Game on, Chicago

I really don’t want to jinx things, but it looks like things are definitely getting there with my hamstring.

I obviously need to continue to play things safe and not suddenly be like wheyyyyyy 18 miler booooom. This hamstring injury (hamstring tendinopathy) is one that can easily be triggered again and regress. So I continue to proceed with caution. But *whispers* things are going well.

Daily discomfort is minimal – if it’s even there. Previously when it was at its worst, I’d feel it All. The. Time. I’d feel it walking. I’d feel it lying down. Now it’s rarely ever there. And happily sitting doesn’t trigger it anymore.

Most importantly, running isn’t an awful experience. There were runs at the start (like only a mile or a tester run) where it’d feel so uncomfortable that I’d feel this great stab of fear thinking “I cannot run 26.2 miles like this” and really doubt getting more training done. But now the discomfort is minimal. It’s still there, but every run it gets a bit less.

I ran 12 miles at the weekend and it was a run that gave me great confidence. Yes it did feel uncomfortable towards the end, but not the worst discomfort I’ve felt over this injury.

And the rest of the day it felt fine! Even the next day it felt absolutely fine. My first few runs when I was coming back I’d feel my hamstring discomfort a lot more post-run and that night and the next day, then it would die off again. But now it’s not there anymore.

Running those 12 miles felt like an absolute joy. Listening to a podcast, zoning out, having that time just running for a long time. Yes it was hard (Jesus how did 12 used to feel so easy??) and yes it wasn’t perfect, but it was so much better. I know I’m at that point in the injury lifecycle where it’s going. Every day is better, every run is better.

After speaking with a professional who knows a lot about this injury, he advised upping my hamstring strength routine and planning out my runs in relation to that a bit more sensibly. With the strength I was previously taking the weights very gently on the hamstring curl machine (as to not cause any regressions) and doing about 20 reps at light weight. Now I’ve upped the weight and I do around 10 reps, so it starts to get tough at the last rep. And he gave me a few more exercises to incorporate which focus primarily on my hamstring.

Previously I was very much focused on my glutes. But now I’m focusing on my hamstring (I still work my glutes and the surrounding muscles but the focus of my rehab is most definitely the hamstring now).

Single leg hamstring bridges

Just to be clear though, if you’re suffering from this issue too, you need to have a gentle and gradual build-up. It’s taken me many weeks to get to this point and it was only after talking to this specialist and him checking my strength and mobility that I was given the all clear to fully work the hamstring harder. The first few weeks of this injury you wouldn’t necessarilly do that.

I also asked if he thought me doing Chicago was sensible or if I’d do myself any long term damage. He said as long as I didn’t regress or get worse, Chicago would be fine. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Someone who knows their stuff giving me solid advice. My mind is so much calmer now.

So going forward I’m running three times a week, one of those being a long run. Though realistically I won’t be going that long… probably 16 miles top. And between that I have set hamstring easy and hard days. So far so good! My hamstring is responding well. It’s getting stronger. The discomfort is getting less.

The thing about this injury is that you have to be patient, be sensible and not neglect rehab. It won’t get better on its own with rest. You have to push it and strengthen it. But it’s a very fine balance of not pushing it too hard and knowing when to back off. I think the past 15 or so weeks have evidently shown this for me! I’m going to do a more thorough post later on how I combatted this (though I don’t want to speak too soon because this could all fall down again!!).

I’ve read a lot of forums and I just want to put something positive into the Internet about this injury because so much of it was doom and gloom and never feeling normal again. I’m not quite back to normal, but eventually (all things being well and me not being an idiot) I hope to provide a bit of positivity from what I’ve learnt and experienced. (TOUCH WOOD!!)

Have you ever had a long-term injury?

Do you do regular strength work to keep an injury at bay?

Decisions, decisions

The Chicago Marathon is now merely six weeks away.

Obviously I’m panicking, do I need to say this? And the question of whether or not to run it still hangs above me. I mean, to be honest I could absolutely leave it until the morning of the race to decide if I’m going to do it or not. Kyle and I will be going to Chicago whatever my running outcome is. The flights and accommodation are all booked. There was never a consideration that we wouldn’t be going so whatever happens we’ll have a nice holiday. That isn’t up for debate.

What is up for debate is me being on the start line. I mean you could argue I should just go and try it anyway. I get no money back by not doing it. Our accommodation is literally a 10 minute walk from my corral. Effort levels of getting there are minimal.

Instead the risk is that by attempting it I will be making my hamstring injury worse because, let’s face it, us runners are stubborn beasts and once we set our mind to a race we will do our very best to run, walk, crawl to the end. And while yes that’s great in terms of making the most of a shitty situation, I could making the situation afterwards, well, more shitty.

The idea of starting and then going “ah you know what, it doesn’t feel that great, I’ll stop” requires a very strong mind. To limp through a race in my opinion is the weaker stance… By recognising that it’s best to stop requires far more strength. And with the adrenaline and thousands of other runners and supporters surrounding me, I don’t think I would be able to. I would push on through.

So I must decide before that day. And ideally, before I get to Chicago so’s not to get swept away with it all if the decision is the worser outcome. But I still have six weeks. So where am I at?

Well, it’s not a great place I have to admit. While my hamstring has definitely improved, it isn’t healed. The everyday niggle and ache isn’t always there. I have days when I barely feel it and running itself is a lot better. I’m not feeling restricted or like it’s such a nag I need to stop. But the feeling of discomfort is still in the background. No run has felt 100% perfect.

Perhaps I’m expecting too much? Perhaps it’s very gradually diminishing but because I’m inside my body every day I can’t tell. Or what if I’m just getting used to the constant discomfort and settling for “it’s not too bad”? I wish I could put myself in my body a few months or weeks ago and compare. Is it better? Or am I fooling myself?

The Wiggle crew I ran the 10 miles with

I ran 10 miles last week (and 20 miles overall). The 10 miles was uncomfortable and the hamstring did nag me, but it didn’t seem to get worse and I could complete 10 miles at a relatively normal pace (for me). Though that evening it ached and the next day it felt worse than before the run. But the next day I was absolutely fine and could barely feel any issues – despite having a two hour car journey to and from Bristol (which would previously feel like hell being sat down for so long).

So then the question is, do I do Chicago if running still feels uncomfortable? If it doesn’t do any long-term damage (this is a question I need answered) and is just an annoying nag the entire time, do I still do the marathon?

Am I being a perfectionist to want my last Marathon Major to be a fun and enjoyable experience – like my other Majors? Can I accept 4-5 hours of discomfort to just get it done? Do I throw away my chance to finish the last Major this year because I want the memories to be amazing? Or do I throw the towel in and have to fly out and do it all again next year (a Friday to Sunday night style affair on my own) because I want the experience to be what I’ve dreamed it would be (or at least, any issues I have aren‘t hamstring-related).

Sadly this injury is not the type of injury (hamstring tendinopathy) that just goes away with rest. Thirteen weeks of not running definitely showed that. Everything I’ve read online and the physios I’ve seen and spoken with have advised that rest is not best. I mean, that’s not to say that running through it is a good idea either. It means rehab and strengthening. And there are set-backs and aggravations and you can be setback weeks (I’ve experienced that a few times!).

I try not to read the forums anymore (you really shouldn’t) but so many people have said they had this injury for months, sometimes years. And even then they weren’t properly over it. It’s a depressing place in those forums and I know not to read too much into it or apply it to me… But when you’re standing on the edge of a big decision, it’s hard not to be dragged down there.

But until things really regress, I just have to keep going. I actually have no idea what to do otherwise. Even without thinking about Chicago, I want to run normally going forward. When it’s been so long you can’t seem to see an end. Will I be running normally next year? At this rate, I don’t know. Yes I’m being melodramatic, pessimistic and pathetic, but it’s hard not to let the panic consume you. When something you so love to do is taken away from you – or tarred in some way – your outlook can be a bit bleak.

Sorry for being so down. I just needed to vent.

What would you do?

A Winchester run and brunch and my game plan

The weekend just gone my lovely friend, Emma, and I had planned to meet up and do the Winchester parkrun followed by brunch.

She lives in Reading and we wanted a location that would be nice and relatively half-way. After some deliberation we decided on Winchester because, though it’s not really half-way, it is a lovely place and there were a couple of different brunch spots that took our fancy.

Unfortunately as we got closer to the weekend we realised Winchester parkrun had been cancelled. Ah, that scuppered that plan! After to’ing and fro’ing we decided to still go but do our own run together instead. Winchester is a beautiful place and has a nice river area to run along.

But before I get to Saturday, first Friday night. I just have to mention the meal we had at the Merchant House. Kyle and I went out with some friends from work. Happily I like the people I work with so it was a fun time. And the food was, as before, so good.

I went for the triple chicken burger with a portion of the loaded burnt end fries.

I actually felt a little embarrassed because last time I shared them with Kyle but this time I wanted my own portion… I liked them so much and I’m greedy. But the reason I was embarrassed was because one of my colleagues turned up and the first thing he said was “oof the portions here are huge so I’m going to give the fries a miss!”. Ahh here Anna goes again being the one who eats the most… but it was damn good and I enjoyed every bite.

Moments like these do make me feel like the most greedy person in the room because generally I do eat the most. It’s just that I enjoy food. I’m not stuffing myself to a ridiculous level, I do just think I have a big appetite and can eat a lot. But it does make me sometimes feel self-conscious when I eat more than everyone else…

But back to Saturday. I met with Emma at 9am and we ran four miles together.

The weather was lovely and sunny, but not too hot, and we kept the pace conversational so we could catch up. We regularly stay in touch through messages but it’s always nice to see someone in person.

She’s doing Chicago Marathon as well so it was nice to hear about her training – though it did give me major anxieties about my lack of training. This was the longest run I’d done for over 10 weeks. But no panic, no panic. I can only do what I can. At this point I’m still not 100% certain I will do Chicago…

Anyway the four miles were relatively comfortable, though there was a low lying discomfort it was still feeling better.

We then headed to the Dispensary Kitchen for some brunch.

I decided on the vegetarian breakfast after seeing it being whisked by me to another customer (it looked delicious!) and Emma went for poached eggs on avocado and toast. We shared a fruit and yogurt platter.

The food was delicious and looked gorgeous. I felt very saintly. It had halloumi, mushrooms, poached eggs, sourdough toast, avocado and homemade baked beans. The fruit platter was incredible as well. So much food! Just how I like it 😉

It was such a lovely meet-up 🙂

When I got home I decided on another two miles because I really wanted to get six for the day. My reasoning behind this was because I wanted to increase to eight miles the next week.

This is going to be a sink or swim lead-up to Chicago now. I just have to get into training. If my hamstring says “nope” and regresses then I know that Chicago isn’t going to happen. I’ve already taken over 10 weeks off of running. I’ve rehabbed as best as I can (I still am), I’ve avoided anything that aggravates things, I’ve seen two different physios and changed my trainers.

At this point I think I just have to try consistently running and see what happens. Obviously I’m going to be sensible and not suddenly go out and do a 20 miler or five runs a week. But I’d like to do three runs a week and one of those runs gradually building up. I won’t get higher than 16-17 miles before Chicago (if all goes well in my plan) but I’m absolutely fine by that.

I just want to run issue-free. Times and paces literally don’t matter to me right now. When I had this issue a few years ago after the Boston Marathon I managed to get back into long running with some persisting symptoms but otherwise it didn’t get worse.

So I know each run isn’t going to feel perfect or the discomfort entirely disappear just yet, but I can’t be frightened to run. As long as it doesn’t make it worse. That’s my rationale right now. I so hope this works!

How was your weekend?

Have you ever run through an injury?