108 Days to VLM – A Mixed Bag.

The idea over Christmas and the New Year was to slowly build up the time running, so that I was running around 35 minutes on New Year’s Day. This should have been straightforward but this time of year for those with family and those who enjoy Christmas and all its excess will realise that rehabilitation, excess alcohol and rich, sugar filled food, not enough sleep, too much driving and unfamiliar beds is hardly likely to be a recipe for success.

The plan began well enough. I’m often banned from running on Christmas Day, but I was unlikely to be missed too much with just a three minute run – which passed without incident. Boxing day saw a six minute run a tenth short of a mile. The pace was fine, the abductors and groins feeling really tight. I managed an hour of high cadence on the elliptical trainer, which helped to burn off some of the Christmas dinner and Christmas Cake, and mince pies, and the fry up, and the bottle and a bit of champagne, and everything else consumed that most enjoyable of days.

Saturday was a day off from exercise as we drove down to my parents’ house in Minehead. As is customary plenty was consumed on our first night down. Heading to bed at around 1am, I woke at 5am parched and with a fuzzy head. Thankfully an emergency pint of water and numerous cups of teas later and I was feeling human again. Somehow I got out to run – the enthusiasm of beginning to run again helping no doubt. I went out for six minutes, nearly making it into town. The abductors in particular were fearsomely tight, so I did a full stretch before heading back, for a 1.67 run. The pace was pleasing but it still felt weird to be running as, though my legs weren’t quite used to what they were doing.

Monday saw a big jump in distance, bringing it up to near as damn it 5k. The legs felt a little less stiff but the heart rate was quite high, The next day and before heading to the next port of call, I managed four miles in a minute under thirty. All was well until the final hundred meters when I felt the right thigh begin to cramp. It ached a bit for a few hours but the pain subsided.

New Year’s Eve and we were in Eckington, near Pershore, and after a reasonably early night, albeit fuelled with some more alcohol, I headed out on what initially was a glorious run under blue skies and rolling scenic countryside. The legs initially felt a bit better than they had, albeit with abductors still tight. The third mile and as I caught a fellow runner I was feeling good, running mid six minute miles. Then the left thigh began to cramp, as the right did a day earlier, but more dramatically and far more painfully. I pulled up and stretched, turned around and tried to jog home. I managed around half a mile, but, after stopping three times, I admitted defeat and walked the two miles back to base. It was a disappointing and painful way to end the year, but as the pain subsided over the course of the day I was resigned to it being just down to the excesses of the time of year and a severe lack of stretching.

New Year’s Eve was fun, plenty of alcohol consumed but not too much as to have me suffering the following morning. There was no running New Year’s Day as we drove back home and I let the left leg recover. January 2nd saw me head out on what I’d planned to be a 20 minute run. At just over a km I felt the left thigh begin to cramp up again and before I even had chance to ease up and assess the situation the wave of pain shot all through the thigh and left me temporarily doubled up in pain. I hobbled back home and licked my wounds – not the most auspicious of ways to begin the year’s campaign, although, once again, the pain eased somewhat over the course of the day.

It was not so painful that I couldn’t make it to the local Aldi where they were selling a load of books about things such as stretching, yoga, pilates and back care for £2.99 each. On the spur of the moment I bought six of them. That evening I ran through the book about stretching and it soon became apparent why the thigh was cramping – the hip abductors and just about every muscle, for that matter, were ridiculously tight.

The next day and I was back on the elliptical trainer, putting in an easy an hour as it could be considering the excesses of Christmas. The left thigh felt okay and so I decided to take part in Witham Wheelers’ Reliability Ride on Sunday Morning. What should have been a 32 mile ride was under severe jeopardy thanks to a perfect storm of daytime rain followed by clear skies overnight, which saw temperatures plummet to -4 Celsius and untreated roads turn to ice rinks.

I gingerly made my way to the cycle club on Sunday morning, my fingers numb by the time I’d ridden the three miles or so. It was decided that the vast majority of the depleted numbers who turned up would ride an altered course, slightly shorter and using busier roads which, for the most part, had been gritted. The plan had been for most to ride at 16-17 mph due to the conditions. In my cycling naivety I took off on the first hill out of Grantham which created a splinter group who looked set to average 20mph. I hadn’t planned to ride that fast but after a few miles and with no idea where we were heading I had little choice but to sit at the back and hang on as best I could so I could find my way home. I hung on until the final few miles, which were on lethally icy roads and I didn’t fancy a tumble. 28 miles at an average of 19.6mph wasn’t a bad effort under the circumstances.

Once I’d cycled home, I had planned to hit the elliptical trainer for an hour, but as the left thigh felt fine I decided to head out for a short run. To my surprise the legs felt pretty good, and I put in 5km at just over 7 minute mile pace.

Flushed with confidence, the following day saw me run 4.5 miles and heading slightly further away from home. Again, although I felt ponderous and as though I was plodding, the pace was pretty pleasing. Yesterday I couldn’t get out as I was looking after the children, so I put in a two hour session on the elliptical trainer, which saw me digging into my suitcase of courage in the final half hour as the legs ran out of energy.

Today saw me on the streets again, and from the moment I set off I felt the legs were finally running again. I went a little further than planned, at just under 10km, but the pace was good and it felt easy. More importantly there was little pain, the abductors happier after targeted stretching and the core feeling stronger after five sessions in the last six days.

The plan now is to continue increasing the mileage, to continue using the elliptical trainer as it helps with both the running and the cycling, and to cycle on the Sunday’s with Witham Wheelers with the intention of possibly running a Duathlon in March. That is a long way away yet, but signs in the last few days are promising.