Category Archives: Running

Crap about running, and my general attempts at it.

Swimming just got easier

This week has seen a significant breakthrough in terms of swimming. Before Wednesday, the most I had ever swum without stopping was 300 metres, and when I finished that I was absolutely exhausted. Then, on Wednesday, I decided that my aim was to try to swim while breathing left. This I managed with relative ease, so had a bit of a practice of that for a few lengths, and then just kept on swimming. I realised I hadn’t been counting the lengths I had swum, which I usually do, because I had been concentrating on the different breathing technique, but I also realised that I didn’t feel tired or out of breath, which is very strange, because I usually start running out of breath after about 8 lengths. I eventually decided to stop so I could see how many lengths I had gone – 16. So, 400 metres. A new PB. It was amazing.

Today, I thought I’d try the same thing again, although this time to actually count the lengths I was doing. Now, normally I’d have done something different, such as sets of 4 lengths to improve my speed, but I wanted to see whether what happened on Wednesday was a fluke, or whether I could repeat it… because swimming actually felt easy for the first time in my life.

What do I mean by easy? Well, I can describe it fairly simply. “Not dying” has been my only tactic up to this point. I have never been able to swim with any level of confidence (or skill), and merely breathing has always been the major issue, in terms of not managing to get enough oxygen into my lungs. But on Wednesday, I seemed to be able to do it without any problem.

Therefore, today I got in the pool to see if I could hit 16 lengths, and I managed it again with ease, so kept going. By the time I was on length 22, I knew I was able to get to my ultimate goal of 30 lengths, which is what I need to do so that I can enter a sprint triathlon, leaving me merely to then get fast enough to do it inside 20 minutes. And guess what – I managed it in 19:33. Winner.

Needless to say, I’ve entered the next available triathlon, which is in April. Looks like I’ll need to get my running shoes out again :)

This week also saw a good number of miles, mainly on the bike, with a solid 117 added on to the year’s total:

miles-comparison

Miles Comparison, Week 5

Another jump ahead this week, but this is probably where it’s going to either stop jumping ahead, or even go down over the next 4 weeks, as I clearly stepped things up a bit at this point last year. This week should be easy to match with just 67 miles. The next week, 90 miles, I won’t get anywhere near as I won’t be able to cycle to work that week (more on that later). So, I’m currently 112 miles ahead after 5 weeks, but if I’m still 100 miles ahead at 9 weeks, I’ll be lucky.

miles_comparison

Miles Comparison

Last year, I came pretty close to doing 4000 miles in terms of running, cycling, walking and swimming, in that I made it to 3935 miles. This year, I’m going to try to beat that, which shouldn’t be too difficult so long as I don’t injure myself like I did last year. That said, this year I am concentrating more on learning to swim for the first few weeks or months, which clearly doesn’t put a lot of miles in the tank, but I am also going to be doing more cycling this year since I don’t have a marathon to train for.

This year, I’m 3 weeks in and I’ve edged ahead of last year’s weekly totals:

miles_comparison

After week 2, I was about 12 miles down, but after week 3 I am 24 miles up, mainly because last year I must’ve not cycled as much during that week. It should be pretty close until week 10, when I stopped doing any exercise due to the crash, at which point I should shoot well ahead in the miles count.

2013: The Year of Injuries and Broken Bones

The main recurring topic of this year has been injuries, including a few broken bones. The reality is that this probably isn’t being unlucky, but more a lack of care and an increase in activities which have accounted for them all. So, what has been happening this year?

  1. 15-Jan – bike tumble, broken finger
  2. 06-Mar – bike crash, broken wrist, broken thumb, dislocated humerus etc
  3. 27-Jul – right foot injury, out of action for 5 weeks
  4. 25-Aug – toenail falls off, lolz
  5. 25-Aug – left foot injury, out of action for 10 days
  6. 15-Sep – broken right forefinger, swimming, lolz
  7. 13-Oct – left foot injury, out of action for 3 weeks
  8. Mid November – broken rib, caused by eldest daughter putting her full weight on my ribcage via her knee

Yeah, I’m hoping this doesn’t become a regular scenario. Lessons to be learnt?

  1. Don’t go round corners on my bike too aggressively when it is wet
  2. Learn to swim properly so I don’t punch the hand rail because my technique is so poor
  3. Run less, or at least shorter distances
  4. Don’t wrestle with eldest daughter

No doubt I will find other ways to injure myself, but what’s the alternative – staying in and doing nothing?

3 Years In the Planning, Marathon Completed

I did it – I managed to complete the ING New York City Marathon 2013. It wasn’t easy, but if it was easy, everyone would do it. And of course, many things made it far, far harder than it could have been. NYC Marathon Finishers KitBut instead of jumping straight to the end result, I figure now would be a good time for me to reflect on how I came to enter and run the marathon in the first place, because it’s been a long road to get there.

Where to begin; well, that’s difficult to say. I’ll briefly summarise the fact that I used to be pretty active, playing badminton 5 days a week for up to 3 hours a day when I was in my twenties, plus various other sports. Then I succombed to a fairly serious shoulder injury at the age of 30 which the physios said couldn’t be repaired, so I had to retire. That happened not long before my health started to deteriorate in 2004, following which I was told I probably had MS in July 2005, and I was finally diagnosed in July 2007. During that time, and up to the end of 2009, I stopped doing any real physical exercise, other than walking the dog.

The main reason for putting a halt on exercise was that my balance was one of the main things to go. As with many things related to MS, you have things that suddenly get worse for a period of time, and then get better, but the balance was something that was generally not that good, and sometimes got worse. I got a walking stick, and was starting to use it more and more often. I’d completely given up any thoughts on doing any sporting activity again, and to be honest, it didn’t seem that bad a scenario, relatively speaking.

But something must have happened towards the end of 2009 which kicked my ass a little. The only thing I can remember is that I discovered that I only needed my walking stick when standing still, and when turning corners, and to start walking. Once I was moving in a straight line, I didn’t actually need it. The legs were strong enough, it was the balance that was the main problem. So, with that in mind, I bought myself a Garmin Forerunner 405 with the intention of running. And towards the end of January 2010, I did just that. I went out for a run.

At first, it was pretty pathetic. Actually, drop the word “pretty”, because there was nothing pretty about it – it was just plain pathetic. It took me quite a while before I could go out for a run and didn’t want to throw up, but after a few attempts (5 to be exact), I clearly remember coming home and realising that I actually felt not bad. This was about a week and a half after my first run.

The ball was rolling, and the addiction was starting to take hold.

During 2010, I entered the local 10km run, the BUPA Great Edinburgh Run. It was my 25th run, and came 14 weeks after that first ever run, and I clocked 56:24. Later that year, I did a half marathon, although it didn’t go so well as I didn’t manage to train as much as I wanted to, and the last couple of miles were really hard. They felt, at the time, like one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do in terms of beating the pain. How times change… But I completed it, in 2:10:19. Painfully (sic) slow.

So then I started to get grand ideas about trying a marathon. I read about the New York City marathon, and how they have a lottery for entry, so I entered the lottery, but failed to get in. However, the Edinburgh marathon is typically in May each year, so I decided to enter that in 2011. Training seemed to be going well, I had managed an 18 mile run one day, and I ran the Edinburgh half marathon in a far more respectable time of 1:55:45. But then, around 6 weeks before the marathon, I was out for a 20 mile run and I ran out of gas at 15 miles. It was very odd, but I didn’t worry too much about it. I tried again 10 days later, and the same thing happened. And then I was hit with a medical issue that completely confused the doctors. To this day, they still have no idea what was actually wrong with me, because although I had clear symptoms that they thought pointed directly to something specific being wrong with me, the tests all came back negative. When the symptoms cleared up, I had one more go, but again came up short. So the marathon attempt for 2011 was abandoned for that year, with the intention of trying again in May 2012. I later ran the 2011 Glasgow half marathon in 1:56:21, mainly to put the psychological nightmare of the previous year to bed.

Into 2012 I went, running through the winter to make sure I had plenty of miles in the legs. And then in the springtime, I started to lose enthusiasm. My wife had started training for the Moonwalk so our training requirements were going to start conflicting, but the main issue was that I just couldn’t be bothered training any more. Fundamentally, I put this down to the Edinburgh marathon course. It’s unbelievably dull; you run in a straight line way outside of Edinburgh, get to a traffic cone, run round it, and run all the way back. I struggled at the best of times to keep my mind occupied when I was out running, and this was not a marathon I was looking forward to. So one day, while I was out on a long run, miles from home running along the Portobello Promenade, I realised that I was cold and bored, and I just couldn’t be bothered any more. So I literally stopped running, and got the bus home. I knew I’d made the right decision by the time I’d arrived home.

Now, before this, around the start of 2011, I had read that you could get automatic entry for the New York City Marathon if you entered the lottery 3 years in a row and failed each time to get a place; you would get a guaranteed place in the 4th year, assuming you applied again. So, since I’d entered the lottery for the 2010 marathon, that meant I could enter the lottery each year thereafter and be guaranteed a place in 2013. So that’s what I did. I didn’t get a place in any of the lotteries, so when the 2013 application window opened, I logged on, and got my guaranteed spot.

Running shoesSo that brings us forward to 2013. Over the winter, I didn’t do any running at all, I just cycled. Indeed, I had started cycling to work nearly every day from around April 2012, so I kept doing that over the winter to retain a reasonable level of fitness, with the goal of starting my running training 6 months before the marathon, which would mean around the start of May 2013. That worked out quite nicely in terms of when I managed to fall off my bike taking a corner a bit too aggressively; a broken left thumb, broken right wrist, dislocated left humerus, significant contusions on all four muscles of my rotator cuff and a deep puncture wound in my shoulder (as well as various other scrapes of lesser note). All of the plaster casts and splints were off by the end of April, allowing me to start running training on time. At first I could barely run 2 miles, but I quickly got up to 12 miles with little problem. Indeed, I got up to 19 miles a full 14 weeks before the marathon, so was a massive 10 weeks ahead of schedule.

And that’s when it all started to go wrong. That 19 mile run injured my right foot, I’m still not quite sure what happened but one of the metatarsals was quite badly hurt, which meant I could barely walk, never mind run, and when I finally managed to go out for a run once it had improved enough, I immediately injured the outside of my left foot by wearing a new pair of ill-fitting running shoes, on the basis of “internet advice” (lesson learnt). That prevented me from training for 5 weeks, but with 9 weeks to go, I was back into it again, and I did 3 hard weeks of running to get up to 20 miles. Another 2 weeks later, I did a 20.5 mile run, in 2:55:55, and confidence was very high, as I was 4 weeks away from the marathon. The next week, with only 3 weeks to go, I then did a training run half marathon in 1:47:52 to beat the PB of two friends of mine… but disaster struck, and again I had injured my left foot.

The next 10 days were extremely tough to get through. Not knowing whether I’d be able to run the marathon so close to the event was a massive concern, and although I could pull out and get guaranteed entry again for next year, the amount of money spent on flights and accommodation for myself and my family, not to mention getting authorization from their schools to pull them out during term time, was not something I was wanting to waste. I ended up going to the running shoe shop for advice, and they thought I’d be ok if I continued to rest the foot, which I had been doing, but also suggested I go to a physio just to make sure I hadn’t damaged it badly. So I did that, and he agreed that I should be ok to get to the start line and to continue resting. So, another 3 weeks without running, directly before the marathon. That’s taking “tapering” to a whole new level.

Opening CeremonyBut I did make it to the start line, and I even got a spot at the Opening Ceremony. Scotland were not given their own individual place in the march, but there were enough of us in kilts plus a couple of lads with large flags that we made it look like we’d got our own spot, as we marched separately from the UK people.

As for the marathon itself, it was freezing, and you have to hang around for ages at the start before you can begin. For example, I left the house in Brooklyn at 05:15, and I didn’t start running until 10:08. I had to leave at that time to get the 06:15 Staten Island Ferry, and I was at the start around 07:40. Waiting for two and a half hours in temperatures around 5°C with a 20mph wind, thus feeling literally like it was at freezing point, was not that pleasant, but surprisingly time did go fairly quickly.

The run itself was slow. 4:44:11 was my official time, and with 4 weeks to go, I had been hoping to break 4 hours. However, the injuries played a big part in that, but the huge number of people running the race also played a huge part. There were over 50,000 people running, and quite frankly there was not enough room for us all to run. The first mile of a race such as this is usually slow, but the first mile of this marathon was horrifically slow, over 11 minutes to get it done, and after that, we averaged 09:15 for the first 10 miles. It was truly terrible if you were going for a fast time. However, I wasn’t really too bothered, because I knew I had next to no chance of breaking 4 hours due to the injuries.

And that became crystal clear at mile 10. Normally, when I’m training, if I run further than I have done recently, the front of my thighs will start to ache around the point where I am into new territory. Ideally, if my training had gone ok, I would have expected that to happen around mile 22. Instead, it happened at mile 10. I knew I was in trouble. At mile 16, I had to tell my running partner to go on without me, because I was going to have to stop to try to stretch my legs to ease the pain, but it didn’t really do much good. I tried that at least half a dozen times, each time without much success. And with each passing mile, the pain got worse and worse. By mile 21, although I was now into new PB for distance territory, the pain was so bad, it really was a psychological fight to keep going; but it wasn’t a fight I was going to lose. There was no way I was going to give this up, not after 3 years of planning. So I kept going, and managed to keep running, aside from leg-stretching breaks and water breaks (where you had to walk, otherwise your water cup contents would end up over your face, not in your mouth), pretty much the entire way.

MedalThe end resulting time was not glorious, and is the only thing I could consider disappointing about the marathon. However, taking everything into account, it was only about half an hour slower than I would have run if training had gone well, because of the number of runners slowing things down, so not really that bad.

But overall, the main thing I’m most happy about is that 4 years ago, I needed a walking stick. On Sunday, I ran one of the World Marathon Majors. Not only that, but the running has helped my balance improve so much that I can play racquet sports again – not badminton, as my shoulder can’t cope with the constant overhead shots, but I can play squash now, which 4 years ago didn’t look like ever being possible.

What next? Triathlon. It’s time to learn to swim properly.

1 Week To Go

Yeah, I’m a day early.

So I went through about 11 days of not knowing whether I was going to be ok for the marathon, up until Thursday of this week, when I went, as advised last week by the running shop, to see a physio. He took the history of my health and injury, then had me doing a bunch of things like standing on my toes and hopping on one foot, all of which was quite comical because, let’s face it, my balance is pretty pish because of the MS. However, he was quite happy with things at this point, and said he thought this was good news.

He then got me to lie on the bed and he went to work trying to find the pain. Now, I couldn’t pinpoint whether there was a specific area that was sore, I just couldn’t find anything. He did. At this point, he said he thought it was a 5th metatarsal edema. And then quickly followed this up by saying that this was a typical injury when runners are going longer and longer, because although the body is getting stronger, at times it’ll break down a little bit and there will be inflamation, but what I’d done in terms of resting it was good. He suggested I should put ice packs on it 3 or 4 times a day, for 20 minutes at a time, to aid the recovery, which I was initially confused about because I thought there was little point doing this after a couple of days of sustaining the injury, but he reckons I should do it daily, up to the marathon.

And then he had me on a treadmill. I was concerned about this because I assumed it was going to be sore, just like when I tried to run last Sunday. However, after all of 3 seconds, I realised that it was all going to be ok. I’m not suggesting it was pain free, but it was the kind of soreness that goes away once you’ve warmed up, rather than sharp pains which I was getting the previous week.

View of the BridgesWhat a relief.

So in summary, the physio said there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to do the marathon, and said I should get back on my bike immediately to keep my cardio levels up. I’d stopped riding the bike this week because I was concerned that I was making things worse, but I got it back out on Friday to head to work, and this morning went on a fairly short 30 mile loop to get the cardio going. Chest feels awesome.

I might even try a short run in a couple of days, just to keep the legs remembering how to run. But I will be listening closely to my foot and stopping if there’s any sign of pain.

Let’s try to stay positive

Well, the past few hours I’ve been trying to stay a bit more positive about the current injury issue, the main thing being heading to the local running shop to see what they thought about the situation. Two main things:

  1. After describing the training I’ve been doing and the issue I have with my feet, I basically wanted to ask whether they thought it would be a real disaster if, for example, I didn’t run at all until the marathon, or whether that would make running the marathon pretty much impossible. Surprisingly, I got a positive response, far more positive than I thought would be the case, as the guy told me that he’d seen many people in my position, and considering the amount of training I’ve managed to do, he didn’t see it being a problem. That make me feel a lot better. He did recommend I went to a physio just to check out my foot injury just to make sure it’s nothing serious, and while I’m not wanting to not run at all until the marathon, at least I have the peace of mind that, if I remain injured for the next week and basically don’t really get out again, it’s not the end of the world. The marathon is still possible.
  2. I then went to a shoe shop (normal shoe shop, rather than a running shop) and bought myself a replacement pair of Merrell shoes. The last pair are, tbh, totally worn away because I’ve worn them to death. £90 later and I have a pair of shoes that actually feel like they have proper support, other than my running shoes. Win.

So ultimately, I’m feeling a little better about things. I shall attempt to get an appointment with the physio and see whether they think I’ve got a serious problem on my hands. I’m hopeful I don’t, because it’s not sore unless I try to run on it, and the running shop dude basically said that rest is by far the best policy, so I’m now more glad than ever that I didn’t continue running this morning. I think I might just park the bike for the next fortnight too, just to give the foot plenty of ability to recover.

2 Weeks To Go

The situation could be worse, but not by a lot. The left foot is indeed injured. During the week, I decided to skip the Tuesday night run since I could feel it was still a bit sore while walking around, then I skipped the Thursday night run for the same reason, deciding to just wait until Sunday. One week without running wouldn’t hurt, right? So today, Sunday, I go out for a run, and I get about 200 metres from the house and I have to stop. Shooting pains on the outside of my left foot with each step. These are not the kind of pains that are background issues which disappear after a few hundred metres of warming your foot up; this is shooting pains that I’m fairly sure would do damage to my foot if I were to keep running on it.

Now, it’s possible that continuing to run today might have been possible, that warming up my foot would have made it easier to run on it. But my major concern is that by doing that, I merely injure my foot further, making it harder to run next week and thereafter the same the following week, which is the marathon. So I decided to abort the run immediately, and come back home.

It’s pretty depressing, obviously, because I’m now having to consider the very real possibility that I won’t be able to run the marathon now.

One thing I think I will do with immediate effect is to stop cycling. I cycle to work 5 days a week, mounting up close to 70 miles each week, but I suspect that the pedalling might be preventing my foot from getting better. I honestly have no idea, but back in August when I was injured for the full month, I kept cycling to keep the fitness levels up. Now, with 2 weeks to go, I figure that I’m not going to lose that much fitness, so if I don’t cycle, but my foot can get better, then that’s a good trade-off. It’s difficult right now to know what the right decision is, though.

At least I can cancel right up to the day before the marathon when I’m in New York, to at the very least be able to run again next year; then all I have is the logistical issues of going with someone, since I can’t really justify taking the kids out of school again, like we’re doing this year.

The only other thing I can think of doing is heading back to the running shop to see if they have any opinions. The running shoes I got at the end of August definitely feel like they have helped, but my left foot has never fully recovered, so I’ll see whether they have any thoughts about what to do. I don’t think changing shoes is the way to go, but maybe they will suggest something else I could be doing to increase my chances of managing to do the run. Chances seem slim right now.

3 Weeks To Go

PBThe left foot is not 100% better it seems. It is a little sore mainly on the outside, only really evident when I run, and today it mainly disappeared by the time I’d finished my first mile. Not a major worry, so long as it doesn’t get worse.

I’m in 2 minds, therefore, about whether to do another 20 miles next week. I shall have to continue reading more marathon training guides to see what I can determine.

Today, I tried for the 3rd time to break 1:50 for a half marathon. A friend last week ran one in 1:48:26, so that was a secondary goal if things went well. And they did, 1:47:52 utterly destroying my PB by over 4 minutes.

4 Weeks To Go

Well, September was definitely more successful for running than August. October is continuing in the same way, thankfully. Today, I went out to do the same 20 mile route that I did 2 weeks ago, to see whether I could do it faster. And I did – I averaged 9:05 minute miles last time, today I averaged 8:34 minute miles, so over 30 seconds faster per mile. This was surprising. But there were a number of differences today in comparison to a fortnight ago, to explain why it was so much faster.

An extra 2 weeks
Whe I did 20 miles in September, that was after I’d only been back to running for 3 weeks after the injury lay-off that was August. Yes, I did a lot of cycling while injured, but it doesn’t compare to running, even when I’m doing 53 mile cycle rides. The fact that I had an extra 2 weeks of running training before trying the 20 miles again will have made a huge difference, added to the fact that the run 2 weeks ago will have strengthened my legs too.
I could be bothered
It doesn’t happen that often, but occasionally when I go out for a run, my body will tell me pretty quickly that it isn’t in the mood. That happened within 200 metres of leaving the house 2 weeks ago. By the time I got to 8 miles, I was ready to pack it in. But I managed to keep going, which is a huge psychological win, as it showed that I can tell my body to GFTO and I’ll just do it anyway. Last time, I only knew during mile 19 that I was going to make it. Today, I knew during mile 3 that I’d make it.
More rest the day before
Last time, I didn’t get proper rest the day before. I am pretty sure it made a difference this time, because yesterday, I did very little, and I felt totally ready for running when I got up this morning. Lesson learnt.
The weather played its part
You could not have got better weather today. 15°C, 12mph wind, complete cloud cover the entire time, it was perfect for me. I could run in t-shirt and shorts, I didn’t need more than the 750ml of nuun-enabled water I took with me, and I only needed the 2 Gu Gels again to get me round. If it had been hotter, like it was during the summer, I’d have run out of water by the time I hit mile 15.
Speed play
Since I’ve been back to training, I’ve managed to get back to running 10km in 50 minutes again, so in other words, instead of running my midweek 10km runs at marathon pace, I’ve increased the pace during the week to get back to roughly where I was before injury. This paid off today; I ran the first few miles in 8:20 pace, and this initially had me concerned as I was worried that I’d be running too fast, but I decided that it felt comfortable and just kept doing it until I felt I needed to slow down. I don’t recall coming to the conclusion that I needed to slow down; I know I did slow a little bit for the last 6 miles or so, but not by a lot. So the midweek speed runs definitely helped.
I knew I could do it
The fact I did it 2 weeks ago was a psychological boost. I knew I could do it. Therefore, this time, I didn’t have that worry when I went out. Not only that, but after I hit 20 miles today, I then upped the pace for the last half mile, running it at 8:00 pace, to show I had plenty left in the tank. This should help for the last long run in a fortnight, and thereafter for the marathon, because I know I’ll be able to keep going.
Last week’s 11 miles was easy
Last week I ran 11 miles, and at the end of it, I felt I had only started to feel it, and even then, only slightly. Again, psychologically, knowing I can therefore do a half marathon pretty much without putting any real effort in is a win.

PBsI broke a number of my long distance personal bests today, which was pretty nice. Next Sunday, I think I’ll see if I can run a half marathon under 1 hour 50. This has been a target that I’ve never really got close to, and according to the run pace calculator I use, I need to run at 8:23 pace to do that. This doesn’t seem that inconceivable, although I will need to make sure I choose a good, non-hilly route to try to do that.