Category Archives: Recovery

Recovery? Don’t talk to me about cross training!

I have been going through what I think are fairly normal MdS withdrawal symptoms.

Getting back from an event which is in such stark contrast to most others, and far removed from anything most of us would experience in ‘real-life’ is bound the have such an impact.

Perhaps less so on those brave individuals in the armed forces, or perhaps civilian firemen, police, etc., who frequently put their lives on the line and who have a familiarity with imposed hardships and the challenges of being out of routine in physically and mentally demanding situations on a regular basis, since I believe that is part of the reason why people want to take up such a challenge.

[singlepic id=710 w=320 h=240 float=right]There is little in ‘normal’ life, in our cosseted modern western routines that can really satisfy what are probably primal urges and instincts to compete with others in physical challenges, where often survival may have been at stake and adrenalin fuelled success would have resulted in the ultimate proliferation of a particular branch of the gene pool.

Sound extreme?

Possibly, but imagine opposing tribes of hunter/gatherers, both chasing after dwindling stocks of wildlife before the onset of the winter season. It is not hard to imagine that the more successful persistence hunters might have successfully ensured the survival of their tribe through the winter while another failed and the impact on them would have been more extreme.

Still, back to the present and my recovery, which I glad to say has Β has been going well and I’veΒ not experienced any extremes; until yesterday, that is.

I had rather more swelling in my feet that I had realised, but I had been able to run a couple of times last week, and despite singularly failing to wake up for a long run on Sunday, I even managed to swim on Monday night.

Then things started to go horribly wrong. Tuesday’s has now transmuted to my cross-training day, and I duly went to the gym and cycled and did some squats and lunges, and although tough, I thought no more of it. Shortly afterwards I gave blood, and felt none the worse for that either.

However, two days afterwards, my muscles are aching an order of magnitude more than ever they were from 150 miles across the Sahara.

In one of life’s little ironies, I can trek my way through the toughest footrace on Earth without a hint of DOMS, but put me on a bike for 20 minutes and I may as well have been poked with hot needles dipped in vinegar for the last 6 months. The aching is starting to die down now, but I’m seriously considering whether my cross-training sessions will become a thing of the past after this week πŸ™‚

Sign Off

Almost two years to the day since the operation to fix my broken femur, I paid a checkup visit to the Physio earlier.

I hadn’t seen Stuart at Allen Physiotherapy in Guildford since before we went skiing last year; he is a skier and I am a snowboarder, so we had a little banter about that! However, this visit had been planned for some months, mainly as a checkpoint, with so long in between appointments due to my ever improving ability in the tests he sets me.

20130227-202804.jpgThe main test has been a strength / speed comparison between quads and hamstrings on a hydraulic resistance machine – a strapped in, seated leg extension and curl, using initially both legs, then right and left separately, for comparison.

This is the routine I have been doing every month to two months for the last 18 months or so, since getting back to running. 18 long months, which is significantly easier to look back on, see what has been achieved and reflect upon it, than it would have been to try to reconcile the hill ahead if I had been told at the start realistically this is what I was facing. Ultrarunning is so analogous to the journey through life it is great training – training for life, life from training. As many runners say, if you can see the top of the hill, run, if you can’t, walk; either way, keep moving forward and you’ll get to the other side eventually – just remember there will ALWAYS be another hill ahead at some point while the race is still on πŸ™‚

Today’s visit had a feeling of closure about it, even before I entered the room though; I was confident in the improvements I have made over the last few months, and unlikely with previous visits, I had no real ‘niggles’ to report or worry about. Indeed, after the success of my recent run along the Thames, I could hardly complain about anything!


So it was that we chatted and I completed the testing as normal, but everything felt stronger and more complete and balanced, if you will, than it has in the past, and this was confirmed by the figures the machine read out after each of my attempts to break it πŸ™‚ the key thing here was that the ratio of quad to hamstring was perfect (at least conventionally considered to be 0.6 H/Q) and more importantly the left to right absolute values were within 10% of each other, thereby reducing the probability of any other problems as a result of any imbalance.

So, with successful results behind me, I was signed off.

After two years of steady, consistent running, minimal ramping up, dozens of checkpoint physio sessions, even more x-rays, pool-resistance training, gym strengthening, cross-training and one ultra distance race behind me, I’m now, officially, back on track.

The MdS will certainly prove one way or another how my body, and I’ve no doubt my mind, can stand up to the test of such an adventure for the second time and for now this is my focus, but my plans and dreams for the future are now no longer restricted and my confidence is coming on in leaps and bounds.

Life is good.

After the Trot

The Thames Trot took a bit more out of me than I realised and one week on it’s time for a bit of a post-mortem.

During the week, I’ve run a few times, but my legs have definitely been tired. When doing the simplest things, such as climbing the stairs at the Waterloo when rushing for the train, getting moving in the morning, etc., I’ve certainly noticed more fatigue in my legs; more difficult to get them moving!

Muscle Soreness
Muscle Soreness

I’ve run a few times around the London streets at lunchtimes, 5 miles Tuesday, 4 miles Thursday and 6 Miles yesterday, and although the Tuesday run was difficult to get going, by Friday things were getting better. I reckon I’m still 20 seconds or so off my kilometre pace though, but I’m sure by the end of next week things will be back to normal.

Of slightly more concern is an ache in my back which occurred (ironically) after pilates on Monday lunchtime. I generally do pilates, as I’ve mentioned in the past, as I think it is good for core strength. I suspect doing this on Monday, so soon after the race on Saturday, with fatigued muscles, placed extra strain on my lower back which presumably had to work extra hard to compensate. So, this has been rather uncomfortable during the week, although interestingly enough, not just during running, and it is settling down now, with regular application of fisiocrem (which has anti-inflammatory arnica in it).

Of the rest of the aches in my muscles, I won’t give a whole list, but for my records the following are tight or aching during running:

  • Left Adductor
  • Left and Right Quad (Right more noticeable)
  • Left Hamstring
  • Lower Back


On the positive side, my Calves and achilles all seem fine, despite the cramps I experienced during the race in those areas, so that at least, bodes well for the mountains and dunes of Morocco.

Interestingly, I have read up on exercise induced muscle cramps over the last few days and it appears the conventional wisdom that the cramps are brought on by dehydration or a lack of sodium in the diet is incorrect. It seems to be more associated with muscle relaxing signals being suppressed, but I haven’t got to the bottom of how to prevent it yet, so I’ll leave that discussion for another post.

Aggressive Tapering

Well, today I completed my final run before my race at the weekend.


I normally carry out a certain amount of so called ‘tapering’, when the volume, and to a lesser extent the intensity of training is reduced progressively on the run up to a race. The theory behind this is that it allows the body to recover from the hard weeks of training and so be in prime condition for the race itself. As far as endurance is concerned, it takes the body two to three weeks to assimilate and benefit from the physiological effects of long-distance training, soΒ anything after this will have little impact on a race.

Unless, of course, the race is a training race πŸ™‚ and then one would only need a couple of days in which to rest and allow ones legs to recover!

Seriously, I did take it easy at the weekend, and have only had a couple of gentle runs this week, so I should be quite well rested by Saturday morning.

So now it is time for a bit of carbo-loading and ensuring I’m hydrated and then the game is afoot (been watching a lot of Sherlock Holmes recently!) and into the lap of the weather gods. The forecast is good at the moment, but the rain over the last few weeks has left the flood plains waterlogged so I’ll be surprised if we get away without any changes to the course.

Tentative Steps

Training this week has not gone too badly.

After my visit to the physio I have taken my first few tentative steps back outside with my trainers on. I say tentative because my foot still feels as though it has something amiss; some sort of stiffness in the upper-mid foot, so I have been taking it fairly gingerly. In fact, when I thing about it that could be why I am so slow at the moment, as I am probably favouring my right leg to propel me along the trails, while my left is in a guarded holding pattern around the airfield of full performance.

On Tuesday I did an easy 6km followed by Thursday’s 9km and then did some physio on Friday, with some gym running to warmup and cool down. Everything seems to be hanging in there at the moment, except for slightly stiff knees, which I have been expecting, but so far it not not an issue.

Not massive mileage, but a useful rampup week and a bit of extra distance on my trainers and in my legs and, more to the point, I am planning a long run at the weekend, on Sunday, so we will see how things go during that.

Test Run

After yesterday’s physio session, I should’ve been feeling a bit more positive about today’s test run.

However, after my last two ‘test’ runs had come up with a less than satisfactory outcome I have to say I was feeling a bit apprehensive about running while I still had an ache in my left ankle, but all the evidence seems to support the theory that the orthotics will reduce the stress on the posteria tibia tendon and hence allow the area under strain to rest and repair, so I was happy to give it a chance.

Posteria Tibial Tendonitis

I have been wearing my trainers while walking into work – a short mile from Bank underground station to Liverpool street, and today I had replaced the insoles with the orthotics, so this was their first outing.

They felt a bit strange even when walking and the aches and pains I felt in other places (which conceivably had been there all along, but I’d just not noticed due to my focus on my ankle) were also a bit worrying.

So lunchtime came and I could procrastinate no longer.

It had to be a short one as I had meetings and work to get back for, so I quickly changed and then sped up the stairs from our basement gym to confront my destiny!

My Garmin battery decided not to play ball, so yet again i was wearing my heart strap for no reason but luckily I had my iPhone to use as a backup, not that at this stage I was particularly interested in my pace or time, but mileage is still useful to know.

Throughout the early part of the run, from Hoxton to Islington, my legs felt heavy, but I also felt the inserts doing their work. My running fitness has declined a little, but after a couple of miles I was starting to get into a rhythmn and things felt a touch easier, although I seemed to be running into a headwind for the entire route, which was bizarre since it was almost an out and back.

On the past two occasions I had run, the pain only really became debilitating shortly after stopping, so I was a bundle of nerves for the next 30 minutes or so,conscious of every twinge or twitch which lasted more than a second or two.

Luckily though, none did and touch wood since then all has remained fine.

Speak to the Man

After yesterday’s shock news that the Amplatzer Septal defect occluder although seated properly seems to be ‘leaking’ we have obviously been concerned as to what exactly this means.

Liz has discussed with a number of her friends but none have sufficient depth of knowledge in what is obviously a highly specialised area to really be able to offer more than rudimentary comfort and support, which although welcome has not really been sufficient to allay her fears of what might happen, especially after being told worst case it could mean open heart surgery 😯

Liz managed to get a call through to Mr Ward’s secretary and left a message with her explaining that she needed to speak with him and needed to discuss her situation. As he is clearly a busy man, Liz wasn’t really expecting a response.

However, at 6:00pm she received a call back from the man himself.

He explained, firstly, that he did not understand why the doctor had asked for the scan at this time, only a month after the procedure to close the PFO, since he would not expect the heart muscle to have fully sealed around the device until at least 3 months after the operation, so everything was as he would have expected at this stage.

He stated that Liz should be doing everything that she felt she needs to do, in terms of her ongoing physical therapy and that he would see her in a month or so, as planned, to discuss and review her case, but a further scan would not be carried out until the three month mark. He confirmed that having reviewed her notes she had nothing to worry about at all πŸ™‚

I went for a run today and my ankle / foot still seems no better than it was three weeks ago after 8km round the city.

I hope I get similar good news after my next visit to the physio on Monday.


Cycle Circuit

As my foot is still not playing ball, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get out on the bike today.

Looking back, I was surprised to realise it was last October when I had previously carried out a long cycle round the Guildford area, which, clearly, had been the point at which my running had started to ramp up in distance.

Hilly cycling is actually supposed to be quite good cross-training for the legs, for uphill trail running as well, so I felt comfortable planning this for the morning. The only worry had been the weather, which had been good yesterday (Saturday) but was forecast to return to the recent normal inclemency later today. Still, nothing ventured….

Not where I cycled, but pretty anyway

I have tended to stick to the roads when biking, even though I ride a beat up old mountain bike which would be more suited to trail cycling, as it is more the time and distance that I want to cover, with hills thrown in. Today, I planned on doing the 30 odd miles I had done in the past, but with the addition of the few extra miles I had been running over my last few long runs, around the Surrey hills.

When I started out, I was lucky with the weather, and although it was a touch colder than I would like on bike with the wind, I soon warmed up and forgot the cold as I battled to remove the sweat from my eyes!

The route I took today has quite a pleasant warm up section to the south of Guildford before a steep series of hills as the climb over the North Downs is completed. On the other side of this, there is the complementary downhill though, and the route through Normandy, Pirbright and Mayford has a very slight downhill gradient which is interspersed with the odd short rise here and there.

From Send to East Clandon, the trend reverses though, and the average gradient is uphill for several miles, culminating this time in a long slow ride up to the top of the downs, some 10 miles to the east, as the crow flies, of where I had been just over an hour earlier. I was now on the part of the route that I had been running on recently and although my motive force was not quite as I may have preferred, it was still great to be doing the same route under my own steam.

Of course, after the hill, comes the downhill and this one was Coombe Lane πŸ™‚ I have done this in the opposite direction in the past and it is a challenge! This way is much more fun :wow: Unfortunately, the speed with which I covered the descent was over all too quickly and I now had another series of rises to contemplate through the villages I have come to know well in the Surrey hills; Shere, Farley Green and Shamley Green.

Knowing the route well is a huge advantage in my mind, as I’m sure it is in general. However, it is also interesting to notice that the perspective you get, on familiar routes, is totally different when on a bike. For instance, I find I am much more sensitive to changes in gradient on a bike compared to running, presumably because the differential between high and low speed on a bike is so much greater, a similar scalar is also applied to gradient sensitivity. Or maybe I just need to try a bit harder πŸ˜‰ I also find that the horizon on long straight roads approaches noticeably faster than the foreground when on a bike, almost like a depth-of-field compression effect. Most bizarre.

By the end of the ride, a mere 38 miles, my quads and calves were starting to tell me about it, after over 2 1/2 hours welded to the bicycle my ‘seat’ was in danger of losing all sense of feeling and my unmentionables will have to remain unmentioned.

It was a good ride though, and I was glad to have done it, and will probably end up doing the same next weekend too.

After all, I wasn’t overtaken by any elderly women with their weekly vegetable shopping in their front baskets, so I must be improving.

Rest Day 2

The good news is that my foot is getting better a lot faster than I had dared to hope and I may even be able to get down to the gym tomorrow for a light touch of cross training, although running is unlikely to be a sensible idea.

The limping has already ceased, I haven’t had to ice my foot today and my walking is almost up to normal speed as well, so I’m certainly happy with progress, less than 48 hours after my last run.

Other than that, nothing much has happened today.

For me.

Shambolic George

It has been another interesting day for the chancellor, George Osborne though, as he makes another embarrassing U-turn on his tax implementations promised in the budget back in March. Having backed down (a little) on the pasty tax, which was clearly unmanageable, but now changed it for something equally as confusing and complicated, he is now reversing his decision on the charities tax (cap) plan which seems to be equally as pleasing to both the charities and to the Labour opposition leader, Ed Balls, who is frankly having a field day at the moment without even trying. Young George seems to have picked his timing perfectly, however, as the Leveson enquiry was going through some more meaty enquiries today with the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who was involved in apparently inappropriate behaviour around News International’s BskyB takeover bid.

My life is so simple πŸ˜‰

Hot and Cold

Another marathon training run today. Literally.

One of the best things about distance running is the joy and elation you can get from the first sip of juice when you are finished. Indeed, on a day like today, the anticipation while you are running is almost unbearable, but equally a strong motivational factor to get to the finish as fast as possible!

In the past I’ve occasionally been prepared enough to get in some ‘For Goodness Shakes’ for after a run. It is absolutely the perfect recovery drink (IMHO) as when cold, it will cool you down, quench your thirst and also has the right balance of carb / protein and a number of other essential vitamins and minerals which a body needs after running for 4 hours πŸ™‚

For Goodness Shakes

I had purchased a couple of these yesterday, and although I started out early (6:45) for a Sunday, the heat was building for the last part of my run so I was thankful of my prize in store.

I took the same route as the previous couple of weeks, through the small villages of the Surrey Hills, again playing with the cyclists round the back roads, seemingly another organised event with drink stops and photographers this time, before descending into West Clandon and West Horsley and looping back up through the ex-farm estates, now big-money mansions towards the top of the Downs. The normal finish, through Newlands, where there was the usual Sunday bikers meeting, with shiney chromed Harleys, Ducatis, Moto Guzzis and big engined Japanese bikes, as well as a smattering of Triumphs, old and new all proudly on display.

I was glad to be home, having completed another Marathon distance run and although disappointed in the speed, given the heat, and the fact i was wearing a backpack, I was not surprised.

The family were still at church when I got back, so I sat outside and downed my superberry shake πŸ™‚ nectar!

When the family returned a few minutes later, I had not progressed much further than a cup of sweet tea and a bowl of corn flakes (with ice cold milk!) but another cup of tea, when offered, was most welcome.

It was then that the children decided, again, that they wanted to take advantage of the heat and sample some of our less than plentiful supply of local aqua with a water fight. As luck would have it, anticipating such a situation yesterday, I had purchased another couple of pressure water pistols for them, which they were delighted with.

Water fights have come a long way since my day (here it comes… Children today, don’t know they’re born!), from the little hard plastic guns you’d be lucky if you got a couple of shots from, with massively inadequate range and even worse targeting capabilities, to today’s electrical and pressurised behemoths some with backpacks, all with a much greater capacity and ranges that Olympic javelin throwers would be happy with, all of which significantly enhances the soaking experience with the children; yes, I did join in πŸ™‚ purely for medical reasons, of course as I wanted to keep my legs moving and mobile, so what better way than to chase the children round the garden having a water fight πŸ˜‰

Savannah had a party in the afternoon to which she needed dropping off and picking up, but other than that the afternoon was really spent lazing about. Even the kittens spent most of the day on the window sill, immobile in the heat.

We finished the day off with a rather ill-timed (late, but promised) game of Cluedo, which took a touch longer as there was first-time rule explaining to go through with the children’s, and anyway having not played for upwards of twenty years, Liz, Colleen and myself all had to remember the gameplay as well! Savannah did not really catch on to the game, but the boys were very excited to think they might have murdered someone under their parents noses, with a variety of gruesome implements, and actually be able to get away with it 😯

In the end Colleen ‘won’ but Luke was the most excited as it was his character who turned out to have committed the crime.