Getting back on track?

It has been a frustrating few weeks. I’ve been wondering if I’ve run over several black cats, not spotted any ladders, or inadvertently crack a few mirrors, and not noticed. My catalogue of woes has included:-

  • Catching every single bug out there, including flu;
  • Developing a knee niggle, ever since I told Mother that the knee in question had been no trouble since training for my first marathon (it’s been locking, and is painful if I fully bend it, it hasn’t been painful whilst running);
  • Aggravating said knee niggle in the last of a series of near tumbles;
  • Developing an allergy to an essential running hygiene product (well, it’s essential for everyone, not just runners);
  • Almost slicing my finger off with a bread knife (I must invest in a proper left-handed knife, my bread slices are a joke, without soaking up my own blood).

The knee niggle had been linked to ITB trouble, and I had been given targeted exercises, and using my roller to release the muscles around the ITB. I also found some cheap golf balls, to massage the piriformis, which since I lost my flexibility, has been a, quite literal, pain in the backside. The last trip had set my knee back (possibly literally, as well), and rollering wasn’t making it better.

My training runs were lighter. I missed a LSR; I managed a minute, having planned on going really, really slowly, but it needed more rest, and icing. My fragile confidence was at breaking point, with Belvoir Half just three weeks away, and the next LRRL Winter League race the following weekend.

It worked, and I went for a training run on the Tuesday, with The Bloe, and Brian. It was a lovely, sunny morning, and we went onto Aylestone Meadows. My knee felt fine, and benefitted from the softer ground. Once warmed up, we ran some intervals, and I was pleasantly surprised with my pace. With some words of encouragement from Brian, I felt more confident about Sunday’s race. Maybe I could get my 6 mile standard.

The next night was the Club Run, and involved Homebase Hills, my nemesis. I’m anal enough to keep a spreadsheet of my sessions here, and although there was the odd twinge in the downhill running, I felt good, and pain-free going up, and I knocked a whole two minutes off my total best time for those ten uphill reps!

I actually felt positive.

I could have run on my birthday, but I decided to celebrate instead. “I’ll run on Friday,” I thought.

Wrong.

I woke up on Friday with the shivers, the sweats, aches, and a nauseous feeling. Because of the latter, I thought it was over-celebrating that was the cause. Throughout the morning, the stomach spasms, and cramping, worsened. I had to work in the afternoon! I was hoping I’d need to  leave early, and find something greasy to eat! Instead, I was feeling worse! Not only that, but I was supposed to be going out with friends later on.

By the time I got home, I had begun to twig that this wasn’t a hangover. I tried some peppermint tea (Teapigs makes a peppermint tea that actually has some flavour, I can’t recommend it enough), to try to settle my stomach down. It didn’t work. I had to cancel my night out, I was devastated.

Saturday was a write-off. I couldn’t leave home, even if I wanted to, if you get my drift. I was hoping I’d be well enough to at least run on Sunday, you know, get some points for the running league, just on a personal level. I won’t be getting 100%, as I’m missing Swithland 6, but I could have run 100% of the Winter League, and stood some chance of a decent finish in my age group. It wasn’t to be, however. I still felt rubbish on Sunday morning. It would have been stupid to have tried, even as a training run.

I started to feel normal on Sunday evening. I managed to eat, without doubling up in pain. My knee didn’t appreciate the rest. It was a backwards step. On Monday morning, I was torn between giving the knee another rest day, giving my stomach another rest day, trying a long run, or waiting until later, and going to the Club track session. I opted for the latter, as I was feeling tired. I hoped to perk up, and if worst came to the worse, I didn’t have far to go to my car, or some facilities.

The illness had meant I’d not roller end my ITB area. I decided to give it a go, before deciding for definite that I’d go along to the track. I thought I’d give my quads a go, as I hadn’t done them for ages. Yeah, I know, pretty stupid not to roller my whole legs, but I find that my hands go numb after a while, trying to support myself. I also know I don’t need my hands for my quads. Okay, I’m a bit lazy. There, I said it.

Anyhow, I turned over, placed the roller under my thighs, moved, and about leapt in the air, squealing. Directly above Kniggly Knee™ was a muscle knot, I hadn’t realised existed. I could actually feel it with my own hands. The only way to loosen it is to break it down, with massage, or even worse, direct pressure. I went for the roller option. There was much grimacing, and quite possibly, some naughty words. But when I stood up, my knee felt looser, and bendable, and most importantly, pain-free.

I strapped it up, over my compression tights, and headed off to Saffron Lane. The weather in the UK was horrendous. High winds, and heavy rain showers, interspersed with hail. Luckily, the rain had pretty much stopped when I arrived, but the wind swirled around the stadium, especially on the exposed corner by the 100m start. I warmed up, quite thoroughly, as it turned out, with five slow laps; it was far too cold to stand around. Kniggly Knee™ seemed to like the springy surface, and remained pain-free. I did struggle with the Heel Flicks, during the drills, but I can’t have everything at once.

The session consisted of six x five minute intervals at 10k race pace, with 90 second recoveries. I opted to walk my recoveries, better safe than sorry. I was a little concerned about my Garmin, though. It was showing a pace that was more like my 5k PB pace! My best 10k was run at 7:52 pace! I assumed that the GPS must be playing up, which would make sense if running round and round a relatively small area.

The weather might also have affected the GPS. By the time we started to run, the rain had returned, getting progressively heavier throughout the evening.

I spent the second and third reps chatting, and still the pacing was showing as ridiculously quick, but I felt comfortable, and carried on regardless. I would go home, and work out what my actual pacing was, and not worry too much. The last three reps, I was on my own, but I still didn’t push it. My stomach did twinge on the last rep, but I was pleased to have got out there, and had a really good session.

When it came to analysing my run, I was totally gobsmacked. I keep looking at the reps, and thinking, “I ran what”? They broke down to:-

  • Interval 1 – 7:23 min/mile pace
  • Interval 2 – 7:35 min/mile pace
  • Interval 3 – 7:49 min/mile pace
  • Interval 4 – 7:19 min/mile pace
  • Interval 5 – 7:15 min/mile pace
  • Interval 6 – 7:19 min/mile pace

Running is funny. I can feel fine, go out there, push myself, and see disappointing speeds, compared with my effort. Then there are days like Monday, where I have no idea where it came from. So why does my head focus on the negatives, instead of drawing from these great runs? “You’ll never sustain that kind of pacing over a distance”, “it’s far easier running on a track”, “maybe the GPS has messed up, after all”. I must stop this way of thinking, as I am worrying again about messing up at Belvoir. Of course, I’m not going to run it that quickly, that would be stupid. But surely it shows that I might still be capable of a decent run?

More importantly, I have GOT to keep on top of my foam rolling. Every time I roll my quads, my knee is feeling looser. I have a proper sports massage booked for next week, and I don’t want to be jumping off of the bench again!

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