Treadmills and Acupuncture

It’s two weeks now since I last ran. Since the mud bath at the North East Harrier League fixture at Thornley Hall.

Leading up to the race I hadn’t been running completely freely. I’d had a noticeable issue in the right lower leg, probably the calf. I was convinced being muscular it was nothing to take seriously. So I cracked on with the race. 

Afterwards my leg felt odd on the drive home and in the days after I noticed a strange sensation down the front of the shin and in the foot.

To be honest since then no two days have felt the same. Some days I’d have pain just walking about. Other days not so bad but then it would appear from nowhere.

I felt like a weeks rest would do it good.

So back to the gym it was. 

I’m not sure why I don’t keep the gym a constant part of my training. I’d used Kenton school gym extensively to recover from my last injury and I’d promised myself I’d keep it up. But as usual I’d slipped back into my old routine of pounding pavements 6 days a week, ignoring the signs etc etc.

It’s important to react strong mentally to setbacks. It’s very easy to get very negative very quickly. I’ve been happy overall with how much better I’ve dealt with this one.

I’ve kept things going despite not being able to run, a bit of bike, a bit of cross trainer. But my main discovery has been using the treadmill at max incline and walking. The incline elicits the same kind of work rate as a fairly high aerobic run.

So I’ve been getting in the gym, putting the treadmill to 15 degrees max incline and walking at 6kph. It’s not easy, and it’s a sweatfest. And I feel good after. And the leg feels better for it. I guess it’s the blood flow.

But unfortunately the leg still feels cranky at best and injured at worst. By week 2 of no running I was starting to get down.

It’s looking unlikely that I’ll run the last cross country fixture at Alnwick next week. And the 5k pb plan at Temple Park 5k is the next on the list that I’ll have to play by ear. That’s still a possibility at the moment though and I won’t rule out some races in April and May.

The future focus moves to The Blaydon Race in June and the Great North Run in September.

With the lack of progress on the injury I decided to finally see a physio and feel a lot better for that. It seems I still have some muscle imbalances in the lower leg that are causing the shin to take an unnecessary beating. So I’ve got some exercises to work on. I also had my first experience of acupuncture which I can say I enjoyed and feel like it has helped.

Having a plan to get through this is a boost and I feel mentally strong and sure that I’ll come out the other side well.

I’m excited about what 2017 can deliver over and above last year where not only did I not run well I was also mentally weak and negative.

He who believes can achieve.

Thanks for reading.

Running in Cyprus & Running in the Mud

Sometimes I think to myself that I haven’t always lived a life full of adventure! And this week I was told by someone at work that I am very humble!

I’ve got a decent grasp of the English language (I think). I’m sure this blog is full of annoying grammatical errors but that’s another story – I don’t mean it to be perfect.

I knew what humble meant but I was intrigued to look it up nonetheless…

Humble – having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s importance.

Maybe I am modest, maybe I am humble.

Maybe this week is an example of a life that is full of adventure…

Monday was spent travelling to Larnaca in Cyprus for a work trip. I was staying in Limassol which is a lovely beach resort.

Usually crowded with tourists when in season it was eerily quiet except for a Serbian? football team that was staying in the same hotel. Were they not bored? They seemed to do a lot of lazing about. Then again maybe I should do more lazing about.

I’ve approached this year in a much more positive and organised manner, both at work and with my running.

I’ve been listening to and bingeing on self help. I think I need it, I’m a self confessed stress head, worrier, doom monger.

These last two years have been awful for my tendency to see the glass half empty.

With what’s been going on at home in the UK and in the world, and the narrow focus on the negative that social media invariably provides my glass has been emptied.

Sometimes you can only change if you say “enough is enough”.

Less Social Media, more self development.

It started with the late great running coach Frank Horwill. He said tell yourself that you will enjoy today when you get out of bed every day. He said tell yourself you will help someone today as you leave the house.

It got me thinking – why have I spent a life self absorbed, with an inward focus on myself? Am I being too hard on myself, am I really that selfish?

Then a strange illness on Boxing Day 2016 and an unplanned Netflix session. I watched a documentary about Tony Robbins, the US based self help guru. I’m not sure why I watched it. I must admit I found it mostly cringe worthy. But in a strange way it planted a seed in my mind and it has led to a real change in my outlook and therefore my life.

The seed turned into getting up a bit earlier and starting a routine. Do the Frank Horwill “chants” but also listen to Tony Robbin’s on YouTube and keep notes in a journal.

That led to Jim Rohn and Jim Rohn has changed my life…

One of the many things it has made me do is plan better. Jim Rohn said don’t start the day until it’s finished, don’t start the week until it’s finished and don’t start the month until it’s finished.

So I’ve been planning my days, weeks and months in advance. What I’ll do at work, with my running and other stuff. It’s also got me thinking about helping more people less fortunate than myself but maybe more about that in another blog.

Back to Cyprus. 

One of my big excuses with my running has been a resentment about my work travel getting in the way. Invariably it’s tiring and puts a spanner in the works and I’ve let it do so.

But with the Jim Rohn philosophy (things will only change if you change, no excuses etc.) I’ve been much better at getting it done.

And how rewarding it was to get out early in Cyprus and run along the miles of coastline.

On Tuesday I was up at the crack of dawn for 8 miles. Wednesday another 10k. Thursday I ran with a bit more intensity, 6 miles in less than 39mins.

Things are clicking into place fitness wise. I have a bit of a niggle in the right leg but it’s an issue I’ve had before and I know I can deal with it.

On Thursday evening/Friday morning I flew back home with a stayover in Heathrow.

My mind moved forward to Saturday’s North East Harrier League cross country race. From shorts and t-shirts in Cyprus to a freezing mud bath at Thornley Hall farm. My life’s definitely not boring!

Waking up on Saturday morning I was tired from the travel. But I’m determined not to let my negative side beat me. I could easily have pulled out. But I know now that unconfidence is not doing things you can do. Jim Rohn said that. Simple but true.

If I pulled out because I felt tired, had a niggle or whatever other excuse I could muster it would have been the beginning of a downward spiral of a self defeating mindset.

So off I went, thinking how am I going to get round in one piece?

Getting to the venue it wasn’t obvious how muddy the course was. It was muddy, but the worst of the water logged parts were well out of sight.

I never usually wear a heart rate monitor for XC but it helped to keep me calm this time. I told myself I’d run the first two laps in threshold (~170-180bpm for me) and then build intensity on the last lap.

This meant going off very steady and it seemed like a large portion of the medium pack was flying off a head. I kept on assuredly. It was very quickly obvious how bad conditions were and it was unwise to go off too hard.

And it wasn’t too long until I was making up places and we quickly started to get passed the slower slow packers who had had a 2min 30s head start.

Even just working in threshold wasn’t comfortable though, the ground so bad underfoot. But I was going along OK for the first one and a half laps.

It was the kind of day where people were dropping out at various stages. The best thing to do when someone drops out is smile, even if it’s just inside. Not wishing injury on them but it means another place made up. But a sense of jealousy was also easy to feel in the circumstances. The wind was picking up and the rain was getting heavier. Seemingly the course was getting harder to tackle with every minute that passed.

Cross country hurts and the quicker it is over the better. But this time every step was harder, every mile slower than normal.

And disaster! Out of nowhere a stitch. Back at school I got a strange enjoyment out of stitches. But not today. I knew that breathing deeply was the cure. Easier said than done.

It felt like about 5 to 10mins before the stitch subsided. And onto the last lap…

The plan was to really push it last lap, well into tempo and working the heart rate as high as possible.

But it was survival mode. The Fast Pack were coming through one by one and the Slow Pack were a rarer commodity as the field began to thin out.

Just keep going. 

As the tiredness really took hold footing became hard and harder. I felt like the innov8 mud claws were powerless. And at times they felt like they had a whole football pitch of mud attached to them!

The wind was blowing hard now, rain into face. There’s only so much you can wish it was over. Sometimes a smile is all that will do! To be alive!

With about a quarter of the last lap to go I focussed hard. And finished it off.

At the finish line I felt an unbelievable lift. A real sense of achievement. Was it my best race ever? No. Was it my best XC result? No. Was I buzzing? Yes!

Until I caught my breath and felt the pain in my right lung and right leg!

I could barely breath and my lower right leg was throbbing.

But the little matter of getting out of the soaking, muddy kit and the car out of field…

Driving home with Michael Hedley it was good to have a laugh about how mad we are spending a Saturday afternoon in a freezing mud bath. But I love XC…and the car slid out of the farmers field with no need for a push at all.

And my focus now turns to working out how much damage I’ve done to the right leg…

NEMAA XC Champs

A sprint to the first corner. Not a care in the world. I was in the top 3. No idea how far the course was. Only concern was running and competing. This was race 4 of 4 and I’d come 10th, 7th, 10th in the first 3 races. So I knew I should be prominent, getting stuck in. And so I was able to, being 11 years old. Running cross country at school. No wisdom, no pre conceived ideas about what I can or can’t do.

Fast forward to 2017, February 4th. I’ve entered the North East Masters cross country champs. Training has gone quite well. Not back to 2015 levels in terms of intensity but yes in terms of volume.

In my mind I’ve put the clock back to zero from 1st Jan 2017. A new me, a fresh start.

My goal is clear. Find out how good I can be. It’s an unknown but it’s a goal. How to measure?

In many ways I feel like if I was able to top 10 in my age group at school I can do similar now. Of course there’s always been the sub 17 5k goal. Although a decent standard I can’t help but feel I’m better than that.

 But what will it take to satisfy? When I started running in 2012 what I lacked in fitness I made up for in grit. Part of me is concerned that, as I’ve got fitter, I’ve lost that fight.

So the aim at the NEMAA XC was to run hard from start to finish. Standing on the start line I felt like I could have a chance of getting in a decent pack just off the front. But as always seems to be the case, once things had settled I was already running alone maybe sitting in 6th or 7th in the field.

The issue was the field was mixed. I was really looking to compete with my fellow 35-39 year old age group. Top 3 would medal but it wasn’t easy to know who was who.

Anyway, not to worry – first lap of 3 was feeling good. 

Parts of the course were clarty. There was nothing you could call a hill, more inclined but they were enough to hurt come the last lap.

Added to that was a decent stretch into what felt like more than a mere headwind. A key frustration was my inability to grit the teeth into the wind.

Having established a decent position lap 1 I proceeded to let a couple of competitors passed on the windy stretch. Why could I hold my own on inclines but not against the wind.

A couple of factors – #1 I was getting pretty ragged as the tiredness set in and also allowing my cadence to get painfully slow. And the thought of speeding it up made me feel sick.

So the plan of going hard from start to finish had been cast aside to thoughts of struggling, wanting to pull out and feeling sick. I’d carefully planned my meal 4hrs before the race but maybe I’d eaten too much?

So from halfway it was an exercise in putting one foot in front of the other. I wasn’t aware but the 3rd place lad in my age group had gone passed. 

I had a bit of a battle with another runner on lap 2 but couldn’t maintain.

On the final lap another 2 went passed and I really had to dig in. I managed to keep them both in sight. I had somehow found a 2nd wind with a quarter mile to go. I felt like I could out sprint them both on the line.

In the end I only took one.

The result was a 10th place finish and 4th in the 35-44 age group. I would say I’m neither pleased or displeased but raring to keep this decent training going.

Next up is the North East Harrier League.

And I’ve been confirmed a place in a small half marathon called the Great North Run!