It seems that after a good start to the year and consistent training through January and February, things just aren’t destined to go right in March. I began the month with a disrupted long run, followed it up with a difficult and stressful week in which my nutrition was all wrong and my energy levels were through the floor, and now, almost inevitably, the niggles are creeping in.
A couple of times recently I’ve been aware of a tightness in my upper thigh and glute after a longer run, but have been managing it with stretching, foam rolling and mobility exercises. It seemed to be improving and was one of the few things that DIDN’T go wrong on my long run last week. But as the new week began that nagging tightness was still there and if something doesn’t resolve after a few days, then it probably needs further investigation. Yet again, my training had to change:
Monday – swim/sauna
8 miles hilly short test run with Steve
conditioning further investigation of tight muscles
cadence drills coaching running club
18 miles 30 mile cycle
Having been aware of the tightness throughout Monday and Tuesday, I was pretty doubtful about my Tuesday run, so when Steve suggested heading out together for a lap or two of the Inch (he’s running at a slower pace right now due to his cracked rib) I jumped at the idea. But almost immediately I knew there was an issue. The top of my thigh felt tight and it just wouldn’t settle down. We walked and jogged a bit, tried some movements to try and ease it, but nothing worked. Instead, we headed home to work through a few more stretches to try and “hit the spot”. This continued into Wednesday when I went down to the studio and Steve took me through some stretches, mobility exercises and good old-fashioned ouchy massage to try and release the tension in my thigh and glute, but nothing really seemed to do it. There appeared to be a really deep knot of tension and I knew it would take a bit longer to resolve.
The decision was therefore made to cut right back on my training this week to try and sort out the problem. As before, I’d much rather be out running, but I know it’s far more sensible to miss one or two runs now and hit the start line in Paris healthy than to risk it all for a training run.
So my cadence drills on Thursday were cancelled and since the running club were due to complete hill reps, I drove up and met them there so there was no need for me to attempt any running. All the time I continued to stretch, foam roll and use self-massage tools such as The Grid and the Trigger Point ball to help release the tension I’m feeling.
By Friday, my leg was feeling improved, but not improved enough to go firing back into training so I decided to hit the pool instead for a bonus swim session. I’m still determined to crack the front crawl and this was a positive session. I even managed to string a couple of lengths of the pool together for the first time (normally it’s a length followed by a short break) and my breathing is improving. The swimming actually helped to relieve my tight muscles, so hopefully it won’t take much more to resolve the issue. To be certain, though, I’ve booked a physio appointment to check it all out properly and make sure I’m doing everything I can to make things better.
I also decided to skip Parkrun this week. I’ve only been going to Parkrun since the start of the year but already it feels like an important part of my week and I was sad not to be running – I kind of missed my Parkrun family! It’s funny how in the depths of training we often yearn for a day off, but as soon as that’s forced upon us we feel bereft.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t volunteer at Parkrun instead due to another commitment in the morning (I could have just squeezed in the run, but staying longer to help out wasn’t possible) so Saturday became a rest day and it was quite clear that heading out for an 18 mile run on Sunday would be stupid. In the past, this would have meant a couple of soul-destroying hours on the elliptical or the stationary bike at the gym; now, however, I cycle. So my first bike ride of the year (and an important step in beginning to prepare for the Tayside Challenge and Etape Caledonia) unexpectedly wormed its way into my training schedule.
Using the principle that I should aim for a workout of around the same length as my planned run, I decided I needed to cycle for between 2.5 and 3 hours. I thought that would probably be about 30+ miles depending on what speed I was able to cycle, especially given that I haven’t cycled since the start of November.
On Saturday evening I got my stuff organised (I carry quite a lot of stuff when I go for a long run so a bike ride was like packing for an expedition with all the “just in case” stuff I need!) and chose some kit. I don’t have as much cycling kit as I do running kit (yet) but I knew that I would feel much colder on the bike than if I was running so wanted to make sure I layered up properly.
As I set out in the morning I actually felt a bit nervous. It seemed like such a long time since I’d cycled and although I really enjoyed my time on the bike last year, I’ve been so focused on my running lately that going out on the bike felt a bit alien. I didn’t feel as confident as before so took it easy and got a feel for the bike again at the Inch before setting off on one of my favourite routes which takes in this beautiful dry arch:
My plan was to complete this loop, bringing me back into town around 18 miles, then add on an 11 mile loop around one of my favourite hilly running routes. I then just had to take a slightly “scenic” route home though town to add on a final mile and bring it to a nice round 30.
At first I was worried that it would be miserable: my hands were cold inside my gloves and I was missing my “training partner” Martin (Yelling, via the Marathon Talk podcast – I never put earphones in when I cycle). Soon, though, the temperature crept up and my hands stopped being cold, the sun came out and I started to really enjoy myself. By the time I was on my hilly loop (a route I’ve never cycled despite it being a staple running route for me) I felt much more confident, was pedalling quicker and was quite content being in the saddle again. The thing that amazed me most was that after all this time, I was able to go out and ride 30 miles without much difficulty thanks to all the other training I’ve been doing lately, even on a route that was tougher in the second half than the first. I now feel much more confident about my forthcoming cycling events (although I need to focus on hilly routes when I train more specifically for those) and a little less daunted by the challenges ahead as I know I could have happily carried on. I do need to get some more effective padded shorts/tights for longer rides though!
I know my time today wasn’t very fast, but that was due to some leisurely easy miles while I got a feel for the bike again (and the fact that I was on a shared foot/cycle path filled with dog walkers and families so had to go carefully – the last thing I want to do right now is fall off my bike!), some hills and a rather muddy section along by the river. All things considered, I’m pretty happy with what I achieved and 30 miles is now the longest cycle ride I’ve been on. It was quite odd seeing my Garmin reach 26.2 miles as I’ve only ever seen that happen in a marathon before. Even stranger to keep on going!
I might not have been able to run today, but I’m so glad that I was able to go out on my bike. I may have been a bit cold, but it was a great workout and will have helped maintain my fitness (I did have to play my joker in Jantastic though as all my targets were based on running. Fingers crossed I can run next week otherwise my 100% record will be lost! Note to self: include swimming and cycling in my chosen disciplines next year!).
After a rather inauspicious start, my week improved greatly with that Sunday cycle. I needed a good long workout to deliver some endorphins and help me feel like my training was still on track. Reaching a new “longest cycle” milestone also meant I had a solid achievement for the week. Oh, and if anyone’s wondering, I finally got those nutritional problems under control by upping my protein and iron intake. Think lots of meals that looked like this:
There are now just 4 weeks left until Paris (eek!). Hopefully I will be able to get back to running again, complete one last long run and have a good taper to the big day. Keep your fingers crossed!
How has your training been going? Any niggles?
What’s your favourite way to cross train?