Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Idiot's Guide To Faltering

I'm in one of those moods, and Tam's squaring me up.

'I don't get why you're on about next year - you're not even half-way through what you want to do this year yet. Why do you always have to have some big scheme going on? Why can't you just have a year where you just take it as it comes? You're obsessed. Always on about doing this, doing that - it wears me down sometimes.'

She's right. She mostly is.

'I'm not obsessed,' I tell her. 'This running lark - I can take it or leave it.'

She gives me a look - yeah right - and leaves the room.

The alarm goes off at 5am. I've set the bedroom clock 10 minutes fast. If I'm going to have time to get my exercises in before heading to work, I need to get up at 4.50, but getting up before 5 always seems too early.

I lean over - turn the alarm off, roll over and give Tam a kiss. 'See you later.' She mumbles something and I get out of bed. I hitch up my compression tights a little and walk to the bathroom. Since that last race, when my legs felt as battered as they've ever been, I've taken to going to bed in the tights. Not the best look, but I've seen the studies that show that compression increases blood flow, aids recovery and reduces muscle soreness. It's a price worth paying.

Once down in the kitchen, I make myself a cup of coffee. Decaff, of course. Not only is it a good idea for the ticker, but I've read the studies that show that caffeine consumed before a race can have a significant performance enhancing effect. Surely that effect will be more pronounced if I cut the consumption of caffeine at all other times?

I've got 20 minutes to do my exercises before I have to get off. After The Viking Way, I was in bits. Everything's slowly returned to normal, but my right knee continues to give me trouble. ITBS? Maybe. I spent a couple of days on the internet and checked out a lifetime of ITB and core strengthening exercises. I avoided the numerous stretching routines because barefoot runners don't stretch. The Sock Doc says so, and he's the expert.

I go through my drills - how long will they take to work? - and then head off for work. It's a busy time of year at The Factory. Demand is higher than ever for cheap children's colouring boards, and I've got a list of orders 2 pages long to sort out. I get into the office with the best of intentions, but can't resist a quick look on the computer. 10 minutes. That's all. I log onto the Mablethorpe Running Club forum. See what's going on there. A quick look at my favourites - i run far, Mud, Sweat and Tears, Riding The Wind, Living The Dream, the Fell Runners forum, Barefoot Running University, Alpine Works. A quick look at Facebook - anything going on? - any new blogs from friends, virtual or real? - 1:40 at 40, Fell Running Fruits, Vagabond Runner, Ultrarunning Life. That's it. 10 minutes turning into an hour and a half. For the rest of the working day, I'm on the back foot.

The packing guys start at 8. We're a man down today, so I take up my position at the end of the shrink-wrap tunnel. It's a monotonous job, but I don't mind. I spend some time thinking of the footpaths I've still to run. An image appears of that path marker I spotted the other day on the other side of Louth. I wonder where that leads to? I must get out the OS map when I get home. I daydream about a little project for the future. The 50 Churches. It's a little project I've daydreamed about a lot recently. Pick 50 churches and chapels in Lincolnshire, around The Wolds. Link them all up using footpaths, bridleways and country lanes to make a route. Run it. Dead easy. I've no idea what sort of distance I'll be looking at - 50 miles, 100 miles, 200 miles? No idea - but I spend the next hour mulling it over contentedly.

We stop for a break at 10. In the office, Tam's got the accounts and payroll up on the screen. 'Don't touch that!' she says as she goes out to make a coffee. If I'm quick, I think, I'll just have time to check out who's doing what in the JOGLE race before she gets back in.

At dinner break, I've checked Facebook and the forums again quickly and am eating my 'power snack' whilst flicking through the latest Sportsshoes catalogue. My lunch is concocted from whole-grain brown rice, chick peas, kidney beans, anchovies and mackerel fillets. It doesn't taste great, but I've read studies that prove that each one of those ingredients can have a positive effect on your running.

'Do you know what I fancy doing sometime?' I ask Tam.

'Go on...' she answers.

'A long thru-hike. That's what the Americans call it. One of the National Trails, maybe. Take a bigger pack, sleeping bag and a bivvy, and mix in running and walking. Sleep on the trail. That'd be ace!'

Silence greets me.

I glance over. Tam's reading the paper. Her eyebrows are raised and she's gently shaking her head.

I decide not to take it any further.

The afternoon passes quickly, and then I'm home. In a bid to get rid of this niggle, I've decided not to run tonight. I get changed, take myself off to the back room and start my core strength and mobilty routine. It's a bit tiresome, but I've read studies that show a lack of core strength and mobility in the hip flexors are a contributing factor to ITBS. So it's: squats, one leg squats, clams, plank, side plank, bird dog, standing clam, glute bridge.

I keep looking out the patio doors while I'm doing my pointless exercises. It's a great night for a run. I suppose a mile won't hurt. I do a few foot drills and spend 5 minutes 100-upping. Then, I slip on my shoes and jog up the lane. At the half-mile turn-around, my knee feels fine. I decide to go a bit further - I suppose 4 miles won't hurt. At 3 miles, the dull twinge on the outside of my right knee becomes a bit more than a dull twinge. By the time I'm home, the euphoria of the first mile has been replaced by a pissed-off defeatedness.

Tam's in the kitchen when I get back, fresh from her marathon training. 'Good run?' I ask her.

'Yeah - did 8 miles at race pace,' she replies, 'Felt great! What about you? I thought you weren't running tonight?'

I'm in one of those moods. 'Feel like packing in,' I say , 'It's one bloody thing after another.'

'Chris,' she says, ' Don't talk bollocks. Give it a couple of days and everything will be ok again. It always is.'

'We'll see,' I tell her. 'Anyhow - it's not the end of the world. This running lark - I can take it or leave it.'

I feel much more positive after putting the superheroes to bed and having a bath. Tam asks about watching a film after tea, but I tell her I need to get to bed - I've an early start the next morning.

The alarm goes off at 5am. I lean over - turn the alarm off, roll over and give Tam a kiss. 'See you later.' She mumbles something and I get out of bed. I hitch up my compression tights a little and walk to the bathroom. Groundhog Day. Another day - addicted.

This running lark - can I take it or leave it?

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