Don’t Panic Mr Mainwaring

I have been feeling poorly these last few days.  Might have been man flu. Might have been jet lag, but running was either rubbish or didnt happen at all.

I had a reasonably good November/December where I ran every day for 32 days and started to build mileage sensibly, and even though a Christmas day flight with Champagne and Caviar scuppered this year’s Marcothon effort, I still managed to run a pretty solid time for the Boxing Day 10 miler in Hamilton, Ontario.

After that I swapped running for holidaying and only managed one run in the following week.

2015 arrived with a big fat zero in the training log and a big fat jump on the scales. I tried a run one day and managed all of 2 horrible miles on aching legs, and with that abject failure my running career was over. At least according to Private Fraser bouncing around in my head yelling “We’re Doomed! Doomed I tell ye!”

Fast forward a couple of days and feeling a wee bit brighter I jumped on the treadmill after work for the scheduled Yasso 800 session fully expecting another fail. The first few minutes of the very slow warm up were yucky and I nearly chucked it. Legs weren’t working properly at all, but slowly minute after minute they warmed up until there was no more room for excuses, time to hit the first interval. It was so hard! By the time I reached the end of the interval I thought my legs were going to fall off. The second interval  was nearly as bad. Somehow, as if by magic, the third interval wasn’t too bad at all and the fourth was actually relatively easy. And so it continued.

Maybe I will still be able to run this year after all.

Lesson learned?

1. You don’t lose fitness overnight so don’t panic about missing a few days

2. Don’t stop just because it doesn’t feel good. Ease into it slowly and if you keep going fitness will prevail.

3. Intervals 3 and 4 are always easier than 1 and 2. Remember this fact.

4. If you know all of the above don’t be a drama queen just because things aren’t quite going to plan

Quit while you are ahead

The second half of last year saw me injured with an achilles injury which took nearly 6 months to get better.  Since January my achilles has been behaving, though it still niggles,  but I have also been struck down with plantar fasciatis, a sore ankle caused by bruised cartilege, a long running sinus infection, and a really busy work schedule.

Foremost in my mind has been my appointment in Hopkinton on Monday April 21st and the need to get there in one piece.

Boston ’13 eyeing up the finish line

Now normally when I train, I am  of the blood,  sweat and snotters school of training.  No finesse but lots of effort.

This year, with so many ailments I have had to adopt a painfully cautious approach to training.  I have tried to follow the 10% rule, upping my mileage slowly. I have been disciplined in my long runs, turning back early in some of the long group runs on the West Highland Way when it would have been easier just to slog them out with my chums who were all running longer. Turning back when you are competitive is really hard. I even dropped out of the D33 race at 25 miles because my foot just wasn’t right. My first ever DNF  and those who know me will appreciate how painful that is.

I have done next to no speed work. My usual set of Yasso 800’s has slipped off my plan. Even tempo runs have been done at about 80%.  I started training without a base and whereas last year I was running 200-250 miles per month this year I have been in the region of 175-190.  This time last year I raced a pretty speedy half marathon and got a new PB. This year I haven’t raced at all.  Not even a parkrun.

Boston ’14 training miles


Boston ’13 training miles


I am  undertrained. I have no speed.  I feel like I am about 4-6 weeks away from full fitness, so having been cautious all year, I am going to have to keep the caution going and run the race with my head and not with my heart which is what usually gets me into trouble anyway.

My mantra throughout this whole training programme has been to quit while I’m ahead.

So where does that leave me?

First off it means that barring accidents I am uninjured and ready to go run Boston. Success!

My goal for race day? To run safely and sensibly for 20 miles and get over heartbreak hill with 6 miles to go and be feeling strong.  If I can do that then I should be in with a chance of beating last year’s time. The trick will be to resist the temptation to push on and to remember where I am now, not where I used to be and tailor my ambitions accordingly.

Despite being tedious at times, I have plodded through the last 16 weeks doing what had to be done, to be safe rather than sorry. It has been frustrating and it hasn’t been enjoyable, but it has been successful and I will be on the start line with a semblance of fitnes

It is now taper time, and I will be getting wrapped in cotton wool because at the moment I am just about ahead, so definitely time to quit until race day.



Every Day is a School Day

Black Mount
Hopefully the road to Glencoe will be easier for runners in June

I have just spent a couple of days at the Highland Fling training weekend in Tyndrum. Although I am not running either the Fling or the WHW this year it was good to spend time with like minded souls, enjoy some wine and some hard training.

I spent some time running with Amanda Hamilton who is building up to her first West Highland Way Race this year and we had a chat about what worked for me as well as what went wrong as I ran my first WHW race last year.  I am sure that Amanda will have a strong race as she has her head screwed on the right way and is putting in the hard miles.

So what would I do differently next time?

1. I would practice running during the night.  When I left Milngavie I had no problem running in the dark, but I did have a big problem with my body clock not wanting to start running at 1 am and I really struggled to maintain what would normally have been an easy pace at the start of the race.

2. I would do more long slow runs. I struggle for patience in long runs and tend to rush them to get them over and done with as soon as possible, so while I had the distance in my legs, I didn’t necessarily have the time in my head.

3. Getting carried away and charging over to Glencoe like a demented warthog may have felt great at the time, but I probably suffered for it later.  Resist the temptation to rush.

4. Spend less time at checkpoints. Despite having a strict plan for my checkpoint times, time seemed to slip away, especially later in the day.

5. Don’t worry about the weigh-in. I was getting a bit light when I left Auchtertyre, even though I felt absolutely fine and it worried both me and my crew in case I would have a problem in Kinlochleven. This resulted in me spending time at our van trying to feed up before I went in to the Leisure Centre. Daft when you look back on it sitting outside in the cold and dark when I could have been inside in the warm.  Kinlochleven checkpoint is a great place. If you are well, no-one will pull you from the race. Get inside and feel the tough love being dished out.

6. The haggis and beer at the ski centre probably wasn’t a great idea either even though I enjoyed them at the time.  I think I would probably try to eat more real food earlier in the race and stick to softer food in the second half.

As for the things I got right there are probably a few

1. Do the training miles but don’t do them too early and try not to  get mileage envy of the nutters who are knocking out 40 mile runs at christmas.

2. Know the route inside out

3. Have a training plan and trust it. Don’t chop and change just because you hear someone else threw in an extra long run and don’t get sucked into going on every social training run just to be part of the gang.

4. Get a support crew you trust absolutely. Your needs become very childlike in the race and your crew needs to know when you need and cuddle and when you need a spank.

My final tip is that there are many ways to skin a cat and what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. You need to experiment early in the year with gear, mileage and nutrition so that when it gets to the business end you are settled on the logistics and all you need to worry about is running.

And finally no matter what you get right or wrong, at times it will get horrible and dark, but if you keep going, no matter how slowly, it won’t get any worse and might even get better, but either way, you will make it to Fort William.

Inadvertantly Mooned

bartInadvertantly Mooned

Somehow, someone ended up on my blog today by searching the web for the phrase “inadvertantly mooned”. This is a tad surprising on two counts: first that someone would search for pages relating to inadvertant mooning and secondly that my blog contains that very phrase!

Which is a slightly different start to tonight’s post than intended, but the subject matter is related.

Tonight’s lesson is from the book of John the Hobbler and is on the subject of humility.

My run tonight consisted of 2.5 miles spread out over 45 seconds walking/45 seconds running, with the running at a feeble 15 mins/mile pace. It was probably my best run for 7 weeks.  It probably didn’t look very impressive to the burly 20 something lad who bounced towards me with that smug look of superiority on his face.  It probably didn’t look very impressive to the passengers in the steady stream of cars whizzing along the busy road I was running beside. I couldn’t quite tell whether the glances in my direction were sympathy or amusement.

One thing which is certain is that I wasn’t impressing anyone with my running prowess.

It is difficult to accept that this is my current level of performance, but even if I ran with a banner proclaiming ” I ran the West Highland Way” it wouldn’t alter the fact that at the moment I can’t run more than 45 seconds at a time.  If it is true that you are only as good as your last run, then my last run was nothing to write home about. That isn’t to diminish how I used to run, but how I used to run is sod all use to me today.

So I have to try to run with humility.  In the words of Dirty Harry “A man’s gotta know his limitations”.  The sure way to get re-injured is to run with your ego not your brain.  Try to do more than you are able to and your body will break down. Or to continue with the film quotes as they told Tom Cruise in Top Gun “Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash! ”

And as for the blog, while I may think it is flowing prose, to the world it is just Inadvertant Mooning.

20 Pearls of Running Wisdom

  1. The best runners are patient

  2. There are no shortcuts

  3. Going further is easier than going faster

  4. To go further, slow down

  5. To go faster, carry less weight and try harder

  6. People get nicer the further you run

  7. To achieve a goal, follow the programme

  8. That runner over there has the same worries as you and thinks you must be faster than him

  9. to improve first train more, then train smarter, then train more

  10. there is always someone older and faster than you

  11. breakthroughs happen when you change something

  12. breakdowns happen when you change too many things

  13. the marathon gods will exact vengeance on those who disrespect the race

  14. there is nothing you can’t do if you are willing to put in the training

  15. you can’t tell how fast someone is by looking at them

  16. A big city race entry is better value than the open top bus tour

  17. Bears and ultra-runners shit in the woods – get over it

  18. running is good for your health

  19. running gets easier if you stick with it

  20. the more you put in to running, the more you get out of running

Snakes and Ladders


Too many snakes

I was nearly there. After patiently doing the rehab, I had built up gently running 1 mile, then 2 miles, then 3 miles. Saturday I ran/walked 9 leisurely miles and didnt feel any worse.

Monday evening after work I set out to do 5 miles. The first 2 miles felt great, no pain at all. This was the best my achilles had felt and I was enjoying just jogging round feeling injury free. Then for no obvious reason the achilles started to feel a little sore. By mile 4 it was feeling stiff and by mile 5 it was very stiff and a big bit sore.

Major fail and major ensuing depression.  Decided to cancel the accommodation booked for the Moray marathon as there was now no way I would be fit for it.

On reflection I probably changed too many things at once on that Monday evening run. I wore my Brooks Pure Cadence which have a slightly lower heel drop than the big sturdy shoes I had been rehabbing in; I ran entirely on the pavement rather than the softer grass or trail and despite not intending to I was running much faster than I had been up to this stage in my rehab. I would probably have got away with any one of those things but to do all three was a bit careless. I was too impatient. I suppose it just reinforces the old adage about when you think you are ready, wait another day…..

So I am back at the bottom of the board again. Back to the physio and with instructions to use a weighted jacket while exercising to build up strength in my achilles.  After 4 days of being really sore and stiff and not being able to do anything at all, I am on the move again.  At the moment I am only rolling 1’s and 2’s but at least I have managed to move forward a couple of squares by doing some bouncing and some heel drops.  I am hoping that if I can be dilligent in doing the right things I will hit a ladder sometime soon which will shortcut me back up the board. Unfortunately there aren’t too many ladders in recovering from an achilles injury and an awful lot of snakes.

The only good thing is that there is a tried and tested formula for coming back from an achilles problem. Here is my  recipe:

General Principles – DO NOT move on to the next stage unless you have completed what you did yesterday again and have NO reaction.  If you have a reaction have a day’s rest or go back a stage. Shoes with a heel help. Minimalist shoes aggravate the injury in the early days of rehab.

Ice –  especially in the early days. I use disposable ice cube bags as a wrap and also a polystyrene cup of ice for massaging the achilles

Ibuprofen – these are bad things but at least initially the anti-inflammatory does help a little

Compression –  I find that compression helps. I wear compression socks and alternate with a compression bandage round my ankle.

Massage –  physio and self massage help. Gently rubbing a heat rub into the achilles helps reduce the inflammation and get the tendon moving in the sheath.  Foam roller and general stretching also helps.

Calf raises –  these are the first exercise I can manage. Repeat every 30 minutes or whenever I get the chance throughout the day. Start off with using both legs and work up to single leg as the achilles repairs/strengthens. Sets of 10 reps at a time

Heel drops –  these are the exercises which do the job of repairing and strengthening the achilles. Dropping of a step, starting off with two legs and working up to doing it one legged. Build up to sets of 3 x 15 with no pain before proceeding to running. I do it on the stair so I can hold on to the bannister.

Bouncing –  on a mini trampoline, run on the spot. Start with a couple of minutes 3 times a day and build up to 20 minutes or more. When the achilles is nearly ready pushing vigorously with each leg will feel fine..

Running – start by jogging really slowly and walking on short grass no more than 20 metres at a time. Build up to 20 minutes of this.

Progress to the football pitch. Jog the short side, walk the long side for 20-30 minutes.  Do this for 2 sessions with no reaction afterwards. Then move on to jog the long side, walk the short side. Again 2 sessions with no reaction afterwards.

Jog/walk – run 2 mins walk 1, then run 3 mins walk 1, 4/1, then 5/1. Build up time on feet from 30 mins to 1 hour.  Repeat each level at least once  before moving on if there is no reaction.

Run continuously – 2 miles, then 3, then 4/5. Only move on if no reaction.

Run on harder surfaces –  repeat 2, 4, 5 mile runs on pavement.

Finally, start introducing speed but only at 30-60 seconds / mile at a time. No jumping from 12 minute miles to 8 minute miles.

This whole process takes a long time. There is a minimum of 3 weeks in this programme and more likely 4-6 weeks depending on how disciplined I am.

Patience is most definitely the key.

Once running again, it is then time to work on the stability and strength exercises which will correct the biomechanical imbalances which tend to be at the root of achilles problems. I find that if I am going to the gym regularly my achilles is fine. I also suspect from experience that my achilles problems are caused by my computer. I am right handed and slouch when using my computer. This compresses my right hip and gives me tightness in my Glutes, Hip Flexor and SI joint on my right side. This in turn causes tightness and restricted movement when running which I suspect results in compensating movements in the opposite corner from my right hip which is of course my dodgy left achilles.

One thing is certain, an achilles niggle is the most frustrating of injuries.

Going Nowhere Fast

Thus spake the man who has just been doing intervals running on the spot on the trampette 🙂

For folks of a certain age, the trampette will be remembered as that little bouncy thing you jumped on in PE class before *vaulting elegantly/getting stuck halfway/ landing on your head ( *delete as appropriate) over the big wooden box horse.  As someone whose grace and poise is inversely proportional to his effort and enthusiasm, this usually resulted in me being catapulted violently over the box, occasionally the right way up, before landing with a thump on any part of my body except my feet. Sometimes I even landed on the mat.

My recollection is that the box seemed massive though like many things from your childhood, including Creme Eggs and Yorkie Bars, I suspect they may seem smaller nowadays. I assume the big box horse has disappeared from schools, cursed by health and safety or PE teachers too unfit to demonstrate how to do it. Either that or they will have realised that the kids might have watched a black and white war film and realised that they could use the Box to escape.

My only other recollection of the trampette was that watching the senior girls with their wobbly bits doing gymnastics was a popular and educational activity engaged in by junior school boys and male PE staff alike.

I digress.

My achilles is slowly getting better.

After being told by the physio that my chances of making my first marathon of the autumn were slim and none, this encouraged me to redouble my rehab efforts!

The trampette is a great rehab for the achilles and calves. You get strengthening without the impact. If you have a high boredom threshhold you can even do an extended session on it to get  race fit. I once did a 2 hour run on the trampette in a previous injury.

So far I have done a weeks worth of bouncing building up to 20 minutes.  I have started gently reintroducing running back into my programme.

You can see from the table I have been building up gently. I have been running on short grass and ash path trying to avoid pavement and hills.

06/08/2013 Easy 3.5 mi 32:16 9:12
05/08/2013 Easy 2.8 mi 27:17 9:54
04/08/2013 Easy 1.8 mi 22:11 12:41

Yesterday I had no pain at all when running, but when I woke up this morning I had a bit of stiffness and soreness, so am being sensible and not running tonight.

Hopefully a bit more ice, stretching and ibuprofen will see me able to get out for another run tomorrow.

Recovering from an injury like this is a really good analogy for training generally. It is all about stress and recover. With the acuteness of an injury it accentuates the need to stress just enough to encourage healing without stressing so much that the injury gets worse or the recovery time is too great.

Ever the optimist I have written a program which take me from 1.8 miles  to 26.2 in the space of 3 weeks. Realistically I probably wont be fit for what I am christening the Dean Martin marathon (“that’s-a-Moray” sic.) , but I can at least give it a go.

Having started this post by running fast and going nowhere, I shall close it by sharing that in an effort to kick start my metabolism so that it eats some of the lard round my middle which seems to be going nowhere, I am in the midst of a 24 hour fast.

This water is mighty tasty…

Oh Flax! Ouch. Grumble. Mutter.

Flax! Flax! Flax! or words to that effect
Flax! Flax! Flax! or words to that effect

That’s the thing about being a glass half empty sort of person – while running is not really an enjoyable experience,  NOT running is an even worse experience.

I am injured. Nothing serious, but bad enough that I am NOT running. My Achilles and its eponymous niggle has flared up again.

I have had this injury several times before and I know how to rehab it. Unfortunately this takes time, patience and NOT running.

It is bad enough that I finished the West Highland Way Race with my glass filled nearly up to the top and a real enthusiasm to get out and train for my Autumn marathons, which are now approaching at an alarming rate while I am NOT running.

What is even worse is that the reason I am NOT running is because I am STUPID. I finished WHW in fine fettle and recovered well. I started doing some speedwork and all was well. I picked up a wee bit of soreness running on the Clyde Walkway.  Instead of taking some rest, I followed this up with two consecutive days of hard runs, and after the second one I couldn’t run at all. This was Wednesday. Arran Half Marathon was Sunday, so stayed off the foot until the Sunday and managed to warm up, but was a bit achy. STUPID mode kicks in. It’s a race, I am here, what is the worst that could happen, after all my plan is to take it easy and just use it as a training run, especially in the heat.  Gun goes, off goes STUPID, a full minute a mile faster than plan. By 2 miles it was getting sore, but being STUPID I assured myself it was just a bit stiff and would ease out as it warmed up. By 4 miles it was so sore that I had to stop.  Police car stops while I am stretching against a telegraph pole and asked if I was ok or did I need help? STUPID says I’ll be fine and just stretch it out.  Police car drives off and STUPID determines that he is as well continuing because it is too far to walk back now.  Next, STUPID tries to make a bandage from his calf sleeve doubling it over until the ankle is supported enough to get going.  Eventually after much hobbling STUPID made it to the finish in 1 painful hour and 41 STUPID minutes.

Two weeks later and I am still NOT running because I am STUPID. And because I am NOT running it is making me frustrated, tetchy,  fed up, and even more grumpy than usual. Or so I am told!

I will admit to being just the teensiest less jolly than usual, while my stomach swells up to the size of a bloated gas-filled dead water buffalo and my legs become as stiff as the legs on the aforementioned maggot ridden corpse.

I am missing my daily dose of pain.  So now I am miserable because I can’t get my daily misery fix because I am STUPID and NOT RUNNING.

Grump. Grump. Wanders off into the distance muttering something about Flax….

Running from Drymen to Tyndrum

It was the first properly sunny day we have had this year and though it was a wee bit warm for running, the views along this section of the West Highland Way were stunning today. 41 miles run and felt okay. Not sure I would have fancied running another 55 today but feel that after all the missed training and the bugs, at least I am back in the game.

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Listening to your body

When your body’s had enough of me. And I’m layin flat out on the floor…..

As runners we are supposed to listen to our bodies. Mine has taken a bit of a beating recently so I dragged it out for a 9 mile run this morning and kept an ear open to hear what it was saying. This is what I heard

Feet: My left foot was fine, no problems at all. Little toe on my right foot was nipping a bit from the wee corn on it so that needs some attention. My slightly swollen big toe joint settled down and didnt cause too much bother thought it just feels wrong still need to continue icing it.

Calves: bit tight but not too bad. no special attention needed

Hamstrings: tight, tight, tight. maybe a bit tired after some weights work midweek. Feel like they need lengthened. Must get into some mat work to remedy

Hips: tight right hip, and sticky SI joint, mean I am not moving smoothly. Too much sitting at a computer and not enough stretching.

Stomach: Too big. Still need to shift the weight I put on after Boston.

Chest: still a bit sticky from recent infection. not quite as recovered as I would like to be. Cardio is good though, heart and lungs seem untroubled.

Shoulders: way too tight. been a busy stressful week with a lot of time hunched over a machine. Should know better.

Mouth: Dry. Do not drink white wine night before a run. Muppet!

Nose: snot hanging around my sinuses. remnants of my cold or is it just hayfever season?

Head: still got a missing mojo. must try to generate some enthusiasm

Overall, performed a bit better than I expected. Legs wanted to run fast but couldnt. Feel my endurance is good but my speed has completely vanished. There is fitness in there somewhere, just need to coax it back out.