Saturday, March 29, 2008

I am a partial triathlete!

Yes my friends! This is the weekend of the SimplyStu triathlon and although I entered it through the endlessly encouraging and supportive ShirleyPerly I was beginning to panic. Unlike JadeLady I couldn't even see myself turning this into a duathlon. My knees are still not pain-free and so I'm not confident about going out running (certainly not without some input from my phsysio) and my orthotics have not yet arrived (hurry! hurry! hurry! can't the man smell my desperation?) so I was worrying that maybe I should just try to run something like 3 miles before heading to the pool. And then yesterday afternoon the constantly amazing Maddy had a brainstorm while commenting on Susan's blog (is that how it started girlfriends? I thought so but may well be wrong) that we could do it as a relay team - she was running a 10K, Susan was planning a bike ride and I was going to swim. So that's what we decided to do. We even picked our own race number - 330 - as we are three chicks in our thirties..

So this morning as soon as I had the show on the road at home I headed off to the pool. It was packed! There were lots of kids swimming lessons going on and families enjoying the pool and there were only 2 lanes free for "proper swimming", a fast one and a slow one. As I was being serious about this I decided to go into the fast lane, not before asking a young father waiting by the side of the pool to take my picture before the race. As you can see, the air was warm! But the fog is quite flattering. Update my father is a photoshop superguru and has somehow removed most of the fog.. I don't know how he did it but wow! I compromised on the vanity issue - you do get to see me with my bathing cap on - not generally a good look - but you don't get to see anything below the shoulder. I'm saving you - believe me. Nor do you get to see the after picture - my goggles have such strong suction that I have enormous marks on my face after I finish and look generally old and tired after a good swimming session. Oh well. And you can see my upper arms don't quite have her Madgesty's definition either. There are always things to strive for.. Oh and do note that I magic markered the 330 on my arms in true triathlete style - I felt like a bit of an idiot but I couldn't let my wonderful team mates down!

So the swim! Well I think it went quite well. I did 1500m in 40 minutes - my watch battery died so I went by the clock on the wall. That was 750m front crawl and 750m breast stroke. I am very pleased with it - after only a few swimming lessons I am able to do that much front crawl which is a real improvement. I didn't kill myself - I took it steady as I had no idea what kind of endurance I'd have for it - but I was definitely hot and flushed at times. The lane was very very busy - there were 5 of us ploughing up and down it at one point - so it was quite a genuine experience, the water was quite choppy, I got pushed and kicked in the face, and I generally had to become more aggressive in the course of my swim. The other swimmers were clearly good and confident and not very friendly - they just pushed past me. Initially I kept letting them go ahead of me but eventually I decided I was keeping up quite well with most of them so I refused to let them go ahead and stuck to my game. Ha! I have to say so far I haven't found swimmers remotely as friendly as runners to beginners..

Anyway - I made it through and then ran into a friend in the coffee lounge afterwards so had a nice latte and a chat to her and her super marathoner husband (he just ran a 3:30 last weekend in Dumfries) and then headed home. Cinema and supper out beckoned with the kids and now the clocks go forward so it was a rush getting this race report out today.

Overall it was a good day and a confidence building experience - I have no idea how bad 1500m in 40 minutes is - it's a PB simply by virtue of it being my first race! And as for triathlons - I can begin to see the attraction. Overall I imagine the cross training is good for you and strengthens different parts, and the wear and tear on one particular part of your body is less. I can't contemplate a bike yet, not until my knees have healed fully, but when they have I may well do it. Right now the focus remains to be well enough to run Chicago in October and to actually meet my wonderful team mates and blogging buddies. After that - who knows?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back on track - in mind if not in body..

I was weeks behind on my blog reading. Why? Work, kids, home and oh yes - that !@£$$%%^&* knee thing which you've all heard enough about. Reading everyone else's running blogs seemed to just remind me of what I couldn't do at the moment.

But enough! Enough of the ego! I like all these blogging buddies of mine too much and I was dying to see what everyone was up to so I got over myself (and about time, I can hear some thinking). And don't you know - I've been rewarded. What an incredible bunch you all are! Adam's thought provoking link to Jill Bolte Taylor on Tedtalks had me mesmerised last night. Adam first put me onto This American Life as well and his podcasts and blogs constantly inspire and challenge. Then Peter's post about his family was just so raw, so angry but above all - so honest. Unflinching in his directness, it shows what blogging has that journalism so often lacks - the truth about someone's reality. Shirley Perly's blog about why she wants to be on Team Evotri just blew me away - this is someone who is confronting her biggest fears and anxieties head-on. Her courage is incredible. Susan, also sidelined with injury, has not whinged, moaned and felt sorry for herself (unlike someone else I know all too well) and has instead used the time to reassess her life options and has set up her own business. Go girl! Maddy - great friend and my marketing guru has her ear to the ground and posted some Nike commercials which just make you want to go out there and COMPETE! Wake up spirit! Melisa, meanwhile, has really got the running bit between her teeth now - 20M per week and she's aiming to end up at 50! Woot girl - you are totally on top of the game! Kevin just got back from the beach with his gorgeous family and the snapshots are wonderful. (Incidentally - Kevin wrote to me weeks ago to go and see a podiatrist as he'd had very similar problems in the past - I'm hoping I'll be as succesful as you were and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your advice). Jade Lady - another athlete who's been sidelined with injuries writes of her progress with her exercises and makes me vow to keep at it - she's really moving ahead (and losing weight!) so she's an example to be followed. (I'm not alone - and other people are handling things better than I am - noted everyone..). Maritza is currently in Ireland - I can't wait to read what she got up to there. I'm due to meet up with Maritza and Jen next month - how cool is that? Jen is running Boston this year - the woman is so fast and her training is going so well and I know she too has battled injury in the past - it's good to see where I might one day end up.. (though Boston is a dream I don't yet dare to have..). Greg ran his first marathon recently and just has the racing bug - he's about to run through the Lincoln tunnel and it reminds me of how much fun road racing is - I love the sense of the group of runners running where, at any other time, cars reign. Jessica over at Pieces of Me never fails to amuse - any woman who will post pictures of herself in a bathing suit to motivate herself to lose weight is a woman I like. She's just been to Fiji (nice life for some) and posted some great pictures of herself getting a mud pack - I think? And now she's talking to her childhood imaginary friends to get herself motivated to train - she totally cracks me up! As does Terry who's saga of the ass mirror is just hilarious and it just keeps on going. Amazing marathon Chris makes my time poverty seems like a holiday - on top of a young family she's working 60-70 hours per week at the moment and still fitting in some training. Her attitude is so positive even when she doesn't get every single run in - again, something I could learn from. Lizzie Lee, over in Seattle (and Washington DC) gets her inspiration from Frederick the Great - king of Prussia "One does as one wishes with the body - when the soul says quick march it obeys"- no kidding Lizzie! Check out her speedwork! Wonderful Drusy is 3 weeks away from London - I will be cheering her on every step of the way. And finally - last, but certainly not least - Charlie has committed to running Chicago and is SO well prepared. If ever anyone was ready for the marathon it's Charlie - his weekly mileage has been amazing for months now! - but he needed some convincing. Charlie - I'm going to get this knee sorted and I will join you at the start!

I've caught up with most of you now - and I can't tell you how much more positive I feel. I realise I'm not the only one facing some challenges, I'm not the only one busy, and I am simply not going to have another week without knowing what you're all up to! Keep it up everyone and keep blogging about it. I will be checking in...

Finally - just a quick link back to ShirleyPerly again. She needs you to vote for her to get onto Team Evotri. Check out her post and then vote for the girl here!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Anyone else got an idea?

2 weeks! It's been 2 weeks since I last posted.. And 6 weeks since I last ran. The two are related. To some extent there is little news to report: I am still injured and still not running.

One of the things that is so difficult about injury (I’m sure Susan will back me up on this) is that everyone has a different opinion on how to treat you or what would be beneficial for you.

My GP was the first point of call. A man who visibly did not put exercise at the heart of his life, his advice was just to “take it easy”. Whatever that meant. I did cut down on my mileage but it didn’t ease the pain. At all.

So then – in this country – you head into the land of private (ie you pay for it) healthcare. There are physios, osteopath, podiatrists and many other options available. How to choose? In my case, I asked some fellow runners and they recommended physio at the local sports injury clinic.

So I went and started to see a physio. He’s good; he’s very dedicated to getting sports people out on the road. I think his initial prescription for me – strengthening my adductors, stretching out my ITB – was based on a general treatment of knee pain in runners. When I went back last week – the third time – and I could still report no progress he suggested I remove all potential stressors of my knee out of my life for a while. So no high heels and, more importantly, no hills. Somewhat reluctantly I have stopped parking my car at the top of Steep Hill (yup)
every day and walking down to work and am, instead, parking at the bottom of said hill and thus, hopefully, avoiding some of the pressure on my knees. I am wearing mostly flat shoes. We then agreed to meet in the gym that evening so he could see me run on the treadmill. He was very surprised to see that when I run I am, in his words, knockkneed. I overpronate considerably and this causes my knees to come together when I run. When he then had me running wide-legged – I felt like I was running while riding a horse if such a thing is possible – the pain immediately diminished. When I asked him what this meant for my recovery program – ie which exercises I should focus on, he had my focusing on exercises to strengthen my glutes. When I asked for his advice on how to run in this way which was far less painful, his answer was “go slow and steady”. His idea is that I start by running in this new way for 5 minutes each day, and build it up. The problem with this suggestion is a) that I’m still suffering from knee pain and b) that it’s very hard, without guidance, to really change how you run. In addition, in the course of the past week I have slowly become conscious that some of the exercises he is making me do may be contributing to the knee pain which has, if anything, got worse since I stopped running. This may be because I’m not doing the exercises right or it may be that we have not yet completely figured out exactly what it is that is aggravating my knee pain and so have not been able to eliminate it from my life (or exercises). Since Thursday, I have, in fact, stopped doing any of the exercises that I felt were hurting me and (touch wood) my knees feel better.. This is sort of good news – no pain is good news – but I am conscious that his initial advice of strengthening my adductors probably still has validity and I’m not quite sure how to go about it without hurting myself. Another appointment is called for.

Based on this lengthy paragraph above it seems quite clear that my pain is related to how I run. So I somehow need to learn how to run better, in a way that won’t injure me. ChiRunning is an option here and as you know I’m working on this. I’m practising my various focuses and exercises in anticipation of a private training session with Chris Griffin next month.

Another way to change the way you run, however, is orthoses. Now I was quite reluctant to go and see a podiatrist. Everyone who goes to see one seems to leave with 300 pound orthoses. But frustrated by my lack of progress and doubtful about my running future (and upset by my physios repeated comments about going to see a friendly orthopaedic surgeon for arthroscopy) I decided it was worth having a try. A local podiatrist is recommended by our local running shop and my friend Sally has been helped by him so I booked in to see him last Thursday. He found all sorts of peculiar things about the way I walk and move and next Tuesday I am booked in for an afternoon’s session where he films me running on the treadmill, will make a cast of my foot and then will make me orthoses which will correct a variety of the problems he thinks I have. Do I think this will help? Well, I obviously hope so. But based on what everyone else has noted there is clearly some issue with the way I move and on the face of it is seems orthotics would change the way my feet move and would therefore change the way everything else moves. We shall see. At any rate the assessment should be valuable and useful and the orthoses are refundable, should they be no use at all. I will then go back to the physio with my issues with my exercises and see what we can come up with which doesn’t hurt me more. Pile Chris Griffin on to that in a month’s time and hopefully this three pronged approach will do some good…

I have so far not consulted an osteopath or any other practitioner – I am overwhelmed with the range of possible treatment options and not quite sure which road to go down. I think I’ve gone down the physio route long enough to be able to try something alongside it, and we will see where that gets me.

I am trying to be brave about not running – the few swimming lessons I have taken so far have vastly improved my front crawl. The time freed up by not running seems to have been seamlessly swallowed up by work and domestic life – I am very behind in commenting and podcast listening. If I haven’t been to your blog recently – I am getting to it. I promise. I miss you all enormously, and I miss the sense of running alongside you all. I really hope I’ll be back again soon..

Sunday, March 09, 2008

the injury blahs

I have been suffering the injury blahs this week. I've had enough now. I'm bored with myself. The weather is glorious, spring is erupting and I want to be out there! Running, not walking. Pain-free, not limping. Remember when I lost my mojo? I take it back - all of it. I really really really want to get out there. Now.

But I can't. I've now had a week of non-activity (apart from my 15 minute walk to work and back and general day-to-day stuff). I've had a deep tissue massage. I've been doing my exercises. I can't say that I'm pain-free. I'm still not. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, both knees still hurt. I think that what my physio will say is that until I significantly start strengthening my adductors (which, with daily exercise, should start being noticeable about 4-6 weeks from starting them) I will continue to feel this pain. I know I know. Patience. A little at a time. I'm seeing him on Thursday and I hope that he will tell me to start running again, albeit slowly and carefully (he mentioned walking 4:30 mins, then running .30 minute for 30 minutes total). On the other hand, I will tell him that, in all honestly, the knee pain has not completely disappeared yet so maybe he will recommend more time off.

However, something has to change. My attitude. I have worked hard at being positive, as seeing this as an opportunity to focus on other things, to make this a moment to realise that things such as core strength etc. are really crucial. But dammit - I just really really really really want to run!

I don't think I realised, until the last 2 weeks, how much running was part of my routine. It's how I think of things when I go travelling (where will I run?), it's how I plan my year (which marathons will I run), it's how I catch up with certain friends (Sally) and mostly, it's how I feel good about myself every single day.

However - I know that I've been throwing a pity-party and that is, when all's said and done, pathetic. So I'm grabbing myself by the shoulders and saying "enough". When you actually bore yourself with your whingeing, you really know you've gone too far. I'm there.

So - I will stick to the exercises. I'm going to add some cardiovascular exercises this week - Shirley suggested I swim with a pullbuoy and hoo-ha - that will be good for my bingo wings don't you think? My husband now realises just how unpleasant I can be when I don't run and so has told me that once or twice a week he's fine getting up with the kids and taking them to school so I can go to the pool and swim. He is ABSOLUTELY not a morning person so that really is telling you something about how nice he is and just how unpleasant I can be. So pullbuoy swimming, careful elliptical training and my core exercises should hopefully, eventually, put me in a position where I can return to running stronger and wiser. There is always hoping, right?

Finally - I have found some silver lining in all these clouds. 2 years or so ago I took a course in ChiRunning with Danny Dreyer in London which was fantastic . Danny is an inspirational man and his techniques make a lot of sense. I did not find it easy and have obviously let things slip in the past few years. However, I now have a major impetus (i.e injury) to wish to learn to improve my form. I am heading out to the bay area in April to help my best friend celebrate her 40th and it just so happens that one of the best ChiRunning trainers lives in the town where I'll be staying. So I've booked 2 hours of private lessons with him and that is really something I'm looking forward to. So another thing I can do in my time off from running is to start working on the postures and exercises on the ChiRunning DVD.

Finally, finally - I am really hoping that Maritza, Jen and I can hook up for a run while I'm near San Francisco. Although I'm on holiday my days are packed and I think I'm making it difficult for these 2 busy, dynamic running bloggers to fit me in but I hope we can make it and I can blog about it.

So all in all there's plenty to look forward to - I just have to get on with the challenges in the short term. Thank you all for your continued feedback and support - it helps more than you realise!