My yearly calf niggle, home improvements and potential races

Life lately has continued to be fairly hectic.

Work has been busy and house stuff has been ongoing. I also picked up a little niggle in my calf – the ever present yearly calf niggle I get. So lots has been going on.

Firstly with the house… I’m so so happy with our little home.

It’s really coming together. We’ve got most of our furniture sorted now and now it’s more a case of getting pictures up, cushions and those little details that make the house inviting and “ours”. It’s definitely an ongoing and slow process, but one I’ve very much loving. Building a home with Kyle is making me very happy.

I have a never ending list of the things I want to get done but I’m trying not to let it overwhelm or stress me. We have time. And to be honest, working from home has allowed things to happen so much easier than if we weren’t at home… getting deliveries, being able to build furniture in our lunch breaks and things like that.

So my calf niggle. Well, it was time really for it to crop up. With running around 40 miles a week and a consistent 16-17 miler every week as my long run, it was really tempting fate. It’s so weird that my calf niggle (always the same, a sore spot that feels uncomfortable when I run and, when it gets bad, when I walk) always happens to me. I can’t seem to ever escape it.

That said, I’ve become really good at spotting it and backing off. Though I don’t know how to completely cure it, I definitely have a tried and tested mechanism to nip it in the bud. The main thing being to back off from running and reduce my mileage, which (amazingly for me being all sensible) I did. And shock horror, it faded away.

Previously I’ve tried calf strengthening, I’ve tried foam rolling… it just seems to be something that will always crop up when I’m beginning to do higher mileage. It’s like an adjustment. But then when it’s gone it’s gone.

Basically I took about five days off of running (and jumping – the YouTube workouts do love a squat jump don’t they?) and then added back some lower mileage runs in with space between each to recover. And now two weeks later I’m  pretty much back to feeling normal. Of course I won’t just jump back into 40 mile week mileage right away as this would be stupid (watch this space…).

To be quite honest, I’m quite glad to have had a break from the high mileage. Without a marathon to do it was getting a bit pointless to keep running so far every week (as much as I did love it). It’s nice to have dropped back down to eight miles for a long run, and then gradually build up again – something during marathon training I really enjoy doing.

I also got new trainers. I tried the Nike Epic Reacts and while they felt OK I did wonder if they were just a bit too different for me. They’re very tight across the top of my feet and have quite a loose back of the heel. I’m not sure how I feel about them. They just didn’t feel “right”.

So I’m going to try some Saucony Guide ISO 2 shoes which are more supportive. My feet pronate and are quite sensitive to change so fingers crossed this will work a bit better. I think I tried to get too jazzy.

So I ran eight miles with Kyle at the weekend as my first “long” run post niggle and it went well.

It was windy and on the verge of raining but it was just nice to be out running.

My calf felt almost perfect and afterwards was good. So fingers crossed this continues!

I have a few race question marks coming up. Obviously everything is very much in the air at the moment so who really  knows what’s going to happen. One of them was a marathon… only problem is that it’s in Canada! The plan was for my friend Emma and I to stay with our lovely friend Cortney in Toronto (like I did last year) and then we were going to do the Niagara Falls Marathon, which crosses over the border into the New York state in the US. But due to the borders being closed the marathon can’t happen, so I was planning to drop to the half. The latest on flights from the UK to Canada though involves a two week quarantine both sides so that is currently not possible. It might change I guess… it’s in October so who knows!

The race might not happen but I still hope to go to Toronto (as long as there’s no quarantine). I’ve got my flights already booked – though of course that could easily change.

The Rotterdam Marathon date was postponed from March to 25th October, which incidentally is the same day as the Niagara race! So that adds to the confusion too. Obviously I can’t do both… but if I can get to Canada that’ll be my first choice. Then Rotterdam with Kyle supporting (he’s bailed which is understandable from someone who isn’t a big long distance fan. I’m happy to train for a marathon and it not go ahead whereas Kyle isn’t).

I’ll just keep on running regardless with the vague aim of an autumn marathon. Maybe there’s a chance the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon at the end of December will still carry on? With around 1,000 runners maybe? But again, WHO KNOWS. This might be the year I run no races.

Have you got any races still in the diary?

How has your training been affected through all of this?

A happy knee, a happy Anna

FINALLY somewhat of a positive update with ACTUAL running.

I don’t want to jinx anything, of course, but I genuinely feel like I’m (mostly) out of the woods with this knee injury. Obviously things could easily regress back and all go wrong again but at the moment things are looking very positive.

At the weekend Kyle and I went to Southsea parkrun. The week before I’d run a tester mile and another tester two miles and my knee had responded well. So three miles was my next challenge. I could have run the three miles on my own but I really wanted to do a parkrun as it had been so long and we could go for brunch in the amazing Parade Tearooms a short walk away.

Kyle’s mum, Sarah, came with us to support. She’s just started the Couch to 5k programme and was building up to do a parkrun herself. She wanted to see what kind of runners parkrun had and to reassure herself she wouldn’t be right at the back (she definitely wouldn’t be).

The great thing about parkrun is that firstly no one is ever last because of the tail walker and that the run is full of all different kinds of runners, of all different abilities, shapes and sizes. While she has seen a parkrun before, she’s never really watched with the interest of a potential runner.

I woke up and my knee was feeling amazing. It felt almost normal. The ever-helpful Steve Bonthrone had given me some great advice going into this run. He said I should try really hard to visualise and think about the best run I’ve ever had. This way it’ll keep me positive and stop me focusing on “how’s my knee?” or that I think I’m injured and will expect pain. This was fantastic advice.

There’s so much about having a longer term injury that’s in your head. The way you think about yourself, the issue and how much pain and discomfort you believe there to be – or expect there to be. Having Sarah there hugely helped as well as I could chat away to her about her running and her worries, which made me completely forget about mine.

It was very cold. But I do love a cold, dry and still morning for a run. You know you won’t be cold for long. We wedged ourselves within the middle – Southsea gets so busy! There were 657 runners, which is crazy. It’s a narrow area to start and a lot of bollards, fences and people to be wary of at the start so if you ever want a PB here you really need to be as much in the front as you can.

The first mile was an absolute dream. It was like the best kind of running – I felt smooth in my running and with not even a hint of difference between my legs. Through the second mile it started to feel a bit harder and I got a slight niggle just under my knee but it wasn’t concerning and it didn’t last. Whew! More than anything it was just tough on my endurance. Three miles is a long way, eh! 😉

We finished the run and my knee still felt good. Halleluiah! My time was 24:24.

To be honest, I could have gotten 28 minutes and I’d have been just as pleased! Times right now don’t matter (arguably, do they ever…).

Then we walked to the Parade Tearooms and met up with my parents for brunch. It’s lovely that Kyle and my family get on so well 🙂 My dad and Kyle ordered the fry-up while Sarah, my mum and I ordered the Jayne Salad, which is just a BEAST of a salad.

It has chicken, bacon, potatoes, coleslaw, beetroot, corn, tomatoes, berries, onion, carrot, lettuce AND a mid-way hidden layer of cheese. This salad is not for the faint of heart. The waitress even said “you can box it don’t worry”. Oh pahh-leeeease. I will be fine. The two mums however, epically failed and had to box over half for home.

It was a lovely morning, and I felt so happy and relieved that the run went well. And for the rest of the day and days after it still felt good. THANK GOD!

I had another run on Tuesday at lunchtime planned with Kyle. It had been so long since I ran at work. In fact, even people I didn’t know at work had been commenting on my lack of running! So it was so nice to don my gear and head out in the cold sunshine at lunch and go for a run. And while the run was hard work (my legs were feeling heavy from the gym) it was so wonderful to be outside in the fresh air. Yesssss!

A more sensibly paced run

So my next run is planned for tomorrow… long may this streak of good running and happy knee continue.

Do you enjoy running when it’s cold?

Do you find your parkrun getting busier and busier?

Gradually does it – a comeback?

Time for another update on what’s been going on recently with my knee.

So the last you heard on the blog was that I was getting some solid advice from Steve Bonthrone (Twitter: @pt_steveb) and I was planning another run.

Well, I attempted three miles after such a good week with my knee and it sort of blipped a bit and niggled a lot afterwards. I had a mini-meltdown (it was long-time coming to be honest). But after some ugly crying, I got a grip and re-assessed the situation (this was entirely down to some level-headed talking to from Kyle and my parents – I take no credit here in any rational arguments of the situation).

Essentially, what I assumed was a gradual comebackin my head was skewed with what “gradual” actually means to me. Three miles is not a wise move to attempt as a way to test my knee. I must remember I’m not the Anna fresh from marathon season with all the miles in my legs. With the time off I’ve had from running (10 weeks before I attempted to get back into things over Christmas) my body is no longer used to running. Trying to jump back in with what I consider to be short runs didn’t work because, no shit Anna, three miles is no longer a short run for me.

So I scaled it back, on Steve’s advice, and tried one single mile instead when my knee felt good again. The mile went fine. Afterwards it was much better so I felt very encouraged.

Two days later (Thursday) I tried two miles. Again it felt fine during the run. Afterwards it ached a bit and the next day (today) it aches a little. But it hasn’t got terribly worse and in general things feel OK. While this, I guess, is good news, I can’t get excited too quickly because my knee still isn’t as good as the other knee.

The thing is, I work in absolutes in my brain. Is my knee GOOD or is my knee BAD? There’s no in-between. However, there is in reality. I want a run to feel perfect or I want a run to feel rubbish. I can work that out in my brain how to feel then. But having the run feel good but still my knee is niggly or a bit achy after… what do I think?

I know my brain is over-analysing and over-thinking and I’m expecting too much from my comeback, so basically I need to CHILL OUT. The fact that running itself is feeling OK is a win, and unless it suddenly feels painful I think I can take it as a positive and continue building (G.R.A.D.U.A.L.L.Y) the miles up with no issues I’ll be OK.

So my plan is to continue with the good stuff Steve has advised me to do, the rehab I do at the gym and being less hyper-critical on how things feel. I’m hoping to attempt a gentle three mile parkrun tomorrow. If things continue with as they have been next week will be something similar… no sudden jump ups in mileage. Sensible Anna is back in town.

What’s a short run for you?

Do you ever have melt-downs? I’m a very emotional person it seems!

Knee update

I’ve been fairly quiet on the old blog recently due to the obvious matter of not doing much running as of late. I probably owe you guys a bit of an explanation of where I’m at with that (if you care!).

So post-Chicago Marathon I had a full nine weeks off of running due to my knee giving me a lot of grief. Grief when I walked, grief when I would bend down and even grief just lying prone in my bed. After a few physio appointments with different people, different diagnoses, a clear MRI (“structurally perfect”  apparently), lots of rest… it did eventually get better. Better in terms of daily life mostly. Bending my knee completely was still super stiff and uncomfortable, but walking was fine. Running? Nope.

After lots of trial and error, advice from people with more brain cells than me, and Internet searching, I found some good rehab exercises to get my affected leg stronger. As it had been quite a while that I had been feeling discomfort my brain and muscles were now protecting the movement on that side and had consequently those muscles had weakened. I added lots of single leg strength exercises several times a week to get it back up to strength.

Previously these exercises would be too painful to do. Now they were fine (rest does help, imagine that!). And the difference between the two legs was obvious. I mean I’d clearly done a good amount of strength on my left leg post-hamstring issue before Chicago and my poor right leg was now lagging behind. Ah injuries, don’t we love them and their patterns? So this time I worked both legs consistently (slow clap for Anna).

The good days of my leg were now outweighing the bad days. Things were looking up. And perfectly in time for the Christmas parkrun. Not wanting to ruin anyone’s Christmas (or just annoy people in general) I decided to do my first run BEFORE the parkrun so if it went badly I could skip the parkrun and just enjoy Christmas, rather than it potentially go badly and then feel a bit pants about it. However, both runs (easy 5ks) seem to go quite well.

The trouble was afterwards. My knee felt very niggly, grumpy and tight. It was like taking a step back from where I had previously been. I foam rolled, I iced (does any of that ever work? Mentally I needed to do something) and it slooowly got better again but reluctantly. Frustrating.

During this time of year it seems every runner is doing something (races, festive parkruns, 12 Days of Christmas running bonanzas, etc.). It can be mentally very difficult to be injured at this time. You want to join in, you want to be out there running along looking like a pilock in your Santa’s hat. It’s a great time to run as well because you’re so well fuelled from all the chocolate, mince pies and festive treats 😉

And being the stubborn idiot I am, as soon as my knee felt reasonably better, I tried another run. During the run I knew it wasn’t working. It didn’t hurt per se but you know when a run feels crappy. Something wasn’t right. My knee felt off and like at any moment it would start to hurt.

This entire injury period (and my hamstring too) I’ve felt like I’ve been very controlled and not done stupid stuff that Past Anna might have done. But here I regressed. I ignored my family saying wait a bit longer, I ignored Kyle asking what the rush was. And I ignored that my knee wasn’t feel super great. I just wanted to get out there and be part of that world again. And of course I made things worse.

So here I am, almost two weeks from that last run. I’ve been sensible, consistent with my rehab and not pushed anything. I also had the very welcome and helpful advice from a friend on Twitter (the super Steve Bonthrone: @pt_steveb) who gave up over half an hour of his time on a Saturday to video call with me.

He gave me such good advice, talked through my issues and gave me some new exercises and stretches. And things have gotten so much better. To the point I don’t realise anything is different with my knee until I try and bend it very firmly or crouch down and put a lot of pressure on my knee (I avoid this obviously). I’ve also taped up my knee using KT tape (and the help of Kyle and a YouTube video).

I need to bite the bullet and try another run now. I feel strong, my knee feels stable and good and mentally I need to test it. It feels so much better than it did before the other runs. But I feel so scared and worried it’ll regress. It’s so difficult to know when to start again. I hope I’m making the right decision. Finger’s crossed.

Do you find icing or foam rolling helpful when you’re injured?

Do you ever use tape for injuries?

Things I’m loving – December

Christmas is ALMOST here. I cannot wait. We have our work Christmas do tonight, Kyle and I have a day off tomorrow and we’re seeing Star Wars. Things are pretty good!

I thought I’d do a quick run down of some things in December I’ve been enjoying.

I was recently sent two items from the website Born Tough to review. A pair of tracksuit bottoms and a matching jacket.

I went for the rose colour which I think is really subtle and pretty. The fabrics are super soft, stretchy and fit nicely. The material is relatively thick. I went for medium as I was advised that the sizing runs quite small. They fit perfectly. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of matching items but actually I quite liked how this looked when I put them both on.

The jogging bottoms are high waisted with a draw-string waist and have contoured markings on them to sort of enhance your assets.

I like the jacket’s thumb holes too.

All in all I lovely set!

I would wear when mooching around the house as well as going to the gym (the bottoms are very squattable and easy to move about it). They’re super comfy and flattering – and not a bad price at all!

I’ve also been loving my birthday cake flavoured tea from Bird and Blend.

It’s verrry subtle but delicious. It’s basically a rooibos tea with a hint of vanilla-y sweetness. I’ve been using my mum’s David’s Tea mug to brew it which is super handy. It has a tea strainer sieve thing that sits on top to let the tea leaves move around and brew.

I’ve actually nicked the mug from her so she won’t be getting that back now 😉 She doesn’t even use it so it’s fair game in my opinion.

I’ve also recently being wearing my new trainers, the Hoka Arahi’s.

They’re super cushioned and bouncy. They do take a bit of getting used to but so far I’m pleased with them.

I’ll be testing them out soon for a… run. Yep. An actual real-life run will be happening soon. I’ve been working hard at the gym on my single leg strength and rehabbing like a pro (well I hope I have anyway) and things are feeling A LOT better. Whether that translates to a successful pain-free run, WHO KNOWS. Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

And on the subject of running… I was sent my Six Star certifcate from Abbott.

I have a digital copy and a very nice thick paper copy. I guess I should frame it or do something exciting with my medals but for the moment I’m just pleased to have it.

Anyway, I hope you lovely lot have a wonderful Christmas! Eat lots of food and enjoy yourself 🙂

What are your Christmas plans?

Have you ever tried Hokas?

What’s your favourite tea blend?

Full Disclaimer: I was sent the jogging bottoms and jacket for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**