Sunday, May 29, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

I would show you a picture of the birthday girl and the presents and the party and the cake, but all of a sudden Niamh has reached that stage where she is dreading the birthday instead of looking forward to it and she is in deep denial. Even mentioning this will probably get me into trouble. Again. Instead you will have to take my word for it. The cake is great. I should know. I made it.

That's Niamh's big news, of course. Mine is that wearing the knee strap 24/7 has made a massive difference to my knee. I have been testing it out plenty over the last few days. During the last weeks, whenever I got into double figures I'd be in agony at some stage the next day. Now I'm fine. There is some slight discomfort over the first minute of each run and once I'm over that I'm perfectly fine for the rest of it, including yesterday's marathon prep run. I really think I'm finally getting over this issue and this time it is not just wishful thinking.

I was getting increasingly worried about my pacing job for Cork. Not only was I in doubt if the knee would hold for 26 miles, my lack of proper training over the last few weeks made me wonder if I would even be able to hold 3:15 pace for any meaningful stretch at all.

Therefore I set off on Friday with the idea of running at 7:21 pace for a short 6 miles run. I'm a slow starter and was slightly behind pace after 1 mile, more than made up for that on mile 2 and then just let the legs do their thing, which is why I ended up way too fast, but happy enough.

When training for Vienna the coach had me do a lot of back-to-back sessions where I did 7 or so miles on Saturday 10 seconds per mile faster than MP, and then a long run with various amounts of MP at the end on Sunday. Since I had unwittingly done the first part of the job on Friday I decided I might as well finish it off with a few marathon miles on Saturday. My plan to run the first half relaxed at 7:30-7:40 pace failed when the legs felt too good, the wind was on my back and no warning voice of the coach in my inbox and I ended up doing the full 15 miles at marathon pace instead.

Some of you might think this was a stupid thing to do, 9 days before the marathon, but I'm really happy about this. It was much more for the head than the legs; the serious doubts if I would be able to do the pace at all are dispersed and I'm confident I will be able to recover sufficiently to tackle the Cork marathon course. Thinking about it, this is 30 seconds per mile slower than my pace in Vienna. 30 seconds per mile is massive. I'll be fine.

The fact that I was able to bake a cake after my run was a bonus. Sometimes I really manage to surprise myself.

26 May
12 miles, 1:33:32, 7:47 pace, HR 153
27 May
6.05 miles, 43:17, 7:09 pace, HR 161
28 May
15 miles, 1:49:45, 7:19 pace, HR 161
29 May
8.1 miles, 1:00:30, 7:28 pace, HR 153

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Quick One

I've just realised that I have not updated this blog for 3 days and now it's late and this will be a short entry. Stop celebrating, Ewen!

The main problem is still my knee and it will remain the main problem for a while, no doubt about that. I have started wearing the knee support for 24 hours a day rather than just when I'm running. This seems to make a real difference. The problem with this, and also the reason why I haven't done it all along, is that the strap keeps rubbing against the inside of my knee. Last week I basically ended up with an open sore after the top layer of my skin had been rubbed off bit by bit, and that was as uncomfortable as it sounds. I have started putting moleskin on the sore spot which seems to help but needs to be replaced every day and I'm still on the lookout for a better solution.

I have tried two different knee straps, one is slightly more comfortable but the other one provides more compression and that's what I'm after.

Yesterday was the first day in ages when I felt the knee hardly at all. I was really happy about this and thought there was real progress, but today was one of the bad days again and I'm back to square one. As uncomfortable as the knee is at times, it's just not painful enough to convince me to stop running and it does not seem to be getting any worse.

The other thing driving me nuts is the weather. We've had gale force winds every day bar one over the last 5 weeks and it is really starting to get to me (I'm not the only one complaining, believe me). The one exception to this was yesterday, and that provided its own piece of fun. On the cycle home it was sunny, then raining, followed by hailstones, rain, sun and rain again, all within 15 minutes!

And I've just gotten my credit card bill, which includes a lot of the expenses from Vienna. 3000 Euro. Whoops! There goes the plan for ... anything, really. Anyone keen to sponsor a desperate marathon runner?
23 May
6 miles, 45:43, 7:37 pace, HR 151
24 May
10 miles, 1:15:29, 7:33 pace, HR 155
25 May
8 miles, 1:01:16, 7:39 pace, HR 152

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Back In Black

The Cork marathon is in 2 weeks and since the original 3:15 pacers cried off with various excuses (like running 132 km over a few mountains), I got bumped up to the 3:15 slot for which, in theory, I would not even qualify (the original criteria was you needed a sub 2:56 time). It was worrying me sufficiently to get me back out onto the road. The runners in Cork are relying on me, and I can't let them down by being undertrained.

Ok, that's a lousy excuse, I admit. Fact is, after one week on no running I could not take the cabin fever any more, Niamh was about to kick me out and I wanted my fix more than I was prepared to play it safe. I have a pretty good injury history (as in NOT being injured, I mean), and as such am much more prepared to take a risk than someone who has lost months to injury in the past.

The idea is now to force myself through the marathon and then re-assess. The knee had not really gotten worse during the two weeks that I had run through it, but then it didn't get any better after a week of rest either. As I just found out, wearing a knee strap constantly, not just during a run, works wonders and I have hardly felt a twinge the last two days.

My latest theory is that the shoes might have something to do with the problem, after reading a remark by someone I know who had switched from Brooks Adrenalines to Saucony ProGrids, promptly got a pain in his knee that sounded exactly like mine and resolved it by switching back to Brooks again. As it happens, I started a new pair of ProGrid Ride a couple of weeks ago, which more or less coincided with my knee issues. It may be a red herring of course, but it's worth a try.

As it happens, I had a new pair of shoes in the cupboard anyway, a pair of Kinvaras. They may be from Saucony as well, but are an entirely different make of shoes. In general I am a bit sceptical about the barefoot and minimalist movement, but the Kinvaras are a transitional shoe with only 4mm heel drop rather than a minimal shoe, and they are not as ridiculously overpriced as, say, the Newtons either.

Well, what can I say, it was love at first stride. I just have to learn to keep my youthful enthusiasm in check and learn to run them a bit slower. The knee was fine (strapped in as it was that might not say much) and the shoes are so light they almost run on their own, but I'll run a bit more than 6 miles before converting entirely.

The Valentia triathlon was on yesterday and one look out of the window made me glad that I had skipped it this year. They re-paid last year's fantastic weather with significant interest and I'm sure the swim was, let's say, interesting, even after being changed to be within the marina. In normal years, half of the fun of that race is to swim from the Irish mainland to the island. It did remind me, however, that I'd still love to do an Ironman one day, but until I can figure out a way to incorporate swim training into my rather busy life, this will remain on hold.

20 May
6 miles, 44:53, 7:28 pace, HR 158
21 May
6.1 miles, 43:34, 7:08 pace, HR 162
22 May
10.1 miles, 1:15:35, 7:29 pace, HR 155

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You can safely ignore this

This just does not get old. I know you might disagree, but I don’t.

Eventually I’ll have to remove the match from our Sky box as it’s full and Niamh refuses to delete her Desperate Housewives episodes (and Maia is the same with her Peppa Pig ones). Until then I’ll watch it another few times. Sad, maybe, but what do I care!

The main reason I'm rambling about this is because there is no running to write about. I want to have a full day of no discomfort before I start running again. I thought I was there already on Monday, but as I got off the chair on Monday evening, I could feel the knee again (and that’s how the whole episode started). On Tuesday I could feel a twinge first thing in the morning, same again today. I’m starting to wonder if I'm imagining things, but for the time being I'm still prepared to wait.

Niamh keeps asking when I'm back running. I have not noticed any change in my personality but she might have. I think by the weekend she’ll kick me out of the house and onto the road. Allegedly I'm easier to live with when I'm running every day. I suppose dealing with four hyperactive children is hard enough and she doesn’t need a husband in the same condition.

I’ve started doing some much neglected core stability work, more out of boredom than anything else, and to be honest I have my doubts if I will keep this up once I'm back running. I still cycle to work and back every day, so at least I'm getting a bit of cardiovascular exercise, but not much.

In 19 days I'm supposed to pace the Cork marathon, but I’ll try and ignore that as much as I can. I’m clinging onto the hope that the fitness from Vienna (and the 7 years of training before that) will carry me through. It worked in Dublin last year.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What A Beautiful Day

It's been a spectacular few weeks. First this:

And now this:

35 years of waiting finally over. I can die a happy man.

Oh, and even though Google claim that they fixed all problems on blogger after some idiot had pressed the wrong button, I lost most of the comments for the last post. One of them was particularly insightful:

Stop running, you idiot!

though I'd respect you a lot more had you not hidden anonymously. Incidentally, I saw my doctor yesterday for an unrelated matter and mentioned the knee. After plenty of prodding and poking he decided I have some inflammation in my knee, gave me a prescription for pain killers and told me to stop running for a week or two. Now compare that to my prediction of a doctor's visit and tell me I was right down to the last tee.

Actually, since I felt yet another little twinge in my knee on Thursday, I had already stopped running at that point, believe it or not. Now I'll wait until the pain is gone and then get ready to pace the Cork marathon, which is in 3 weeks' time. I came into last year's Dublin marathon in exactly the same position, worrying about an injury, and came through without problems so I'm hoping for a repeat.

Oh, and one other comment asked which running book I would recommend. If I had to recommend just one book, it would be this one, as long as you're interested in running marathons. It's how I got below 3:30, and I know a good few guys who got a lot faster with the schedules in there.

And now, if you excuse me, I'm off celebrating. Even without my knee I don't think I'd be in condition to run tomorrow morning. Good days.
12 May
6 miles, 45:45, 7:36 pace, HR 147
13 May
14 May

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fresh and Breezy, Scattered Showers

Being a meteorologist in Ireland must be one of the easier jobs in the world, the above seems to apply 90% of the time and it sure has for the last couple of weeks. I have been reasonably lucky with the rain, Monday was the only day I got thoroughly drenched during a run (though Tuesday I got caught on the bike), but there is no escaping the wind. I even abandoned the otherwise flat and easy Killorglin loop as at the moment that entails running 3 miles into a relentless headwind and somehow that seems to aggravate my knee. That, and running either uphill or downhill. In theory a treadmill might be the best option for me at the moment, but I think I’d rather cut off my leg than suffer through that.

I keep having good and bad days with the knee. Monday was a bad day; after 6 miles I was in agony and went on to moan my way through the next 2 miles, but things improved once I had worked my way through that bad patch. Last week I was running with a knee strap, which definitely made a difference, but unfortunately it also rubbed against the back of my knee. Last Thursday or Friday I finally checked the area and was slightly shocked. We’re not talking about chafing any more, it was basically an open sore and extremely painful to the touch. I left the knee strap at home for a few days, which helped with the open wound but not the injured ligament. Yesterday I started using the strap again and immediately noticed a difference. It’s a balancing act, and so far I’ve just about managed to stay on top.

By now I can hear plenty of you screaming, stop running you idiot. Thing is, I may be stupid but not THAT stupid. If I thought it was a running injury I would have stopped a long while ago. But I'm pretty sure it’s not, and that’s not just wishful thinking. In addition to that, I’m not too keen on going to a doctor. On past experience he/she would send me home after a few questions and plenty of prodding with a prescription for pain killers and the advice to stop running. I could buy pain killers in the pharmacy without prescription if I wanted and paying €50 for advice I’d ignore anyway just does not seem worthwhile.

For treatment I’m doing icing, even though there’s no swelling, so that may well be useless but I suppose it does not do any harm. I'm elevating the knee when I can, and I try not to jump up and down like a deranged lunatic, except when Spurs generously score an own goal to send us into the Champions League. The one thing I think might make the biggest difference was to remove the swivel chair from my desk and replace it with a normal one. Seriously.

And, since you asked, one more thing:
I was just wondering for your opinion on how influential or beneficial your decision to get an online running coach was in achieving your goal. What did you learn most from his input and what are your views on proper, structured coaching?

I am absolutely sure that I would not have broken three hours in the marathon without the coach’s help, so I think it is definitely worthwhile getting a good coach. Only problem is, I think most online coaches are useless, and it’s the “good” bit that you need to get right. There are some good books on running and they will get you pretty far, but to reach your potential you will need a coach that knows what he’s doing and that you trust fully. What did I learn from him? A lot, not least the understanding that there is still a ton of stuff I still do not know about running.

9 May
10 miles, 1:19:06, 7:55 pace, HR 142
10 May
10 miles, 1:16:15, 7:37 pace, HR 152
11 May
10 miles, 1:16:20, 7:38 pace, HR 149

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Why I Run

honestly I do not see why you take risks, while it would be better to go cycling for 4-5 days...

Roberto, as always, is absolutely right. My knee hurts every day and still I keep running day after day after day, when I could either rest or go cycling, which is entirely pain free. Well, I am cycling - from home to work and back, 50 miles a week, but that's commuting, not training or fun.

My knee is perfectly ok most of the time, there are only two things that make it hurt: when getting up from a chair (occasionally, not always) and after running more than 3 miles or so.

It's not getting any worse, and once the pain starts after a few miles of running (usually after running up an incline), it never gets any worse and I can take that level of discomfort.

It's not about the level of fitness. I have no goal race in mind, and I don't think I will for the rest of the year. I'll be running for fun over the summer.

Why do I run? I like the fact that I can get out of the door and go running for an hour or more and not have a single conscious thought for the entire time. It's a form of meditation. That simply does not happen on the bike where I have to concentrate on the road at all times. The level of discomfort from my knee is not high enough to disrupt that process and that's why I'm not too bothered about it. As long as it stays like this I am 100% sure I'm not doing any damage. It will go away eventually.

Call me hopelessly addicted if you like. That's ok. One of the other reasons why I run is that I prefer to be addicted to endorphins rather than other stuff I have experimented with in my past.

Call me an idiot if you like. That's ok, too.

Monday to Friday I ran the same 8 mile course along Caragh Lake at roughly the same pace and the same perceived level of effort, five times in a row. The heart rate was not the same, which is something I can't quite explain, but since it has come down to its normal level by now, I, again, am not too bothered about it. As the coach told me on more than one occasion, heart rate is not that reliable a marker.

Having found some confidence in my knee I went a bit longer again on Saturday, and then added a few more miles on Sunday. On Saturday I did not check the Garmin until more than 6 miles had passed, at which point I realised that I had averaged 7:14 pace up to now. I took it a bit easier on the way home. Apart from that there's not much to report. I got reasonably lucky with the rain and mostly escaped the frequent showers but it was windy every day, which I could have done without. No matter, I'll just keep on running.
5 May
8 miles, 1:01:43, 7:43 pace, HR 152
6 May
8 miles, 1:01:15, 7:39 pace, HR 147
7 May
10 miles, 1:14:07, 7:25 pace, HR 151
8 May
13 miles, 1:41:20, 7:48 pace, HR 146

Weekly Mileage: 63

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My Bad

I had thought my knee troubles were already on their way out, otherwise I would not have run 12 miles on Sunday. Turns out, I was wrong. I was confident enough to run without a knee strap on Monday and within half a mile I knew I was in trouble. The right knee was really painful, but sometimes you just need to run for a few minutes to get some relief, so I continued on. The more I ran, the more it hurt. The more it hurt, the more I slowed down. Finally, after 2.5 miles, down to an average pace of 8:20 and by now basically in agony, I decided to try something new: I speeded up rather than slow down further, first to 7:20 pace and then to sub-7 (wind-assisted, as I realised at the turnaround point), and lo and behold, within 30 seconds the pain in the knee was almost completely gone! This was as close to a miracle cure as I have ever come.

The downside, apart from getting rather tired from the pace, was a pain in the left shin. Not shin splints, it was closer to the ankle. My best guess is that it was a follow-on injury, caused by a change in gait due to the knee pain in the other leg.

I made it back home, the pains in both legs eventually subsided during the day (cycling was entirely pain free, btw), so I tried my luck again on Tuesday, this time with the knee strap back on. I intended to run a little bit slower than the day before, but as it turned out I was doing virtually the same average pace, albeit in more even fashion. The knee was moderately painful, the shin was fairly bad.

At that point I really wondered why I was still running. I am not training for anything at the moment; rather unusually for me, I still do not have a goal for the rest of the year. As I am presently recovering from a marathon, I should just rest for a few days to let it all heal. After all, without a goal race there is no training to be missed.

It was raining heavily overnight, enough to wake me, and I decided to rest today.


By 6 o'clock I was wide awake, by 6:20 staring at the ceiling had lost its fascination and like the complete idiot I am, I got up, got dressed and went running.

Sometimes the stupid things are the correct things to do. Turns out, the knee pain was much better and the shin pain completely gone. I have no idea why. The one downside was a really high heart rate, which I can't quite explain. As I have been pushing my luck enough already, I'll keep things easy for another few days, keep the mileage as well as the heart rate low and try and stay away from the hills.
2 May
8 miles, 1:00:43, 7:35 pace, HR 153
3 May
8 miles, 1:00:39, 7:35 pace, HR 150
4 May
8 miles, 1:01:50, 7:43 pace, HR 154

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Bouncing Back

Today marks two weeks since the marathon, and while the initial euphoria has worn off, the warm inner glow is still there. Not even a week back in the office could extinguish that. I must be experiencing the polar opposite of the post-marathon blues, but I've never suffered from those anyway.

On Wednesday, as I was getting up from the office chair, I felt a sharp pain in my right knee, and it has not been right since. Maybe I should have tapered my return to work, 8 hours in one go was obviously too much. The knee feels ok most of the time but there is some discomfort after running for 5 or 6 miles, and running uphill seems to aggravate it more than anything else; I won't be doing any mountains this week. As I'm pretty sure that it's not a running injury as such, and that it's getting better, I won't let it influence my running.

I did not have a plan for this week, just ran a few miles every morning, but was rather surprised when I added up the miles this morning and came up with 62. That's a lot more than I was expecting, and probably a bit more than is advisable. My legs felt rather heavy today and yesterday, and the mileage may well have something to do with that. Having said that, after a succession of runs with the HR in the 150s I seem to have gotten a handle on that and I have noticed a drop in the HR for the same perceived effort; I may start bouncing back after the marathon. Still, the next few weeks will see nothing but lazy running.

Our garden was well on its way turning itself into a jungle habitat and I finally got the lawn mower out of hibernation. Before the marathon I was always too exhausted from training to do any gardening work, then we were away on our holidays, and now it's already May. If I had realised just how much work it takes to look after an acre of garden, I would have told Niamh to pick a smeller house (yeah, right). After 6 hours of toiling I had gotten two-thirds through and the lawn mower ran out of patrol. But instead of praise, all I got from Maia was "Daddy, why did you cut down all the Daisies?". Sometimes you just can't win.

The Rally of the Lakes was on this weekend (it still is, actually), and one of the stages started right on our road. We went down the driveway to seem them all queuing up; the start of the stage itself was less than a quarter mile down the road. The kids were quite excited by it all; I just wished the event would not attract all those boy racers.

28 Apr
8 miles, 1:03:16, 7:55 pace, HR 146
29 Apr
8 miles, 1:01:40, 7:53 pace, HR 146
30 Apr
10 miles, 1:18:32, 7:51 pace, HR 149
1 May
12 miles, 1:35:20, 7:56 pace, HR 144

Weekly Mileage: 62