Monday, 28 April 2014

Good to go!

My last post was just before the Sarah Killey 50k walk and I mentioned that, as all of my usual training buddies were doing this event, I did 18 miles on Saturday which was the day before the race. The day after the race, I did a sedate 10k run around the NSC perimeter road whilst my son, Stephen, did his training on the track. Nothing untoward happened, however on the Tuesday when I met up with the usual crowd after work for training, as soon as I set off I could feel a sharp pain at the front of my left ankle. This was a pain with which I was very familiar and it was the indication of a tendon strain i.e. a repetitive strain injury.  Naturally, I continued walking for a further 8 miles just to ensure I was damaging the tendon properly.
The most annoying aspect about the whole affair is that I have no idea when it happened. Usually with an injury, you can pin point the time and place of the incident which led to the injury. Perhaps a lack of warming up before exercise (everyone falls into that category at some point), simply a case of 'trying too hard' or even something as innocuous as the shoe lace being too tight. Whatever it is, you will know. Yet this time, I didn't.
This injury has happened to me on a few occasions over the years and the most annoying thing about a tendon injury is the sheer amount of time it takes to heal.
Unlike muscles which have a good and plentiful supply of blood, tendons have by contrast a very poor blood supply and therefore take significantly longer to heal.

From the area of the pain I was experiencing, I had injured the extensor tendons whose sole purpose in life is to pull the toes up.

Healing can be aided by initially applying ice to the affected area to reduce swelling. Massaging anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen will also help and the application of a laser light/ultrasound to the affected area by a physio will also stimulate the body to heal the area more quickly.
Regardless though, it will take a couple of weeks to sort itself out, depending on severity and this can be very frustrating especially when the focus of your training is looming ever closer.
I have done no walking training since that Tuesday which is now 14 days ago. With time running out for Parish training, it would be very easy to essentially panic and try to get back out before the injury has had time to fully heal. It is a case of being sensible and to let nature take its course. Along with deep heat, massage, rest, laser pen et al. To go out too soon would inevitably delay the recovery of the tendon which would in turn delay a return to full training which is the ultimate goal.

My main focus this year is a 100 miles race in Holland which takes place on the 7/8 June in Rotterdam, a full two weeks before the Parish Walk. My wife, son and I are off to theme parks in Germany and Holland for a week before the race, so, injuries notwithstanding, I have a maximum of five weeks training left: essentially from now until the end of May. Ordinarily, the closeness of the event would make me want to get out and start training too soon, but for once, my sensible head has kicked-in and I have taken my time. The reason for this is that I already have had a good nine or ten months of solid training so a two week enforced break won't do too much damage; "the miles are already in the legs", so to speak.
Injuries are part and parcel of the whole athletics circus. It is how you deal with them that is more important than how much training you are potentially missing because of it. Again, mental strength comes into play as this will determine whether you:
  1. do nothing and let nature take its course (perhaps 15 days*)
  2. seek advice and therapy to speed up the healing process (9 - 12 days)
  3. do option 1, panic after 10 days of doing nothing and go out training too soon (move back 1 week)
  4. do option 2, panic mildly after 8 days, say 'sod it' and go out too soon (move back 1 week)
* This is an arbitrary number and is purely based on my own experiences. Obviously, the more serious the issue the longer the delay in returning to full fitness.

The bottom line is that injuries, whilst annoying and frustrating, can happen to anyone but, most importantly you must be patient with the healing process and force yourself not to go training too soon.

Today, I did a steady 5k around the NSC perimeter with Ed Walter. Ed is also going to Holland so we had a good old chat as we went round in the late April sunshine.
Although my ankle felt slightly achy afterwards, it wasn't the same sharp pain I had been experiencing so its well on the mend now, thankfully. I'm seeing a physio tomorrow for some ultrasound treatment so hopefully that will seal the deal and I'll be good to go.

On the plus side though (according to my wife), whilst being 'laid-up' I have managed to jet-wash and paint the decking, painted the fence and other garden furniture, washed the car and sorted out the garden. Decorating was mentioned so I think I'm getting back to fitness just in the nick of time!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Billy no mates

Tomorrow sees the Sara Killey Memorial Walk and it is used by quite a few walkers as an early test of  their fitness and stamina prior to the big day in June. Starting at Peel fire station, the race more or less exactly follows the Parish Walk route until it finishes at Ramsey fire station exactly 50k (31.07 miles) later. This race gives a good indication of exactly where you are physically and mentally and it gives you a good mark in the sand for the rest of your training. It also allows competitors who intend to perhaps go beyond Peel in the Parish the chance to try out different foods and drinks on a walk which is longer than they would normally do in training. Getting the correct nutrition for your own needs is a vital component in everyone's preparation for any endurance event and one which is unfortunately sometimes overlooked.
In 2010, I was concerned that in the previous three Parish Walks, after around 15 or 17 miles, my legs would begin to feel heavy and it became a struggle to keep the same pace going. After eating more food, I would pick up again and by the time I got to the Round Table crossroads, I'd be fine again. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason that this should happen to me because I had been eating foods with a low glycaemic index such as banana and pasta.
The GI value of a food is an indication of how quickly or slowly the energy from that food is released into the body so it can be used as fuel by the muscles. 
I went to see a nutritionist for some advice because most of what I knew about sports nutrition (which wasn't much) was passed to me through talking to others and everyone's requirements are different.
When I first got into walking, I remember asking Alan Callow what I should eat when doing the Parish Walk expecting him to reveal the name of the secret elixir which powered Robbie Callister year after year. Disappointingly, he said I would have to try different things to see which ones worked for me. Gutted.
From the information I gave to the nutritionist about what I ate when training, she told me that I was eating all the wrong types of food! This came as a complete shock to me as I was eating the same as everyone else. She then went on to say that rather than slow release foods like porridge, crisps and banana, I should be eating the opposite, high GI foods. Her reasoning for this was that because my average pace was high, I needed the energy from the food I ate straight away rather than ½ an hour later. This made total sense to me once it was pointed out and it changed my whole approach when packing the car on Parish eve. Now I have things like watermelon, dates, sugar puffs (yes, really), jam sarnies and figs. Not natural bed fellows usually, but perfectly acceptable for one day in June!

As all the usual training suspects are doing this walk tomorrow and I'm not, I went out on my own this morning. I headed out through Onchan, turned left at the top of Whitebridge and on towards Glen Roy. From Glen Roy, down to Laxey, then back towards Douglas via Groudle Road. Just a bit over 18 miles in total.
On Bhaldoon Road, I spotted this public information feature on someone's verge which made me
Fairly self explanatory. There must be an excess of dog eggs in the Laxey area.

In January, I watched all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad via Netflix. What a wonderful invention! I can highly recommend this show and, Game of Thrones notwithstanding, is by far the best thing on tv in a long, long time. There was also some fantastic music on the show some of which I have downloaded and it was this I was listening to this morning whilst I was training.
I don't usually use headphones as I find it more of a distraction than helpful however, I enjoyed myself this morning.
Current favourite tune from the show is Bonfire by Knife Party. Absolute class and needs to be loud.

Check out the Glycaemic Index for ideas for other foods you can try in training. Unfortunately, none of them leap out at you and say 'eat me' however, as far as energy is concerned, they serve a purpose.

Good luck to those taking part in the Sara Killey tomorrow!