Numbers

Numbers can be great motivators for runners. Tallying up weekly, monthly, and annual mileage is a great way to encourage people out of the front door. Looking at your average pace drop over the course of a training cycle helps push you through the hard workouts, knowing the effort will be worthwhile. But numbers can also be a burden. How many of you have gone for a run, only to end up back at your front door having covered something like 9.63 miles? And how many of you have then decided to jog around the block a couple of times, or up and down your street until your Garmin beeped for mile 10, even if it means passing the same person doing their gardening 12 times? We’ve all been there.

If I told you that I got to 6.12 miles on the treadmill 2 weeks ago and had to stop, that should give you an idea of just how quickly my knee pain can come on, and just how impossible it is to run through. And maybe also just how frustrated I am.

Not even THIS would help.

Not even THIS would help.

If I’m being honest with myself, I should have stopped at 5.5 miles. That’s when the creeping pain started to tighten its claws on my outer knee, and when I would have faced minor repercussions had I not been desperate to hit 10k. But I didn’t, and I was in a significant amount of pain for about a week afterward.  So what am I doing wrong?

1.) Pushing too hard, too soon.

Mentally, I’m used to running casual 20 mile runs. I am still somehow of the opinion that any run in single figures is like a side dish; a nice snack, but only satisfying when accompanied by something else (spin class, weights, hiking). I need to get out of that mind-set, and remember that I have spent 7 months doing practically no running. Although I did well to build up slowly from February to April, I should have stuck to a set distance for 2 or 3 weeks before impatiently trying to ramp it up. I should have also kept up with 1 or 2 shorter runs throughout the week, instead of viewing my ‘long run’ as the only one worthy of completing. My idea of ‘building up slowly’ is apparently not my knee’s idea of ‘building up slowly’. But hey, communication is frosty between us at the moment. We’re working on it.

2.) Doing my physio exercises less frequently once I could smell progress.

Which is probably exactly when my body was most in need of said physio exercises. I need to stop seeing these things as merely ‘curative’, but appreciate the importance of them being ‘preventative’. I have made a pact to myself to keep up my physio routine at least 3 times a week for the foreseeable future, and at least twice a week once (and if) I get back to running properly.

3.) Putting so much pressure on myself to GET BACK TO RUNNING NOW!

When you’re someone who plans vacations around running events, it is impossible to forward plan when you don’t know if there’s any point in even paying for flights to an event you might not be able to complete, let alone attempt. I’m not a ‘let’s sit on the beach all day’ kind of girl. And while I appreciate a bit of culture and history, I would be thrilled if all of my holidays could revolve around physical activity. The grim reality is, I might not have any running vacations this year. Or next. So how do I find a way of enjoying my down-time without wallowing in self-pity? The same way I dealt with quitting smoking. By replacing it with something else.

So what have I been filling my time with? Well, mainly trying to develop other areas of my life that long runs and races have forced me to sideline in the past. I’ve been a lot more structured (and varied) with my workouts, and have focused more on tweaking my diet so that it reflects the lack of calorie-busting runs during the weekends, but also works towards nourishing my body more, and aiding muscle recovery since stepping up my weights/kettlebells/spin sessions.

For some reason, cycling doesn’t aggravate my ITB, so there has been a lot of that. So much so, in fact, that I recently qualified as a spin instructor (and taught my first class last Friday!), and by mid-June should also be qualified to teach exercise classes to music.

Freshly qualified! ...And quite sweaty.

Freshly qualified! …And quite sweaty.

Despite the fact that a bit of extra money for covering classes would always be welcome, the main reason the fitness qualifications are starting to snowball is that they will all help me work towards my goal of eventually qualifying as a PE teacher. I’ve even volunteered to help for a couple of hours a week in the department at school, and so far – fingers crossed – the timetable looks like it’ll work out.

So instead of letting numbers make me feel like I am being held back by my injury, how about continuing to let them motivate me.

  • 135 days worth of teaching PE before I can officially register as a teacher in another subject.
  • Back up to squatting 25kg in Body Pump (after starting at 5kg after my injury)
  • 40 REPs (Register of Exercise Professional) points gained by then end of next month (if I pass all of my assessments)
  • Back to being able to hold a plank for 4 minutes
  • 7 weeks until the summer holidays, and (hopefully) a cycle tour of Northern Italy!

 

When in Texas…

So one of the perks of being a teacher is that I get decent chunks of time off work throughout the year.  Over the Easter break, I went back home to Houston to visit family and friends, and meet my new niece, Eleanor, who was born last November.  Though generally not a ‘baby person’, I have to say my niece is one of the cutest babies I have met to date.  Although she doesn’t talk or draw or do gymnastics or anything tremendously exciting, we invented a new, appropriately Texan game called ‘Bucking Baby’.  I am the current champion, having managed to balance the shoe on her head for over 8 seconds.

10995920_10155337946975234_6998126110431081380_nI also found myself unable to resist tacky impulse purchases for her:

10985451_10155353052130234_7988303610724729197_nBut playing with drooling babies was not the only thing I did in Houston.  In honour of my visit, they moved the annual Art Car Parade to the only full weekend I was around for, and I met up with my friend Zareen and her colourful boyfriend to check out some of the sights.  Below are a few of my favourites.

The Houston Skyline + Houston Skyline:

10390442_10155343517365234_3335181581025812248_nThe Trojan Horse:

11129914_10155343518930234_244399275164916609_nThe Peacock:

11130087_10155343518825234_3747716390157724230_nAnd this thing:

11147089_10155343519095234_4276915191502596658_nObviously, a visit to Texas would not be complete without shooting stuff, so my brother took me and my dad to a gun range, where I humiliated my brother with my skill and accuracy, and even managed not to accidentally shoot myself in the elbow.

10560548_10155327641925234_1263789864740640174_oThere was also a lot of looking back through old photos/high-school yearbooks, and my mom found a box of my stuff in the attic for me to look through.

IMG_20150426_210743

Me and my friend Jen jumping off a wall.  Somewhere in Indonesia.  Sometime in the 90s.

Me and my friend Jen jumping off a wall. Somewhere in Indonesia. Sometime in the 90s.

One of my favourite finds was some of my old swimming medals/ribbons, including these bad boys:

11074363_10155386500270234_19202535711089105_nI also managed to get a temporary gym membership at my dad’s 24 Hour Fitness where I took advantage of the free classes like Body Pump and CX Worx.  I even tried out Grit Plyo and Grit Cardio for the first time, and can safely say I am a convert.  There was a 25 meter pool as well, but sadly I only managed a single 3km swim as the flight over seemed to have done something to my back that made tumble turns (and a lot of exercises) pretty painful.  This is not where the bad news ends.

The day after I arrived in Houston I was up at about 4:30am.  Thanks, jet-lag.  As I traditionally do during my visits home, I crept downstairs, had some breakfast, and did some reading until the sun started to rise.  I dusted off my Garmin and headed outside for the 3 mile track around Rice University.  My plan was to continue the trend of adding 1 mile/10 minutes to my longest run, which meant 9 miles was my goal.  That would be 3 laps of Rice.

The first mile was a sub 9 minute mile.  Not outstanding by any means, but considering I have been doing all of my recovery runs at a 10:00/mile pace, this was dumb.  But being back home, feeling the warm morning air on my skin, running outside like a normal person – it felt good.  So good that the nagging voice in my head screaming at me to cool the jets was easily ignored.

The first lap went by without incident.  The second lap was a breeze as well.  Lap 3 started well.  In fact, after about 7 miles I was starting to talk myself into going for 10 miles instead of 9.  I had visions of posting sunny selfies to Facebook triumphantly exclaiming that I finally hit my first double digit run since my injury.  I could already feel the warm afterglow of my definitive comeback run, on home soil.  I was killing it!  Until I wasn’t.

8.5 miles arrived and I began to feel that familiar twinge that was the harbinger of disappointment and frustration.  I trudged on to 9 miles, knowing that I was probably only making things worse by continuing, but there’s just that desperate need to hit that target sometimes, and this was one of them.  As soon as my watch beeped, I walked and stretched, before gingerly walking home, deflated.  9 miles at a 9:09/mile pace.  Dumb.

Throughout the next week and a half, I focused on the elliptical, weights, HIIT classes, and core work.  I tried a 10 minute stint on the treadmill to make sure I could manage a mile, and I could.  The morning of my flight home, I thought screw it.  I laced up my trainers, strapped on my Garmin, and set out aiming for 10 miles.  Maybe the last run was a blip.  Maybe if I control my pace a little more, I’ll fare better.  The first 5k felt great, but by 3.5 miles the twinge had returned.  Even stopping twice to stretch/massage, I had to pack it in before 4.5 miles, and trudge home again.

I tried to keep it together on the way back, but….

Since returning to Scotland, I have managed a 4.5 mile run on the treadmill with no consequence, and I plan to try 5.5 this week.  Hopefully I haven’t set myself back to where I was in January, but only time will tell.  My back is also still tweaked, so I haven’t managed any swimming, though I’m planning on hitting up the 90 minute endurance session tomorrow night after spin.

So I guess you could say, especially after a weekend of seeing a lot of my friends achieve their running goals at the London marathon and the Highland Fling, to name but a couple of this weekend’s events, that I am not in a positive place when it comes to running.  I have tried hard over the last 7 months to occupy myself with other activities, but that’s a lot easier to do when you can see yourself making progress.  A lot of people told me to expect setbacks, but I’m just worried that it’ll be another 2 months before I get anywhere near double digits, meaning Berlin is now a fading dream.  Which is clearly distressing.

In an attempt to remain upbeat, I have (finally) booked onto a spin instructor course next weekend.  I have also been trying out more workouts at home that focus on strengthening glutes/hip flexors which will hopefully help with my recovery as well.  I can’t say this move will feature heavily (or at all), but I couldn’t resist posting this spiffing workout gif.

I am also trying to throw myself into activities that will keep me from wallowing in self-pity at home, like going to this year’s school prom with some of the other teachers.  Although it’s pretty depressing that I looked younger at a prom I attended as a teacher than one I attended thirteen years ago as a teenager, if my Benjamin Button thing keeps up I’ll be a smokin’ 80 year old, so watch out Helen Mirren.  I’m kidding, Helen Mirren is an untouchable babe.

(Left) Prom 2002, (Right) Prom 2015

(Left) Prom 2002, (Right) Prom 2015

Injured runners of the world, unite.  And give me ideas of what I could fill my free time with that don’t include drinking alone during the day.

Aspire Channel Swim 2014

Medal:  Yes

Required distance:  22 miles

Actual distance covered:  37.4 miles

IMG_20150321_171444Ok, so this isn’t really a race, and it’s definitely not running, but it’s the first medal I’ve received since September, so cut me some slack.

A few weeks P.I. (post injury), I realized that I was going to have to make some drastic changes to my weekly workouts that were:

a.) not running, therefor possible for me to actually do; and

b.) taxing enough to burn enough calories to stop me from tormenting defenseless buttons once more:

19 year olds should not be twice the size of their moms.

19 year olds should not be twice the size of their moms.

After deciding on swimming, I became that person who gets involved in every possible forum that has to do with swimming.  This is where I stumbled upon a thread on the Fetch website dedicated to the Aspire Channel Swim challenge.  Despite already being two weeks into the 8 week challenge, I signed up, because all finishers’ were promised a medal, and I am weak.

Although not exactly challenging – you just swim a total of 22 miles in any pool, in however many sessions it takes you, at whatever pace suits you – it was still a size-able distance to swim, and I’m not sure I would have made the time to complete it if I still had running.  It did, however, create a spark of enjoyment for swimming because I was working towards something instead of just treading water with my training until I could run again.

Well, despite my complaints about swimming laps being about as interesting as watching someone in a coma attempt to knit a scarf, it turns out it ain’t half bad when you’re with other people.  And there I was thinking swimming couldn’t be a social thing.

Since the Channel Swim I’ve joined the local triathlon club that runs the lessons I’ve been going to twice a week, and I’ve started to notice some improvements in speed.  In December, my average 1000 meters would take around 20 minutes, and my fastest 5k swim was 1:42:00.  Yesterday, I swam 4k after work and was pleasantly surprised to see 1:13:39 come up as my total time.  Even if I took a full 25 minutes to swim another 1000 meters, I would have ended up with a 1:3x:xx time for my 5k.  Clear progress!

I’ve also joined a new ‘Fetch challenge’ to swim the length of the Thames – 210 miles – in 2015.  I’m at just over 65 miles so far, so definitely on track.

As concrete proof that I’ve taken swimming on as a steady mistress, Ian pulled through on his birthday promise, and my very first wetsuit arrived recently.  I’m pretty attached to it already, partly because the brand happens to be my childhood swim team’s name.  It’s totally normal to wear a wetsuit as lounge-wear, right?  Don’t answer that.

IMG_20150321_171727Anyway, the wetsuit will be necessary in a couple of months when the tri club starts outdoor swim training, which in turn will help me prepare for an open water 5k and a river 14k this summer.

Although I doubt my love for swimming will ever eclipse my love for running, I will openly admit that I am warming to it.  And speaking of eclipses, we were lucky enough in Scotland to be treated to a 94% solar eclipse yesterday morning.  I let my class out of the fire escape to soak up the experience, and managed to snap a single photo in between shouting calmly advising everyone not to look directly at the sun, despite no less that 15 reminders before we had even left the classroom…  Although my shot is very atmospheric, and caught the parking lot lights on because it was so dark, it sadly did not capture the natural beauty of this significant event.

IMG_20150321_171934Luckily, everyone took it upon themselves to upload half a million or so photos onto Facebook for my benefit.  I have no idea who took this photo, I just downloaded it because I liked it, and now I can’t find it anywhere to add a source, so if it’s yours, sorry.

11080636_994971023866033_7119917534890639330_o

Found out who took the photo: Isla Robertson

Maybe it’s about time to mount my medal rack in my new flat.

This is what progress looks like

Anyone that knows me in person, and anyone who happened to be within a 50 foot radius of me at the gym last night, will be aware that I hit a recovery milestone: my first 10k since I was injured. No, it wasn’t fast, and yes, it was on a treadmill, but it happened, and my knee didn’t crap out on me.

The fact that a 10k is no longer a distant hope is, for me, akin to being solicited by Leonardo DiCaprio (dressed as a dapper Jay Gatsby, and having recently decided he no longer gets a thrill out of banging Victoria’s Secret models), and being whisked away to live out the remainder of our days on a tropical island with people serving us cold beer and grilled halloumi every day.  Sorry Ian.

Me, basically.

As much as this thrills me, I am keen to practice some self-restraint (not of the Michael Hutchence – rest in sexy peace – variety).  I know that the only reason I am able to run that kind of distance is because I backed off of running entirely (for much longer than I thought I would have to), and I have been sensibly building back mileage s-l-o-w-l-y.  I’ve swapped over from logging all of my workouts on dailymile to fetcheveryone, and the dork inside me loves being able to analyze all of the graphs and statistics and stuff that is available, even though it is child’s play compared to Dan and his training log that is verging on obsessive.  Making sure I log all of my workouts means that it is clear when I am doing too little (never) or too much (almost always).  For the moment at least, my running is in check:

weekly run mileage up to marchThat 9 mile week last week?  Two runs.  One of them was even outdoors, like a normal person.

I can also peruse my training log, specifying a time frame if I like – so that’s neat.

Here's most of March.  Blue is swimming, red is running, black is cross training.

Here’s most of March. Blue is swimming, red is running, black is cross training.

What perhaps appeals to me the most, however, is the fact that you can compare yourself to everyone else who logs their training on the site by checking out where you stand in the ‘League’.  Obviously, I am opting to show you the swim league since my lack of running has me placed embarrassingly far behind.  And yes, that is 63+ miles I have done of swimming in a pool.

swim league marchHopefully I can now start climbing back up the running league slowly.  A month ago I honestly didn’t think that I would be anywhere near a 10k because I had pretty much lost hope with running, and the boredom of swimming lengths in a pool was getting very, very close to driving me to a state that looks pretty similar to this:

tumblr_n47cmgeUSn1ttw9tho1_500Thankfully that isn’t the case, so I’ll just keep plugging away at training and see how I go.  To everyone I ever eye-rolled when they mentioned online how ITB syndrome was stopping them from running, I apologize.  I am now a believer.

Longest run*

*Well, since September last year.

As per my plan, I had a 40 minute run, 5 minute elliptical break, and then 10 minute run on the schedule for Tuesday.  Excuses are for quitters, blah, blah, blah, but I totally have a legitimate excuse for not executing my Tuesday plan.

Well, Tuesday morning began splendidly at around 3am when I woke up in a cold sweat, heart racing, and that telltale watering mouth that indicates a violent vomiting session is nigh.  Wet-heaving ensued.

After a lengthy spell snuggling against the bathroom radiator for warmth with one arm resting on the toilet, just in case, I made it back to bed shivering.  Now, a normal person would have called in sick and spent the day recovering, but this was not just any old Tuesday.  Months ago, I had impulse bought a ticket to go and see Placebo – one of my favourite bands from my angsty teens – and I had been looking forward to reliving my reckless youth having seen them last play live when I was 16 years old.  I even had my questionable outfit set aside.  I didn’t care how wretched I felt, I was going to that gig.

(Fat) teenage me, in Belgium on a school trip.  I rarely did not wear that sweater.

(Fat) teenage me, in Belgium on a school trip. I rarely did not wear that sweater.

Speaking of my youth, I remember the rarity of school days spent at home sick.  My mother, a terrifying 5 foot woman who weighs about 80lbs., would require you to be on death’s door if you were to miss a day of school.  And if you stayed off school, you stayed off EVERYTHING for that day.  Much to my dismay, this rule has stuck with me into adulthood, and so I showered and dragged myself to school, riding the waves of nausea as they ebbed and flowed throughout the day.

Thankfully, by home time I was starting to feel marginally better, but I decided it would be sensible to bunk off my planned gym routine and head home for a power nap.  That was to be my last sensible decision of the day.

I had arranged to meet a couple of friends, Rhona, fellow runner, and Laura, famous published author, in the pub at 6 for a quick drink before we went to the venue, and I had toyed with the idea of not drinking to limit how rough I would feel the next day.  Well, the ‘quick drink’ turned into 2 pints of lager, and for someone who has a tolerance level of about 4 pints max over the course of an entire evening, this was bad news.

Luckily alcohol lowers your inhibitions, so I kind of didn’t care at this point.

We rocked up to the Music Hall at about 7:45, and headed straight for the bar, which was crawling with balding men and beer bellies.  I guess these are my people now.  The support band was on, and we heard that they’d be finishing up in about 15 minutes, which meant we had plenty of time to continue to make bad beer-related decisions.  Except it transpired that it was just me: Rhona is doing a post-grad degree and had nothing to be up for the next day, and Laura was catching a train to Skye, but did not have to work.  Thanks guys.

Shortly before Placebo came on stage, I wrestled myself in amongst the groundlings (Laura and Rhona had seated tickets), and made friends with a very outgoing Irish couple who told me they knew the set list already.  I was horrified to realize that many of their classics were not on this list, and even more horrified to learn that they had released an album in 2013, the songs of which would feature heavily.  The male half of the couple, who was obviously the bigger fan, bought me a Jack and coke to drown my disappointment, and it must have been effective as I thoroughly enjoyed throwing my hands in the air like I just didn’t care to everything they played (but mostly the songs I knew the lyrics to).

After the gig, and with limited hearing, Laura, Rhona, and I regrouped and started heading in the wrong direction, to a harbour-side pub whilst I remained in denial about having to work the following day.  We grabbed some breakfast later on in a kebab shop, and I went home to hug my mattress lovingly, though not before taking a bathroom selfie for no logical reason:

11024593_10155192090010234_4823654188428813525_nA few hours later I was showered and heading into work.  It was a long day.  For contrast, here is a bathroom selfie taken AFTER work, and before I went to spin class, and yes, I know I need to clean my bathroom mirror:

10413340_10155192122390234_7252588975435219224_nFor a band that basically took pride of place on my teenage bedroom wall, the pain was worth it, but I did not last very long after I got home from the gym that night before going to dreamland.

[Insert seamless segue back into running related news here]

Two days late, and without planning to, however, I completed my longest run since I was injured and nearly DNF’ed Crathes half marathon.  45 continuous minutes on the treadmill at 10 minute miles.  Although I would normally consider that to be barely the minimum distance to lace my trainers up for, or perhaps a quick distance to ‘squeeze in’ before some other plans, I was absolutely beaming after 40 minutes.  Add into the happiness mix the fact that I got bumped into the second fastest lane at swimming and managed to keep up, I’m counting Thursday as a massive success.

The knee has been a bit tender for the last couple of days, but to be honest, it was tender before the run.  I think my new aggressive cycling routine (which has seen the return of my Chris Hoy thighs) is aggravating one of the tendons behind my knee, so I’m trying to massage it/foam roll the muscles around it/stretch, and I may even take a second rest day for the week to allow me to try another 45 minutes on Monday.  A few more weeks of steady progress like this and I might even start browsing for hotels in Berlin!

Thanks, RG.

Thanks, RG.

A step in the right direction.

My birthday was the day before Valentine’s Day, and, embarrassingly, Ian sent me flowers at work. My colleagues bought me a chocolate rose and a fabulous feathery pen, and I also got some fancy cosmetics, so on top of the luxury box of chocolates I was stuffing into my mouth during the school day (that I bought for myself), it looked like I had a seriously dedicated admirer.

IMG_20150228_220615Tellingly, I got a lot of swimming related stuff for my birthday. From Ian, I got a wetsuit token, and I’ve already picked out the one I want. From my friend Claudia, who I regularly bully into swimming (along with her husband), I got a very colourful, but slightly skimpy, new swimsuit.   From myself (I treat myself often), I got a new swim cap. So yeah, swimming is going well, and I keep getting booted into the faster lane at triathlon club, which is a definite boost for my ego. I might even be starting to actually enjoy swimming, and even though that’s shameful for a runner, I don’t care.

IMG_20150213_193549You might think that all the swim love means bad news for my running recovery. Well, not entirely. I’ve been busy with a lot of stretching and specific exercises to strengthen the glutes/hamstrings for the past couple of months, as well as continuing with acupuncture treatments.  In the last post I mentioned that my physio wanted to do some acupuncture with an electrical current running through the needles.  Well, I managed to get through a few sessions with sweatier palms than a priest in a primary school, and while I don’t buy into the kind of hippy vibe of that kind of treatment, I’m willing to believe that aggravating the area can promote healing.  Also, I’m desperate.

Not shown: 4 inch needles in my butt cheek.

Not shown: 4 inch needles in my butt cheek.

I’ve also been doing one short run per week. My ‘recovery’ has involved only a treadmill, and has looked a little bit like this:

  • Week 1: Warm up, 10 min run, 5 min on the elliptical machine, 5 min run.
  • Week 2: WU, 20 min run, 5 min elliptical, 10 min run.
  • Week 3: WU, 30 min run, 5 min elliptical, 10 min run.
  • Week 4 (this week): WU, 40 min run, 10 min elliptical, 10 min run.

Basically, as per the physio’s instructions, I’ve been cutting the run into two sections to give my knee an easier ride. So far, I’ve managed without any real pain, but this week’s run left me with an ache in my knee for about an hour after I got home from the gym. I think I’ll stick with 40/10 for another couple of weeks to see if I can build up to a completely pain free experience. Slow and steady seems to be the sensible but boring, and at times frustrating, way to go. It’s also miles better than setting myself back to where I was a few months ago.

I think it’s probably a bit premature to call this a running comeback, but I’m a lot more positive about the fall season, primarily Berlin marathon. Although I haven’t booked flights or even looked at accommodation yet, I’m starting to consider the fact that I might have to get organized in a month or two if I keep making baby steps in the right direction.

One step at a time.

Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta…

Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room, shall we?  I’m still not running.  Yes, I am annoyed about this, but after collecting all the toys I had hurled aggressively out of the pram, I have gained a little perspective.  A little.

No, I can’t run, but I should be able to at some point in the future.  I had an x-ray on my knee which came back as “satisfactory”, which I take is doctor speak for “don’t waste my time.”  I’ll admit to being more than mildly relieved, as during the wait for my x-ray results I had consulted Dr. Google and self-diagnosed myself with arthritis and a brain tumour.  I was told, however, that an x-ray would be unlikely to pick up smaller issues, which is why I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon next week.  Hopefully he will refer me for an MRI, which WILL pick up anything that might be wrong.

Meanwhile, I have tried out a new physio (I think this is number 4).  For the first time in my life I agreed to have acupuncture, because at this point I’d throw money at a voodoo witch doctor if there was a chance it would help my knee heal faster.  For someone terrified of needles (last time I had to have blood drawn, I was physically restrained in the chair), it wasn’t too bad.  The needles are tiny, and apart from one trigger point that sent spasms down my leg and made my foot numb for a few minutes, it was pretty painless.  Next time (next Thursday) she wants to do the same thing, but attach electrodes to the needles.

I’ve been given a ton of stretches to focus on, told to apply heat liberally, and keep up with the massage/foam rolling.  Roger that.

I’ve also been keeping up with cross-training, which means aerobics classes, core fitness classes, and spin classes, with a side of weights.  When I do get back to running I’m hoping that at least my cardio fitness will still exist, because every spin class I do, no joke, I would suck a wet fart out of someone’s asshole if it meant I could get oxygen to my legs any quicker.  Nearing puke-point is pretty much a guarantee.

The other thing I’ve been getting a little serious about is swimming.  I even went along to a triathlete swim session last week, and was told I would be bumped into the fast lane the next week.  Well, ‘next week’ was tonight, and after the session I was told to come to the later session next time, which is the ‘fast people’ session.  Excuse me while I strut triumphantly to my locker.

I knew being on a swim team when I was a kid would pay off some day!

I’ve even signed up for a 5k open water swim, and then, because why not, I signed up for the Henley Bridge to Bridge 14k swim in August.  If I can’t run ultras, I’ll swim them.

Still, I miss that runner’s high.

New Year, Fresh Start?

So I guess one or two of you might be wondering how my 20 minute ‘test’ run went.  I’ll just leave this here, and maybe you can work it out for yourselves.

Don't let the cheerful colours fool you.

Don’t let the cheerful colours fool you.

This time last year I had already banked a marathon for my annual mileage.  New Year’s Day, 2015, I spent a solid 2 hours in the pool, hitting my maximum swim distance ever – 6km.  I swam for so long the bridge of my nose was bleeding from where my goggles rub, and I didn’t even notice until I discovered the crusted blood a couple of hours later.  I’m sure I looked totally normal buying ice in the store after the gym, bleeding from my face…

Back to the physio’s drawing board, I guess.  And binge-watching Benedict Cumberbatch (what a fun name to type) in ‘Sherlock’.

Happy New Year.

A slither of hope.

I guess it has been a while, huh?  Don’t worry, I haven’t been secretly running marathons or anything.  Especially not in Pisa.

I did, after convincing two friends to enter with me months ago, accompany my running pals to Italy.  Unfortunately, because of my work, our travel plans included a night at Gatwick Airport, where I experienced the luxury of a Yotel! pod for the second time.

IMG_20141220_170451

After almost missing our flight the next morning (I guess it’s important not to confuse ‘Gate Opens’ and ‘Gate Closes’), we made it to our hotel in Pisa with plenty of time to register – or in my case drop out of – our respective races before a spot of sight-seeing, and an early dinner.  There was this tower that everyone was raving about, so I took a photo in front of it.

IMG_20141220_165957Ronnie dropped to the half after a few months of less-than-stellar training, but had a strong race, and Naomi cruised to the finish of her 10th marathon, with my company for the final 200 meters.  The official race photographers managed to capture our magical moment together:

Naomi and my elbow on her left.

Naomi and my elbow on her left.

During the marathon, I walked to the Piscina Comunale where I bashed out a 5k swim amongst be-Speedo’ed Italians.  It all went fairly smoothly until I accidentally walked into the male shower room after my swim.  The three showering men didn’t even flinch.  They just sort of casually looked up, stared at me for a moment, and then one of them motioned with his hand the directions to the female shower area.  Thanks, man.

After my swim, I decided to dump off my kit at the hotel and read some of my book (‘The Book Thief’, for those interested), hoping to avoid all of the marathon excitement.  How did that work out for me?  I’ll give you one guess.

The day after the  marathon, Ronnie, his girlfriend, Rebecca, and myself left Naomi to make her way back home solo, whilst we headed North by train, through Florence, to Venice.

Evidently, trains are fun.

Evidently, trains are fun.

In Venice, I bought a regional ticket for sometime after 3pm, and the three of us had lunch before I got on yet another train North to Udine, where I would be picked up and driven to San Daniele to visit my great aunt, Rina.  Rina knows what I like, and I arrived to chilled Moretti beer, pizza with San Daniele ham, and gelato.  Best meal in the world, hands down.

Rina e Raquelle

Rina e Raquelle

The following morning, after a 74-course lunch (hyperbole, perhaps), I caught a train back to Venice, where I spent a couple of hours blowing the rest of my holiday money on food, beer, and Murano glass before having dinner with Ronnie and Rebecca.  I tempted them to a Jazz bar near our restaurant for a few Aperol Spritz refreshments, but Ronnie wasn’t keen on them, so we left after about an hour, and eventually found our way back to our hotel.

Christmas Eve arrived, and I was sad to leave my miniature paradise, but keen to get all of my Italian meat (and cheese, and panettone, and booze- don’t judge) back home and into the fridge.

Goodbye Venetian bed.

Goodbye Venetian bed.

I made it back to my flat at around 8pm on Christmas Eve, and Ian had dutifully acquired all the food we would need for our Christmas fajitas.  It was nice to have a lie-in on Christmas day before doing some weights and waking up Ian to open our presents, which were nestled underneath the ‘tree’ I had created when I woke up.

IMG_20141225_202409In case anyone cares, my gifts included: a waterproof mp3 player for long distance swims, a vacuum cleaner (which I am in love with), a Glenmore 24 hoodie (which, fair enough, I bought for myself, but months ago, so it totally felt like a present), and a voucher for a massage.  The massage voucher is the only thing that is, thus far, unused.  I did also take part in a Secret Santa on a running forum, and received an intensive moisturizing hair masque, which does indeed leave my hair silky smooth.

IMG_20141225_122813(1)The fact that I got so many swimming related things is perhaps telling of my running situation.  Since the ill-fated 1.3 mile run mid-November, I vowed to take the rest of the year off to, hopefully, allow whatever is wrong with my knee to heal.  I had an x-ray a couple of weeks ago, but results aren’t back yet thanks to the festive period backlog.

Other than that, I had another appointment with the physio today, and I have been given the green light to try running again!  Strict instructions are to try a 20 minute run, twice a week, with a couple of days of no running in between attempts.  I intend to test drive the knee tomorrow.  Despite being the only time in my running history (apart from the year I had surgery) I haven’t hit 1,000 miles, here’s hoping 2014 can actually end on a running high!

And here’s a bonus shot of my mom, dad, brother, and niece.

IMG950341Here’s to an injury-free 2015 for everyone!

Swimming Woes

It has only been 9 weeks since my knee starting having its little hissy fit, but already I feel as though I could write a book about things that irritate me about swimming. Perhaps part of the rage is because I managed a paltry 1.3 mile run today before I had to throw in the towel. Instead of rattling off a million pool-related quibbles, however, I’ll settle for venting about only 3.

1. Wave goodbye to nice hair.

Appreciating the softness of natural hair is still kind of novel to me. From my early teens I would bleach, colour, re-bleach, re-colour, and generally abuse my hair to the point that it was entirely normal to expect it to break off sporadically in chunks. Then I settled for black, and rode the goth train for a good half decade, eventually reaching the point where I no longer wanted to be a fat, chain-smoking, heavy-drinking, sleep-deprived mess. One of the things I stopped doing is dying my hair, which entailed a year of horrendous regrowth; a stage during which not many photographs survived, thankfully, and those that still exist were taken in badly lit gay bars in London:

Half 'n' half hair, which you can maybe just make out.

Half ‘n’ half hair, which you can maybe just make out.

After a solid year of mainly tying my hair back and ignoring how terrible it looked (thanks, friends, for not telling me about colour-stripping products), I ended up with soft, golden tresses. Sometimes, still, I’ll play with my hair and marvel how little like straw it feels.

At least I did, until I started swimming.

It took me less than a week to realize I NEEDED to buy a cap, and I now wet my hair under the shower before putting in on and hitting the pool (I don’t know why, but I always did this when I was on a swim team, and do it without thinking – there might be a reason, there might not). I have even had to go back to using conditioner, which I haven’t bothered using since my hair grew out, because it made it too oily. And still – my hair smells chloriney (after double washing), all day, and feels course and brittle. Fabulous.

2. Some people obviously do not understand what ‘Fast Lane’ means.

Before I sound like a complete dick, I am not saying I belong in the fast lane in every pool.  I don’t.  But the pool I usually use?  The 20m pool that has retired men and women using underwater weights or walking lengths?  I belong in the fast lane of that pool.

What doesn’t belong in the fast lane of that pool?  Pretty much 90% of the people I see using it, which means the people that should be using it are pushed into the slower lane, or the ‘Gen-Pop’ section, where they inevitably become tangled in someone else’s legs/get squished to the wall/give up and relax in the steam room.

The other week there was a guy who got into the fast line and started crab walking from side to side.  Crab walking.  Allow me to illustrate via crappy Paint drawing:

PoolstorybroThis is simply not fast lane appropriate.  Neither is not using tumble turns if you’re swimming crawl.  Neither is adjusting your string bikini whilst chatting to your friend in the jacuzzi.

3. Lane etiquette is not always adhered to.

Thankfully, The pool is rarely filled to capacity, and there are usually only 2 people per lane, during which time there is an unspoken rule that you take half a lane each and stay out of each other’s way.  Perfect.  Apart from when some lady decides to indulge in the most bizarre interpretation of breaststroke I have ever witnessed.  I need to employ my bitchin’ Paint skills once more to fully illustrate the leg position.  What even is this??

crazy breaststroke ladyYou do not need to have had swimming lessons to know that this is not correct.  I was kicked several times during my session with the frog lady, and thankfully a space in the actual fast lane became available during my last kilometer, so I was able to avoid a minor concussion.

On the one occasion I have made it to the Aquatics Centre for a swim it was much busier.  Generally people stuck to an appropriate lane (slow, medium, or fast), and I jumped into a medium lane to crack out 45 minutes or so.  I could see the swimmers in the fast lane next to me would clearly be on my feet the whole time if I switched lanes, but I was still overtaking someone in my lane every 2 lengths or so, which was mildly frustrating, but alright since there was generally enough room.  Then, when I was about 2 seconds from the wall, a guy who had been resting at the wall for the past couple of minutes chose to push off right in front of me and break into a freaking breaststroke.  It’s a good thing people can’t hear my swearing underwater, because I was not impressed.  It was like a tractor pulling out in front of a normal car on a single lane road when they could have waited for one more moment and THEN taken off.

Swimming road rage is definitely a thing.

Injured runners forced to the pool – what is your beef with swimming?