Saturday, 17 August 2013

Running plans and running problems

I'm training for the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon.

It's taken me a while to be able to say this, because I've been injured - but I'm determined now! It won't be fast and it won't be pretty, but I'll do it.

Shortly before the Edinburgh Marathon in May I developed plantar fasciitis. I've never had any running-induced injuries before, other than twice tearing ligaments after falls, so I decided to ignore it. I still don't know if this was the wrong thing to do - I'd trained hard for the Edinburgh marathon and I'm glad I saw it through, I'm really proud of my 4 hours and 12 seconds. But subsequently I've read that taking a break as soon as possible is the best thing to do for plantar fasciitis, and maybe if I'd done that, I would be pain-free by now. Which would be nice.

I think the fault came from a pair of 'real life' trainers - not the shoes I ran in but the shoes I wore to college. They were pink Nike pegasus 29s and they looked really lovely. I got them in John Lewis, and even though they are officially running shoes, the man in John Lewis was obviously a suit salesmen and didn't even ask if I was a runner, let alone probe me about my tendancy to pronate or weekly milage! Never knowingly undersold, but also a bit shit.

Because I didn't run in these shoes I didn't click that they could be causing the problem, so I wore them until a few weeks ago when the podiatrist pointed out that they're really quite minimalist, which she demonstrated by being able to wring them out like a dishcloth! This is just not possible with the Asics I run in. The difference in stability really took me by surprise. So, without the Nikes, things aren't rosy yet, but I do feel a bit better.

I saw a sports therapist who suggested lots of calf stretching and quad stretching - which of course will never go amiss - but it wasn't making much difference. At the end of July with a heavy heart and an aching foot, I told my running coach Angie that I was going to take a break. It was a one-month break where I tried to do only low and no-impact activities. After the initial few days of misery, it turned out to be okay. I went to the gym every day, did cardio for up to 90 minutes with the intention of not losing my fitness. I still don't like the rower and the bike, but I have grown to feel fond of the eliptical and some of the free stepping machines where you get to leap like a gazelle.

So, after a month off, I really didn't feel any better. I saw a podiatrist. I'd avoided seeing a podiatrist because I suspected I'd be told to stop running long term and I didn't want to be told that. So when I saw Jacquie I was very surprised when we got to the end of the consultation, and that advice had never come. I agreed to be fitted for orthotic insoles, and asked her if I should stop running? She said she wasn't going to advise that, because I love to run, and the chances of tearing my plantar fasciia or my achillies (which is playing up on the other leg) were no higher than they would be if I wasn't injured. So basically, as long as I could put up with the pain, I could keep running. Basically, if I was tough/nuts enough. Great news!! I am both tough and nuts, so there's no stopping me!

I went back to running and although the first week was truly horrible and made me wonder why I ever began running in the first place, I've been back for two weeks now and it's not too bad. My foot still hurts, but last week I got my orthotics and they difference they've made has been quite incredible. Even after a few minutes in them the pain I have on standing up (when my muscles have shortened and need to work again) was dramatically reduced. This really cheered me up and made me feel very excited! I haven't run in them yet but I'm looking forward to breaking my feet in enough to do that.

The worst thing is that I seem to have lost all my speed. Before I took the break, my easy pace was about 8.30/M, and now if I manage a mile in under 10 minutes, I'm doing really well! I'm shocked at how much speed I've lost, especially when I worked hard not to lose my cardio fitness. Even my ten minute miles make me feel like I'm giving everything I've got and have my heart rate at 160+.  But I'm grateful to be running again and looking forward to completing my third marathon, even if it does turn out to be my slowest.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

A Running Adventure

My running is rarely interesting. It's solitary. I run the same handful of routes. I think my thoughts. Sometimes are faster than others, and occasionally I see a funny animal or a car crash, but that's as interesting as my running gets.

Today I ran 7 miles with Vicky Weitz. She is an artist who is running 26 marathons in 26 days in the Edinburgh Festival, up and down the Royal Mile, between the Palace of Holyrood and Edinburgh Castle. When I heard about this I felt really drawn to go and run with her. I suppose I wanted to support her, because people who put themselves out there pushing themselves to their limits deserve support. And perhaps because she's not from Edinburgh, she deserves supported for coming to the city where I live.

I dropped the kids at school and tried to recruit another running mum to come with me, but she was planning a half-hour run with her friend. At that point I was feeling nervous, overly full of breakfast and wishing I hadn't resolved to go. Even the run up Easter Road felt difficult - how would I manage up the Royal Mile?!

After running once up the Mile and 3/4 of the way back down, I spotted Vicki. I was impressed by how fresh and relaxed she looked, because she's blogged about being in pain and finding it difficult. Even 7 miles later (by which time she's run at least 16 miles) she still looked fresh - I was sweating enough for both of us (quite embarassing and further proof that I'm doing the right thing by always running at 6am when nobody can see me!)

I'd been a bit worried that I'd struggle on the uphill half of the run, but it was fine - not least because the Royal Mile is dotted with roads that need crossing, so there were lots of stops. Also Vicki stops each time she passes her support crew outside the Storytelling Centre.

Vicki was very chatty and really easy to spend time with. I had wondered what I could tell her about to raise her spirits if she was flagging, and as she'd blogged about missing her children I thought I'd keep off the subject of my kids. But after a few miles, Vicki's children appeared! They had arrived the previous night and they both ran with her today. I was so impressed that they were so supportive of what their mum was doing.

I was fascinated to hear about Vicki's running history and her art - she was very friendly, chatty and open. When we stopped at her crew's stop, Vicki had a re-fuel by opening a tupperware and taking a jelly baby from a selection of sweeties - no sports gels or technical kit, just good old jelly babies, chocolate and mints! I loved that.

Vicki was getting supportive smiles and cheers from her regular supporters up and down the Mile, and when she stopped for a refuel a lovely man called Ken stopped and asked for a photo with her. He was from the Bronx and said he'd tell his running club at home about her! I was quite emotional that this one woman's run would become an international topic of conversation - wow.

Grinning like a chuffed person, feeling a bit embarassed to be sweatier than the athlete!!
I'm really chuffed that on her blog Vicki  said that I had "vibrant energy that was contagious", not just because it's a lovely compliment but also because I felt so happy after running with her that I was worried I'd taken more than I'd given. I hope I can get the chance to run with her again next week. Today was her 15th marathon so she only has 9 more days to go!

By the time I got home, I'd run 10 miles in 2 hours and 15 minutes. They were 2 of the best running hours I think I've had. I enjoyed being part of Vicki's work but mostly I enjoyed her company. I had a cold bath, made an omlette and chips and a pot of tea, and thought about Vicki who would still be running.