Friday, May 14, 2010


Things will be quieter than usual around here for the next couple of weeks as I'm heading to Cambridge, England for some much-needed family catch-up time, not to mention a spot of rhubarb crumble.

The countryside around Cambridge is mostly pancake flat, and therefore great for running. One of my favorite routes is this unusual trail just outside the city:

Photo: Andrew Mac

Photo: Sustrans

Why the stripes? This section of path marks the 10,000th mile of the National Cycle Network and was opened in 2005 by Sir John Sulston, who won a Nobel prize for his work on the Human Genome Project...
"The artwork along this section of the route celebrates the role of the nearby Sanger Institute in decoding the vital human gene BRCA2. A series of stripes in four colours representing the 10,257 genetic letters, or bases, of the gene BRCA2 have been laid on the path using thermoplastic strips heat welded onto the tarmac."
Photo: Andrew Mac

Pretty cool, huh? And it'll be nice to have a medical concept that is not knee-related in mind, as I use this measured mile to knock a few seconds off my previous times.

All being well, I'll see you back in blog land in early June.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Link Between Running and Rhubarb

Not surprisingly, my reduced running activity during the last few months has had an unfriendly effect on my waistline and the scales are nudging higher than I would like. And even though I'm not going anywhere on vacation where a bikini will be required, news that my mother is lovingly planning to feed me rhubarb crumble next week is enough to make me rein in my eating a little, in anticipation.

(For US readers, an English crumble is not dissimilar to a cobbler; the photo I've "borrowed" is a tasty-looking recipe by Britain's beloved Delia Smith).

Normally, when I visit the UK, I ramp up my running a bit, to offset all the tea-cakes, scones, sausage rolls and other dietary necessities which must be enjoyed to make the most of the travel experience. However, this time around I'm not sure whether I'll be able to burn quite so many calories and I need to watch out that my longest-lasting souvenir is not around my tum.

Moreover, according to this slightly depressing Knee Pain Guide from Sutter Health, every extra pound of weight adds four pounds of pressure to your kneecap. And that's just walking - don't even think about climbing the stairs.

...But I'll try not to let that trouble me, as I get stuck into dreamy, creamy crumble and custard in the comforting surroundings of the family dinner table.

How about you: would you rather eat dessert, even if you have to run a few extra miles as payback?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Forget about the Christmas song: I am officially declaring the next 8 weeks the best possible time of the year for runners. Why? Well, in the northern hemisphere at least, we are now enjoying fantastic amounts of one of the world's most precious resources: daylight.

Today I was up at 5:30 and out of the house to run well before 6. The day was waking up with a soft but clear grey light. The breeze was cool, the wildlife was plentiful but unperturbed by me trotting past. My three miles were slow but painless; I was energized rather than tired.

Does it get any better than that?

On the small chance you are reading this blog and have never tried running, I urge you to seize these long days and get out there. For those of us who love to jog, trot or sprint, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Photo thanks: Craig Goodwin

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Physiotherapy Class

My first brush with physiotherapy was a little on the strange side, but the jury is happily still out.

Kaiser Permanente, my health provider this year (not sure how long that will last) bundled all their knee-challenged clients into a group and dealt with six of us en masse through an introductory educational/exercise class. I was pretty skeptical as to how all these people of different shapes, sizes and diagnoses could benefit from a blanket approach, but since the gist of the message seemed to be Strengthen Your Quads, and that's spot on for what I've read about Runner's Knee, then I don't mind playing nicely for a month or two and seeing what happens.

Photo thanks: Kings College London

I now have 3 fairly challenging exercises (including sitting on the wall and single-leg bridge, if you're interested) to repeat 20-40 times, every other day. Icing afterwards is mandatory, even if my knee doesn't feel inflamed. The plan is, this should yield some improvement in 2-3 months. What the heck, I can give that a shot, especially since I'm allowed to sneak in some short runs, as long as I stop when it starts to hurt.

Probably the best part of the class was the rather selfish satisfaction in seeing that, of the six of us, my "condition" is by far the least severe. I'm extremely lucky that, so far at least, my recalcitrant knee is not interrupting daily life. I can get up, down, or sideways without difficulty, and, within reason, I can still take a nice long walk without anxiety. I take great comfort that, being in vaguely reasonable shape to begin with, a single dodgy joint is not enough to bring everything to a grinding halt. And unless I get over-enthusiastic and trot too far, I'm free of the pain which my classmates were clearly enduring. That knowledge, if nothing else, should provide the motivation to stick to my exercise schedule.
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