Category Archives: ACL

I say ACL, you say MCL – let’s call the whole (injury) thing off

At last – no longer just a decoration

I’ve decided (from the internet so it must be right) that what I tweaked was probably not my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) but my MCL (medial collateral ligament).

The two bits of good news are that I wouldn’t have been doing anything different in terms of rehab if I’d got the information right in the first place and, secondly, that the MCL tweak is probably the lesser injury anyway.

Although they say knowledge is power, I’m not sure any of this knowledge takes me forward much – it’s a ligament, it’s in the knee joint and I gave it a tweak. I’m fortunate that I didn’t do anything severe that might have needed medical intervention – I was pretty sure it didn’t by the fact that I could complete my run after first feeling it. One thing about running (even more than cycling) is that you get used to minor niggles and tend to know when they need nothing more than a bit of rest.

Thank goodness I didn’t tear it – that’s almost certainly a surgery case and could mean months out of action.

The knee continues to improve to the point where I got on the turbo on Friday evening. The turbo doesn’t involve any twisting, turning or impact but will start re-strengthening the muscles around the knee. It felt really good to be back doing some proper exercise, even if it was only 30 minutes for 14.87 km @ 19.74kph (9.24 miles).

Saturday morning revealed no adverse reaction to the turbo session – in fact, the knee was better so I did the turbo again that evening. The aim was more for the time than to go faster but I did manage another 30 minutes for an improvement to 15.69km @ 31.38kph (9.75 miles). Interestingly, much harder on the cardiovascular system than the legs.

Again, no knee issues on Sunday morning, and I declare it healed. I could run on it now – but won’t, just to be cautious. My ultra training plan says I start in March with a 31 mile week but I might not begin running again until February in order to build up to the big finish start.

Sunday we went out for supper with friends as we and 2 other couples take it in turn to host evenings to get through the first three series of Peaky Blinders.

Monday we left early to get up to Wigan. First to pick up our sons who took the train from London, then on to the crematorium and finally to the church service. I liked doing it that way – get the potentially miserable crematorium bit over with first and finish with the much more enjoyable, uplifting, service of memorial. As it was, both services were conducted by ministers who knew my father and, clearly, held him in high esteem. I come from a family of church goers (and am the black sheep on that score) and it certainly makes a difference when the minister knew the deceased.

My sister and I did a double act for the eulogy and then it was back for a bun fight at the place where his branch of the Rotary Club had their meetings and meals. The whole thing went extremely well – I think our father would have loved the whole day, and to me that means we did him proud.

I took some pleasure from the fact that the order of service revealed that he had 17 letters in his name – and 20 ‘qualification’ letters after it.

2020 vision?


Our sons came back on the 23rd and the Christmas Eve meal with my wife’s brothers and their families was excellent. We don’t all get together very often so the effort was well worthwhile.

Christmas Day featured a huge lunch (turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, sausages, bacon, carrots, parsnips, sprouts, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, cumberland sauce) washed down by a good wine. All lovely, but there may be some truth in the old “my stomach has shrunk as a result of eating less in recent months” as I didn’t want to eat for the rest of the day.

I have to get a bit more disciplined over big meals – I am quite good at eating sensibly when it’s not there in front of me, but if someone has been kind enough to prepare it and put it on the table, my discipline disappears. I think I’m getting more minimalist as I get older. I had a great Christmas but I’m wondering if we could do it with less food, drink and fewer presents.

On Boxing Day I took our sons to watch our local team, Swindon. Although I infected them with my own affiliations from an early age, I admire my sons’ determination to support our local side. We’ve been through a lot with Swindon over the years (including three defeats of increasing severity – 1-0, 2-0 and 4-0 – in three visits to Wembley) but they are currently top of their league. Admittedly it’s the lowest of the football league structure but they played pretty well in an emphatic and thoroughly enjoyable 4-0 win.

Our older son had to go back to London on Boxing Day evening. A really good few days.

Happily, the knee is a good deal better, and has needed no medical intervention. I took the new knee brace for a long walk through the fields on Saturday. It performed well and the walk was great, apart from a moment of carelessness when I kicked a thick and unyielding clump of grass and got a sharp reminder that the knee does not like twisting or lateral movement just now.

Drinks party on Sunday (the hosts are both doctors and there were, unsurprisingly, lots of other doctors in attendance) it’s amazing how many of them had ACL issues, but mine is happily pretty trivial. Our younger son went back to London on Tuesday and we hosted a New Year’s supper for some friends.

No running or cycling for over two weeks now, throughout an outbreak of good sense. I miss them and what with Christmas too, my waistline shows the price to be paid.

… and so ends 2019. Not a bad year, I loved the Rotterdam Marathon (and our younger son breaking the 4 hour mark), I had a great time cycling out in the alps (twice) and walking in the Lake District was terrific, as always. All overshadowed by my father’s death in December, but even that came with great gratitude for a (very) long life, well lived, and a real appreciation that he did not have to suffer any long drawn-out illness or slow but inexorable decline.

2020 is the year of the ultra marathon and getting back on the bike. I can’t wait (but in a rare outbreak of good sense, I’ll take it easy while the knee heals).

Wishing everyone a great year – as my mother-in-law used to say ‘I wish you everything you would wish yourself’.

2019 sign-off

We have a family rule that a fridge magnet and a Christmas tree decoration have to be brought back from any foreign holidays. Frequently a challenge for visits to non-Christian countries!

I feel that I should apologise – this is supposed to be a blog about taking on challenges in cycling and running – and here I am being very cautious with the ligament tweak, doing nothing beyond sit-ups, press-ups and the like.

Although my normal approach would be to ignore the injury, carry on and make it worse, this time it’s very minor but I’m being more sensible and am embracing the rest.

Our older son was home for the weekend with his girlfriend, he and our younger son are back on Monday and on Tuesday we are hosting my wife’s two brothers and their families for lunch. After that it’s just the four of us for a few days over Christmas, before the sons head off back to London for New Year.

So, concern over next year’s sportive and ultra marathon can wait for now and it will be back to the running and bikes in the new year.

I wish everyone who knows me – and everyone who doesn’t – a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2020.

Although this year is tinged with more than a little sadness over the loss of my father last week, I’m comforted that he lived a (very) long and full life – and would have absolutely hated any loss of faculty or independence resulting from increasing age or infirmity. I’m pleased too that he loved living with my sister and brother-in-law for these last few years – and that they didn’t have to cope with him in any significant mental or physical decline.

That’s all four of our parents living in their own homes right up to death or short final illnesses, certainly something to be most grateful for. Getting through the funeral in the New Year will unlock what I trust will be a great 2020.

Injury – staying positive (or making the best of a bad job) and keeping it all in perspective

So many shoes, so little chance to use them

When you’re injured it’s easy to obsess about what you can’t do. Having tweaked a knee ligament running on Sunday, I decided to spend some of Monday finding out what I can still do.

I can still do quite a lot. Press ups and sit ups and crunches all seem OK, once in position. Calf raises and even the plank routine look possible, although I’ll give the ‘right leg raised’ plank a miss for the time being and take it easy on the side planks.

None of those involve any great movement in the knee and my right leg can take more than its fair share of any ‘posture’ work that is necessary.

Equally, upper body exercises are OK so I can still bench press, bicep and tricep curl (with my usual rather puny runner/cyclist weights, of course).

Putting it another way, although I think I could do them all, I am not going to try running, cycling, rowing, lunges, squats, leg curls and extensions. That’s a bit of a downer for someone who likes to run and cycle but it could be worse.

I might even try a bit of swimming front crawl, with minimal leg kick?

The knee improved even during Monday and I slept well Monday night. Tuesday, more improvement.

Looking on the bright side:

  • the injury could have been a lot worse, especially as I was stupid enough to finish the run with it;
  • I can do more than I’d expected, despite the injury. It’s very minor and no medical intervention is necessary;
  • the timing could have been much worse – it’s well before training starts for the White Horse Challenge sportive or the ultra marathon (and I’m happy that I’ve done nothing that prejudices the skiing early next year); and
  • the achilles tendons and calf muscles are playing nicely at the moment – the break should see them right for when I get back to the running and cycling in the new year.

Back to Wigan on Wednesday to visit my father in hospital again, grateful that the new car is an automatic (but setting a new personal worst of over 8 hours of driving).

Saddest possible post script. My father died peacefully on the Thursday morning, within a month of his 96th birthday. I’m so pleased both our sons saw him in good health and fine spirits in the last couple of months, and that my wife and I went up on Saturday when he was alert and so happy to see us. He was a fine man. It puts everything into perspective. RIP.

Turbo, hospital, run, ouch

Not sure I can do much of this – or anything else for a while

On Friday it was the turbo – 22.33km in 45 minutes @ 29.6kph (13.88 miles @ 18.4mph). OK, but I’ve got to get back to an hour or more per turbo session.

Saturday we drove the 7 hour round trip to Wigan to visit my father in hospital for an hour. He’s had a slightly checkered few days but was on the up when we saw him which was really good – but there’s quite some way to go before he’s close to being discharged. Christmas back with my sister or in hospital?

Less than two weeks ago I was foolish enough to say that for now, no injuries, Achilles tendons behaving and weight under control.

Although I was realistic enough to know that was too good to be true and it wouldn’t last until next year’s cycling challenges or the ultra marathon in July, I had thought it might last beyond Christmas.

No such luck. For my normal 10 and a bit km on Sunday morning I was wearing the compression socks and some other long warm socks to help the calf muscles and I’d warmed the legs up carefully. All was going well until, at about 6 km, my left knee hurt but I (probably stupidly) carried on.

I had no idea what I’d done but I finished in a bit of pain (and strangely at about 5m 30sec per km). There was no swelling and the knee was perfectly stable – and on the bright side the calf muscles are OK. It’s certainly not worth going to a doctor on the basis that I could still run with it.

The knee did not seem to appreciate 2 hours standing at a drinks party at lunch. I guess I’ve tweaked a ligament and I feel cheated – I didn’t do any of the things that cause such an injury – no twisting or turning, no jumping, no sudden movement.

My guess is that it’s a minor grade 1 niggle – the knee is still perfectly stable but I’ll take myself off running for a week or two (or three?), the big question is what can I do safely in the meantime?

If anyone asks you what you’d like for Christmas, I’d suggest that you don’t put in a request for a ligament tweak.