Best foot forward

So having been cleared to run, you’re probably wondering why it took over a week for me to actually run. A stinky cold is the short answer. Having been cleared on Thursday to run, the plan was to head out Sunday and actually do it. However I’d had a cold brewing for a while and Saturday morning last week it lined up its final assault – which left me in no fit state to run on Sunday. Ho hum. What with that and a couple of all day meetings that sort of wiped the week out.

Yesterday, however, I was feeling much better. Even after a lovely lie in I woke to a world that had been dusted with glitter in the night; a very clear sky had resulted in a beautiful heavy frost. And what better weather to run in? I know – it’s one of the things that always makes me laugh about running – most people see a frosty morning and think it’s great to look at, or else needs 67 layers and a woolly hat before venturing out. I set out yesterday morning wearing 2 layers – although I did put a pair of gloves and a woolly hat on. And it was such a nice day for a run. Clear and still; it was nothing like as cold as the negative temperatures reported might sound.

Seeing it’s been over a month since I last ran, I stepped back a few time intervals. Having been at 10 minutes run to 1 minute walk when the ankle played up, I stepped that back to 3 minutes run to 1 minute walk. And I think that was about right. Managed the 3 minutes without too much trouble each time and used the 1 minute walk to cough, hack, spit and generally denude my respiratory passages of gunk. There really is nothing quite like a run for clearing the tail end of a cold. Snot-tastic. Should there be any high winds forecast, I can assure you that the shire will be in no danger – it is stuck to the map. Lovely!

It wasn’t terribly far, and it wasn’t terribly fast, but it felt just so lovely to be out. No worried at all in the ankle department, so that’s a relief. I took it quite carefully, as it was surprisingly slippery underfoot, with the frost causing a certain amount of slip sliding, especially on the smoother tarmac. But it places it was also making that crunchy noise as I ran over it. It was a fabulous day for a run, and I’m so glad that I was able to get out and enjoy it.

I will report that I was also a very good girl and did my stretches before and after the run, in order to warm up the calves and try to avoid a repetition of the pain. Just need to be diligent and do them every day… that might be a bit more difficult!

Hotel one niner, you are cleared for takeoff

Just a very brief update today. I’ve been to the physio and have been squeezed, poked, pummeled and generally beaten up for the last few weeks. But all to the good, today I got clearance to run again. Hurrah. I have some remedial work to do to increase the length of my hamstrings and calves, but nothing that can’t be worked on (as long as I remember to). Christmas parties tomorrow and Saturday (you should see my shoes for that one) mean it’ll be Sunday before I can get out. Fingers crossed for good weather…

That’s torn it!

This week sees virtually nothing in the way of running as exercise. It did see a fair amount of running about like a blue arsed fly at work, but that’s a completely different scenario. What did happen this week was a trip to a specialist to work out what I’ve managed to do to my ankle. Well after much prodding, poking, manipulating (yes, I can feel that, no, I have never moved that way) it seems that I haven’t done myself a lot of damage, but I have managed to do myself some quite specific damage. It seems I’ve got a tear in the calf right at the area the Achilles tendon joins the calf muscle. It is quite localised, but it’s certainly there. There’s mixed feelings. At least I have done something, it’s not my imagination. At least it is localised and there don’t appear to be any serious issues anywhere else. But I shouldn’t be running on it. Botheration. With my sensible hat on I can quite see this make sense. All I’m doing is tearing open what might have healed, and possibly making it worse, each time I go out. Botheration. Treatment to follow, to try and speed the healing cycle, as “sit around and wait” is not exactly my strong suit. Botheration yet again, just in case you’d not got the idea that I’m not entirely happy about this.

How easy it is to lapse

This week has demonstrated to me exactly how easy it would be for me to lapse as a runner again. All the while I wasn’t actively running, I still thought of myself as a runner, albeit an inactive one. Having dragged my lardy arse out and rediscovered the pleasure of running, I hit my first hurdle. This was a dual pronged approach by the gods of mischief; part one comprised a sore calf, as incurred in a run last week. Part 2 was the weather and my wimpiness in the face of inclement weather. My last run was Wednesday, when the sore ankle/calf developed. It had stiffened up into a general aching calf by the end of the day and so I decided to rest it a week, before running again.

Wednesday came and went without venturing out. I have little willpower in the face of strong wind and rain, add that to the fact it was pretty much dark when I got home and the comfort of my sofa won hands down. Thursday I was just too late from work to even consider a run. Friday I was working from home, so could have gone out for a plod at any point really, but it was windy again and I was feeling cold and headachy, so stayed in the study with my radiator. On neither day was it that bad – I’ve certainly run in worse weather than that. There was no excuse for the failure to get out the door, it was simply a lack of willpower.

Saturday I finally ran out of excuses, it had been raining and while it was overcast, it wasn’t actually raining. It was breezy, but it wasn’t blowing anything as hard as it was earlier in the week. It was chilly, but it wasn’t frosty, as it had been earlier in the week. After a trip into town to do the shopping and head to the library to swop some books I finally found out the running kit and headed out the door. Couldn’t find my beany hat – it’s probably mixed up with the undies in the laundry basket – so it was baseball cap and long sleeved shirt and out the door.

And it was going pretty well for a time. Was debating whether to try the 10 minute run intervals that I’d started last time out, or dip back to 7 minute intervals. As it felt pretty good at 7 minutes, I went out for the 10 minutes. After 16 minutes, I got to the pylon. Not wanting to make this too long or over stress anything, I turned there, rather than heading to the next turning location. I started thinking about how to arrange at least one running session during the week, going for a run at lunchtime (either at work, or when working from home are both options) and I started toying with the idea of joining a club again- although I’d like to be running a bit further before i go along to a club – I’d hate to think I’m slowing them up.

And then the gods of mischief decided to throw the dice again. I was on my way back, having just started the third run interval, when I got that same stabbing pain in my right calf. Same place, same presentation – couldn’t find a stretch, hurt when weight was transferring to the toes. Buggeration. It wasn’t quite as stabby as the previous experience, such that I was able to run back, although I did add a few walk breaks into what should have been the last 10 minute run section. Even with that delay, the run turned out to have a pretty good average pace, being under 13 minutes for a mile. I’ve only beaten than 3 or 4 times since I started back again, so I’m clearly making progress – if I can just hold together for the entirety of a run.

So another run that was much like a curate’s egg. I spent the afternoon looking a physio websites, and may well be making a call on Monday morning to see if I can’t get this sorted out. Thanks to the gods of mischief for another hurdle in the path to being a runner again. ūüė¶

Not the best day

Some days are destined to not be the best days in your life. It seems yesterday was once such. One one level it wasn’t going to be a high point, as it was father-in-law’s funeral. Hardly the happiest of days. His coffin was received into church on the Tuesday evening, after which hubby and his sister and some local band members rang a quarter peal. I’d said that I would ring if needed, but I struggle to ring for that long – my hands hurt for several days afterwards. Fortunately, sufficient locals were available that I was not required. Not that being surplus to requirements stopped me heading down the pub with them afterwards – as is traditional in ringing circles.

So Wednesday morning finds us at his parents house, and all the family had congregated. I have to admit to being a little bit of a solitary soul, in that I can be sociable for a certain length of time, but after that I need my own space to retreat to. And when emotions are running higher than usual, that space on my own becomes more important. So after a few days with the family, I was getting a bit desperate for some time on my own. Plan hatched – I reviewed the map and plotted a route for a run. I used to live here, during my PhD, and all I can say is it doesn’t look very much like that any more! I’d hardly recognise parts of town and the new tram works mean that some roads and routes no longer exist, or are closed. Add that to my lack of navigational ability and you have a bit of a recipe for disaster. A simple route was planned, down past the station to the canal and back. Not the most scenic of routes, but not hilly or risky either.

And it was all going so well. I took it quite easy, intending to extend the run intervals to 10 minutes. In fact, by extending the first interval to the traffic lights (not being sure how long it would take me to cross) I actually ran for 11 minutes in one go. And then it all went a bit Pete Tong. Running down the railway bridge, I had this stabbing pain in my right ankle. On the back inside left of the right leg, just above the sock. ouch ouch ouch. Sort of came to a halt quite quickly and tried to work out what it was. I couldn’t stretch it and feel any pain, the only time it seemed to complain (which it did loudly) was after the weight had been transferred from the heel to the toes. I could point and flex the foot with no issues when no bearing weight, but put weight on it and lifting the heel was really sore. I tried a few steps onwards, but soon decided that was really not a good idea and headed back home. This was achieved at a sort of slow limping jog interspersed with lots of short walks. The 10 minutes run intervals were no more. I will not bother reporting time or distance, it’s simply not worth the effort. It might have been good while it lasted, but that was not a good run.

Having got home, my next concern was what on earth was I going to do about shoes for the funeral! I’ve got smart black heels with me to go with the black suit. And hobbling up the aisle after the coffin might not have been the calmness one had been hoping to achieve. Fortunately (and for reasons I fail to understand) wearing sizable heels was actually far easier then trying to walk in trainers was. I assume that the gait is quite different and the weight transfer and push off the toes doesn’t happen in heels in the same way as in flat shoes or when running. I will admit that the bottom of the calf did stiffen up during the day, and by the time we went out for a family meal in the evening (when I was in the third set of foot wear of the day – a pair of ankle boots with a small heel) the ankle was stiff and complaining in a more general aching manner. I could also feel a dull pain when trying to flex the foot or stretch the calf, so I know that it is something not right down in that area.

All of which leaves me in a quandary of when to try to run again. Leave it too long and I’ll have got out of the running habit, go out to soon and I risk making it worse. It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in your own problems, but I should remember that at least I’m alive and in sufficient health to be moaning about a sore ankle. Yesterday was possibly not the best day, but at least I have tomorrows to worry about and to enjoy.

Back on my feet again

Never fear! The title it not intended to indicate a lay off with injury. Instead I’ve had a mad mad mad week with work such that I feel I’ve spent the entire week sitting down, be that on a mode of transport or in meetings. Monday started with driving to our Norfolk site, then being taxied to Gatwick prior to a flight to Switzerland. Just over 24 hours (and one 6 hour long site visit) later we were arriving back in Gatwick before the taxi back up to Norfolk. Then into a hotel, and into 2 days of back to back all day meetings. I did take my kit with me, hoping to maybe get out for a plod Wednesday night, but it never quite happened. Being in a meeting all day seems to mean that you come out of the meeting to find that your day job has been piling up waiting for you; so instead of a run, I did a few hours work, then found myself having to hurry back to the hotel to get changed before dinner out with the customer (as if we’d not seen enough of them during the day!). Now that bit I may have misjudged, it turned out to be a longer walk from site to hotel than anticipated – not helped by having to walk 3 sides of the site as there’s no short cut. grrr. Taking that walk at a fast pace, I have since had sore lines of tightness up the outsides of both ankles. By Friday, and the end of the third all day meeting in a row, I was so glad to be home that I just flumped on the sofa all evening, catching up on TV and generally being a lazy madam.

So after just about a week spent almost entirely on my behind I was feeling the need to get out. Saturday morning, therefore, became out and run time. Not having been out in the week, I stuck at the same pattern as previously, 5 minutes run to 1 minute walking. Only this time I went that bit further. Instead of turning round at the pylon, I continued on the same road until I came to the entrance to the church and the manor farm. At this point, there’s a sort of turning circle, which allow me to cross the road at a run without trying to half turn round to look quite so far over my shoulder. The only downside to extending the run is that I get a real physiological hill to get over. Just prior to the village, the road dips down and changes from open fields on either side to being almost enclosed in a tunnel by greenery. Heading down the slope is OK, but coming back you’re under this green tunnel, which is surprisingly dark, and you can see the top of the rise ahead of you. But where it is dark you don’t see the beginning of the rise very well, there is just the top and the sky seemingly far ahead of you; all of which conspires to make it look a lot steeper than it probably is. Just my luck, a walk segment ended just as I reached the foot of the rise, so I had to start running heading up it. Blimey, not done that in a while and it was quite hard going. However, that brings up my furthest run to date, and it felt really good to be out and moving the limbs. Even the tight ankles didn’t play up. Must be something about walking that aggravates then, although why running would not eludes me.

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 3.44 miles
Time – 45:49 minutes
Pace – 13:20 minutes/mile

So that feels much better. The body has been shaken out and still appears to work. Next week should have a lighter work schedule, so hopefully I’ll manage multiple runs and move up to a longer run interval next week.

Nice and easy does it.

And so we reach half plus 2 days. By Tuesday morning, the aches in the legs had started to ease up. In fact, the aches had moved from the sides of my hips on¬†Monday morning, to the bottom of my thighs and bottom of my back. Despite this, everything was feeling better and walking was no longer being undertaken at a snail’s pace with little shuffly steps. In fact, Tuesday¬†I even went so far as to wear low boots, rather than trainers – not heels quite yet though.

So I was very good and went out just for a little run on Tuesday night. Not far, not fast, but just enough to make sure everything was still functioning. 3 miles in 37:32 won’t break any records, but it was an even pace and felt good. It all ached a bit at the start, but the aches soon subsided. I was most relieved that my left ankle, that was hurting like billy oh on Monday was, in fact, entirely happy with the concept of running, including over some uneven ground. No tweaks or twinges anywhere. What a relief!

Followed this up with a good stretching session and feel that I’m pretty much recovered from the exertions of Sunday. I’ve certainly been making up for the calories burned, been starving hungry at unusual times and eating like a horse ever since! ¬†Not sure I’m up to speed work on Thursday with the club, but I think I’ll give it a go regardless.

PGER race report

9th October 2011, Perkins Great Eastern Run.

After my fretting about the weather, the forecast on Sunday morning was overcast, not too hot (16 degrees) a bit breezy (11 mph) and dry. Well it managed to be not far from the mark, with cloud cover all the way and no rain. It was a bit muggy initially, but not dreadfully hot. The wind caught a few times, especially a head wind on one or two of the return stretches, but it was better than the midweek forecast had looked!

Laid everything out Saturday evening, clothes to run in, club vest, extra layers to keep warm initially and put back on afterwards and my race bag; complete with number, chip, towel, water, map, car park permit, some money and cereal bars to refuel afterwards.

Number pinned on vest.

Race day dawned and we’d decided not to watch either the rugby or the Grand prix live, it would all be a bit too tight for time, so a lie in until gone 7 am. Porridge & coffee for breakfast, with a pint of squash to¬†hydrate properly. They say don’t do anything new on race day, but I’m certainly not dressed and ready to leave 2 hours ahead of a training run! Left home just before 9 am, to make sure¬†I got there in plenty of time – hate being late, even a bit. Parked in my usual Peterborough carpark, not nearest to either start or finish, but knowing where you’re going is worth the extra few minutes walk. Plenty of parking spaces, so was fretting for nothing – as usual.

Walked into the Cathedral square and managed to locate¬†a bunch of people from the club, all loitering with intent near the loos! Jigged¬†about nervously, with the best part of an hour to kill until the start. After pinning my number to shirt, and sorting out chip, garmin¬†etc and¬†what¬†I was going to wear, (pink T-shirt with green club vest – maybe not the most stylish combination ever) it was time to strip down to the running gear, stash the spare clothes in the bag & hand in to the baggage truck. Then the ritual queue for the loo and a last-minute pee. Avoided the mass warmup, they strike me as a waste of time and energy! I’m about to run 13 miles, I’ll be quite warmed up enough after jogging the first half mile, thank you very much.

Called to the start line and we headed down the road en masse.¬†I stopped first, having an estimated race time of 2 hours 30. Various other people had a fair old walk towards the front of the start funnel. And then it started. Towards the back this never happens in the sudden way it does at the front; it’s more a walk forward, then a shuffle before breaking into a slow jog, hopefully before the start line! Started the Garmin at the start line, and set off.

I’d like to think I’m an intelligent person, who can learn from mistakes,¬†so why is it¬†I can’t seem to start a run at a sensible pace? I mean, I was planning for 11:30 minutes per mile, so what on earth made me set off at 10:45 for the first mile? I tried to slow, but the next mile wasn’t much better, at 11 minutes. And that’s about the pace I stayed at for the first half. It was feeling OK, and there comes a point where trying to run slower just starts feeling unnatural; so¬†I went with it, knowing the wheels were going to fall off sometime, it was just a matter of when. Went through 6 miles (just under 10k) in under 65 minutes. That’s barely outside my 10k PB pace! That is seriously insane!!

From somewhere in the first mile, I’d been running near another lady¬†running on her own, wearing a Run London (North) shirt. Not necessarily with each other, just alongside. It was quite companionable, exchanging the odd word – most noticeably¬†when one of the Macmillan fundraisers in green net tutu and bright green thong ran past – hairy male bum isn’t what you expect to see in¬†a race! I made half way in 1:11, a good 4 minutes¬†ahead of¬†target schedule. At this point I saw Karen. She runs at the club in a much faster group, but I’ve met her at the ladies’¬†runs¬†& know her by name and hobby – baking cakes. She said she’d recently had a cold, and was feeling ropey, so rather than¬†plough round for a poor (by her standards) time, she waited for me, to run me in. Awww, how completely sweet was that!

So then there were 3, me, unknown lady¬†& Karen, all going along at about 11 minutes per mile. Somewhere about mile 8 we had a faster mile, and it just about did for me. From there on it all started to hurt quite¬†a lot. The lady¬†I’d been running with went on at her own pace, and very good she was looking too when I last saw her. Not long after mile 9 I stopped and walked just after an underpass. grrr. Not impressed with myself, but I was feeling hot, faint, dizzy and slightly sick – almost certainly with hunger, as I could feel my stomach clapping together. With Karen cajoling, encouraging and doing a very good sergeant major impression, I kept going at a much reduced pace. Having gone to half way ahead of target, I knew¬†I could afford to slow, but not by too much. Walking too far will quickly add many¬†minutes to¬†a race time.

So, keeping half an eye on the Garmin,¬†I tried to keep it all¬†going. The clock tells the tale, mile 8 – 10:46, mile 9 –¬†11:31, mile 10 –¬†11:52, mile 11 – 12:52.

 The Garmin's verdict

Just before the 11 mile marker was the last water station. At the other stations I’d been mainly throwing water at my face and neck/chest to cool down, just swigging¬†a bit to wet my mouth, but here I slowed to a walk and drank the entire bottle. Don’t know if this made a difference¬†physically or just psychologically,¬†but I did start feeling better from here. Not to say it was easy, but the last 2 miles were certainly better, and speeding up, 11:59 and 11:04 respectively. With Karen doing a spectacular job of chivvying¬†me along, I didn’t stop again. In fact she even encouraged something I might actually describe as a sprint finish¬†out of me! Last 0.1 mile was at 8:33 pace! The finish comes through an avenue of trees, then a slight bend and the finish chute opens up down a field. I’d started speeding up before the avenue, so that it was full steam train mode¬†down the finish chute and about half way along I could hear those of the club that had already finished shouting and cheering me on. At that point I was very pleased to have conjured the finish out of myself, as to have been walking¬†in¬†the face of that support would have been dreadfully embarrassing.

Crossed the line with a gun time of 2:30, and a chip time of 2:27:28. Personal best by almost 10 minutes, which was astounding! I certainly wouldn’t have knocked that chunk off without Karen’s help in the second half.¬†Second half was 3 minutes longer than the first. Some brilliant data available on the RunPix website. In case that doesn’t work,¬†I’m number 341 and it’s the Great Eastern Run 2011. Despite how poorly I thought the second half went, I overtook more people than overtook me between half way and the end. Find that surprising, as it didn’t feel that way!

T shirt & nice shiny medal for the collection

Had my chip removed, as there was no way¬†I was going to be able to reach my ankles, by a lovely volunteer who let me lean on her for a minute or two. Then collected a lovely cotton goody bag, water, bottle, T-shirt, medal (I do love a good medal), more water and a banana! The water and banana didn’t last 5 minutes, and certainly went someway to making me feel better. Collected my bag and we wandered down to where the club had gathered. At this point the legs cried “enough” and I just had to sit down. Took my time having a stretch, then a slow hobble back to the car, another stretch and then drove home. Once home we watched the Grand prix (which was really good), while¬†I had yet another stretch on the carpet in front of the TV – inviting several strange comments from the beloved!

Today I’ve been feeling dreadfully stiff in the hip, and my left ankle was hurting badly this morning. I may have left for work in shoes, but I soon resorted to a pair of comfy trainers, which looked really stylish when worn with a skirt & tights! But I’ve kept moving all day and it’s all beginning to feel a bit less of a struggle – although stairs are still not my friends.

And I get to do it all again in 6 weeks time at St Neots. hmm, what pace would I have to get sub 2:25…

The going got tough

Club night. Did wonder if going out with Sally’s group was wise for a first run back with them after a break. And it was a bit tough at times, but I wasn’t left behind too badly. Wasn’t actually too cold, but there was a stiff breeze that cut right through. It was dark and beginning to get a bit cold by the time we got back though – may have to consider long sleeves in the near future.

An out¬†and back, each in 2 stages. Out as a group to the flyover, then out & back to the other end of the village at your own pace, turning at 20 minutes. Then back to base as a group for a brief stretch. In places that was certainly¬†speedier than I’ve done recently!¬† Ran the out being cajoled along by Sally, but came back with Hayley, both discussing niggles and what to do. She’s got knee issues, has been told she’s OK to run on, but it wasn’t feeling right at all. At least with an ankle I can exercise it, but what do you do with a knee? Then the conflicting advice on compression, and when to compress. Running does throw up some issues that a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t – but I’d still not give it up.

Distance – 5.9 miles
Time – 1:07:54
Pace – 11:32 min/mile
Best pace Р1.55 miles at an average of 10:54

Wore my new shoes, and they’re a little bit like running on podgy cushions underfoot, while, at the same time, being firm and grippy around the foot itself. Very nice, and a dramatic contrast to the old ones, which feel flat and soggy in contrast. It was dry out, so they are still pristine and bright on the outside – on the inside they may look clean, but they certainly don’t smell it!

If the shoe fits

Beautiful, pristine shoes (on the kitchen worktop)

It wasn’t until I was browsing some photos looking for something to head this blog with that I realised quite how old my current shoes are. Mizuno wave riders¬†for the interested. They certainly don’t look like this any more!

There’s a general rule of thumb that you should change shoes after ~ 500 miles. Obviously, this is only a guideline, but it’s as well to keep a rough track of the miles done in a pair.

Showing some wear and tear and relegated to the doormat.

Having realised that my current shoes are no longer pristine (understatement) I wondered if that might be a contributing factor in my recent ankle issues. These lovely purple trimmed ones, with mega-long purple laces,¬†are nearly a year old. Taking my usual weekly mileage as 15 to 20 miles, this means these must have at least¬† 700 miles in them. hmm. Well that is obviously a reason to go shopping.¬†Only slight issue is the way the shoe manufacturers seem intent on introducing a new shoe each season. Not content with just changing the colour, they seem to want to tweak the shoes’ design, shape or construction. It’s always presented as an improvement, but when you’ve found a pair that you like, you want the same¬†again, not some version of them. So it is with a little trepidation that¬†I¬†set off for a new pair of shoes.

Startlingly white shoes!

But,¬†after running on a treadmill for the first time EVER and having my feet videoed¬†and my gait analysed (courtesy of TriSportplus¬†in Huntingdon)¬†I’m now¬†the proud owner of a shiny new pair. Wave Riders again, on the “if it ain’t broke…” principle. 14s this time. They’re incredibly white and bright and I’m tempted to find a muddy puddle to dunk them in, just to tone them down a bit! They feel incredibly cushioned, which only goes to show quite how worn the previous ones were. Might need to find some pink laces for them though…