Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Back on my feet

I had a cramp.  That is the definitive word from Adam, pronounced after he poked and prodded and made me squeak with pain.  There's no sign of any injury, just some slightly tired and stiff muscles.  He said that it can take 2 or 3 weeks before a severely cramped muscle completely recovers, but that it's fine to continue running my usual distances as long as I am SENSIBLE.

Rather than assume, I did ask.  Apparently SENSIBLE in this context means no tempo runs for at least this week.  Our conversation went something like this:

Adam:  Why do you need to run that pace?
Me:  Because I want to.
Adam:  No, why is it important?
Me:  Umm, because I enjoy it?

Just like (a very slow) David Rudisha
Oh.  He didn't really shout, but I could hear the capital letters anyway.  And, once I realised that he wasn't saying don't do tempo runs ever again in your entire life, I conceded that he was right.  It's more important to let my calf recover than to pretend that I'm David Rudisha.  It's getting to the finish line that is important, not what I do in any individual run.  Sensible.

So, after a very slow 1 mile test run on the treadmill yesterday, I resumed my training programme today.  It was only a 2 mile easy run so wasn't going to be a huge stress on my calf.  Just as well it was a short run, as my legs were exhausted from Adam's pummelling (and possibly from the champagne that flowed freely at last night's Dinner at Lizzie's) and probably would have struggled with a longer distance.  I'm optimistic that my happy legs will be back for Thursday's 6 mile meander.

Whew.  Crisis averted.

Friday, 25 January 2013

A gentle shout from Adam

I didn't run today.  I really really wanted to, if only to see how damaged my calf is (I would have stopped the instant it started to hurt - honestly, I would have) but I've mismanaged these injuries so many times in the past that I decided to listen to the Voice of Reason.  Yes, I texted Adam this morning because history shows that I cannot be trusted to do what's in my own best interests.

With a shouty TAKE THINGS STEADY and GENTLY DOES IT, he made his opinion known.  Well, actually he didn't, because those shouts were open to interpretation.  He could have meant that it was okay to do a gentle, steady run.  (Oh, stop laughing.  He could too have meant that.)  However, I am learning and, instead of hearing what I wanted to hear, I asked for clarification.  Turns out that he meant NO RUNNING, possibly a VERY GENTLE session on the cross-trainer if I couldn't bear to be inactive (although he wasn't in favour of this, either), and a SHORT and GENTLE run on the treadmill to test things out before our appointment on Monday.  There was no way to misinterpret any of that.  Damn.

I've also been told to wear my compression socks all day, elevate my leg, alternate ice and heat, and do very GENTLE stretching later on today.  Sheesh, it's like I've become my own elderly aunt.  Next thing you know, I'll be having some medicinal sherry and cake. 

Time to be PATIENT.  Again. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Say your prayers...

to whichever god or goddess you subscribe to that my calf was struck down by a cramp at the gym and not by another strain/pull/tear.

Today's Janathon activity was my lower body workout at the gym.  My legs felt fine - and have felt fine for weeks - and there were no issues at all on the stationary bike or with the side lunges, leg presses, leg extensions, or hamstring curls.  However, at the end of my first set of calf raises, there was a sudden and very painful something at the top of the gastrocnemius.  It wasn't the popping feeling that I've felt too many times in the past.  This was more like my calf seized up, and it hurt - a lot more than any muscle strain/pull/tear ever has!

I immediately stopped and tried to stretch, which has always helped with the strains/pulls/tears, but this stretching hurt.  I had to walk around a bit and massage the back of my calf before I could stretch it.  And then it felt fine.  I gave the calf raises another go - very gently, mind you - and things were fine.  And then I did the rowing machine, where I set a new personal record of 10:18 for 2000m, and the cross-trainer for 10 minutes of cool-down, with no pain on either one.  My stretching routine was fine too, although I couldn't do quite as deep a calf stretch as usual - it just felt...tight.

I spent the rest of the day sitting down at work and, when I got home, put on my compression socks and iced the offending area.  It doesn't hurt when I walk or when I go up and down the stairs (unlike when there's a strain/pull/tear).  There's a bit of residual tightness but that could be because I'm expecting it to hurt and so am holding that leg a bit stiffly.  I'll foam roller it before bed, put some more arnica gel on it, and hope that it's all a bad dream by tomorrow, when I'm supposed to be running 5 easy miles. 

If it was just a cramp, then I should be good to go.  But if it wasn't a cramp, and I try to run, I risk doing more serious damage.  This is a step-back week in my training programme anyway - three 5-mile easy runs, the first of which I've already reduced to 3 miles due to lack of time - so does it really matter if I miss out one of those runs altogether?  Or even miss out them both?  I could go to the gym and do cardio things there and then resume running next week.  I could work myself into a tizz of obsessive internet researching, trying to find the answer that I want (oh wait, I've already done that one).  Aaarrrggghhh!  I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!

I'm open to suggestions, peeps, as long as you tell me what I want to hear.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Timing matters

I had such good intentions of running this morning.  I set my alarm last night for 6.45 with the idea that I'd get up, get dressed, and get out before I woke up enough to start thinking of excuses to stay in bed.  However, in my sleep deprived state I somehow managed to set the alarm for 6.15 instead; you'd think that I would have welcomed the chance to do the run a bit earlier so that I could then have gotten ready for work without rushing. 

But no.  I fell back asleep, woke up again at 7, and laid there for 15 minutes thinking of excuses to stay in bed.  Chief amongst those excuses was how perishingly cold it was in the room.  You'd think that I'd remember to change the timing on the central heating for the mornings when I have to run early.  But no to that as well.  Anyway, as long as I was out the door by 7.30, I would have just about enough time for a 5 mile run, so up I got.

The first task was to tape my achilles tendon and calf.  Unfortunately, it was SO COLD in the room that the tape didn't really adhere to my icy legs.  I tried several times, but eventually I gave up and hoped that my running leggings would hold the tape in place until my legs warmed up.  I layered up, dressing more for how cold it was in the room than for what it might be like outside.  (You'd think that I would have learned not to do this but, again, no.)  I struggled into my slightly too tight Gore mid-layer which left me with rucked up sleeves from the two underneath layers.  I spent five minutes trying to de-ruck myself without success.  Time was passing, so I told myself I'd just have to ignore the t-shirt sleeves that were bunched in my armpits.

The next step was to find my gloves, buff, and headband which shouldn't have been an issue as I've organised my running gear so that these items are ALWAYS in the same place because I got tired of never being able to find them.  Except, I couldn't find the headband.  I searched through the running box four times, in the pockets of my running jackets, looked under the table in case those bad cats had thought it was a mouse and dragged it away to savage it, and looked under the chair cushions because that's where missing things often end up.  Nope.  Nowhere to be found.

By the time I left the house (headband-less), it was almost 8.00.  I thought about not going for the run because there was no way I had time for the full 5 miles but after all of that hassle getting dressed, I wasn't going to go through reverse hassle without something to show for it.  So, flexible as always, I decided to just do 3 miles.  After all, something is better than nothing.

Even though my legs felt okay and I managed the target pace with ease, it wasn't a great run.  I was distracted by the t-shirt sleeves that had migrated so far into my armpits that I couldn't put my arms down to my sides.  I was distracted by how tight the mid-layer was across my stomach and how it was trapping sweat there.  I was distracted by the feeling of the kinesio tape slowly peeling away from my leg.  And I was distracted by how heavy my footstrikes were (almost, but not quite, like I was having a temper tantrum).  Plus, I was annoyed and vaguely panicked at not being able to do the whole 5 miles, as though the missing two miles would be the difference between making it to the start line in London or not.  I'm not sure what universe my head was in today, but it wasn't the same one as my body.

Time to take a deep breath, regroup, and double-check the setting on the alarm clock.  Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Doing what needs to be done

Adam had to cancel our appointment yesterday due to snow.  Like everywhere else in the UK except for the Rural Retreat, his particular place of residence was under 6 inches of snow with no gritters in sight and more snow falling.  I had planned to go to the gym before our appointment but, after Adam's cancellation, I felt that I had to decide between making an 80 minute round trip just for the gym, solely to fulfill the Janathon requirement of exercise everyday, and staying at home and getting caught up on all of the work that I hadn't done over the previous four days because I was too busy lending my moral support to the kittens. 

In the spirit of my new Sensible Self, I stayed at home.  I spent hours either on the phone with or waiting for a phone call from our soon-to-be new electricity supplier (who somehow had arranged for our neighbour's electricity supply to be changed over instead of ours).  I got caught up with all of my work emails, phone calls, and invoices and made a list of all of the outstanding letters and reports that I need to do (yikes, how did I get so far behind???  I can't blame it all on the kittens.  Or can I?).  And then I spent the entire evening sitting on the bed in the Kittenry, keeping the three girls company while also completing a spread sheet of my earnings and expenses in preparation for doing my taxes online before the 31 January deadline.  Phew.  I had just about enough energy left after all of that to crawl into bed.  But not enough energy to take my pillows etc back into the proper bedroom.  Yep, I slept with the kittens again last night.

Janathon Day 22:  I'm back on track.  I went to the gym before work and spent over an hour on my upper body routine, a bit of cardio, and stretches.  Tomorrow, the plan is to be out running by 7am so that I can fit in my 5 miles before work.  Maybe, if I'm lucky, it'll be snowing.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Running words

As I am still quite tired from intense kitten duties, I was not looking forward AT ALL to today's 11-mile run.  In the back of my mind (actually, it was very much to the front of my mind), I wondered if I should put off the run until tomorrow when I might feel more sprightly.  However, when I looked out the window around 11.30, there was snow!  Only a few flakes, but the sky was the kind of grey that promises snow and I LOVE running in the snow, so I geared up and headed out the door.

Pah.  I must have imagined the snow.  There was a brief spit of freezing rain and then nothing except a cold and chilling wind which, for a change, was in my face on the route out.  Kind of nice having it at my back for the more tiring return journey, though.  My legs were tired, my achilles tendon niggled for the first half-mile, and my hamstring cramped up during miles 4 and 5.  Aside from that, it was an uneventful run and I managed to stay fairly close to my target pace.

Normally on my long runs, I listen to Radio 4 but the reception is appalling on the Cromarty road.  Rather than irritate myself by trying to listen to The Archers through static, I thought that I would try something different for this run.  I downloaded an audiobook for free, The Woman in White, onto my iPod.  This is one of my favourite books - I read it for the first time during a solo camping trip down the west coast of America and have fond memories of lying in my tent at night in the Oregon sand dunes or a California redwood grove, reading about Marian and Laura and Walter by torchlight - and has the added advantage of being lengthy enough to take me through at least a couple of long runs. 

I just want to say, what a brilliant thing to have done!  Can't imagine why I didn't give this a go sooner.  Because it's words, I don't feel compelled to run faster (as I do when I listen to music) so my pace stays sustainable.  And it's engrossing enough that my attentionally-challenged brain doesn't get bored and go winging off into the stratosphere so that I end up running on automatic pilot with increasingly poor posture and increasingly unhelpful speed.  Focusing on the story actually helped me to focus on my running.

It's not exactly a Chi approach, but it works for me.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Janathon: Days 18 & 19; or, Foiled by Kittens

One of the rules of Janathon is that you must blog about your jog (or exercise of your choice) within 24 hours.  Oops.  I'm six hours too late with Day 18's post but, frankly, I'm too tired to care.

Oh, if only I had thought of this myself!
Followers of Bassman's blog will know that the kittens were spayed on Thursday morning.  They have been confined post-surgery to the Kittenry because they aren't allowed to jump up on things and there is entirely too much jumping temptation in the wider house, and I have been sleeping in the Kittenry with them because they are just little girls who have had big surgery and might need me during the night.  And because I'm a bit of a hypochondriac on their behalf.

Thursday night was horrendous.  Pandora accepted her Cone of Shame with resignation but Willow went into Resistance Fighter mode.  She hid under the bed, pulled her Cone off, and gnawed at her stitches; I shooed her out and re-Coned her.  She ran and hid under the other side of the bed, pulled her Cone off, and gnawed at her stitches; I shooed her out and re-Coned her.  And repeat.  Ad infinitum.  By 2am, I was ready to join her under the bed if it meant that I could get some sleep.  One last try at Grab the Cat, which has left me with arms that look like a piranha has had a go, and some enforced snuggling on my lap, and we all drifted off to sleep.  We were woken by a hungry Maia scratching and whining piteously at the door at 6am.  I'm not sure how Bassman slept through it all, but he did.

I was SO TIRED but I did manage to get myself to the gym later that day for an uneventful upper body workout and the usual cardio things.  I can't actually remember the rest of the day, aside from having a couple of glasses of red wine while watching telly...nope, it's a complete blank, and that is NOT due to the wine.

Friday night in the Kittenry was a lot better.  The girls had more or less adjusted to their helmets and happily snuggled in with me at bedtime.  We all fell asleep at a reasonable hour.  I was awakened by Pandora using the litter tray at 6.30am and took the opportunity to see what Willow was up to.  Quelle surprise, the Kitty Escape Artist quietly had gotten out of her helmet sometime during the night and was having a thorough wash.  Her spay wound looked to be okay, so she must have left the stitches alone.  I de-helmeted Pandora and spent the next hour watching them wash themselves and each other, until Maia's demands for breakfast became too noisy to ignore.

Pandora, Maia, & Willow:  not to scale
The rest of the day was filled with tending to the kittens and reintroducing them to Maia, who thinks that they are new kittens because they smell like Germolene and not like themselves.  There's been much hissing from Maia, but the kittens are unperturbed and just carry on with their own business, much of which involves washing Maia's ears, using her as a foot rest, and trying to sneak up on her for some snuggling.  Because of kitten duties, I hadn't planned to do any exercise at all; Bassman, however, very supportively prompted me to at least go for a walk and then came with me to make sure that I didn't just find a quiet spot in the woods for a sleep.

So, for Day 19 of Janathon, I went for a 1.6 mile walk with my husband.  But even though I may not be logging the wrangling of kittens as official Janathon activity, believe me, it counts.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Still skippy

Happy skippy legs!
Today, I ran a 5-mile tempo run that actually had a bit of a tempo!  According to my training programme, it was to be the same as last week's tempo run - a 1 mile warm-up, 3 miles at 10:00/mile pace, and a 1 mile cool-down.  I wasn't sure what to expect after my tired legs on Tuesday, but they seem to have recovered.  The first mile felt relaxed at 11:00/mile pace, and the next mile...well, I ran a 10:00 mile for the first time in YEARS!!!  I was so excited!!!  I would have stopped to do a Happy Dance but I didn't want to risk sustaining a dance-related injury.

My left achilles tendon wasn't so thrilled, though, and let me know that with a couple of twinges towards the end of the mile.  I think that this was related more to overstriding than to the speed; as soon as I went back to a shorter stride, the twinges stopped.  Nonetheless, and as proof that I have learned from previous mistakes, I consciously decided to try to run the next mile at 10:30 rather than Keeping To The Plan At All Costs.  I also was fully prepared to slow down even further if my achilles kept twingeing.  I am So Sensible.

But that 30-second difference made all the difference.  No more pain.  Mile 3 was in 10:29, which is even more impressive (to me) when you take into account that the last half of that is uphill.  Mile 4 was in 10:19, also impressive (to me) as the first half of that is uphill.  And, just to round things off, the cool-down mile was in 10:42.  I'm not sure that I could have run all three miles at the target pace, but I'm satisfied with what I did anyway.

I finished the 5 miles in 52:45.

There's not much more to say except, 'Wowzer!'

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Stretching it

I didn't plan to do any Janathon activity or blogging today.  Between working, travelling back to Inverness, and then travelling home, I didn't anticipate on having the time or the desire to do any of that.  And, for most of the evening, I found that I had anticipated correctly.  I was perfectly happy snuggled under my blanket, watching television, and sipping a glass of port.

I'm not sure where the surge of Janathon guilt came from but, at 9.30, I levered myself off the sofa and did my stretches.  And then I foam rollered my calf (which is a bit twingey after yesterday's run and after sitting all scrunched up for an hour and half in a teensy plane seat).  And then I even did my core exercises; I'm up to 30 seconds for my planks - regular and side ones!

It's not exactly exercise, but it is more than I had planned on doing.  Therefore, I think that it counts and my streak is unbroken.  Whew.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

A run in the (pretend) snow

There is snow in Lerwick!  Well, sort of.  Actually, not really.  But I so much want there to be snow, and it seems to be everywhere except for where I am, that I've had no choice but to upgrade the wee dusting of flakes that Mother Nature deposited on Shetland last night.

There certainly isn't anything even vaguely approximating snow near work or at my flat, so imagine my great joy when I went out for tonight's 3 mile run and found snow only a five minute walk away.  As soon as I crossed over at the Tesco roundabout on the South Road, there was snow!  Actually, it was more like slushy ice with a frosty layer on top but, hey, it was white.

Tonight was beautifully clear and cold, with a sliver of fingernail moon hanging in the sky.  I was looking forward to the run (yep, that's a bit of foreshadowing).  It wasn't a horrible run by any means, but the slushy ice quickly became slippery ice on the path around the loch.  I amused myself for awhile by trying my absolute best to land mid-foot, because as soon as I started pushing off with my toes, I started to slip on the ice.  A good test of my form, and one that I didn't do too badly at.  

But then my legs started to get tired, and I had to run slower and slower to manage the ice, and I even had to walk up one hill because if I had tried to run, my feet would have gone out from under me and I would have ended up flat on my face.  AND THEN, I was overtaken by a huffing, puffing, heel-striking, heavy footfalling pensioner in baggy trackie bottoms, a puffa jacket, and plimsolls.  I was mortified, and upped my pace so that I overtook him on the next hill.  Not that I'm competitive or anything...

Aside from racing the pensioner, it was a slow run and it was a harder run than even Sunday's 10-miler.  I'll blame it on the ice, shall I?  Now, if I had only had my Yak Trax (and if I only knew how to get them on my shoes), I would have been flying.

Maybe next time.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Janathon: A force for good

Day 14 of Janathon.  Just as well this wasn't a running day as the wind is somewhere around 25mph, it's raining, and it's bitterly cold.  Instead, I headed off to the box-like gym at the Lerwick Leisure Centre where it was overly hot, smelly (the big sweaty gym guys were out in force), and crowded.  Hmmm, maybe I would have preferred to run outside after all.

I did my lower body workout as best I could; the teeny tiny Lerwick gym doesn't have all of the weight machines that my big fancy Inverness gym does, but I try not to be a gym snob.  Not always successfully, but I do try.  I'm starting to see some progress with the weights and with the rower.  I've been able to increase the weight on the hamstring curl machine to where Adam thought it should be in the first place.  And, when I first started using the rowing machine, I couldn't manage more than a couple of minutes before my arms felt on fire and I had to stop.  Now, I can row for 2000m at 10 strokes per minute faster than I was when I started.  I'm looking forward to the first signs of muscle definition! 

Today also is Day 13 of the NoMoreCake-athon.  I've been amazed at how little I miss cake.  With the exception of the first couple of days when I felt at loose ends - what was I going to eat if I wasn't going to have cake? - and a couple of lunches out with cake-eating friends, I haven't really thought about it.  Even today at work, when I was confronted by the array of cakes, chocolates, and biscuits that are permanent fixtures in the staff kitchen, I wasn't tempted. 

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME???  I'm now exercising every day and enjoying it; my running legs seem to have taken the next step in their evolution; and I don't want cake.  It's all good and I have every intention of carrying on with these new behaviours once January is over but I'll just say this now...I am NOT giving up crisps.

Stats for Janathon Day 14:

Weight session at gym:  1
Total number of weight machines at gym:  7
Big sweaty gym guys hogging the weight machines:  5
Cakes & biscuits & chocolates wanted:  0
New lease of life:  1

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Running and flying

I delayed this morning's run for as long as I could which, since I had to organise myself for the afternoon's flight to Shetland, wasn't really much of a delay.  I had lots of anxiety about trying to run 10 miles with a back that was still twingeing and, probably more importantly, I was worried about how demoralised I would feel if my old legs were the ones that showed up for the run.

I needn't have been concerned.  The first couple of miles weren't great; I was focusing on my back and whether or not it was going to start hurting and not on my actual running.  By mile 3, though, my happy legs showed up and relieved the sulky, plodding legs of their duties.  Because this was a long SLOW run, I stuck to my target pace of 11:40 (+/- 10 seconds either way) even when I was feeling that I could have run faster.  Been there, done that, gotten the calf injury to show for it.  At mile 7, I started to smile because I couldn't believe that my legs were feeling so relaxed.  In the olden days, I would have upped my pace at this point but today, I reminded myself that there were hills yet to come and that it was okay to finish the run without feeling half-dead.

I finished in 1:56, with no pain or discomfort, and feeling like I could have kept going.

Just as well that I didn't, because it took me longer than I had expected to pack for Shetland.  Bassman drove me to the airport, where he took one look at the check-in queue and promptly kissed me good-bye and headed out the door.  Can't say that I blame him.  It took me 30 minutes to reach the front of the queue.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that my company had booked me into the Executive Lounge; pity that the long wait to get checked in meant that I could only use the Lounge for 10 minutes.  Pity too that I'm still doing the NoMoreCake-athon and couldn't partake of the free cakes.

But before I reached the Lounge, I had to go through Security.  Now, I knew that my dodgy back meant that I'd never be able to bend over to take off a pair of boots to put them through the scanner so I planned ahead and wore some trainers so that I could just keep my shoes on my feet.  The best laid plans...I got beeped for a random search and had to de-shoe.  I was a bit annoyed - this was cutting into Executive Lounge time - and I had no idea how I was going to get my shoes on and off without sending my back into a major spasm.

Never fear, this is Inverness, not America.  The lovely Security woman got me a chair and proceeded to take off my shoes herself and then put them back on me again.  She was so kind and gentle that I didn't even complain when she tied them too tight, although by the time I reached Lerwick two hours later I had lost the circulation in my left foot so perhaps I should have spoken up.

Day 12: Blame it on the bag

My new socklets!
The Running Gods give with one hand and take away with the other.  My legs continue to feel absolutely fine, helped along in their absoluteness by a nifty pair of compression socklets for plantar fasciitis.  Not that I have PF, thank the Running Gods, but I do have tired feet and thought that they deserved a treat.  One impulse purchase from Boots later, and my feet are snugged quite nicely in their socks.  I'm even going to wear them to bed so that my feet are well rested for tomorrow's 10-mile run. 

My lovely but heavy bag
Well, I say tomorrow's 10-mile run.  Whether it happens or not will depend on the state of my back which has seized up again, but this time is even worse than the last.  I'd like to say that it's a running-related injury but, embarrassingly, it isn't.  No, it's down to carrying my hugely heavy Fossil shoulder bag during my trip to the shopping centre yesterday, along with five carrier bags from a bit of spree in the January sales.  My back was aching by the end of the day and this morning, when I bent down to feed Maia, the muscles on both sides of my spine gave a loud shriek.  Or perhaps that was me doing the shrieking...

Anyway, every time I bend at the waist, my back goes into spasm.  And it HURTS.  I've never really had back pain so this is new to me and I don't know what to expect tomorrow.  I'm fine when I'm walking and moving around so, as long as I remember to have good posture and lean from the ankles rather than the waist, running should be okay.

The Alexa - beautiful, but too expensive to use.
Looking back on it, I suspect that the Fossil bag was the culprit in my last back pain episode as well.  It just isn't a practical bag once it's fully loaded.  I might have to start using my Mulberry Alexa instead.  Oh, the hardship...

Janathon update:  No exercise today due to a faulty back.  I did practice good posture and engaged my core lots, though.  Does that count?  And, just for the record, this is actually the blog entry for 12 January - midnight has now come and gone, and me and my socklets are going to bed.  Lucky lucky Bassman!

Friday, 11 January 2013

In which I am misled by technology, but finally run like a proper runner

Life during The Injury Years
According to my SmartCoach training programme, today's 5 mile run was supposed to focus on speed work:  2x1600m@9:27 alternated with 800m jogs.  I ran bits of the Aviemore Half Marathon at that pace (the downhill bits, to be fair) but I haven't tried to reach that in training since The Injury Years began.  Ever cautious, I decided to wait and see which version of my legs showed up for today's warm-up mile before I made a decision about any bursts of speed.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday's happy, skippy legs - which seem to have come out of nowhere to share my runs for at least the last week - were in evidence today as well.  The first mile felt fine at an easy pace of 11:15 so I figured that I might as well see what these alien legs were made of.  Now, I know perfectly well (and have had the torn calf muscles and achilles tendonitis to prove it) that one of the main causes of running injuries is increasing distance and/or speed too soon.  There's no issue with the distances that I'm doing but even I could tell that it was a bit of a jump from my usual pace to today's target.

Fortunately, because I am committed to becoming a less-injured runner (and because Adam sends me texts in SHOUTY SPEECH when I am IMPATIENT and DO TOO MUCH), I decided to at least partially listen to my Sensible Self (i.e. The Voice of Adam) and do a modified speed work session.  Rather than try to run the whole 1600m at one go, I divided it in half so that I was doing 2x800m, followed by a 400m jog (and repeat).  Same distance, just not as hard on my legs (or lungs).

Garmin says, 'Run faster!'
It worked, perhaps too well in the end, for which I blame my Garmin.  The first 800m was at 9:30 and felt like I was pushing myself, but not outrageously so.  I had no idea, though, what pace I was running during the other three 800m intervals. There's a bit of lag between the speed you're actually doing and the 'instant pace' shown on the watch which meant that when I speeded up from the slow recovery jog, the Garmin took FOREVER to catch up.  I was gasping for breath and the bloody watch was showing that I was running at a 10:30 pace.  I knew this couldn't be right (please, Running Gods, let it not be right!) and had no choice but to take my best guess at what I was doing.

The intervals, regardless of the Garmin issue, went great.  Really.  My legs continued to do their job in an uncomplaining manner, allowing me to focus on my form and my breathing.  For the first time in probably years, I felt like I was running rather than jogging.  The high that I was on when I got home has continued throughout the day - and my legs STILL feel fine.

I uploaded today's run to have a look at things in more detail.  I wasn't sure whether to feel thrilled or horrified to see that I ran the second interval at around an 8:30 pace and the other two somewhere around 9:00.  Yikes, no wonder I was breathing hard!  Although my legs seemed happy with this, I'll make sure to slow down next time.  These might be new and improved legs, but I have no desire to run them until they too break.

See, I'm learning!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Happy legs

This morning I went to the gym before work.  The focus was on legs and included 1000m on the rower and 10 minutes each on the elliptical and bike.  My legs felt great.  In fact, they didn't feel like my legs at all.  Where have all the niggles gone?  It feels...unnatural...wrong...disconcerting to have legs that just go about their business without demanding attention or trying to make me cry.  Weird.  Very weird.

Tomorrow, I'm meant to be doing a 5 mile run with two of those miles at a 9:27 pace.  I'm sceptical about my ability to do that, unless I find some downhill sections.  Or unless my new and improved legs also come with new and improved speed, which would be too much to hope for.  I suspect that I'll trundle along at a safe pace as usual, with occasional bits of pretending that I'm doing speed work, but it makes me happy to imagine that the day might be coming when I can do proper training again.

Janathon Day 10:

Number of muscle groups worked:  5
Total number of sets:  15
Total number of reps:  150
Total cardio time:  30.5 minutes
Number of niggles:  0
Number of happy legs:  2

Possibly tempting the Running Gods

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Today, not so bleh

Due to some unfortunate scheduling of work-based activities, I had to run before the sun was up this morning.  The Alarm Clock Cats saw to it that I was out of bed at 7am, and very helpfully allowed me to tend to their empty tummies as part of the waking up process.  I had been freezing during the night and assumed that it would be quite cold outside as well.  So I bundled up for the first time this winter in my lovely pink Gore jacket, my heavy running tights (the ones that insist on rolling down over my belly and sagging at the crotch; most attractive), a base layer and mid layer, a buff to keep my neck warm, a headband to keep my ears warm (because under no circumstances will I EVER wear a hat), and gloves.  I strapped the head torch to my head and put on a hi-vis vest that had been left behind by a builder ages ago.  Ready to go!

What I had forgotten was that the inside of the cottage tends to be significantly colder than the outside world, even in the midst of winter.  By the time I got to the top of the lane, I had taken off the head torch (who knew that the sun came up that quickly?) and the gloves and unzipped the jacket.  After the first mile of running, I had taken off the buff and the headband and unzipped the jacket even further.  For a free item of clothing, I have no complaints about the hi-vis vest but it is surprisingly warm, especially when combined with a winter-weight running jacket. 

Despite me being overdressed and continuously tugging at my tights, the run went well.  My target pace for this easy 3-mile run was 11:49/mile.   I averaged 11:26/mile and felt good with it.  It definitely didn't feel too fast; my breathing was quite slow and relaxed and I could have carried on a full conversation with no effort (if I were the kind of person who tolerates being talked at first thing in the morning, that is).  I think that I'm maybe a little bit fitter than the generic person that my training programme is aimed at, but I'll still stick as close as I can to the programme's targets.

I'm trying not to get sucked into my old mindset of 'But I can go faster!' because that way injury lies.  It's hard to be patient and even harder to go slow when it feels like I'm ready to resume normal running again, but it's more important to me to make it to the start line of the marathon than it is to push for a fast time but risk yet another race-ending injury. 

I've not given up.  I've just redefined my goals. 

NoMoreCake-athon update:  There were biscuits at the meeting this morning.  I politely declined them but, given that they were Ginger Nuts, this perhaps wasn't a true test of my resolve.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

I'm only blogging because Janathon says I have to

Today was my first day back at work after almost three weeks off.  A very disrupted night due to poor Maia coughing and wheezing at 11pm and again at 5.45am (she fell back asleep after each episode finished; I lay awake worrying about her and alert to any changes in her breathing) left me shattered by the time I had to get up to go to the gym.  Damn you, Janathon and my overdeveloped sense of responsibility.

There was thick fog for most of the drive into town.  Between that and the seemingly endless queue of traffic over the Kessock Bridge, a journey that usually takes half an hour took twice as long.  It was a relief to finally arrive at the gym.  My goal for today was to use the elliptical trainer in place of a run.  I realised a couple of years ago that my legs can't handle consecutive runs anymore; I only did three runs/week for last year's marathon training and I don't think that was enough to build the strength and stamina that I needed.  So, for this year's attempt, I decided to keep to my three runs/week but to add in a session on the elliptical as well, in the hopes that this would fill in the gap somewhat.

There were only three people in the gym when I got there, which brightened my mood.  I did 11 minutes on the bike and 30 minutes on the elliptical, which would have been the length of time that I would have run today if I were even five years younger.  And, of course, I did my stretches.

And then I went to work.  And then I came home and worked some more.  When the highlight of the day was 40 minutes at the gym watching 'Wanted Down Under,' you know that it was a bleh kind of day.

Bring on tomorrow.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Fun at the gym

Day 7 of the Janathon found me back at the gym where, according to my training schedule, it was Upper Body Day.  It was also Heaving with New Gym Members Day, which made it Annoyed at Having to Wait for the Machines Day as well.

The free weights were scattered all over the place and I couldn't find the ones that I needed.  All of the treadmills were taken by people who looked to be out for just a stroll and a gossip; some of them had even paused the treadmill so that they could have an in-depth natter with their neighbour without the inconvenience of being out of breath.  And I had to wait to do my stretching as there was a queue for the mats, most of which were being used by people who were just...lying there, having a rest. 

Part of today's routine was the dreaded hand bike.  (Hah, no queue for this.  Can't imagine why not.)  This sits off by itself and faces the weight machine area.  Now, I know that proper gym etiquette says that you shouldn't stare at other people when they're working out, but I couldn't help but be fascinated by the very substantial man on the lat pull-down machine who was wearing a very much too-small sweatshirt.  Every time his arms went over his head, the bottom of his sweatshirt inched ever higher until it reached his chest, leaving his belly fully exposed in all of its perfectly round glory.  There were 3 sets of this.  He didn't seem to care, so I decided to not mind on his behalf either.  Besides, admiring his obliviousness and single-mindedness helped to distract me from how much I was hating the hand bike.

January at the gym.  There's always something to see.  Or complain about.

Gym stats:  10.5 min/5km stationary bike; 10 minutes/3km hand bike; 10 reps/3 sets each of bicep curls, tricep dips, upright row machine, and lat pull down machine (making sure that my top stayed over my belly).  10 minutes x-trainer cool down.  And stretching.

NoMoreCake-athon update:  It's been six days without cake.  I've gained one pound.  It's going to be a long month.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

9 miles, consistently slow

Day 6 of the Janathon started at 5.45am, when Maia heaved her 11-pound body onto my chest and pushed her nose against mine in an attempt to see if I was awake and possibly inclined to feed her.  I wasn't awake and I wasn't about to get out of bed before the central heating had even come on.  However, her optimism had awoken Willow and Pandora who also wondered if I might be getting up and it took a bit of ignoring of piteous cries and the biting of toes before everyone settled down again - Willow on my chest, Maia on my stomach, and Pandora across my ankles.  It was all very cozy although not very restful.  (Shut them out of the bedroom?  Don't be silly.)

I would have preferred to have done today's 9-mile run on a bit more sleep, but such is life with cats.  (They aren't spoiled, they are loved.)  After the ritual Feeding of the Cats at 8:00, I had my own ritual breakfast of hot water with lemon, porridge with demerara sugar and raisins, and tea.  By the time I finished eating, taped up my achilles and calf, decided what to wear, and got the Camelbak sorted, the morning was almost over - I have no idea where the time went; surely not on reading the Mail Online? - but at least I was on my way. 

My goal for today's run was to be consistent with my pacing.  No more heading out quickly, exhausting my legs half-way, slowing down, trying to speed up, and getting injured.  Nope, I've learned my lesson.  My goal pace, according to my training programme, was an 11:39min/mile and, with a couple of exceptions, I managed this pretty well.  I couldn't keep myself from picking up speed going downhill, and I walked a couple of times when my calf got tight (and when I had my SiS gel; if I try to take gels when I'm moving, I end up dribbling them down the front of myself.).  Oh, and I had a lot of brief stops because of traffic.  Otherwise, I stayed mostly within 10 seconds either way of the target.

It wasn't a hugely exciting run, but I felt that I maintained good form for most of it and I felt okay at the end of it.  And, frankly, any long run that I finish without an injury is worth celebrating! 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Janathon Day 5 (with the help of cats)

I suspected that this would be the most challenging day of the Janathon, and I was right.  Saturdays are normally days to curl up on the sofa, drink tea, read, and maybe watch a film on telly; they are not days to exercise.  I was hopeful, though, that with a bit of creative thinking I could have my cake and eat it too.  (Metaphorically, people, metaphorically!  The NoMoreCake-athon is still in effect, I haven't had any cake in DAYS, and am wasting away before my very eyes.  But I digress...)

Here's what I did on Day 5:

1.  Squats:  Because the cats aren't using the cat-flap yet (the kittens are too young to be given unlimited access to the great outdoors), they need to be let in and out by one of their servants.  Being cats, they find this hilarious and delight in yowling at the door, being let out, then yowling to be let back in.  (Ignore them?  Don't be silly.)  Between 9.00-9.30am, I was up and down from the sofa over 20 times, which was an excellent opportunity to practice my squat technique. 

Going Home
Heading home after yesterday's walk
2.  Going for a walk:  All of the previous cats at the Rural Retreat have been walking cats, and we are in the process of teaching Maia, Pandora, and Willow to walk with us up the lanes and through the woods as well.  We took them on an hour-long walk yesterday (after my 5 mile run, I hasten to add), but today's walk was only about half that long.  Still, as I wasn't sitting on the sofa, it counts.
3.  Stretches and core exercises:  Since my legs had been warmed up from the walk, I figured I might as well take advantage and do my stretches (20 minutes) and use the foam roller (5 minutes).  And since I was already on the floor, I figured I might as well do my core exercises too (10 minutes).  Extra resistance was added by Willow, who likes to sit on my chest when I'm lying on my back.  Very helpful.

Gentle exercise and still time to sit about doing nothing.  Not a bad day at all.

Friday, 4 January 2013

The sound of silence

After the painful and disheartening slog that was Wednesday's 3 mile run, I was feeling more than a bit apprehensive about today's planned 5 miles.  Especially since my training programme said that it was meant to be a tempo run for 3 of those miles, and I wasn't convinced that legs that were so recalcitrant on Wednesday would be willing to be cooperative today.  A sensible approach would have been to leave out the tempo as a way of making sure that things were back on track and, after taping my left achilles tendon and adding an extra strip along the outside of my calf for good luck, that's what I set out to do.

The wind tunnel at Newhall Point (road on right)
A mile in, and everything felt good at the easy pace.  I probably should have continued on at that speed but, competitive fool that I am (even though it's just with myself, as I'm too slow to be competitive with anyone else), decided to up my speed just to see what would happen.  My target speed for the tempo run was a 10min/mile for 3 miles and, for half a mile, I did this!  Then I rounded the corner at Newhall Point and almost was stopped in my tracks by a 17mph headwind.  I gave it a valiant effort but my speed dropped progressively over the next 3 miles, which included a half-mile uphill trundle, because of the force of the wind.  Once I was back on the flat and with the wind coming at me from the side instead of head on, my legs perked up and I finished the last 1.5 miles feeling strong. 

I finished the 5 miles in 55:12, which I thought wasn't bad given the wind and the usual stoppages for 4x4s and boy racers who felt unable to share the road with me.  I had no pain or even niggling in my ankles, calves, or other places.  I managed to run fast enough for the 3 tempo miles to challenge myself cardio-wise.  And, even though I was wearing my 12mm Guide 4s, I was running so lightly that I couldn't hear my footfalls.  No clomping, no heel drag, no scuffling.  I even unplugged myself from the iPod so that I could enjoy how quiet I was.

As Adam would say, the real test will be how I feel tomorrow and the next day.  Tonight, though, I feel very proud of myself!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Farewell, my lovely cake

Part of my inspiration for signing up for the Janathon was a friend who is doing a Dryathlon (giving up drinking for January and raising money for Cancer Research UK at the same time).  In turn, I seem to have inspired Bassman to do a Snapathon (taking a worthwhile - his word, not mine - photograph every day in January).  Other friends are having a go at exercising every day, even though they won't be blogging about it.  It's all very exciting and motivational.

However, I seem to have gotten carried away with the joy of -athoning and, in an uncharacteristic burst of optimism, have now committed myself to doing the NoMoreCake-athon that I was joking about a few posts ago.  I've even expanded the original concept to include not just cake but chocolates and cookies.  And cupcakes (that's how seriously I'm taking this).

It seemed like a good idea at the time but, really, WHAT WAS I THINKING???  (Note to self:  You were thinking that it might be nice to stop popping buttons off your trousers.  And that losing those cake-related extra pounds might benefit your running.  And that maybe you would feel healthier and more energetic.)  I hate being deprived - even when it's me doing the depriving - and I miss the idea of cake already. 

I've decided, though, not to give up sugar altogether; that's much too drastic an action and, besides, there's still half a tub of chocolate Philly to finish.  Can't have that going to waste.  And I need my TangFastics and Sport Jelly Beans for my long runs.  And there's fake sugar in the hot chocolate mix so that doesn't count.  And and and...

Yes, there's nothing like ignoring the rules (even when they're self-imposed) to make me feel better!

Janathon Day 3:  Gym session consisting of 10 minutes warm-up on the bike followed by leg presses, leg extensions, hamstring curls, side lunges, 2000m/10.5 minutes on the rower, and 10 minutes cool-down on the cross-trainer.  And 15 minutes in the sauna afterwards as a treat since I CAN'T HAVE CAKE.

Sugary things not purchased during post-workout trip to Tesco:  A six-pack of Cadbury's Creme Eggs, gingerbread men, Tesco Finest Triple Chocolate Cookies, profiteroles, and chocolate cheesecake.  Sheesh, I probably burned off more calories wrestling with temptation than I did at the gym.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

When in doubt, blame the shoes

Day 2 of the Janathon saw me doing the first run of my marathon training programme.  It was to be an easy-paced 3 mile run; the sun was shining, the wind had dropped, and I was looking forward to the official start of the marathon journey.  What could possibly go wrong?

Hello and welcome back to majorly tight ankles and achilles tendons.  How I've missed them.  This was one of those runs where it felt like all of my body parts were moving at cross-purposes and at their own individual paces, and nothing that I did made a difference.  It didn't help that my Garmin was off in its own world, one in which I was apparently running sub-9 minute miles.  I wasn't, not by a long shot, but I kept trying to slow myself down just in case, leading to an even more awkward gait and a ratcheting up of the pain level in my achilles tendons.  I finally gave up at the last mile and did a run/walk the rest of the way home.

I'm not injured, but I've obviously stressed out my lower legs.  Contributing factors?  Monday's 8-mile run felt good and my legs felt fine on Tuesday, but I wonder if the 10-minute cool down run on the treadmill at the gym that day was still a run too far.  Especially as I was wearing my Inov8 Road-X 238 shoes.  This was their second outing and I have to say that I don't like them.  They've turned out to be a half-size too big, for a start, so my foot feels a bit slidey in them.  And, even though they have a 9mm heel-toe drop, they feel a lot flatter than the 8mm Triumphs.  They certainly have less cushioning, and I ended up with an aching pain in my heel that made me stop the cool down after 8 minutes. 

 I wore the Triumphs for the run today, but maybe I should have gone with the Guide 4s.  Still, who knew?  I felt fine until I started to run. 

Is there anything to be learned from this?  Well, I think there will be no more treadmill cool downs at the gym on the day after a long run (or maybe ever); the cross-trainer will serve the same purpose.  More importantly, after this week I'll be back to having two non-running days after the long run.  My aging legs don't cope well anymore with too many runs (of whatever length) too close together.  Sigh.

And I'm ditching the Inov8s.  It's possible that I am unfairly blaming them for today's difficulties but, once I take against a pair of shoes, that's it.  I give no second chances when it comes to footwear.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Janathon Planathon

You'll notice a new addition to the right side of this blog - a Janathon Participant logo.  I came across the Janathon in one of the running blogs that I follow.  Taking part in the Janathon means that you do some form of exercise every day (and blog about it) for the entire month of January.  It's a chance to motivate yourself during the cold & dark days of January as well as to meet, support, and be encouraged by (at least in an on-line sense) other Janathoners.

I decided after last year's injury-plagued marathon attempt that my body can't handle more than three days of running per week anymore and, while it's easy(ish) enough for me to stay motivated to do those days, my natural laziness gets in the way of doing anything else.  My recent foray into adding a gym component to my training has been going okay, but I can foresee the day (and it'll be sooner rather than later) when I happily revert back to do-the-bare-minimum.

Hence the Janathon.  I'm not able to say to myself, 'I'm going to exercise more,' and then do it.  No, I need to tart it up with faffery.  I've filled out a registration form, acquired a logo, joined a Facebook page, made some posts on said Facebook page, and am now making a formal announcement to the world at large about my intentions.  Having done all of this, maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to stick with it.

Yum yum, in my tum!
Day 1 went well.  After a shaky start in which I tried to convince myself that numerous trips to and from the kitchen in search of that processed-but-really-nice Bavarian smoked cheese, Kettle Chips, ice cream, cake, and chocolates counted as exercise and that therefore I could just as well stay at home, I went to the gym.  Today's focus was upper body as well as lots of stretching and some warm-up and cool-down cardio things.  It was fine, and I'm glad that I went.

So here's my Janathon plan:

Monday:  Gym (upper body)
Tuesday:  Gym (cardio cross-train, to take the place of a run)
Wednesday:  run
Thursday:  Gym (lower body)
Friday:  run
Saturday:  Random activity depending on my mood (but not involving eating)
Sunday:  Long run

Impressed?  Don't be.  If I were really serious about all of this, I'd be entering a NoMoreCake-athon.