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!

 

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!

 

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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I hope you’re all still there…

It’s been ages since I last posted. Last time I was rejoicing at being able to walk again and how much difference it had made to my life.

Last week I met with Mr Khan, my consultant surgeon. He asked the usual questions and then announced, completely unprovoked, that he felt that it was maybe time for me to start running – if I wanted to.

IF. I WANTED. TO.

I stayed very calm, thanked him, and then, on the way to X-Ray, I did a Happy Dance in the lift.

Since then I’ve restarted my running. I’m following the 5K program designed by Jeff Galloway. His training plans have worked so well for me in the past, allowing me to train up to a good half marathon pace, so I trust them. It’s slow going, but after a week I’m already up to a mile and a half. It sounds nothing when compared to the 17 miles  I used to be able to run, but it’s a mile and a half  more than I could run last week!

I don’t have any ambitions, other than to be able to run 3 miles. I’ve promised to take it steady and I’m running on the treadmill so that a) I’m running on cushioned and even ground and b) if I get into difficulties, I’m only at the end of the garden!

Honestly, just being able to run again is just wonderful!

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Small Gains

Yesterday I walked to the pub. I was so excited about it, I put it on Facebook and my friends congratulated me on my huge achievement. I had walked to the pub! It was a considered walk and, at times, strange as I adopted a cycling type step to help me through the soreness towards the end. I got there though and going back was altogether easier, thanks to the few shandies I had!

The pub is barely a quarter of a mile away.

Since my lumbar nerve root injection two weeks ago I’ve not noticed any real difference. I was told it could take up to two weeks to take effect. Last week I walked the dog from my shop in Dumfries to the parcel office and back, which was a huge achievement, but I suffered afterwards and had clearly overdone it. Until yesterday I hadn’t really tried again.

This morning, as a I rolled over, my back gave an almighty crack. It’s done this before and in the back of my mind that crack is the undoing of the natural bone fusion which will mean I don’t have to have surgery. I hate it. And I’m partly too frightened to find out and partly too mortified to go to a very busy neurosurgeon and tell him that “My back cracked.” If I mentioned it to my husband I know he would dismiss it as nothing and I’d feel foolish, which is why I’m telling all of you instead – like admitting guilt to a secret diary.

However, despite my enormous crack (I thank you!) I actually feel fine this morning. No soreness in my hip or legs, just a nagging pain in my back which I feel more and more these days. I lay on my left side for the first time in a year and a half this morning. I can’t remember looking at the bedroom from that angle! Today, as it’s gloriously warm and sunny and my day off, I shall attempt to mow the grass out the back (which neither of us has yet attempted this year and which is in danger of being declared a Nature Reserve!)

I’ve approached a couple of gyms in the town about membership. I’ve never joined a gym for anything other than casual membership, so to commit to a year’s worth of use is a big step. The two I looked at were like chalk and cheese, one tiny and crowded – the other huge and roomy. Despite a slightly larger cost and being slightly further away, I’m going for membership of the bigger gym. My initial idea was that if I went to the nearer and smaller leisure based gym, I could leave the dog in the shop on hot days and walk there. The further away large chain gym will mean me having to drive out and then drive back to collect the dog. It’s not too far and he’s used to being at the shop.

I got on the scales yesterday for the first time in ages and got a very pleasant surprise. I’ve not been dieting, or even watching what I eat, and lately have been bringing a lot of takeaways home, but I’ve actually lost weight! I’m still a full stone heavier than I was when I was running, but less than I was post-Christmas. I think I’ve actually been too busy to eat!

Tonight I shall buy myself a swimming costume. The two I have are yonks old and should be consigned to the bin. I shall also get out my running leggings and see what still fits! Mr Khan, the neurosurgeon, was very specific in what I’m allowed to do and said I’m to try treadmill walking (initially on the flat), stationary cycling (I’m allowed to use the Spin Bikes too!) and swimming using a variety of strokes. When I start to improve I can join a pilates group and use a hilly programme on the treadmill. I know I’ll feel as if I’m starting again at the gym, but I shall make a point of wearing every half marathon T-shirt I’ve won, just to quietly let people know where I’ve been.

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Late Night Updates

This may not end well. It’s half 9 now and I woke at 5 when my son and husband left for the train station and again at 6 when my husband returned. It’s been a long day!

The plan was to run early. Instead I pluttered about and didn’t get started until 11. I chose to run my four miles on the treadmill, not because it was bad weather or anything, but because I was literally running late. An outdoor run would have been better, but what can I say? Clothes washing, answering emails and house tidying just got in the way…again.

My easy first mile was run at 10.3 kph at 4:1 run:walk intervals. When it came to my timed mile Jeff Galloway told me to crank it up to 11.3 and, as I was feeling good, I turned it up again to 12.2. I was watching a particularly good episode of Star Trek Voyager which made running easy.

My Magic Mile came in at 9:27.

The rest of the run, another two miles I ran at between 10.3 and 11.3 just to get it finished because I had an appointment to get to!

I’m feeling pretty good at the moment. My cold has completely gone. I’m rebuilding my strength and I will finish my next half feeling better than the last one! Next week I have a 14 mile long run to do and it should be fine – at least I hope it’s fine!

It’s been a long day, but I’m feeling good.

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