Monday, August 03, 2015

Progress Or Not?

When I first got injured I could not have imagined that recovery would take so long. I remember thinking that the Spartathlon was 3 months away and it would not really matter all that much. Reality has been very, very different. I guess I just don't do things by half - when I got my first injury in 8 years it had to a serious one that would take a long time to heal!

I'm generally not someone to follow rules and commands (my managers over the years can testify that). However, I quickly realised that I needed help with this injury and it would be just plain daft to go (and pay) for advice and then not follow it, so I'm following Derek's instructions very closely. I did think at times his progression program is overly cautious but always knew that erring on the side of caution is by far better than doing too much too soon and getting injured again, and recent events suggest he was right all along.

I did a fairly long cycle on Saturday; not long by serious cyclists' standards but the longest bike ride I'd ever done. It took me slightly over an hour to reach the top of Ballaghasheen, partially because I cracked on the final climb and had to take a breather, but it felt good to feel some good pain in the legs from the exercise rather than the bad pain from the injury. On the way home I got rather tired and started wishing to be home sooner rather than later, something I've experienced often enough at the end of a long run, and once more a good thing to suffer through. I don't know if I still have a realistic chance of making the Spartathlon but if I do then some serious work that includes a bit of suffering will be unavoidable.

Sunday was good. Really good. I almost felt like I was over that injury. The hip was fine, just a very dull discomfort, barely worth mentioning. I increased the distance by yet another mile. 6 miles was a significant marker: Derek had said that if I could run for 6 miles/10k without issues than I can start running every day, though the intervening days would have to be short. I did start feeling the hip again in the afternoon but I have done that after every run and the fact that I had been sitting in a car for a few hours sure did not help. Was it worse than on other days? I can't tell.

Unfortunately, as soon as I woke on Monday morning I immediately noticed that the hip wasn't feeling great. I did my 3 mile run anyway and it felt like a run a week or two earlier, not great. The pace was pathetically slow, despite the effort being the same as the day before. It was the first time that I had to deal with a setback since starting on the way back and it did nothing for my mood. It really is possible to hate your own body. I followed the run with 50 minutes on the bike trainer, the longest I have ever managed to train on a stationary device, be it trainer or treadmill. Maybe I did it for self-punishment but, as always, the hip felt better after cycling - unfortunately, the Spartathlon is not a cycling race!

A few hours in the garden had me knackered, especially after the morning workouts. I figured that anything was better than sitting down.

I think I'm pretty much on the edge. Of course I don't want a significant setback but with the lack of time it feels worth taking a few risks - if I miss the Spartathlon I have several months throughout the winter to get fit again. The next few weeks will tell.

I need a new HRM - my present one keeps dropping out. It's the least of my problems, though.

2 Aug
6 miles, 47:26, 7:54 pace, HR ???
3 Aug
3 miles, 26:49, 8:57 pace, HR 143

Friday, July 31, 2015

Cautious Optimism

18 years ago Niamh dragged me all the way to the altar.
It's the same news as for the last few weeks: things are getting better, but very, very slowly. I saw Derek again on Tuesday; he reminded me that 3 weeks ago he predicted 4-6 weeks of healing time and so far it looks like he was right. He also thinks that the Spartathlon won't be happening for me. I, on the other hand, haven't completely given up hope yet. Someone who is daft enough to sign up for a 153 miles race in the first place might be stupid enough to try and run it even without the necessary training done, and I might even treat it as a recce for next year. I've signed up and paid the full price for the race and the flights already, so I'll definitely head for Greece, assuming the country is still around in September (signs for that are encouraging at least). As Anto pointed out, the worst case scenario is one extra night in a 3-star hotel on the beach. If you look at it like that ...

With Derek's permission I have slowly, very very slowly, started to increase the mileage again but I'm still only running every second day. I did 4 miles on Wednesday, which is less than I would even consider getting out of bed for under normal circumstances but still longer than all the previous runs. I felt reasonably good on the run, similar to Monday though it's hard to be sure. The hip injury is still very clearly noticeable. I was perfectly fine immediately afterwards but the hip felt rather stiff once again after lunch time.

That evening I dug out my little bike trainer that had been gathering dust for almost five years in the attic and set it up. Derek wants me to start doing hard intervals on the bike, which would be too dangerous to do on the road, and I wanted to set it up and test it out first. I also figured 30 minutes on the bike would loosen up the hip again. Things worked on both fronts; it's a very basic, simple ans sturdy trainer, which meant the previous 5 years did no harm to it and the hip did indeed feel better again afterwards. The one downside is that I noticed how quickly the tyre gets worn down on the trainer - now I'm paranoid to take the bike back out on the road in case the tyre is worn thorough and will fail me when I'm miles away from home.

I have some little tests for the hip. Balancing on one leg while putting on a sock on the other one would have been utterly impossible 2 weeks ago, still required something to lean against until last Sunday and is now perfectly doable. It might sound silly but if I can manage that then I feel I can manage to run a few miles as well. Getting up from a chair and walking around for a minute is still a very good indicator; the only problem I have is to figure out if the stiffness is better or worse than the previous day. Changes are small and therefore rather subtle.

Anyway, after that successful test on Wednesday evening I did an interval session on Thursday, a short one because you have to build up slowly - after all, building up too quickly was what got me into this situation in the first place. I do hope it will get my system going again so that I can reap some benefits once I am able to return to running properly again. Who knows, I might even come back stronger eventually - you have to live in hope!

The 5 miles I did on Friday morning were the longest run I've done for several weeks. The hip felt good first thing in the morning so I more or less knew that this would go reasonably well. Indeed. it was probably the best run I've had since getting injured. I'm not sure why the HR was so high, maybe it's because of the fitness I've lost over the last few weeks, but that's a very minor concern right now. As long as the hip behaves I can extend it to 6 miles on Sunday and if that goes well I can start running every day again. Hallelujah!

The Tralee 100k will be on tomorrow (Saturday). My heart is bleeding. Good luck to all the lucky runners; I'll be at the Brandon this evening for a short talk unfortunately but I won't be joining you on the course.

29 Jul
4 miles, 33:36, 8:24 pace, HR 149
31 Jul
5 miles, 41:25, 8:17 pace, HR 153

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Light

I probably should have stayed away from Facebook the last few weeks. Reading about all those races my friends were doing broke my heart every time. However, I was delighted to see Fozzy Forristal win the 100k in Courtmacsherry on Saturday, and in a very good time as well. The next time Marcus Howlett introduces me as Kerry's best ultra runner he may have to qualify that statement. Well done indeed, Fozzy!

I awoke on Saturday morning with the thought that there were now less than 9 weeks until the Spartathlon, which did not exactly fill me with joy. Even if I were able to return to training sooner rather than later, I have missed so much training that it may well be too late already. Last week I ran all of 8 miles, which is about 92 fewer than I would have done had things gone to plan. I did cycle a few more, though that doesn't even come close to compensating.

I'm not dissing cycling, it's actually quite fun; certainly a lot better than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. I'm working fairly hard on the bike and hopefully my cardiovascular system will remain somewhat intact, though I'm not quite sure how much of that translates into running. Of course, nothing makes up for the fact that I need to get my legs used to the pounding on the road.

I was quite surprised to see just how much more popular cycling is on strava compared to running. There are way more segments and they are way more competitive. I own a few local KOMs in running even though every single one of them is rather soft - I will never even come close to a single one in cycling, I think we can be pretty sure of that.

Anyway, on Saturday I made my way around the lake road for an hour long trip. Initially I was planning on turning around after 30 minutes until I realised that a full loop would take me pretty close to one hour, so I decided to do just that. However, just after the halfway mark I encountered a fairly big group of cows on the road. Initially they started moving away but then a big bull stopped dead in his tracks and started eyeing me suspiciously, at which point I decided to get back to the original plan and turn around after all. Shame, I had been looking forward to the 3-mile climb I had only just started on.

On Sunday morning I immediately noticed a big change in my hip as soon as I woke up. It felt a lot better than before, though there is the distinct possibility that this was down to the ibuprofen I had taken the evening before rather than a genuine improvement in my injury. It was raining, so I decided to go for a flatter route because I did not fancy descending on narrow, twisty, pothole-strewn roads in wet conditions. The last thing I need is to acquire an additional injury from a bike crash. Cycling felt fine, an hour passed very quickly and I got home without incident. The hip continued to feel okay and for the first time in weeks I was actually looking froward to my next run, full of hope that things were finally getting better.

Well, I did my by now customary 3 mile  run on Monday morning. For the first time in a month I felt like I could actually stride out properly, though the injury was still clearly noticeable. However, the discomfort level was now down to a 3/10, better than ever before, and the level my physio told me would be acceptable to continue running. I ran a little bit fast once more because I have lost my ability to judge pace and effort, though that's a minor issue for a 3-mile run.

I think I can finally see some light at the end of that far-too-long-already tunnel. Let's hope it's not the oncoming train.

27 Jul
3 miles, 23:55, 7:58 pace, HR 152

Friday, July 24, 2015

Wrong Sport

If I weren't a runner I would think I am no longer injured by now. The discomfort after sitting is virtually gone and even the chairs in the office's meeting room that were just pure poison on my hip only a week ago are now perfectly tolerable. Unfortunately there is still one activity where I can clearly feel the effects of my injury, and that just happens to be running.

After 12 miles had turned out to be too much last week (well, running 4 and 5 miles on consecutive days was too much) I have been much more careful this week, just running 2 miles on Monday and then 3 on Wednesday and Friday. I cycled on the other days and since cycling does not cause any discomfort (in fact I feel better after it, though that's probably down to endorphins) I got permission to extend the duration of the cycling, so I did a bit over 30 minutes on Tuesday and about 40 on Thursday, with the plan of cycling for an hour on the weekend. I expected the cycling HR to be lower than what I usually do when running but I averaged as much as 151 on Thursday. This may be down to a loss of fitness; I didn't think I had been working particularly hard. When running a HR of 151 would probably be a tempo run and my cycling effort was definitely not an equivalent of that.

Cycling is actually quite fun at the moment, I do enjoy it, especially after being starved of exercise over the past few weeks. How much of that exercise will be relevant to running remains to be seen. I know there is a certain amount of cross over, but the specific fitness to run at a high level can only be gained by running.

I almost certainly ran too fast on Wednesday. I was too pre-occupied monitoring my hip to pay much attention to anything else, and by the time I realised I was breathing rather hard I was almost back home. There is a silver lining in that as well - a 7:47 miles might not have been a good idea in my present state but the mere fact that I was able to run a 7:47 miles is actually a sign that thing are improving - last week I barely managed 9-minute pace! However, the one number that jumped out at me was not the pace but the cadence - a whopping 193, at least 10 steps per minute faster than normal. It's because I cannot (or at least I subconsciously feel that I cannot) stride out properly and stride length is well down, so the cadence is up in compensation. Friday was a little bit calmer, with a cadence of 190 - this time I made sure to take it a bit easier.

I keep doing my exercises, though I am wondering if they are a waste of time, especially the isometric ones, because they feel so easy. I will see Derek again on Tuesday; let's see what he says.

My weight keeps shooting up. I'm not sitting on the sofa all night pigging out, but I've already gained more than 5 pounds since the start of the month!

Shit, it's only 9 weeks to the Spartathlon. Things are not looking good.

22 Jul
3 miles, 24:22, 8:07 pace
24 Jul
3 miles, 25:03, 8:21 pace, HR 148

Monday, July 20, 2015

Insane In The Brain

I would do just about anything to keep me sane at the moment. I was already wondering if I had suddenly developed a severe case of mid-life crisis but I think it's more likely that the absence of running and even exercise in general is driving me nuts. That's probably a good thing because a mid-life crisis would suck big time: I can't afford a sports car and if I ever had an affair and Niamh found out I would not want to be in the vicinity!

Thanks for a couple of suggestions.

The possibility for heat training is severely hampered by the lack of heat in this part of the country. Less than half a continent away they might be suffering from a severe heat wave but here in Kerry we're still delighted when on the odd occasion we managed to spot a gap between the clouds. It's too early for heat adaptation for the Spartathlon anyway. In a month that will become more important but not yet.

Pool running is problematic due to the absence of a pool in my vicinity - I'd have to drive half an hour each way to get to the nearest one and that's just not going to happen. I stopped attempting triathlons mainly for that very reason and I can't see myself sacrificing an hour for something as abhorrent as pool running.

I begged Derek to let me at least go for a cycle and he partially relented but set the upper limit at a shockingly low 20 minutes. I did two easy 5 mile cycles on the weekend which took maybe 17 or 18 minutes. That felt comfortable and the hip did not bother me at all (a genuine 0/10), so I think he's erring at the side of caution but that's almost certainly a good thing of course.

As soon as I woke on Saturday I immediately noticed a big improvement in the hip but that may have been due to taking some anti-inflammatory tablets on Friday evening rather then a genuine improvement in the condition. Up to now I have avoided taking anti-inflammatory drugs because inflammation is part of the body's natural healing process and taking tablets to suppress that will increase recovery time rather than help, but Derek advised a short course so I took some over the weekend. I have now stopped that and the hip still feels better so I do live in hope.

Because I felt so much better I went for a very short run this morning, only 2 miles. That's hardly worth getting changed for but it's all I'm allowed after 4 or 5 miles turned out to be too much last week. I can feel a big improvement but the hip is still bothering me as soon as the road starts climbing even by a minuscule gradient, so I need to be careful.

I managed all of 12 miles last week and it turned out to be too much, I sure hope this is going to improve further sooner rather  than later. I need to run. Not for the Spartathlon - for my sanity. And Niamh's.

20 Jul
2 miles, 17:43, 8:51 pace, HR 143

Friday, July 17, 2015

No-Progress Report

There are no less than 3 races on this weekend that I do have an interest in.

The Ras na Riochta might be an Adventure race, which clearly isn't my main focus, but I can see some of the race course right from my house and it forms part of some of my regular and favourite running routes, most notably the Kerry Way section toward Windy Gap.

The Killarney Marathon is one of my local races. I even signed up for this race; I got the number in the post on Tuesday. Opening that envelope was a sad moment. I seem destined never to run this race - I've signed up twice now and this is my second DNS! And since the date coincides with the third race this weekend, it will always be only a backup option.

That third race is of course the 24 hours race in Belfast. This has become the most important race of all to me, after my epic run last year that qualified me for the Worlds. This year it is going to be epic. I can't wait what some of my friends are going to do in their debut on that race format, most notably Grellan, Andrew Greaney and Thomas Klimas. All should have the ability to mark a really serious distance, certainly top of the national level, but 24 hour races have their own rules and you won't know for sure until you try it - we'll find out very soon, of course.

As for me - well, I know I titled this post no progress, but that's not the entire story. During the day, I feel better, getting up from a chair no longer causes pain, it doesn't really hurt (more stiff than painful) and at times I feel almost no issue at all. However, my run on Thursday morning did not go well at all, it was worse than Monday and Tuesday and the hip never loosened up at all, so I cut it short, went home, and am now wondering when I can run again at all.

A week or two ago I said I am not worried about the Spartathlon. This has changed as I gradually realised just how long recovery is taking. The race is 70 days from now and I should be doing some serious training right now. I am missing the Killarney marathon tomorrow and I cannot see how I could possibly make it to Tralee in 2 weeks, so that's 2 of my most important training runs gone without replacement. Even if I manage to get healthy again in a reasonable time, the training I have lost is a serious problem.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here getting fat, unfit and crippled. Just what you need before a 153 mile run!

16 Jul
3 miles, 28:33, 9:31 pace, HR 133

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

First Steps

The first steps are wobbly and uncertain. Thankfully I have yet to fall over and my stability is slowly increasing, though the operative word here is slowly. There is no pain but it all feels very awkward and all I can do is take tiny baby steps, high cadence, low distance. Striding out is completely out of the question.

At the outset I'm hunched over but I gradually manage to right myself up and get closer to proper running form. It takes about two miles for the hip to loosen up entirely and I can start taking on a form that vaguely resembles running. I don't know what it looks like and quite possibly an untrained eye would not spot the difference in my stride, but I can certainly feel it.

I ran 4 miles on Monday and 5 on Tuesday, as directed by my physio (or so I thought - he wasn't sure about Tuesday). The good news is, and this is actually proper good news, there is no pain. Not during the run, not immediately afterwards and not hours later either, so I'm not doing any damage. Looking at the strava file for both runs is revealing - on both days every mile is faster than the previous one, coming down from almost 10-minute miles to about 8:30 pace at the end. The perceived effort did not really change, this is all down to the muscles warming up and loosening up - and I guess endorphins are playing a role as well.

So, after a long hiatus, at least I'm back running again, though there is still a very long way yet to go. Not only does my hip have to improve, after not running for 10 days my fitness has taken a hit as well, though that will be rectified in just a couple of days, assuming there are no further setbacks. The Killarney marathon on Saturday is obviously not an option. I jokingly mentioned it to Derek just to see his reaction but I guess he knew I wasn't serious.

We'll just have to see how this goes. The improvement since last week has been encouraging but there is still a very long way to go before I'm back to full fitness.
13 Jul
4 miles, 36:15, 9:04 pace, HR 139
14 Jul
5 miles, 45:25, 9:05 pace, HR 141