This week has been a break through week for me with my calf finally feeling under control, I won’t tempt fate and say completely healed as I saw the scan a week last Tuesday and the tear is there, albeit a new one and a lot smaller. I spoke to my physio on Wednesday and he is the most pessimistic (or realist?) person you could ever meet when it comes to recovering from injury and even he said if I could run 10k without any issue then I should continue to run and build up my cardio fitness. He did recommend not running the City to Surf Marathon in August and I was vague on this point knowing full well I had entered only a few days before. I suggested we discuss this subject again in 4 weeks time, knowing full well that in 4 weeks, if I’m still running, then I’m lining up for my 9th City to Surf in a row, come hell or waters high.
Letting the boys know I’d entered spurred on an avalanche of entires and it seems I won’t be alone on the big day with the two Mark’s entering and Jon. Gareth has ‘footy’ coaching but I’m sure he’ll find a replacement for the big day as , speaking from experience, missing out on these marathons is frustrating, and that’s putting it nicely.
Training wise I have to walk a tight rope for the next few weeks. It’ll be a lot of Elliptigo time (which I love at the moment) and any running will be at a very relaxed and slow pace. This morning for instance I was awoke by one of the puppies early so had an hour to kill. What could I do but go for a run but this was to be a rest day so I had to make sure the run was at a pedestrian pace at best. As it was 5:30am and pitch dark outside this was easy enough and I managed a 5:45min/k average for the 10k. Returning back to the family nest very happy that I managed to maintain this pace and truth be told at the end I was quite tired , which doesn’t bode well.
Can I break sub 3 ? It’ll be a big ask and my training will need to go very well but that is the target. I’ll plan for 50k this week (maximum) and then increase that to 70k next week and maybe nudge 100k the following week. This will then give me 3-4 more training weeks of volume before a 1 week taper. Add in some serious time on the Elliptigo and I should be in sub3 form. The only fly in my ointment is the last time I was out for a 4 week period I ran the Bunbury Marathon a month later and ran a 2:59.xx time, cutting it very fine. I remember running through halfway at 1:28 feeling absolutely ‘goosed’ and I had to work very hard to scrape under three hours, very hard ! I have the finishing shots and you can see the emotion on my face, it was one of the highlights of my running career, not for the time but for the effort required to dig very deep to get out of a very big hole.
The City to Surf will require another lazarus like comeback to go sub3 but I’m hoping the Elliptigo will be the extra weapon in my arsenal that will allow me to get some serious time on legs without the pounding of running but with the added benefit of being a better workout than cycling. I’ll know so much more in a week or two as my last attempt at returning from my original calf tear went well for a week and then ended up with a new tear, probably due to over training so soon after injury. I certainly ate a large portion of humble pie but it was a risk I had to take with the Perth marathon as a carrot dangled infront of me.
What’s different this time ? The original tear is healed and the new tear is a lot smaller and probably nearly healed as well. I still haven’t got the confidence to add pace to my runs but I don’t have to for a few weeks. I will of course need to eventually add pace as I need to be comfortable running 4:15min/k or better to break the sub 3hr barrier for the 29th time (and hopefully number 26 in a row; remember what I said about runners and streaks; if I was to go over 3hrs I would be devastated, and that’s putting it mildly!)
Right back to training, a big week so far for me , 25k and with a 10k pencilled in for tomorrow I should be able to find 15k over the weekend to hit my 50k target. this will be the first hurdle; next week I add another 20k, hurdle number two. I will feel a lot more confident once I move towards hurdle number three as by then all calf tears will be well and truely healed.
What have I taken from this injury ? The main point is it could have been avoided. I knew I was pushing my limits and the calf had felt tight and sore for weeks before it eventually gave way. If I had rested more, even visited a physio for a massage, done some calf stretching exercises or hydrated better I’m confident I could have avoided this situation. Moving forward I really need to listen to my body more but the old saying about old dogs and new tricks seems to resonate in my mind for some reason. I suppose the only thing on my side is my youth? Still making rookie errors but hopefully learning from them, after all at 50 I still have another 50 years of running ahead of me, I hope my Elliptigo is up to the job, may have to check the warranty ?
There are certain races that a runner learns to love over time as they are filled with golden memories. For me , as I race so often and in the same place (Western Australia) I have a few of these. They would include the Rottnest Island Marathon (you really need to click on this link, Rottnest is just one of the most beautiful places on earth. http://www.rottnestisland.com/ I’ve ran ‘Rotto’ 10 times and have loved every minute. ), the Perth Marathon, the 6 inch trail ultra ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/ ) and the Chevron sponsored City to Surf Marathon.
This morning after a bumper week of training last week , for a weekly total of 13k, I entered the City to Surf Marathon for the 9th time. This race to me is special for a number of reasons. It was the first marathon I first broke sub 3 hours in 2009 in it’s inaugural year. I have ran two of my fastest marathon times on the course (2013 my current PB of 2hrs 41 min 14 seconds and last year 2hrs 41min 41seconds) , finished top 10 on numerous occasions but best of all won $6,000 once as the first Australian (even with my English dulcet tones) to finish. I am also one of the last 26 runners to have ran all the previous 8 iterations of this race. (see below)
As I have mentioned before runners love numbers, be it your PB time, number of marathons ran, average pace, distance, VO2 max, cadence, numbers of runs a week etc. the list is endless but one of the biggest numbers runners love is ‘streaks’. To be involved at the beginning of a major city marathon, even better in your home town, is priceless and a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is why, even with a calf tear less than 8 weeks, out I am determined to run the ninth Perth City to Surf. (I say ‘run‘ , it may end up being a lot less than that by the time I get to ‘heartbreak hill’ at the 40k mark?)
I worked with Chevron from 2007-2015 and during that time suspected I was being kept on as the ‘poster boy’ for the event as I always seemed to be the first Chevron marathon finisher and normally attracted a bit of media attention. Most of that was mainly aimed at the ‘look at the old guy finishing the marathon in a semi-reasonable time’ angle more than anything else. Not many balding, bearded, mid-life (I hope?) runners at the front of the pack so might as well interview this one ? I have been lucky enough to make the papers, local TV and even You Tube on occasion, much to my kids disgust. Apparently watching your dad on the TV doing press-ups after finishing a marathon is not cool. Actually I seem to have this issue with anything I do funnily enough. (and you can imagine how the Elliptigo is going down at the moment in my house ? http://www.elliptigo.com )
There was also the time in 2013 I was nearly ‘first woman’ after running with the lead woman the whole race and then , in the sprint for the line, I was forced to slow so she could take the tape. The beard would have probably given the game away if I had crossed ahead of her and took the tape. At the time I was working for Chevron and reasoned my contract would come under some pressure if I was seen on local TV barging past the first woman in an effort to save a few seconds. Truth be told this was actually my PB run and I still maintain this act of chivalry cost me a few seconds, whether I could justify it cost me 1 minute and 15 seconds for a sub 2:40 is difficult.
Other notable events over the years is one of my favourite photos of Jon barking orders at me in 2010 about 10k into the race. My Garmin watch had died at the start so mentally I was shot before the first step. My plan was to stay with Jon and this group to he finish and grab another sub3. It was about this time I gave up and got dropped like a bad habit. I ended up running alone for the next 30k and finishing in 3hours and 3 minutes. With a fully functioning Garmin I’m convinced I could have gone under 3 hours. Jon was moving into his prime at the time and I was no match for his endurance or speed. Also note this was before the ‘speed beard’ was added to my arsenal and I don’t think I’ve ran over 3 hours with the beard ? (for female readers I would recommend growing a speed beard or any beard really, probably not going to help you attract a ‘life partner’, or maybe…? ) Also notice it was about this time Skins first came out and me and Jon were convinced of their magical properties. I even wore a pair to a 10k once ! We both decided that if the Africans didn’t wear them then we wouldn’t either in the end. Still good for injury prevention on training runs and recovery of course. ( I still remember the first time Karen encountered me wearing skins to bed , for recovery purposes you understand, it was a once only event, I think she nearly died laughing.)
Even got to meet the great Steve Moneghetti at one of the photo shoots for the event when he was the ambassador in 2014. There is a slight resemble, feature wise, as he is also blessed like myself, just needs a beard of course but when it comes to running performances he in a different league, actually a different planet. A genuine nice guy though which is something you find with most good long distance runners. I reckon it is because they’ve been through the same pain we have albeit probably harder , longer and faster; and they are better people for it. This goes for all long distance runners, as a whole they are normally nice people.
There was also the time Mike ran the course and at half way ‘blew his hammy’, he then couldn’t remember his Wife’s mobile number so had to wait until she returned to the family home before calling her and asking to be picked up. Unfortunately for Mike his Wife was the wrong side of road closures and it took her over three hours to get to him. He could have limped to the finish quicker and at least got a finishing medal and probably saved an hour or two hanging around. There was some good karma last year when I got him a free entry and he ran , with very little training, and got his medal he missed from his last failed attempt. The marathon god giveth’ and the marathon god taketh; away.
I have so many more City to Surf stories but will save them for a rainy day when I have run out of things to talk about, assuming that is possible as with each passing day running you are blessed with new experiences, adventures and memories. This is why we run and this is why we are what we are…
My second ultra sound on the calf (above) revealed I had a new calf tear, albeit smaller, at the top of the original 5cm calf tear. Shown in the image by the ‘black hole’. On the bright side it is a lot smaller than the original one which is healing nicely apparently. I assume shown by the left-most arrow which looks like it shows the top of the first tear ,which is now a long thick black line. Not being a Doctor I could be completely wrong (it has happened before..) but the tear is definitely the ‘black hole’ like image. So more rest apparently, which is what I assumed I would be told.
Truth be told I have been resting rather well recently and this has added another 3kg’s to the racing frame. For the first time in many years I can only just make out my ribs where as normally they stand proud like a WW2 prisoner of war with an eating disorder To a runner a thing to be proud of, to Mrs. Matthews not so, I don’t think Karen realises we need to look like ‘racing snakes‘ to gain entry to the front of the pack club ! Although she may be happier with the bigger me I am not !
So in an effect to find my ribs again I have been spending more time on the Elliptigo and must admit to enjoying the experience thoroughly. The Ellipitgo really is so much fun and every time I use it I have to force myself back to the family home because of either hunger or, more likely, family (Dad’s taxi!) commitments. Today I was out and about on the Elliptigo and called Jon as I was close to his house, ‘playing with’ a good size hill. I invited Jon along to take some photos of me and the Elliptigo with this post in mind. I’ve added a few of his photos below and I hope you take from these photos the look of joy on my face. I am having serious fun on the Elliptigo and working the right muscles, without having to clothe myself in lycra and work the wrong muscles.
There are other advantages with an Elliptigo, because of the longer wheelbase and smaller wheels, combined with extra shock absorbers (i.e. legs) you do get that ‘floating on air feeling’. This is so much better than the pounding you take on carbon fibre bikes as you do battle with the bike paths which, if there are anything like the ones in Perth, set numerous ‘concrete lip’ traps that jar your back into next week. You also lose that ‘John Wayne’ like-walk when you get off the bike after a long ride, even with the extra padded lycra.
Of course the main benefit it the ability to grab yourself a good cardio workout without damaging injured legs. I can ride the Elliptigo for hours where-as if I tried to run, with my original calf tear, I’d be lucky to get 500m without pulling up lame.
I also believe the Elliptigo helps with the healing process as it stimulates blood flow around the calf tear, this is my opinion of course and probably ‘bull’ but even as a placebo it must be helping ? In my opinion a good Elliptigo workout would act like a good stretching session, realigning muscle, without the risk of re-tearing the calf, again my opinion. (Any Doctor’s reading this are welcome to leave comments.)
Another plus point of the Elliptigo is just the fact you are out in the open enjoying nature, in all her splendour, instead of being forced to watch the bold and the beautiful repeats on tv while being sweated on by a rather large executive with hygiene issues. (I am assuming of course you are not ‘the bold and the beautifu’l fans or do not enjoy large executives sweating on you; given the choice of course I’d choose the latter. )
Right another good day on the Elliptigo and I have plans to commute to work every day next week so should rack up a few hundred kilometres, pre-weekend. I must remember why I brought the Elliptigo on the first place though, it was something to do with running but it has been such a long time I’ve nearly forgotten what it was? This of course is a joke, I am as focused on my recovery as ever and after two 4k runs in the week so far (for a massive 8k weekly total, for readers who find it hard to add 4k and 4k. ) pain and niggle free I am confident I will returning sooner rather than later. In the mean time I have my exercise outlet and little Jon on call, what more can any runner ask for?
I am a tad OCD when it comes to emails and never delete them, EVER. On my work computer I have every work email I ever sent from 2005 to the present day for no reason that I can. Once in a while they do turn up some little gems which then become ammunition for a good post.
This morning the boys were carrying on about cramping as three of them suffered this ailment in the last part of the recent Perth Marathon. I ,of course, gave them my words of wisdom ending up with a quote that was our ‘go to comment’ many years ago regarding a famous runner, and general super human, Dave Goggins. (http://www.davidgoggins.com ) He was famous for drinking his can of ‘hard’ and taking ‘suck it up’ pills ; his only rest day was yesterday and his journey never stopped…. anyhow, as always I digress. As you can see from my email below I gave the boys heaps using Goggins as my final point.
From: Kevin Matthews Sent: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 8:43 AM To: ‘Conway, Mark (GE Oil & Gas)’; Michael Kowal; Mark Lommers Cc: Jon Pendse; Michael Kowal; Gareth Dean Subject: RE: THE MARATHON LONG RUN
It seems this ‘cramping’ is becoming a problem amongst us, Jon and the T-train both also suffered towards the end. I think the problem is three fold.
- First I don’t know how many times I say it but the marathon starts at 32k and as Jon always says the person who slows down the most wins. !! Imagine if you could take your pace at 21k and replicate it for the rest of the marathon; that is the goal and with training is do-able. To over come this you need experience of running marathons (in my case) or god given natural talent (in Stuart Caulfield’s case, the winner on debut; also Ray Boyd as your trainer helps!! I wonder if Ray would consider training some of us ??)
- Second you need to get the gel, electrolyte, water salt combination right; fuel fuels runners ! Rhys has the best idea taken a smorgasbord of gu’s and popping one every 5k or so.. if your stomach can take it this will work !!
- Lastly you need to man-the-f**k-up. I’m a big believer in the mind playing games to avoid total melt down (as is Noakes and Fitzgerald of course) , cramps may be another one of the minds games to slow you down. Next time this happens (which it won’t if you take on board tips 1 and 2) tell yourself to ‘toughen up princess and do what Goggins would do, .run through it !!) (http://davidgoggins.com/ )
Also don’t get injured !!!!
While searching my old emails for some Goggin’s quotes I came across another set of email sent in 2010 on a similar subject with the usual suspects again involved.
My final email first and then the trail follows….
Don’t listen to Rhys Jon ..he is the dark side of running…..run till you feel you can’t run anymore then run some more…remember cans of hard and suck-it-up pills…David Goggins does not rest and apart from his ruptured kidney, 4 knee operations, 2 hamstring reconstructions, 1 new appendix and 25 foot operations..and open heart surgery …he has never rested..
From: Jonathan Pendse [mailto:JPendse@thiess.com.au] Sent: Friday, 19 March 2010 10:41 AM To: Kevin Matthews; Rhys James; Macey, Dan D. Subject: RE: slow lunch run – uwa
Does less than 10k count as a run… J
Well I might give myself a day off today (I usually have the day after a race off, and didn’t this week). I’m sure I’ll feel a lot better for it on tomorrow’s 30ker.
Often forget the days off are just as important as the training days.
From: Kevin Matthews [mailto:Kevin.Matthews@gujv.com] Sent: Friday, 19 March 2010 10:27 AM To: Rhys James; Jonathan Pendse; Macey, Dan D. Subject: RE: slow lunch run – uwa
Haven’t got time to read this I’m going for a run……..
From: Rhys James Sent: Friday, 19 March 2010 10:21 AM To: ‘Jonathan Pendse’; Kevin Matthews; Macey, Dan D. Subject: RE: slow lunch run – uwa
I am supposed to be going to boot camp, so will give the run a miss. Was out for a steady one yesterday with Kev, though he was complaining of being knackered.
I include the following specifically for him:
Overtraining syndrome frequently occurs in athletes who are training for competition or a specific event and train beyond the body’s ability to recover. Athletes often exercise longer and harder so they can improve. But without adequate rest and recovery, these training regimens can backfire, and actually decrease performance.
Conditioning requires a balance between overload and recovery. Too much overload and/or too little recovery may result in both physical and psychology symptoms of overtraining syndrome.
Common warning signs of overtraining include:
- Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
- Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Sudden drop in performance
- Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
- Decrease in training capacity / intensity
- Moodiness and irritability
- Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
- Decreased appetite
- Increased incidence of injuries.
- A compulsive need to exerciseTreating Overtraining Syndrome Measuring Overtraining There are several ways you can objectively measure some signs of overtraining. One is by documenting your heart rates over time. Track your aerobic heart rate at a specific exercise intensities and speed throughout your training and write it down. If your pace starts to slow, your resting heart rate increases and you experience other symptoms, you may heading into overtraining syndrome. Another way to test recover to use something called the orthostatic heart rate test, developed by Heikki Rusko while working with cross country skiers. To obtain this measurement:
- You can also track your resting heart rate each morning. Any marked increase from the norm may indicated that you aren’t fully recovered.
- If you suspect you are overtraining, the first thing to do is reduce or stop your exercise and allow a few days of rest. Drink plenty of fluids, and alter your diet if necessary. Crosstraining can help you discover if you are overworking certain muscles and also help you determine if you are just mentally fatigued. A sports massage can help you recharge overused muscles.
- Note the last point there Mr Matthews.
Treating Overtraining Syndrome
If you suspect you are overtraining, the first thing to do is reduce or stop your exercise and allow a few days of rest. Drink plenty of fluids, and alter your diet if necessary. Crosstraining can help you discover if you are overworking certain muscles and also help you determine if you are just mentally fatigued. A sports massage can help you recharge overused muscles.
Measuring Overtraining There are several ways you can objectively measure some signs of overtraining. One is by documenting your heart rates over time. Track your aerobic heart rate at a specific exercise intensities and speed throughout your training and write it down. If your pace starts to slow, your resting heart rate increases and you experience other symptoms, you may heading into overtraining syndrome.
You can also track your resting heart rate each morning. Any marked increase from the norm may indicated that you aren’t fully recovered.
Another way to test recover to use something called the orthostatic heart rate test, developed by Heikki Rusko while working with cross country skiers. To obtain this measurement:
- Lay down and rest comfortably for 10 minutes the same time each day (morning is best).
- At the end of 10 minutes, record your heart rate in beats per minute.
- Then stand up
- After 15 seconds, take a second heart rate in beats per minute.
- After 90 seconds, take a third heart rate in beats per minute.
- After 120 seconds, take a fourth heart rate in beats per minute.
- Well rested athletes will show a consistent heart rate between measurements, but Rusko found a marked increase (10 beats/minutes or more) in the 120 second-post-standing measurement of athletes on the verge of overtraining. Such a change may indicate that you have not recovered from a previous workout, are fatigued, or otherwise stressed and it may be helpful to reduce training or rest another day before performing another workout.
The point of this post is I was probably over training in 2010, according to Rhys, and am probably over training now, 7 years later. In that time I have achieved so much in my running , so much more than I ever dreamed I would, so have I been over training or just doing enough. ? My days of running 700k a month seem a distant memory now as I struggle to make double figures for the week but looking forward I fully expect to be up around the 600-700k a month total by the end of the year and off we go again. Will my calf or another part of my body give way , who knows ? There’s probably a good chance but I’ll have my Elliptigo and/or Predator Plus in my corner so should be able to ward off injury. At the moment I can’t wait after another massive 4k lunchtime run to go with my Monday one. 8k for the week, now that , currently, is what I call over training. Someone pass me a can of hard and some suck it up pills…….
Yesterday I ran 4k and it felt ace. The one benefit (if there is any benefits?) of being injured is when you actually get back on your feet the feeling of running is awesome and almost like starting again. Even though it was only 4k at 5min/k average it felt so good to be outside in the sunshine just doing what I love to do, run. Is this a benefit of being injured, not sure, maybe? Of course the longer you are injured the better the feeling.
This was my second attempt at a comeback after the first ended when I ramped up too early with the possibility of running a marathon , what was I thinking with hindsight? Today I have a second scan to check on the calf tear and hopefully confirm that is has at best fully recovered, at worst is smaller than its original 5cm. Either way I will have some confidence moving forward in my rehabilitation.
Returning from injury is fraught with danger of course and I am very mindful that I really need to get it right this time with the year slipping away from me and some very important races appearing on the horizon. You are in a catch-22 situation when faced with this dilemma as you want to be ready for the races ahead but to do that you need to put in the ‘time on legs’, without too much time on legs of course. This is the fine balancing act you need to maintain as you return from a long layoff.
The most important factor is the cardio fitness you have lost over the period of your injury. As I have said many times I’m a big believer in a 3 times rule, this equates to multiplying your time off by three to give you a rough idea of when you can expect to be back to your pre-injury fitness levels. In my case I’m now looking at 6 months minimum, which writes of the year unfortunately. This does not mean I cannot still compete and run the races ahead but I should not expect any PB’s (or PR’s for my American Cousins). Truth be told I’ll be happy to just complete a marathon at the moment, of course by complete it will need to be sub 3 hours, one has certain standards you know and I’m not losing my 25 sub3 marathons in a row streak. As I mentioned in an earlier post runners love streaks or was that steaks , whatever?
Confidence is high at the moment, pre-scan, as my 4k yesterday was pain and niggle free. The calf has felt good for the last week and with the elliptigo work I have been doing last week I am sure the tear is either fully recovered or very close. After 10 weeks I would expect this anyhow but the set back a few weeks ago has left me second guessing my recovery which is the reason behind the second scan.
I am so looking forward to posts on injury recovery and marathon training rather than all ‘doom and gloom’, ‘woe is me’ posts which have been my forte over the last few months. How I miss my double up days and weekly mileage nudging 150k minimum. happy days which seem like a distant memory now. No worries, I am up for the challenge and actually looking forward to my ‘return from injury stronger and quicker ’ posts. Have I written off future PB’s and finally bowed to Father time, no way. This is a speed bump on the Big Kev PB road train and I’m expecting bigger and better things in 2018, especially with the Elliptigo (http://www.elliptigo.com.au/ ) and Bionic (www.run4.com ) in my corner.
I have attached an article by Caitlin Chock for Active.com which has some good points and worth reading…..
The Slow Build
The second you get the green light to begin running does not mean you can jump full-force back into where you left off. It is important NOT to rush things, as patience pays off in the long haul. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend running and supplement the rest with cross-training.
Don’t Slack on PT
Many runners, upon getting over their injury, start to get lax on their physical therapy or other rehab exercises. Don’t get comfortable and forget that, in order to prevent getting injured again, you still need to keep up on your preventative care.
After a long break, you need to chuck out any and all comparisons to your runner self pre-injury. It will only set you up for frustration and can ultimately derail your comeback. Track the progress you make post-injury and take every victory (ie: extra miles, faster workouts, etc.) as it comes. Eventually you’ll return to “old you” workouts and times, but before you hit that realm think of yourself with a totally clean slate.
Miracle of Muscle Memory
Oh how those first few runs will whip your butt! The important thing is to remember that while those first runs will feel like you’ve got legs that have never run a step in their lives, the good news is, thanks to muscle memory, if you’ve been a runner for a number of years, you’ll snap back into fitness rather quickly. The first couple of weeks will be rough, but stick it out and you’ll be motivated by the progress that follows.
One Day at a Time
Being patient is tough for everyone. Sometimes the only way to retain sanity is to take it one day at a time. Rather than focus on how much work you have ahead of you, look at what workouts and goals you can achieve for that day or that week. Set mini goals each week and check them off as benchmarks along your route to making a full comeback to running.
Core, Strength and Flexibility
Make the most of the time you’re not able to run by focusing on other weaknesses. Gain flexibility, improve your core and overall strength; not only will this make you feel like you’re being productive despite not being able to run much, but it will also pay dividends when you are back and running at your optimal level.
Baby Steps Back
If you start to notice old injury symptoms or new injury symptoms creep up, reassess right away. It may mean not increasing your running for that week, or even taking a few baby steps back for the week. Cut back on the amount of time spent running and do more cross-training. Don’t think of this as a sign of defeat; typically, if you catch it and take steps back early, you’ll avoid anything serious and be back on “schedule” the next week.
Positivity and Perspective
I’ll say it again: The biggest deciding factor in how well you can come back from an injury is perspective. Even on the days when you’d like to burn the elliptical or bike to the ground, give yourself a little window of time to vent. But, in the end, get on the cross-trainer and get it done. Look forward to the runs and more miles as they come and do not forget that each mile is NOT a given. Be grateful for them and, as you are able to run more and are back to full training mode, remind yourself not to take them for granted. This will help you remain patient and keep your eyes focused on the long term.
Honestly, coming back from an injury doesn’t stink because, while those first few miles hurt like nothing else and may leave you sore for days, the act of “feeling” like you’re a runner again is one heck of a high. So smile, even if it looks more like a grimace, and have faith that muscle memory will eventually kick back in soon!
Tomorrow for the first time in 10 years I will not be lining up for the Perth Marathon, 9 years straight (and 12 in total) I have ran this marathon but not tomorrow. This hurts, really hurts , tomorrow all my running mates will be waking up with that ‘marathon morning’ feeling, a mixture of fear, excitement and trepidation. Have you done enough training, have you done too much training, is that a niggle ? The most nervous people in the world are marathon runners in the week before a marathon of course. Someone sneezes in the same postal code and you are certain you feel pneumonia coming on or worse. I have a theory regarding the last few days pre-marathon, it is like your start to taper and instantly the mind tells the body ‘that’s it, job done, it’s head cold time just to teach this runner a lesson for putting me through hell in the last 12 weeks’… for 3-4 months pre-marathon you are bullet proof, nothing stops you training, bubonic plague, pah, a morning off; black death, maybe cut the session short by 5 minutes but all this changes when you start to taper. You are like a ‘weak kitten’ with the smallest niggle manifesting itself into a fracture at best or maybe worse; a cough and it’s all over and a sneeze, O’ my God the world is about to end. The boys will be going through this right now, me, I’m sitting here with a cup of tea and two crumpets writing a post feeling very sad for myself.
Of course the elephant in the room now for me is the City to Surf Marathon in August. I am one of only 36 people who have ran all eight and I’ve ran with the number 1 bib twice and even one year had my name on my chest, ‘very elite like’. (Truth be told this was to outdo my mate Rhys who managed to get number 1 the previous year, consigning me to number 2 and Jon to number 3.) It is my PB course ( a 2:41:14 in 2013) and also the course I ran my first sub 3 hour marathon. (2hrs 58mins in 2009). It is sponsored by Chevron and in the days of the ‘Oil and Gas boom’ I actually won $6,000 as the first Australian to finish. I was 7th overall but behind 6 Africans, at the time I had no idea there was prize money for the first Australian finished but the money was well received by my Wife who stole it for one of my Daughter’s private school fees, bless her. Different story now as we are in a recession, last year first prize was a $50 Athletes Foot voucher, which probably gets you a pair of socks. I remember in 2009 the first place was $25,000, got to love a recession.!
The image below shows me ‘winning the event’ in 2013 but what you can’t see if the first Woman about to break the tape. She has been conventiately photoshop’d out. Please note I had to slow to let her break the tape ahead of me as I was working for Chevron at the time, the major sponsor, and they would have been less than impressed if I had barged past the first woman and taken the tape myself. Funny thing was this was my pb run and I still maintain that young lady cost me a few seconds but I am gentleman and ladies always come first, especially when there’s a finishing tape and my beard probably gave away the fact I was not first lady….
So today was the first day I started to think that there was a chance I was not going to make the City to Surf. This will hurt and hurt big time. Runners love numbers and more than numbers they love streaks and finding a big city marathon and being one of the inaugural runners is the holy grail of streaks for a runner. If I was to miss the City to Surf Marathon in August I would have blown probably my last chance to be an inaugural runner at a major marathon, this is a big worry as of now ! I will know a lot more Tuesday as I have booked in for my second UT scan on the right calf. I’m prying it has shrunk from the original 5cm tear to something more manageable. Am I confident ? Not sure, I’m enjoying my Elliptigo time but it ain’t running and although I feel my fitness is not taking too much of a batting it will serve no purpose if I can’t run. My physio always said missing the City to Surf was a possibility (but he is the most pessimistic person the the world!) but I never really took his view on board until this week where I’m still unable to run. This culminated in a failed attempt on Tuesday where I managed 500m before turning back feeling very sorry for myself. You start to feel you’ll never run again which I know is preposterous but runners, when injured, are the most pessimistic people and will always ere on the worst case scenario when they feel there is no improvement.
On the bright side I’m still young (compared to an 80 year old?) so have plenty of Perth marathons ahead of me and even if I miss the City to Surf this year there will always be next year and running streaks are there to be broken so it had to happen eventually, of course you can be sure I will do everything in my power to not miss the City to Surf. Right another cup of tea me thinks, roll on Tuesday .
On the weekend I made the bold decision to purchase an Elliptigo as my calf tear seemed to feel like it was becoming a permanent fixture and I could not face hours and hours in lycra ! I lined up a test ride Saturday morning and asked the Elliptigo rep to bring round the shiny gloss red version ( as we all know anything red is faster!), which he dutifully did of course sensing a definite sale.
I made a promise to myself that this would only be a test ride as they aren’t the cheapest things but as soon as I saw it I knew it was a sale, I mean what other option did I have? . Once I got on the bike (is it a bike ?) and started to use it the rep could have charged what he wanted, I wanted it and I wanted it now ! (I had a similar feeling when I was searching for a puppy to replace Stanley, I needed a puppy now and nothing was going to stop me. Ended up buying two from Melbourne but that’s a different story. Actually if the rep had brought two along I probably would have brought them both, I’m sure I could have come up with an excuse for such a purchase, maybe if one gets a puncture I have a replacement, a wet one and dry one, different colours ; the excuses are endless? Luckily my Wife was with me when the Elliptigo turned up so maybe buying two wasn’t an option. I think she has learned after the puppy incident that her not being present when I buy things can be costly.)
So off for the test ride we go and instantly I’m smiling. This thing does everything it promised and more. My calf tear was forgotten as I glided on air while running and not riding, perfect. It really is as close to running as possible without running and without the impact of running. For injury rehabilitation this thing is a must but with the added benefit of it is just so much fun. No boring gym wall to look at for hours or pointless TV dribble. I was smiling like a Cheshire cat having a good day looking forward to a fish supper. Lawrie and I cycled for about thirty minutes and when I return to ‘Chez Matthews’ I knew I had had a workout, another box ticked. Finally the best reason for buying the Elliptigo is you don’t have to wear lycra, this is a massive plus as, as runners, we’re not lycra friendly; and that is an understatement. (For all triathletes reading this you may not be as bothered about the non-lycra tick box but I’d probably recommend not donning the lycra for an Elliptigo session, you get enough attention as it is , wearing full lycra may just tip you over the edge and cause accidents !)
After Lawrie left with a sale, the easiest he had probably made truth be told, I was left counting the minutes until No2 Daughters dance lesson in the early afternoon. This would give me the chance for an hour of Elliptigo time on my Balcatta 1k Industrial Park loop. (Funnily enough where I pulled the calf initially 10 weeks ago now.) The session did not disappoint and I had the best hour on a moving object ever. Every loop I got more and more confident and around the 6k mark gave a loud ‘Ye-ha’ as I was just having so much fun. This thing cannot be over stated, you will smile so much your face hurts ! It got even better at around 8k as I started laughing out load. Luckily I had to stop after an hour as I probably would have exploded !
That night I struggled to sleep as I knew , once I had those puppies walked, I had a long Elliptigo session booked. After telling my Wife to expect me back in an hour (yeah, right!) off I went the following morning. What a glorious ride , I started with hill repeats for 10k to get the heart rate up and then a quick 5k speed session before a 25k cruise around the streets and the beach front, just generally having fun. After a few stops to friends along the way I staggered home three hours later , an Elliptigo addict. My legs felt they had a good workout and the upper body had taken a pounding too, perfect. Best of all the suspect calf was barely noticed and pulled up great. This really is the toy that keeps on giving.
Of course there are a few downsides to this machine of joy. Although most women and small children find the Elliptigo ‘awesome’ I have had a few derogatory comments from my male friends. One asked ‘if they made them for men? ‘, very funny Ryan and other comments have been less than complimentary. I must admit before I brought one I was worried about the adverse reactions but once you straddle the beast and get going you feel a million dollars and lets face it I’m a 50 year old balding , bearded runner who looks like he has hasn’t eaten in a while (like a year..), looking good is not something I strive for. (Although my Daughters have threatened to disown me if I come anywhere near their school riding the Elliptigo, go figure.? )
So as you might have guessed I’m a convert. If it’s good enough for Meb Keflezighi, 2014 Boston Marathon Champion, it’s good enough for me. I wonder if this will help me to the Boston Marathon podium, at least we have the same taste in Elliptigo’s ?
Well my ‘roll the dice’ attitude seems to have come back and bitten me. It was always a risk that I was willing to take by ramping up quickly on my calf tear comeback. I knew it was going to end in glory or abject failure. Unfortunately this time it looks like abject failure !
In the back of my mind I had the Perth Marathon as a goal as it would have been my tenth in a row and to this end make a conscious decision to push my recovery safe in the feeling that I had taken it easy for the last 8 weeks and done everything my physio had asked. I adopted the ‘when its fixed, it’s fixed’ attitude toward my 5cm calf tear and pushed on , albeit at a recovery pace. (I’m not completely bonkers!)
The first week went to plan and this gave me the confidence to push on for the second week and ramp up the distance culminating in a 16k run last Tuesday. Although this felt ok I could feel by Thursday all was not right. This was compounded by a similar feeling Friday and a good old fashioned telling off from my physio convinced me to take the weekend off. The second coming started Monday with a 3k on grass and then a 4k the following day but both days I felt the calf hanging on and if I even thought about increasing my pace the calf would remind me that it was a pointless exercise.
So that’s it then ? Well for the moment yes, I can only hope I haven’t done too much damage but I certainly feel I have undone some good work. Time off the feet seems to be the only way forward as this has cost me well over $1000 in scans, physio fees and I can’t chuck any more money at it. (Think of all the shoes I could have brought.) If I was a rich man I’d go for another ultrasound and see how much damage is left to be repaired but instead I’m going to rest and then rest some more. I may even try and do some exercises recommended by my physio but I normally leave those for the waiting room just before I visit him.
Another alternative is to splash out $3500 on a Elliptigo bike. ( http://www.elliptigo.com.au/ ) These look like ‘the dogs’ but I just got to convince my better half that $3500 is worth spending on my rehab.
I have heard good things about these bikes , allowing you to recover from injury while still exercising the ‘running muscles’ that a normal bike would miss. Plus you don’t have to wear lycra which is a huge plus. On the down side you will stand out like a bacon sandwich at a Jewish wedding so be prepared for some admiring (?) glances and comments from the general public as you glide past.
Dean Karanazes is a big fan apparrantly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D63-VUMGCDQ and so is Boston Winner Meb Keflezighi ( http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2016/03/strength-training/why-you-should-cross-train-like-meb-keflezighi_55166#yHcKwIZfz1V5vCgo.97 ) Noted both are sponsored by the bike manufacturer but I believe they do genuinely use them. My mate John Shaw, who holds the current age group world record for 60-65, is another big fan and swears by these little beauties. He credits the bike with helping him set a half marathon PB after a long injury lay off with calf issues (sounds familiar?) I may get myself a test ride over the weekend and I’ll report back. Apparently they do them in gloss red, what more do I need to say? I wonder if they do a basket for my puppies ?
One of the benefits of being injured, if there is any of course, is the free time you find you have on your hands. For me it’s an extra 12 hours a week to fill. Luckily I was due to move house and had just brought two golden retriever puppies so my eight week injury layoff was fully booked out. I also spent extra time with the family but that never ends well for either party, bless ’em. Another past time you can catch up on is reading and I was able to start re-reading one of my favourite Matt Fitzgerald books, (remember in Matt we trust… http://mattfitzgerald.org/ ) ‘Run, Running by Feel’.
Without wanting to spoil the findings of the Fitzgerald novel he recommends training by feel (funnily enough looking a the title) rather than be constricted to a pre-designed training plan with the caveat that you would need to be an experienced runner of course. You would of course always need to be have the staple diet of training plans in your weekly program somewhere including the basics I.e. a tempo, threshold, recovery and long runs. Matt recommends deciding on the day what type of run you intend to digest without forcing yourself to the training table and taking what is on offer. More like a buffet rather than a set course. If you decide you feel good maybe add in a tempo run rather than constraining yourself to a slow run, when your body wants more. This also works in reverse when you may need a recovery run while your training plan calls for a threshold. In this situation a threshold run will only end in failure and add no value to your confidence or general cardio fitness. It would be far more prudent to listen to your body and embark on a recovery run while saving the threshold for when you feel you can do it justice.
Matt also makes a good point regarding training plans in that no two runners are the same so generic training plans can not really work as they assume a certain initial base foundation fitness and ability and then continued improvement based on the authors knowledge and experience. Matt himself sells hundreds of plans on websites like http://www.trainingpeaks.com but is honest enough to admit these are very rarely the ideal way to improve. What a guy, he’s even honest ! Matt gives examples of highly successful coaches who agree with Matt on his ‘training by feel’ approach and these coaches have Olympic Gold medalists on their books. The book of course goes into a lot more detail but I’ve probably saved you the bother of reading it with this paragraph.
That last sentence was meant as a joke of course, Matt’s books should be compulsory for all runners and we should be tested regularly on them, a sort of pre-school for runners. I cannot recommend them enough and if you take nothing from todays post it is to go to his website, read, learn and purchase. Just in case you missed it the first time I’ll add the link again … http://mattfitzgerald.org/books/
Matt also makes the point in running by feel that cadence is another point overlooked by most runners and one that can be improved normally with beneficial results. Changing your running style has been found to decremental to pace in most cases but adding a few extra steps a minute by increasing your cadence will certainly improve your running. My friend Mike K. is very cadence originated and monitors his cadence on every run, (as well as his heart and just about anything else to tell you the truth, he is an engineer…. ?) he can monitor improvements in his running , brought about by good training, with an increase in his cadence. Some runners of course have high cadence naturally like my friend Tony ‘the T-train’, he must takes about twice as many steps a minute compared to me but if I was to try and replicate this I would be destroyed very quickly. A higher cadence can also help in avoiding injury apparently. If you can get above 180 it lessons your chance of injury as the impact per step is not as great, as cadence below this figure, where you would begin to heal strike probably. This article below from Training Peaks last year, written by Allie Burdick, helps to explain the cadence theory.
The right cadence for runners is a hotly debated topic among runners and triathletes. While there is no perfect single number, there is a range that you should aim for. Improving your cadence not only will help you run faster with the same or even less effort, it can also lessen your chance of injury. Most running injuries result from three aspects of your form: heel striking, over-striding and/or cadence. The good news for runners is that cadence is probably the most important of these three and, when improved, will also improve your chances of having zero knee issues1.
Your run cadence is measured in strides per minute. There are many ways you can determine your current running cadence:
- Count the number of times your left foot hits the ground in 30 seconds then double it to get the total for 60, then double it again to get the total for both feet.
- Many watches now have the ability to measure your running cadence.
- Other wearable devices also measure running metrics, including cadence.
Most recreational runners will have a cadence between 150 to 170spm (strides per minute) topping out at 180spm2. A cadence of less than 160spm is usually seen in runners who overstride. The good news is that as you improve your cadence, you will simultaneously be correcting your overstriding.
How Stride Length Affects Your Cadence and Form
The shorter your stride length, the quicker your stride rate, the faster and better you run. If you have a low cadence, you most likely have a long stride which makes for a choppy and more bouncy run. The more bounce and over striding in your gait, the more susceptible you are to injury3. Shortening your stride length with increase your cadence, which will make you faster and less injury prone.
As a bonus, when you shorten your stride you will also change the position of where your foot lands beneath you. The optimal placement of your foot is beneath your hips (not out in front of them) which is where your foot will automatically land if you take the necessary steps to increase your cadence and shorten your stride length. This is the point of your center of gravity and where the least amount of impact will occur.
Your turnover will increase which will propel you forward and will waste less energy since you will now be moving forward and back not up and down.
How to Improve Your Cadence
There is not necessarily a magic cadence number for everyone but, there is an ideal cadence for you personally. Several unique factors such as height, hip mobility, and level of overall fitness will all play a role.
- Find your current cadence and then add 5 to 10 percent. For example, if you’re current cadence is 160spm, your goal would now be 168spm.
- Start by increasing your cadence for only one to two runs per week or for short periods during each run.
- Practicing on a treadmill is often the best way to start since you can set your correct speed and it will remain steady.
- Pretend you are running in hot lava to promote faster turnover
- Once you have comfortably run your new (and improved!) cadence for a 5K run or race, you can confidently add another five percent and repeat the process.
Beware of anyone or any article touting 180spm as the “best” or “correct” cadence. This comes from the 1984 Olympics where famous coach Jack Daniels counted the strides of all of his elite distance runners and, of the 46 he studied, only one was under 180spm (176spm). Coach Daniels further noted that in his 20 years of coaching college students, not one was over 180spm. Unfortunately, he is being taken out of context and even misquoted lately, stating all runners should be at 180spm which simply is not true.
Each runner has a cadence that is best for them. By recording your current cadence and using a few simple cues around your stride length and form, you can increase your cadence to be more efficient and faster.