Cows.  Dogs that aren't on their leads.  The lights going off during an unexpected power cut at night (because then there's both the dark and axe murderers).  But my biggest, biggest fear is of not being able to breathe.  I don't know where this stems from; I assume that it's yet another irrational fear that has no basis in reality (unlike a fear of axe murderers, for example), but it freaks me out.

I bravely managed to hold on until today, when a 9am phone call (and another phone call at 10.20 as part of my GP surgery's new triage system - apparently chest pain and difficulty breathing no longer count as an emergency) finagled me an appointment at 11.45 with the practice nurse.  The first part of her exam focused on the chest pain.  After her first light touches produced giggles but nothing else, she dug her fingers into my ribs; once she peeled me off the ceiling and the reverberations from my shriek of pain died away, she diagnosed me as having either a cracked or bruised rib (more likely cracked) from the coughing.

The second part of the exam assessed my breathing and saw me blowing into a peak flow metre, with the result being well below what would be expected for someone of my age and fitness level.  I blew into it a second and then a third time, increasing the reading a bit each time, but when I tried to do it a fourth time, the nurse took it from me with a comment of, 'You're certainly not competitive, are you?'  She diagnosed me as having bronchoconstriction - not asthma, because I don't have the wheezing and mucous build up of asthma - and gave me a trial of salbutamol (a bronchodilator).

I had to wait for 15 minutes in the waiting room to see if the salbutamol had any effect, during which I read and enjoyed Saga Magazine (and felt very old).  My breathing had indeed eased a bit by the end of the 15 minutes, so I left with a prescription for an inhaler and instructions to listen to my body, by which the nurse meant no running, no cardio at the gym, and no upper body weights until I 'feel better,' whatever that means.

I fear that the Aviemore Half Marathon is not going to happen for me this year, but there are still a couple of weeks left before I have to make that decision.  All that I can do is see how it goes and look after myself.  Which is why, 20 minutes after leaving the surgery, I was leaving the Cromarty Bakery with a selection of lovely biscuits.  Medicinal support takes many forms.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The return of Claudio

I went for my third test run on Monday.  I kept it at 3 miles and intended to do a run/walk again, but ended up walking only when the discomfort verged into pain as I felt better with more extended (and faster) periods of running.  Overall, the run  itself didn't feel terrible.

But then the run ended and, by the time I had walked the 5 minutes back to the house, my entire quad had seized up and I had shooting pains in my hip.  Stretching didn't help, but sitting in a cold bath did.  However, by evening, I was limping and was finding the stairs a struggle.  SO demoralised.

With Adam's 'We'll have to Pursue Other Options if things get worse' preying on my mind, I decided to be proactive and fired off an email to Claudio the Osteopath/Physio whom I saw last year after my calf blew up.  He phoned me the next morning and offered me an appointment for later that day, which I jumped at.  Metaphorically, of course.  Because jumping for real hurts.

Claudio did his usual thorough assessment and, as usual, tutted at how tight my neck and shoulders are.  He had me walk around the treatment room a couple of times and made his diagnosis.  Just as Adam and Mr Rocktape Physioman have said, the culprit is an extremely tight psoas (one of the hip flexors) combined with a very tight but very weak piriformis (one of the gluteus muscles).  Unlike Adam and Mr Rocktape, Claudio felt that the piriformis was the real problem and that this was causing problems with the psoas by making it work overtime to stabilise my hip, as well as by pulling my hip out of alignment.  Whatever.  Just fix me, please.

Yes.  This hurts.
You might remember that Mr Rocktape told me that there are two psoas releases:  the one that he did and a deeper, more painful one.  Well, Claudio carried out the more painful one.  I didn't even have the breath to whimper.  And then he proceeded to variously stretch, massage, manipulate, and/or pop my hips, glutes, psoas, quad, adductor, and lower back.  By the end of this, my pain level had decreased and my hips were working more appropriately.

Claudio showed me some new stretches for my glutes, one of which got me into such a tangle that I literally couldn't move, resulting in a look of disbelief from Claudio and a statement of, 'This is much too advanced for you.'  I couldn't even be insulted because he was right.  With a scaled-down version of the stretch agreed upon, I now have three new stretches to add into my daily routine.  I'm also meant to ice my glutes three times/day (frozen peas down the back of my trousers - such a good look) and refrain from running at least until the weekend so as to give my body a chance to settle down from the treatment.

Claudio is optimistic that this will work.  If it doesn't, then we will have to Pursue Other Options. 

And no, I still don't want to know what those are.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Still being tested

I took myself out for the second test run yesterday.  Three days had passed since the first test run and my aches and pains were much diminished, so it seemed safe to give it another go.  I was SENSIBLE and did a thorough warm-up and planned on doing a proper run/walk (2 minutes run/30 seconds walk) to ease my legs back into being used.  What could go wrong, right?

Welcome back, shooting pains into my hip joint.  Welcome back, stiff and sore hip flexors.  Welcome back, discomfort with every stride.  The only positive thing to say is that it was discomfort, not pain, although it certainly flirted with the pain/discomfort threshold.  I got back to the house and did my stretches, which didn't help with the hip pain.  Driving was uncomfortable as was sitting, and I fidgeted through five hours of work meetings because I couldn't find a way to sit that didn't make my hip hurt.  Not happy.  Not happy at all.

My hip flexors are still stiff and sore today and my hip is still twinging sharply if I put sudden weight on it but, glass half-full person that I am, I'm pleased to note that my calves and hamstrings coped well with yesterday's run and no longer feel overly stressed.  I enlisted Bassman's help with my stretching in an attempt to replicate the psoas release that Mr Rocktape Physio did at the VLM Expo.  I'm not sure that we got it exactly right, but there did seem to be a bit more flexibility in my psoas at the end (and, correspondingly, less pain in my hip).  So, that'll definitely be more of that then!

I'm not giving up just yet.  I figure it'll take at least two weeks for my legs to start to cooperate again and, as long as the pain doesn't get any worse, I'll carry on and see what happens.  According to Adam, though, if it does get worse, it will be time to 'PURSUE OTHER OPTIONS.'  Given that he muttered this darkly as I was leaving the therapy room, I didn't ask what he meant by it.

I don't really want to know.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A testing time

Following two weeks of pain-free walking and one week of pain-free cardio at the gym, I decided that last Thursday would be the day for my test run.  Thursday came, and Thursday went.  So did Friday and Saturday.  I had to admit to myself that I was terrified of running again.  Thoughts of re-injury,  potential new injuries, and recollections of not-nearly-far-enough-in-the-past pain kept my feet firmly tucked under me on the sofa.

Something had to be done.  Cathy has her Aviemore Half Marathon training schedule, including several test HMs along the way, already organised and, while I am not competitive (I'll pause here for the laughter to die down), I could see myself being left behind literally and figuratively if I didn't get myself moving soon.  I turned to Mr Google for support.  Typing in 'afraid to start running after injury' led me to the advice that Julie the Physio gave me after my calf injury last year (as well as to more horror stories about stress fractures, which I read with great apprehension).  Before you run, you need to be able to fully weight bear on the injured leg.  So Saturday found me doing a series of double- and single-legged jumps and hops in the garden.  No pain, none at all.  And since the only way to find out if you're ready to run again is to actually run, I FINALLY did my test run on Sunday.
My hops weren't quite this enthusiastic.

I left the Garmin at home and ran at a pace that felt easy.  The sun was shining, the roads were quiet, and I felt happy.  I was conscious that my hip flexor was a bit stiff and it did twinge several times, but a very brief walk each time this happened quickly sorted it out.  It didn't feel any different than I would have expected to feel after 6 weeks of not running.  I did 3 miles and happily could have gone further.

Good thing that I didn't.  I spent the rest of the day with increasingly sore hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves.  Limp limp limp.  Ouch ouch ouch.  Panic panic panic.

I had an appointment with Adam on Monday and shared my fears that I had done myself irreparable damage.  He was again the VOICE OF SENSIBILITY and reassured me (without snickering too much at my over-reaction) that this was normal soreness and, yes, maybe I should have done a run/walk instead of only walking when I twinged but no damage was done.  And I got a lecture about treating shorter runs as seriously as I treat longer runs (i.e. have a cold bath, use the arnica cream, wear the compression leggings, keep doing my stretches).  But, basically,  I am FINE. 

So the plan is to keep on running.  Stick to 3 mile runs for this week and run/walk them.  Next week can be 3, 4, and 5 miles.  And then I can decide whether I want to stick at those distances for a couple of weeks so that I can work on my speed or stay slow and steady while I keep increasing the distance.

I'm not sure when the next test run will be - maybe not until Friday due to work commitments.  I'm already looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Shoes, glorious shoes (with photos)!

I might not be able to walk without limping, and running might still be a distant hope, but that's no reason not to indulge in a shoe-buying frenzy.  (Thanks to Cathy for pointing me in the direction of and their fabulous sale!)

I'm now the very pleased owner of two new pairs of running shoes.  The first is another pair of Saucony Triumph 9s (in a different colour from my current T9s, which I love and which I've been wearing as my walking-around-shoes).
They're a bit more neon in real life.

The second pair sees the return of the Saucony Kinvara 3s.  You might remember that I tried the Kinvara 3s before and didn't get on with them due in part to the roomy toe box and in part to my fear of the 4mm heel-toe drop.  Now that I have wide marathon-runner feet, I though that I'd give them another go, and they do seem to fit better this time around.  I'm planning on using them as my walking-around-shoes and my going-to-the-gym shoes.  I'm not sure that I'm going to be running in them anytime soon - I'm still afraid of the drop- but they do look the biz!
Look!  Purple running shoes!  I am so happy!

I've also been amusing myself on ebay.  My favourite summer shoes EVER - black Rocket Dog flats with lots of bling on the toes - have now reached the end of their journey as I've pretty much worn through the soles, which was breaking my heart as Rocket Dog no longer do this shoe.  Woo hoo for ebay, then, and the endless string of lightly worn but still beautiful Rocket Dog flats!

I was thrilled to find a pair of identical Rocket Dogs to my soon-to-be-retired pair but was crushed when I was outbid with 2 seconds to go - it was my own fault as I misplayed the bidding game.  I learn from my mistakes though (at least when it comes to shopping) and won the auction for another pair of black flats AND a fab pair of red polka dot ones.

I now have more motivation than I could possibly need to get myself walking - and running - again.

Not quite as sparkly as the shoes they're replacing, but lovely nonetheless.

Who knew that I needed polka dots?

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

At a standstill

I haven't run at all since the marathon and haven't been to the gym in over two weeks. In fact, until the last three or four days, I've struggled even to walk.  And, as enjoyable as I myself find it, I didn't think that there'd be much interest in blog posts about me sitting on the sofa eating chocolates, reading trashy novels, and watching daytime television.  However, just like there finally are signs that Spring is springing (such as the first mowing of the garden, the subsequent first breaking of said mower, Bassman's first cold of the season, and the first passing on of Bassman's cold to me of the season), there finally are signs that my leg is beginning to recover from its ordeal.

I'm not quite ready for any springing around, but I can now walk from my car to my office without stopping every 10 steps to cry.  I can put weight on my leg again and can even go up the stairs again like a normal person, rather than hauling myself up by the handrails as though I'm climbing the north face of the Eiger.  I can sit down and stand up without an involuntarily shout of pain and I can go from a standstill to a walk without first fearing that my leg is going to collapse under me.  And although I'm still limping, I'm no longer listing from side to side quite so noticeably.  I remain in The Pain Zone but The Joy of Discomfort looms.  So, progress.

Adam, whom I saw yesterday, said that I can think about going back to the gym at the end of this week for some GENTLE stationary biking and some swimming (if I can stand the boredom and if it doesn't make my leg feel worse).  He is hopeful that I'll be able to start running again in a couple of weeks.

I'm trying to take it all in my stride (well, as much of a stride as someone with a hip flexor strain is able to have) and generally am staying remarkably calm about the whole enforced inactivity thing.  I'm not sure how long that will last - Juneathon starts in...well, in June - but, for now, I'm doing okay.

Because you can't be sad when there are lambs in the world!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Post-marathon post-mortem: Part Three

Miles 16 to 26.2

It all was going so beautifully.  But then, during a walk break in Mile 16, I noticed that my right knee was stiff.  When I transitioned into a run again, it immediately seized up to the point that I couldn’t bend it.  My heart sankThis is what happened after the Aviemore HM and what happened on the downhill sections when I used to hill walk.  It couldn’t be happening now, though, because I still had 10 miles to go. 

But it was happening.  I hobbled through most of Mile 16 – with lots of stops to stretch - then tried to run again at Mile 17.  Excruciating pain for the first 30 seconds, which then disappeared entirely.   I ran all of Mile 17 (because I was afraid to stop) and thought that had done the trick because my knee felt absolutely fine, so took another walk break at Mile 18.  Big mistake.  My knee seized up even worse and I ended up walking (with periodic stops to stretch) for most of Miles 18 and 19 and 20.

I wasn’t sure that I could walk the rest of the way, that’s how little I could bend my knee and how much it hurt.  I thought about quitting at this point.  I thought about going to the St John’s Ambulance station and throwing myself on their mercy because no one would expect me to try to run through this pain.  I wasn’t even upset about this; I had tried and my body had given up and now I was about to give up too but hey, I had given it a go.

But then I thought about all of the people who had sponsored me and who were cheering for me, who were waiting to hear how I had done, who had faith that I would finish.  And I remembered Tess, and how she got herself home with a fractured pelvis and dislocated hip, and what an incredible fighting spirit she had.  And I thought about my friend C’s daughter, who has cerebral palsy and has been a fighter since the very moment of her birth and who continues to fight and achieve and grow and thrive.  I couldn’t be any less of a fighter than them, or less of fighter than people were expecting me to be.

These thoughts cleared my head and I suddenly harked back to mile 17 when my knee didn’t hurt while I was running and I decided to experiment.  I gritted my teeth, dug my nails into my palms, and broke into a hobbling shuffle.  I wanted to cry because it hurt so much but, just like at mile 17, the pain eased within 30 seconds and I was pain-free. Woo hoo!

I now had a new plan:  run the remaining miles of the marathon without stopping (because, if I stopped, I feared that my knee would refuse to start back up again).

This is where the psychological struggle kicked in.  I had a constant stream of thoughts in my head saying, ‘You haven’t run 5 miles without walking in over 6 weeks, you won’t be able to do that now, you’ll hurt yourself, you’d better stop and walk, it’s too far, you’re too tired, feel how much your blisters hurt, it’s too far, you’d better stop and walk’ and so on and so on.  But I didn’t stop.  I kept on running, even though it was really more of a fast shuffle at this point.  

By Mile 23, I had settled into a slow and steady rhythm.  I had to stop and stretch once, after a downhill section made my knee hurt, and I walked a couple of times when the person in front of me stopped dead and I didn’t have the energy to veer around them or to break back into a jog, but mostly I kept moving.  Mile 23 also included the Tunnel of Yes.  If I had had the energy, I would have rolled my eyes at how naff this sounded but, to my surprise, I got all teary in the tunnel as I read the motivational slogans and could hear how loud and excited the crowd was at the other end.  ‘Pain is temporary.’  Yes, it was (unless it was a stress fracture but I wasn’t allowing myself to think about that).   

The Tunnel of Yes
I picked up my pace, only to have my head go into panic mode.  I was getting such clear messages to stop  - ‘You’ve gone far enough, you can walk the rest of the way, your hip is starting to hurt now, you’d better slow down, just a little walk, you're so tired, walking will help’ – but when I checked in with what my body was saying, it was perfectly happy to continue running.  My hip ached a bit but it certainly wasn’t painful.  My knee felt fine.  My cardio was fine.  And I really, really wanted to look strong when I ran past the PDSA cheering stand at Mile 25.  So I carried on.

The PDSA cheering stand was loud and fabulous!  Bassman was there, looking fabulous himself in a PDSA t-shirt, and I ran over for a kiss (and to give him my Spibelt, as I was tired of faffing around with it) and for a quick chat with the volunteers.  This really boosted my spirits but, unfortunately, stopping made my knee seize up again.  It hurt so much and I was so close to the end…again, with gritted teeth and clenched fists, I broke into a hobbling shuffle.  Only 1.2 miles to go.

I felt like I was going in slow motion for this last section.  It seemed like it never was going to end.  At the ‘800m to go!’ sign, the crowd was going wild and urging the runners to pick up the pace, reminding us that we were almost there.  I briefly got caught up in this because I have no idea how far 800m actually is (I operate in feet and miles, not metres and kilometres) and I thought that the finish line was imminent.  Once I consulted my Garmin, however, and realised that I had a whole ½ mile to go yet, I put myself back into automatic mode.  I would have liked to up the pace for this last bit, but I simply didn't have anything left.

And then there were 200m to go and I could see the finish line.  I didn’t notice the time above it or the crowds to either side or who was running next to me.  I just felt light and grateful and happy and crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.  I had done it. 

I have one of these!
Despite my dodgy knee (which cleared up by the next day), dodgy ankle (which was swollen for a couple of days and still aches), three blisters (which didn't hurt as much as the ones that I had during the Aviemore HM), and traumatised hip flexors (which hurt so much the next day that I couldn't put weight on that leg and almost had to be lifted in and out of the taxi to the train station by Bassman and the taxi driver but which has now settled down nicely - so no, it's not a stress fracture)...despite all of this, I had the most amazing day and it's still sinking in that I DID A MARATHON!!!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who supported and believed in me - you are stars!  And since this hopefully is my first marathon rather than my last, you'll get to be stars all over again next year.  Hurrah!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Post-marathon post-mortem: Part Two

And the Big Day dawned…at 5am, to be precise.  I woke up with a migraine.  Hurrah.  My body’s last ditch attempt to give me an excuse to not run.  Was I going to listen to it?  Maybe.

It took almost an hour to shower, dress (I chose the A400 Skins capri compression tights because they fit better across my stomach than the A200s and the full-length tights would have been too warm, and I wore a pair of my new wicking underwear as they couldn’t possibly chafe worse than my old cotton ones), tape up my achilles and calf, and put some blister plasters on my big toes.

Breakfast was a quiet affair; Bassman gallantly accompanied me but I was too nervous for any conversation.  I attempted to have my usual pre-long run breakfast of porridge and toast, but the porridge was vile and I could only manage half a bowl.  My tummy was in too much turmoil to risk anything new so I pocketed a banana for later, went back to our room to collect my kit bag, and then back to the lobby to wait for the bus transport to the start.  I felt like a scruffy newbie – I was wearing an old sweatshirt and old jogging bottoms over my running clothes to keep warm (as suggested by the VLM website, Runners’ World, and Paul) – but everyone else was wearing just their running gear.  At least obsessing about clothes kept me from thinking too much about what might lie ahead.

And then I was on the coach.  It was a quiet drive to the start and I did some relaxation exercises to calm my stomach and to relax my shoulders.  Once there, it was easy to find the Blue Start – Blue, Red, and Green had appropriately coloured blimps flying above them – and I realised that it was too late to run away.  I finally accepted it:  I was going to be running this marathon.  And with that,  my migraine - and my anxiety - disappeared.

The first thing that I did in the holding area was go for a pee.  There was a sign for ‘Female Urinals’ and there was no queue, so I poked my head around the corner to see what was what.  Yikes.  There was a box with disposable cardboard She-Wees for our use (you can click on the link, but don’t hold me responsible for your reaction) and I’d always been curious about them, so I had a go…all I can say is, I’m glad that I’m not a guy.  Judging from the reactions of the women around me, they felt much the same. 

I spent the rest of my time in the holding area standing in a queue for the porta-loos, sitting on the grass in the sun (thankful for the bin bags that I got at the Q&A yesterday because the grass was quite wet), queuing for the loos again, and repeatingthat sequence until time ran out.  I was glad that I had my old clothes with me, even though I still felt that I stood out as the sole scruffy person there, as there was quite a cold wind and the temperature was 3 degrees. 

And then it was time to go to our pens.  I found pen 9 – way in the back with the slow runners – and did some Chi exercises and joint mobilisation exercises while we were waiting to get started.  There was meant to be a 30 second silence right before the start to show our respect for the folks who were at the Boston Marathon, but we never heard an announcement for it nor did we hear anything that indicated that the race had started.  We eventually started shuffling forward, moving into a fast walk, with the arch that indicated the start line coming into view ahead.  And then, 16 minutes after the official start, I was off!  

I was waaaay behind these runners.

Miles 1 to 5:  My plan was to do a 4 min run/1 min walk from the beginning, keeping my pace between an 11.30 and 12.00 min/mile.  I stuck to this, but I hadn’t been prepared for how wrong it felt to be walking so early, especially when everyone else was speeding ahead.  For once, though, I wasn’t the last person in the race - but I was definitely in the last 50!

The crowd was loud and encouraging, but it all felt a bit surreal.  I still couldn’t believe that I was there and I couldn’t believe that I was about to run 26.2 miles on less-than-adequate training.  Rather than focus on that, though, I chose instead to focus on each mile as it came.  I wanted to be exactly where I was and to fully experience as much of this first marathon – and the atmosphere that everyone talks about as being unique to London – as possible.

One of Rhino Sam's friends
During Mile 2, I overtook a woman on crutches with her foot in a boot.  Stress fracture.  During Mile 3, I overtook another woman on crutches who had a sign on her back that said, ‘I broke my toe, that’s why I’m so slow.’  I felt humbled by this; it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do the race no matter what.  At Mile 3, the 4:58 pacing group came thundering past me.  At Mile 5, Rhino Sam lumbered past.  As did Homer Simpson.  And a Storm Trooper.  And some Army guys carrying huge rucksacks.  Elvis kept pace with me for a while, then overtook me too.  At least I was managing to go faster than the women on crutches.

Physical update:  By Mile 3 I was fairly certain that my hip was going to be okay.  It ached a bit to start with but quickly settled down to a vague stiffness.  By Mile 5, I noticed that there was a blister hot spot on both of my big toes (sensibly covered with Compeed) and on the side of my left foot near the ball (which wasn’t covered with Compeed because I had never had a blister there before).  And the lacing of the left shoe was really bothering me.  I decided to carry on for a bit longer in case it all dissipated, but I didn’t think that it was a good sign that my shoes were hurting me so early in the race. 

Miles 5 to 10:

In general, these were good miles.  I felt strong, the run/walk combination was working well, and it was a beautiful day for a run.  There was no point in thinking about how far I had left to run; instead, I thought about how much I love running and how this was just another long run but with better weather than I was used to. 

Same race but different Mankini Man
The Cutty Sark was at Mile 6.5 and I waited to feel impressed by it but, well, it was just a big ship.  There were lots of people here, drinking and cheering and throwing their plastic pint glasses into the road.  During Mile 7, I found myself running behind a portly gentleman in a mankini; I overtook him because I didn't think that I could bear to look at his bottom for the next 19 miles but he did make me appreciate my new running underwear which were staying firmly in place.
Somewhere around Mile 8 or 9, I caught up with the 4:58 pacing group!  I didn’t expect that I could keep up with them for the rest of the distance, but I was heartened to realise that run/walking wasn’t particularly slowing me down.  

Physical update:  My hip felt great.  No pain or stiffness or discomfort.  It was like it had never been hurt. Thank you, Mr Rocktape Physio!  The blisters weren’t feeling any worse but my left shoe was so tight across the top that I started to get pins and needles in my foot, and I had to stop to loosen the lacing.  More concerning, my right ankle started to feel stiff and achey between Miles 6 and 7, almost as though I had a slight sprain.  I tried to address this by doing some Chi focusing to relax my ankle, assuming that I had tensed up with the excitement of running, but it didn’t help.  I tried to think back as to what might have caused this – and remembered stepping into a pothole a mile earlier as I tried to avoid being hit in the face by the deflated helium balloons that were tied to the ponytail of the woman in front of me.

Miles 10 to 16:  Shortly before Mile 11, I had to stop for a loo break.  I had been needing to stop since Mile 3 but was waiting for shorter queues; however, it didn’t look as though this was going to happen any time soon.  (And, indeed, it didn’t.  There were loos every couple of miles and all of them had huge waits.)  It took 10 minutes to get to the front, during which my hip started to seize up, and then probably another couple of minutes to do my business, readjust my tights and Spibelt, and stretch a bit.  If I had been going for a particular time, I would have been really miffed by the delay (alternatively, I could have tried harder to keep running); as it was, I did my best to stay calm and to avoid being bowled over by the passing runners who were weaving in and out of the loo queues.

After the loos, the crowd became a bit sparse and quiet so I plugged myself into my iPod to help to get me moving again.  I loosened up after five minutes and, before I knew it, I was crossing Tower Bridge at Mile 12.5.  It was a bit of a shock to the system, coming round the bend after a quiet stretch to the raucous shouts and applause on Tower Bridge.  Just like with the Cutty Sark, I waited to be impressed by this iconic section of the race but I ended up being more focused on not tripping on the red mats lying across the road in several places.  Still, all of the charity groups lining both sides of the bridge were hugely energetic and encouraging of all the runners, not just their own particular ones, and I tried to look perky in case I ended up on TV.

I knew that Bassman, Cathy, and Paul would be at Mile 13 and sure enough, there they were, waving and cheering; I waved back, gave them a big thumbs up and a big smile.  It was great to see them and great to be able to indicate that I was feeling good, that my legs were feeling okay, and that I felt confident that I could get to the end. 

The next couple of miles were challenging in that the streets became narrower and twistier.  Lots of people were run/walking by this point but, unlike me who always politely moved to the outside before I started to walk, they did their walking without any thought to who might be coming up behind them.  I lost count of the number of times that I had to come to a sudden halt to avoid slamming into someone and could feel myself becoming irritated with having to keep asking people who were walking three and four abreast to move out of the way so that I could get through.  Despite this - and I wouldn't be me if I weren't annoyed about something - I really did feel like I was just out for a long run, and I enjoyed the sun and my relaxed pace.  I also was pleased to note that this run felt easier than a lot of my long training runs.  I was having fun!

Physical update:  My left shoe still was bothering me, this time because it was too loose and I could feel my foot sliding around in it.  This was not helping my blisters.  Aside from tightening up when I stopped for the loo, my hip continued to feel absolutely fine. My energy level was good and my cardio certainly wasn't being challenged; what could possibly go wrong?

TOMORROW’S INSTALLMENT:  Miles 16 to 26.2 (or, 'Oops, I spoke too soon!')

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Post-marathon post-mortem: Part One

It’s hard to know where to begin as there is so much that I want to say, so much that I want to remember, and so much that I am still processing, but let me start by starting at the end…I successfully completed the 2013 Virgin London Marathon!  I would like to say that I ran it but that would be using ‘run’ in its loosest possible sense.  What I more accurately did was run, shuffle, walk, and hobble my way to an official finishing time of 5:50.  While this isn't the time that I was hoping for, it is a time that I am happy with.  For now.

I'm going to do two or three posts over the next two or three days about My First Marathon, and they're going to be quite lengthy ones.  Settle back with a cup of tea, then, and read on...


Friday 19 April 2013:   

Today I registered at the Expo for the marathon.  I couldn't believe that I was there and got a bit teary as I joined the crowd of would-be marathoners walking towards the entrance.  I collected my race number (19901), timing chip, and the first of a bazillion ‘good luck’ wishes that I would get over the next three days from the amazing crew who help this race to go so smoothly.  Inside the Expo, I visited the Less Bounce stall; I'm a member of their Facebook Marathon group and a goody bag had been promised.  Free stuff taken care of, I then began to shop.  I bought a turquoise vest from Less Bounce, two pairs of purpose-made  running underwear from Falke (having finally become fed up with my usual cotton pants that ride up and chafe), another version of the SpiBelt (this one with loops to hold my gels), and a pair of fluorescent pink Cep compression calf sleeves.  

Yep, this is where it hurts.
I also visited the Rocktape clinic, on Adam's advice, looking for suggestions on how to tape my hip flexors.  After a couple of questions and having me do a couple of stretches, the physio and his boss (who just happened to be passing and who just happens to be the head of the Sports Physio professional body) diagnosed an extremely tight psoas muscle as the main culprit.  No point in taping it as it's too deep to respond to taping but Mr Physio and Mr Head Sports Physio thought that a Psoas Release (the less painful version) was in order.  I had to strip down to my pants (the cotton, chafing, riding up ones), covered my modesty with a small towel and, to the interest and amusement of the watching crowd, Mr Physio proceeded to stretch my recalcitrant psoas.  Ouch ouch ouch.  I'm glad that they didn't go for the more painful version.  But afterwards...I was walking without pain.  None.  At all.  Mr Physio said that this would get me round the marathon, no problem.  I could have kissed him.  But I didn't.

Push down with the right hand and push away with the left.  Biiiig stretch.
I pretty much skipped my way around the rest of the Expo, revelling in my new hip.  I skipped past the KT tape stand, turned my head to watch them tape up someone's Achilles tendon, and literally skipped into Michel Roux Jr who had his head turned to watch the same thing.  I smiled a 'sorry' at him before I realised who he was, and he twinkled his Michel Roux Jr smile at me to say 'sorry' back, and we went our separate ways.  I could have kissed him too.  But I didn't.

I'm siiiiingin' in the rain...
I made it back to the hotel without spending any more money but also, unfortunately, without my specs which I lost somewhere in the vast Expo hall.  This was especially unfortunate as Bassman and I were going to the theatre that night to see Singin' in the Rain and the world gets blurry beyond the end of my arm without my specs.  My trusty prescription sunglasses had to be pressed into service and, between them and a £1 pair of rented binoculars, I could see the action on stage with the added benefit of feeling like a celeb as I sat with sunglasses on in the dark.  The show was amazing and was the perfect distraction from pre-marathon nerves.  And I bought a Singin' in the Rain umbrella as a souvenir.  Happy happy happy!

Saturday 20 April 2013:

We were up early, as we had a 10am walking tour of the finish line and associated areas to go to. The tour took about an hour and a half and my hip held up well.  No pain, just some residual stiffness.  Lunch was at Pizza Express for my traditional pre-long run pizza.  Then we went back to the hotel where Bassman watched with bemusement as I dithered over which compression tights to wear for the race.  I had three pairs to choose from, all of which fit slightly differently from each other, and choosing the wrong ones could result in major discomfort during the race.  Bassman suggested that I was using this as a displacement activity for my nerves; he might say that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

Our friends Cathy and Paul met us at the hotel for tea and cake at 4pm and we had a look at the photobook that they had done of their recent trip to Venice.  Gorgeous, just gorgeous...and there's a marathon there too...Cathy and Paul both are runners, with Paul having run vast numbers of marathons including multiple London marathons, so there was lots of talk about running.  And about nerves.  And much sharing of information by Paul about what to expect before and during the race.  I went off at 5pm to a Marathon Q&A session that was being put on by the hotel, which didn't really tell me anything that I didn't already know from Paul although they did hand out some big green bin bags for the next day, and it was another useful distraction from pre-marathon nerves.  We then met up with Cathy and Paul again for dinner at a fab Vietnamese restaurant, where I had a big bowl of glass noodles, tofu, and veg with a peanut sauce.  Majorly yummy!

And then home for an early night and to try to sleep, in preparation for the Big Day.

TOMORROW'S INSTALLMENT:  MILES 1 TO 16 (or, 'OMG, I'm running a marathon!')