Friday, May 31, 2013

Stop reminding me - lost fitness

So today I got on the bike (my wife's bike actually, mine is in need of major repair) and figured it'd be fun. Now it was fun don't get me wrong, the weather is fabulous this morning and the trail was quiet. However, at the nice long stretch where you can see several hundred metres ahead of you I decided to unleash the canons (arms = guns, legs = canons? never mind), and then a minute later rolled along having discovered another muscular change that has occurred since last year... I have lost, for the want of a better phrase, my 'top end grunt'. My quads, which have been extremely tight of late and implicated somewhat heavily in the knee issue story, are certainly also lacking in sprint strength and general power.

The reflection / introspection of this last week and a bit about the loss of stretching routine and bringing that back with rigour has now extended itself to other forms of exercise. I used to post blog entries about weeks where I had cycled daily, swum, run and rowed in a busy mix. Quite where all that went I'm not 100% sure, though much of it is work and the kids it can't be all of the reasons why I don't do the variety these days. This weekends quest is now to work out where these things can be improved - if only because I love dropping the hammer on the bike and roaring along sometimes.

Sunny, warm, light breeze and the promise from the weather guesser forecaster that it is set fair for the next few days. Right off for another stretch then loads of that afore mentioned work to do.

Footnote - May = a whopping 17.1 km run (!), an injury, a marathon race DNS (did not start), several trips to the physiotherapist, lots of planning for when I am fit again (and plans to get fit in the first place), and so I don't have to do much in June to top its proceeding month exercise wise.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I want to workout, workout, workout

I am at that stage where I am need of doing something, the knee injury is subsiding (albeit not without a fight first) and I am getting that urge to go crazy. It is something that I suppose happens to many people in my position and can lead to trouble... 'too much too soon' syndrome. I want to run, I want to jump around, I want to go rowing, but I am reigning myself back as hard as I can to try and prevent recurrence of the injury to my knee or even picking up a new niggle.

It seems I am wrestling with the issues of balance: the conservative approach versus the what the heck approach. I am looking for that just right and finding that it means keeping my powder dry and waiting on the bigger (and perhaps more fun) stuff. Funny though that I've gotten to the state of wanting to exercise all the time from a state several years ago where I wanted to exercise none of the time because I was too busy, too tired or just plain too busy comfort eating.

At times like these I ask myself what would an pro-athlete do? And frankly I have no clue as I don't know anything other than fellow weekend athletes. Hot on the heels of that thought comes the what would a coach tell me to do, but much though I actually know at least three of those I don't employ them and there is only so far a "just out of curiosity" type question would get me. So in the end I will do what I always do, fight that crazy urge and see if I can intuit something that will work. Which reminds me I'd better go stretch again (see yesterdays ramblings)...

Mixed bag weather, mostly overcast with showers - though I have only observed it through the office window and frankly there could have been anything falling from the sky.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday tightness - more power to the stretches

"Right, okay, right that's it!!"... I am going to go stretch crazy and from here on, I could well be found randomly at any time stretching. My knee has not responded at all well to my running on it, and was better for rolling and stretching yesterday before deciding to make it's big protest felt this morning. It used to be the case that I would go through a stretch routine a couple of times a day when I was rowing, then somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit.

Looking back on it the drop in stretching came initially when I managed to exacerbate a calve injury by over doing it, and then was compounded by reading those articles decrying certain forms of stretching before exercise (seems I must have subconsciously read it as "all stretching is bad" - dumbo!).


I will be bendier than a bendy Yoga person - ahem, perhaps not that bendy I am a lanky 6ft2 after all
"Silhouette Girls Doing Yoga" - Image courtesy of sattva / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So I am just going to stretch until I get all bendy again and hope that my knee decides shut up with the pain when it has everything around it super loose. I have to say that the very first time I went through my old routine again this morning I could feel tightness and pulling where I don't ever recall feeling any, which of course tells me something pretty major. My quads were like rocks and took the longest time to ease off under tension and I used to have great mobility through that stretch (it used to be the back of leg stretch that would leave me whimpering). Somewhere along the way an adaptation for the worse has happened and I need to put it right.

In a timely twist of fate an excellent blog that I read "50after40" posted a great video called 'Hip workout details and my first video' - which for a first ever video outing was awesome and contains some great moves that I hope to build into an expanded stretching / strengthening regimen. I reccomend you go take a look and enjoy the rock out to the soundtrack too :-)

Overcast, breezy, persistent rain, and a complete reverse of yesterdays weather. Now where is a quiet spot in the office I can go stretch?

Note - I should of course once again heed my own previous advice - 'Joys of stretch' - if I was so wise back in July 2011 what happened?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Do it all again

8.7km in 56 minutes, sees the beginning (I hope) of a new training block that will lead into the Berlin marathon. It was as much a test of my knee as a training run, so it started and ended with a few hundred metres of walking. Weirdly the only major twinge I suffered in my knee was slowing to walk at the end of my run, so I still have plenty of remedial work to do. In fact even after a good foam rolling and stretch off it is beginning to develop beyond an ache and into something a little painful which is a lingering worry.

It felt great to be running again, and for the most part I was well within myself. I have managed to shift some 6lbs during my enforced lay off and that at least felt particularly good. Over the last few days I've been continuing the aerobics DVD and adding in more stretching and flexibility as I've gone. Fingers-crossed my knee decides to like the new regime.

Sunny and then turning to rain - a busy bank holiday. Pondering when to go sculling again (knee permitting).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Morning walks are back again

Meet the reason why I am getting a huge amount more walking done than I have been for some time...


... yeah, we have a new dog in the household. Another rescued former racing Greyhound, a doggie who through being not faster than her peers was thrown on the canine scrap heap. Her name thanks to our kids is Sali and she is a bundle of youthful energy with a puncheon for 'borrowing' socks and chewing small plastic objects!

It is so nice to have a dog again and not least amongst the many reasons that I'm enjoying it is that I get to talk longish brisk walks most days. I had almost begun to forget how good for me these walks are, but it only took a couple to remind me of what I had been missing. I haven't missed the occasional irresponsible dog owner or crazy cyclist then again maybe in a funny way I have missed that too. Though Sali doesn't know it she is already a part of my exercise landscape each week - I wonder if she's noticed we are going a little faster each day as my knee heals?

Cooler, overcast, moderate breeze - hoping to run again for the first time since the injury in the next couple of days.

Monday, May 20, 2013

My Monday motivation - Road-to-Berlin (1)

I promised a few posts around my motivation to go run a major city marathon in another country this year, and so I start with simple "connection to location". As it is I know Berlin a little having lived there twice in the period before I'd started junior school and visited again several times through my life it is not such the great unknown leap it might on the face of it appear. Of course the city (like all major cities) has evolved immeasurably since my first or even last visits, but it feels emotionally like somewhere part of me belongs.
The Berliner Bear - from www.seeklogo.com

So already you see a chunk of my motivation simply lies in having made it into a kind of hometown run, or at least a coming home run. Simple as it seems a connection to location for an event can make all the difference in the world, imagine running somewhere you'd not heard much about or even heard bad things about wouldn't that then detract / distract from your run? I ran once in a place I only had a vague sense of and found that although the location, course, organisation and people turned out to be amazing I just wasn't 'into' it and it was a horrible run personally (in fact on of my worst). In Berlin there will be familiar landmarks I know, places I was pushed around in my push chair, and street names long since burned into my memory. It truly is somewhere I WANT to run around and there in lies a nice big motivational foundation.

I have begun to recognise I am an emotional runner, running makes me feel great, and running location lifts that to a whole other level. Give me sights to run around and not dull city dual carriage-ways leading to nowhere any day. All being well I'll be on the move past the Brandenburg Gate, the Tiergarten, the Siegessäule column, the Reichstag and Berliner Dom, Kurfürstendamm, Potsdamer Platz, and the Staatsoper this autumn (to list just a few) feeling absolutely connected and super motivated.

What does a good connection to a location mean to your running?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weird Friday

Well yesterday could have gone a great many ways but in the end at least some of it came straight out of left field. It was my wife's PhD viva day so a day out of the ordinary from the outset. I was to be daddy daycare while it was all going off in a meeting room between academic brains. Meanwhile I had instruction not to answer the phone, but of course I did and that was where it got weird.

Phone call one & three - my mother-in-law - "oh, your there, where's my daughter?", first time I fooled her with "she's walking the dog, I'm going into work late" which was simple genius I thought - not a lie just a bending of the timeline a tad. Second time, I had to be a little more 'creative' "oh it's all topsy turvy here this morning, she's had to pop in for a quick meeting and then I'll be in work for the afternoon" (I had booked the whole day off for the event weeks ago in case you're wondering). I wasn't sure the little fib would have washed but it seemed to work and so I could get on with worrying and waiting for the viva outcome.

Phone call two - the police - when things got bizarre - I had a call from the police in a town I used to live in the best part of a decade ago, and like I suppose most people my heart rate leapt as soon as the phrase "this is the police, no need to worry" was uttered. As I was beginning to calm from the initial stunned moment, I became increasingly baffled, they wanted me to confirm my old address and details... what on earth was coming next... "and you were burgled". In fact we were indeed burgled not long after moving in 15 years ago (!), what on earth was this about? It turns out the have someone in court for the crime this week (!), whereupon I couldn't believe my ears. We were told various things at the time and none of them ever made us believe that the deeply personally disturbing shattering of our new home would see any conclusion. The arm of the law appears very very long indeed, and I assume they matched finger prints or something (or just got someone to say "yeah, I mighta dun that place too"). They gave me details to find out what happens in court and then left me stunned to take in the news.

This second call put the wobbles on me totally, I began to wonder if this was going to turn into one of those really random red letter days, and I got irrationally concerned that other random things might happen in the day. As it was the kids were hardly being angels, I had to get the eldest to school, and I was feeling frustrated.

In the end the random weirdness subsided as quickly as it arose and I got to eat a celebratory ice cream with the new PhD later in the day, after she was released from her gentle grilling. Better still I got to confess to my little white lies to my mother in law who was mighty happy that her daughter had done so well (though apparently not surprised that she kept it all a secret from her mum and dad!).

Not an 'on the move' post I know, but my knee is healing up it seems and will be back to normal nonsense soon. Sunny, clear, and breezy.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Watch out there's a plan brewing

No I haven't bought into some X-Files style of conspiracy theory, I have been busy fashioning my plan for the Berlin marathon - or my training and preparation for that particular event. I have you might note already raised the race into a fairly over prominent position in my mind, and to that end I intend to elaborate my motivations over coming weeks.

The beginning of a plan??  A work in progress...
As with all good plans first thing is always... first, and so I have begun to sort out the knee issue that stopped me running Milton Keynes marathon and started to build a solid (and mixed) fitness base again. I have opted for the start over in part because of the injury of course, but also to make sure that I reign myself in and don't over load intensities and distances too early in the piece.

Early progress has been a return to aerobics sessions, which my knee hasn't complained too much about. So here goes the base building.  It is my mission to run the best marathon I am capable of this autumn, so watch this space.

Cold and rainy, then warm and sunny - the weird British weather continues into May.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Recent finds during the run up to my 'almost' marathon

Although the build up was cut short at the 11th hour I made a few little discoveries in this particular block of preparation...

New shoes - now I know you'll likely groan "duh!" but a few niggling issues appeared in my feet and legs with my old pair before I realised they were too old. It should not have been the blisters (when I haven't had them in the shoes before) or the different aches I was getting in my calves and achilles (again new) that made me realise I needed new ones but, alas, it was. I should have twigged that I had worn them through a marathon training cycle (including the race), two half marathons, and a couple of 10k races... and that time was up on them. Still I did realise and I made a change and all seems fine again. Running shoes so the rule of thumb goes (so I was reminded by the shop assistant!) one full training and race marathon cycle, or roughly 500 miles. Though it also depends somewhat upon how much you bash the cushioning materials with distances and consecutive runs (i.e., running two or more days in a row may not give the shoe time to recover - let alone you perhaps, phew!).

Zero tablets (made by High5) - in the build up I increased my daily water consumption, yes I fell into one of those "you should absolutely do this to keep healthy" articles on-line, and I know there is a how much it enough debate as with most things... sorry about the near change of tack there, the point is I got a bit bored with water and looked for something that wouldn't lead me into expensive sports drinks or worse still fizzy drinks. I 'found' electrolyte tablets that give your water useful salts (potassium and magnesium to name two) and a yummy favour to it as well. Again there is a "how much is too much" and "is it necessary" debate that can break out, but I made sure my intake didn't exceed RDA (recommended daily allowance). They have been great, they are refreshing, tasty, and appear to have added a bit of energy to my day - although likely a hefty placebo effect compared to the "oh, no more water" moments I had before. They aren't cheap to buy, but working through some maths and they come out far far cheaper than the drinks available in my work cafe (though clearly not as cheap as water from the tap!).

Physio - before having to use my favourite physio for helping to sort my current knee problem I had discovered that he was running a two-for-the-price-of-one deal on sports massage. Buy the pre-race massage and get the post race 'fix me' massage free. Genius, just genius! If you are heading into a race be sure to ask your local physio / sports masseur if they would do you such a cool deal.

Running hat - the race organisers let everyone know it was going to be a very hot day by recent standards (we have had the strangest lingering wet / cold winter). So I realised a hat was the order of the day, among other things, and noted that all the hats I have are heavy. I get a real thing going pre-race about how heavy the stuff I'm carrying is, which is bordering on irrational given how much I usually weigh... so I went out to find a light running hat realising also that the ones I have would be very uncomfortable full of perspiration! I duly found one and tried it out - brilliant! I now recommend looking for a good running hat and making friends with it in case you need it - even though granted here in the UK that isn't many days of the year ;-)

Hill repeats - back when running was still happening (not that I am troubled or bitter about this injury you notice) I discovered hill repeats are actually good fun and make excellent GPS timing fodder - I do love a good graph.

So to sum up I discovered nothing much more useful than anything you might find opening any issue of a running magazine, but as a collective they were adding to a reasonable run build up. Oh, and no one offered me anything for these ramblings, they are as ever just my meandering thoughts :-)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Simple as 1, 2, 3...

1) The joys of calorie tracking apps...
Moving in the right direction over recent days :-)
2) Keeping busy whilst injured...

No running for exercise just now, but plenty to keep me busy up on the allotment!
3) Boy oh boy, had I over shopped for marathon. I was getting über prepared before the injury rudely interrupted...

DNS hangover - I have a bundle of stuff I'd gathered for the marathon that never was :-(
...still I'm all set when training starts again.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Re- rehabilitation

So I find myself, after the disappoints of last weeks new injury sinking my Milton Keynes marathon run, at the point of rehabilitating my knee. I have plans in mind regarding the road to my major goal of finishing the Berlin marathon, but in the back of my head are those lingering doubts "will the knee respond to treatment?", "is it a bigger injury than it appears?", "will I have to change my plan to run?".

It is only to be expected and I am delivering the nervous doubts in spades at the moment - I suspect because of the sudden appearance and nature of the problem. Any injury rehabilitation, let alone training cycle, brings those unknowns and so I am now trying to rationally work through them.
Sunday morning - ice-packing my knee and cursing my luck
(taped foot is to support the knee by limiting foot roll somewhat - apparently?!?)

The immediate plan has been walking, resting, popping glucosamine sulphate pills (eases my inner hypochondriac - I have begun worrying about OA in the knee joint), getting out books and looking for a training guide, and most of all sorting out my diet.

My diet is probably key here in my humble opinion as it has not been consistent of late and in hindsight I hit the last training block a stone (6.3 kg) heavier than I did my last (first) marathon block last year. Though pure weight / mass probably isn't correlated directly with the symptoms, it is the composition of the weight that I suspect does... suffice to say that I am not exactly lean just now (but then I haven't been truly lean since the the '90s - the ravages of student life and over indulgence over time).

So at the extremely real risk of repeating myself a little, this time* I am targeting the weight and more over body composition whilst working hard (with a little help from the physiotherapist) on general strength and flexibility, before I tackle the run training block in around a months time. It is a plan, and I am a past master at making the things, but this time around my motivation is total and drive utterly clear - I will run the Berlin marathon and I will run the very best I can!

* - seriously I'm beginning to sound like someone waking up with a hangover swearing he'll ever never drink so much again only to be back at the bar the following weekend downing doubles.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Big change of my plan - the hard choice

Well I have had to do it, I have had to pull out of running the Milton Keynes marathon. On a training run last night I 'tweaked' something in my left knee, and managed to turn my intended pre-race sports massage with the physio into a diagnostic session. Good news, nothing huge is torn or broken - bad news small ligaments or some cartilage is likely damaged and will need time to heal (or be investigated further even) over the coming weeks - the bad news making running a marathon in three days time foolish. I can walk slowly just fine, I can run just fine, but the transition causes pain as does particular changes of direction of travel. So with other runs in mind, not wanting to do any major damage, and not wanting to DNF a big organised run I've had to take the hard choice.

I really wanted (somewhere in the quieter recesses of my brain) to make Milton Keynes that thing I do every year having attended their first ever marathon last year, but that ambition didn't get much past the starters pistol. I wanted to run for the enjoyment, the challenge, the fulfilment of crossing that line at 26.2 miles. I feel pretty empty just now and can't quite believe how close I came to getting there after the ups and downs of the last few months. Training hasn't been perfect, that I admit, it has not been consistent enough or in all actuality varied enough (with respect to strength and flexibility - hence perhaps the injury).

After a good long chat with Leon the awesome physio things were in good perspective and I have already armed myself with a plan towards the biggest challenge of my running 'career' Berlin this September. That plan is alive and vital (knee injury permitting of course) but it is the loss of the Milton Keynes plan that makes me feel heavy hearted and down beat. I will now be contacting the kind folk who sponsored me or were going to, and in some cases offering refunds where they have paid already... marathons become much bigger than the long distance and much more part of your thinking than you realise. I will learn more lessons and I will roll forwards it is just that in this particular moment 42.2 km or 26.2 miles seem an awfully long way away.

If you did still want to donate to my chosen charity then please follow the link below...
http://www.justgiving.com/AndrewHollins

I'm going to have to find something else to do with my intended blog post on Tuesday (post-marathon day) and indeed something else to do with the day off I booked for a day of solid recovery (pampering)... I think I'll write that Berlin plan down make it real and bring that 42.2km a little closer.

Happy running and race well if you are going to be  in the next few days / weeks.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Marathon Monday - the run up to my second marathon

Monday looms large, and not only large but also potentially warm, the build up to my second marathon is heading towards completion. I am making lists, buying provisions for the trip, checking that my best kit is ready, and importantly that this time I don't have to go on a mad pin chase the night before the run. It is one sadness that I haven't blogged about my build up this time around in anything like the way that I did my first run, but life threw so many curve-balls over the last 3-4 months that I have simply not been able to. Between personal illness and family illness and working commitments and occasional bursts of decent training I have not had the time in the day to get to the keyboard with organised thoughts to set out.

The Milton Keynes marathon 2013 draws ever nearer and though I am not as physically prepared as I want to be I believe I am mentally much better equipped this time around.  I have decided upon a sensible pace, and opted to track a pace maker to keep any tendency to over cook the first half of the run. All bar the wheels absolutely falling off I hope to negative split and if the weather isn't kind then at the very least even pace the race. I have been listening to the Marathon Talk pod-cast since January, and though my training hasn't matched their schedules and considered advice it is my hope that all the psychology tips will come in handy when the going gets tough. My main goal is to get through 20 miles and towards 22 before really feeling that I am breaking myself.

I will do my best to blog shortly after the event with the ever present GPS data, pictures, and so on... only four more days of thinking / planning before the doing on May Bank Holiday Monday.

I am running for Cancer Research UK, and if you can spare a few moments a small amount of cash please visit my JustGiving page...