Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Madrid Marathon Week 11/18

I was going to write a very positive report for this week because the training went very well and I hit all my pace targets (and some). Maybe it is not such a coincidence, then, that my back is worse than I think it has ever been, to the point that a colleague had to drive me home in my car yesterday, while another one came along to take the first one back to the office. But more of that in a moment.

The week started off with a surprisingly spritely run around the the football pitch. This was supposed to be an easy run - at a pace of between 4:26 and 4:46 / km - but (GPS error permitting) turned out to be 10km at a pace of 4:05, a smidgen above my supposed marathon pace. One of the things I like about my Garmin Fenix 2, is the VO2 Max metric, which probably has little to do with my real VO2 Max, but does seem to track my fitness very well. It makes even the easiest and most boring runs interesting by giving me a goal: after this one, my VO2 Max soared to 66 ml/s/kg.

...that of a 2:30 Marathoner! (I wish)

Tuesday marked a shift in the Hanson's plan from "speed" to "strength" and a move towards more, longer and slower intervals. The recommended pace for these was about 10 seconds faster than Marathon Pace - which I had set at 3:55 /km as running on the track is somewhat easier than on the roads with their ups and downs. Instead of running the 6 sets of 1 mile at 3:45 /km, I ended up running them (very consistently as it turned out) at 3:35 /km. This was partly because I was used to running the speed intervals at 3:25 /km and partly because my watch was displaying my instantaneous pace, rather than the average pace I was clocking up.

Thursday was another "Something Of Substance" (SOS) workout, being a 13 km (8 mile) run at Marathon Pace, again executed slightly faster than required at a pace of 3:52 /km. A few more easy runs and then all that was left was the long run on Sunday. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

I woke up on Saturday with a stiff neck and shoulder, but nothing too worrying. I bought some bath salts and treated myself to a very long hot bath while watching House of Cards Season 4. I didn't much fancy going for a run, especially as it was one of those cold, grey, non-descript kind of afternoons but, after a few reluctant kilometres, the pace seemed to pick itself up naturally as my back loosened up.

On Sunday my back was even stiffer and I started to get nervous about the impending long run. I also had some chores to do - namely, varnishing hundreds of slats of wood that would soon turn into a new garden shed. Again, my back felt better rather than worse as it warmed up, and the run became less of a worry. I'd designed a new route

which turned out to be very good: all on roads, not too many hills and with most of the ascent out of the way by half way. If my long run pace was supposed to be 4:17 /km, I surprised myself by putting in a 4:06 /km effort. All in all, a good week with 93 kilometres in the bag.

On Monday my back (or, more specifically, my left shoulder and neck) was really uncomfortable. I rang all the physios in the area and ended up going to an osteopath at lunch time. There is little more satisfying than the series of  "clicks" he managed to solicit, and I went back to the office a new man. He made a comment about how strained my muscles around the scapula were but - if he thought that complete rest was a good idea, he probably thought I was old enough to realize this for myself. There is a reason why the muscles "lock up" and that is to protect a damaged area so, if you unlock this area prematurely, you can lay yourself open for further injury - at least, this is my home-cooked theory. So I went for an easy run around the track after work. About 8 kilometres in, someone appeared on the track - unusual for that time in the evening where I work - and, although they looked like they were running easily, they seemed to be catching me up. Just at that moment, a drum 'n' bass track came on my iPod and the combination of the high bpm and high testosterone made me pick up my pace. Even so, I got lapped by this new comer... It was then that I realized that he wasn't just anyone - he turned out to be the trainer who works at the gym who runs 800m in 1:49 (the World Record is 1:40.91!!). More fool me.

I paid for my accumulated stupidity on Tuesday. Although I was able to drive in to work, by 11am my back had locked up so much that I had to get a colleague to drive me home. I then went to Emergencies to see if I could get a shot of something to ease my muscles. The doctor saw me clutching my left arm and prodded a few places (but the wrong ones) in my back and was surprised that poking me didn't seem to provoke pain. So, of course, he thought I might be having a heart attack. (I don't say this with any sarcasm - of course there are procedures that have to be followed, and for good reason.) They did a cardiogram on me and when they asked me if I did a lot of sport, I mentioned to them the fact that I had a CRBBB (Complete Right Bundle Branch Block that Peter Piper Picked...). Nevertheless, I had to spend the next 6 hours waiting for various tests to be completed and analyzed. Finally, I was told by a beaming doctor that it was "Good news! The tests have come up OK, you are fine! You can go home now!". I tried to look relieved although I'd already had all that checked out (and in the very same hospital) some time ago, and said, as patiently as a patient can be, "Great, but the fact is that I came here because my back was hurting and you haven't given me anything for it...". "Ah! I'll hook you up now!". So I got my dose of Valium at last, and headed home (with my wife driving, of course). I was also prescribed a cocktail of hard drugs: Enantyum, Nolotil and Diazepan. By coincidence, while I was waiting the entry for the Chicago Marathon opened.

There are some very good reasons why my back is my limiting factor. To start with, I spend most of my day sitting at a computer with a less-than-ideal posture. When I am in training for a Marathon, I tend to lose weight and some of that is bound to be muscle - I guess my body chooses to shed what it thinks it will need less, and that is from my torso. Also, I think I lack hip-strength and tend to compensate with my back, usually leading to very sore spots just under my ribs on each side. But the real reason - and the real cause of my pain this time - is an accident I had over 5 years ago, when I went flying off my mountain mike in an Evel Knievel stylee and tore all the ligaments in my shoulder (ACL grade III). Apart from lending asymmetry to my whole body, this means that my left scapula is less supported than it should be, and the little muscles around it tend to get overworked. Every so often they go on strike - and who can blame them? The answer - because surgery doesn't seem to be a very good option - is to strengthen them.

So. Now what? I've taken a decision to either NOT run the Madrid Marathon, or to run it tranquilamente. Either way, there will be no "Madrid Marathon Week 12/18". I've also signed up for the Chicago Marathon, which I should get into with my New York Marathon time from last year. This was supposed to be a rehearsal for the Chicago Marathon - in particular, following a new training plan. I've definitely learned some things:

- I like the Hanson's plan - even if it looks easier on paper than the one I was following leading up to New York, it is actually quite demanding.
- It's important to run the easy runs easy, or to at least listen to your body and allow some of them to be really easy.
- It takes many weeks to get back in shape, even if it wasn't that long ago that I was last in shape. In other words, one "detrains" faster than one trains. It's important not to get discouraged during these early weeks and it is probably a good idea to start the training plan from week 1.
- My back is my limiting factor. Between now and starting up my training for Chicago I am going to strengthen my back and build into my daily routine a set of exercises to maintain strength that I will stick to come hell or high-water. Back pain is not fun.
- Running outside is quite different from running on the treadmill and I am perfectly capable of adapting to the relative "boredom" (compared to watching my favourite series while I run). Even running 13 kilometres round and round a track hasn't been so hard to get used to.
- I have to pay heed to my back pain and not just "run through it".

Monday: 13 km @ 4:05 (track)
Tuesday: 6 x 1 mile w/ 400m recovery @ 3:35, 3:35, 3:33, 3:37, 3:34, 3:35
Wednesday: -
Thursday: 13 km @ 3:52
Friday: 11.3 km @ 4:18
Saturday: 9.8 km @ 4:28
Sunday: 25.8 km @ 4:06
Total kilometres: 93

VO2 Max (Garmin): 64 ml/kg/min
Resting pulse (average): 40 ppm
Fat (average): 6.7%

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