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.

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…

A half of two halves

The Solihull half marathon turned out to be horrendous. The weather was really unpleasant. I had no energy from the heat on the Friday and Saturday and I wasn’t sleeping much because of it, so by the time Sunday rolled around I wasn’t feeling my best. And of course, Sunday happened to be the hottest day of the heatwave.

I went out slower than my long training runs (huge achievement in itself) and I still imploded at 15km. I ran it last year too and remembered it being very hilly, but I put some of that down to being largely untrained at the time. Actually, it is very hilly. The first 12k is a downhill trend but with many sharp inclines along the way, and I was doing OK for that. Then a bit past the half way point there’s 2km of solid climbing and you’re still on an uphill trend for another 2km after that. So somewhere around 15km when I found myself at the bottom of yet another hill in 28 degrees and full sun baking the tarmac, I’d had enough and walked up the hill… And the next few hills.

The course is advertised as “PB potential”, which I can only describe as hilarious. Perhaps if all your other halves have been run scaling a mountain, yes…

I had tried to train for hills but the long uphill just past the half way point isn’t something I’ve had in training. I’m not aware of any routes accessible to me that replicate that kind of climb. Unless I head out onto country roads with low visibility and no footpaths then if I want to go up, I’m going to have to go down again shortly afterwards. E.g. here’s my regular Sunday morning medium run route, which I chose specifically because it has the most elevation change I could find around here. It’s very similar to the up and down of the first and last 6k, but no sustained climbs.

I can’t say I was very impressed by the organisation. Long stretches of the course were unmarshalled (not good during unusually hot weather), and there needed to be more water stations. There were three evenly spaced, but really it would have been better to have all three in the last half since that’s when the temperatures start to get you (though it would have been better still to just have more stations). Even then, the water bottles were tiny and pre-opened, so you couldn’t carry one with you because it would splash everywhere. I took water at the ~15km station, had a few glugs and threw the rest over my head… and then I was on my own for the next 6km. They gave out one bottle of water at the end, and people asking for more were told no! Supposedly they’d made adjustments for the weather but I’m at a loss as to what those were, other than sending an email reminding us to drink more the day before (very helpful, thanks).

Between that, the August date and the hills, I’m not sure I’d run this one again. I don’t really see the point of running such a hilly route over HM distance. It’s hard to train for and it’s not like you can run a good time on it anyway. I think I’d only do this one again as an easy effort training run for a flatter HM a bit later in the year.

I’m glad I didn’t push it though. A lady I don’t-know-but-recognise from Parkrun collapsed a few kilometres from the end (she’s OK now), and she’s a very strong and experienced runner.

Also, my ears blocked up about half way around. By the end I was largely deaf, apart from a very loud, bassy pounding in my ear every footstep… not ideal. It took a few hours for them to unblock. Not sure if that’s some kind of dehydration effect or hayfever or what. It’s never happened before…. (edit: Google says dehydration).

Urgh, heat

I can’t believe there is another heatwave! I have a half marathon on Sunday and the weather forecast is pretty grim, by which I mean glorious sunshine. A few weeks ago I was feeling very confident, now there’s a little part of me hoping they’ll cancel it (doubtful though, they’re not going to want to refund everyone). It’s not just the heat on the day, it’s the heat from now until the day as well. We have five consecutive days over 30 C, which is going to interfere with my sleep and generally fatigue me. It’s a bit frustrating because I think I’m in PB shape. Even so, the course is a bit hilly, so I wasn’t really expecting a PB. I think pushing for one given the heat could be quite dangerous, literally. So I won’t. You can get away with doing stupid things on a 5k and even a 10k but there’s a lot that can go wrong on a half marathon. I’ve done my long training runs at anywhere between a 4:45 and 5:00/km pace but I can’t really see me improving much if at all on that in the heat. The main thing is to start off conservatively and then speed up if possible, which is much more pleasant than the other way around.

In other news I had my salary review and my salary has been bumped up by a number that is quite big but less than inflation. I didn’t feel particularly strongly about this either way, but I think I am going to look for something else in the coming months. I’m not in a rush, I’m just a bit bored and a bit frustrated. In the last few days I’ve been annoyed by both my manager and the managing director. The MD has sent me some silly sarcastic emails that made me roll my eyes, and the reason he resorted to sarcasm was because he doesn’t know much about the concepts we were discussing. My manager annoys me because he goes poking around in databases and editing data here and there and then getting surprised when things don’t work properly. I don’t know what he’s expecting 🤷‍♂️ In November I will have been here for three years, so that’s probably a good time to think about broadening my experience.

Update: I’ve now just had another call with my manager, because the customer is complaining that their data is missing… because he has been fiddling around in the database and deleted it 😳

100!

I did my 100th Parkrun this last weekend. I ran another post lockdown PB, beating my time two weeks ago by one second!

My knee is kind of ehh. It was fine after parkrun, but I also ran today and it wasn’t great. The problem now is that I have been stretching a lot, because my quads were very tight, and I’m not really sure exactly what I’m feeling. Like I’m pretty sure that a lot of the discomfort now is actually just above my knee in the quads, maybe the tendon, and that’s ok because it’s probably just the effects of stretching. Some of it seems to be down the side, probably the IT band, which isn’t really ideal, but is better than the kneecap.

I have a half marathon in four weeks and I’ve missed one long run now so I’m feeling a bit antsy about that. I’m aiming to do the next one on Wednesday, so I’ve got a couple of days to get it recovered and feeling stronger. But these muscle imbalance injuries can drag on at a low level for a long time. I might try ordering a knee brace…

The weather is supposed to be pretty ridiculous for the next two days. I’ve never known it go past maybe 33 degrees here, and yet we’re forecasting two days of 38. So I have no urge whatsoever to run in that heat.

Monty is going to hate the heat, but at least he’s been to the groomers recently. We took him out this morning for what will probably be his last long walk until Wednesday and met a slightly odd man who became very disapproving when he learnt that Monty is a cockapoo, not a poodle, and wanted us to justify our decision to get a cockapoo instead of a poodle and started on a diatribe about purebred dogs going extinct because of ‘fashion’.

Hmm, well, though it pains me to agree with him, poodles are amazing and maybe one day in the future…. But wait a minute here, purebreeding has its own set of ethical issues and I’m not sure you can really claim a moral high ground over supporting a eugenics program. And anyway, I’m just here to walk my little guy, not to be told his existence is an affront to nature. I will definitely be avoiding him in future.

Runner’s knee 😠

After a few weeks of relatively heavy running load… I have runner’s knee 🤦‍♂️. Which is to say a vague ache around the kneecap. I don’t think I’ve ever had this before. My hip and hamstring had been tight for a week or so, so that’s probably what caused it, along with high volume. I did intervals on Wednesday (3x1km, 2x400m, 4x200m) which felt OK while I was running but on the dog walk later I could feel some pressure around the kneecap so I haven’t run since. I bought some resistance bands and have been doing lateral walks and monster walks all round the house to work my hips, so I’m hoping that will fix it. It feels OK again now, except it was a tiny bit achy when I woke up this morning. I’ll try a few kilometres later and see how it feels…

The Conservative leadership election! Is it just me or do the candidates seem a bit… low quality? And there are so many of them! We have Sunak, who raised taxes during a period of high inflation, while his wife was using non-domiciled status to avoid taxes. Oh and he also broke the law while chancellor, and he’s campaigning on a ticket of fixing the economy… despite being in charge of the economy for the last few years 😕. He has strong backing within the party 😕😕😕, which I can only infer is the result of widespread substance abuse in Westminster. Javid has previously avoided taxes by claiming non-dom status. Zawahi is currently under investigation over his tax arrangements. Then we’ve got Hunt whose entire thing is standing at the side trying to look like the adult in the room, rather than doing anything to prove that he is – remember how that worked out with Theresa May? Braverman seems to think the right to be horrible to trans people is the most pressing political issue of our time, which I find completely baffling because a) it’s really nasty, and b) it’s a total fringe issue that affects so few people. Grant Shapps somehow managed to be the only candidate to say something sensible on the trans matter (“I don’t think it’s important, let people live their lives”) but he has rather a dubious history in other matters. And then finally Liz Truss just comes across as a simpleton.

They go through multiple rounds of MPs voting until there’s only two left, then it goes to the membership, who tend to have substantially different (read: more insane) opinions than MPs. It looks like it’ll be Rishi Sunak vs someone else, and I think it’s fairly likely that Rishi will lose because he’s not insane. I hope it’s not Braverman.

Just things

I had a weird email the other day sending me an invoice for an unpaid tenancy from a few years ago. Usually this kind of thing is just spam or has been sent to the wrong person, but, bizarrely, this one was addressed to my full name including my middle name which has a slightly unusual spelling. Plus it seemed to have been sent by a real company. I was a bit worried by that, because it looked a bit like identity theft and the last thing I need is a debt collector turning up. But it turns out that there is someone else with my full name! And I know this because it was published online that they were declared bankrupt around the same time that the tenancy ended, and their address given was close to the address of the property in question. How strange!

I had a very vivid dream last night about a woman I used to work with. She passed me in the street and I recognised her but ignored her. She did the same thing but I turned around to look back at her and saw she was staring at me. Anyway, some fuzzy dream events later, we were talking and apparently she had been married twice in the few years since I left that job, and her surname was now Pope. I don’t think this is important, but that’s the name my dream brain chose. I was slightly unimpressed by this especially as she was now taking an interest in me. My very practical dream self was a bit nonplussed about this and decided that I probably shouldn’t become involved with someone who remarries so often (as if that’s the only issue here). So I spent the rest of the dream trying to avoid her. Then I woke up at 4 o clock thinking it was real. And then I spent probably about half an hour frustratedly trying to remember what her real surname is, because it’s definitely not Pope and it was annoying me. I remembered in the end.

I think I sleep worse at the moment because it’s quite light and warm. But maybe also because of running later in the day. I do my weekly long run on Mondays now because it’s easier to fit it in around Monty duty than on the weekend. So I don’t seem to sleep too well on Monday nights. Yesterday I did 17km and according to Strava it was my second fastest 10 mile and 15km, not that I felt like I was really pushing. Today I felt a bit drained but dragged myself out for 9km this afternoon…. And it was terrible. My heart rate stayed low but I had no energy and no power in my legs at all. I think I need to eat more after the long runs. I don’t think I’ll be doing intervals this week.