Catching Up

My updates have become sparse of late; I’m busy at work and tired when I get home and, honestly, posting updates here, when I’ve got little to say about running, is sometimes a step too far. And I apologise for that.

That makes it sound as if I’m being negative about everything and I’m not, not at all. I’m so annoyingly positive I think I’m starting to get to my husband, who is naturally not quite as positive. I look past the surgery to the days when I can walk without pain, really walk – up hills, over dales, along all the forest walks I so miss. I’m now waiting for the letter to tell me when my surgery is due. I need to know.

Hubbie says I’m to make sure my will is up to date. I’m sure that’s from a practical point of view and not that he’s envisaging death on the operating table. Pretty sure any way. It’s something we’ve talked about for a while because provisions we’d made for our children when we first made a will are no longer necessary. I’m sure my son, now 24, knows exactly who he wants to live with and it’s definitely not his dad! I’ll do my will, if only to give hubbie one less thing to worry about.

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We rarely think, when injured or ill, how that affects the people around us. I’ve gone from being a really fit 50 year old to a disabled 52 year old. And, as you know, it happened BANG, like that. Hubbie used to ferry me around from race to race, standing at the start and the finish to watch me go and, eventually, come back. He didn’t get the whole fitness thing; being able to lift a Scotch Pie from the fridge is exercise enough for a working man. I did get him running at one point – I think he was missing me when I was training as much and decided that if I was out, he’d come with me. He was good too. He did two races and, despite declaring his impending death as we slogged towards the finish line, he came close to running a sub 30 minute 5k.

When he was brave enough to admit that he wasn’t enjoying the training, I put away my whistle and clipboard and he accompanied me on his bike, becoming my Semi Silent Coach, who delighted in cycling behind me and “just watching”. It was like being chased in slow motion by Benny Hill on a bike.

Now he’s the guy who helps lift my mobility scooter in and out of the car, tries to park as close to the shop we need as possible, watches me grimace when the pain catches me out and worries about what could go wrong in a few weeks. I love him for all of those things. And I worry only about him and how he’ll cope.

This week I received my Blue Badge, the accolade of disability. I have been determined, under strict criteria, impaired enough to warrant an award. I carry my Blue Badge with me everywhere, waving it at imaginary wardens. It will help and I am determined not to abuse it, as I see others do. I shall not abandon my car anywhere and plonk the badge on display before I leave declaring “I’m allowed, I’m disabled!” I will not park all day in disabled spaces. In my world, that’s just taking the piss. I will use my badge with discretion and not so as to annoy the hell out of everyone around me.

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This weekend I’m setting up a new exhibition at the gallery. I’ve suddenly become all sensible and decided that, in order to set it up without hurting myself, I’ll close early and take my time. I’ve even turned down the offer of lunch so that I don’t put myself under additional pressure. I am learning to cope with this, just in time for it all to (hopefully) end! Typical, isn’t it?

We learn from the things that affect us, no matter how slowly. 

 

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Still Crazy

Yesterday I spent the day with my husband, crossing something off our Couple’s Bucket List – travelling on the beautiful Carlisle to Settle railway. It was a lovely day and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. I had little contact with social media and so it wasn’t until we got home that I saw that it had also been a momentous day for about 40,000 runners as they took part in the Great North Run.

I’d vowed, after the first one I did, not to do the GNR again. I loved the race and did my best half marathon time so far doing it, but I hated the crowds and the getting there and the getting home. And the cost!

But yesterday, after seeing all those smiling folk clutching medals, my mind went straight back to 2012. It was my first half marathon race ever and I felt totally out of my depth. I was so nervous! This morning I decided to pay homage and wear my 2012 T-shirt, but I soon realised that since not being able to run lately my T-shirt is slightly too snug for comfort.

Great North Run, 2012
Great North Run, 2012

On the hip front, well I’m not further forward. I’m still taking my pills and I’m still able to walk further than I was in mid-August. I’ve even started cycling, albeit on a stationary bike, and can manage 10k at a time with no apparent adverse effects. When I started my left leg appeared much weaker than my right, so I’m gradually building that strength back up. I finish each session with 5-10 minutes of yoga stretches. I’m not cured. There are times when I walk too far and my hip screams its disapproval at me, bringing me to a painful full stop.

I haven’t heard from the doctor or the hospital. Getting a doctor’s appointment is really difficult and even phone appointments have to be booked a week ahead. So I haven’t tried. I know I should and I know I should be pushing this forward, but I’m getting tired of being poked and prodded and hummed and aahhhed over. I just want a nice, quick fix so I can get back to where I was, a runner running half marathons.

In the meantime I guess I’ll stick to my bike in the shed. And be grateful that I can, at least, cycle on the spot.

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud!

Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood

(The Hippotamus Song – Flanders and Swann)

It was recovery run day today and it had to be a trail run. It just had to be. So, in between heavy rain showers, I headed down to the local woods with my trusty hound. It was destined to be a muddy affair as it has rained on and off for a few days, so I wasn’t entirely surprised by the big muddy puddles covering the path!

map1I’d decided to run with just my Garmin and set that to bleep 30 second intervals; I figured that 30 seconds on and off task would tease out any lactic acid whilst not putting my hip under any extra strain. It was very windy and I was pleased to be just running for 30 seconds at a time!

I didn’t run far; a friend had contacted me at the last minute offering an appointment at the local college for a facial and, bugger it, I deserved a treat! What I did do was run happy and within my current capabilities.

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On the way back something odd happened with my Garmin. It just went haywire, quickly flicking between intervals for about 30 seconds and recording nothing. I just had to stand still and wait for it to stop! I’ve had issues with my 405 in the past, related to GPS and battery, but these had been solved. I’ll be interested to see if that happens again!

My hip is actually feeling better. Massage has helped free off my other muscles and they must be putting less strain on my hip. I’m drinking ginger tea regularly and using Deep Freeze gel to help with the inflammation. I’m not a great pill-popper and so I’m happy not to be taking ibuprofen twice a day. I did struggle after the weekend’s race; walking especially was very painful.

I will continue to take it easy, but I hope that by continuing this regime of massage, ice and gentle running I’ll make a faster recovery.

When you’re injured, what works best for you? Do you take a complete break or just do less?

Wind, Sleet and Hail; yes, it’s the Great Winter Run 2015

There was really no way that I was going to miss this event. I’m just hard wired to get on with it, regardless of how I feel and how much is stacked up against me. I’d also paid and I wasn’t going to be allowed a refund – what choice did I have?

We abandoned the idea of caravanning when we heard that we were going to have to endure a couple of pretty nasty storms. Towing the van up in slightly breezy conditions can be a bit dodgy; attempting it in up to 60 mph winds would be just plain stupid. Thankfully The Caravan Club agreed with me and I got a really nice and understanding email from them.

I booked our usual hotel on Leith waterfront for just £50 a room per night B&B. Total bargain, especially as they are happy to have Murphy there for no extra cost. We travelled up on Friday, had a nice lunch and dinner at the Ocean Terminal and caught a film in between. It was a nice start to the weekend.

On Saturday morning I took the dog out for his early morning walk. Thank God I had him on his lead; it was so windy he might have taken off, kite-like, if I hadn’t got a hold of him. On top of this it was also extremely cold and was trying to sleet. We decided to leave the dog in the comfort of his snuggly bed in the car and go to the event ourselves. He’s not a bad weather dog and would have been turning himself inside out trying to get away from the cold and wet.

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I’d sorted out three possible buses to get us to the start in plenty of time. We aimed for the first one and missed that, faffing about with the dog, and so got the middle bus. Just as it drew up I realised that I didn’t have my gloves. “Never mind,” I said “I’ll wear my spare socks!” Cue raised eyebrows from hubbie.

We arrived at Holyrood Park with half an hour to spare. I immediately joined a queue for the portaloos (which had been tied to the ground!) I can’t believe how long it takes some people to pee!

The weather was closing in and the wind seemed to be funneling around Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano we were running up and around. This wasn’t going to be a pleasant jog in the park!

I was in the Green Wave and ended up right at the back of the corrall as there was only one entrance. I’d planned to be at the start of the corrall because usually what happens is that slow runners get to the front and then just clog up the hill section of the course, walking side by side and not allowing anyone to get past. It’s difficult enough, without having to run it at someone else’s pace. Hubbie lent me his gloves and I was off!

For some strange reason they had decided to narrow the start gate, meaning that we were walking across it, rather than the usual jog to get going. I don’t know what the thinking was for that.

I had decided to run 4:1 run/walk intervals as much as possible, although I knew from experience that I might be walking more on the uphill and running more on the downhill. I managed a couple of straight 4:1 intervals which, considering my fitness, wasn’t bad. I was, of course, hideously under-trained for this event and still carrying bursitis on my hip, with all its associated muscle pains. Funnily enough though, I don’t find running is as painful as walking and the uphill section of the course wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. It was just under a 13 minute mile, but I was doing alright and I was still running.

I was still being caught behind slower runners and walkers. Hubbie told me that some runners held back at the start and went off ages after everyone else in an effort to get a good go at the hill. I can totally understand that.

The course undulates for the second mile, passing a loch nestled on the hillside, before climbing to the highest point of the road. I made up a bit of time, but the wind was really picking up and it had started to snow. We were exposed to the elements, with the summit towering above us, with no choice but to just get this part over. My second mile was just under 11 minutes, far slower than normal, but still OK. I was still running. In my head I was thinking “Just a few more metres and it’s downhill – that’ll be easier.”

How wrong I was.

As the road dropped away I started on my faster decent. Almost immediately I was hit by a blast of driven hail. People in front of me were running with their hands up to their faces, trying to gain some respite from the stinging ice. Luckily I’d worn a bandana as well as my woolly hat and managed to pull the bandana up over my nose. The hail was still stinging my eyes, but at least it was away from my face. I found it difficult to breathe through the material though and had to keep dropping the bandana and suffer the hail until I felt I could lift it again.

As the road levelled out I felt the effects of the weather and my lack of fitness. I couldn’t see the finish. Usually you can pick it out from way back but, with the weather being so bad, they couldn’t inflate the finish banner. I knew that I wasn’t going to get a PB or even a course PB, so I just went for a finish. My last mile was my fastest in ages at just over 9 minutes. I was really happy with that.

I crossed the line in 34:20, finishing (yes, finishing!) in 1528th place and 50th in my age/gender group. I’m actually quite pleased that I wasn’t way off pace. I did the same course last year in 32 minutes odd, so an extra two minutes is nothing, considering my injury. I’ll happily take that.

I did suffer a bit afterwards though. I was limping before we even left the field and struggled on and off the bus. I actually took a nap in the afternoon, wearing as much Biofreeze gel as I could! I’m still a bit sore today, mostly quads discomfort though and to be expected.

But look! It was worth it for this and my lovely new T-shirt!

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My goodie bag was full of stuff I couldn’t eat (filled with either wheat, nuts or gelatine, or combinations of each!), but also contained some freeze gels which will be useful I’m sure!

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All in all, I’m glad I went. The weather was atrocious, but I conquered Arthur’s Seat again and that’s done wonders for my self-esteem. It doesn’t matter how long it took me and one day I will go to Holyrood Park in the peak of fitness. This day I ran despite struggling to walk to and from the park and I think that I should be proud that I ran the best I could.

The Benefits of Ginger Tea

It’s Thursday. Today I went to see my chiropractor who was astonished by my progress since I last saw him just before Christmas. Clearly I not totally out of the woods; I’m still running short distances slowly and leaving two full days for recovery, but I’m much improved. I didn’t, for example, hit the roof when he applied pressure to my knee. He was able to work my IT Band without me swearing – those kind of small, but noticeable improvements.

I’ve worked hard, loosening off my IT Band and Sartorius using a combination of a wooden massager from The Body Shop and a battery operated hand held infra-red massager. Icing my lower back and hip has helped reduce the inflammation, but my revelation has been the drinking of Ginger Tea.

Ginger is a traditional natural treatment for inflammation, sickness, migraines, high blood pressure, asthma…the list was seemingly endless. Some scientific studies, especially into the effect of ginger on some cancer cells, is astonishing. However, I have been purely interested in using it to reduce inflammation around my hip. I bought some organic ginger and lemon tea bags and have used these in place of the tea I would normally drink during the day. It’s pleasant to drink and I’ve actually stopped having to take ibuprofen. I might just be ‘getting better’, but the coincidence is strong.

I’ve decided that I will run in Saturday’s Great Winter Run 5k. I will again struggle up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park, only to hurtle down the other side along with 5000 other mad runners. The weather forecast is chilly and breezy which, translated, means freezing and windy as hell. It’ll be half an hour of madness and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll make it round. It won’t be a startling time, but neither was last year’s with Plantar Fasciitis wreaking havoc. One year I’ll go to Edinburgh in January totally fit!

Me and hubby in 2012, crossing the line hand in hand!

We had planned to caravan over the weekend, but the weather warnings have meant we’ve had to cancel our booking and find a hotel instead. Not quite what we were looking forward to, but at least I get a rest from cooking and washing up!

Wish me luck!

One Step Forward

I’ve never felt more strongly that the old saying ‘one step forward, two steps back’ could apply more adeptly to my situation. From a post of near elation the other day, where I’d finally made tentative running steps on my trusty old treadmill after six weeks of inactivity, I struggled to walk any real distance the following day without that familiar searing pain in my left hip. It stops me dead, that’s how sore it is. I’ve been caught within sight of the car and unable to move any further towards it without several rests and tears streaming down my face. It’s no joke.

But today, after a few days of rest and recuperation, I feel well enough to give another short run a try. I’m nothing if not determined; I will get back on track. I’m actually thinking of a two mile trail run with my faithful running partner, Murphy Dog, and, if I can persuade him, my hubbie. Having hubbie there will restrict my speed and stop me from doing anything silly.

Last year I ran 473 miles. I had wanted to round that up to 500 by Hogmanay, but it wasn’t to be. 473 was my total and I’m proud of that. I’ve run further in a year and trained for less races, but it’s not the quantity that’s important anymore, it’s the quality.

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2014 was a strange running year for me. I started the year with Plantar Fasciitis, which took an age to heal, and then picked up various injuries as I trained for three half marathons. I’d planned on a few more shorter races, but injuries and illnesses got in the way and I managed only a 5k and a 10k at either end of the season. I learned to listen to my body and opt out of races, missing two 10ks in mid-season. It took me a couple of frightening asthma attacks to start listening, but I got there. I finished the year with Bursitis on the hip, taking me into 2015 with a wince and a limp.

I’ve no idea what 2015 has in store for me, it’s probably better that I don’t know. I have decided to scale things down a bit though and just aim for one half marathon in October and concentrate more on improving my speed over shorter distances. I’ll be looking at more 5k and 10k races and I’m looking at some trail races too. Maybe I just overdid things last year and I’m paying the price now. I do vow to enjoy running in 2015, it’s the only resolution I’m making. Running with a smile has to be better than running with a grimace!

On the road to recovery

Seasonal Greetings!

Up until today I hadn’t felt much like posting here, mostly because there wasn’t much to say. I was injured and I wasn’t running and I was grumpy because of it.

Today I travelled along the road to recovery. Not far, but far enough to lift my spirits and make me feel a bit more human. A bit more like a runner again.

On my last trip to the chiropractor on Monday of Christmas week I saw for the first time genuine concern on the face of my chiropractor as everything he suggested previously had failed to work. I was in as much pain as ever and the pain killers were making me ill. I’d had to stop taking them and resort to prescription grade ibuprofen gel. It wasn’t handy and applying gel to your hip and leg isn’t easy when you’re working! Not to be beaten, Super Chiropractor reassessed my pain and discovered that it wasn’t so much my underdeveloped glutes that were causing the bursitis, but the tightness of my iliotibial band and also the sartorius muscle which crosses from the hip to the inside of the knee. It was that combination that was making the bursa inflammed. (The bursa is a fluid filled sac between bone and tendon, protecting both, which when inflammed causes injuries such as Housemaid’s Knee, Tennis Elbow and Runner’s Hip!)

IT Band and Sartorius muscles, together causing friction at the hip, aggravated the bursa sac and caused the pain.
IT Band and Sartorius muscles, together causing friction at the hip, aggravated the bursa sac and caused the pain.

I left with heavily bruised hip, outer leg and inner knee, but also with tools to fix this myself.

Through self-massage and pressure point therapy I have managed to loosen both muscles to the stage at which I am now, just about ready to run again. My legs are black and blue, but it’s been worth it. Even the look on my son’s face as he came in to find me using a suspicious looking battery powered hand held massager on my IT band was worth it.

On the day after Boxing Day I walked for 30 minutes through the woods I love to run through. I struggled a bit towards the end, as it was uphill, but I recovered quickly and it was by far the furthest I’ve walked without painkillers or being in agony for a month.

Today I felt confident enough to attempt a treadmill run. I had it in mind to run for 10 minutes and assess the damage, deciding then whether to run on for another 20 minutes. I ran a slow 9 kph for most of the run, finishing, as ever, a bit faster! I walked for 3 minutes to warm up (the cabin was frozen up after the coldest night so far this year!) and then ran for 4 minutes and walked for 1, repeating this until I reached 20 minutes of running. Walking for the minute meant that I could constantly reassess how I was feeling. The only thing I noted was that my posture was a bit stooped and when I stood tall I felt better.

My distance and speed are naff, of course! I ran 3.3 km in 26 minutes (3 minutes warm up walk and 3 minutes cool down walk), so just a couple of miles.

But, after the last six weeks, they were the sweetest two miles ever!

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I’ve foam rollered my IT band and I’m off for a hot bath now, followed by some massage and an ice pack or two. My fingers, toes and eyes are crossed that this is me getting back to fitness.