Friday, 29 March 2013

All over the place

Aarrgghh!  Not again!
If I had written this entry on Wednesday, immediately after coming home from my 2-mile test run, I would have been euphoric.  If I had written this entry on Thursday, immediately after coming home from A&E, I would have been so despondent and tearful that...well, that I would have been sitting weeping and wailing under my duvet rather than writing anything.  But I am writing this entry today, where it all has changed again.

On Wednesday, I had a bit of initial discomfort while walking to the start of the run, but it quickly faded.  The first half-mile of my slow jog was painful, but it was a pain that came and went.  There was discomfort in my hip on impact - which varied between 1 and 3 on a 10-point pain scale - for the rest of the run; it was manageable and I felt that I had perhaps turned the corner on my injury.  And then I got out of bed the next morning.

But running IS my life...
I couldn't put my full weight on my leg.  My quad had seized up and there was pain radiating into my back and down my leg.  It hurt to sit.  Walking was painful and slow.  Although it eased off a bit over the next hour or so, I was very very worried.  (Yes, I had never completely gotten the stress fracture scenario out of my head.)  So I went to A&E before work.  The very nice A&E doctor examined me, twisted my leg and hip this way and that, suggested that I take up biking instead, went off to read up about stress fractures in runners (yep, that instilled confidence), came back and pushed my leg and hip this way and that, told me how much she hated running and couldn't see the point of it, and then sent me off for an x-ray. 

There was no sign of a stress fracture on the x-ray but then, there wouldn't have been at this stage.  I could have told her that.  Her opinion, though, is that this is a soft tissue injury.  Her recommendation?  No activity AT ALL for the next two weeks and forget about the marathon.  My sobs at this moved her to say, 'Okay, no activity for the next week and come back to the follow-up clinic next Thursday and we'll see how you're getting on.'  If my hip hasn't gotten better by then, they could refer me for an MRI (a private one, of course; the NHS waiting list is infinite) to check for a stress fracture and muscle tears. 

So I was sent on my way.  I cancelled my work commitments for that day as 1) I would have struggled to walk from my car to my office 2) I couldn't sit comfortably so wouldn't have been able to focus on what was happening during my meetings and 3) I probably would have burst into tears if anyone had asked how I was doing - with strict instructions to take ibuprofen three times/day (Adam had suggested something similar but I don't like the idea of taking tablets for things so had only been taking them when the pain got really bad).  I was devastated, and sulked and sniveled for the rest of the day.

No swimming cap for me!
This morning when I got out of bed, I did so tentatively and with  my heart in my throat.  But my hip felt okay (probably 2-3/10 on the pain scale) and loosened up quite quickly.  Having consulted the previous day with Adam (who disagreed with the doctor about exercise - GENTLE exercise is the way to go - but agreed with her about taking ibuprofen regularly), I went to the gym.  I did my upper body workout and two very gentle and slow five minutes on the stationary bike.  I did my version of swimming - 15 minutes of flutter-kicking my way from one of the pool to the other - and sat in the steam room, sauna, and jacuzzi.  My hip felt fine throughout (1/10), and still feels fine hours later.

The important thing is how I feel tomorrow.  I'm hoping that I'll feel okay because what I really really really want to believe is that I still can be at the start line on 21 April.  I might need to do more walking than running, I might be hours slower than I had planned on being, but I will be so thrilled just to be there...and I'll still be faster than the guy in the deep-sea diver suit.

Any positive vibes that you care to send to my hip flexor will be greatly appreciated.

Monday, 25 March 2013

It's not over yet

I had an emergency appointment with Adam today.  Poor man.  He asked me how I was doing and I burst into tears, whereupon he wheeched me into the lift and handed me a tissue (having come prepared for distress; nothing takes him by surprise).  He spent the entire hour working just on my hip and found a couple of very sore areas, but nothing that made him think 'stress fracture' or even 'no marathon for you.'  So, after a painful massage, ultrasound, major stretching, and sensible advice, here's how things stand:
  • There's definitely hip flexor involvement as well as involvement of my IT band (only over the hip)/gluteus medius/hamstring.  This explains the aching pain at the top of my thigh as well as the sharp pain in my hip.
  • Adam blames the cold for most of this.  He said that many of the runners at the gym, even the ones who are very experienced Super Whizzy Runners, are having problems with their hips and hip flexors because of the cold.  We also decided that the HM compounded the problem, not just because I was so cold at the end and didn't have a chance to stretch before getting into the car, but because half the race was on the pavement and the constant stepping up and down put more stress on already tight hips. 
  • I'm to take ibuprophen twice a day for the next couple of days; use an arnica-based heat gel on the relevant sore bits; wear my compression tights as much as I can; use the sauna, steam room and jacuzzi at the gym after each work-out (because heat helps); keep doing stretching and strengthening exercises for my hips; and THINK POSITIVE....hmmm, which one of those do you think will be the most difficult for me???
  • As far as running goes, Adam thinks that I should be ready to do my planned 2 miles on Wednesday.  Assuming that goes well, then I'll do 5 miles on Friday and a long run on the weekend.  It was meant to be 20+ miles but, because I am sensible now, I will only do 15-16 miles.  Assuming that goes well, I'll cut my taper to two weeks and use the next week for a 20+ mile run instead.
  • It's important to keep my legs warm when I'm running, which means wearing multiple layers and doing a longer warm-up than normal.  Adam also suggested moving back into my old Guide 4s for at least some of the runs to see if this makes a difference to how my legs feel.  Oh, and no speed work for a while.  Slow and steady.  Sigh.
After today, my mind is enthusiastic again about getting myself moving.  Only time will tell if my body is prepared to cooperate.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Woe is me

Still can't run.  Still can't walk without pain. Can't believe that I got injured doing a race that I didn't even care about.  Can't believe that I'm facing pulling out of yet another marathon.

If I write any more, I'll cry.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A change is as good as a rest

Thirty-one days to go, and I seem to have hit a physical and psychological wall.

I was so excited after the Inverness HM.  I finished in 2:15, two minutes faster than my Aviemore HM time on a course that was hillier and in weather that was appalling.  But I felt good throughout and even finished ahead of the guy in the Spam costume.  I kept to my plan, which meant that for the first half-mile I was once again the last person in the race but which also meant that I had enough left in the tank to up my pace for the last four miles and to sprint (it's all relative) across the finish line.  I was very pleased with how it went and allowed myself to think optimistically about how it might go in London.

But then, it all started to go ever so slightly wrong.

This is not me.  But it could have been.
I shivered so hard from being cold and wet after the race ended that my left hip flexor seized up.  A quick Google of 'hip flexor pain' brought up a myriad of sites warning that hip flexor pain could be a femoral head stress fracture in disguise.  So now add panic to pain...A visit to Adam the day after the race reassured me as he didn't find much of concern at all and very kindly did not laugh at my stress fracture fears.  Although my hip felt okay the rest of the day, it had tightened up again by the next day and hurt a bit to walk on. 

Today, I was meant to run 6 miles.  I managed 3, and seriously thought about coming back home again after 30 seconds. My ankle hurt.  My achilles tendon hurt.  My calf hurt.  And my hip hurt.  I was expecting tired legs, but not pain.  I stopped to stretch a lot and, by the time I got to 3 miles, things had loosened up but my head was not happy.  I thought that if I continued on, I'd tear something (but really I just wanted to stop) so I gave up and went home.

Not quite what Adam had in mind.
I texted my unhappiness and worries to Adam who, as always, sent me some very patient and helpful replies.  The outcome of this is that I'm not to do any running at all for the rest of this week.  Weights, x-trainer, bike, rower, and swimming are fine but I'm to give my legs a chance to recover from the last two weeks.  This is a reduced mileage week anyway, so I'm not missing out on a huge amount and I'll then go into next week's high mileage week a bit more rested.

More importantly, Adam pointed out that at this stage of training it's common to feel tired and sore and weary of running, and that tired and sore don't automatically mean injury and weary doesn't necessarily mean give it all up.  He also said that, while my pains are real, my thoughts could be contributing to them (e.g. because I'm anticipating injury, I'm tensing my muscles in preparation for something happening which then makes my muscles hurt, and I then think I'm injured etc etc etc). 

Time to take a deep breath and regroup.  Thirty-one days to go.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Shiver me timbers

A large part of my work day today was spent in a text conversation with Adam.  I am not injured (and, just to be clear, I'll say it again - I am not injured) but I am sore.  My long and windy run on Saturday has taken its toll on my calf, which is tight and stiff and muttering quietly to itself.  My theory is that the sheer effort of running into the wind, as well as the loss of form as I got more and more tired, meant that I was putting more stress than usual on my calf.  Up until now, all aches and pains have been gone the day after the long run so this lingering ouchiness had me a bit concerned.

Hence the texts to Adam.  I was only meant to run 2 miles today but I wanted his advice as to whether I might not be better off resting for another day or two; I even suggested that I make this week my reduced mileage week, miss out the HM on the weekend, and start back up again next week.  I was prepared for a BE SENSIBLE response but instead Adam encouraged me to keep things as planned.  His theory is that my legs were so cold on Saturday that my muscles tightened up big time, and that is what's causing the stiffness now.

As proof that I don't always think that I know best, I listened to him and took my legs out for a quick spin.  It was obvious that they still are SO TIRED but then, they always feel tired and achey on short runs.  I maintained a steady and reasonable pace and nothing snapped, crackled, or popped.  Phew.

The most amazing bit, though - and you all know how very much I've wanted to see snow this winter and how it always seems to be snowing where I am not - was that it began to snow big, fluffy, proper snowflakes just as I began to run.  Because I'm in Shetland, land of the unending wind, there was of course a gale blowing which turned the lovely, dreamy snowflakes into a fierce pounding blizzard.  I did my best to choose a route that kept the wind at my back, which froze my calves but allowed me to  feel as though I was running in a winter wonderland.   Eventually, though, I had to turn around and head into the wind to head home.

I got back to the flat with wet hair that was starting to freeze, gloves that were soaked through, and partial snow blindness from having my eyeballs lashed by wind-driven snow.  However, my calf had loosened up, I finally got to run in the snow and...

I'm still not injured!  And that's pretty amazing too.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

At least it's over

Yesterday's 21 mile run was one of the most difficult physical things that I have ever done.  I was looking forward to the challenge of the mileage, but I was not looking forward to the challenge of running those miles in a 25mph wind.  This was the only day that I could have done a long run, though, so I had no choice but to get on with it.

I did manage to maintain a fairly positive attitude for 9 miles (even when I got blown to a standstill several times on the main road) because there were enough twists and turns in the route that I wasn't always running directly into the wind.  I felt okay about running 30 seconds per mile slower than my target pace and even coped with not being able to listen to my iPod (because the wind was so fierce that there was no way that I could hear anything through the headphones).

With the benefit of hindsight, my plan to run miles 9 to 15 along the Cromarty road was wrong wrong wrong.  This is an exposed coastal road and I would be running directly into the wind the entire way.  Somehow in my head though I thought that the 5 miles on the way home, when the wind would be at my back, would be worth the slog on the way out. And I didn't think that it would be that much of a slog anyway, since I had managed okay on the first 9 miles.

So deluded...I tried to remain upbeat during miles 9 to 12.  I told myself that running into the wind was good for my eventual endurance in the marathon, that it was fine to go slow, and that it was fine to alternate running with walking.  I started to snivel during mile 12 after coming to yet another standstill in yet another gust of wind.  My pace had dropped by another 30 sec/mile, my legs were exhausted, and I still had another 9 miles to go. 

I suppose it could have been worse.
I cried for most of mile 13.  I wanted to stop. I wanted to phone Bassman, who was working in Cromarty, to come and get me but then realised that it was so windy that all he would hear would be the wind rushing down the line.  So I thought that I'd just sit by the side of the road until he passed me on his drive home, but it was too cold to stay still for long.  Then I thought about turning around and walking home, but it was closer to carry on to Cromarty where I could find Bassman and the car.  So I walked/slogged on.

At mile 14, there was a bend in the road through some sparse trees which was enough to give me a bit of respite but the rest of the way into Cromarty was horrendous.  I surprised myself, though; by the time I reached the village, I had decided to finish the run.  I stopped for 10 minutes or so, had half of a Clif bar (which, unlike last week, my stomach tolerated just fine), some Lucozade and some water, and stretched.  And then I resolutely turned my back to the wind and...well, I didn't run.  My legs didn't have enough left for that.  But I did at least manage a more consistent jog/walk for the next 6 miles.  I still snivelled a bit, though.

I finished the run -  to use the term loosely - almost 30 minutes slower than I had planned.  My morale was rock bottom and still hasn't entirely recovered.  It feels like the last two long runs have just trained me to jog/walk the marathon and, in fact, have trained me to give up and walk when I get tired. 

I know all of the positive things that I could and should be saying to myself, and I can and will say them at a later date.  For now though, the only good things that I can find to say about yesterday is that 1) it's over and 2) my blisters didn't hurt at all.  And for those, I am very very grateful.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

In control

'Control the controllables.' 

This was Adam's advice to me following a text exchange in which I expressed my paranoia about the state of my calf.  Not that it's in a particularly concerning state at the moment, but it could be in the future and I spend a lot of time worrying about this.  However, according to Adam, as long as I am doing EVERYTHING possible to look after my calf, that's all that I can do.  No point in worrying about the uncontrollable variables because...well, because I can't control them.

With that in mind, I chose not to run today.  My calf, while not injured, doesn't feel quite right and missing a day of running won't make any difference to the marathon.  So I went to the gym instead and did some cardio and weights and, of course, my stretches.  I'll continue with the foam rollering tonight and add in the application of hot and cold.  I'm meant to be running 8 miles tomorrow, including intervals, but I'll wait and see how things feel before upping the pace (and will cut the run short if my calf needs to stop). 

I will be SENSIBLE and IN CONTROL, at least for another 46 days.  Not very exciting, but it might just get me to the start line.

Monday, 4 March 2013

A grumpy 19

Here's how the day conspired against me (and I conspired against myself)...

1.  My choice of route:  I thought that I would be clever and run the Inverness HM route - so that I could suss it out and not be surprised by any hills on the day - and then run the 6 remaining miles along the canal path, giving my legs a break from road running.  A good plan in theory, a disastrous plan in action.  The HM will be on the road but my run had to be pretty much all on the pavements.  Rutted, rough, sharply cambered pavements that played havoc with my ankles and my blisters.  The first 5 miles are all uphill, mostly a gentle but wearing incline as well as a couple of steep bits that I've already decided I'm going to walk on the day.  Nothing like giving up early.  There are plenty of steepish sections during the next 5 miles as well.  I am really miffed that there is no chance for me to beat my AHM time.  There probably isn't even a chance that I will manage my marathon target pace.  Major disgruntlement that stuck with me for the rest of the run.

Deceptively smooth
I thought that the canal path would give my feet and legs a break.  Hah.  Far from the smooth dirt track that I remember it being, it was even more rutted and pitted than the pavements and had a bazillion stones embedded in it, every single one of which targeted my blisters.  Not nice.  Not nice at all.  Limp limp limp.  Walk walk walk. 

2.  Blisters:  These deserve a category of their own.  They started hurting by mile 6 but I managed to make it to mile 13 and my car, where I had some Compeed stashed.  Why I didn't put the Compeed on BEFORE I started running is a mystery to me.  I also changed shoes at my car, from the old Guide 4s to the Wasps.  My blisters were  marginally more happy with the wider toe box but, by that point, it all was a bit too late.  I might have been able to carry on running even with my tired legs, but the blisters meant walking.  And lots of it.  Also lots of thoughts about how I can't do the marathon feeling like this.

3.  Gear faffery:  I have a new piece of kit - the Spibelt - that I've been testing.  (My plan is to carry my gels etc in this for the marathon.)  It's worked well so far but yesterday I had more in it than usual and couldn't get it to lie flat.  It looked like I had a huge growth flapping around on my stomach and, with each flap of the pouch, the belt moved another inch up my body.  If I had let it go on unchecked, it would have ended up either throttling me or breaking my nose.  After numerous bouts of walking so that I could unpack and repack the bloody thing, I finally managed to sort it out and it became as comfortable as the reviews promise.  Still, it really really really annoyed me.
So yummy.  Sigh.
4.  Fueling issues:  I had my usual breakfast with no problems.  I had my first gel at my usual time of 1:15 with no problems.  But then I had half of a Clif bar at 2:00, which had been working well for me on previous long runs.  But not on this one.  Oh no.  Within 10 minutes of eating this, my bowels were in such an uproar that I feared I would be doing a Paula.  Cue lots of VERY slow walking and deep breathing.  This stage felt like it lasted for ever but, really, it must only have been for 5 minutes or so.  My insides settled down but there were periodic ominous rumbles for the rest of the run.  I didn't dare eat anything else and, foolishly, stopped drinking as well.  By the start of my 6 miles along the canal path, I was feeling decidedly light-headed and heavy-limbed.  Could have been related to nutrition, but equally could have been because I just wanted the run to be over.

5.  Other people:  I run rurally.  In all my years of running the back roads of the Black Isle, I have only ever seen two other runners.  I see lots of cyclists on the weekends, but they are a friendly lot and we have no problem sharing the road with each other.  However, running in a city, even a small one...I either was forced off the pavement or forced to stop by people on bikes, people pushing prams, children thrusting gardening implements at me, children lunging at my legs, dogs leaping at me, and runners running two and three abreast.  NO ONE made eye contact, smiled, said hello, or said sorry.  Not even the runners.  I hated it.

What I learned (because there's no point in having a miserable run if you don't learn something from it):  
  • Training runs are meant in part to be about figuring things out; they aren't meant to be perfect.  I'll pack the Spibelt more appropriately in London because of the difficulties that I had with it yesterday.  
  • I'm still not sure why I reacted to my usual fuel the way that I did - maybe because it was a different flavour to the other ones I've used? - but I'm not going to risk it for London.  It's back to gels and jelly beans for me.  
  • Next run, I'll put on the Compeed before I start running. 
  • The Inverness HM is just going to be a normal training run, and that's fine. 
  • Even with all of the stopping and walking, I still finished in the time that I had planned.  And, despite how sore my legs and blisters were yesterday, it all feels back to normal today.  So maybe, just maybe, I can't always trust my perceptions.
  • I might not be able to run the whole marathon, but I will be able to finish.

No room for personal space issues

Friday, 1 March 2013

Flight of the Bumblebees

I dithered and dithered and dithered some more as to which shoes to wear for today's run.  My initial intention had been to wear the Bumblebees but this morning, they revealed themselves to be MEN'S SHOES.  That explains the colour then.  The website from which I bought them very clearly says that they are women's, as do all of the tracking emails; unfortunately, the box and the shoes themselves (once you know where to look) very clearly say MEN. 

I just wanted to run in the shoes that I know.  I didn't want to wear another gender's shoes on my feet, with the subtle differences in construction that might mean unhappiness for my legs.  But with the alternatives being either run the current shoes into the ground or start over again in a model that I've never worn before, I decided to give the Bumblebees a go.  (Although now that I know that they are boys, perhaps I should be calling them something a bit more manly - Wasps, perhaps?)

Today's run was 7 miles, with 5 of those miles meant to be at a 10min/mile pace.  I haven't managed to do consecutive pacey miles yet and, given my uncertainty over what might happen with these new shoes, I was hesitant to push myself.  So I didn't.  I just tried to run a bit faster than usual and ended up having a really good run.  After my warm-up mile, the next 5 miles were at 10:21, 10.20, 10:36, 9:57, and 10:07 paces.  I didn't feel that I was pushing myself at all; legs and cardio settled into a nice rhythm that didn't take too much thinking about to maintain.

I had to stop a couple of times to faff about with the lacings but otherwise the boys felt fine.  And I'm wondering whether the slightly wider toe box might end up being a good thing for the long runs and their attendant blisters, with more room to accommodate my swollen feet.  They're still yellow (even after running through the mud), but somehow I'm able to be more detached from their yellowness now that I know that they are shoes for men.  Yellow shoes?  Nothing to do with me, guv.

They're still on trial and I'll wait and see how my legs feel tomorrow, but these could end up being the marathon shoes.  Buzz buzz.