Painfully slow progress

My mission to run the London Marathon in 2010 (aka operation dancing badger) is stumbling along.

Stumbling, because it's mainly nibbling around the edges of the need to train for a marathon as my knee's still not up to much.

I've been spending most of my time either fiddling with this blog (I'm quietly very proud I managed to edit the html to get three-columns!*) or researching what I should be doing to make sure I make it around this time.

A brilliant book that's been helping me understand more about training and marathon running has been Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas's Advanced Marathoning.

Most people seem to buy it for the schedules at the back (there are 12 , 18 and 24 week plans in there for those prepared to go up to 55, 70 or even more than 70 miles a week), but, as I've got a bit of free time at the mo (physio exercises aren't as time consuming as a run) I've been absorbing as much as I can from the theory behind marathon training.

If, like me, you had to withdraw ill or injured from the London marathon so you have a guaranteed place next year, I strongly recommend giving it a look.

The second chapter on the elements of training is a great eye opener and helps understand why just building up the miles and constantly running at the same pace isn't going to give you the boost you'd like.

It breaks down the characteristics of successful marathoners, and explains how different types of training can improve the ones you can do something about.

On the downside, there is that word "advanced". The book does assume you're already a regular runner - not necessarily a marathoner though - which given the title isn't exactly a rash assumption.

Saying that, I've had two successive winters of training for London, and this has really helped me understand why they haven't worked.

So, thinking ahead to 2010, I can now either:
  1. build up training over the summer/autumn so I'm sufficiently prepared for one of their specific schedules for the London Marathon; or
  2. use the info to put together my own
As I've not got a lot else to do at the moment, I like to think I'll do the latter. But, I am painfully aware of how I can get distracted and confused, so I fully expect that to go out the window when I realise I haven't done anything like enough research/planning, so I'll just end up grabbing one of theirs to save the effort!

* UPDATE - turns out I'd screwed that up so had to revert to normal. Must properly learn some basic html at some point...
** UPDATE II - may have worked it out. Though possibly not. If you see everything ok with three columns, congrats, if not, my bad!

My legs are what?

My last post on the physio visit alluded to a conversation I'd come back to later.

As it's now later, I thought I'd come back to it.

After various exercises and stretches, my physio noticed something.

Basically, in laymans terms, my legs are messed up.

It seems that over the years the muscles in my legs have developed a weird thing where they take the weight on the outside of the leg, instead of evenly.

So, the muscles on the inside of my calves and knee aren't strong enough, and whilst the ones on the outside have developed to compensate for it for normal everyday stuff like walking, they can't take it for the running - hence the injuries.

So, basically I have to teach my legs how to walk properly.

Oh come on!

I'm cracking on 30 and have to relearn how to walk!

It's not like I've been in a car accident or anything - I've done a bit of running and now I've got to relearn something most people have got a good grip on by the time they reach the age of four!

Apparently it could be down to the amount my feet roll, and having paid a bit more attention to it when I'm walking since session one, it is a hell of a lot!

I've now got six weeks of knee classes starting at the end of the month to strengthen the weak bits, and and to try to retrain my legs to carry the weight properly.

To me that sounds like six weeks in a room with a load of people who have proper injuries and are trying to recover their quality of life, rather than just trying not to hurt themselves when they put their names down for stupid things like the London marathon.

I'm gonna feel such a tit.

In the meantime, it's doing the exercises she gave me religiously, and spending a ridiculous amount of time during my day thinking about how I'm walking.

This better work, or I think I'll explode.

Physio killed the ITB, ta!

Getting my knee sorted so I can run London in 2010 is now well underway.

Had second physio session last week, and whilst still not comfortable, I'm moving a lot better.

I've spent weeks limping around, but after last a couple of sessions, and religiously stretching during the week, I've noticed a real improvement.

This session involved a few checks before heading to the hospital gym - which was old-school.

Not in the good, happening, and 'with it' way.

It was literally like an old school.

Wooden bars on walls, a box of balls that looked older than me, and the strange square-dimpled ceiling you seem to only find in public sector buildings.

First task, the wobble board.

You may remember playing on a pogo ball as a kid. It's like that but wooden, and only has the ball bit on the bottom. The idea was to balance on it, then try to do squats so you're really working your calves. I was useless at it.

Second task, back against the wall in a sort of seated position, with a ball between your knees. Hold for 10, then rise, before going back down for 10 again. Repeat 10 times. This wasnt too bad, but was surprisingly tiring by the end.

Third, standing on one leg on a step, and bending knee straight down in a sort of one-legged squat - the idea being to build up strength in the knees.

The fourth one was one of those seemingly easy things that it turns out is really hard and makes you feel like an idiot for not being able to do it.

You put your foot a few inches from a wall and then touch the wall with your knee, keeping the heel flat on the floor. Repeat 10 times, then move the foot back a bit and repeat. You keep moving back until you've reached the limit, then you switch to the other one.

Sounds simple, but my right foot was rubbish - the whole leg was shaking when I tried to do it. When I tried with my left it still wasn't brilliant, but it must have been a good two inches further away than the right.

The last one was stretching the hamstrings. I had to lie down, stretch a leg up straight then she stood supporting it and I had to push it back down as hard as I could for 10 seconds. Then you raise it a bit more, and push again. Then a bit more, and push again.

That hurt, but it was fun trying to knock her over after I was aching - not sure that's the best relationship to have with a physios, but it's working so far!

After all these there was a conversation which I'll go into more later, but for the now I've got to do these exercises every day and so far I've been doing pretty well!

Which is surprising for me as I find the whole thing really boring. Just gotta keep the goal of arriving injury-free at Greenwch Park next April in mind.

Epidemic sweeping the UK

In the ten days since the London Marathon finished (apart from Phil Packer - go on son!), PRL towers has been monitoring an epidemic sweeping the e-marathon community.

The latest reports being collated by the sophisticated monitoring equipment in my super secret bunker have detected an alarming pattern.

I'm sorry to announce that it looks like marathonitis is sweeping the country.

Symptons include:
There's no known cure, though lethargy and spouses/significant others' consternation at the sufferer not returning to 'normal' domestic life have been known to mask the symptoms (though they never actually go away!).

The best treatment found is to enter the ballot for the London Marathon in 2010, or find other events around the world.

Passing the time while injured - sorting out this site

A few days ago, I set out my three-pronged strategy for running London marathon in 2010.

The first, sorting out injury, is underway.

The second, getting fitness back, and building it, kinda depends on the first one, so is on hold until I can actually run.

The third has taken a giant step today as I've now got around to registering my domain name!

So, for all your Phil Runs London goodness, you can save yourself a few fractions of a second by typing in into your browsers address bar!

This is eight whole characters shorter than so I've essentially give you a massive chunk of your day back - what better than the gift of time?!?

I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure why I've done this, and I need to fiddle under the hood so pages have the right address in the address bar, but it's a first step to something that I'm not entirely clear about!

Any ideas for what I can do next, let me know!

Injury treatment, and why I'm an idiot

The first part of my three pronged strategy to get around the London Marathon in 2010 began in earnest yesterday, with an hour long session at the physio.

I arrived too early, so chilled in the park beforehand as hospitals are inherently boring places to wait.

Unless you can persuade someone to let you into where they do operations.

I couldn't persuade anyone, and my fallback idea to entertain myself wasn't possible as I forgot my sombrero and poncho.

Shame, as I'd be watching a lot of Speedy Gonzales to get the Mexican accent just right...

Eventually I wandered in and found the physiotherapy department, and the mean age of those waiting instantly dropped by about 20 years.

As I looked for a free seat I could feel all the older people there looking at me, silently judging. I was sure I heard one woman whisper to her husband something like “what's he doing here?”

Yeah, most of them had probably just had hip replacements or something, so they probably felt like they needed it more. But it was like they were using me as a way of getting revenge for how they feel when they get on a bus full of young 'uns and are too intimidated to sit next to anyone who looks like they couldn't remember the Kaiser

I eventually heard my name called and I may have overexaggerated the limp 'a touch' to try to justify myself to them as I walked through to the treatment area.

I met my physio Michelle, who was a tiny little thing in her mid 20's - max.

Bonus – she wouldn't have the strength to hurt me too much!

Erm, no.

After a few questions, about how I did it - and the inevitable look of scorn when I told her my athletic history* - she started examining me.

And by examine, I generally mean bend and prod.

And not in good way.

For a little 'un, she sure was strong! My only victory came when she knelt in front of me when I was sat on the edge of the bed and asked me to raise my good leg as she put her weight on it - nearly sent her flying!

I probably shouldn't have laughed, as she got her revenge when I tried it with the bad one though.

Christ that hurt.

After all these shenanigans, she confirmed ITB syndrome and threw in some ligament damage too. The latter freaked me out I hadn't even thought of that, and it sounded worse.

Thankfully, she confirmed it was all fixable, over time, and suggested pretty much what I'd already decided - don't just stop running for the eight months of the year you're not doing the marathon as it's possible the most demanding thing you can put yourr body through.

Also, strech a hell of a lot - not just before and after runs, but throughout the day.

She gave me some stretches to work on getting the strength back, which seem to mainly involve crossing my legs...

She also gave me some ultrasound treatment, which was weird as I didn't think I was pregnant.

Apparently this helps repair the damaged tissue, but they don't really know why. You've gotta love modern healthcare!

She did almost crawl on the floor at one point to see how I stand, and it turns out that I roll outward on both feet a lot. I knew I was a supinator (hence muchos cushioning in the trainers) but apparently the right one is much worse than the left - explaining why the additional stresses on the right knee.

So, I've got to go back next Thursday afternoon when their gym bit is open as she wants to check out how strong it's getting, and to check out my running style.

I like to think of it as avante garde, but I don't think that's what she meant!

In the meantime, it's stretchville for Phil - prepare for odd looks from people at work and bus stops!


* Don't do any exercise for ten years, train for a few months, run marathon in 2008, hurt self after 17 miles, finish, don't run for eight months, trian for four months for 2009 marathon, get injured. Saying it out loud did make me realise how much of an idiot I am. Not that I didn't know already, but it's nice to be reminded by healthcare professionals once in a while.