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

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

Run Britannia!

In a bid to transform myself into an early morning workout obsessive, (which I’ll need to be to clock up the miles needed to actually get a decent time in the Royal Parks) I made to commitment to meet my running BFFs,  Emily and Laura at 7am on Sunday morning. That’s a 6am wake up call on my usual Day of Rest (i.e. 11am lie in!).

Needless to say, it was a struggle turning off the snooze button and lacing up my trainers. Even Stella didn’t budge in her basket as I left this morning.

I did feel very smug to have arrived at High Street Kensington before any of the morning trains had even kicked in for the day.  Less smug seeing hoards of Olympic volunteers merrily striding down the streets looking polished and ready for action, while I was still yawning and checking if I had my t-shirt on the right way round!

We had decided to trial Sweaty Betty’s Run Britannia, a program of sightseeing runs (5k or 10k) through London running over the Olympic period.  Although we were slightly apprehensive at first thinking we may just be running alongside very fast, very experienced Sweaty Betty Staff and uber runners, we were greeted with huge smiles from the team and set off at a manageable but challenging pace. Note: I am slow, clocking 11 minute miles, so needed a push!

We chose the Royal Park run, which seemed fitting for our training, and with beautiful weather and early enough to be a bit cooler – we meandered through Kensington Park Gardens, via the Royal Albert Hall clocking up 10kms, with a few tips on form and pace along the way from coach Hannah.

Those tips clearly paid off immediately as I clocked up my fastest training 10km! Shaving nearly 4 minutes off my last race time

Back at the Hight Street Ken branch, we were presented with fantastic goody bags (the coconut water went down a treat!) including water bottle, bag and flash neon laces. Nice reward for the weekly long run indeed, thank you Sweaty Betty!

Planning on a few more sessions, taking in up Soho and a bit of window shopping around Harrods – fitness, fashion and soaking up the Olympic atmosphere? Perfect.

Baby its COLD outside!

I really need the motivation to get running at the moment  – gorging on black coffee and mince pies (already!) may have something to do with my very irritable and slightly sluggish demeanour of late and I have this overwhelming desire to hibernate on my sofa.

Yes, Winter has finally arrived; brittle, windy and frosting up the windows in full force. It has taken its merry time, with November being so balmy I didn’t need to dig out my thermal running gear once. This time last year Stella and I were avoiding black ice and sloshing through melted snow on the pavements.

So its been rather a shock in early December to suddenly remember how my chest sometimes hurts when I run in the cold because the air is near freezing. Or that my nose runs constantly from about 5kms and that my ears start to go ever so slightly numb. And its dark by 4:30pm so there’s not even the illusion of warmth from the setting sun. Cold, dark, windy and rainy, got to love December in London, veritable runner’s paradise. Ahem.

But as they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate clothing. So I’ve hit the online outlets and bought some thermal base layers, headband ear phone covering thingamingers and some new iphone arm band whatyoumacallits. Sorted. Any excuse to wear neon pink outside of an 80’s club night.

I only managed around 6kms this evening (coffee +  gross train food + dehydration = awkward run), but I got out there. In 3 degrees and middle of the night darkness. But I feel better, less irritable and a that good kind of tired. Not exhausted, but just tired enough to know I won’t have mental dreams about killer penguins in medieval England (I’m blaming George RR Martin. Obsessed)

Few things that got me through the run today:

1) This amazing lady finally releasing a few singles that I’ve added to my playlist, check her website Azealia Banks  *warning* VERY explicit lyrics, but seriously good tunes. 212 in particular. AND I’m totally envious of her legs. So that keeps me running a little longer (thinking denim shorts in summer 2012)

2) Seeing this quote on the interweb – I can debate for over an hour. May need to tattoo this on my  arm.

3) Reliving some of my misspent youth (without the hangovers or getting grounded)
I’m not usually a fan of compilation albums but this has some real gems, and is helping take my mind off the aching lungs and right back to 1996. Even the cheesy tunes, 15 years on, sound pretty good (but that could be the endorphins talking!) Ministry of Sound: Twenty Years

4) And of course, always worth remembering:

Strike a Pose

I’ve never understood the point of fashion in sport’s apparel. I especially don’t care for spending cash on items of clothing that are going to get soaked in sweat, covered in mud and or/ rained on infrequently in smoggy old London.

So why then, when I audit my monthly spending, am I seeing more of my hard earned cash going to the likes of Runner’s Need? Its the curse of any really good hobby, you start to get really geeky about the details. The proper trainers that support your ankles, the difference wicking fabric makes, discovering compression socks that aid recovery (yes really!) and good running headphones so you’re not faffing about with wires and rubbish sound. That and I love to accessorise. So its not a huge surprise really. Its just the occasion that’s changed. I have yet to buy my new winter boots (mine are now two seasons old – shock horror!) but I have new running tights, sports bras and winter tops.

Times have most certainly changed. On the way back from brunch with a friend of mine, rather than popping into the many lovely boutique shops in Chiswick, I spent a good 20 minutes in Sweaty Betty looking at High Vis clothing and chatting to the lovely staff about half marathons (and the hazards of running with the significant other!). And of course I walk out thoroughly over excited about having purchased a bright yellow vest. Its called the Lightening Vest and its will be perfect for my evening training runs in the bleak mid winter. I’ll be visible from space. And it cost about the same as a nice pair of courts in the Office shoe sale….So it official, I have lost my mind.

But at least I am in good company. Leaving the house this afternoon to catch up on the week’s mileage, R emerged from the front door looking like a cross between Rambo and Kevin Bacon in Footloose. Complete with Nike head band and HUGE headphones. He’s never left the 70’s. So its fashion, but of a different sort, and its certainly not taking itself too seriously, and I don’t have to bother with any dry cleaning!

Running for Trouble

Week two and we haven’t killed each other yet. Result. Although its all to play for if we’re still speaking after another 18 weeks!

So far we have argued about:

1) Getting out the door on time
When you run on your own, you just leave. You don’t have to wait for anyone or anything, its part of the reason why I love it. Running with R now means I have to take into account his sense of timing (not related to actual reality) and my irrational need to be a complete control freak (again a recurring theme). The silver lining is, he gets me out the door. Even when I’ve used every excuse I can think of. The fact he’s lacing up his trainers means I can’t not!

2) Clothing
 ‘Are you going to wear that?’ Note – this is not a good line to use when a woman is getting ready to leave the house. No matter what the occasion, running included. Cue irrational rage and usually a change of top. ‘I only say that ‘cos I think you might get too hot’. He’s probably right.

3) Crossing the road in the right place
R is currently is under the illusion that he is a) immortal and b) made of high vis material and can therefore run across he road in traffic with no real forethought. Cue irrational rage (part 2) and some shouting about safety and considering my feelings half way up Holland Park avenue. Much to the amusement of some tourists, and my embarrassment. Hot, sweaty and shouting. Not a good look. I was just cross he was running faster than me…

4) Pace
I like to think I understand the whole pacing issue. Slow and steady, recover as you go, etc etc. Honestly its a bit hit and miss. But watching the other half fly past you and then near collapse at the traffic lights is a bit disconcerting. Really its just an extension on point 3 – I was just cross he was running faster than me. Ahem.

5) Route
With R studying the Knowledge I can’t argue his organic sense of the streets of our neighbourhood and the rest of London ‘6 mile radius from Charing Cross’… yes I have heard this many times! But I like my routes, R has other ideas. This will be good in the long run. I just want to show off my self taught ‘knowledge’ of the fastest traffic lights, least pedestrian filled streets and widest pavements. Today we did this:  Sunday Run

Once we’ve hit 3km and I’ve let go of my overbearing irrational control freak nature, I’m really enjoying it. We’ve kept to a great schedule, clocking 16km this week and 15km the week before. R is running 5km comfortably and we’ve even signed up for the Richmond 10km in Nov which is great mini goal to work towards.

Week 3, bring on the next 17kms….

There’s an app for that

I’m a fan of gadgets. Gadgets and programs that measure performance in very efficient (and cool 3D!) graphs and give you great feedback on exceeding targets while providing colour coded levels and whizz bang cool trackers. Yes, I’m a bit of an amateur tech geek.

I have my Polar HRM which tells me exactly how may calories I’ve burned. I love this piece of kit mainly as it helps me work out if that double chocolate brownie is going to start showing up on my muffin top, or if I can have a few kals to spare, I’ll know I don’t have to feel guilty about the cheesecake I saw the other half whipping up while I ran out the door pre-run. It also tells me if I’m running too hard or not trying hard enough. Particularly satisfying when having completed a really tough hill and the blinking percentage point indicator looks like it may explode. HA! Yes! Take that! *cough splutter fall over* 
When I started running last Oct I was very attached to the Couch to 5K (C25K) app. It got me from huffing and puffing around every 20 seconds to comfortably jogging for twenty minutes and then to completing a whole 5K in just under 9 weeks. I logged my moods (sad face/happy face/I was nearly sick face) and terrain and weather and with every green light I ticked off by week, I grew more and more confident I could actually do this running, even in the British mid winter – and that it made me feel great.  
Once that ran its course, I fell out of love with the inflexible schedules, I started cheating on the C210K program with the very sexy and sassy  Nike+ GPS app. Its red. And has Power Tracks.  I have been hopelessly devoted to since January. It’s sultry voice over  has congratulated me on personal bests, she’s given me encouragement when I’m almost at my goal, marked my pace, time and distance and even shown up race organisers when they the track proves short of the advertised distance. Faithful and reliable, my routes have been downloaded and my miles logged religiously ever since.
Until today. With one week to go, this was to be my penultimate medium run. I made time for it this morning sacrificing the much needed lie in, sorted out Stella, got the cap on (in case of the looming rain). About half a km into the warm up, something starts to go wrong. The ipod starts skipping tracks. There goes my pace and this is enough to completely distract me. I run straight into a scary lopsided looking youth, with an equally scary looking lopsided hound (Stella held her ground!).
2kms later and without any warning my iPhone’s voice control takes control of my phone. SAY A COMMAND! it shouts at me through my head phones – this gives me such a fright I actually shriek out loud, giving a small elderly woman I’m passing with her shopping, a bit of a start. This Voice Control also stops all music and makes the Nike+ app start sending paniked notifications, ‘Weak GPS! Move app to the FRONT’.   So I do. I have to stop and remove the iphone from the equally snazzy armband. Swipe, click. Nike+ is reinstated. Music is back on. Running again! This time I only just about get back into my stride and the music stops and again….SAY A COMMAND! This time I give a group of small children a rather colourful demonstration of every cuss I know. Stop again, close apps, open apps, shut down phone, open ipod. Stella is now getting agitated, bored, beginning to protest –  wondering why on earth we’re not in Holland Park yet. Where there are squirrels. 
Further into the run I finally give up. Nothing helps. Nike+ FAILS to log runs, or logs four runs that make no sense or any relation to reality and the entire iPhone crashes. Now I have no reception. There’s no app for that. 
I’m hoping for salvation in the form of an Apple Genius. Or an upgrade. Or both. Either way I fear the love affair may be over with Nike+
Mapmyrun, let’s give it another shot.