Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Am I Nearly There Yet?

This week has been a particularly encouraging week for me, in fact I’m more than encouraged by the progress I’ve made, I’m amazed. For 10 weeks I had suffered the torment of not being able to run and then last Monday I was given the all clear to start again. I had tried to jump the gun four days previously but realised I wasn’t quite ready. Last Monday night I set out on my first, tentative, attempt to run. For 5 minutes I shuffled through the streets of Northwich, feeling like a pantomime dame with his feet tied together. It was slow, it was painful, and I was embarrassed. After that I thought it would be a long time before I found my running feet, and yet, yesterday, only 8 days on, I ran for 60 minutes over the undulations of Tatton Park. How was this possible, considering the extent of my injuries? Well here’s how I got from where I was to where I am now. It’s not a glamorous story, rather a patient torment and not giving in to the doubts.

Day 1 – Monday 29 April. Today I went to the physio, we talked, she prodded, and at the end of the session she told me to start running again, gently. I went home and later that day I set off on my first 5 minute run. I’ve already said how it went but I was running so tense, just waiting for the achilles to go again. My ungainly attempt didn’t leave me feeling any encouragement and I was left wondering if it was still too early.

Day 2 - Tuesday 30 April. This morning I was working in the gym, but before I started working with my clients I went for a 10 minute run. Surprisingly it felt a little better. I was still a little tentative, a little tense, and a little ungainly but I managed 10 minutes, a little faster than yesterday. When I was coming back from my last injury I started this way but ran twice a day with the aim of accelerating the recovery. It’s a risky method but I decided I was going to try it again, so this afternoon I went out for a further 15 minute run. Again it was faster, further and a little less ungainly. This was the moment where I started to believe I could get back, I just wasn’t sure when.

Day 3 – Wednesday 1 May. Maintaining the daily mantra of further and faster each time today I managed a 20 minute run and a 25 minute run. Still a little painful as I ran but no repercussions afterwards.

Day 4 – Thursday 2 May. Saw me working with Lee Riley. He was doing track work but there was no way I would be able to run 70 odd second laps, so I confined myself to jogging with him during his recoveries. I actually found this run really hard, perhaps it was the accumulation or maybe it was just the stopping and starting, which kept stiffening my leg muscles. I was finding out, during my running, that I was stiff for the first 5 or 6 minutes but then my ankle would loosen up and I could run properly. I decided I would call it a day with the one run today, but then I changed my mind and went out for a 37 minute run in the evening. That was a big breakthrough. During that 37 minutes I felt more like a runner than at any other run this week, things were starting to come together, I was floating along nicely, ok a little heavier footed and a lot slower than normal but I felt like I was broaching the 20 minute 5k barrier.

Day 5 – Friday 3 May. Having made it past the 30 minutes yesterday it was now time to cut back to one run a day, but make it longer, so this morning it was 45 minutes. Again a little faster but I was still experiencing a little pain. I was still so concerned about overdoing it, yet at the same time fighting to get fit for the BMAF Relays. All the tensing was making all my muscles ache and I was breathing a lot heavier than I should be for such a pace. I still felt like progress was being made so I was looking forward to tomorrow’s run.

Day 6 – Saturday 4 May. Carole and I had decide to spend the Bank Holiday weekend out of the country, for some reason we’d chosen Cardiff. Of course, when we’d decided, I wasn’t running, but now I was back into a rhythm and I didn’t want it to stop. We were going to head off early morning so I got up earlier for a run. My body was so stiff I decided if I ran now it would more than likely set me back, maybe I might do something in the afternoon. We got into Cardiff just after 12:00 and spent the afternoon discovering the town. I’ve been to Cardiff before in 1998, for the Inter-counties cross country champs, but then it was a case of bus up from London, race, bus back to London, so I never really got to see the place. I knew it had been developed a fair amount since then but I was surprised with how nice a city it was. Excellent shopping and restaurants/bars, all very close together, and Bute Park (where I had raced before) was a really pleasant park to walk around. Unfortunately all the walking made me feel a little stiff, so I decided to play the rest day card and went for a swim instead.

Day 7 – Sunday 5 May. It was a beautiful morning, perfect for a run in the park, and that was our intention. Before breakfast we were going to run up to the park together, about 4 minutes away, then I was going to leave Carole and try to pick up the pace. But within a minute I was feeling awkward, trying to run at Carole’s pace was putting too much pressure on the achilles so I decided to leave her and run on at my pace, solely concentrating on my own form. Another couple of minutes and I still felt like I was running awkward and I was feeling pain around the achilles. On the verge of giving in and walking back to the hotel, I decided to keep going at least to the entrance to the park, and then suddenly the pain eased. As I entered the park I started gradually increasing the pace. I was nervy, still a little tense, and not at my most comfortable, but I felt better at a better pace than I’d done all week. Not having a garmin I can’t be absolutely sure of my pace but it felt similar to how I’d run in Germany, when I ran a 17:37 5k. I had planned to only run for 30 minutes but in the end I tagged a bit on and did 38, not a huge difference in normal terms but significant enough when you’re on the comeback trail. I felt great afterwards and, thankfully suffered no repercussions. After breakfast we decided to pop out of Cardiff, into the countryside, and visited Dyffryn Gardens. With it being such a nice sunny day it was relaxing to stroll through the grounds and sit in the sun reading the Sunday paper.

Walking was just the thing I needed to enable the leg muscles to keep working and stretching. After a while we returned to the hotel and walked down to the Cardiff Bay Area. I’d heard it had been developed and was interested to see it, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so crowded, all the bars and restaurants were chocka. Admittedly the warm weather and the fact that they were setting up a stage for a concert, to celebrate Cardiff City FC’s Championship victory, probably made it busier than usual but it was a nice place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. We walked over the barrier towards Penarth and back again, returning to the hotel, where, because it was still warm and sunny, we plonked ourselves on some seats and enjoyed a couple of beers, whilst we waited for the Cardiff City FC bus to drive past, spraying spectators with champagne, whilst one of it’s occupants belted out a karaoke rendition of champione.

Day 8 – Monday 6 May. We were due to leave Cardiff and head home but first the small matter of today’s run. Uplifted by yesterday’s run I decided the time was right to start my speed work and decided on my old favourite the 1,2,3. This time I left Carole at the hotel door and set off on my own. I felt good all the way to the park and was ready to put in some efforts. The first one felt really awkward and slow, I really wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing but I persevered and by the time I was on my 3rd rep I was feeling more comfortable. I still wasn’t able to go as fast as I’d like to but I was running like a proper runner again. 38 minutes later I was back at the hotel feeling pretty happy with myself. Then it was breakfast and the drive back home.

On the way home we visited Tredegar House and Country Park. This was the scene of Herne Hill Harriers BMAF Cross Country relay victory in 2005, when we surprised the mighty Bristol & West. I hadn’t been back since but the start and finish area still seemed familiar to me and I recalled Dave Robinson flashing past the house to bring us the championship ahead of Bristol & West’s Nick Rose. Oh happy days. Then it was back home and a chance to sit in the garden before the sun went down.
Nice setting for a race, especially when you win.
Day 9 – Tuesday 7 May. A busy day at work but in between client sessions I managed to find the time to do a 60 minute run. It wasn’t as fast as I’d done in Cardiff, but it was over the undulations of Tatton Park. By now the pain around my achilles was becoming minimal and I decided to try another quality run tomorrow.

Day 10 – Wednesday 8 May. I made a big decision last night, today I was going to run my fartlek course. This morning I did it, still not at 100% effort but a little faster over an intense course. Just a slight niggle around the achilles but nowhere near as bad as it’s been this last week. Now I’m really starting to feel confident and can’t wait to try it out in a proper race. Tomorrow is the Mow Cop Killer Mile, but I think it’s too soon, so I’ll leave that for Lee to smash. The big question is no longer can I get round a stage of the masters relay, it’s can I get round fast enough to justify a place in the Salford team. The body is definitely moving more freely, I’m getting faster all the time and I feel that it’s the stiffness rather than my lung capacity that’s holding my speed back. Once I’m clear of pain and stiffness I’ll be able to really turn on the taps and push my lungs to their limit.
While I’ve been hiding out in a pair of cycling shorts those that can have been running. One guy in particular just seems to be getting better and better the older he gets, Kerry- Liam Wilson, one of my Scottish rivals from Ronhill Cambuslang seems to be winning everything put before him and last weekend set a pb over the marathon 2:27.20, at Belfast, pretty impressive for a 42 year old, earlier in the week he’d run a 5k pb of 15:02, possibly even more impressive. Well done Kerry, hope to catch up with you soon.

Written by Roger Alsop

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