Friday, 31 December 2010
Yesterday I went on a short run, wanting to practise everything I'd learned. I put on some sneakers instead of my Kayanos, in order to be able to feel the ground more. My sneakers are not completely flat of course, but their soles are half the size of the Kayanos'.
My initial plan was to only run 1-2 km, not wanting to overdo it, but I ended up running 4 km. It wasn't an easy run. I suspect that changing the way you run is quite demanding. However, even though my foot hurt before I started running, I couldn't feel a thing while I was out. That earned this running style some points.
In an hour or so we're going into town. It's Sylvesterloppet, the last race of the year, one that I had planned on entering, but you know what they say: Man plans, God laughs. So instead of running it, I'll be taking some photos and cheering on those who do get to run it.
Thursday, 30 December 2010
Well, that'll teach me to be cocky.
I woke up at 5, because my shoulders were screaming in agony. I made some futile attempts to go back to sleep, but no matter how I tossed and turned the pain remained. And not just in my shoulders; my abs and my back hurt too. Surprisingly NOT joining this choir of lovely misery: my foot, that feels better this morning than it has done for several days.
Last night I met up with my running buddy at a gym in town for some practical technique tips. He's participated in some Pose seminars and is an advocate for barefoot running, so I was really interested in finding out what he thought about my running style and how I could make it better. Not to mention that I wanted to find out more about barefoot running from a "real" person.
Predictably my style needed to get better. A video analysis showed my mistakes. My feet should land under my body, and I should try to lift my legs faster. I have to also try and increase my cadence, and lean forwards more. My "coach" showed me some great exercises for improving all that. After concentrating on and following his advice, I could already see some modest improvement in my running style. Of course, I need to practice, and then practice some more, until I can do all this without having to think about it and it just flows.
I left the gym with a head full of information and inspiration. I felt so confident afterwards. Everything he said made sense, and all the exercises he showed me felt natural. It was like a revelation to just lean forward and let gravity carry my body forward. So simple, yet I wouldn't have thought to try it, if it hadn't been shown to me. But what's more important, I felt more hopeful about my running future than I've done in months. Thanks, coach!
This week has been so amazingly packed with different athletic activities, and there is no reason to stop now I'm on a roll. Today husband and I are going climbing. I could get used to this life of working out and not working. Anyone willing to finance this lifestyle?
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Yesterday's swimming was likewise ineffective in causing aching muscles. I am guessing, though, that it put my lungs to good use instead. Therefore, there will be more of it in my future. Yoga, on the other hand, not so much. Maybe I'm doing it wrong?
Something that excites me much more than yoga is the prospect of meeting up with one of my runner buddies tonight for some technique training. Technique can make or break a runner, and bad technique can lead to injuries. With so many injuries and close calls since I started running, I am suspecting that my running style leaves a lot to be desired. So, tonight, barefoot running and technique tips!
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
One running buddy recommended alternative training while I'm waiting for my foot to heal, so I convinced my mum to go swimming with me this morning. She didn't need much convincing.
Now, both my mum and I know how to swim. Growing up with the sea at your feet will do that. But this was serious business. This wasn't about floating idly on the surface, lazily kicking the water with your feet and splashing about. This was to be alternative TRAINING. So I jumped in the 50-metre pool and vigorously swam towards the other end.
I thought I was going to die. 50 meters is not much when you run, but swimming is a different matter. We had agreed that we'd stay in the pool for one hour, but I was ready to go home after one minute. Obviously, there is a part of me that's masochistic, because I was determined to at least swim the super sprint triathlon distance, that is 400 metres. Just to see if I could.
It took me half an hour. I took a short pause every 50 metres, so it doesn't take a mathematical genius to work out that I was really slow. It got slightly easier the longer I swam, which makes sense as it's the same when I go running - the first couple of kilometres until I'm warmed up are tough and then it gets easier. So I did 100 metres more, a grand total of five! hundred!! metres!!!
I liked swimming, even though it was hard work. So I am planning on going swimming once a week, at least until my foot gets better.
Monday, 27 December 2010
The 6-km run two days ago left me very tired. While my foot felt ok directly after the run, this morning when I woke up it was stiff and ached.
It's only 5 months left to the Marathon. In order for me to train properly for it, I would have to be injury-free and in good shape. Right now I'm neither. It's possible that I'd be able to stumble through the marathon even without proper training, but that is only if I sort out the pain in my foot. It's doubtful however that I'll have it sorted out in time.
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I am disappointed. It seems like such good fun to run in the Swedish capital, with an amazing public, great environment, relatively easy route. What better place for a marathon debut? On the other hand, I am relieved. Without the race looming over me, getting my foot working properly again is not as urgent any more. I know I can run the distance; I've done it before. But the big picture, being able to run for many years to come, is becoming more important than a medal.
The deadline for dropping out is the 8th of January. I'm still undecided.
Saturday, 25 December 2010
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Through all this, through work troubles, relatives visiting and health worries, my desire to go running is undiminished. The last few days before Christmas and I am tired to my bones, and I can't help thinking that it's precisely because I haven't been out on a run lately that I feel so drained.
The usual demon inside me is whispering that a short run won't make it worse. Life is too short to wait for a minor injury to heal. Go out and have fun, it says. Foot doesn't hurt that much anyway. Imagine running in the woods, in the snow, when there's a full moon in the sky. Feel the freedom and the sense that time has stopped, breathe in the winter air, be at one with nature.
Thankfully, although the distracting factors can't take away my desire to run, they can help me not think about it so much. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad that I am still so passionate about running, while other people's motivation is going into hibernation. Like I wrote in my previous post, I am thankful for every healthy minute, every painless kilometre that I get to run, even if I have headwind, even if it's freezing out there, even if it's dark. I don't take my health for granted. I don't take my "easy" runs for granted.
I will rest at least one more week. In the meantime, family, good food, warmth, Christmas.
Sunday, 19 December 2010
I was there to get a check-up. My mom worked in a hospital, so it was common when I was growing up to go for a check-up. The doctor heard some heart murmur and prescribed a cardiogram. That showed I had mitral valve prolapse. It sounded very scary. The doctor told me that exercise was bad for people with this heart condition. Run a metre and I'd drop dead. Eat a piece of chocolate and I'd drop dead. Drink coffee and I'd drop dead. Anything that made my pulse increase would make me drop dead. I didn't want to drop dead. I wondered if we'd have to install an elevator in our house, so that I wouldn't have to walk up the flight of stairs to my room.
Unsurprisingly, we sought a second opinion. Heart matters are not to be messed with. The second doctor painted a slightly different picture. Exercise, chocolate and coffee were not off-limits, if done in moderation. This condition, he said, was a common one. In fact, one in four women have it, and most go through their lives without even noticing.
I breathed a sigh of relief. At that point in my life I wasn't very interested in sports, but it was still scary to think that I had a dangerous heart condition. I stayed away from sports, just in case.
Fast forward a few years later, and I was a university student in England, making new friends, getting introduced to new things. My good friend Maria and I got into wall climbing, and went jogging together a couple of times. She was however much better than me, and I struggled to keep up. So I soon gave up running, but not for long. A couple of years later I entered my first Race for Life, a charity fun run to raise money for cancer research. I carefully followed a training schedule, starting with 1 minute run, 1 minute walk and working up to a half-hour. It was hard work for my exercise-starved body.
I did a couple more fun runs over the next years, and got really hooked on exercise. Cycling, walking, dancing, gym...I tried many things over the years, and running took second place to everything else, mostly because it felt so difficult. When we moved to Sweden, I noticed how almost everyone here exercised. It was a way of life, to cycle to work or walk in the evenings, as natural as eating. I started running again, careful not to exert myself too much. My stamina had apparently improved, because suddenly I could enjoy running and manage 5 km without stopping!
A new heart test showed that my condition, had it ever truly existed, was no longer there. The new doctor, an expert cardiologist, told me that mitral valve prolapse was a much disputed condition, that science progress and recent research showed that MVP was more often than not a misdiagnosis. He said that my heart looked very healthy and gave me the all-clear to exercise. And boy did I. I felt like all these years I'd denied myself a vital life component. Like I'd been holding back, afraid to exert myself, afraid to let the endorphins rush through my body, afraid that I'd drop dead.
Now my body is back in its natural state. It gets to exercise. We're not meant to spend our lives in front of a computer or TV screen, or sitting in an office. Unless there is a serious medical condition, we're meant to be active. I am thankful for every healthy, injury-free minute I get to do it.
Today: wall climbing after a week's break.
Saturday, 18 December 2010
I should be tidying up the flat instead. My parents are coming on Tuesday. Strange how other things suddenly become important, when you have housework to do...
Friday, 17 December 2010
I am so happy about this. It is something that I really need right now, a day off in the middle of the week to recharge my batteries, relax, take a breath and live life. Life has only been about work the last few months and I've felt unbalanced, unhappy, ready to throw in the towel. This will give me time to do things that I enjoy: run, bake, read, watch films, file my nails, navel-gaze, whatever. The possibilities are endless.
Despite my elation, my foot refuses to be happy. After my foot-strengthening exercises this morning, I massaged it by rolling it on an ice-filled can. This helped a great deal with the pain; it didn't resurface until many hours later. I finally got an email from my physiotherapist saying that she was fully booked until after the holidays, so I have to do the best I can until then. That means no running, even though I get a little jealous when I see others trotting down the pavement in their reflective vests, woolly hats on. I keep telling myself that I'll be able to join them soon. In the meantime, I'm trying to put together a better banner for the blog. Watch this space.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
My foot feels fine today. My mood, however, does not, mainly because I didn't get to meet my physiotherapist. I want to get rid of this problem as soon as possible.
I tried to cheer myself up by buying Christmas paraphernalia. I dressed my kitchen windows with red Christmas curtains. I lay the Christmas tablecloth on the table. I hanged the heart-pattern Christmas apron on the oven handle.
It worked. My Christmassy kitchen makes me happy. Red makes me feel warm inside.
I wish I could decorate our fake Christmas tree too, but we happen to be sharing the premises with two furry demons, who would surely eat the tree and then proceed to blow chunks all over the living room carpet.
Aren't they adorable?
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
My Kayano 16's were bought last May. I got my 17's three weeks ago, after running almost 1000 km in my old ones. Let me repeat this: I've run almost a thousand kilometres since May. Modest by some runners' standards, a monstrous increase by mine. I was ambitious. I wanted to run an average of 200 km per month. That's what felt good, that's how much I thought I could run in order to see progress and not get injured.
My mistake was probably going for longer and longer long-distance sessions. My 10 km runs felt easy, yet long enough to give me a kick. Maybe I should have stuck with them until I had built my foot and leg strength. Well. Hindsight is 20/20.
Soon we're going for a walk in the forest. It will be an interesting test for my foot, that's been taped and stable all day today and yesterday.
Monday, 13 December 2010
During the day, my foot sent me mixed signals. I thought I felt something a couple of times, but then I'd start walking and it'd feel OK. So I ran home after work, all the while listening for signals that my body might be sending me. 5,5 km later I got home having felt nothing but a mild ache right at the beginning of my run. I stretched with particular emphasis on my feet. Then I made the mistake of touching the arch of my foot, towards the heel. Verdict: sore.
It's not so painful as to not be able to walk, but there's definitely something there when I touch it. I understand that I might not be able to run any long runs in the coming weeks, but not even 5 km? This is bad...
Pretty illustration by Alex Noriega.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
We climbed for just over an hour and bouldered for 10-15 minutes. We both felt weak and tired, so we took it easy.
In other news, my foot feels better today. I did some heel exercises this morning that were painful, but I have nothing more to complain about currently than a diffuse irritation in the area. I bought some athletic tape that I am going to use to support the arch.
I am pretty tempted to try running home from work tomorrow, an easy 4 km, just to see how my foot responds. I'll have to wait and see how my foot feels tomorrow morning though, before I decide. If it gives any kind of indication that it might hurt, I'll take the bus instead. And then I'll book an appointment with my physiotherapist...
Saturday, 11 December 2010
After some internet research and a long discussion with my runner friends on Facebook, the consensus is Plantar Fasciitis. This means rest, rehab exercises, stretching, and crossing of fingers that it gets better real soon (preferably before I give up the will to live).
I've been turning a blind eye to this ailment the past 3-4 weeks. I figured that, since I was resting anyway because of my sore throat, it would just go away. I never thought this pain was serious for a second.
Yet last night at the concert, when I spent more than 3 hours on my feet in not-exactly-orthopaedic shoes, the pain was back with a vengeance and I realised just how serious it was, because I had to give up my first-row place to go and sit down.
As if my aching foot weren't enough, the concert was lukewarm. The opening band, called Avatar, came on stage on time and played some good songs. This was greatly appreciated, as it's such a buzz kill to have to wait for the main band while enduring a bad opening band.
Stratovarius then took the stage. They went through the motions, some band members more excited than others, some seemingly really really tired. The band that I was most looking forward to seeing was done with their set within what felt like ten minutes. The songs that I was looking forward to hearing felt rushed, mandatory, without soul.
Thursday, 9 December 2010
My feet hurt, breathing's rough
Snow is all around
Why did I decide to run
When the going is so tough
My legs ache, late for work
Should I take the bus?
Why did I decide to run?
I was such a dork.
A 6 km detour took me back to where I started from, at which point I knew I had to take the bus the rest of the way. Luckily the bus was on time, and a few minutes later I was able to run the last few hundred meters to work.
The run home was blissfully shorter and easier. The sky was clear, the moon crescent barely lighting my path. Another 4 km made the total distance run today 11 kilometres.
Tomorrow is a rest day. I am going to a concert to see these guys, whose music accompanied me in my run home today (and who are undoubtedly more gifted in the lyrics department than me):
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
After more than a week of rest, I felt healthy enough to run home from work. I left work in the dark looking like a Christmas tree, with my reflective vest and blinking lights on. Safety first.
I jogged at an easy pace, partly because I didn't know how icy the pavement was and partly because I didn't dare run faster so soon after my illness.
It was 7 km of pure happiness.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
Today's climbing went better than last week's fiasco. I decided to try a 6B, thinking it would probably be way too hard. First time I tried, I had to stop and rest 5-6 times. Second time I just flew up, not hesitating, just doing it. Husband lowered me down to the ground after I completed it, saw the self-satisfied grin on my face and said "Wow! Well done!". Then he said "But you cheated". The look I gave him would have turned milk sour.
He explained that, when I did a certain manoeuvre, I relied on the rope to pull it off, hence I cheated. After arguing in vain that, as long as my hands and feet were on the grips, I wasn't relying on the rope, I had to admit that it was cheating. My ego deflated, I nevertheless had to show I could manage without cheating. So I tried again. And again. And again. And I failed every time. My fingers ached, I scratched my arms, I bumped my knee. But nothing hurt as much as my wounded self-esteem. But next time? Next time I'll show him I can do it.
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Today is different, as there is no running planned. Instead, I am using this time to *shudder* do my Christmas shopping. I love Christmas but I hate shopping, especially the Christmas kind. Husband and I don't usually buy Christmas presents for each other. We either buy something together that we both want (like an espresso machine) or we just skip it. I suppose we're unusual. We're both very practical people and we don't like buying things just for the sake of it. If we need something, we buy it ourselves.
So why am I going to town for shopping, on a Saturday, a couple of weeks before Christmas? Aren't I the hypocrite?
Then, to recover from all the Christmas shopping, I'm meeting up with some friends for coffee. Something tells me that I won't miss my long run in their company!
Friday, 3 December 2010
A lot of people do their running indoors on a treadmill during the winter months. It means that there are fewer people willing to brave the elements running for several hours. It's harder to find others to plan new adventures with. Most want to wait until spring. I agree that it's more fun to run when all the snow has thawed and nature is a festive green again...but I can't wait until then. I want to run long, to see new places, to cover new ground. I want to run on snow, to see the moose I missed last time, to smell the pines. I want to run through villages, to see some rivers. I want adventure!
PS. Mia has written about Saturday's adventure here. You can also find Johan B's account of it here.
Thursday, 2 December 2010
I have reluctantly accepted the fact that I'm going through a low period health-wise, and that training is going to have to wait until I'm better. Besides, having 49 km as my distance record gives me a psychological boost, that I'm ahead of schedule and that I can relax. I don't feel stressed about missing training this time around, but I do wish I could go for a run. The lack of training does free up some time for other (less fun) activities, like cleaning out the storage room, buying Christmas gifts and doing laundry. Also, for reflection. I've had a lot to think about the last couple of months, and no time or energy to think about it. Now is a great chance to do that.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
I've been reading about cortisol, a hormone that our bodies produce in order to cope with stress (Wikipedia). I am not a doctor, so I just gathered some facts from the Internet.
Cortisol is necessary for our survival. However, when we undergo great amounts of stress, this same hormone can supress our immune system, because it prioritises dealing with whatever it considers to be a threat to us first (that is, the cause of stress). So if, for example, someone loses their job, their bodies will see this as a threat to survival and produce cortisol. If that same someone happens to get a cold virus at the same time, this gets second priority and is not dealt with until the primary threat is over. Simply put, our bodies are weakened when we're stressed, leaving us vulnerable to illness (http://www.richardweinsteindc.com/disorders.htm).
Exercise can help decrease the amount of cortisol (About.com). Excessive exercise can however be stressful to the body, causing cortisol to increase (http://deepfitness.com/741/Cortisol-and-Overtraining.aspx).
Running 49 km in the snow might be a balsam for the mind, but it's not as kind to the body. It IS a stress factor, at least when you're not a weathered ultrarunner. Add that to a prolonged period of intense stress at work, and it's no wonder I'm sick yet again. It's pretty ironic that the thing that helps me cope with stress the most tipped the scales over, so that I got sick again.
Zen, man. Olympus, 2009.
What I need now is a long vacation in the sun, but that's not going to happen any time soon. So second best is rest and fun, relaxing things to do. I need to eat good, nutritious food. Go out with friends. Laugh. Play with the cats. Take up yoga. Go for a walk in the woods. Take care of my body, because it's the only one I've got.