Injuries and the need to build strength

It has been 24 days since my last run.

Pre-Nov, this year, there was only one week in June when I did not run at all. I completed my highest ever monthly mileage at 120 km in October and began Nov with an ambitious 30k. It was very slow, a bit painful, I wanted to give up and cry, but I ran / walked / crawled through the distance. I was super happy when I finished this run. My right leg was in a lot of pain that day post run and I had decided to give it a couple of days rest but by Thursday (4 days post run) I started to panic – my shin / tibia has still not recovered after 24 days.

30Km run - Richmond Park

30 km run at Richmond Park on 1 Nov 2015 – slow and painful but super happy me when I finished this run… have been injured since.

I had a pretty good first 5 months of the year where I improved my 5k and 10k time consistently and increased my long runs and did 2 HMs. The second half has been on another pole with mental slack, laziness, illness and injuries.

My running has been pretty inconsistent since the Edinburgh Half Marathon at the end of May and through the summer – it was close to zilch except for a short spike for 2 weeks in July. No strength training and no spinning too – I was just lazy, enjoying the summer, basking in the glory of the first half of the year and did I say, just being lazy. A pretty bad run on 6 Sep in the Kew Gardens 10k (where my dad and Ranj did so well) – a day after we were back from a 10 day double holiday – jolted me up and I started my autumn training. I wanted a sub-2 hour HM before the end of the year and also wanted to increase my weekly mileages – in preparation for the Brighton Marathon in April 2016 and possibly a beginner ultra, sometime in 2016, may be Dec 2015 (yeah, I am only a tiny bit ambitious like that). And this is what I did:

2015 weekly run mileage

All good. Except I was still not doing much strength training and not going to the spin classes for cross training. Unlike a lot of runners / people I know, I have been sitting on my ass for the last decade and more without any exercise – until I started the couch to 5k and started running in early 2014. So all the muscles in my body get used to laziness and weakness quite easily. Glutes, calf, quad, hamstring, core – you name them, they are all weak. And that increased mileage, while nothing for most human beings, took a toll on my body. In hindsight, yes, the twinge has been there for at least a month before that 30k run – I just put ice and continued running assuming it would get better. And it got worse. I haven’t run for 24 days and I can still feel the twinge even when I walk. The pain became much worse when I ran 10 steps (literally just moved fast from kitchen to bedroom) – one day last week, playing ball with the boy. I took me 2 hours of rest and ice pack to recover!

One of the most frustrating things in the last few weeks has been that I am doing nothing other than rest and still the pain hasn’t gotten better at all. I want to be doing something more for recovery but I don’t know how to expedite the health care system in this country. I wanted to get back on my feet as soon as possible and hence opted to use work provided health insurance (with Aviva who have referred my case to HCML) to see a physio. She suspects a stress fracture and hence after 19 days of admin (after first contact with insurance), an MRI scan has been done yesterday. Frustratingly, I don’t know how many more days of admin before they see the results and can start my rehab procedure :(.

Not running has been vexatious for my mental state. My productivity levels are worse than ever. More time on my hands (and legs) have not resulted in getting anything else done other than spending it in front of the TV. Work has been distressing too. I am trying to keep my head occupied, trying

My ambitious head plans races before my legs can cope. My head is strong enough that I can convince myself to go out and train. But the body is still not strong enough to take the training. I need to build strength (Repeating it to myself, I need to build strength). I will focus on this for recovery and beyond. It is going to take a while but I know the consequences of not doing this now.

As usual, lots of plans for 2016 – a lot of changes required in training… I need to recover and get through 2015… but if I could get one more run before the end of the year, I would be the most jubilant person ever!

Running & Cycling – what else do I talk about?

First things first, I ran the Edinburgh HM at 2:12:33 (6.13 min / km) – four minutes slower than my target, but I was happy with the progress I had made the previous few months.

  • Ran my highest ever mileage month in April at 105 kms (followed by 90 kms in May)
  • Did a ton of 5k PBs which gradually moved up to 29:10 and also did my 10k PB during the HM at 1:00:20
  • Learnt how to pace myself and not run all out in the first 5k of a 20km run! The HM route was ideal to do that sub-1 hour 10k but I held myself back and reaped some benefits in the next 10 kms.
  • Worked on my leg strength which helped increase the cadence to 184 spm (more purple than blue on my garmin 🙂 ) and the stride length at 0.87m during the HM (both metrics better in shorter training runs – but happy I could got these for the HM distance)

Finishing the Edinburgh Half Marathon at 2:12:33

Other good stuff:

  • Track – leading up to the HM, focussing on the speed, I should have been doing some interval training but ignored this all the way. One my colleagues insisted I join a running club and do track sessions (structured interval sessions). I had heard / read the same from a few others and kept postponing and at last decided to give it a try last month. PhoenixTri were the only club that did their track sessions late enough in the day (8 pm) for me to join after work. I have been diligently going for these sessions for the past month but too early to see any results in my longer runs – actually, I haven’t been doing much longer runs (see below) and that’s the reason I am not seeing any results! But the third time I did the track session, I know I did it faster than the first time and I can say that’s all that matters (I am still getting used to the metrics / lingo and 200m, 400m and 800m lap times others talk about on the track – newbie alert 🙂 )
  • Cycling – this has been much ignored since I rode the Ronde / Flanders in April 2014. The winter cross-training consisted of 1-day spin class every week on Tue evenings. Little did I know that this would actually be useful 🙂 I have done a 45km ride, 65 km ride and a 75 km ride this year (80kms a couple of times and a 100km Cambridge ride were the farthest I have ever ridden in a day AFTER a season of training!) followed by a Duathlon (5km run, 21.2km bike and 2.5km run) and I have also ridden faster than I have ever ridden in my life (thanks to one of the PhoenixTri members who pushed me to use the bigger gear on the flats and downhills, basically taught me how to ride a bike with gears 😉 )
  • I have signed up for a 100km ride in August which goes up Leith hill and Barhatch lane – tough and steep (what was I thinking!) It’s a month away and I have a holiday in-between – I better get climbing!
Phoenix Tri 75km ride

75km club ride with Phoenix Tri

Surrey Sportive

65km Surrey Sportive

Now for the things that are not going so well:

  • I lost some of the running / exercising mojo in the month of June. I did only 32 kms running in the month and 2 strength training sessions. I haven’t hit the gym till date in July!
  • I did my June Yateley 10k run 3 days after the HM and did well with a time of 1:02:44. With fresher legs and better weather (with everyone I know bettering their times and PBs), I flunked badly at 1:05:18 for the July run on the same course 🙁
  • I haven’t run a sub 30 min 5k since my PB on 30 April! My cadence graph is only blue these days (the gym is staring at me saying you know what you are ignoring).

So to get back into training mode,

  • I have done four days of at least 5k runs this week – to be finished off by the 5th run tonight before the holiday begins tomorrow evening.
  • I have to – have to – have to better my time in the final Yateley 10k on 5th August.
  • Have a weekend riding plan of climbing and distance to accomplish in the next 4 weeks leading to the Surrey Sportive of 105 kms and 1150m of climbing on 16th August.
  • Force myself to get back into the gym and do some strength training at least once a week
  • Do the calf stretching routine at home every day – I really don’t want the injuries that are trying to show their nasty head
Eton Dorney Duathlon

Eton Dorney Duathlon

Yateley 10ks

Yateley 10ks – highly recommended!

And hopefully that will continue the training to achieve that sub 2 hour HM before the end of the year!

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Couch to HM – My running journey for a year and beyond

One cold but fine day in Dec 2012, two of my male cousins sprinted up Box Hill. The 33 37 year old beat the 27 year old. But there was the 30 year old me who was struggling to keep up with the pace of the walkers. I always told myself I have the stamina to walk however long I want – little did I realise that is just mental strength. My 6 month old dog was running back to me every 2 mins and questioning why we weren’t moving faster around this big green space!

Today when I speak to many of my friends (especially back home), I hear all those excuses I gave myself – we have all given up thinking this is what happens when you turn 30. I was 50 Kgs when I finished undergrad in 2003. I was almost the same when I went to Bombay in 2006.

I was 65 Kgs when I last checked my weight in 2013. (I am barely 5 feet tall!). Biscuits, Pizzas, Eating out, Evening Snacks and No exercise. I was looking ugly in the pics and I just hid them all thinking this is what happens when you turn 30.

That’s me in Aug 2013.

Aug 2013

Something happened in me that day when I saw the boys run up the hill. It was another 6 months before I did anything about it though.

A had tried Couch to 5k (C25k) and was upping his running distances quite a bit – he could climb all those hills on his bike (had had ridden at the Flanders twice by then) but running was a new domain for him and he seemed to be loving it. Slowly without any expectations at all, I went for that first C25k run in Aug 2013. It is a 20 min set of 8x 1 min jog + 1.5 min walk. All I wanted to do was finish it – and I can still feel the happiness inside me when I think of that day. Yes, the 4th jog was difficult, and I was just hoping the 60 secs gets over as quickly as possible for the next 4 turns but yes, I could do this! The only thing I promised myself was that I will get out 3 times a week as per the plan and try and do as much of it as per the plan – it doesn’t matter how slow I am, all I wanted to do was follow Laura (the NHS podcast girl all C25K runners come to love 🙂 ). The plan repeats the same run 3 times during the week before progressing to the next stage the following week (2nd week was three runs of 6x 1.5 mins jog + 2 mins walk). I could see that the third run was always a tiny bit better than my first run each week which gave me the mental confidence needed to move to the next week (the first run of every week I would always come home and crib how hard that run was and how it is getting more and more difficult).

It was not all easy. We were moving houses at the end of the summer and at the end of Week 4, I stopped the runs. I was busy shopping, setting up the new home and settling in. In Dec 2013 when I saw that 65Kgs on the scale, I started again. On 29th of Dec, I went out again for Week 4, Run 2. I almost died doing the Week 5 Run 3 – 20 mins continuous jog – slow, slow and very slow, I think I was walking and telling myself I was running! but I completed the plan and for the Week 9 Run 3 I went on to do my first Park run on 1 Feb 2014 🙂 which was a disaster in the mud and I came last (by a big margin) at almost 48 mins 🙁 .

As any runner will know, there are good runs and bad runs and ok runs – it all comes as part of the package. Running a 5K was a big achievement for me and in a couple of weeks, in better conditions, I could do 45-46 mins. And then I did a park run in 40 mins by the end of March!  All through the C25k and beyond, given my body wasn’t used to all these workouts, one of the painful things I had was shin splints. A’s advice helped me here – ice packs after every run whether there was pain or not. Recovery is as important as exercise. I wasn’t going to run consecutive days and ice ice baby.

I had to now focus a bit more on the cycling as I was doing the short distance (80Km) at the Flanders in March. My next big celebration was when I rode up Box Hill on my bike without stopping (I now know it is one of the easier climbs, but back then it was the ultimate climb for me 🙂 ). I had ridden tougher ones before I went up there but I was happier when I went up Box Hill in one-go! With the Flanders done in March, I took a long hiatus in April and May and slowly got back to running again in June. I registered for a 10k for my Birthday weekend in July and slowly started increasing my 5k runs to 6 and 7ks. I did my first 10k on the 5th of Jul in 1 hr 18 mins. My actual event 10k on 26th Jul was slower than that – 1 hr 21 min (bad run day 🙁 ).

The only way I was going to continue running and motivate myself was to register for the next event when I finish one. I work better (I only work) with deadlines and challenges! Next up were:

  • Kingston run at 13Km on 12 Oct – this was finally my first good run on race day and I smashed a 5k (35:33) and 10k (1 hr 14 min) PB :). The 13 Km took me 1 hr 38 mins. I was getting better – I was running sub 8 mins / km pace.
  • Leatherhead Duathlon 3k run, 10k bike, 3k run on 19 Oct – my first Duathlon and an opportunity to take my bike out for the first time after Flanders! The realisation of how difficult it is to do the second run after riding the bike 🙂

Last year A had done the HumanRace Winter Trail Series and I decided (still trying to figure out why I did this and why I want to go back and do this again!) to try my leg on a different kind of (hillier muddier) challenge. I was running up Curling Vale (long but gentle climb) more often and also tried jogging up the Mount (steep long one) a couple of times. WildMan on 22 Nov was a good introduction to the trail hills followed by a good run at the tough Iceman on 7 Feb 2015 and a bad slow jog / walk to finish the tough tough MudMan on 7 Mar 2015. I was slow, one among the final few to finish, but I really enjoy these runs and will definitely be back 🙂

I also started to increase my distances (more 10 and 10+ kms leading to a 16 km run in 2 hours in Richmond Park on 29 Nov) in order to be able to run a HM distance before the end of the year. I logged my highest monthly mileage in Nov at 70 Kms. But Dec was a write-off month with only 13 Kms in total! In Jan, I decided to sign up for HumanRace Garmin Race Your Pace HM around the Eton Dorney Lake on 28 Feb. Now that I had signed up for an event, I was back to training. In Jan I did 5 runs for 60Kms. Feb training was another 5 runs for 50 Kms including a 20Km run and a 5K PB (31:51) just two days before the HM!

Running hills and increasing distances did have an adverse impact on my right knee. Rest and ice packs didn’t make it better. Driving 2 hours every day was making it worse. Internet searches asked me to do glute and quad strengthening exercises but all these were greek to me and I got bored doing reps of these without knowing what I was doing. I needed a plan and I needed someone to tell me what to do. I also wanted to work on my speed. I signed up for a 4 session S&C coaching program with Surrey Sports Park and asked for a running specialist coach. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better – I met Stephanie Twell who was patient with a newbie like me and showed me nuances on how to strengthen / activate different muscle groups that aid running. Within the month, I could see the impact of weight training and my speeds were improving a tiny bit every other time.

When I registered for the HM in Jan, a decent time in my head was 2 hr 30 mins. Anything below that I was going to be happy. My 20k run on 14 Feb took 2 hr 29 mins. I told myself I am going to push to get inside that 2 hr 30 min I wanted to do for 21 Km. On the night before my HM, I felt confident. I felt good that Sat morning. It’s been a long time since I felt this – a nervous feeling when I don’t want to disappoint myself when I have prepared well.

I started off with 10 min / mile pacers and I was surprised I could run faster than them (albeit only for a short while). I smashed another 5k PB at 31:13 and a 10k PB at 1:04 🙂 I knew that the next 5k is important as I will flag after 15 km. I did slow down behind the 10 min pacers but I kept them at sight for another 4 kms. The 15th Km was tough and I was flagging – my slowest km at 7:44 mins. Slowly started picking up again to get back to low 7:05 – 7:10 mins / km for the next 3 kms. At the 18 Km mark, the 11 min / mile pacer caught up with me. She was my much needed saviour. The final 3 Kms were all run with sub 7 mins / km pace to finish in 2:21:44 🙂 at 6:44 mins / km (11 mins / mile).

I couldn’t be happier with my run. I just did my 21 Km run, 7 mins faster than my 20k run two weeks ago.

When I ran my first 5k in Feb last year, I definitely didn’t think I could run a HM in one year and definitely not that pace! 🙂 I am used to my Garmin showing 8 mins+ a km for anything longer than a 5k 🙂

And that’s me in Feb 2015.

Feb 2015

I exercise to get fitter, stronger and feel better. Weight loss and looking good is a nice and very welcome side effect (I don’t hide my pics any more 🙂 )

Next up is Edinburgh Half Marathon on 31 May – I want to do 2 hr 8 mins. Looks difficult, but now that I have put it up here, I promise to give my best 🙂