Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Knees - Runner's Cocktail

Well, this is just getting silly. No sooner had my knee decided to partially cooperate in my marathon training than I go down with a Christmas cold. Bah humbug - I've been "resting" but am going out again tomorrow come what may. Frankly, I need perfect health for the next 9 weeks or I'm really snookered.

In the meantime, I have discovered that I can mix this juice I told you about with alcohol and claim it's a healthy necessity :)
Well, what the heck, it is New Year's Eve.

Happy Knees Cocktail
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • splash of vodka* (berry flavor is good)
  • splash of cointreau*
  • top up with Elations juice, or a mix of apple & cranberry.
*The size of the splashes is entirely up to you. I won't tell.
Here's to a very happy (and please, please, healthy) New Year!

Photo thanks: Ilker

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How to know if you're hooked on running

Do any of these tell-tale signs apply in your life?
  • On big days like Thanksgiving and Christmas, you squeeze in a morning run and end up burning more calories that day than you eat.
  • Your most expensive piece of 'jewelry' is your GPS watch.
  • You turn down Friday night social invitations so you can be up bright and early for your long run on Saturday.
  • When you get sick or injured, you act like an abandoned puppy until you're well enough to run again.
  • You have lucky socks that you save for special runs and races.
  • The best thing about time off work for Christmas is all that extra daylight running available to you.
Well, I'm totally hooked, and that's OK, I'm loving it. Yesterday I managed a long slow distance run of 14 miles, and while my knee started whispering very gently for the last mile, it's absolutely fine today. So I'm still in with a chance of at least being able to start the Napa marathon with 2 working legs.

However, time is getting tight and I won't be able to do as much total training as I would like. But hey, the last few miles of a marathon are supposed to be grim, aren't they? I'd hate to miss out on the full experience. :)

Photo thanks: Ariel da Silva Parreira

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I want that T-shirt

I definitely don't count amongst the world's stylish runners. Usually, I fall out of bed, locate something almost-clean and weather-appropriate, and off I trot.

So when I come across clever people with inspirational quotes on their gear, I take note. Here are a few I've seen that I love and would love to own. Have you any to add?

I run for chocolate.

The will to win is important.
But the will to prepare is vital.

Does my butt look fast in this?

Because 26.2 is too far.
(seen at a half marathon)

Run with friends, it's cheaper than therapy
by See Jane Run.

Today I was thrilled to do another 8 pain-free miles. The fresh and breezy weather here really blew the cobwebs away and reminded me why I got hooked on this sport in the first place. I'm planning a short outing on Thursday (maybe some very gentle intervals) and then Saturday will be long, slow distance to see whether there's life in the old knee yet.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cautiously hopeful

Well, it looks like the very pleasant people at Fleet Feet Sports might know a thing or two about running with a dodgy knee.

I'm cautiously pleased to report that I managed 4 pain-free miles on Friday and another 7 this morning. I can only assume that the surprisingly low-tech piece of velcro I bought is doing the trick. And I'm trying not to think about the cost-per-inch of my new friend. But hey, if it's doing it's job, who cares?

I totally realize that there is a huge difference between 7 miles and 26 in just 11 weeks. And I've clearly lost a lot of fitness (as my high heart rate to achieve an 11-minute-mile pace demonstrated). But I'm thrilled to be out running again and even if the odds are still pretty long, at least I'm not throwing in the towel just yet.

Needless to say I'll be proceeding with extreme caution. If you see anyone out running with bubble-wrap on their knees, please wave and say Hi. :)

Image thanks: Ilco

Friday, December 18, 2009

All I want for Christmas is a healthy pair of knees

Ooh, I love a good spreadsheet. As you might imagine, entering a marathon was a wonderful excuse for drawing up training plans, pace calculations, and what-if scenarios.

Unfortunately when I started all this, I didn't really expect to be doing the spreadsheet to figure out just how long can I rest my knee without kissing Napa goodbye. It turns out, Excel has spoken, and if I don't start trotting this weekend, with a LSD run next weekend, it ain't gonna happen.

With this in mind, I took myself down to Fleet Feet in Menlo Park, much beloved amongst local pavement-pounders for their friendly, helpful (miracle-working?) staff. I left the store $20 lighter and the owner of a Pro-Tec Patellar Tendon Strap. What the heck, it's worth a try, right? I'm heading for the track a little later to do just a couple of miles and see what happens.

But don't worry, I'll be careful. I've received some wonderful advice here about the importance of perspective and that I may be looking at one marathon versus the rest of my life. Sounds kinda scary when put like that.

Although, Santa, if you could return the Tiffany earrings and BMW convertible, and pop a couple of new knees down the chimney instead, it'd be much appreciated. Cheers.

Photo thanks: Pro-Tec Athletics, and please note, that's not my hairy knee.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lies and statistics

Well, I can tell you truthfully that yesterday morning, Beloved Husband and I headed out and covered 16 miles. I can also say, perfectly honestly, that one of those miles was done in 6 minutes, which for Struggler is an incredibly fast pace.

The problem with statistics like these is the piece of missing information: we were on bikes.

I still don't dare run on my knee, but having experimented with some extremely cold swimming pools and received some thoughtful feedback here that a lower body workout would be a better idea, we opted for bikes instead. My knee wasn't exactly thrilled at the whole adventure, but I think it was a little stiff and cold more than anything else. And at least the pain in my backside took my mind off it.

I need to do some calculations, but I've a feeling if I can't get back to trotting rather than pedaling in the next week or so, the Napa Valley marathon will be over for me. Every day I "rest", I lose a bit of fitness, and the remaining time in which to rebuild my mileage shrinks. If I don't see a drastic improvement soon, the decision on whether to run or not will effectively be made for me.

Photo thanks: Karin Eggink

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Keep drinking the pink stuff

I surprised myself by getting through a Body Sculpt class yesterday, albeit missing out some lunges and other knee-needy activities. It felt good to be doing something a little bit active and I might even have burned off a few dastardly calories. (I'm convinced that, if my knee does get better, I'm going to be lugging some extra pounds with me.)

This week has turned unusually cold for northern California and there is no way I'm going near a swimming pool until it gets milder again. However, hopes are currently high that I might be able to trot a bit by the weekend. I won't dwell too much on the plan on my fridge door that says 20 miles, long slow distance - I'll just settle for any mileage at this point, before my feet forget how to do it altogether.

Meanwhile, I came across a free sample of a drink called Elations. Yes, I know, very strange name, but apparently it contains supplements Glucosamine and Chondroitin that are supposed to "improve joint comfort in just 6 days". Oh yeah, and they have a photo of men in running shorts on their web site. Given my total knee-obsession right now, I gleefully seized it to give it a try. It tastes OK: not fabulous, but not awful, and if there's even a slight chance it might help me, then frankly I'm happy to hand over the credit card. Desperate? Yup, just a bit.

Photo thanks: Elations

Monday, December 7, 2009

Facing reality

After nearly a week of knee-rest, I managed just 2 pain-free miles on Saturday. The next 2 miles were decidedly not pain-free, at which point I hobbled home on the arm of my enormously kind hubby who could easily have sprinted off and left me in the cold, but gallantly stuck with me.

The Napa marathon is now 13 weeks away. I think at least 3 of those weeks are needed at the end, to 'taper'. In theory, there's still time for me to take a couple of weeks off, and then start building my miles up again. But that assumes that my knee sees the error of its ways and will let me get back to my previous distance and then add another 50%.

In reality, I think I need to face the possibility I won't be able to do the marathon, or will get scooped up by the stragglers' bus after the 6-hour time limit passes. I'm doing all kinds of mental math (six 10-minute miles followed by 5 hours of 15-minute miles would get me to the finish line) and am making crazy plans involving heavier than recommended doses of painkillers.

But if I'm honest with myself, unless I can rely on 2 good knees within a couple of weeks, I think I'm going to have to accept my role may be cheering from the sidelines once again.

Image thanks: Billy Alexander

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Significance of Steam

This would be a good moment for me to remind us all that this is supposed to be a running blog. Sadly, due to my wonky knee, I have been enduring self-imposed rest for nearly a week now.

To cheer myself up and make me feel like I'm still doing something useful towards my March marathon, I very reluctantly took myself off to swim instead.

OMG. I will never, ever complain about dark, cold, drizzly runs again. Swimming at an outdoor pool in December really should qualify as an extreme sport.

On Wednesday evening I visited pool number 1, which was giving off more steam than the Night Mail pulling up Beatock. Three lanes out of four were marked for 'Slow' swimming, but the triangular torpedoes freestyling up and down appeared unaware of this fact. I shivered on the edge (looking most fetching in ski jacket and towel) and willed myself not to run away. A full five minutes passed before space became available and I dared insert myself into this thrashing throng. At that point, things did improve. The torpedoes turned out to be fairly friendly and not too concerned at me doing a hybrid doggie-paddle-breast-stroke up and down their pool. 4o minutes later I made the dash back inside, grateful for the cover of all that steamy darkness. Alas, this California pool really had been constructed for the summer months - the changing area was tiny and freezing. I literally threw my clothes on and scuttled to the relative warmth of the car.

In view of the torpedo situation and igloo-like facilities at pool number 1, I decided to try pool number 2 last night. It's closer to work but the lap-swimming hours are not as convenient. Happily, this is a larger facility (what luxury, a lane to myself) and the changing rooms even had heat! Alas, I should have been suspicious at the comparative lack of steam coming off the water. Heck, I could even see right the way from one end of the pool to the other. The water was breathtakingly cold and for someone like me who doesn't move very fast, 30 minutes was about as long as I could tolerate. I never earned my penguin diploma in high school and really don't want to start now.

Of course, only the very dedicated will choose to swim outdoors in December. I have new respect for those who choose to do so, but am more determined than ever to resume dry-land activities as soon as I dare.

Photo thanks: Steve Knight, Kristin Thompson

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I guess it's time to get wet

Question: what's worse than having to run in spite of darkness, cold and fatigue?
Answer: not being able to run.

I won't bore you with the details, but my knee is still very tender and, whilst not painful in every day life, feels really weak and I just don't dare ask it to pound any pavements.

I've now missed 2 sessions and 12 miles of training and am really freaking out. I've come to realize how totally hooked I am on this trotting business, and how important it is to my personal goals to be able to complete the marathon. I feel like I've already come so far - who knew 18 miles was possible! - and there's no way I'm giving up now. I'm frustrated, disappointed, and just a little stroppy.

However, I'm not a total idiot, I really don't want to cripple myself for life, and most of the advice for Runner's Knee involves rest.

So tonight I plan to do something even harder than lugging my lazy carcass out for an after work run. It's gonna be wet, it's gonna be cold, it's gonna be humiliating. But I will do it in order to have any chance of crossing that finish line in March.

Yep, so help me, I'm gonna swim.

Photo thanks: Petr Kovar
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