Category Archives: Achilles Tendons

Foot management. Pairs of shoes: 1 black, 1 deck, 3 cycling, multiple running (and not a Vaporfly in sight)

Just a few trainers

I suffered with my Achilles tendons throughout training for April’s marathon. They didn’t stop me running but I cut out hill and speed work to protect them – and they still hurt every morning.

Early in the training I got some Asics Gel Nimbus running shoes that I thought would be well cushioned and good for high mileage but they came up a bit high at the heel and irritated the tendons – thus disproving my claim when I got them that “If I can’t run in these, I can’t run in anything”.

Then I stumbled across some Puma 500 Ignites (because they were cheap and bright red/orange) and they worked a treat – I trained and ran the marathon itself in them. I bought 2 pairs and have got to the end of the useable life of one pair, but when I went to buy another, it seems that they are now not made in men’s sizes (if made at all).

I’m all for progress – and it may be that whatever has replaced them is better – but it’s a pain to have to try something new when the old was perfectly good and, as an under-pronator with dodgy ATs, suited me well.

I resisted the momentary temptation to consider the Nike Vaporfly series. They seem to have worked reasonably well (!) for Eliud Kipchoge but the one time I suffered with Plantar Fasciitis was when I got some running shoes with stiff soles. I don’t know how my feet would react to carbon fibre in the sole – or how I would react if I’d spent £240 ($310) and not been able to use them.

I have nothing but admiration for people who commit fully to their running and go for broke on the best shoes but I think I’ll just deduct 4% from my times and know that’s what I would have done if I wasn’t so mean …… and I doubt they are very good for trail running anyway!

I’ve just got 2 pairs of what might be the Puma replacement for my old shoe – they are a bit odd as they have a sort of netting leading up to an elasticated cuff around the ankle. So far so good but goodness knows if they will work for me in the longer term.

And yes, now I’m retired I have just one pair of ‘proper’ black shoes, pretty much worn only at weddings, christenings and funerals (may it be mainly the first and second of those).

One wedding and no funerals, plus a World Cup semi-final (and gym, turbo, run)

Back to the mean streets of Little Coxwell

On Saturday we were at a delightful (very wet but who cares?) wedding – a lovely god-daughter of my wife. The venue was excellent but a bit of a way away in Somerset, so we stayed overnight.

It was a great weekend, the only downside being that I missed watching the second half of England’s magnificent win over the mighty New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-final. It seems that life is conspiring against me as I missed the second half of the quarter-final win last week too.

Next Saturday is a travel-free zone as nothing is going to get in the way of watching the final against South Africa.

Back to the gym for a tough hour on Monday morning. A lighter morning as the clocks went back an hour on Saturday night, but the first frost of the autumn (happily I had already brought in the olive trees, the geraniums and the lemon trees).

I’d shaken off last week’s aches and pains but was carrying the burden of the wedding reception meal (and drink) and the best thing about staying in a hotel … the cooked breakfast. Normally I’d not eat breakfast but if someone is prepared to cook it for me it seems rude to refuse.

Another 3 hours on a second bonfire Monday afternoon – probably one more to go before I break the back of the disposal of the beech tree cuttings. True to form, I have some mild burns and the beech trees managed to trip me over twice while I was working. Happily, nothing damaged this time, other than my dignity.

I decided to let myself off the planned turbo session Monday evening – I was so tired it would have been embarrassing.

The bonfire was still going on Tuesday so I burnt some more stuff and chopped some wood – but I did get to the turbo in the evening for 30 minutes – 14.74km @ 29.48kph (9.16 miles at 18.32 mph). Breathing hard and dripping with sweat, despite the unheated conservatory. I am now sharing the conservatory with over 50 plants of one description or another, I hope they appreciate my carbon dioxide production.

A 6.1km run (3.8 miles) on Wednesday morning with my wife, complete with a bit of pain in both calf areas. It’s well above the heel on both legs but I’m now wondering if it’s (yet again) the Achilles tendons – this time just at the top of the tendon instead of being down by the heel like before. The information online seems to focus on Achilles pain being down by the heel so I’m not sure what this might be.

One to keep an eye on (and to keep stretching) but an annoyance rather than a big issue at present.

Challenges for 2020 – madder than usual

The Ridgeway – route of The Race to the Stones

After the cycle ‘everest’ in 2017 and last year’s solo ride out to the alps, I promised to do no silly solo challenges in 2019. I’ve kept to it, neither the Rotterdam Marathon nor the Ride London were solo.

However, I am completely sure that the promise was limited to 2019 so all bets are off for 2020 so ‘silly’ is permissible – possibly even ‘mad’ is allowable.

The current thinking revolves around cycling, a marathon, a triathlon and an ultra marathon. Specifically:

  • to give the White Horse Challenge a real go in April, with the aim of finally breaking 5 hours for the 150km ride. That takes care of the early part of the year as it will require some proper training of the sort I rarely do in the first few months (being a cold weather wimp). The plan is to ride at least 1000 miles before mid-April and perhaps a trip out to an early season training camp?
  • to have a go at the ‘Race to the Stones’ in July. I was tempted by the full 100km route but doing ‘just’ the second day of the event (50km starting from near Wantage and finishing in Avebury) seemed slightly less mad, given that this will be my first ultra marathon, and it being along the Ridgeway and not on nice flat tarmac. My usual gym companion had mentioned doing this but seems to have decided not to – shame. I have entered although I don’t see how I can get a full training plan in around the White Horse Challenge so I think this will be less of a race for me, more an extended run/jog/walk
  • I’ll try to be fitter for my weeks cycling in the alps to be closer to the front up the mountains than I was this year (not that we are competitive, of course). The focus on running for the Race to the Stones might not help much
  • I’ll do a marathon later in the year – possibly Bournemouth (where we have a house) or Abingdon, (near to us in Oxfordshire) or (more exotically and harder to get into) Berlin – but the aim will be to go under 4 hours, aged 65. With luck, both sons will run with me this time (‘with’ being a word to describe being in the same race, not denoting running together for very far)
  • I’ll get back in the pool and see if I can fit in a sprint triathlon in 2020 and improve my swimming sufficiently to go for an olympic distance triathlon in 2021.

No real idea if any of that’s achievable and there is a huge amount that could go wrong and ruin it all – but it’s good to have some targets in mind.

Gym, gym, run, turbo, cycle training, gym, run. A cornucopia of delights.

Bournemouth, with the Isle of Wight in the distance

A benefit of retirement is the lack of pressure to cram in exercise at the weekend. I was creaking by the end of last week, we were out for supper on Friday and Saturday, and so exercise took a back seat.

On Sunday we had a trip to Bournemouth to pick up the bedding and towels used by our friends over the previous week and a walk down the seafront to a cafe was about as vigorous as it got. The really strong wind we were walking into on the way reminded me that if I ever run the Bournemouth marathon I may need to find someone big to shelter behind along the promenade.

All that meant I was more than ready to get back to the gym for an hour on Monday morning – and back again on Tuesday. I’m enjoying the gym more than I expected. It’s partly the convenience in that I can set aside about 90 minutes and that covers the travel, the getting ready and changed after and an hours decent exercise. It’s probably also the variety that it offers and the strange satisfaction to be gained by lifting heavy bits of metal. I must be careful to remember that I go to help with my fitness for cycling and running, but for the gym itself!

I ran with my wife on Wednesday morning and later did a hard 30 minutes on the turbo, at just over 32kph (20mph).

Thursday was back to the cycle park for more training sessions. The first round of sessions was so successful that we’ve done a second week – great feedback from the children and their parents. It’s very rewarding to see children who arrive with little confidence and unable to ride, leave feeling good about themselves and confident on two wheels.

It’s odd how approaches to relatively simple things change over time. I remember learning to ride a bike with steady wheels, and our sons learned the same way. Now, the approach is to use balance bikes (no steady wheels and no pedals) that are scooted along and promote balance. It seems an obvious improvement as steady wheels actually remove the need for balance.

I know that the basic balance bike design was invented in the late 1700s but I wonder where the idea of using it as a learning tool for children came from. I think it may be the founder of Strider Bikes back in the early 2000s? Brilliant.

I spent the afternoon sorting out one of the bikes we provide for older children to practice on, which was stuck in top gear.

I went through a reasonably tough exercise routine on Thursday evening, I was back the gym on Friday morning and ran with my wife early on Saturday morning. While she did hill reps I was kinder to my Achilles’ and ran around the ancient Badbury hill fort – in all just over 6km (3.75m). I enjoyed it a great deal but could feel the week’s accumulated fatigue.

That’s it for the week’s exertions. Seven sessions in 6 days is plenty for me. Overdoing it is bad news at any time but, as you get older, it feels even more important to allow for recovery.

Current physical stocktake: around 67kg (148lbs); resting pulse just under 50; Achilles tendons, better than they have been; knees, not too bad; shoulder hurt skiing, much better.

Transcontinental Race

My congratulations to everyone who took part in the Transcontinental Race. 160 riders finished and 101 scratched (including the one who is still shown at the start). Particular credit to two intrepid ladies, not in their first flush of youth and riding as a pair, who arrived at the finish on Thursday, some 3 days after the previous finisher crossed the line and 16 and a half days after the winner (the winner took only 10 days). Remarkable resilience and determination.

Run, gym and (minor) bike mechanics

After the sportive it was London on Sunday to take our sons for lunch to celebrate the older boy’s birthday. On Monday morning I ran down the Thames Path, 7km (4.3 miles), surprisingly at sub 4 hour marathon pace.

It was a very good run in warm, but not stupidly hot, weather. The only down-sides are a slightly sore left knee and painful calf muscles. I guess that I’ve not been exercising them very much while I’ve been protecting the Achilles tendons. I’m sure it will all improve.

I am continuing my one-man attempt to bring to London the habit of saying ‘hello’ to other runners as you pass by. On this run I got a response from 5 out of the 13 runners I saw. Admittedly, a lot were wearing headphones or earpieces of one sort or another and might not have heard me, but I’ll keep at it.

Gym on Tuesday for a bit over an hour. It was very good apart from the chap who insisted on singing along (rather tunelessly) to the music on his headphones. I don’t mean to be a miserable old git but if I wanted karaoke …

As part of the gym exercises I did the planks routine and then decided to see if I could do a straight 5 minutes of plank as well. The good news is that I can, the bad news is that my lower back was sore for the rest of the day so I missed the evening’s planned turbo session. I suppose the other bit of good news is that my painful back took my mind off my painful calf muscles.

They say that people perform better if the ‘package’ feels good – decent kit, nicely maintained and presented equipment. I don’t know if it’s true but I washed and oiled the bike and put new bar tape on it on Wednesday. The old tape was the original from when I bought the bike 4 years ago and was tatty beyond words. More workman-like than expert, I replaced it like-for-like with black tape. I’m sure it will make the bike go faster (though not as fast as if it had red tape, of course).

I’m going to need all the help I can get on the Ride London sportive, surely the new tape will help?

My heartfelt congratulations to:

  • Egan Bernal for his Tour win (the first of many, all being well),
  • Geraint Thomas for his immensely graceful acceptance of second place
  • Juilan Alaphilippe for lighting up the whole race
  • the Irish cricket team for giving England plenty to worry about in the early stages of their recent test match
  • Fiona Kolbinger, the first woman ever to be in the lead of the Transcontinental Race. 4 days 7 hours in, she is in front by 35km having stopped for less than 20 hours in total.

Cycling stocktake (and I find myself rather short of stock)

Enough of this ‘why aren’t I cycling?’ and ‘I’ve got to get the bum on the saddle’ – on Monday I actually did get on the bike and go for a ride.

The Achilles tendons still aren’t great and the torn calf probably isn’t fully healed but they were all good enough for cycling and I’ve been prevaricating for too long.

Foolishly, I did my usual test route – the one I do every now and again to gauge how fit I am and how the cycling is going. I always push fairly hard on this route which is about 28 miles (c.45km) and flattish (280m or 920 feet). The last time I did it was back in September 2017 and I clocked a p.b. of 1 hour 28 minutes at 30.9 kph (19.2mph). This time I managed 1 hour 33 minutes at 29.2kph (18.1mph).

It was an unfair test given how little I’ve cycled this year, and considering that September 2017 was just 2 months after I ‘everested’, but it puts down a marker. It also suggests:

  • the training for the marathon in April has helped,
  • the gym has helped,
  • I haven’t forgotten how to ride a bike,
  • but there’s a lot of hard work to do before the trip to the alps

More importantly, I really enjoyed it.

So, it’s back to the cycling now – it will be kinder on the Achilles tendons and I’ll see a bit more of the countryside than by running my usual routes. I’ll miss the running but it will be interesting to see if a break from it (other than shorter, gentler runs as my wife’s unpaid personal trainer) will sort the ATs out.

Row, run, cycle – but taking time to smell the roses

Chelsea Flower Show

After Monday’s London run I gardened on Tuesday. Having cut a whole 3 seconds off my 2000m rowing time at my 2nd attempt, at the gym on Wednesday my 3rd attempt took another 28 seconds off (now down to 8m 42s), although still not feeling 100%.

I suppose that’s encouraging but if I’d known it was going so well I might have eased off a bit to keep something in hand for the next attempt. I assume the improvement is just a bit of familiarity with the equipment so perhaps next time will just be consolidation.

I’m still wondering whether the gym will add much to my cycling. I’ve always taken the view that cycling must use all the muscles needed for cycling – but the gym is a nice social diversion from other training (if I were ever to get back to doing some) and, with my focus on the legs and core, it can’t be doing any harm … can it?

In the afternoon I was at a local junior school helping to give cycle training to some 11 year olds. They could all ride but we were also assessing them with a view to taking them out on the road at the start of next term. It was enjoyable and all the children were pretty good on the bikes – although the bikes were a rather motley bunch in terms of style and road worthiness!

Back to Bournemouth on Thursday, continuing to clear the garage and garden. With a fleeting visit, no running (I didn’t even go to the beach to check that the sea is still there) – but back to the gym on Friday morning – I did the 500m rowing machine sprint for the second time and at 1 minute 57 seconds I took 2 seconds off my first time at the distance. My gym companion thinks the machine I used this time is the harder of the two – I’ll check next week.

After the gym, it was up to London for the Chelsea Flower Show. We tend to go every few years to get some inspiration for the garden – but fail to implement much (if any) of it. Still, it’s a good day out. This year was very enjoyable in good weather – even though it was a bit too crowded for my liking. Great show and artisan gardens and outstanding exhibits in the Great Pavilion. I’m not sure if I’m inspired or intimidated – probably both.

I ran in London on Saturday morning (about 4.3miles – 7km). It went well to the half way point but then my recent right calf niggle became a current right calf pull. I finished the run at a hobble and well over a minute per km slower than the first half. How do I train for, and run, a marathon in April with no muscle issues, only pull one on a reasonably gentle 4 mile run the following month? It hurts a lot – but at least that takes my mind off the Achilles tendons.

We drove back to Oxfordshire later with our sons who came back for the Bank Holiday weekend which is good compensation for the calf.

  Indoor rowing  
Attempt No. 500 metres 2000 metres
1 1minute 59 seconds 9 minutes 13 seconds
2 1:57 9:10
3   8:42