Niggles Be Gone: Marathon Training Week 6

Recently, I’ve been wondering why I even bothered to get Steve to write me a training plan this year as it seems to be constantly changing and in flux! I don’t think any week yet has been exactly as planned, but then that’s the reality – sometimes other things like life or injury get in the way. The important thing is to be sensible and adjust the plan to suit where you are and allow gradual progression towards your goal without overdoing it. As an example, let’s look at this week.

Planned training this week:
Monday – Gym
Tuesday – Club Run
Wednesday – Gym
Thursday – Club Track Session
Friday – Rest/Swim
Saturday – 5 miles
Sunday – 12 miles

Well, I did some of those things but, as the great Eric Morecambe once said, “not necessarily in the right order!”

When I arrived at the gym for my session on Monday I told Steve that I had been experiencing some kind of niggling discomfort on the inside of my knee. Knowing that often such things are not actually knee issues at all but symptoms of a problem elsewhere, I told him I’d like to use the time to try and identify what was going on. We couldn’t find any obviously tight muscles around the hamstrings or hip flexors so were able to rule that out quickly, however we did find a couple of tender spots, most probably deep knots, at the top of my calf and lower part of my quad. We did a bit of stretching but I noticed Steve was beginning to get a bit grumpy and had sniffled his way through the session. If you know Steve, you’ll know that he is NEVER grumpy so I knew he must be feeling pretty under the weather and called a halt to the session so he could get home to try and sleep it off.

Since I had decided to be sensible and shift this problem, whatever it was, quickly rather than having it drag out, my Tuesday club run was ruled out in favour of an hour on the cross trainer. Now, to be clear, I’m not fond of the cross trainer. With the amount of time I spent on there during my 2010 marathon training I’d be happy never to see it again, however when I’m unable to run it is the best substitute. I used the fancy “gliding” machine where you are not moving on a fixed track and can take a longer stride which mimics running more closely. Even with my iPod it was a dull hour, but I completed it and could tick off some cardio training for Tuesday in the absence of running.

On Wednesday I knew I was up to a gym session, but sadly poor Steve, who was still battling the bug, was not. Instead I opted for a swim on the assumption that by Friday I’d be able to have a gym session. That evening Steve had perked up sufficiently to put me through a bit of sports massage on the knots in my muscles. I’m not going to lie, it was very painful and on Thursday I was sporting a bruise on the back of my calf, but it was effective so I gritted my teeth and let him work away the knots. Sometimes no pain, no gain actually is true!

That said, I didn’t think it was wise to attempt a track session, or even a run, on Thursday so it was back to my nemesis the cross trainer for an interval workout. The session Steve gave me was a 10 minute warm up then 1 minute fast (with a higher resistance) and 2 minutes slow (with a low resistance). I did 10 reps of these before a bit of stretching and further foam rolling.

After a bit more investigation of the cause of my niggle on Thursday evening, it was decided that I would need to do a bit more work on strengthening some of the muscles around my quads and piriformis. I had been doing this in the latter part of 2011 but with the load of my marathon training plan it had not continued into the new year. With Steve back at work, we tackled this on Friday evening and following my session on the TRX I was definitely feeling a bit weak at the knees. I was also pleased to have warmed up on the treadmill. Ok, so it was only 5 minutes, but I had been feeling frustrated on Thursday evening as I was so desperate to get out for a run. What with treadmill sessions, ice last weekend and taking this week off running entirely, it had struck me that I had not yet run outside in February and I was not liking it one bit! I suffered no ill effects (to be honest the niggle had never bothered me whilst running, it was afterwards I would feel it) and, like an over-eager child, began asking Steve the big question: could I run at the weekend?

The decision reached was that I could try a short, slow treadmill run to see what happened. What happened was I ran 3 miles in 30 minutes but gradually increased the pace from 5mph to 6.5mph throughout as I felt fine. Again, there were no ill effects so Steve agreed that I could run as planned on Sunday (but with the warning that I was to hold the pace back and not get over-excited and push too much -ok, he had a point, that sounds like me!)

My plan was to run the route I wasn’t able to do last weekend due to the ice. I reckoned it would be “12miles and a bit” and it is one of my favourite routes despite being pretty hilly! Dave was happy to accompany me again even at a slower pace and we agreed to go for an average of 9 minute miles. As it turns out, we got the pace about right. My Garmin tells me I ran 12.73 miles in 1:55:20, an average pace of 9.04 per mile. There were no problems with my knee while I ran and although I could feel it niggle a bit for a wee while after I stopped, that soon eased off. Obviously I now need to keep an eye on things and keep up the stretching, massage and strengthening work to ensure the problem goes away completely.

Of course, the 1300ish calories I’ve burned mean that I’m once more starving (even though I had a recovery shake and a hearty lunch!) so I’m really looking forward to heading out for dinner tonight. If you happen to be in the same Italian restaurant as us tonight, you may see something very special in the field of food consumption and I can only apologise for my apparent gluttony!

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