Injury 😕

Two weeks out from Warwick half marathon and I’ve injured myself. Maybe 30 minutes into a two hour run yesterday I felt a small niggle down the inside of my left ankle. I considered stopping to stretch, but after a minute or two it eased off and didn’t bother me again…. until an hour or so after I got home, when it became quite painful just to walk on it. I think the issue is that 1) I’ve done too much recently, and 2) my calves are tight. It seems to improve with some calf stretching so I’m thinking it’s more just the calf causing dysfunction/friction rather than any real damage to the ankle.

Since I had a virus the other week I’ve been frantically trying to get the mileage in, but the other thing is that with spending a few days in bed my calves and hamstrings did tighten up. I knew they did because I could feel them tingling a bit sometimes at night.

So I’m sat here with a hot water bottle under my calf trying to relax it. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t help, let’s try icing the ankle)

I’m not too worried about Warwick. I’ll be a bit sad if I DNS (did not start), but I’m a lot more interested in Stratford at the end of April, for which Warwick was only ever intended to be a training run. I think I should be OK for it though. I had something similar a few years ago where it felt like there was some friction in the front of my ankle which developed without warning a few hours after a run and it just took a week or so to let it settle.

Better… Almost.

The virus turned quite fluey and I ended up spending a few days in bed. I was still working, for some reason that I’m not really sure of in retrospect, but a couple of days were working from bed.

I feel better now except that I’m still coughing a lot and sometimes bringing things up (how pleasant), but other than that I’m ok.

I went for a run today for the first time since being ill. It wasn’t great. I have a half marathon in three weeks and I’m quite a way behind where I wanted to be. I did a 95 minute run two weeks ago and 90 minutes the week before, but I’ve missed two long runs with being unwell. I really wanted to have done a couple of two hour runs before the day but I can’t see that happening really. But it’s not really a ‘target’ half because it’s far too hilly to go for a good time and I was really intending just using it as a tune up for an actual target half in April. So it’s not the end of the world but I think it’ll be tougher than I wanted it to be. At least I have a good base to build up for April.

🤧

I picked up my sister’s cold after all. I started with a sore throat and slight headache last Wednesday and a cough that’s been getting gradually worse, but I wasn’t really very affected until Monday when I started feeling pretty rough. Tuesday brings a new symptom of diarrhea, oh joy! And my cough is really hurting my throat as of today. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s COVID but I don’t have any tests and it doesn’t really make any difference either way.

I think mum has also contracted it (she’s being cagey which means she knows she’s ill but doesn’t want to admit it) but she’s a couple of days behind me. The good news is my sister seems to be feeling better now.

Hopefully today is the worst day… But I keep saying that…

Christmas!

It used to be that having a Christmas break meant staying in bed and chilling a lot, but since we got Monty holidays are busier and more tiring than work days. My general feeling is that dogs don’t live long lives (compared to humans) and I want him to enjoy the time he has as much as possible, and if that means having no free time then it means having no free time.

So Christmas has been busy. But also fun. I bought my mum a custom mug that says “Monty’s Grandma” with a picture of him printed on the side. That made her laugh. I bought my sister an aurora light projector, which was kind of a “I have no idea what to give you” present but she seems to love it. Mum gave me a pair of Shokz bone conduction headphones for running, which are nice and useful.

Anyway, my sister thinks she has a cold today so I get to play the exciting lottery of am I going to catch it? I haven’t had a respiratory infection for almost three years now (the last one was probably COVID, the week before the UK went into lockdown) and I feel nonplussed by the prospect of breaking that streak. Working from home is a blessing in that regard; I remember in my previous job I once had a six week period where I caught three colds.

A few weeks back I had three or four days in a row when my heart rate was elevated and my stress levels high for no obvious reason, so I’m hoping that was my body fighting off whatever my sister has caught and now I’m immune… But we’ll see.

Decking

I am enjoying my Steam Deck, actually a lot more than I expected. I suppose I expected to think it was neat but not really know what to do with it. And that was so for a while, but then I installed Fallout New Vegas on it and it just clicked. It’s fun. I installed lots of mods to make it a more varied experience than when I last played it (10+ years ago) and I’m enjoying it, but it’s very hard now.

I hadn’t realised this but the Deck has a gyroscopic sensor in it, and you can configure it to act as a mouse movement. What that means is you can be in first person view, hold down the left button to activate it, then spin around and it rotates the camera as if your character is also spinning around. It’s a bit gimmicky but it impressed me. You can also use it for fine aiming. Aiming in general is done with the right touchpad, which you control with your thumb. I found it very hard to use initially but after some practice it feels a bit more natural. It’s nowhere near as easy as using a mouse though, which is one reason the game is so hard.

In totally unrelated news I need to fill out a tax return this year. I made a small amount of extra income last tax year and should legally declare it. …All I can say is I wonder how much tax intake HMRC loses to people who should be declaring side income but don’t want to deal with the hassle of it and the silly test of “we know what these numbers are, but we want to make sure you’re going to put them in right”. There should just be a field saying “I made a bit of extra money on top of all the stuff you already know about, let me just put the number in here and adjust my tax code for next year thanks”. It’s not like they are opposed to fiddling about with my tax code, they do it an average of twice per year for the last few years. I know because I’ve just gone through all the paperwork!

Stomachs 🤔

I ended up with yet another stomach upset last week and spent a little while feeling sorry for myself. I struggled with Parkrun last Saturday and was surprised to see my heart rate went up to 193 bpm, which is at least 6 bpm higher than I knew it could go. I should have suspected something then, but in the evening I went to bed blissfully unaware that a few hours later I’d wake up feeling very uncomfortable and spend the next 30 minutes sat on the toilet sweating and feeling sick. Then it seems to take a good week to properly settle down again and feel normal.

I seem to get a lot of stomach upsets and I don’t know why. I don’t think there’s anything seriously wrong because I’ve had all the cameras pushed inside me (not fun!) and they didn’t find anything.

I’ve tried super bland diets and I’m not sure it helps. I have a strengthening suspicion that it’s a muscular problem. For years on and off I’ve had problems with the lower left side of my abdomen. I never really worked out exactly what it is; maybe hip flexors, maybe adductors. I think the answer might actually be that it’s both. It gets worse with fast running. But lately it does seem to coincide with these stomach upsets. And it makes sense that the deep hip flexor muscles could compress the intestines. So I decided I’d really try to sort it out or make a physio appointment if I can’t.

I’ve been doing a hip flexor stretch for a few minutes a day. The best one for me is to lie on my back with a foam roller under my bottom and to pull the other knee towards my chest (like this: https://www.postureandcorepilates.com.au/2018/11/20/supine-hip-flexor-stretch/), which does seem to stretch out the front of the hip better than lunge variations (at least for me). And I’ve also been doing reverse crunches to build some more strength in my very lower abdominal muscles, which should resist the hip flexors a bit better.

After doing this for a week or so, I feel a lot less discomfort overall, and my legs feel a lot springier when I’m running. So that’s promising. Whether it’ll stop these episodes of digestive problems remains to be seen.

Sopranos and parkuns

I finished The Sopranos. For a program I’m not even sure I enjoyed watching, I certainly watched a lot of episodes in a short space of time. I thought the ending was very creative. It’s unexpected and confusing and definitely a bit frustrating when first experienced, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s the best possible way it could have ended. All the other options would have been anticlimactic, which is probably why they did what they did.

I have to say I didn’t feel impressed by it to start with because the characters were quite dislikeable, but as you go on you realise it doesn’t matter. The characters are presented as being believable members of the mafia, largely without judgement. It’s just who they are and what they do, and the program doesn’t seek to moralise the viewer about it because the viewer is perfectly capable of forming their own opinions.

In other news, I was pleased to get my fastest Parkrun time for a while this weekend. I started off a bit (too) conservatively so I could probably have knocked a few seconds off quite easily, but I didn’t. My splits looked like this:

The third kilometre is always a struggle because the initial freshness has worn off and it’s mostly uphill. The 10m climb isn’t massive but it’s not insignificant either. The last km is the same but by that point you aren’t trying to conserve energy. I was very pleased with doing the last km in sub 4 minutes. Apparently, I increased my cadence from 181 to 185 steps per minute in the last kilometre while also keeping my stride length the same at 1.35m. Pretty good! Now if I could just do that for the first four kilometres too.

I think the speed workouts are finally paying off.

Running

I tried a change of tactic with my running, which was to really slow down the easy runs and try to push more on the hard runs. Or in other words, do the easy runs easier and the hard runs harder. The idea of easy runs is to train your body to better use the oxygen you breathe and not dig into your body’s fuel reserves (glycogen), which in theory means you will be able run at a faster pace on just oxygen alone before you start using glycogen. But it’s a bit of a mind game because if you do say an 8k run at a very easy pace, you don’t really feel like you’ve had much of a workout.

It seems to be working in a sense, because my heart rate has really come down. The other day I ran 10km in about 54 minutes with an average heart rate of 135 bpm, or about 72% of maximum, which I was very pleased with. That’s a very easy effort run and the pace is still respectable.

For the hard runs I’ve been doing intervals and threshold runs. Intervals range from about 1600m down to 200m, usually descending distances in the same session, or straightforward repeats of 800m or 1000m, with long standing recoveries, covering about 6km in total in the session. Threshold runs are for example 3×10 minutes at threshold pace with two minutes of easy running in between. Threshold pace is supposed to be a pace you could keep up for up to an hour (your anaerobic threshold, i.e. not quite anaerobic but depleting your glycogen), but it’d be a serious, hard effort.

I’d like to say it’s improving my Parkrun times but actually they’ve been terrible lately. The last three weeks have not been strong performances for various reasons. Maybe this week…

Rain 🌧️

I’m currently lying in bed listening to some very heavy rain hitting the windows. Monty has decided he doesn’t like heavy rain now. It never used to bother him but now he’s older he’s getting more sensible. This will present a challenge with his morning toileting.

I’m most of the way through the Sopranos S4 now. I am still conflicted about it. It’s mostly a series about people eating. In between meals there are occasional bouts of extremely violent crime. I mostly see it as a bizarre sitcom which lets me mostly overlook the fact that all the characters are horrible and dysfunctional. Also, the product placement is a form of comedy in itself.

In other news, politics! Well I’m not going to vote Tory either way so it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me, but my thoughts are: If Rishi Sunak actually runs then he’s inept. He has a much brighter future in two years time as opposition leader than spending two years now being PM on somebody else’s mandate with a trashed party reputation and a worsening economy. But actually I do think he’s inept so I think he’ll go for it now. 🤷‍♂️

Monty!

We’ve had Monty for just over a year now. How time flies. He’s about 15 months old and, maybe I will jinx it by saying so, he’s calmed down a little bit recently and he’s slowly turning into a lovely and well behaved dog. Well, he was always lovely, but now he’s a bit easier.

I mean, he’s not well behaved, he’s just not as bad as he used to be. People say that cockapoos (via the poodle genes) are easy to train because they’re intelligent. I think they’re wrong. I think they learn quickly, because they’re intelligent, but also, because they’re intelligent, they’ll just decide not to listen to you sometimes when they know the alternative is more interesting.

Bad behaviours we still haven’t managed to stop include: nipping when he gets excited (though he is getting better!), being possessive of his toys (and sometimes other dog’s toys when he steals them in the park 🤦‍♂️) and eating/picking things up off the ground. It’s acorn season at the moment and he LOVES putting them in his mouth despite the fact they are poisonous to dogs (though I don’t think he’s ever eaten one). He does drop quite reliably in exchange for chicken (unless it’s a new and exciting object), but some walks it’s just a continual “leave it… leave it… drop…”. I’m still hoping he’ll grow out of this… There are signs he will, but when he’s tired or excited he just seems obsessed with finding things to put in his mouth.

Because of that we only let him off the lead in a few places where we’re not expecting to come across much litter. Though you’d be surprised how much junk he eats that seems to not affect him the slightest. Sheep poo, for example. I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to eat sheep poo, but he doesn’t care and apparently neither does his digestive system. He also loves tissues, receipts and other bits of paper which his stomach seems to break down just fine.

Anyway, the other point is that having him has been really good for me. It used to be that work was the biggest thing in my life just by virtue of it taking up so much time and attention. Now it’s not the most important thing. Looking after this crazy little guy is the most important thing.