So today, illness or other unforeseen circumstance permitting, I am going to take part in the Milton Keynes Marathon on Monday, where I plan to help pace a friend hopefully somewhere close to 3:20. It is a bit of a gamble to run but hopefully things will be okay.
Monday saw me back on the bike, off for a two hour quick blast deliberately taking in some of the steeper hills in the surrounding area, including Terrace Hill, which made it into Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs: A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Britain’s Hills. As he explains in the book, this is by no means a particularly tough climb in the pantheon of climbs but does hold a reputation in the surrounding area and as such sees plenty of Strava activity. My legs, still suffering from the exertions of the weekend and the quads in particular still stubbornly refusing to work properly, meant that each and every hill was a laboured affair. I currently stand a lowly 244th at best on the numerous Terrace Hill segments on Strava. One to return to when I get a bit better.
On Monday my recent purchase: Quick Strength for Runners: 8 Weeks to a Better Runner’s Body arrived and after reading it cover to cover on Monday night, ran through my first session on the Tuesday. It was by no means impossible, but left me in no doubt that strength, especially in my core, is really very weak and surely one of the main contributing factors to my frequent hip injuries.
After that session I opted to test my hip and right Achilles with an easy paced 6 mile run. The legs were pretty stiff after a week of cycling but there was definitely far less pain in the left hip and thigh – presumably after some strengthening work on the bike, and the right Achilles was bearable. The run wasn’t particularly quick, but that wasn’t the intention.
Wednesday saw me back on the bike and following a 52 mile ride down to Melton Mowbray and back, returning via Belvoir. In glorious weather the ride went really well, feeling noticeably stronger in the quads and glutes. I was able to pedal my way through the gentle inclines in a higher gear than previously and was able to pedal out of the saddle for much longer than I was able to before on the steep hills. At a whisper shy of 18mph this was significantly faster than the rides of equivalent length and difficulty of last week.
Thursday and it was the main test on the legs to see if I was up to racing on Monday. A club run over the fields and to Denton Reservoir – which I hadn’t previously the pleasure of running around – the pace was very gentle but in a way that was a good thing as time on feet was a good test on the Achilles in particular. Things began promisingly – just a little ache for a couple of miles then no discomfort at all for the next seven. Then in the final four miles it began to ache again, so that by the end it was really quite sore.
Once home I iced and massaged and opted to wait and see what happened in the morning. No discomfort on waking, no stiffness (which is typical of a regular Achilles injury). It made me think again that the majority of the pain is being referred from higher up the calf. And indeed on massaging the outside of the calf I found some seriously tight spots which I managed to loosen a little (but not yet completely). This was done during session two of the Strength training plan, which was mostly weights based. My back was seriously tight but I just about managed all the reps.
I was going to ride this morning but felt I needed to test the legs one more time. So I went for a six mile run, practicing hitting the splits I plan to take my friend through on Monday. The hips and pelvis didn’t want to know for the first miles, the left IT Band a bit tight too. But the Achilles, apart from being a little achy, wasn’t really troublesome at all. I was expecting it to feel terrible based on how I ended my run yesterday. Further fuel to my referred pain theory,
Hitting the splits was a little tricky as the average pacing on the Garmin was all over the shop, but I just about managed it. Now there’s two days to get the legs ready for what is going to be a long run on Monday, even if it isn’t at my regular marathon pace. Hopefully I’ll get to enjoy the support and all the beauty that the home of concrete cows has to offer.