Tag Archives: running

All going downhill from here?

One of my favourite places – Les Carroz d’Araches, in the Haute Savoie, France

If there is a list of things not to do just after hurting a knee ligament, I expect skiing is towards the top of it. So, 4 weeks after spraining mine, I went skiing.

The drive to the Alps was trouble-free (but 13 elapsed hours which is a bit of a pain in general, and a bit ache-inducing for the knee). We could fly but we were being joined by our sons and one of their girlfriends so we drove and took a car load of our and their stuff while they were able to fly, a couple of days later, with just hand luggage.

I was reasonably sure that the knee was going to be OK to ski on – it’s just that I was equally sure that if I fell and twisted it, I was in for a very painful experience.

I considered loosening the binding on my left ski so it would come off more easily if I did fall – but it occurred to me that loosening the binding made it more likely that I might fall in the first place, so I didn’t.

Losing a ski because you fall is one thing, falling because your ski comes off feels much worse.

Of course, the falling over bit would not be a big issue for an expert skier – but nobody has ever accused me of being that. I am a reasonable skier for a 64 year-old Englishman who didn’t learn to ski until he was almost 30 – but that does not set the bar very high.

For me the conversation is more likely to go ‘why do you ski so fast?’ to which the correct answer is ‘because I’m not good enough to ski any slower’.

A good skier flows down a piste, embracing it, rather like water. Me, I rather wrestle it to death.

We took a day off on the Monday after Sunday’s dive out there and sorted out the apartment – but then had two glorious days skiing under clear blue skies. The snow was a bit thin on lower slopes but was in very good condition. We collected our sons (and a girlfriend) from Geneva on the Wednesday evening and had two more great days skiing on the Thursday and Friday. On Friday we were even the first on the slopes – although I’m not terribly keen on having to set an alarm when on holiday (or when not on holiday, come to think of it).

It snowed Friday afternoon and evening, which made Saturday’s skiing spectacular – although the weekend was rather chilly and a bit busier. After years of the misery of fitting snow chains I got winter tyres for the new car. Although they weren’t needed all the time, they worked fine when they were.

Older son and girlfriend also skied on Monday morning and then we took the three of them back to the airport for afternoon flights. For them, 4 and a half days skiing for just 3 days off work – an efficient use of their holiday entitlements.

We drove home on the following Saturday, after a few more excellent days on the slopes.

I skied reasonably sensibly and managed to have no falls – they say if you don’t fall, you’re not skiing hard enough, but I can live with that.

The knee worked OK and must have been helped by the knee brace but ached on and off throughout the holiday – especially if I tried to be more aggressive on the slopes – but without ever really hurting. One good thing about wearing a knee brace – it introduces a new highlight of the day ….. taking it off when you finish.

So, now back to training for this year’s cycling and running, injury permitting – but from what sort of fitness base will I be starting?

Another four books read during the holiday:

The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan (a fairly simple but entirely charming book, well worth a read)

The Neighbour – Fiona Cummings (an enjoyable crime/murder/thriller)

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion (a very enjoyable and different novel with some fascinating insights)

Dark Water – Robert Bryndza (a pretty decent thriller, in my opinion)

2020 vision?

WAIT FOR IT …..

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.

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.

Run, run, gym, loft boarding, gym, Snow Patrol and a General Election

Snow Patrol (again)

Saturday morning’s run was the regular 10 (and a bit) km – about 6.3 miles. A tiny bit slower than the last couple of times but the speed is probably the least important thing about it at this stage.

Both calf muscles were sore after the run, so Sunday’s cold and windy run with my wife was on heavy and slightly painful legs – but that made it about 16.5km (a bit over 10 miles) for the two days.

No such leg problems in Barbados – but those runs were shorter, slower and on more forgiving sand so perhaps that made a difference. It’s a bit of a worry but for now it looks like it’s back to the (deservedly) much-maligned long white compression socks during and after runs – and more attention to warming up before, and stretching afterwards.

Monday morning it was back to the gym and on Tuesday I drove to Bournemouth to prepare for the phone line fitting on Wednesday (including boarding out a part of the loft so the engineer could route the new line through it). Loft boarded and internet now working.

In recent months I’ve been quite good at doing planks daily (the routine is for 5 minutes of plank variants) but I’ve now added press-ups, sit-ups and crunches. In theory it’s to help the core for cycling and running, but I’m sure there’s more than a bit of vanity in it as I try to pursue a flatter stomach. I doubt that a six-pack is within reach – and I think it would be a bit weird on an old bloke in his 60. In the unlikely event that I ever achieve one, I’ll keep it very much to myself.

Gym again on Thursday morning and then up to Kingston-upon-Thames on the edge of London for a Snow Patrol concert – my wife is very keen on them. Another performance in a small night club venue like the one we went to a year ago (and standing in the very front row again).

They were excellent, but that’s four times I’ve been to see them and not one of them has ever bothered to come to watch me run, cycle or work out at the gym. Where is the give and take in that?

To London after the concert, only to be woken up at 2am by another alarm-alarm triggered by a power outage, like the one in October. When we got back it was the mains trip switch again – blasted thing.

No party politics here, but we had another General Election on Thursday. As the years go by I find it more difficult to find one party that offers a total package that I like. The party I tend to think of as being likely to run the economy better is not necessarily one I’d prefer to see spending the money.

The Conservative Party had a significant win which probably highlights two things: first, the all-consuming importance of Brexit; and, secondly, a negative perception of the leader the Labour party and the direction he was taking it. Even the eternally important mantra ‘(it’s) the economy, stupid’ looks to have taken a bit more of a backseat than usual.

The more I see of politics and politicians, the more I wonder if anybody should ever vote for someone who puts themselves forward for high office (although I appreciate that would make elections difficult).

Turbo, hospital (visiting), turbo, gym and a village on high alert

What danger might lurk down the most innocuous of lanes?

Based on a sample of one, I am all in favour of winter holidays to escape the cold weather – the only drawback is that when you get back it feels even colder than it would otherwise.

With a hotel holiday there is also the weight gain of course. Somehow, the week in Barbados only accounted for about an extra kilo – just over 2 pounds – which is more than strange considering the cooked (and continental) breakfasts each day and the 3 course evening meals. Both those issues are a price worth paying, I think.

If the house were a ‘lock up and go’ sort of place we might even be tempted to go away for longer. Potentially, that would be great for the running and cycling if we found somewhere a bit cooler than the Caribbean. Unfortunately, houses over 400 years old are rarely ‘lock up and go’ and the village is on high alert at the moment after apparently being ‘cased’ recently by some unsavoury characters known to the police.

A chap came down the village, house to house and into gardens, while lining up a brood of children in front of properties, ostensibly taking a picture of them but actually photographing the house behind them. We had a house-sitter for the trip to the Caribbean and hope that our alarm system is a good deterrent (not that we have stuff worth stealing – it’s just a requirement of the property insurers). I hope the alarm box came out clearly in the photos he took of our house.

It’s sad to think that we don’t have to make the house absolutely secure (although we do take a lot of care over that), we just have to make it look less attractive than neighbouring properties. Not exactly the community spirit I’d like.

In fact, part of me thinks that we are probably safer than normal for a few months. If I were a burglar, knowing that the casing of the village was spotted and the chap taking the pictures was captured on a few CCTV cameras, I’d expect the village to be on high alert and so I would wait wait for a while until everyone forgets about it and lets their guard down a bit. Our guard is permanently up!

Anyway, back to England, rested and relaxed, and back on the turbo on Tuesday – a very hard 30 minutes but quicker than expected, at an average 32.3kph (20.1mph).

Not quite back to the normal exercise routine yet, as my father was taken ill while we were away (a fairly innocuous cough that became a proper chest infection) so I drove up to Wigan on Wednesday to visit him in hospital. Unfortunately, on Tuesday he was moved from a ward that had pretty well open visiting times to a ward allowing just one. So, seven and a half hours in the car (4.5 hours there and 3 back – oh, the wonders of driving late at night) for an hour’s visit. Happily, he’s improving but that’s not a quick job at 95.

Turbo again on Thursday, not wimping out at 30 minutes like recent times. I pushed it to all of 45 minutes at 30.9kph (19.2mph). Gym on Friday morning – the first time for two weeks and it was suitably hard, although I just managed the normal weights.

For now, no injuries, Achilles tendons behaving and weight under control. Too good to be true – no doubt, it won’t last until next year’s cycling challenges or the ultra marathon in July.

Ultra marathon? – all sorted (oh, apart from starting training and actually running it)

Rotterdam – site of this year’s marathon, and blessedly flat

For my 3 marathons so far, ‘run all the way’ has been target No3, just behind ‘get round safely’ and ‘try to enjoy it’. Having now signed up for an off-road ultra, early research suggests I need a rethink.

Although I’m sure there are many great athletes who run ultra marathons from start to finish, it seems that, for a mere mortal like me, a run/walk approach is recommended. I’ve seen claims that incorporating, say, a minute of walking for every 10 minutes of running can perhaps double an individual’s effective range.

Instinctively, i’m the sort of person who would prefer to run until I could run no more, and then walk the rest. Apparently, that doesn’t work well for an ultra as the walking miles are likely to be something of a death march – the benefit of recovery while walking needs to be taken regularly and before it is too late.

I’ll need to practice the run/walk to see how it works for me but perhaps the walk bit could be used for the steeper uphill sections?

I don’t mean to underestimate the challenge but I can’t help but think that as my ultra is ‘only’ another 8km (5 miles) more than a marathon, I could keep with ‘run all the way’ and just do normal marathon training (plus a bit). However, my occasional lucid moments tell me that those who have completed ultras know much better than me, and I’ll find that ‘just’ those 5 miles, the hills and the absence of a good road surface will make a huge difference.

So, being too far away to start any specific training i’ve been doing the next best thing – researching on the internet. Recognising that internet research is a dangerous thing if I have not been able to separate the wheat from the chaff, more key learning from my reading so far:

  • losing weight is a good idea (well, how did they think that one up)
  • hydration and nutrition are vital (ditto)
  • don’t get injured – who, me?
  • there are 4 feed stations on the route – only 10 km between them so it looks like carrying one bottle will be enough, unless it is very hot
  • that might mean just a running belt to hold the bottle and some snacks?
  • I need to run on the Ridgeway in training – partly for familiarisation, partly for the training benefit and partly it will help decide on appropriate footwear (will running shoes be enough?)
  • I can keep cycling (good cardio exercise and easier on the body than running)
  • I can keep up with the gym (especially good for the core)
  • the 16 week training schedule I found that started with a 31 mile week is not by any means out of the ordinary! Damn
  • back to back long runs seem to be a vital part of the training. Double damn.

It’s just possible that next year could be a bit tough. The training now won’t help with the cardio aspects but I can carry on because I enjoy it – and any strengthening of my core and legs will be a bonus if taken through into the early spring.

How hard can it be …