Thursday, 2 April 2015

Getting over injury - preparing for The Sudbury 5

A shorter blog this week, as I look forward to my next race, and discover whether I will be able to run London this year.

Going slightly mad

A week of complete rest probably sounds like quite a nice idea to any non-runners reading this blog, but it drove me up the wall! The daily exercise fix is important to me for psychological reasons, as I've mentioned many times before - but in addition I have been extremely worried about how much fitness I will have lost over the last few weeks, when my running has been sporadic due to my calf injury.

So I was originally intending not to run at all until Good Friday, at the Sudbury 5 mile Fun Run.
My intention to rest completely has gone out of the window, which is no great surprise at all. But I was pretty well behaved - a whole week off before I decided this week that I'd start using the gym at work to test the leg and begin rebuilding my fitness.

I work in the Government Offices in Cambridge, and we are fortunate to have a well-equipped gymnasium on site which we can use any time the building itself is open. I never really take a lunch break, since we can eat at our desks and, whilst there's currently plenty of work to do, it's still fairly relaxed. However, I'm finding that breaking mid way through the day for an hour's workout is actually helping me remain more focused during the afternoon, and I've enjoyed getting my exercise fix each day this week. This is something I'm hoping to keep as part of my daily routine even when I'm back out running again, since I know cross-training and working on core strengthening is key to improving my short distance times.

And so Monday, Tuesday and yesterday
Plank Position - an excellent way to
test and improve your core strength
(Wednesday) I hit the gym. Albeit not particularly hard. Each session lasted around one hour, and I began with a warm-up on the exercise bike, of around 10 mins. I then moved on to the weights machines, doing 2 x 10 reps on the Chest Press, Shoulder Press and Leg Curl - all at a relatively low weight, since it's been a while (too long) since I did any regular gym work. I also spent 30 secs each day holding the plank position, an excellent way to judge the quality of your core strength, and judging by the amount I was shaking this suggests mine has definitely worsened, which is hardly surprising but something I need to target.
In addition I managed some abs crunches (3x10 reps) before finally hopping on the treadmill, to test the calf.

And with pleasing results...

Testing the Leg

So the idea behind doing some gymwork rather than continuing to rest this week has been for two reasons. The main reason has been to test the leg, and the results have been very encouraging.

Monday I tried 1.5 miles - the first nice and slow, and then half a mile sub 6min pace - and there was no reaction.

Tuesday I did much the same, but totalled 2 miles - holding the faster pace for the full mile this time, and again no problems. Oh, except that I felt completely exhausted. But the leg was fine.
Oh, ok. Fair enough I suppose

Wednesday I did a little bit more again - 2.5 miles in total, mile one at 9min pace, mile two at 8min pace, and then half a mile again at sub 6min pace. The leg, after a proper amount of rest this time, has been fine. The last two parkruns I attempted saw me experience discomfort from roughly halfway onwards, so the fact today I ran a mile further than that with no reaction at all suggests all is well -certainly, I have no doubt now I shall be able to complete the 5 mile race on Friday, which was a serious concern after my last parkrun.

Testing my Fitness

The reason for trying 6min mile pace was because this is approximately what I'd hope to do had I not been injured - and certainly where I should be at for my 5km pace. My PB for 5 miles averages at 6m26, and since then I've run around 19mins for 5km enough times to suggest I am capable of a quicker average pace. Probably not quite 6min mile pace yet, but certainly I'd hope to be around 6m15, with perhaps a sprint finish to take me under 31mins.

Testing myself a little quicker than that was intended to give me the confidence to push hard from the outset - but I am a little concerned as to how tired I felt after only a short distance at this quicker pace. Each day, the quicker pace has felt a little easier, which again is entirely to be expected as I begin to rebuild, but of course there hasn't really been anywhere near enough time to get back to where I need to be before Friday.

In fact, as with so much training, it's been as much about improving my mindset as it has about improving my body. I know that there is a delay between the training session and when your body is able to reap the benefits, so what I've done won't really make much difference to me physically on Friday - except that it won't be so much of a shock to the system when I set off at 6min pace at the start. More importantly though, I now know I should be able to run without pain, and I shall then draw on other positive reasoning to convince myself that I can race well.

Positive Thinking

So for example, my parkrun two weeks ago was the day after I broke down on a training run, and yet I recorded 20mins on a course I've always found tough.
Remembering my decent finish in 2013
will help spur me on this time around.
Last week's parkrun I experienced discomfort for all of the 2nd lap, and yet beat my course PB and got my best ever placing.
Both of these races came off the back of hardly any training.

These are all positives I can use at the start line on Friday, when I will be telling myself: 

Then:           I was able to get results I was pleased with despite injury, and with no training
Now:            I'm not feeling any pain, and have done some training (admittedly only a little)
Conclusion: It should go as well, if not better, relatively speaking, than the last two parkruns.

5 miles is not that much further than 5km, and so the tactic will be to push hard from the outset, and see if I can maintain something close to 5km pace throughout. There is an incline at mile 3, but nothing too tough, and then a steeper one within the last mile, but that's followed by a nice downhill stretch to finish. I remember finishing well in 2013 when I raced here, which is always a good feeling, even if I was disappointed with my overall time.

The Bigger Picture the London Marathon, as I talked about in my last blog. On the assumption that the calf is fine after Friday, I then intend to try a long run on Monday - the bank holiday weekend has come at just the right time for me! In theory, this should be the last long effort before tapering, but I've missed so much training I'm just beginning to formulate a plan to overcome this - more next blog. But all entirely dependent on how Monday's run goes. If I can't manage at least 16, then I don't see the point of running London - I have no intention of doing so unless I'm confident I can manage the whole distance without walking, since if I end up run/walking it, even just for a part, this won't give me any pleasure whatsoever and I may as well defer.

However, if I can get to the stage where I'm confident I can run the whole thing, I think I probably will give it a go. I originally wanted a sub 4hr time, and then as training progressed well I realised I really should be aiming for 3hr30, or possibly even a bit quicker - but I'm now realistically going to very happy with the original 4hr target, and am prepared to accept even this will be very tough.

I really don't want to experience this for the 3rd marathon in a row
As I've written before, I've not lost sight of how lucky I am - possibly even how privileged I am, if that's not too grandiose a phrase - to have a place in the London Marathon, for the 2nd year in a row. Some runners try to get a place year after year with no joy. I am very aware that, if I were to defer, I may well then not bother with it next year, having concluded (not for the first time!) that I don't really enjoy marathon training. So I feel I really ought to run it if I can - and Friday's race and Monday's training run will almost certainly tell me what I need to know, and it will be a relief to make a decision one way or the other. Not just for me, but no doubt for you too - since it means I'll stop agonising about it in this blog time after time after time....

Tomorrow: the Sudbury Fun Run

I always think "fun run" suggests a less formal, less competitive event but in fact this is an extremely popular race with club runners as well as those running for charity, and is consquently well worth doing irrespective of which type of runner you are. A look at the results from the last couple of years suggests a PB would get me somewhere near the top 25, with the top 15 or so all getting sub 30mins, which is a magic barrier for the distance - averaging sub 6min miles. So plenty of quick runners to test myself against - and a real shame that I've not been able to put in the kind of structured training for the distance that I did before my last five miler at Hadleigh, where I set my current PB of 32m10.

Not many Haverhill RC members are racing here this year, but I know a fair few Commandos will be there, and it will be nice to catch up with them before and after.

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