Speed Vs Aerobic Endurance

An article from the Competitor Running website showed up in my Facebook feed today and I thought I’d share it as it’s something that resonated more than the other 50 running things I’ve glanced at today. I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a problem with endurance. I find 21 km races very challenging and am a long way from attempting a marathon. Yet, since I returned from injury in October I’ve been doing weekly speed workouts with the F1 Running Club and I’m faster than I thought. I’m fast for very short distances. My 12 km race last weekend went well and I ran at my best race pace yet, though for the last 2 km I felt nauseous, though I was only maintaining my pace not increasing it. In previous long races I’ve blamed the nausea at 10km onwards on gels, but I’ve given up gels so what caused the nausea on Sunday? Well, after reading this article, my latest theory is that the nausea is an indication of my poor aerobic endurance. The solution I think is to do more frequent and longer tempo runs. I think. I have until mid-March until I attempt another half marathon so I’m going to work hard in the next two months on pushing up my aerobic endurance. Tonight though, I’m off to my running club to do 5 x 1km. Yep, that can make me feel nauseous too. If only I could run without my belly!

Here’s the link to the Competitor Running article: Speed Vs Aerobic Endurance

Strava to the Rescue (of my ego)

My husband is a very keen and competitive road cyclist who spends most Sunday mornings dragging himself and his hideously expensive (to a non-cyclist) bike up hills on the outskirts of KL. After each ride, he usually sits in front of a computer and analyses his ride data, and tells me that he’s just been declared King of the Hill, or fifth fastest ever on a stretch of road, that kind of thing. The ride data is assessed on a website called Strava. I will admit that my eyes have frequently glazed over at the sight of Strava, spotted over my husband’s shoulder. Until yesterday, that is, when it attracted my full attention for the first time.

Yesterday, being a holiday, the routine went as usual. My husband was on Strava, looking at the data from our run the previous day in Bukit Tunku. The website collates running data as well as riding. ‘You’d probably be Queen of the Hill on some of these route segments here,’ my husband said.

Whoa! Hold up a second? What!? Faster than it takes to set up a Facebook page, I registered on Strava, uploaded over 400 runs from my Garmin watch, and found that yes indeed, I had set course records (CR), personal records (PR), and even Queen of the Hill records on a variety of run segments that are popular locally. I received a deluge of virtual medals and trophies.

My Strava accolades
My Strava accolades

Now I’m not getting carried away with the glory of all this virtual ego-boosting as none of the fast runners I know are on Strava, but still. If you’ve read my previous post – no? – then off you go and do that now here and please come back.

Back? OK. Where was I? Race anxiety, that’s where I was, setting PBs in training but failing to come up with the goods on race day. Strava means that my training runs are recorded and visible so that when I do manage to run my fastest, the results are visible online, and if they are good enough, I receive a little virtual trophy for a course record, or a medal for a personal record. As someone who tends to run fast for short distances, way shorter than most races, it means I can still get recognition for my short, sharp bursts of speed. Unfortunately my happiness is a bit too dependent on recognition – other INFJs will understand 🙂

Strava is really a social networking site for people who love to run and ride, a place where it’s perfectly acceptable – indeed it’s de rigeur –  to advertise your latest athletic accomplishment, be it a 150m hill, or a 7km loop, without fear of alienating your sedentary friends. You can also comment on people’s training sessions and Like (give Kudos to) friends’ runs or rides.

Stravaprofile

I’m thinking too that it’s probably a great way of discovering new running routes too, something I’ll be facing when we relocate mid-year. The site is free, though Premium membership – my husband has it – provides lots of extras such as pace analysis and goal setting. I’m not quite ready to commit the money just yet but I suspect that like joining Facebook and Twitter, it’s probably inevitable now that I’ve discovered the site.

Here’s a link to my Strava profile if you want to follow me there, and I will return the favour. At the moment, I only have one Follower. My husband, of course 🙂

When Self-Doubt Takes Hold

Last week I blithely, yet proudly, mentioned to a friend that I had done a PB on the hilly 7km loop from my house through Desa Sri Hartamas/Mont Kiara. My father-in-law had just died suddenly and unexpectedly in Denmark, and my husband had flown home for the funeral, so I guess I was using my legs to blow out some mental cobwebs.

‘Oh I never run PBs in training,’ my friend replied matter-of-factly. A-ha! Of course she doesn’t. Just this past weekend she stood on the podium of a 15km race and received a well-earned trophy for third place. My friend, and probably most runners, keep their best for race day. Most runners, aided by adrenaline and motivation to succeed, can out-perform themselves when there’s a medal to be gained. However, I find that nerves get the better of me so that my adrenaline levels peak before the race begins, and I’m lucky to make it from the portaloo to the start line in time for the gun. For my last race, I didn’t even manage that!

In the run-up to the MPIB 2014 12 km race next Sunday, I have found myself crippled with self-doubt. I have a a severe case of performance anxiety, so bad, that yesterday I was wondering whether it was time to drop this whole racing lark altogether and just run for pleasure. (I’ve had similar anxiety issues about work in the past so it’s not as if my personality isn’t being consistent). Despite my injury, I’ve trained hard in the past 12 months, and I can see from my Garmin logs that my training pace is noticeably higher than it was in December 2012. I’ve also done speed-work since September, something I had never heard of a year ago. So, on paper, anyone would expect that I will run faster in this year’s race than last, when I was unexpectedly awarded 10th place and won some nice prizes and a trophy. This time, I’m terrified that on race day, I won’t be able to come up with the goods, that I will fail to get placed, that I won’t live up to expectations.

The philosophy about running for fun, running to be part of something whether it be a community or a race, has been somewhat overwhelmed by anxiety over whether I can out-perform myself (and others) in this upcoming race. I think it’s safe to say, that even if I’d been born with Paula Radcliffe’s lungs and pre-injury legs, my brain would have sabotaged any chance of World Championship medals. It must take an astounding level of mental toughness to withstand the expectations of a nation on top of one’s own expectations, at a task at which there is only one chance.

This morning, in an attempt at quelling my nerves, I ran much of the MPIB 12 km route with my husband. Last year I remember cursing aloud good-humouredly as I struggled up some of the hills. Despite the physical effort, I enjoyed the absurdity of the situation I had put myself in at sunrise on a Sunday morning. This morning I wasn’t cursing so much but aware that my suffering was self-imposed, I was metaphorically shaking my head at having signed up for a race at all! Darn, but it was hard going. Of course, running hard is similar to childbirth-once home I was hit by a sense of achievement and euphoria, the physical sensations felt en route slightly forgotten.

The route for the MPIB 12 km is very, very challenging with much of the first 5 km uphill. Anyone who completes the race in any time deserves a bloody medal – and should feel a sense of achievement and boost to their self-esteem! Somehow, in realizing this today, I recaptured a sense of why I run, and why I need to push myself through my fear of races. My body is capable of far more than my mind will ever give it credit for and my mind has been doing a fairly decent job lately of sabotaging my running joy. This morning’s run allowed me to stick two rude fingers up at the little voice that keeps undermining me, the voice that continuously tells me that I am never good enough. The endorphin effect was as short-lived as an epidural but strong enough to convince me to try to race on Sunday – with lower expectations. I’ve decided that I don’t need to do a PB on race day – even if I’ve managed to do one today in training – if the pressure to do so takes away every ounce of pleasurable anticipation and replaces it with dread. Who’s pressurizing me anyway, other than my own ego? I’m no Paula Radcliffe after all. Being capable of hauling my ass around a hilly 12km route next Sunday is simply going to have to be good enough, PB or not. Actually, getting to the start line in time, and near the front, will be the bigger achievement! No kidding!

Wherever you are, runner, walker, couch surfer, whether you’re facing a race or other less trivial challenges in your life, whatever your dreams and ambitions, I wish you all the best as we head into a new calendar year. Thanks for reading. Oh, and if you haven’t tried running, I recommend that you try it 🙂

Happy New Year.

Johanna x

 

 

Happy Christmas

It is exactly two years ago today that I started taking running seriously enough to measure my pace and distances. In 2011, Santa brought me a Garmin Forerunner 610 and on Christmas morning, I took it out for a very slow, though it didn’t feel so at the time, 5km. We’ve been through a lot together since: my first consecutive 10 kilometres without walking, my first race, my first half marathon, followed by two more in Singapore and Cambodia, my first prize, and of course my first three falls, the first of which on New Year’s Day 2013 in Siem Reap left its mark on us both. Thankfully my own scars have healed better than the watch’s!
In total I’ve run almost 2900 km on the road since Christmas Day 2011. That’s about 2850 km more than in the previous 40 years. I can’t imagine my life without running now, and am grateful to have come back from my PTT injury feeling stronger and wiser.

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Happy Christmas!

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Rehab Continues

Running after injury feels a bit like life in general – it has its ups and downs. I recovered well from the 2XU Compression 15km run and would have had a great training week last week if it hadn’t been for a sore throat and sinus infection. Although I had to miss my running club’s Fartlek training on Wednesday night, I was almost back to my usual mileage by Sunday.

I ran 18km on a very hilly route on Saturday morning which felt fine but afterwards my foot complained. A lot. When I woke up Sunday morning, it was ever more sore, the sorest it has been since the original injury, so I knew that the sensible thing was to drop any running plans for the day.

I was worried, wondering if I was looking at a future of 10km races (if I was lucky). Reading horror stories online of people needing to take six months off because of PTT injuries did little to quell the fear in my gut. Once again, Akmal, my physiotherapist, came to the rescue.

It’s alright, lah, he says. It’s normal lah. After doing some heavy massage and stretching on the foot and ankle on Monday, he ordered me to run 15km yesterday. Really?! Yes, really. 

I only did 10km as it was stinking hot, the battery on my Garmin died – and what’s the point of running a kilometre that can’t be recorded for posterity, right?! – and I’m still sniffling and coughing. These are my three excuses for when I see Akmal today. The foot still aches but he assures me that this is caused by stiffness in my ankle joint, something that will take time and work to sort. The good news is that part of the work involves running.

Tonight, coughing or not, I plan to return yet again to my running cub to do 8 x 500 m acceleration reps. It won’t be pretty but as I feel the ‘delight’ that is my lactic threshold, I will try and remind myself how grateful I am to be there.

Reclaiming My Runner’s Joy

Last night, after a nine (9!!) week break, I returned to my running club. It was the best evening I’ve had, well, in nine weeks (not counting of course my nights on the sofa watching Breaking Bad).

It was made all the more enjoyable by the fact that despite what I thought were ominous pains in my foot last week, the foot didn’t hurt (while I ran). Funnily enough, it was sore beforehand, when I arrived at Lake Gardens for the running clinic. An hour poised over the brake (mostly the brake) and the accelerator of a car on what in light traffic is a 12-minute journey is bound to make anyone’s foot complain. Right?

Last week, having found Nemo and discovered a rare Irish fish in the sea off the Gili Islands in Indonesia (see photos), I ran 7 km at 5min/km pace on the hotel treadmill. I didn’t ice the foot afterwards as I was too lazy to walk to the bar and ask for some. My foot really hurt. Despite rolling my arch several times a day on a tennis ball and being really attentive to my running form, it hurt. I worried, and dispensed with any intention of running again last week.

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Clownfish off the Gili Islands, Indonesia.

Now while, the downside of living in Kuala Lumpur may be the traffic, one of the many upsides is affordable healthcare. It costs me Rm85 (27 USD/ 20 Euros) for a physiotherapy session that often lasts an hour. On my return from Indonesia, I went for my rehab session expecting bad news. But there was none.

The amazing Akmal released the tension in my arch and toes, and spend a lot of time stretching out my calves and hips. There was no re-injury, just scar tissue which he will continue to work on over the coming weeks while I diligently do my prescribed exercises at home. Ok, well maybe not diligently but sometimes, when I remember, at least. He recommends I see him three times a week. On a per-week basis that’s cheaper than a facial (even in Kuala Lumpur). Sure, it makes me high maintenance, but given the fact that I never actually have facials (or manicures or massages), and that physiotherapy is in fact maintenance, I’m happy to oblige. One woman’s rehab is another’s pampering.

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Irish Buttfish (who appears to be trying to run?!)

So back to last night’s running clinic. We did 8 x 500s, the same exercise we did nine weeks ago. As expected, I’d lost fitness, so my average 500 m time dropped from 1.59 mins to 2.03 but still. I was happy! I managed to complete the 8 ‘sprints’. I had a lot of fun with the other runners. I got great advice on pulling my shoulders back and keeping my chin up when I run. My foot felt fine and I experienced a real post-run high which I can only describe as joyous.

I’m thinking of running the 2XU Compression 15 km race on Sunday as I need to get in a long training run and that’s about as long as I should be doing at this stage of recovery. There will be no PB but after an unplanned five month break from racing, it’s time to be brace and pin on a bib. (And get up at some Godforsaken hour to eat breakfast, drive and find a parking space, go to the loo, to be ready for the start whistle at 6 AM).

As a competitive person, who daily has unrealistic expectations of herself, my instinct is not to run when I’m not at my peak fitness but the rational side of me knows that there is still a lot to be gained from participating even when a PB is out of the question. The atmosphere at races here is always very positive and the race is an opportunity to catch up with a lot of runners I haven’t seen in ages. The route is very hilly so it will be an excellent training opportunity. If I have to run 15 km anyway, I may as well do it in company. And, at the end of the day, even competitive old me has to remember that running isn’t always about racing, even when you’re racing.

On Sunday, I’m going to try run joyously, and celebrate the fact that after injury, just being able to run is a gift. A finisher’s medal will of course make the ‘comeback’ all the sweeter.

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis

When I first went to the doctor at the sports clinic, 12 days ago, I suspected tendonitis. No, no, it wasn’t tendonitis, she said with professional certainty; I had sprained my ankle (without noticing), pulling my deltoid ligament. Humph. Weird that I could turn my ankle and not notice, I thought, but she was a doctor, I’m not. So as advised, I stopped running, left my race bibs in a drawer, went to physio several times, initially for ultrasound and then progressed to ankle strengthening exercises. Rehab was going well.

Still perturbed over the whole ankle sprain diagnosis, I continued my self-diagnosis by Google, and came up with Posterior Tibial Tendinitis (PTT), a common complaint among runners and a condition which left untreated results in flat feet. The symptoms fit, the cause fit; it made sense. The physio conceded that it might be PTT, rather than a pulled ligament, then directed me to the balance board where I remembered why I’m such a lousy skier. She seemed to think it was ok for me to try running again if it didn’t hurt. I can’t blame her for buckling in the face of my determination. And my ankle no longer hurt!
I started running again, a week after the ankle sprain diagnosis. I ran on three consecutive days, ankle taped for support, making sure to ice the foot after each run. Two runs went really well. I was even able to do a decent tempo run. I was back! The third run unfortunately involved some hills due to a road closure. Don’t ask! The foot ached a bit during the 8km loop but pain certainly didn’t prohibit my enjoyment. I started to envisage the start line of the Standard Chartered KL Half Marathon again and dared to hope I might get to cross the finish line too. Yes, I thought, I will be able to run! Whoohoo!
But after the slow hilly run, the foot was sore and became swollen. It was time to get help from a professional who was experienced in treating runners (as clearly, the folks at the sports clinic weren’t). I needed someone who understood not only running injuries but also a runner’s impatience to tie up their laces and get out on the road again as soon as possible.
Now, in my previous life I worked with surgeons in the UK developing orthopaedic devices, and in such milieux, the chiropractor was not highly regarded. As a result, I have held a deep prejudice against such practitioners for two decades. But by last Friday, I would have allowed the man who comes to read the electricity metre to examine my foot if he’d shown any interest, or vague knowledge about ankle anatomy. A chiropractor, in a Joint Specialist clinic, who had been highly recommended by some running folk, did seem somewhat more qualified for the job then the meter man. So off I went again, sitting in traffic for 20 mins, thinking how I could have run to the clinic in 10. But of course, if I could run, I wouldn’t be going to the clinic. Sigh.
After much prodding and poking (what I would call a thorough examination), an x-ray, the subsequent appearance of bruising in my inner foot which I was assured was not related to prodding and poking, a close look at the wear pattern on my running shoes, and another round of somewhat painful palpating of my medial ankle, the chiropractor concluded that it was my posterior tibial tendon and not my deltoid ligament that was injured. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel good to be right.
So two weeks after the initial (mis) diagnosis, I’m back to where I started. Actually, as I’ve made the foot worse, I’m even further back than that. Rest, ice, for a few days, then I will start ultrasound therapy again. As to the cause of PTT after 20 months running? It might be my shoes – I’ve become an over-pronator as I’ve moved from heel to foot strike running, and my shoes are not designed for such – or it might be related to tightened Achilles Tendons, the souvenirs of my blissful barefoot runs on a beach in Vietnam back in April. It’s probably a combination of these factors together with my recent increase in training pace.

Either way, I’m still benched, and I’m back to finding alternative ways of keeping up my fitness and strength without pounding pavements. When the SCKL marathon was postponed in June because of the Haze, I never dreamt that I’d miss the race altogether but I now I certainly will. Thankfully, I think I’ve now found a clinic that will help me back to full fitness. Whether it will be in time to run the BSN Putrajaya Half Marathon on Oct 19th remains to be seen.

p.s. I decided not to treat you to a photo with this post. Frankly, I’m sick of looking at my own feet, and think you must be too. If there’s one minor consolation – and I do mean minor – over not running, it’s the prospect of a decent pedicure and prettier toes.   Hopefully, this improved version of my footsies will be strictly temporary.

Speed & Stamina

Last night was my second training night at Lake Gardens, and I discovered that I have speed but need to work on my stamina. Actually, I guess I  have known that for a long time but it was nice to hear it from a professional – and to be recommended a possible solution.

Based on the 5km Time Trials we did last week, each participant had a time target for 500m. We each ran eight 500m intervals. My average over the eight turned out to be exactly 1:59. My target was 2:06. So this is a clear indicator that I can run fast but not for long – apparently. And what is the antidote to this lack of stamina?

The recommended remedy is to start targeting a higher pace – in my case 4:45 min/km – for short runs, starting with 3 km, then 4km, then 5km and 6km, before returning to try 3 km again at a higher pace, assuming I survive that long! The coach advises such a run every 10 days or so. With only two more days to the Shape

Night Run 12 km, I’m taking it easy for now though. Thanks to torrential rain today there has been no temptation to lace up any kind of shoes. If my wellies weren’t in Ireland, I’d have been wearing them on the school run.

Yesterday, I treated myself to yet another running toy. I always carry a small bottle with me on any run over 6km – anyone who lives in the tropics will know why – but most people don’t seem to need to take along their own fluids for races as ‘short’ as 12km as there are water stations along the route. I’m not quite ready to go commando though, especially as I won’t be taking a gel at 8 km as I have in the past. I think the gels, taken when dehydrated, have been the cause of my nausea, despite being careful to wash them down with plenty of water.

So I invested in a Nathan handheld bottle to avoid the possibility of the bottle slipping through my sweaty hands and causing a collision while I try to retrieve it. Let’s see what happens Saturday night.

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