54 + 12

Tuesday saw my 54th birthday. It’s incredibly reassuring that finally I appear to be comfortable in my skin, regardless of the fact that it’s now showing a few more lines.

My faithful running partner, Murphy the Jack Russell, had his 12th birthday yesterday. He shows no signs of slowing down, even though he is now technically older than I am. I hope that at a comparative age I’m still going as strong.

However, if yesterday’s run is anything to go by, that’s not likely! I’ve not run for a few days, struggling with what I thought was a weakness in my left quadricept femoris muscle (front thigh), a lasting gift from my pre-surgery issues. I’d hoped that the daily yoga I’ve been doing would help free it off a bit, but yesterday proved otherwise.

Since surgery I’ve been having physiotherapy, weekly at the start and now monthly, for a year and a half. The damage done by the motion of the vertebrae as they squashed nerves has been fairly significant and I’ve got an overall combination of no feeling at all, excessive sensitivity, and reactions to touch in places that aren’t being touched! It’s not a terrible thing, just a bit weird at times. Touch my lower back and I feel the touch on my backside and part way down my leg, a fact that my husband finds very amusing.

Although my physio has been focusing mostly on rebuilding my core, which to be fair was shot after I had my son by Caesarean Section and then again five years later when I had the same operation following an Ectopic Pregnancy, one of the exercises she has given me is to help the nerves supplying the quad muscle.

Being a bit of a Google Doctor, I’m really interested in learning more about the physiology of what is going on. My ‘A’ Level Biology based curiosity is wanting to understand the what and the how, rather than just accepting the situation. It helps me to get to grips with why a certain exercise is effective.

From what I can understand, unless there was far more extensive damage to the nerves, what I am experiencing is probably not just nerve damage to the femoral nerve which serves the quads, but also damage to the nerves around my core and hips. Some muscles just aren’t getting the message and so my body is asking others that it can talk to to help out and prop me up. And the nerves that are responding to the call to duty are the femoral nerves and, when my poor quads can take no more, the ones serving my glutes take up the charge.

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 Quadriceps femoris, with different muscles in different colors.
rectus femoris – blue
vastus lateralis – yellow
vastus intermedius – green
vastus medialis – red

(Taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadriceps_femoris_muscle)

Yesterday I woke up wanting to run, even though it was raining. Murphy wanted to run too, judging by his extremely excited reaction when he saw me putting my running gear on! I had decided to abandon my 10k training plan. I’ve got to 4 miles. They are a slow 4 miles in comparison to what they would have been a few years back, but they are 4 miles. I recover from them quite quickly, normally, so I know I have the potential to do more. Yesterday, with this nagging leg pain in the back of my mind, I decided to go easy, do two miles and leave it at that. It was a trail 2 miles, so more demanding than if I’d gone out on the road.

I set my interval timer to one minute, meaning that I intended to run for one and walk for one. I was taking no chances, other than going out and coming back – but I didn’t have a lot of choice about that. And the rain, but it was just drizzle most of the time. In fact it was nice to run in; not too warm, not too wet and midge and clegg free.

The first half a mile was great, but mostly downhill. I kept up a steady pace, even without  the benefit of beat paced music in my ear. (The last couple of times I’ve been out have been without my phone or earbuds. I haven’t missed them to be honest.) As I approached the end of the mile I could feel the strain on that quad and knew that a couple of miles was definitely all that I was going to do.

But my OCD wouldn’t let me stop at one mile and turn round, it compelled me forward to a break in the route before it would let me go. I ran an extra wee bit to the end of the trail and stopped to give Murphy his half way treat and me a bit of a stretch. With nothing to lean against, I stood like a flamingo with one leg pulled up behind me and wobbling to keep my balance!

The mile home was sore. It’s mostly uphill, no matter which way I go. Not only, by then, was my left quad hurting, but my glutes were giving up the ghost too. I inevitably slowed down and, in the end, was mostly limping back. I made it though and did a reasonable 2.3 miles. Murphy probably did an extra half a mile, with all the running on and back that he does. Oh to be 12, even in doggy years!

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As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing daily yoga. The commitment actually helps me to remember to do my physio exercises which, on their own, are a bit grey-looking. A lot of what I need to do in those exercises is covered in the yoga, so I get a second bite of the cherry. I’m enjoying using an app called Daily Yoga, which is so good that I’m actually going to subscribe to it – opening up access to more exercises and more individualised content. I’ve found that even by doing the 10 Day Beginners Tour I’m already becoming more flexible. Having part of your spine welded together takes away a degree of flexibility and some things I still, even after a year, find very difficult to do. I’m having to relearn how to do some things (refer back to nerve damage), such as coming from a seated pose to a standing one, and invariably have to use a table or chair as a prop. The Daily Yoga is helping with that. Plus I should mention the ‘skip’ function? Very useful when you are told to tuck your legs to your chest and roll along the length of your spine, only to look like a fly in its death throes. Skip that, thanks!com_img.jpg

Today is the day after and, yes, I do have some residual aching but it’s okay. My leg hasn’t fallen off in the night and I will survive. A few gentle runs and plenty of yoga and physio and I will get there. Maybe it will take a little longer than I thought. The Jedburgh 10k has been put on the back burner. I just won’t be ready in time and I won’t push myself. I’ll relax and gently build up the miles, perhaps even mostly on the treadmill, and just thank my lucky stars that I can walk and run a bit!

 

How things are going

I’ve sat down here, not really knowing what I want to write! I’m part way through my 10k training plan, enjoying running under the shelter of the trees in the early morning (although not as early as one of my friends, who has been getting up around dawn to get her long runs in before the heat of the sun breaks through!) Murphy, my canine running partner has been coming too although, at almost 12 years old, I have warned him that there may soon come a day when he just can’t come with me. That’s incredibly sad. He’s been my running partner for a long time and has even run a 6 miler with me in his youth!

However that day will come in a few weeks as I start to increase my distances beyond what I can eek out of the woods. In there, amongst the trails, I can get 3 miles. Not all under the shade of the trees, but still. Tomorrow’s run is 3 miles. It’s my Long Run Day and so will be a slow run, so I’m hoping that Murphy and I can get that one done in the cooler weather that is predicted for tomorrow. After than I think I’ll be able to do a couple of shorter runs and then I’ll have to move onto the road.

Road running here is a bit precarious as there are very few paths. I’ve been running for a few years now though and have built up a reserve of quiet routes which test me, but not the drivers trying to get round me! On most runs I hardly see a vehicle. Plenty of cows and sheep, but very little of anything else.

I’ve missed these well-kenned routes and it’ll be nice to get to see them again. Leaving Murphy behind won’t be as nice, but I’m sure he’ll be happy with a post-run walk. And perhaps a squeaky toy and a bone…

I’ve got it in my head that if I am race ready by September I will enter the Jedburgh 10k in October. I haven’t worked out how far through the programme I will be by then as I’m really not wanting to jinx things! At the moment I’m playing with run/walk ratios and seeing what I can do. On my last trail run I went out with 2 min/30 sec, which I adjusted mid run to 45 sec/20 sec and then finished with 3 min/30 sec. It’s reassuring to know that I can adjust these intervals as I feel I am running, without also feeling that I am not performing as I should. The trails are a different thing to road running though and I’m expecting to increase my running ratios to several minutes running to each short walk break. I am not expecting, post surgery and with significant physio issues, to be able to just run. I am enjoying covering the distance in a fairly respectable time.

My pace off road is currently around a 12 min/mile. Previously I could take a minute off that on the road; it’ll be interesting to see if that’s still true. If, however, I am now a 12 minute miler over distance then that’s what I’ll be. At some point or another I’ll run just a mile and see how fast I can do that. I think my fastest mile was just under 9 minutes. I’m not expecting to get anywhere near that.

My physio is happy with me. I am doing my exercises pretty much every day. My Plantar Fascitis has almost disappeared, thanks to those exercises but also to the orthotics I am now prescribed via the hospital. I have now worked up to wearing them all day and am allowed to run in them now too. These help to support my arches and stop my foot from rolling in, as it did. I’ve also started doing what is called Daily Yoga, but not daily. Usually it’s When I Remeber Yoga, but that’s good enough for me! I have problems getting from the floor to standing, so I have a stool on hand to help me. I’m hoping that increasing flexibility and strength will eventually mean that I use this prop less and less.

So, that’s where I am! Things are generally going ‘fine’.

Beating the Heat

I’m sorry that I’m not posting more often. I think I got out of the habit when I was unable to run (and a bit depressed about posting about not running) and it’s just difficult to get back into it. Especially as I have so much to rebuild.

It’s been so hot here recently that running has been largely out of the question, but this morning I decided to hit the trails early and get a couple of miles in. The sun had been up for hours, but it was still cool as I headed out of the door accomapnied by Murphy the Running Dog. He was happy to get out as the heat has largely stopped his walks too.

I’ve somehow managed to resurrect my old Garmin Forerunner 405 through a series of resets and battery drains. I am amazed that it’s still working! I’ve had it pretty much since I started running and the battery should be goosed by now, but it keeps resurrecting itself. The Jesus of Sports Watches!

I’m running a 45sec/15 sec split using LoLo’s 10k app. Two things to explain there: Firstly, I’m running for 45 seconds at 7 mph and then walking for 15 seconds at 12 mph. This averages out at about 11 min/mile pace on the road, a little slower on the trails. Secondly, I decided, in the middle of my second shot at the 5k app, that as I wanted to work up to 10k anyway, I might as well hop across to the 10k program now. I’m was on day 3 of this plan today, a 2 mile run. The 45/15 split means that I’m pretty much running continuously, but giving my extremely tight calves (and plantar fasciitis) a chance of getting to the end of whatever I’m doing.

In the trees the temperature was bearable, but as soon as I came through into the open I could see that both Murphy and I would struggle if I did my usual there and back route, so I decided to run around up to the castle and benefit from almost constant tree cover. Thankfully the midges were pretty scarce, so this was still a good decision. Apparently there’s a national shortage of midges because all of the puddles have dried up. I can assure you that there are still a few puddles on this running route, left behind as the sun never gets through, but the midges could be seen dancing in the sun and I just made sure my eyes and mouth were closed when I ran through them!

 

I got to two miles just past the castle and decided to just enjoy the walk back and cool down a little. My new running shoes, Asics Noosa FFs, are a little on the small size (even though I bought them in a full size bigger) – so I’ve not been wearing socks in them. Unfortunately a couple of tiny bits of grit ensured two lovely blisters today. I’m looking for a good pair of inexpensive trail shoes now! I’ve seen some Karrimore shoes at Sports Direct which will do, but didn’t want to pay the extra £4.99 postage to get them! I’m sure that our local store can order them in for free if they don’t have them in stock! I may have to invest in another pair of runners if the Asics prove to be just a bit too small.

I’m still attending Physio at the local hospital to try and help with my core strength, inflexibility and plantar fasciitis. I’ve got a shed load of exercises to do on a three times daily basis, which I sometimes manage – but often forget to do! To make up for this I’m also doing a Daily Yoga challenge, which I forgot to do yesterday – so that’s going well too. Jeesh.

I’m hoping that I’ll have got far enough through my program to run at Jedburgh in October. It’s the hardest 10k I’ve done (so hilly and windy!), but I enjoy the route and it would be nice to get back to doing something reasonably competitive. 5ks aren’t really my thing, they are too fast and I don’t enjoy them the same. (Although I do like the BUPA Winter 5k run up and round Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh! Maybe I just like hills!) I’ve always said that 6 miles is my distance, even having run at half marathon distance and beyond.

So that’s it. I have a goal. Get myself race fit for October and see if I can beat the hills of Jedburgh again.

Running Hot

The weather in the south of Scotland has been amazing for the last week or so, with temperatures in the low to mid twenties centigrade. It doesn’t make for good running weather, unless you like getting up in the middle of the night (i.e. before 7am) or waiting until almost dark.

I’m working my way through my 5k training plan and I’ve just got up early to finish Day 13, having got completely mixed up and done Day 11 twice, followed by Day 12 and then back to Day 10! I need a prescription screen on my phone. I’ve actually looked seriously at jumping across onto my 10k plan, just so that I can start to get some better miles under my expanded belt. Running 5k distances just isn’t shifting my weight and I know that I need to run for longer than 30 minutes to start doing that.

Before I start I need some better trainers. My Sketchers are doing ok, but I’m wearing them out rapidly and if I’m upping distance I need to know that my feet are ok. I was waiting for an appointment to see a biomechanic podiatrist, which is happening next week, before buying anything. I just need to hang on a little longer. Which is probably a sensible thing to do and fairly easy when it’s sometimes just to hot to run!

 

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Murphy just loves to come along and, at almost 12 years old, he is still keeping up. 

 

This morning Murphy, my running dog, and I hit the trails. It was already warm and the sun was up. If I’d left it until now, two hours later, it might have been cooler because the sky has clouded over. However I knew that it would be just a 20 minute run and I wasn’t tanking it. When I set off my asthma tightened my lungs and it was the usual struggle to breathe for the first minute, but then I decded that I should shorten the run intervals. I had an email from Jeff Galloway last week in which he said he’d just completed a marathon doing 15s:15s walk:run intervals, so me dropping my intervals to a minute was nothing in comparison. I changed it from 3:1 to 1:1, and then increased the intensity.

The amazing thing is that changing the ratio it actually made me run faster and better. I was able to increase my speed in that minute and cover the same distance in the same time as I would have running slower for longer. And at the end, where I would usually be too tired to do anything but walk, I actually jogged home…in the heat.

Two happy miles run before breakfast and the rest of the day to enjoy! That’s how to do it.

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No need for a shower then!

 

Running in the Big Outdoors

The rest of the country are, apparently, enjoying a sunny and warm Bank Holiday Monday. It’s dry here and not blowing a gale; I’m confident that our two weathers are the  same.

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I’m staying at my mother’s house near Stranraer in south west Scotland. We live about two hours away, still in the same region of Scotland, but further east. I’ve missed a couple of days of running through work and being here, so today I decided to head out for a run.

I’ve been re-following a Couch to 5k programme written by Jeff Galloway and mostly using the treadmill. I don’t really enjoy running on the treadmill and my poor old treadmill is starting to show its age. There is no treadmill at Mom’s house and as she lives right on the coast it was a no brainer to run on quiet roads. I don’t really know the little roads round here, so Mom suggested a circular route. It was quite short (I obviously run further than Mom thought I do!) and was part road and part trail, but it was lovely running outdoors!

 

I’m back to running intervals and I’d worked up to 3:1 run:walk intervals on the treadmill, but adjusted this to 2:1 for this first outdoor run for a while. I’m becoming quite sensible in my old age! It worked well and I covered 3km in about 20 minutes.

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I’ve thrown all of my pre-surgery shoes away, runners included, because my gait has changed and the wear patterns were making me unstable. All of my running shoes were fairly worn anyway, so I didn’t feel as if I was throwing a fortune away, but I’m now left with one pair of runners – a pair of Sketcher Go-Runs which I didn’t enjoy wearing much before. They have a drop heel, encouraging me to walk and run on my midfoot and toes, and they are definitely helping with the plantar fasciitis which I’ve had since November last year. I’m due to go to see a physio tomorrow so I’ll wait to see what they say. I will need to buy a new pair of road shoes and a pair of trail shoes too, so a bit of gait analysis is required!

 

 

Back to It (again)

The latest road to fitness has proved to be a bit of a bumpy one. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by that, nothing has been easy with running since I started again in 2011. Injury after injury should have put me off, but I guess that just shows what sort of a person I am. Stupid.

Persistent…determined, both far better words, but anyone who doesn’t learn from their ‘mistakes’, if I can call injuries that, must be a bit stupid. Or at least a touch mad. I settle for that. I’m a bit mad.

However, I’m back to it with a 2 mile treadmill run this morning. Plantar Fasciitis is a real enemy of mine and this time it actually lasted a good couple of months. At its worst point I even decided to go to the doctor, but events took over and my focus was no longer on a foot injury. That paled into insignificance. Sadly my wonderful father passed away following an all too short battle with cancer on Christmas Eve and his passing just brought me to a very abrupt halt in many, many ways.

Running has always been my time for mindfulness, long before it was trendy to call it that. I used to call it “Me Time” and on long runs especially I’d sort out a myriad of arguments and problems, chuntering away to myself as I ran along. These days, as my runs are far shorter, I have to pick my battles. Today I chose to run with no distractions and just let my mind wander. I’ve no idea where it went. I’ll go and look for it later. Where did I leave it, I wonder?

Today the weather is gorgeous here in Dumfries, with clear blue skies and bright, warming sunshine, and I’m away to have a quick shower before going back into the cabin where my treadmill lives and ignore it and start painting instead. The treadmill has seen me through almost 400 miles and its starting to show its age, squeaking like a demented rat at every footfall.

It does help to keep the other rats away though. That’s got to be a bonus!

 

 

Not my first, but My First 5k

If you don’t follow this blog normally, or don’t know me, then you’ll be completely confused by this blog title. Apologies for that!

In January I got my long awaited spinal fusion, wherein four screws were drilled into my lower back to give my back more stability. Up until my spine started to collapse I’d been an ardent runner, running beyond half marathon distance, and, post-surgery, I had to start off by simply learning to walk any distance again.

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These shoes haven’t seen the light of day in three years!

A couple of months ago my neurosurgeon finally gave me permission to start running again. And that meant starting again. And that’s exactly what I did.

Today I completed my first 5k run in almost three years and not only did I do it outside, but I chose to run it off road, on the trails behind my home.

So what, I hear you ask? Well this was my first outdoor run since restarting, all of my other runs have been on my treadmill. I promised to start running on even and level ground and the trail, whilst fairly level, the trail isn’t the treadmill.

 

 

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Those who follow my painting will recognise this scene.
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Murphy couldn’t believe his luck! 3 miles of smiles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can report, however, that all went well! I ran with Jeff Galloway’s Easy 5k app, set to 1:1 Run:Walk ratio and it was auto set for an easy run. It wasn’t the fastest 5k ever, but that doesn’t matter – speed will come with practice. I’m just happy to have a) covered the distance and b) run outside, with a huge smile – no matter how tough I found it at times!

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