My training runs

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Highway to the danger zone

Miles run this week 32

In five weeks’ time, I’ll have either finished the Brighton Marathon or will be limping my way towards the finish line.

And it’s at this time when the mileage is really ramping up that runners dread getting an injury.  The body starts to rebel against the demands you’re putting on it. Muscles buried deep inside make themselves known as every sinew plays its part in your training. Your body becomes a schizophrenic with your body and mind fighting against one another.

This week I felt tired for the first time.  On Monday, as soon as I started my five mile run, I knew it was going to be tough.  My legs felt sapped of energy from the off. My mind stepped in and said ‘keep going – it’ll pass’.  But it didn’t.  It was an effort to keep up with the others.  So much for a tempo run.  I ended up keeping a newish runner company at the back and even she was running stronger than me.  I tried to keep the negative thoughts at bay, the ones saying ‘How are you going to run 26 miles in a few weeks’ time when you feel like this running five?’

Experience told me not to get disheartened – all runners have bad days. And sure enough, when I ran on Wednesday, I felt back to normal which was a big relief. When I thought about it, I’d been sneezing for a few days and with a cold in the household, I’d probably picked it up – I just didn’t know it at the time.  Surround by tissues while typing this up on Sunday, that cold has broken, complete with sore throat.  Better to get it now than on 10 April.

Yesterday I ran almost 18 miles. With the weather warming up recently, I didn’t bother with leg warmers as I thought I’d get too hot. I wore my hat and gloves and stuffed my snood into Alan’s rucksack, just in case I got cold towards the end. Funnily enough, you may have heard all the press about footballers wearing snoods as a fashion item. I don’t think they’re necessarily wearing them as a fashion item; they may be wearing  them to keep warm like I do.  A physio told me a couple of years ago that wearing a scarf (or snood) keeps you warmer than a hat. The footballers wearing them look like they’re from warmer climes, so couldn’t they be doing the same?

Anyway, I arrived at Sandra and Alan’s at nine and was told today’s route was a ‘bit of a long uphill drag’. Oh joy. (See graph of the hills below, which cut off at mile 13 for some reason)
Saturday's hills in full glory

Neither Sandra or I know where we’re going on our long runs. We just follow Alan on his bike. We’d been going about half an hour when Alan got a puncture, so he stopped and we carried on after he shouted to turn left at the top of the hill.  The hill was the ‘long uphill drag’ and went on for about a mile. We turned left at the top and enjoyed the next downhill which then turned into a bit of a switchback.  Sandra reminisced about doing the same run two years’ ago when the same road was covered in ice, making it almost impossible to get up the hills.

We carried on running and came to a fork in the road.  With no sign of Alan and no clue of the route, we had a guess and took the right fork.  The further we got, the more we thought it looked more like a lane than a road.  So, I got my iPhone and opened up Google maps.  All Sandra knew was we had to pass The Cricketers in Tangley. I didn’t even know where that was so I couldn’t help.  Google maps showed we had taken the wrong route so we backtracked.  Had Alan passed the end of the lane while we were up it?  No way of knowing.  We ran on and saw a sign for The Fox at Tangley (fantastic Thai food if you’re ever in the area) which made Sandra think we’d definitely gone the wrong way.  Like most of us, we don’t memorise phone numbers anymore – we just rely on our mobiles. She didn’t know Alan’s number off the top of her head and I hadn’t got it in my phone.  Now what? We were out in the sticks and hadn’t a clue which way we should go. Then, as if the fairy of the forest had waved her magic wand, another runner came over the brow of the hill.  He turned out to be a friend of a friend.  Of course he didn’t recognise me as the person stood in front of him was stipped of make-up and had her hair hidden under a hat.  He’d only met me once and I had make up on then.  When I told him who I was, I could see him trying to match the runner before him with the person he’d met before.  I’m not convinced he managed it!

But, the good news was he knew where The Cricketers was and he’d take us too it.  Result.  We found out he was on a training run too as he was running the Edinburgh marathon this year in May. After chit chatting for about half a mile, he turned off and went on his way and we on ours. Although I didn’t recognise the road, I knew we were going in the right direction.

We ran on and had decided we’d make up the rest of the run if Alan didn’t turn up, but not long after that, he did. His puncture had taken him a lot longer to mend as he hadn’t brought his glasses with him (who would?) and he couldn’t find the hole in the inner tube.  The first thing we did was grab our drinks and had a guzzle.

So far the route had been a bit of a switchback, up and down hills and at half way (9 miles) I felt fine.  It’s scary how quickly things can change when you run.  At 13 miles, my left calf started to whisper in my ear: ‘Hello up there. I’m feeling very tight. I’m going to ache a bit so you hear me.’ I heard it loud and clear. Memories of a calf pull came flooding back where I’d ignored the ache, which ended with the muscle literally twanging into a spasm.  It put me out of running for about a month and I didn’t want that to happen now so close to Brighton. I tried running so that my heel hit the floor first to try and stretch it out.  That didn’t make the ache go so I had to stop and stretch it. That eased it a bit, but not much.  I cursed myself for not wearing legwarmers.  I didn’t realise how icy the wind was when I left the house and I’m convinced that, along with the hills, this caused my calf to hurt.  Then I had a brainwave.  I grabbed my snood out of the rucksack and wound it around my calf under my running tights.  It looked like I had a deformed leg, but what the heck.  I set off again tentatively but it seemed to do the trick and kept my calf warm. 

For the rest of the run, I knew that I was on the edge of injury. The place all runners dread: the injury danger zone.  My muscle could spasm at any moment. Should I stop and walk the final five miles, which would mess up my training and possibly Sandra’s if she felt she had to walk too? Or would that be worse than to keep the muscle moving? I decided to keep going but felt the soreness in my calf in every step. Would it be the next one when my muscle finally gave up the ghost?

Thankfully, it didn’t happen.  I managed to limp home with everything still intact. Very sore, but untwanged.

Once I got home, I got in a hot bath and felt the tension disappear from my leg.  Then, with no one home to massage my calves for me, I put a massage pad on them. When you think ‘massage’, you normally think ‘pleasure’.  That’s not the case when you massage a sore muscle.  It’s down right painful.  I grimaced through the whole 15 minutes of ‘pleasure’.

So, from now on, I’m going to be wearing those leg warmers even if the weather looks to be tropical.  Or I may get a pair of those sexy (?) running socks that Paula Radcliffe wears.  Those see-through white ones, or how about black? Yes, I know I’ll look daft, but I’d feel even dafter to get this far and then relent to the highway danger zone.

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