Running Update

This week I’ve been super sensible. My calf was causing me a little bit of annoyance last week so I’ve taken just over a week off.

It’s frustrating to me because it felt absolutely fine during the marathon, during and after. And then when I started running again when I got home it felt fine. Even my eight miler was great. My hamstring was *slightly* niggly, but my calf felt normal. But the week after my two shorter runs didn’t feel good. My hamstring was also annoying me and so was my calf (both same leg). I decided the safest thing was just to stop running to let it rest.

I have Marathon Talk Run Camp approaching which I’m super excited about and want to get involved in (which is next weekend). I also have the Reading Half Marathon mid-March which I’d like to be fit for. I say “fit” as a relative term here. I won’t be PB-chasing as I’m not in any sort of shape for that. But I really like the race and want to be able to give it a little bit of welly.

So taking the time now rather than later is the wisest decision. The hamstring thing is interesting to me. I’ve had this issue since just before the Boston Marathon. In general it’s fine. It crops up occasionally in long runs at the end and is especially noticeable when I sit down for long periods of time (it’s basically just below my bum at the top of the hamstring, and niggled there and my foot recently). But mostly it’s not there when I run or in daily life. I found that avoiding direct hamstring exercises like deadlifts really helped. It’s a shame as I really enjoyed doing deadlifts, especially heavy deadlifts. But I’d rather run without issue so it was a sacrifice I gladly made.

Anyway, being the idiot that I am, since Christmas I’ve been adding in more hamstring exercises. Nothing heavy but some lighter, higher rep hamstring focused work. And this niggled it each time I did it. And yet I carried on (because I’m essentially an idiot). It aggravated my sciatic nerve.

Anyway, I wonder if the calf issue was made worse because of my hamstring being all angry – whether it’s annoying the calf directly or my calf overcompensating because my hamstring is feeling rough. I saw my physio (fully recommend if you’re in the Portsmouth/South Coast area) last night and he agreed that it’s probably all connected (as everything in the body generally is…). He commented that my hamstring injury area felt like “spaghetti” with the scar tissue. Bleurgh.

He worked on my back, “stretching” my spin (which was bizarre let me tell you), manipulated a few things, massaged and did acupuncture so I’m hoping that will help. Her didn’t seem too concerned though. I’m planning on doing Upton House parkrun tomorrow (yessss my “U”!) with friends so fingers crossed eh.

So needless to say I’ll be avoiding those pesky hamstring exercises that cause me issue. I won’t be bossing out any fast running either…but I hope to be getting back into more consistent running. But I won’t hold my breath 😉 I’m just going to jinx it all by being to hopeful.

Any advice on hamstring/calf/sciatic issues always welcome 🙂

Have you ever had any sciatic or back issues before?

Are there any exercises you avoid?

What are your weekend plans?

Dubai Marathon Goals

Having missed the Stubbington 10k on Sunday because I was being sensible, I decided to try running at lunchtime on Monday instead.

When I woke up Monday morning and headed to the gym (for strength-based training – not to run) the weather just looked awful. It was tipping it down. Even Alfie was not amused on his early morning walk! But I was resolute that I would run, come what may (dependent only on my calf feeling good of course).Thankfully come lunchtime my calf was feeling perfectly fine and the rain had stopped. I quickly got myself together and headed out. My plan was run the 10k distance I’d missed the day before. Not race it of course but just cover the distance. I was prepared to cut it short if necessary and had a good route for this with several points to turn back around.The run felt great. Well, my calf and other body parts felt great. My fitness…ehhhh. That said, I was running around 8 minute miles and my shiny new watch (well, “new” since Christmas) was telling me that according to my heart rate (around 140 bpm) I was running at an “easy pace”. I mean, it didn’t feel tough and I wasn’t out of breath – I could have chatted to my imaginary friend if I’d have fancied 😉 I guess I was just aware of how far a mile is… and how far a mile followed by 25.2 more would be. I’ve only run 10.6 miles since the Portsmouth Marathon so we’re talking three weeks of no long runs.

Without sounding arrogant or complacent though, I’ve run enough marathons now to know I can complete one (providing I don’t have a show-stopping injury or problem during the race). I’m not worried I won’t be able to finish and I’m certainly not questioning whether or not to do it. I’m going to Dubai for goodness sake – even if it takes me six hours, I’m doing the marathon!

It’s kind of like knowing that your car can get you to a far away destination. It might not be the smoothest drive, the weather might suck, the roads might be tough, the car might not be a race car but instead a little Fiat 500, but you know the engine can cope as long as it’s got the fuel. You can never guarantee, of course, that something won’t happen along the way outside of your control but in theory the car should be OK to complete the journey.

Knowing I can complete the distance isn’t my worry. It’s how tough it’ll feel and how bad my legs will feel after the marathon. The worse the training the worse the recovery. I’m not so stupid to assume that because I’ve run 12 marathons before will mean it’ll be a doddle. A marathon is NEVER easy. It’s a physical and mental battle however many you’ve run before. It’s not a walk in the park or indeed a parkrun. Those miles can tear you apart and laugh in your face. Hours of running. HOURS of mental and physical grit required.

Initially my goal was to be somewhere near my 3:24:06 PB but that realistically is not going to happen. I’d need to set out with that intention to hit that time and I’m not going to (I’m not sandbagging here I assure you). To be thoroughly boring and same old same old I’m going to hope to get around 3:45, anything under that would be marvelous. I’d absolutely love to get sub 3:30 but again realistically this is going to be a tough ask fitness-wise and I don’t really want to cause any further issues for my calf now that it’s on it’s way back to normal. The closer to 4 hours I get the bigger the issues I’ve had, I imagine, but we’ll see. Heat and humidity could play a factor here. It should be around 25 degrees during the day but the marathon starts 6am so it should be 10-15 degrees hopefully for a big portion. The course is entirely flat with few major turns (joy of joy, I can almost feel my mind melting in boredom). So it’s anyone’s guess really. I’ll decide how I feel closer to the time.

Happily the marathon is on the last day of the holiday so I can enjoy Dubai without issue beforehand. Oh sure I probably need to be a bit careful what I eat the day before and get a good night’s sleep but I can’t see this being an issue. I suppose ideally having the marathon at the beginning would be best but actually I’m happy with how it’s planned. After the marathon all I need to do is eat (which I’m pretty good at) and then later get on a plane to go home. It’ll probably be a super uncomfortable journey home but least I can just chill to some degree.

**Just going to add the necessary disclaimer right here: I’m fully aware I’m probably jinxing things here by saying all the above. Famous last words and all that…Fingers crossed it does turn out OK.***

Excitingly before I head to sunny Dubai, this weekend I’m heading to sunny Birmingham to meet up with some running buddies. Also, now brace yourself as this is super exciting, I’ll be getting another letter for my parkrun Alphabet Challenge! (Yes OK it’s not that exciting, but it is to me). I’ll be doing Kingsbury parkrun, whoop whoop! Following this I’ll be going to The National Running Show. I’m only staying for the Saturday but I’m quite excited. I’ve never been to one before. I’m imagining it to be a big running expo type thing. Exciting stuff.

Have you ever been to The National Running Show?

Are you confident with your running ability when it comes to races?

If you could be any car, what would you be? I’ll stick with my Fiat 500, cute and dinky 😉

Reading Half training day and lots of cake

This weekend was quite busy with me being in both Reading and then Brighton. I was in Reading for the Reading Half Marathon Training Session.

I’ve never done an event like this so I was quite excited about what it would entail, even if it did mean missing my usual parkrun 😉 It was nice to mix things up a bit. On Saturday morning I had a quick breakfast and got myself going at 8.30am. Surprisingly for me I arrived bang on time  for 9.30am – in fact, earlier than other people! Normally I’m late!IMG_2597I finally got to meet the lovely Tess (who writes the great blog The Fitbits) who I know through social media. She’s just as lovely in person as she is online – and, I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this, she is TINY but full of energy!

The session involved lots of different bits. We got to meet the Reading Half Marathon Run Director, Judith Manson, who was lovely and friendly and got us all excited about the upcoming event (18th March – there are still places available FYI, as well as a competition to win a place HERE).

Then we had a workout with the Townsend Twins, Francesca and Chloe, who will be doing the warm-up before the half marathon on the day. IMG_2568They took us through a solid body-weight workout involving squats, single leg deadlifts and lunges etc. followed by a core-focused workout. They gave us options to make it easier or harder which was nice as there was a variety of skill level within the room. They had a great energy and kept us going.D7B7CB84-E4D8-4528-92E8-FCAB2829CE66Then Ali Galbraith took us through a discussion on pacing.IMG_2574He gave us some good tips on how to pace our ideal race. Some of his points included:

  • Having a good knowledge of the course so you would know when the tricky sections were like any hills so you wouldn’t panic when your pace decreased and where you could pick it up later.
  • Not going off too fast at the start (such an underrated tip – this is my biggest tip to anyone when doing a half or a full marathon. It is SO easy to get over-excited at the beginning and then burn out).
  • Practising your goal pace during your training.

And other top tips. Most of it was familiar to me but the tip that stood out was having a good knowledge of the course.D0B739E2-1DE7-4711-A245-3FE21DF0E41CFor some strange reason I don’t like to look at course maps too much because it’s almost like I don’t want to ruing the surprise for myself… which is ridiculous. Too often I have very little awareness of what’s coming up in the race. So I took this point away with me to change.IMG_2606Then we headed out for a 5k run. What I really liked about this (and the workout before) was that the warm-ups weren’t the old school static stretches. It was all dynamic movements to get the muscles warmed up, things like leg swings, squats and lunges. Far, far better! There’s no point stretching cold muscles.IMG_2593The run itself was good. We split off into groups due to everyone differing in paces. The group I was in had a pace of 8.30-9 minutes per mile which was led by Ali. The run was around the local area and took in the first mile of the Reading Half Marathon, so we could get a feel of what race day would be like (though I have run Reading twice before, but not the new course).IMG_2596Then we headed around the Madejski Stadium before heading back. It was a lovely crisp cold morning which we all agreed would be perfect weather for the race day. My calf felt a little uncomfortable but nothing major.Reading runThen we all met up back at the conference centre the event was held in and had our final session which was with Jim from the Berkshire Physio. They would be at the Half Marathon too – so if you need any advice or post-race massage, they’re your guys!IMG_2599Jim was super knowledgeable and pretty much everything he said he backed up with research. He talked about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as a treatment for an injury and also gave us some great stretches and strength exercises to keep us injury-free. One of the best exercises he gave us was called the “slump” and involved “neural flossing” of the Sciatic nerve. Instead of stretching your hamstrings with the standard static stretch, he recommended this exercise. Basically you sit on a table and slump your back to relax your spin with your chin to your chest, then you straight one leg and then bring it back down again. You continue to do this, and should feel things loosen from your leg to your back if you’re really tight. Apparently this is “flossing” your Sciatic nerve and helping to reduce tension and tightness. Obviously my explanation is a bit pants, so I recommend you google it if you’re interestedIMG_2570The event was well run and a good session. It was nice to meet fellow runners and to chat about training and things like that. I met the lovely Tamsyn from the blog Fat Girl to Ironman and Katie and Kate from the blog These Girls Do. So a fantastic bunch! I’m really looking forward to the Reading Half now 🙂

Then I hopped back in the car around 1.30pm and headed to Brighton. I hadn’t really planned lunch and didn’t really want to stop for anything proper as I just wanted to get there so I pushed on through. I did however eat four apples to keep me going. I’m not AnnaTheApple for no reason 😉

I got to Brighton and met up with my lovely friend, Charlotte. I was staying over for the night ready for a baby shower celebration the next day with my uni friends. I managed to persuade her into ordering an early dinner from Deliveroo as I was past the point of hunger and dangerously close to hanger. We ordered from a Turkish place called Almoosh Snack which we did the last time I stayed. I went for the mixed grill (which was HUGE but absolutely perfect for my hunger levels) and Charlotte ordered a large halloumi wrap and tabbouleh salad.IMG_2602My mixed grill was as I remembered it (lots of chicken wings, lamb mince koftas etc. on a bed of rice) but Charlotte’s was literally just slices of fried halloumi and her salad. It was definitely not a large wrap – and certainly missing the garlic sauce and pickles described on the menu! I rang up to complain and the man did apologise and said Deliveroo must have given us the starter version. He didn’t really offer a solution though… I’m still going to look into this further as it was a disappointing. Charlotte had to add a bagel to make it into an actual meal. Hmmm. Despite this, we had a lovely evening watching Hidden Figures (so good) and lots of First Dates (such addictive trashy TV).IMG_2609The next day I had a fabulous lie-in and then headed out into the bitter cold for a 4 mile run. I had intended on going a bit further (maybe 6 miles) but the calf was just not happy. I’d warmed it up and done some exercises before going out but it was no Bueno. It just felt so uncomfortable every time my foot hit the ground. IMG_2608The run location was lovely – the weather cold and windy but bright and the promenade was just full of fellow runners and a beautiful view of the sea. But I headed back and called it a day. 4 milesAfterwards there was a dull but non-specific ache in the calf. Hummm. Yeah I probably shouldn’t have run after running the day before. I never learn.

Our other friends soon arrived and we all headed to Metrodeco, a very quirky and friendly café in Brighton, for afternoon tea. We didn’t do any crazy crazy baby shower games but we did have a fun game where we couldn’t say “baby” and had pins that we’d try to win off of people when we noticed someone saying it. Very good fun! And probably safe to say I lost…IMG_2623The afternoon tea was amazing. There were open sandwiches of ham, salmon, creme cheese and brie. A large scotch egg sliced up, two mini fruit scones, a chocolate brownie, a mini red velvet cupcake and a selection of fruit tarts.IMG_2625We also had unlimited tea from a very large selection. I chose the Puer Tea, simply because I’d heard Victoria Beckham drank it because it was healthy (haha I’m ridiculous I know) but actually it was delicious and complimented all the sweet foods perfectly. It was like a refreshing and gentle black tea. We could change our teas whenever we fancied but I stuck with that one.IMG_2626The whole afternoon tea was so good! We could ask for more creme (clotted of course) and jam and the service was just super friendly and helpful. And, as usual, I played the human dustbin and helped where people needed it 😉 It’s become worryingly easy how my stomach can put this stuff away!

Then we played some more games (quizzes, no horrible baby shower games involving nappies!), the mother-to-be opened presents and then we headed off home. A lovely weekend with lovely people 🙂

Have you ever tried Puer tea?

Do you enjoy the games usually played at baby showers?

Are you running any half marathons this year?

Injured but not down

So here I am again, the injured runner. Oh to be one of those hardy people who never gets injured. But such are the cards I’m dealt.

I did get a little angry (well, not angry just jokingly irate ;-)) at a guy at parkrun after he’d written a long-winded and moany post on Facebook about how annoyed and sad he was that he was facing a similar injury to one he’d had four years ago. Bare in mind he’s not been injured since then. AND HE WAS COMPLAINING. One injury every four years? I’ll take it!!! Damn it, I’d pay money for those sort of odds.

Anyway. Yes I’m injured. I’ve sort of been in denial about it but now as the marathon training is looming in front of me I need to be honest with myself. To be fair, the two runs I did the other week that I sung the praises for on my blog did go amazingly. I felt 100% fine during and after…and then parkrun happened and boom! Back to square one. It’s almost worse when that happens as you’re given a tiny bit of hope that everything’s OK and then it’s ripped away from you.

I’ve given up wondering why it’s happened because this is the part that frustrates me more than anything. This isn’t a new injury, it’s a reoccurring one. Nothing I seem to do helps. It just crops up every year, summer or winter. JUST GO AWAY. Give me a flipping chance.

It’s my shin/calf. I guess a shin splint? Just one leg. The particular area of niggliness and/or pain sort of moves up and down the area so *shrugs* I don’t know. It’s not excruciating pain though, just an occasional throb and general feeling of tightness and discomfort that gets worse running.

On Saturday when I did my doomed pre-parkrun running trial it went very badly. Straight off the bat the niggle was like “hey, Anna, how’s it going?”. So I obviously stopped straight away. I finished my walk with Alfie, my head spinning with what I should do. Luckily I was staying at my parents so I could have my pathetic little melt down with them, rather than on my own with just Alfie looking despairingly at me.

“That’s it! I’m cancelling Tokyo!” I sobbed to them (like I said, pathetic). It’s just too stressful. It’s just too hard. Running is my fun time, my de-stressor, my happy place. It shouldn’t make me feel this way (mentally and physically). My mum and dad calmed me down and we talked rationally about what to do about Tokyo. You know, that rather expensive holiday purely to do the marathon I had planned.

I checked the small print of the details (I booked through a tour company) and counted the days until I was to go. Unfortunately at this point I’ll only get 50% of my money back. Bollocks. Excuse my French. Had I made this decision 10 days ago I would have gotten significantly more money back.

Right, so Tokyo is STILL on. Even if I have to walk the whole damn thing I will bloody do it.

Realistically, I do have a fair bit of time (12 weeks) and I may have been somewhat over-dramatic in my reaction. I haven’t got an injury that is significantly world-ending. I can still successfully cross-train fairly easily by either bike or elliptical. And I can’t imagine I’m going to be out of the game until February (the marathon is at the end of Feb). I just won’t be able to get the proper marathon build-up or training I prefer.

But even if I only get up to 10 miles, I know I can do it. Yes it’ll be painful, my expectations amended accordingly and the recovery process post-marathon a bit of a bitch. But it’s a Marathon Major, it’s in Japan (I’ve never been) and I’m at a time of my life where I can do this without guilt.

Who cares if I get overtaken by a Pikachu or an oversized HelloKitty?

So there we go. My current status is not running at the moment but continued cross-training (I can barely contain my excitement) and a few trips to my physio. Mentally I’m OK. Yes it royally sucks, but I’ve been here before. I also have a lovely Florida holiday to cushion any January post-Christmas I WANT TO RUN blues sooo it can’t all be doom and gloom after all 😉

My one wish, though, is to be able to do Christmas parkrun…

What would you do if you were me?

How do you deal with injuries?

Not panicking

Here we go again. The weather is definitely on the change. The morning’s are not distinctly cooler and autumn is swooping in fast.

My weekend was a mixed bag really. Just rolling back to the start of the week I decided to book myself a sports massage with my normal physio as I could feel my shin/calf was a bit niggly. I ran on Tuesday night and it felt fine during the run but after doing some track work on Thursday night, it was definitely more grumpy. Luckily my massage was booked for Friday as I was working from home so it was nicely timed.

The physio wasn’t too concerned. She said it was just getting a bit inflamed which was causing the tightness. It’s annoying because I’ve managed to avoid all other injuries by strengthening my body; no IT band issues anymore, no knee issues, hip issues, groin issues etc. All of which have consistently plagued me in the past. After strengthening my body (specifically my glutes) I haven’t had any twinges, tightness or anything. The issue I’ve been consistently having with my shin/calf though I don’t know what to do about. I wondered if it was because I had weak calves and over the past few weeks have been doing lots of calf raises (single leg on the stairs).

After talking to my physio though she reckons that’s unnecessary and probably compounding my issue further. She said my calf (the one I’ve really focused on) feels very tight and this is probably making things worse when I run. Looking back it does seem to make sense as it has only got more niggly the more strength work I did. The likelihood is that it’s a biometrical issues caused by my flat feet (*sighs*) which gets aggravated when I do lots of mileage, but usually isn’t anything that comes to much (I do get a very slight similar issue in the other leg, but it never comes to anything). However adding in my quite enthusiastic calf raises most days (yep, I’m that keen) has just sparked it off. Thankfully though she’s given me some good exercises to work on my flat feet to strengthen my arches to try and stop this happening in the future. All about the toe-grabs 😉

And because I am such a paranoid runner and terrified of stress fractures I asked if it could be or was close to being a stress fracture (I know how ridiculous this sounds…especially as there was no actual pain). She knows my neuroticism and all but laughed at me. She ultrasounded my entire shin and calf area to reduce any inflammation and reassured me that if I had a stress fracture then the pain of the ultrasound would have been severe. The fact that I felt nothing proved I didn’t have one. Well, that’s something!

After that very long explanation, I ran parkrun on Saturday because I wanted to do it and because I wanted to know in my mind how bad it was. It didn’t feel amazing but no pain, just discomfort and, well, niggliness. It was very tender from the massage as well which probably didn’t help. I shouldn’t have run (my physio advised against it…yes I know, I’m ridiculous) but mentally I needed to know. It wasn’t any worse afterwards…

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It was the first time in ages that I was cold before we started. I say cold, more chilly really. Nothing like as bad as it gets in the depths of winter when you dread taking your coat off to line-up.

The rest of the day was, again, sorting more house stuff out. Specifically the loft and shed. Everywhere else is pretty much sorted in terms of streamlining my stuff, separating bits and pieces between Ben and me and throwing out/giving away/selling junk. Just the loft and shed are a beomoth of crap and full of stuff that “we might use later”.

The next day I’d planned 16 miles but on the advice of my physio I cancelled it. I’m probably going to take the rest of the week off just to be safe. For once I’m not panicking. Obviously I don’t want to DNS Bournemouth but I don’t think it’ll come to that if I’m sensible. Thankfully this isn’t an injury, but it could become one. A week off now means things can resume again without issue (FINGERS CROSSED). I think I’m mainly not that stressed about Bournemouth because I have no goals apart from to just finish it. Getting close to my previous times would be nice but I want to enjoy the marathon and not rinse myself and stress out. I just love marathons and want to continue my streak of having another good one in terms of enjoyment.

So I ended up in the gym on Sunday morning. I didn’t set an alarm but woke up at 7.30am and realised I could make the 8.30am Spin class. Ultimately having someone yell at you to workout is so much easier than motivating yourself I find (if it’s not running that is).

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I haven’t been to Spin in ages and was dreading it. But you know what, I really enjoyed it. The instructor was fantastic and played some great music. The sprints were hard but I found myself really going for it. Good workout indeed!

I wanted to exercise for around the same time I’d have been running for to maintain some sort of endurance (and sanity) so went on the elliptical machine, the rower and then followed by the stepper. I find it so hard to motivate myself or keep myself interested which is why I machine hopped (I tried to keep the breaks minimal when hopping between).

IMG_3806Less time than I would have been running but higher intensity I suppose. No way near as fun as a long run (and calorie stats and HR are so dull in comparison to having minutes per mile splits and elevation charts…) but it is what it is!

The rest of the day was spent having a long walk and chat with a close friend with Alfie. The weather was beautiful and it was lovely. Not much else to report sadly. Like I said, a bit of a mixed bag. I’m not stressing about my calf but I am bummed I can’t run…for the moment. But I have a far more positive outlook 🙂

Also, I’ve just started watching the Hannibal TV series. I was a bit reluctant as it looked a bit gory and scary for me but I liked the sound of the premise and the two guys in it are quite dishy (in a weird way). I AM HOOKED. It is rather grisly but it’s quite enthralling.

What have you gotten up to this weekend?

What TV shows are you hooked on right now? Do you have a particular genre you go for?

Calf raises: yes or no??