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?

London trip and Burgess parkrun

This weekend was a lovely long one.

Kyle and I left work on Friday after lunch and walked to the train station to head to London. We had an AirBnb booked so after arriving at Waterloo Station we headed there. Not to state the obvious but it was a pretty hot one! Walking and using the tube was hardwork.

After settling into our accommodation we headed to London Bridge to go up The Shard.

Neither of us had done this before so it was exciting to go up. Though I have to say, the number of queues before you get up there is a little ridiculous: there’s a queue to get inside, then a queue to get your ticket, then a queue to have your items checked, then a queue to have a photo taken (which is mandatory and later you have to queue to view and then pay for if you actually want it), then a queue to get into the elevator before FINALLY arriving on the viewing floor. Jeeze. But once you’re up there it’s pretty spectacular. We had a lovely clear day so got a great view.

We avoided the expensive ice cream (£3 per scoop!) and cocktails at the bar (£13.50!) – definitely not in Portsmouth anymore eh. And then we headed back to the AirBnb to get ready for dinner.

We were going to the Chelsea branch of the Marco Pierre White steakhouse. We glammed up and got an Uber there (who was super friendly and even recommended us the same restaurant we had booked for brunch to the next day – great minds!).

The restaurant was super posh – definitely not something we’re used to 😉

We both had Whiskey Mac cocktails while we perused the menu. I drank mine trying to convince myself I do in fact like whiskey (I don’t, unless large amounts of the ice has melted into it). For starters we had the chicken parfait, then I had the duck leg salad and Kyle had steak, and for pudding we both had sticky toffee pudding.

It was very tasty, but quite small portions. I imagine for “normal” people this would be fine but I’m a greedy large appetited person.

We had grand ambitions of going to a pub and having a few more drinks, but reality set in and we realised buying a few snacks from a corner shop and going back to the AirBnb to watch some Good Place was actually better. We’re simple souls.

The next morning we walked to Burgess parkrun (unsurprisingly in Burgess Park). It was so hot. It was a two mile walk so we were nice and toasty when we got there.

While we were milling around I heard a man talking to two others about his parkrun Alphabet Challenge progress. He mentioned he was going to York very soon and then in a couple of week he was off somewhere in Poland for the Z,

Being the nosy person I am, I interjected and asked which parkrun in Poland. I asked because recently my Z for Zary had been removed from counting as a Z in the challenge. I only found this out fairly recently when I checked on my Bingo Challenge progress. Yep, no more Zary in the Z list. After asking around I found out it’s because the Z in Zary is actually not technically a Z in the Polish/Russian language (it has a special dot above it, meaning it means something else).

I mean, of course I was a bit frustrated when I found this out – I went all that way! But actually I really only have myself to blame for this mistake being the non-Polish speaking ignorant English girl… I don’t regret going to Zary of course as I loved going and it was a great adventure for Kyle and I. It also just means I need to go back to Poland to go to the actual real Z parkrun there (without the little dot above it), Zielona Góra. Watch this space…

But anyway, the man couldn’t remember which one he was going to but said his friends had been thorough in their organising. Well, good to luck him!

Burgess parkrun was a beautiful course which ran through the park, next to the large pond (small lake?) and back round again.

It was lovely and flat, asides from a couple of very brief inclines. And the marshals were lovely and enthuasiastic cheering us along.

My hamstring niggled a little but nothing major. I kept my pace controlled. I find it very hard though during parkrun because as you get to the end people are more enthusiastic in their cheering (“come on, sprint finish!”) and as tempting as that is, it’s not ideal when you’re trying to be sensible.

And it’s hard when people suddenly surge past you… Of course I did speed up a bit, but I tried so hard not to get too carried away in the moment. My time was 24:26.

At the end they had bananas and free gels to try (I declined both, far too hot). Then we headed quickly back to the AirBnb to get showered and head to our brunch in Covent Garden, The Big Easy.

Now BBQ food at 11am might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but for me this was the absolute dream. It was called the Boozy Brunch and the one we selected (The Big Pig Gig) was an all you can eat BBQ food and unlimited drink. We’re not huge drinkers (and it was 11am…) so we opted for Diet Cokes (unlike the table behind us who were at least three pints throughout the meal haha).

I felt a bit bad because on our second Diet Coke I said to the waitress quite firmly (or so Kyle tells me…) not to bring straws with our fresh glasses. The waitress looked a bit affronted told me actually they were eco-friendly straws… Whoops that’s me told!

Anyway the food itself was so good. We had pulled pork, chicken legs, pork ribs, cornbread, coleslaw, BBQ beans and chips.

Once we got through our first ’round’ the waitress was there straight away asking what bits we’d like again, or just a bit of everything again? Well… just a bit of everything please!

Kyle was a big fan of the cornbread, I loved the ribs and neither of us touched the chips (why waste valuable stomach space!). But everything was delicious. On finishing most of the second round the waitress came back. We were both fairly full but being greedy I asked for a couple more ribs. You know, just because.

THEN I was stuffed. Ooooooof!

I had previously had ideas of going to Doughnut Time afterwards but noooo way would this be happening now. Also, the thought of giant sickly doughnuts really was not appealing in the heat.

We then rolled walked back to Waterloo and headed back home. Kyle played on his iPad while I read my newly acquired book, Ready Player One.

A trip well spent!

How was your weekend?

Do you like alcohol with a brunch?

Have you been up The Shard?

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?

A failed parkrun but an epic burger

Coming back from injury is a tumultuous and emotional process (for me anyway).

You fill yourself huge amounts of hope and excitement. Yesss I can run. I can’t wait to jump ease back into training. Things start to feel very positive after so much negativity and darkness (perhaps an exaggeration, but you get the vibe).

I woke up on Saturday morning and straight away knew my hamstring was feeling pretty terrible. The plan was for Kyle and I to go to Netley as we hadn’t been in so long and I missed seeing people I used to regularly touch base with. I wanted to catch up with my friend Mike as well. Kyle wasn’t feeling particularly well but both of us, possibly unwisely, carried on anyway.

As we walked on over to the start area I knew deep down this wasn’t going to go well but I pushed that feeling aside and convinced myself a miracle would occur.

Of course a miracle did not occur. As soon as I started running it felt uncomfortable. Not quite as bad as pre-new physio but definitely not great. Ehhhh this was pants. I was glad to have no one running with me (Kyle was running solo – I didn’t want to hold him back again). I could spend my time focusing on how it felt and wondering what to do.

I was literally spiralling through so many thoughts… do I stop? Am I making it worse? Is it as bad as before? Should I push on through? And all the while I would have different people I knew overtake me as I increasingly got slower, and they’d say something along the lines of, “Either I’m running too fast or you’re running slowly!” with a chuckle.

And I don’t mind that people are overtaking me or that I’m running slowly but it just further compounded that I wasn’t running at my natural pace. I was running well over 9 minute miles. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but I felt I couldn’t run faster. Not because of fitness but because my injury was holding me back.

So in the end I stopped before the first mile. I found a point on the course I could quickly dash off from so few people would notice. I didn’t want someone to see and ask if I was OK. I just wanted to disappear. I was embarrassed, frustrated and angry. As I pulled away from the course I burst into tears. It was pathetic really but I just felt so frustrated and annoyed.

A lovely woman walking her dog asked if I was OK and it did feel ridiculous trying to explain what was wrong. In the end I just said I was OK and I rung my dad (who later told me having a phone call from me at 9:12 on a Saturday morning is never going to bode well…).

Kyle was still running so I just sobbed to my dad about how sad I was and how I felt panicked about Chicago and how I thought I was heading in the right direction…until now.

Eventually, after morosely walking around the cricket pitch away from the course, I headed back to the parkrun area. I didn’t want to cheer anyone on. I didn’t want to talk to anyone really. I felt embarrassed and I didn’t want to explain I was injured. I found Kyle and Mike, who’d just finished, and I explained how I’d pulled out and that I just wanted to go home. Mike understood, gave me a hug and then Kyle and I left.

Kyle was obviously lovely and we had a nice day ahead of us going to Bournemouth so I quickly cheered up. We got showered and sorted and then sat in the long traffic to get to Monty’s Burger Lounge to meet up with some of Kyle’s friends.

We’ve been to this restaurant before (over a year ago!) and we loved it. I’d recently won a burger from them as well through Instagram (they ran a competition and I won it) so it was the perfect place to meet with his friends.

I gave Kyle the free burger as I’m not a huge burger fan. The burger is called The Sinner and contains chicken nuggets, hasbrowns (which I don’t like), a 12oz beef patty, pulled pork sauce and American cheese. So pretty epic.

I, of course, had two lots of BBQ chicken wings. I adore their wings. So juicy and tasty. Probably some of my BBQ flavoured favourite wings (buffalo are still my all-time favourite).

And I also had a portion of mozzarella bites (coated in cheesy Dorita crisps!).

We had a lovely time eating and chatting away to Kyle’s friends. It massively helped take my mind off of my failed run. There are so many more important things in life and having lovely people to spend your time with helps puts things into perspective 🙂

But my hamstring thankfully feels a bit better and I hope to continue trying to run. I’m seeing my new physio again this week so FINGERS CROSSED.

Have you ever got upset about a failed run?

Have you ever had a parkrun DNF?

What’s your preference: Buffalo or BBQ wings? I’m also partial to vegan wings too – either cauliflower or tempeh, both are nice!