Monday, 17 August 2015

The 'come back' continues...

Almost 2 months in and still injury free.

The back is still giving me some trouble but I'll talk more about that another time.  Its manageable.  I really must get around to doing some core work and booking some physiotherapy as recommended by the specialist.

However, putting that completely to one side, I'm getting on with things as best I can and am slowly (with emphasis on the word slowly) getting back to fitness and I feel encouraged by my progress.

My mileage is back on an upward trend.  Averaging just shy of 24 miles a week over the last 2 months.  Not a huge amount but its a lot more than I managed between April and June.

As you'll see from the 5k, 10k and 10mile indicators above, I have cut my distances right back in order to come back slowly.  No point in rushing back to run major distances until I've got a race booked and then training can start in ernest.  That isnt likely to be until later this year.  The legs are getting stronger though.  The recovery is getting easier.

Now I'm beginning to run pain free again, its time to start mixing things up and scheduling in some dedicated sessions.  I've already done one speed interval session which I will start to increase my reps and I'm about to start regular hill reps to build my strength and power.

Most importantly, I seem to have found my self-resolve with the intake of calories...

Not a single day over my calorie limit of 1,770 calories a day since 12th July, just over a month or so ago.

As a result, I'm now within 4lb of my race weight.  Not far off at all, after feeling like I was miles away from that target only 6 weeks ago.  As the weight comes off, the legs get quicker and the strength and power comes back.  With some dedicated intervals thrown into the mix, I'll be maximising the progress curve.

...(cont 16/08/2015)... since writing the above, I've actually done my first set of hill reps.  It wasn't fun and it hurt a lot but you know it will make all the difference...

Watling St near my parents house makes for the ideal hill.  Not steep by any stretch of the imagination but its a lung buster.  I've ran it many a time over the years and know the bits that hurt.

The first three reps were consistent but my legs had pretty much had it by the 4th rep.  Then I managed to find a tiny little bit more for the last one.  Working some hill reps into the schedule once a week will pay huge dividends.

I'm also starting to work on some speed reps...

Much nearer to home, I'm now running the local block, concentrating on some short bursts heading down Sutherland Avenue, Northbound.  Only just less than 1/4 of a mile.  As you'll see above, I ran the loop anti-clockwise, so the 1st rep is part of the warm up.  The plan is to do this at least once a week and to increase the number of reps each time.

Since coming back, I seem to have lost what speed I had so its imperative I do something about it.

So all in all, things are most definitely looking up right now.

I will be heading to Spain for a week in 10 days time, so I'll need to take my running kit with me just to make sure I can keep things ticking over.  I'm not prepared to let things start slipping again.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


I popped in to see my parents last night and my Mum greeted me at the door...

"Hello.  Blimey, are you feeling ok?  you've lost a lot of weight?"...

Now that was music to my ears quite frankly.  Well at least its beginning to notice then.  As I blogged a few weeks ago, the plan has been to concentrate on what I'm eating, cut out as much crap as possible and get myself back on the straight and narrow, meanwhile attempting to up the training efforts where I can injury permitting.

First, lets look at the diet...

43 days in, I'm doing more than ok.

37 days under the 1,770 net calorie target and 6 days where I've crept over.  There was one weekend away in that at the beginning of July which meant no training, otherwise my progress has been more than acceptable.

I'm averaging around 1,202 calories a day and have run up a total calorie deficit of 24,411 calories.  The weight loss is now kicking in and my running is benefitting hugely.

Of course, what with injuries, running has been very difficult in the last few months but I've managed to get back into some sort of routine over the last 6 weeks and it shows...

With the possibility of two more runs left in July, I will have racked up more than 90 miles this month.  A huge improvement given the disappointments of May and June.  Hopefully, August will see further improvement.

At this point, I'm still 100% certain that I made the correct decision in pulling out of the Berlin Marathon as early as I did.  In terms of marathon training, I'd have two months left now and would have been running up in the high teens now in terms of distance so I dont think there is any doubt the decision was correct.

The fact that I've managed to get the miles in this month is testament to the fact that my back is getting better.  It is nowhere near being 100% but its manageable at this current time.

Thanks to Alison's BUPA cover, I booked myself into see a specialist, Mr Colin Natali at the London Independent Hospital, just around the corner from my office in Whitechapel.  Mr Natali sent me for a MRI and this is the result...

Now that you can see there is a cross section of my spine.  Lets take a look at the more common view of a spine which will allow me to explain what is going on here.

As you can see from the diagram on the left, the spine is split into different areas, C1-C7, T1-T12 then L1-L5 and S1-S5.  The vertebrae are most made up of water.  Did you know that?  No, I didnt either!  Anyway, the MRI scan show that I have 'dehydration' of the L4/L5 and S1 vertebrae.  That means that instead of the usual 90% water content, my lower back is around 78% and this causes the fluid sack to bulge against the nerves.  I've got a small right-sided bulge why I get a lot of discomfort in my right groin and right bum cheek and down my right hamstring, the common sign of sciatica as it presses on the sciatic nerve.

So thats the diagnosis.  Cure?  Hmm.  90% of people respond to physiotherapy and pain management through pain killers.  A small percentage of people end up having surgery.  Fingers crossed the physiotherapy works for me.  As yet, I havent booked the physio but I need to get a move on.  Although I'm not suffering from discomfort, I am experiencing a lot of stiffness (ooooh er missus, someone call the innuendo police!)  I feel ok when I'm moving about but first thing in the morning and whilst sitting down for long periods at work, it takes me a long while to get upright (oh for goodness sake, do stop it!)

So, all in all, things are definitely moving in the right direction.  I'm feeling much better in myself, both physically and mentally.  Running like a non-runner (pardon the expression) for the last few months has been exhausting mentally.  When you've run 26.2 miles and then struggle to run 5k only 2 months later, you'll know what I mean but I'm most definitely on the way back up to where I should be.  Happy Days!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Was Brighton only 2.5 months ago?

Was it really only 2.5 months ago?  It feels like a bloody lifetime away now...

Apologies for not updating the blog sooner.  There's been an awful lot going on at home, so the blog has very much taken a back seat for the time being.  Let me fill you in on what has been going on.

After Brighton, the plan was always going to be that I was going to take a few weeks off, recharge the batteries and come back fresh, ready to take on the Berlin Marathon in September.

Two weeks off, then back into it all be it slowly and struggling.

Alison and I went on our long planned holiday to Mexico (see the pics here) at the beginning of May.  Keeping things ticking over in Mexico from a running perspective was virtually impossible.  I've never felt humidity quite like it.  Its fine just sitting by the pool or on the beach but as soon as your heart rate goes above 130 bpm, I'd liken it to running in a shower.  Uncomfortable didn't even cover it.

Then there was the food.  Despite only being away for 10 days, I made the most of it.  I don't think there was a day in the ten where I only had 1 course for breakfast.  You name it, I'd eaten it.  I haven't eaten as unhealthily as that in a good 4-5 years and it resulted in me ballooning.

The first morning back in England and getting on the scales was a massive shock.  I've lost 12lbs since but I need to lose another 6-8lbs sharpish so I can get back to enjoying my running again.

Since we've been back, the last two months have been very stop-start and I seem to be getting no where.  My Asthma has played up and I lost a week of training then I tweaked my back bending down to get my running kit out of the washing machine.  I've lost a good 12-14 days of training on and off due to the Sciatica flare up, treated primarily with Naproxen (an anti-inflammatory), Diazepam (a muscle relaxant to stop the muscles spasming) and the pain managed by Co-codomol.

With the lack of activity over the last 2.5 months, it's been a huge shock how quickly my pre-marathon form and fitness has dropped off at an alarming rate.  3 months ago, I was running 22 miles in training at a comfortable sub 4 marathon pace.  All of a sudden, running 5k at 9:30 min/mile pace two days in a row is a massive achievement.

Sciatica has been dogging me for the best part of 4-5 weeks now, so I've asked my GP to 'refer' me to a specialist, using our private healthcare.  Hopefully, the specialist will get to the bottom of the problem quickly.  At the moment, any long spell sitting is playing havoc with my back.  It stiffens quickly (come on people, clean thoughts here!) and going from a sitting to standing position takes time and it takes me a good while to get properly upright.

Marathon recovery, holiday and injury = bye bye 100 miles per month minimum target :( 

Along with an almost constant niggle in my left Achilles Tendon and right Hamstring after Brighton, I made the decision to withdraw from Berlin and all future races until I'm ready to race again.  I'm not willing to run the worlds quickest marathon course in the worst shape possible.  I want to be firing on all cylinders again before I even contemplate it.

The way I feel at the moment, I may well have run my last marathon.  Yet again, my marathon recovery has been nothing worse than shocking.  Ok, I've had a long holiday, put a bit of weight on and been struggling with a few niggles but in myself, I feel worse than ever.  Given how great I felt in March and at the beginning of April, I find this a massive surprise but I can relax in the knowledge that it'll hopefully only take me 2-3 months to get back into shape again but obviously out of contention for Berlin but just in time for the London Marathon ballot where a decision can be made if needs be.

Right, let me move away from running for a moment.  There's been a couple of other big changes in my life...

I met Alison just over a year ago now.  Our first date was in the Bull's Head at Chislehurst and got on like a house on fire.  Second date, she fell into my arms (literally - she claims she wasn't drunk but knowing how she does like a glass of red wine, she's got no defence!) and the rest is history...

The last year and a bit has been out of this world.  We've been to Amsterdam, Venice and Mexico already and we head out to Spain in August to take Izzy on her first sunshine holiday and I just cant wait to see her face when we tell her we're finally taking her on a plane when we see her this weekend.  

Al and I in Mexico

Al has opened up my eyes to a world that I didn't really believe existed.  One full of happiness and laughter.  Thinking back to May 2008 and the conversation with my parents about would they mind me sleeping on their sofa for a couple of days until I got myself sorted (which then turned into two years lol), I'm a million miles away from that now.

Al has also opened my eyes up to a whole host of different things.  Geordie Shore, Love Island (yeah, you 'crack on' love, I've just been 'pied' WTF?!?!)...Masterchef Australia, haha what other crap TV has she inflicted on me?  I remember the look on Al's face when I took her for dinner in the We Anchor In Hope in Welling.  It was one of 'this man needs some educating'.  Well she's done a pretty good job of that thus far.  Jeez, I've even developed a taste for red wine!  I never expected that.  It has been a year of many firsts for me and Al is the main reason behind them all.  Likewise, Alison has been getting to grips with words not so familiar in her football, running, cycling.  She's so supportive in all I do.  She understands why I feel the need to get up early on a Sunday and run 18 miles for 'fun'  (although she still thinks I'm mental!) She pretty well knows me better than I know myself.  She's just bloody awesome. 

The best thing of all, I've had the pleasure of Alison meeting Izzy and seeing their relationship develop.  Lets not forget here, we (Izzy and I) came as a package.  Not many women would take a man and his daughter on but Al has welcomed us both with open arms.  Izzy and Al gang up on me terribly and we have so much laughter together.  It's so good to see them get on so well together.  Izzy thinks the absolute world of Al and that makes me bloody happy, I can tell you!

Part of me feels like I'm living a dream of a kind.  This time last year I was living in a two-bed flat in Welling.  All of a sudden, I'm living with an awesome woman in a big house in in Petts Wood.  I couldn't imagine my life without Al now.  

So as it happens, I asked Al to marry me.  Thankfully, she said yes.  Something I learned a long time ago, you have to live for the moment and live each day like its your last.  We could have dated for another year and come to the same conclusion.  So there you go.  The man that vowed never to marry again is getting married again.

So yes honey, I do love you and now you've got it in writing too so you can always go back and refer to this.  I remember a while ago you said I dont ever write about you.  Now I have lol.

Right, enough of me being a total wuss.

There's one other big change going on at the moment.  My brother and best-mate, Steve, has/is moved to Liverpool.  Well Birkenhead actually.  He has found love too.  Many of you will know what Steve has been through so I cant begin to tell you how happy I am for him.  That really has been the cherry on the top of the icing as far as I'm concerned.  Of course, from a selfish view, I wish he was still down south but hopefully this move will be the making of the new Steve.

I've met Steve's girlfriend Lindsay a few times now and I like her a lot.  Al and Izzy like her and the old dears seem keen too.  She's Steve's dream woman by the looks of it and I'm just so pleased for him that he's found some happiness in his life too.  He is well overdue some luck and happiness.  We're looking forward to spending some good times with them in the future, up in the North West and back in London and the South-East.  (So when did you say the Liverpool Marathon was, Lee & Dave?)

Steve's in the process of shifting his stuff up North and trying to find a job but given his skill set, it really shouldn't take him long, fingers crossed.

Best of luck matey :)

Oh...and no more borrowing cars.  I've got my own again.  After 5 years of pleading with the old man to borrow his Honda Civic and spending the last year using Alison's 4x4, I've finally got my own motor again.  A nice little Ford Focus (little compared to the 4x4!)  Sensible choice I think.  Cheap to run, fun to drive.  Oh the joys of having my freedom back again, so I'll be able to drive myself to races and long training runs with the Plums, then Alison won't think her car has been stolen and calls the Police!

Home Sweet Home by dusk in Petts Wood

So all in all, live is pretty damn good right now.  You can't ask for any more than that.  Unusually, I don't have an awful lot to moan about at the moment.  Alison may tell you otherwise ;)

[Update:  I've now seen the Spinal consultant.  He has ordered a MRI scan and depending on the results, he'll advise on best course of treatment afterwards.  To be continued!]