Motivation and The Mean Girl

Well into Week 8 of injury down time here at Conquest Towers. Initially I like to think I took my second ITB injury in my stride. I knew what to expect, and I hit the physio exercises hard, only throwing one or two full on diva temper tantrums. I got on the spin bike regularly and gave it 110%, and made peace with the Foam Roller Of Spiteful Death. It was going well. I even started climbing to keep me distracted

Climbing Heroes
What running injury?

This burst of positivity didn’t last for long. I was hit with a fairly brutal summer cold, combined with a manically busy period at work and a very serious case of all consuming ‘meh’. Typically my nutritional planning then went out the window as I reached for chocolate, sugar and caffeine to save the day, instant fixes and serious sugar comedowns. Add in a dash of ‘I-just-can’t-be-arsed’ for good measure and you’ve got a very unmotivated and pretty pissed off person.

But it wasn’t just the stressed out immune system to blame – officially giving up the Royal Parks place sucked. This was going to be the Half that I delivered a decent PB, and I’d wipe out the memory of literally sobbing through mile 8 last year, when the first ITB injury flared up in all its agonising glory. It was the race that would kick off a new season of ‘proper running’. You know the stuff, training that is synchronised in perfect harmony with your schedule, where you cross train as often as you know you should, where PBs are beaten every month. I had a very clear idea that this would herald in some new era in fitness, and in turn I would finally become a ‘Proper Runner’ too. But I had to say no thanks. I’m on  the bench, I need to recover and rebuild recondition. And in my head I hear this:  I’m obviously just not cut out for this. My body is just rubbish, just stop. Its too hard

So here’s the thing. I am still trying to convince that surly cynical sulking inner teenager of my youth that I’m actually capable of doing this. Every slower than expected mile, every ache, every twist, every injury  I can hear her sniggering from behind a fog of Marlborough, snapping gum and smirking, ‘You don’t really think you can do this do you? Making an arse of yourself out there wearing STUPID shorts and UGLY trainers, and you look a right sweaty mess, wheezing through a 15 minute run. What a JOKE’ 

She’s a total bitch.

I should know, I was her for a damn sight longer than I like to admit.

It’s this long standing fiercely personal fight that’s the hardest one. I’ve conquered my fears about running outdoors in broad daylight wearing VERY short shorts. I’m deliriously happy when I look in the mirror and I’m practically puce – I can laugh at the fact that I forget to take my mascara off and I look like Alice Cooper on a spin bike. I really couldn’t give a flying fuck about what the blokes at the pub are shouting after me as I ran past. But if I spend too much time in my own head, I’ll find a reason why I shouldn’t bother. That insecure, bullying, spiteful voice gets a little louder and picks tiny holes in all my hard earned esteem.

Hence the climbing, the roller blading, the cycling. I suspect I may take up motorbiking too, that might shut up the Mean Girl in my head. Scare the shit out of her. I’ve also noticed making a total fool of myself and laughing about it, keeps her pretty quiet too – so there was this:

Harley Nerd

Combine the two, fear and being ridiculous and I give you Survival of the Fittest  in November. If that doesn’t shut her up, it may just convert her. Get her to give up the snark and take up the pom poms. I need to become my own biggest cheer leader. Thankfully I’ve got a few awesome people around me, doing that job well. You guys rock (you know who you are!)

Long suffering spouse

Stella. Coach Almighty

Zen and the Art of (Not) Running

If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know I’m currently out of action on the running front. It’s been over a month since I last ran, and around 8 weeks since the injury made its (omni)presence known. About seven sessions of physiotherapy, a few sports massages and endless, endless exercises to strengthen my glutes, calves and core, and I’m still no closer to being run ready, ‘another two weeks’. I heard that four weeks ago. Going slightly mad.

The problem, they say, with ITB injuries is that its difficult to pin point just one cause.  It turns out I’m pretty riddled with all sorts of odd habits, badly aligned hips, little flexibility in my ankles, etc etc, the list goes on and on. Just as one thing gets sorted, something else flares up. If I’m to run again safely, I need to impact-proof my joints, by building up the *right* muscles.

I am now torn between ignoring all good advice (they’re just quacks) and just tearing off regardless, OR quitting running altogether (I’m not cut out for this sporting malarky). Because anything in-between requires frustrating, tears inducing, mind numbing work.

I have never been the patient sort. If I am not able to do something perfectly immediately I lose interest fast. This happened with my ‘passion’ for guitar when I was 16, my flirtation with Kung Fu when I was 19, Kick Boxing at 22 and then Wing Chung at 25. There was even a 6 month period when I was obsessed with Krav Maga. Nothing stuck. I told myself, I was too uncoordinated, unfit, too short or too old. I also told myself I wasn’t the ‘sporty type’ to justify my lack of perseverance, which in reality, was just a lack of discipline and more than a bit of plain old fashioned laziness. But I had done a really good job of convincing myself otherwise.

So when I found I could actually finish a 5K run without keeling over, I was astonished. Here was something I could do. Just by putting in a bit of extra work every few days, I built myself up to running 10K, then a half marathon. And just to prove it wasn’t fluke, I ran another one. I had finally broken through that warped image I had of myself as ‘unsporty’. I could do this!

Other mad things happened; people started asking my advice, ‘you’re really into fitness what do you think?’ or ‘I’ve just started running, how long before I can run your kind of distances?’. I had never dreamed I’d ever be referred to as a ‘fitness freak’ or ‘running nerd’. I was over the moon, regardless of whether they were compliments or otherwise.

Then this happened. I literally limped through the Royal Parks. It wasn’t fun anymore. My body stopped doing what I wanted it to. It hurt. A lot. I’ve had to stop and recover properly. My confidence has taken a pretty serious knock, and it was pretty fledgling to begin with. I now find myself contending with all the old mantras. ‘What did you expect?’, this old voice says, ‘you’re not sporty. Who are you kidding? You’re not built for this. Stop pretending. Sit on the sofa and just give up. Maybe try aqua aerobics instead’. Full on pity-party going on in my head.

Luckily, I have a very positive physiotherapist, who is patient when I am throwing a strop, and a few great running friends who can’t wait to get out there again, no matter if I have to take it very slowly.  Come Christmas I am crossing my fingers I should be clocking up the mileage. In the meantime, there’s aqua (!)

A gem of wisdom captured on the Portobello Market

Sink or Swim

Two weeks since the race and a few follow up physio appointments later, its very clear that my running injury is a bit more complicated than I initially thought, and its going to take a lot more than a few weeks rest to get better.

Pay attention, here comes the science bit, I’ll keep it brief. The year old calf injury from back in Feb 2011 has come back to haunt me, just in time for Halloween. Apparently this is fairly common as I didn’t get it properly looked at. This means my right calf has very little flexibility and my left leg has been compensating. Add to that the lazy glutes (as discussed here so I won’t go on), a pretty lackadaisical core and tight hips and HEY PRESTO! Awful awful ITB issues. What fun.

The upshot of all of this is that I will not be running for at least another month while I focus on building up the flexibility and getting the right muscles ‘firing’.  When I do start again, I have been advised to pretty much start again. They’re talking running for a minute, walking for three minutes… that kind of starting again. OH GOOD. But we’re also talking sorting out my posture, getting rid of that weird flick I do with my right foot, and getting stronger and faster all round.

So there’s that to look forward to. In the meantime its been suggested I swim. Yes, swim. And not the faffing about in the pool I usually do, while on holiday. Proper swimming, using freestyle, to build my core strength.

Its worth noting I haven’t been swimming for fitness purposes since 1994, back in Roosevelt High’s Grade 8 swim team, which I was a part of for precisely 2 days.

I do not have fond memories of sporty ‘proper’ swimming in general. My high school pool was also used for diving so was suitably, very deep and I had this irrational fear that I’d dive in too deep and not reach the surface quickly enough. You know, before I drowned. I hated the horrid elastic caps that had to be dusted with baby powder so they didn’t stick together, and pulled my hair,  the sting-your-eyes chlorine that also turned my hair green and made my skin itch. The unflattering school issue navy swimsuits.

But needs, must and all that. I’ve had a bit of a look around the local leisure centre facilities, and with the hoards of screaming children, it looked just as daunting as my old school pool nearly 18 years ago. I left without even getting a toe wet.

Not a good start then, so I’m just reminding myself I was just as terrified of my trainers when I first put them on. Flashbacks of shivering to the core wearing ill fitting brown nylon shorts on the starting line in the middle of winter come to mind. All the anticipation and anxiety, only to come last in sprints. Or falling over the hurdles. Its fair to say I loathed running, I found it humiliating and difficult. Now I find it something I pretty much can’t live without. So if I want to get back on it. I’m going to have to jump in the pool.

My ideal pool.
Unfortunately no Lilos are allowed at the leisure centre

Royal Parks or …The Plan B Race

I finished it. Yes. I finished. This is what I keep repeating to myself while alternating ice packs and hot water bottles while recovering on my sofa post 13.1 miles this morning. What a race. But for very different reasons.

It was such a beautiful day, perfect weather, and everything was going incredibly smoothly, no delays, no queues, I was feeling relaxed and positive about the race. I had told myself that I wasn’t going for a PB, with my injury, I really just needed to get round. So no pressure.

But once I was there absorbing the atmosphere, all the buzz in the air, the anticipation, part of me really thought the universe may just conspire to deliver me a 2:15. It was sunny after all. In October. Crazier things have happened. Right?

Emily and I set off at a good pace and I honestly felt pretty awesome up until about mile 4 – so technically the very start of the race. Emily’s very uplifting chatter of, ‘we’re nearly a third of the way there!’ helped, for about another mile or so, and then I had to drop two more Nurofen to counteract the now, very painful ITB. And I stopped being able to keep to our pace.

Come mile 6, and my sunny disposition was starting to darken. I was already tired, how can this be? Well I can tell you, three weeks with just cross training is a very poor substitute for the real thing. I kind of knew this in the back of my head, but again my over positive mind frame pre-race, let me conveniently forget it.

Between miles 8 and 9 I thought it may just be over. Or at best I’d have to make peace with the fact I was going to hate every inch of the course left to run and may just cry my way through it. Nurofen helped a tad, but then the other ITB started to strain which threw me off my game plan completely. Both sides? Are YOU SERIOUS!?

At this point I felt a tap on my shoulder, ‘you alright love?’ says a woman wearing the same charity shirt as me. And for once I didn’t try and front it out. I’m not sure if it was the implicit camaraderie as we were running for the same charity, or the fact that at this point I thought I may vomit, but instead I said;  ‘Not really, having a pretty tough time, I’m injured blah erg, blah URG, blah *sob*’ And Julie just got it.

And by some minor miracle, Julie was in a pretty similar state to me, and more than happy to keep me company while I just got myself back together. Having torn her calf muscle running the London Marathon earlier this year (at mile 16, with another 10 miles to go – and she still finished!), she was looking at walk/ running the last 4 miles. Which sounded like a good Plan B to try and salvage the rest of the race, and possibly my ITB (and sanity).

And from that point my race improved dramatically. Julie’s fantastic demeanour and inspirational story helped distract from the pain, and well, we just had a laugh. I stopped taking it so seriously. I gave up the idea of getting anywhere near a PB. We talked to other runners. I managed to jump up and down enthusiastically when I saw my friends and family who came to support (ouch, but worth it). We helped first time half marathon runner Katie, manage a particularly nasty stitch. We waved at everyone. We made faces at the cameras.  We finished with a spectacular 800 metre dash (er, hobble really), in just over 2 hours 39 minutes, actually smiling. Plan B.

Now that’s nine minutes slower than my PB, but I’ll take that. Those nine minutes reminded me of something pretty core, that I had forgotten to have fun when training. It was all splits and miles logged and comparing schedules with other colleagues, desperately trying to achieve perfect form, and ultimately finding myself in a lot of pain on physio tables. Not fun really. At all.

So I’m going to take some time out to recover, sort out the injury slowly and properly and then take to the street again, when its healed,  without the expectation, or added pressure of an impending race. And just run, for fun. To feel good, and have a laugh.

Until Paris next year that is!

DONE. Badge to prove it 
Amazing to have my Mom here to see me run all the way from Sunny South Africa

Sucker for Punishment

Slippers. Not great for impact sport

It’s been a pretty slow week. I have been putting my feet up pre the big race on Sunday on advice from my firm but fair physiotherapist. She has advised that any further impact training will just inflame the Irritable ITB even further, making running the half marathon this weekend pretty uncomfortable. And I have since come to learn, that my physio’s idea of ‘uncomfortable’ is my idea of ‘agony’.

So I have resigned to cross training. And not the fun kind i.e. cycling/ rowing, which would just aggravate the hip flexors and ITB further. No I have been advised to use the actual Cross Trainer. The one with the arm movements and everything. IT IS SO VERY VERY BORING. I feel like one of those 80’s aerobics obsessives, swinging pony tail and retro headphones to boot.

But anything to keep the cardio up, although I have to say after 6km on the damn thing I did contemplate throwing myself in front of the women on the treadmill opposite. Just for a thrill.

My dark mood turned blue when I received the Elvis magazine along with White Jacket of Rejection through the post on Saturday. Those in the know will be nodding in recognition.

Runner Rejection. No VLM for me
This just made me sadder. Bad Elvis

The news arrived, I didn’t get a place in the 2013 London Marathon. Sad Face (although secretly my physio is thrilled). But I have now got it my head that a marathon is the next challenge.

Which begs the question, while I sit here popping nurofen having been through an excruciating hour of sports massage which practically had me crying for my mother, am I losing my mind?

Along with a whole new vocab to describe pain, and precisely where it hurts (I thought ITB was some tax agency, and I won’t go into what I though the piriformis was), I also seem to have picked up a virulent strain of masochism.

When training is going well you can look forward to the following:

  • Punishing long runs that leave your legs like jelly
  • Interval training that fairly often is so intense you think you may be sick 
  • Hill training that has you gasping for air 
  • Blisters
  • Chaffing
  • Abuse from cyclists, construction workers, lager louts hanging outside pubs

And when its going badly you can expect all of the above with the added joy of being injured. So there’s the frustration of not being able to actual clock the mileage (or clocking it through gritted teeth), and the fact that you are probably in additional pain in some for or another. Never mind the mental kicking you give yourself for getting injured in the first place, if its self inflicted, like mine.

So why bother?

It keeps me sane. I am going out of my mind not being able to run. Now that I have mastered the run-without-music its a real meditation is just letting go and sweating it out. So here are my top 10 positives (there are many many more)

  • I earn my dinner and can eat with guilt free abandon!
  • I sleep better and wake up more rested 
  • I am less quick to complain, or get annoyed (probably because I’m exhausted)
  • I am more relaxed and more positive, more flexible muscles, less tension
  • I have more confidence, getting medals is very rewarding!
  • The sense of achievement having completed the mileage never gets old
  • Although I look a total sweaty fright post run, I feel totally rock and roll 
  • A long run gives me time to help me think and organise my thoughts 
  • I feel more connected to my body (right now, I would rather feel less. It hurts)
  • Running reminds me to BREATHE. Simple, but helpful for obvious reasons

Ultimately it makes me a better human being to be around. So send your good vibes people, I just need enough to get round 13.1 miles on Sunday!

Countdown: Two Weeks to Go

Numbers UP!

Two weeks today, hopefully I’ll be putting my feet up after completing 13.1 miles in the Royal Parks. Race number has arrived, charity vest is at the ready, and with a few more physio sessions lined up between now and then, I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be racing on Oct 7th.

The ITB is still causing some discomfort, but I managed 10km (with a break for added stretching) this morning without wanting to throw myself in the Serpentine. So provided Emily brings the chat, my ibuprofen lasts and these agonising foam roller love ins pay off, all will be well. I’m doing about 20 minutes a day with the blasted thing (10mins in the morning, 10 in the evening). I’d say we’re getting a tad co-dependant. Stella is not happy and took another chunk out of it while I wasn’t looking.

I’ve managed my prescribed exercises all week, mainly as the trainers were gathering dust due to the annual seasonal cold that has been going around, but I’m really hoping they help in the long term, and I don’t get told off by the physio again!

The REGIME as imagined by Stick Man 

Rock and Roller. A Horror Story

On Sunday I managed 13.5km of my planned 17km long run before the Dreaded Knee won over, and through gritted teeth I had to admit defeat. After much debating about walk/ running home and even trying a few yards at a time I knew the game was up and limped to the bus stop in a sulk.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with ice packs at the ready, developing an autumn cold and feeling sorry for myself. I had come to the realisation that no amount of Green Giant frozen peas were going to sort out this particular issue. I had an idea this may be the Insufferable IT band causing all this worry, but I had to seek advice from the professionals.

And I was right. Thankfully by some miracle granted by the running gods, I got myself an appointment on a day’s notice. and some tough advice to boot.

The diagnosis? In order of pain brought on by physio massage (I screamed. Like a baby)

  1. Rock hard, aching calves brought on by too many days tottering about in high heels and not enough stretching. Apparently this is also why I’m not getting faster, my calves aren’t able to generate the power  because they’re TOO STIFF. I blame Kurt Geiger 
  2. Inflamed IT band from non-engaged glutes. Yes I have a  LAZY ass! Oh and, not enough stretching
  3. Very tight hip-flexors from, you guessed it, not enough stretching AND cycling up hills in France 

My physio thinks we may be able to do a ‘patch up’ job for the Royal Parks, provided I take nurofen for  two weeks like fiend and do my exercises/ stretches every single day. Twice. At least. And come back to see her for more torture, aka treatment. Serves me right. Really should’ve down the stretches, starting about 2 years ago.

Oh and meet my new Best Friend – the Foam Roller. Welcome to the House of Pain. I screamed like a baby, again.

Resting. While I choke back tears OF PAIN
Getting acquainted. Pre-excruciating, blood curdling screams

Stella found this new development somewhat unnerving, attacked the foam roller and then tried to sit on me while I was doing my stretches. I might make her stretch with the roller if she tries that again. Not a helpful coach.

Stella is suspicious

I’ve also had to take one last, long look at my beautiful collection of heels as they are now, verboden until after the race, and even then I suspect my physio would suggest not on a daily basis. There goes my cost-per-wear theory. But an excuse to buy new shoes. So not a terrible day.

Wicked Witch Flats – serious toe cleavage

Good Week, Bad Week

No good deed goes unpunished, past few weeks have certainly been proof of that!

Having got back from France relaxed and fitter than we were before we left, we discovered Stella the Dog wasn’t very well and shipped her off to the vet to get her checked out. Thankfully she’s fine, dosed up on antibiotics for a mild bug, but the vet did notice that her poor paws are looking a bit worn and has suggested she only run trails. No more pavements. Or I need to buy her some Nikes.

Coach: On sabbatical 

So I am currently without a coach. But I managed a decent five and half miles last Tuesday, trying out a new route via Hammersmith to shake it up a bit.

Wednesday a few of us braved the wilds of North London to visit Move Three Sixty on advice that Hannah Richards had passed on when we met during one of Sweaty Betty’s Run Britannia events.

We met with Claud Serjeant for our assessment who quickly worked through analysing our postures, videoing our running styles (cringe!) and checking our footwear. He gave us some invaluable insight into where we were going wrong, what the aches and pains were pointing to, and how to correct them. It’s all about the glutes! Oh and the hamstrings. We came away with core strength exercises and stretches to begin working into our training schedules. So many ‘ah ha!’ moments around balance, symmetry and kinetic movement, I wish I had brought a notebook!

Saturday I had my first Yoga class of my beginner’s course at the Life Centre. Ninety minutes of basic stretching, postures and some interesting new types of breathing (who knew?!).

The Life Centre in Notting Hill

Armed with new stretches, (mad breathing) and awareness of posture, Emily and I banked 15km with a pretty decent pace for 7:30am on an unseasonably hot Sunday morning. And all seemed well, up until about 13km, when my knee started to complain and its been niggling on and off just a little too much for me to ignore. After all of that!

I managed only 3 miles this evening, before it started playing up again and now I’m a little injury paranoid. It may just be a par-for-the-course ache, rather than anything more serious, but nevertheless I am icing the knee with as many frozen peas as I can get my hands on. Oh and eating chocolate pudding, I hear it has pretty good healing properties. I may just take another rest day with the Coach.

Chocolate Pudding. Good for knees