Filling in the gap: November 2017 – February 2018

As alluded to at the end of the recently written Rockingham Duathlon, two days after the event I was broken to the point that I took a full week off running, then ran two or three times with pain in the left hip, before succumbing to a bad cold that wiped me out for the rest of November.

December was a month spent very much on turbo trainer and with Zwift especially, the odd foray into running was a mostly social exercise with the running club and not particularly satisfactory, suffering during the run with hip pain and long afterwards, affecting my walking and general day to day activities with the back frequently locking up while performing the most trivial of tasks. The GRC Christmas lights run was a highlight, the Christmas Eve run, coming the day after a fairly positive parkrun (first in 17:54) a low point as I was quite clearly a hobbling mess unable to run within a minute per mile of what I am capable of.

If pre Christmas was bad, post Christmas was worse yet. In Minehead on the 28th I managed, just, seven miles which involved both the legs cramping up in a manner I’d not experienced since just after the London Marathon. Two days later I ran Minehead parkrun, something I had been really looking forward to but it turned into something of a disaster, hobbling all the way there, mustering a hard earned slowest time of the year (18:41 – good for third) which saw both legs cramp up again and forced a painful walk back to the caravan. The last run of the year on New Year’s Eve in Stroud was just a shambles – 3 painful slow miles with legs cramping and hip aching. I was at rock bottom.

I didn’t run until January 4th in the New Year – I was back on the turbo and the elliptical trainer. On the third I booked myself into Physio for the bad hip. In finding the physio I saw last time I found my notes for left hip pain (Like I have this time) which was caused by my right glute not firing properly. I thought I may try these exercises as there was nothing to lose, in addition to the exercises I got from a different physio that had eradicated the cramps I was now suffering again with. To my surprise after just two day’s exercises, the eleven mile club run on the 4th was the best I’d had in several months, with barely any discomfort in the hip.

I still saw the physio who declared the glutes as firing but just not doing their job very well and so putting huge strain on the hip flexors and other surrounding muscles. I got some more exercises to do and was told to not run for a week and come back in six days time. After six days on Zwift and another trip to the physio I was ready to run again. She said I could run a maximum of four miles for a week. I ran four miles on the first day and was so enthused by the lack of any discomfort in hips I ran 10k the following day, ten miles (Including parkrun) on the Saturday and a post ride brick 5k run on the Sunday – all pain free.

Happy that the hip was much improved I commenced with full training with the London Marathon in mind. The first set of 10 mile runs were quite hard work, the legs not used to running and more suited to cycling as well as being a fair bit overweight thanks to Christmas celebrations. The third week of January I ran 56 miles, the following week 61, and the next (including four days of February) 68 miles. The long run of 17 miles on January 28th was a fairly tortuous affair, but three days later I ran a good 16 miles on the Fraction Course and then on the Saturday was a most pleasing 20 mile run with 11 miles, a 17:34 parkrun, and 6 miles to finish at a 6:31 per mile average.

I was back in reasonable shape as I took a cut back week after three weeks of progression. I ran 5K after spinning on the Monday, a comfortable 10 mile progressive run with Stephen, who has become my Tuesday run partner of late, and 10 miles easy with the club on the Thursday. This has all been supplemented with regular Zwift sessions which has revitalised my hate affair with the turbo trainer, so much so I found myself racing online two days before the Turkey Trot, probably giving more than I intended to for the real race.

From a position at New Year’s End where I thought my running days were numbered, January and early February has gone really well. I’m quietly hopeful that although my form is a touch down on the same time in 2017, I can use the injury to my advantage and work to a peak right on the London Marathon date rather than perhaps two or three weeks before it. Only time will tell, of course. If there is one thing I know about running, it is that it is a fickle beast and you are only one run away from being totally injured and having to start all over again.


LWAC 5K Series: Race 1 – Tuesday 23rd May 2017

Hindsight suggests I did too much too soon in the week following the London Marathon. The calves and Achilles in particular didn’t thank me for running 42 miles in the week following the big day out in the capital. I refrained from running for two weeks as I allowed the legs to recover / concentrated on riding the Fred Whitton Sportive.

This activity may have caused issues in itself, the walk up Hardknott in cycle shoes (With cleats) in particular I think may have put great stress on the hamstring and calves. for all three runs in the week before the Lincoln 5k were notable for identical discomfort in both calf muscles. The 17:40 parkrun, wrapped in a 14 mile long run, in particular was very uncomfortable come the run’s end – the Hoka’s I was wearing I decided to blame for the pain, to be replaced by a fresh pair.

With very few running miles in the bank heading to Lincoln on a fairly warm Tuesday night, I was unsure of how the evening would pan out.  This 5k race, the first in a summer series at the back of the main leisure center in Lincoln, was a round of my club’s inaugural Grand Prix series, so there was a larger than usual turn out from Grantham Running Club for this event that in the past has been lucky enough to see one member of the club make the journey.

My warm up was planned to be three miles, the first mile felt fine – 7:03. For the second mile I gradually picked the pace up to 6:20. after around a minute or two at this pace I felt a real tightening in the right calf. I stopped, stretched, and tried to continue. I made it to two miles then called the warm up a day. I spent the next 30 minutes stretching frantically, not just the calf, but the hamstrings, hip flexors, IT band, and Piraformis. My suspicion was that it was a recurrence of the calf tightening incidents that plagued me through Q4 of 2015 and Q1 of 2016 that was finally traced to probable nerve irritation in the glute area.

A few minutes before the off I attempted a few strides to test the calf. There was mild discomfort but I felt that I could try and race and so I lined up for the start. A relaxed affair, the starter arrived a few minutes late and, after observing a minute’s silence for the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, we were set off with little fanfare.

Having run this race once before, I knew the pace would be hot at the start and so I started a little way back so as not to get too carried away. True to form I found myself chasing some of my somewhat slower club mates for the first few hundred meters before the adrenaline wore off and I began to move past them. My calf was niggling but was not too bad for the opening mile, My Garmin registered a 5:03 which I took with a huge pinch of salt for I will always remember how it was nearly a minute of running out when I ran here last, and it appeared to be doing the same again (It did indeed end up reckon I ran 3.29 miles for a race that is 3.11…).

Unlike in 2014 where there was a large group of similarly paced runners to cling onto, this year the field was more spread out and I found myself running with just one other runner for the majority of the race. To this extent it was a very uneventful run with little to report on. Mile 2 was apparently a 5:11. As the last full mile began the right calf began to ache quite a bit more. It got progressively worse until, with around half a mile to go I thought I would have to stop. The only thing that kept me going was that I reckoned it was a nerve issue rather than a muscular one so I was unlikely to be doing any real damage. So I pushed on as best I could, undoubtedly slowed a bit by the pain, but not enough for me to cross the finish line with 16:55 on my Garmin (with a 5:16 final mile and 4:59 pace third of a mile (sic) to conclude).

I was pleased with this, it’s the second time I’ve broken 17:00 in a 5K race (Excluding parkrun) and I thought I was just a few seconds outside my PB, which I thought was 16:52. It was only when I got home and checked Power of 10 that I realised my PB was actually 16:55 – so I’d unofficially equaled my PB! A day later when the official results were published I rued my decision to not stand on the start line as a couple of seconds were added to my time (16:57). There was no chip timing, alas, so I’ll have to make do with the knowledge it was unofficially a PB equaling performance.

The calf tightened loads on the way home, I was unable to run for another week, but hopefully things have improved somewhat with no recurrence of the calf pain to date. The run was a positive in the sense it showed I was in good form despite being injured and despite having not run much in May. It was also a bit frustrating as I think that, without the calf issues, I could have gone quite a few seconds quicker. I may have another stab at a 5K later in the year, but for now I will have to be happy with the 16:57.

GRC at the Lincoln 5K

2016 London Marathon Training – Week 11 (14-20 March)

Week 11 of training had long one been down as a week that could either see some of the highest volume in the training plan or some of the lowest. It turned out to be the latter.

Monday morning I woke really stiff and sore from the exploits of the Fraction the day before. I got myself on the elliptical trainer first thing for a very gentle hour of pushing the legs back and forth. I headed to the gym that evening for a spin session, which was treated very much as a recovery ride, keeping the FTW low at 230 and averaging just 3.4 w/kg.

Tuesday and I was busy preparing for the Australian Grand Prix weekend, having already woken at 1:40 for an hour or so prologue effort as the first images from the event began to head my way. That meant I just had the evening to train. I had an unexpected opportunity to visit the gym and managed to grab the last place for the spin class. First I headed to the treadmill for a very easy paced recovery 5k, beginning at just over 6 mph and peaking at around 8 mph. Everything was pretty stiff, especially the calves, but I was thankful to be even able to run.

The spin session was much easier than the day previous, I increased the FTW to 240 (my normal figure is 260-265) and put in a solid but deliberately not too taxing effort, averaging 3.7 w/kg. I then put in 30 minutes on one of the gym elliptical trainers, the effort quite high compared to the home machine thanks to the ramp feature mine does not have.

Wednesday and I was up at 2 am to begin work proper on the Australian GP. I only got to sleep at around 11pm so was pretty shattered when I finished work at around 11 am and headed to bed for a few hours fairly dreadful sleep. I dragged my sorry body out at 4 pm for a really tough easy ten mile run. Both calves continued to ache and generally I just felt really lethargic, both from not enough sleep and the efforts of Sunday. It says something for my form at the moment, that I averaged a fairly respectable 7:20 per mile pace.

In recent years this week of covering the Australian GP has offered the opportunity to put in a surprising amount of running – two years ago I put in my first, and probably only ever, one hundred mile week. The reason I could fit this into a busy working schedule was the GP was held at twilight, which meant I could go to bed at 10 or so, wake at 3 or 4 am, work for six or seven hours, get a couple of hours nap, then have the late afternoon and early evening to run.

Following the tragic accident of Jules Bianchi they have largely dispensed with races ending in poor light and so the practice sessions, coupled with an eleven hour time difference, were beginning as early as 1:30 am, with my work beginning an hour or so before that. This transpired to make things very difficult.

I got around three hours sleep Wednesday night before waking at 2 am on Thursday evening for ten hours continuous effort behind the desk, finishing at 11:30 or so and retiring to bed. I am a dreadful daytime sleeper and managed just a couple of hours sleep before giving up and pottering around the house for a bit. I’d agreed to take Grantham Running Club’s Thursday night marathon paced session, so I was out at 6:30 to meet up with the other guys. The legs were tired, the hip a bit bothersome. I threatened repeatedly to drop out when we passed my house at six miles, but there was some kind of team spirit going on as I found myself continuing and completing the ten mile group run and putting in another mile or so to make it 13.1 for the day.

I headed to bed at around 9:30 but found it impossible to get to sleep, knowing I had 12:30 am alarm set. So I finally drifted off to sleep at around 11:45, giving myself just 45 minutes sleep to ready myself for a break free 12 hours stint as the opening practice sessions of the 2016 F1 season took place. Shattered I headed straight to bed, but by now my body was virtually jet lagged and woke less than two hours after getting to sleep.

I took Friday as a rest day, as I often do. I went to bed at 10:15pm and was able to get around 3 1/2 hours sleep before waking at 2 am for qualifying day. This was not quite as long a day as Friday and I was done by 11:30 am. I got a couple of hours sleep before waking again prematurely. I had plans to run 16 miles or so. I set out at 4 pm. I was tired but actually running quite well, the first mile 7:20, the fourth mile 6:39. Then, out of the blue I found the very top of the right thigh, near the hip flexor giving off alarming pains, very much like an attack of cramp.

I stopped at a bus shelter, sat for a minute or so then began to stretch the hip. I set off again and was able to run with a moderate amount of discomfort. I was in a strange situation where I felt I couldn’t possibly run 16 miles but didn’t feel bad enough that I had to take the very shortest route home. So I ended up meandering a little, finally drifting home having covered nine miles at an average of 6:56 per mile. I assumed it was a cramp as the pain was quite intense having finished, but by the time I retired to bed had mostly dissipated. I was though quite clearly exhausted, so I gave up any ideas of supplementing the missing miles with an hour on the elliptical trainer and settled down to watch the World Indoor Athletics Championships.

I managed to get nearly four undisturbed hours sleep on Saturday night before waking at 2 am for the final day of work covering the Australian Grand Prix. The race itself was quite eventful, I began work at 2 am. I was hopeful perhaps of finishing early enough so I could ride solo the 13 Hills ride Witham Wheelers were taking part in on Sunday morning. Any hopes of an early finish were dashed with the sheer volume of work coming in, we reckoned it was our busiest race ever!

I kind of finished at 1pm and crashed on the sofa, hoping to get an hour or so nap before maybe going on a bike ride. By 3 pm I still hadn’t got to sleep, but I was too shattered to contemplate leaving the sofa. Finally I got to sleep and before I knew it it was 5 pm. With more work still to be done I abandoned any notion of exercise and resigned myself to a very easy week of training, but a really hard week physically in terms of sleep deprivation – hoping that a quiter week before Easter may see more opportunities to put in a full week of training.

2016 London Marathon Training – Week 10 (7-13 March)

The week began, Monday morning, with an hour on the elliptical trainer. The right calf was still quite sore after Saturday’s Duathlon, but not enough to slow me any. In the evening I headed to the gym for the Monday night gym session. Thinking I was still probably fatigued from the weekend’s efforts I reduced the FTW from 265 to 250. To my surprise I felt really strong throughout the session, able to push hard during the reps and recover at quite a high intensity. To my surprise I averaged 260 watts which worked out at a PB of 4.1 w/kg. It seems I peaked a couple of days too late on the bike – if only I’d felt that strong on Saturday during the Duathlon.

Talking of Duathlon, I spent Tuesday lunchtime securing the purchase of a time trial bike. Having discussed matters with the boss it was decided that life is too short to wonder what I could do if only I had decent equipment so I dug a little into the savings to give myself less excuses than I currently have.

Before that sale I went about potentially destroying any chance I have of running or racing properly in the near future. I set out for an easy paced run which I set at 8 miles as I was running a little short on time. The right calf was okay for the first mile or so then began to ache a touch, not enough to slow, but enough to remind me there was an issue. This continued for much of the run and I thought I had gotten away with it. Then in literally the last few hundred meters I first felt the arch of the foot tighten then a searing pain deep in the middle of the calf, which had me stop dead in my tracks before resuming again, albeit with a pronounced limp.

I wouldn’t have been able to run much further, fortunately it was literally only a few yards before I was home. The calf was really painful to touch, as was the hamstring, and walking anywhere wasn’t easy. That said, I was able to go on the elliptical trainer in the evening, where the calf was sore but it wasn’t bad enough to stop me pushing quite hard.

Wednesday and Thursday saw a pair of two hour efforts on the elliptical trainer. Thursday’s I pushed pretty hard, keen to break ’60km’ for the effort, which I managed with a little to spare. There was little difficulty cross training but the calf felt far too sore to consider running on. Fortunately that evening a slot for a massage came available and I jumped at the opportunity. David worked his magic, inducing tears as he worked deep into the right hip and glutes before working to loosen the calf and hamstring. His conclusion was that the source of the problem is coming from the hip which is incredibly tight. I’ve thought this to be the case for some time now. There was no miracle cure – the calf still felt tender, but at least I had something to work on in terms of finding a cure.

The dilemma of the week was that on Sunday I was entered for the Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon, Grantham’s only road race. I was really keen to take part, having not done so since I became a Grantham resident, but Thursday night I was already confiding with friends that my participation looked very unlikely and that I’d likely go cycling with Witham Wheelers instead.

That mindset didn’t alter going into Friday. Normally with a race on Sunday I’d do a very easy session or none at all, but I headed to the gym where I put in firstly an hour on their elliptical trainer, where I worked at really high RPM, and then a slightly odd spin session which was attended by just one other person and had us for the most part out of the saddle putting in long efforts in the red zone. This really worked the quads hard, walking up and down stairs was an effort for much of Friday and Saturday…

The only concession I made to entertaining the possibility of racing was Saturday would be a rest day from exercise. I’d volunteered my services to help marshal the local parkrun at Belton House. I was on finish token duties, which was fun as I congratulated each and every finisher, but, on a really cold morning, left my fingers red and numb and wishing I’d opted for a different role.

Saturday afternoon and the decision on whether to run or ride appeared to be swinging towards the latter. Normally before a big race my meal the night before will be strictly regulated – usually a pizza and certainly not the full roast dinner I knocked up and served to the family that evening, complete with sherry, a few glasses of white wine and a crusted port to take myself to bed with. That’s the kind of preparation for a long relaxes bike ride, not an intense half marathon race. Once in bed I set the alarm for 7am, fully intending to cycle in the morning.

2016 London Marathon Training – Week 9 (29 February – 6 March)

As in week eight of training, week nine was long scheduled to be a week light on running due to covering F1 testing that turned out to be even lighter on running as the right calf issues that have plagued me for the past six months continued to cause woe.

Monday was the only weekday when I wasn’t working, I began the day with half an hour on the elliptical trainer, then select aside thirty minutes of transition practice ahead of Saturday’s Dambuster Duathlon. This consisted of setting up my bike outside my house, fixing the bike shoes to the pedals and practicing putting on the bike helmet, mounting the bike,putting on the shoes while on the bike, dismounting from the bike minus the shoes, removing helmet, putting on trainers and running a short distance before repeating the exercise six or seven times. 

The first two attempts were comically bad and nearly very painful. Forgetting that the shoes move around unless your feet are on them I very nearly went over the handlebars as one of the shoes dug into the ground and threw up the rear wheel. The same thing happened at least two more times before I got a grip on what needed to be done. I then nearly came unstuck on some gravel at my turnaround point, only some quick reactions saved me from an embarrassing and potentially painful fall.

That evening I headed to the gym for a spin session. I was still very tired from the weekend’s efforts, so I reduced the FTW from 265 to 255 to reduce the exertion. The first 20 minutes of the session were really hard work but it got easier as it went on – 240 watts average a fair reflection of the effort put in. With an extended warm up and warm down in total I spent one hour forty minutes on the spin bike.

Tuesday was the first day of the second F1 test. Not as busy as the first day of the first test, I was able to put in an hour on the elliptical trainer during quiet moments in the middle of the day. I was hoping to run in the evening, I did get out but only had long enough to do a simple thirty minute fartlek session on multiple loops around the block. My legs felt reasonable, the right calf ached a touch during the run but worryingly tightened a lot following it.

Wednesday saw two hours on the elliptical trainer in quiet spells during the test, which meant a lot more time off the trainer than on it. A bit frustrated I took it out on the trainer in the final minutes maxing the Watt counter with >399 watts registered. The following day saw an hour on the trainer at lunchtime. I had hoped to run in the evening with the club but work ran late. I could have gone out by myself but I had no confidence in the calf and judged it would be more prudent to rest rather than to risk a run.

Friday saw ninety more minutes on the elliptical trainer, split into chunks during the final day of testing. I felt a bit more tired than I would have liked – indeed the theme for much of the week was how tired I was, it had taken me a long time to recover from the Cross Country race and the ride on the Sunday.

Saturday saw the Duathlon that is reported on elsewhere. Following the event my right calf was very tight and sore, so Sunday would be a case of wake up and see how it felt before committing to any exercise. On waking I was quite stiff and sore but good enough to head out with the Wheelers for what is possibly the last Reliability Ride I will take part in this year. Again with Group 4, which had a few Group 5 riders thrown in, I made a deliberate ploy to begin more steadily than the week before, not taking a turn at the front until we hit the main hill of the day. the tactic seemed to work, I only began to tire around 45 miles into the ride.

I was dropped, along with a couple of others, on a drag up at 60 miles – there was just nothing left in the tank. The only surprise was I’d been able to keep up for so long. I dug fairly deep to finish the ride as the snow began to fall, averaging 18.8 mph for the 68 mile ride. There was to be no brick run on returning home, so it was just the three miles home to finish the exercise for the week.

A frustrating week in many ways, although the planned work covering testing probably meant in terms of miles ran I lost very little anyway to the injured calf. Going forward the calf continues to be the biggest concern, with no prospect in the short term of being able to run on a regular basis. The elliptical trainer, I think, is going to see a lot of action.