Monday, 23 February 2009

On a knife edge

Like the drug addict's income, its all gone to pot. Ok, I exaggerate, but its felt like it a few times over the last few days.

Last week's easy running week started on Tuesday with my second run with Abbey Runners. I wore the new orthotics as I'd felt no ill effects at all from them over the weekend so decided to take the slight risk of wearing them for a 6 mile easy run. Well, it would have been a slight risk if I hadn't got lost.

The various groups all set off together as far as the outer ring road with me near the front of the slowest group, unwittingly mixed with some faster groups. I dashed across the ring road alone and instead of stopping and waiting for the others I followed a group of 4 about 30m ahead, assuming them to be following the same route. After a brisk 200m I looked over my shoulder and saw that there was nobody following me. It was too late to turn round and find the other group so I speeded up to catch the group in front.

We ran a hilly 7 mile route in the hour and I managed to keep up ok. In fact by the end I felt pretty pleased with myself - I'd pushed myself through a hilly 7 mile tempo run and managed it ok.

The trouble was the podiatrist had given 3 pieces of advice:

1) Avoid hills
2) Avoid speedwork
3) Don't wear the new orthotics for more than 10 minutes on the first run.

On Wednesday morning my lower calves felt sore. By Wednesday night they were stiff and sore and my anterior tibial muscles had followed suit. On Thursday they felt no different but I decided to do the sceduled run anyway but cut it from 6 miles to 5 to balance out the extra mile on Tuesday. It wasn't fun. I took it slowly but the first 3 miles were accompanied by lower leg fatigue, stiffness and slight pain and my lower calves and AT muscles stiffened up for the remainder of the day.

Friday felt rather better and Saturday better still so on Sunday I set off for the third 6 miles of the cutback week. Again, it wasn't great. My AT muscles, especially on the right, felt tired and sore immediately and I felt like there may have been some peroneal soreness too. It was also windy and I'd tried running with an ipod but every few paces had to put the left earpiece back in - all adding to the the despondency of the run.

After 2 miles I stopped to stretch but immediately decided I would be better heading for home and set off back. Ironically the 30 second break had helped and the feeling of fatigue largely dissapeared to the point where the returning 2 miles became a bit of an impromtu fartlek. Happilly there has been no stiffness since but the lower leg pain and fatigue is a worry thats left me feeling stressed for the last few days. Paris seemed so certain and I'd hate to think I'd started a problem this far in that could keep me away from it.

With stress comes the tendency to overeat. The last couple of weeks have been tougher weight loss wise anyway - partly because the original weight loss methods/foods have become a bit dull and partly because weight loss does become tougher the more time goes on - but I was more or less on track by Thursday morning.

Trouble is Sue and the kids had gone away for a few days, leaving me home alone with a track record of living off take aways, sweets and biscuits in similar situations in the past. I held out until Friday when I headed for a Persian restaurant for my dinner - a huge salad, pickles and a mountain of rice and meat. In theory I'd had enough food to feel full and avoid eating for the rest of the day but the genie was now out of the bottle. By early evening I had a craving for chips. I tried to placate it with toast but to no avail. I resisted the temptation of a Chinese takeaway yet headed out to Mcdonalds for a Big Mac meal (with thick shake) and called in at a shop on the way back for a packet of biscuits and 3 chocolate bars. By 9pm I was in bed and feeling sick.

Saturday saw the family return but a Chinese for tea, and yesterday saw a day of general grazing including about 10 pieces of toast, 3 topped with cheese. Today's weigh in has me back at the weight I was 2-3 weeks ago.

I keep alternating between 2 views of where I am:

1) The voice of doom which tells me the diet has failed, I won't be able to get back on track and the best I can hope for is for the weight to stay the same; and that I've triggered chronic injury and won't have the opportunity to give it sufficient rest to heal - its just going to get worse until I accept defeat...


2) ...the voice of optimism that tells me a few days off the plan followed by a week's strict dieting could really kick start the previously slowing weight loss so all I need do is restart; and the pain I've had is simple DOMS and muscle adaptation from a beneficial speed session mixed with a smattering of imagined discomfort at the site of old injuries. Take it steady for the next few days and you'll feel 100% for Saturday's 20 miler.

Today I have a sports massage booked. If its muscle adaptation that should really help and I'm determined to stick to the plan weight loss wise and will stick even closer to the slowest group of runners tomorrow night!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Cut back time

Last week went well. I made it to the gym on Sunday as planned and did 30 minutes on the cross trainer as well as at least one set of twenty reps on each of the lower leg weights machines.

The following day the slight soreness in the quads had all but gone, though a hint of fatigue remained. That was lucky as it allowed my ravenous predilection for unnecessary worry to feast upon a fresh injury niggle - pain on the inside of my left kneecap.

Fortunately this had dissapeared by Tuesday allowing me to have my first run with the Abbey Runners. According to my schedule I was due to do only 2 very, very slow miles but the slowest group with Abbey ran for an hour at 10 minute mile pace. The pace was right but the rather easy maths told me I'd be doing somewhat more than 2 miles.

We ran down into Headingley, towards Meanwood and back to Adel via Far Headingley. Essentially 3 miles downhill on the way out and 3 miles uphill on the way back. For the first half I took it easy, enjoying the steady decline and feeling this was exactly the sort of easy run I needed. As soon as we turned for a long uphill drag on the way back I couldn't help but speed up. I don't know if it was the long forgotten experience of running with other people that allowed some subconscious sense of competition to manifest itself or whether I simply felt fairly bouyant but I swiftly made my way past a few others to run just behind the lead pair, where I stayed until we got back to Adel.

That turned the easy 6 miles into something more like a light tempo run (in marathon terms) but it was enjoyable and overall felt easy. I did decide to take the precaution of switching Thursday's scheduled run with Tuesday's though.

No ill effects on Wednesday and first thing Thursday I did 3 miles along the canal.

Friday meant the day where I relax the diet a bit before the next day's long run. It was also the day where I picked up my overdue orthotics. Reading the blurb with them it stated that I should wear for only an hour on day one, increasing by 30 minutes each day, and that I would experience pain from them for up to 6 weeks. Once I could wear for a day I could start running in them but only for 10 minutes - increasing by 15 each run. I've worn them for much of today and yesterday afternoon - no pain and they feel very comfortable. I think the painful groundwork was probably done with the old ones so I'll try and do 6 miles in them Tuesday.

I didn't feel quite as 'up for it' as the previous week when I set off on Saturday morning for the LSR though I was pleased to note the ice had pretty much gone. As per usual I set off deliberately slowly and plodded the first 5 miles and then speeded up just slightly for the next 2. I hoped for an average speed of 10:17 per mile but the usual mental arithmetic told me I'd need to run only a little over 10:00 for the remaining 11 miles to realise that. It seemed unlikely.

Fortunately an unwitting seventy year old pacemaker was to come to the rescue. I'd stopped at the 7 mile mark by Salt's Mill to consume my first gel and a few mouthfuls of water and was joined by an aged but lithe and sprightly chap training for his umpteenth marathon in London. We set off together and chatted for a little over a mile at which point his route left my own. I had been surprised when the Garmin told me we'd been running at 9:43 pace for the first mile together and without undue difficulty maintained a similar pace for the next 10 miles, ranging from a slowest mile of 9:45 to a fastest of 9:12. That brought the run's average down to 9:58.

No ill effects (aside from a range of large but painless blisters on each toe on my left foot) and a cold bath and donning some recently rediscovered Skins recovery tights ensured I stayed feeling good through the day and today I feel pretty fresh - no great fatigue or stiffness.

Another trip to the gym provided the answer to the previous week's knee pain. It wasn't running related at all. It seems that when I use the machine to train my adductors (or is it Abductors?) my muscles are comfortable doing sets of 20 with pretty much the full stack of weights but my ligaments and/or tendons aren't so strong meaning I got a short sharp bout of pain at the end of the second set. Thankfully that seems to have since cleared.

This week is another cut back week - just 3 x 6 mile runs. To be here and pain free is really heartening and I feel very confident of Paris. If there are any niggles this week should allow them to settle and also allow the muscle adaptation to complete. Then its 3 more heavy weeks before the 3 week taper. Next run is Tuesday and back out with Abbey again.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Another good week

Lying in bed at 8.30 on a Sunday morning feeling smug about the last week. Ok, I'm also feeling the burn of my third 'visit' of the morning following a trip to the excellent Aagrah restaurant in Shipley for their all you can eat buffet. Normally buffets offer up some pretty mixed fayre but at the Aagrah the food is consistently good from night to night or dish to dish. I probably ate more at a sitting than I have for any meal for a while - yesterday's run gave me quite an appetite.

So, the running. Last week's ice bath worked well as my legs just felt a bit tired on Monday but I still didn't run until Wednesday. We had about 4" of snow on Sunday night/Monday morning and this was more than doubled on Monday night. That meant Tuesday's planned run didn't happen. That was a shame as I'd made contact with someone at Abbey Runners and had planned to do a short run with them in the evening.

I was a bit worried on Wednesday as the snow wasn't melting and I'd done nothing, so I decided to give it a go, knowing I could always do 2 miles on he treadmill at the gym. In the event it wasn't too bad - slippy in places but kind of nice to be out - and the towpath was generally clear for some reason.

That meant my longer midweek run had to be done Thursday, just as another half inch of snow was falling. That was nice. Difficult to run in the mix of frozen snow, hidden sheets of black ice and fresh snow but nice to see your foot prints in the fresh snow, especially when they were the only ones there. In theory that was meant to be a speed session but that was impossible in the conditions. Not too worried about that though as the podiatrist had advised that speed sessions upped the risk for lower leg injuries for me.

On Friday my left knee felt sore, possibly from slipping on the ice but by Saturday morning felt fine. My every other day routine with the 'stick' also seemed to be helping my calves.

Saturday was the 16 mile LSR. I felt mildly apprehensive the day before, only because of injury risk in the lower leg, the sore knee and the fact that the snow and ice hadn't thawed, but a big portion of homemade spaghetti bolognese with wholwheat pasta provided plenty of fuel.

It turned out to be a slightly strange run. I set off with the temperature at -2.0c in my thickest running top, gillet, light gloves and hat but wishing I'd put another top underneath too. By halfway the sun was out, the ice was beginning to melt and I was feeling hot.

The footing was mixed. There were some sections where the path was dry and clear for 50m, others where there were large puddles of black ice blocking the way but for the most part it was a thick layer of compacted snow turned to ice with paches of frozen snow on top. I slipped twice but fortunately each time it was where I was hanging onto a rail to walk through a particularly icy bit. There were times where I needed to pick round ice or run through the frozen snow at the side of the towpath so it was probably more difficult than a normal run.

I ran beyond Saltaire this time and reached 8 miles just before a viaduct where the canal crossed over the previously adjacent River Aire. I carried on knowing there was a trail running alongside the Aire that would take me back a mile by an alternate route and had been able to see from the canal that that path was entirely clear of snow. I enjoyed that as it went past a number of boats from the rowing club on the river and past a large weir before cutting back through Roberts Park and the Saltaire Sports Club grounds.

The route back was even slipper as a thin layer of water formed over much of the ice but like last week I found speed increased in the second half. Again, I'd let myself run easilly in the first miles but had tried to stop the early miles getting quite as slow. I ended up averaging 10:08 for 16 miles in 2hrs 42 minutes.

Another ice bath later (this time still wearing socks and running tights) and my legs felt positively sprightly for the rest of the day. They're a little tired feeling today with the quads slightly sore but nothing very great and not enough to put me off my plan of going to the gym this morning.

Only downside to this week was that my orthotics didn't arrive as they were delayed by the bad weather. Hopefully they should arrive on Wednesday and i can start bedding them in.

This week should see me run with the Abbey Runners and hopefully ease through another good week's running and into the last cut back week the week after.

Monday, 2 February 2009

One month down

Its been a great start to the month.

Yesterday's 14 miles was really enjoyable. Set off nice and early and whilst it was cold and breezy the threatened high winds hadn't set in and the snowfall didn't start until mid afternoon.

I'm lucky with where I run. Yesterday's run had me heading out and back along the Leeds Liverpool canal as usual. That meant I ran through a mix of suburban, rural and industrial settings, finishing up at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire.

As per the 12 miler I did a fortnight earlier I deliberately set off slowly with the first mile being at the surprisingly ponderous 11.16 per mile pace. The next 4 miles were all slow too - between 10.43 and 10.57 against a target of 10.24. I knew I ought to speed up a bit (and unsurprisingly felt fine) but thought that was a bit much to make up and guessed at a 10.30 average if I was lucky. In the end I speeded up quite naturally and from mile 7 onwards pace ranged between 10.09 and 9.38 for a run average of 10.19. No pain, aside from a tight feeling behind my left knee in the final mile or so.

Didn't feel too pooped when I stopped and got back in the car either - a noticeable improvement on much of January.

I got in, had my chocolate Rego recovery drink and headed for my first cold bath. I'd read a number of accounts extolling the virtues of cold or ice baths and had used the cold pool at Canons Gym in 2007's training so decided to have another bash. Sue ran me a bath of cold water but because of the weather it was close to freezing already and within seconds of putting my feet in I was in agony from cramp like pains.

A dash of hot water and I was ok. I sat shivering dressed in t-shirt, fleece and trolleys for 10 minutes. On undressing to dry I was alarmed and amused to find my 'member' had been swapped for a bonsai variety!

It really did help though. Through the day my legs felt a little tired but no aches or stiffness. Its similar this morning, despite another session with the massage stick. Looks like the cold bath could be a weekly pleasure.

Today's good news was that the weight loss continues. The rate of loss has been more sedate overall of late and often stuttering during the week but today marked another drop for my 'official' weigh in. I'm now 13st 3.8lb and less than a month ago I was 14st 6.2lb. With luck I'll be able to cease dieting 2 weeks before Paris at about 12st 4lb.