Monday, 23 April 2012

Herod Farm - a proper test of running

No pretty pictures this time, my camera battery died before I took any...
Over the last couple of weeks I've slowly started to reintroduce running into my training. Mainly on a track, with limited success, although things didn't seem to get worse with it, they weren't feeling normal. Then I ran up a hill (bit of a loose term 'run' in this instance) to watch the Coledale Horseshoe (after rinding round to Keswick from Langdale) and with relatively tired legs felt pretty good on the up! Downhill was another matter but I figured I'd address that one another time...
It was a lovely day to be out spectating...well it had been when we set off, a brief snow and hail storm followed!
Watching the women descend, me and Zanthe tried to make out who it was in 2nd. We couldn't work it out from the vest, so waited until she got a bit closer and suddenly we realised it was out friend Sarah, running for HBT and flying down the hill after Lauren Jeska! An excellent bit of running! Can't wait to see what the rest of the year holds for her, doubt I'll get a glimpse of her vest in any races... although I think the BG is top of her list!
 So, after successfully getting up and down the mountain I decided I might try running Herod Farm race the following Wed. I had to return the trophy so it would be rude not to race ;-).
I kept the pace comfortable, concentrating on running properly and watching out for any niggles in my hip. At the top of the first climb I was with 2nd woman and could see Judith not far ahead. The descent was a shambles and I had to jog to prevent jarring my back, I waved goodby to the women ahead, but then came the beast of a second climb. I took out some BIG ground on them at this point, the only part of the race I put some effort in (it's one of my all time favourite climbs as most people forget it's coming...or foget how steep it is). At the top I was around 1.5mins down on Judith and 5-10m behind 2nd lady. I got to the top and relaxed back into my jog down the hill, happy to know I've still got some strength and speed in the legs! To give you an idea of my speed going down, Judith took about 2minutes out of me on that last 0.6miles of descent...probably about the amount of time I'd gained on the final climb.
At the finish, the guy I had raced up the hill with commented 'you need to sort out your descending' and was probably a bit disappointed to hear I'd turned the gas off intentionally.
I finished in 3rd, which was great, but better still I had run all the way and there was no signs of a locked SI joint! Half way round somebody had shouted '3rd woman, dig in, you can get her, she's not far ahead' and I realised I was having too much fun to bother trying to catch anyone! You know it's been too long without a run when that happens :-).
Since then, it's not been smooth sailing, but the SI joint is still moving! I just need to stop my back tightening up if I don't stetch it every few minutes....Watch this space - 3 weekends to Ireland British Champs race and I have every intention of being there and being able to run downhill!!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Open 5 - 2nd in the peaks and the series!

Open 5 Female Solo Winners: L to R: Rosemary, Me , Karen
Yesterday was the final of the Open 5 series and it was down to a showdown between me and Rosemary Byde ( for the  series win. If either of us won the event then we got the series win too!

But thats only half the excitement of the last month, I'll start by setting the scene properly (you can skip to the open 5 report by scrolling down 2 pictures):

Last year our research unit lost funding, with the final day of the research unit having any money being 31st March 2012, the day before the last open 5 (no pressures there then). Just before Christmas I learned I had not been successful in securing funding for the rest of my PhD.

What this meant for me was, along with finding alternative funding, writing grants and getting a rush on knowing what my data meant, that I needed to fit as many patients in before the end of the unit as possible for maximum thesis writing potential!

A small list of disasters followed:
1) Our surgeon (quite key when implanting strain gauges onto peoples tibia) moved his clinic
2) This meant a substantial amendment to my protocol (read 2 month delay on patients)
3) There was only one more available date before we ran out of money (One more shot to get it right!)

So, I've been walking round looking like I'm in the middle of an XPD for the last month or 2, with the finish line being Wed the 14th of March when, now we are well practiced, I would get a full set of excellent data from my patient (strain gauges have proven tempromental when in peoples legs)!

Somebody somewhere had other ideas, and was aparently in control of the 14th March so:
1) My patient was 1hr15mins late
2) We had failed to get insurance in time to use one of our machines.
3) My notebook laptop battery broke as my patient entered the gait lab and no longer held power (we need to unplug the laptop to remove noise from the signal)
4) My new laptop has windows 7, my software doen't work on anything later than vista.
5) We set up windows xp to run on my laptop as still didn't like the strain gauge
6) I missed lunch (big disaster as I had been at work since 6:45am after having a yoghurt and got home at 6pm, )
6) Reverting back to the original notebook we took 12 recordings (of 100) and the strain gauge broke.

To finish the week off I gave a seminar and then collapsed into recovery...which seemed to take as long as after an XPD :-P.

On top of that, I had been injured for well over a month and even with following physio advice to a T, running seemed a long way off. Once I had my brain back together enough, I realised lifting my leg was no longer just an issue when running, walking around was getting increasingly difficult! Also, sitting, standing or lying wasn't very comfortable either. So I made a last minute appointment with Kim who gave me the news I kind of knew deep down. My SI joint had not remained free moving after my last physio appointment at the end of Feb and my pelvis was sort of 'wonky' (for want of a better word) which meant all the stretching I'd been doing wasn't working. When your SI joint locks, your glutes forget how to work so you lift your leg purely with hip flexors making it almost a hinge joint action. Kim put me back into place and sent me away with lots of strengthening (and digging fingers into hip flexors) to do!

The 'Clam'
So, I spent a week doing the 'clam' and multiple other exercises like my life depended on it. Still, on the Sunday before the race (3 days post physio) it was an effort to walk up to Mam Nick to watch the Edale skyline so I decided not to enter the Open 5. I was massively disappointed, if I'd had a bit more time I would have had a return visit to a physio sooner and have had everything sorted. Now I would have to sit it out and instruct Rosemary to win by a country mile to keep me in the top 3. Realistically, Mandy was going to improve her lowest percentage making it hard for me to stay in that position!

Then, after two cross trainer sessions, it stopped being so clear cut. My glutes were working again, I went for a run.....YES! Not perfect, or fast, but the first run in 6 weeks! On Sat 31st I rode a MTB.....and that sealed the deal...I was going to go afterall as all I needed was to improve on the diabolical score of the last event. If I could get 82% of the winner I should stay in 3rd!

Proof - I can run (but please ignore the heel strike)!!

So, back to the event! I took my usual tactics and set off on the Mountain Bike. I decided to go with the normal 3hrs bike, 2hrs run and if the hip hurt too much, call it a day. I also took the precaution of putting pretty pink tape over my hip flexors.

I even managed to start well before 10:29am, now that is organisation!
Even though I was planning on being conservative with speed, I set off like the clappers, but slowed down en route to the first control as that was definitely too fast for my hip. This also allowed me to look at the pretty views and take in the glorious sun that was now out!
I picked up a 35 and a 20 pointer on the road before heading for the old railway line. At this point I started riding into a headwind and was really struggling. I couldn't believe how hard it was riding into this headwind, I got overtaken by a male pairs who seemed to be making easy work of it. 5km and 2 controls later I turned out of the wind.....and it got no easier! Doh! My rear brake had become misaligned and was effectively jammed on. I did a quick fix....which was just that and lasted all of about 3 minutes so stopped at my next control properly (after riding up another hill with my brake on = numpty). 3 realignments later it was acceptable and I looked like I'd been in a fight with a bike chain! What a difference! Now I was back on track.I picked up another couple of control at this far side of the map before heading back towards the start. My hip started niggling a little bit, so I slowed right down en route to 18 and for the rest of the ride. I had accidentally folded 2 controls off the map (not 1 as I thought), so after picking up the high pointers around Hulme End and Wetton I had got all but 20 points on the bike.

I was off on the run with about 1hr 35 left after all my bike brake faffing.

I found this a lot more difficult to judge than normal. I planned a route of 9 controls that I normally would have got round no problem. The first control dropped me into the valley and I knew there were going to be some serious climbs about! I experienced the only hands on knees one going to my 3rd control though! Running through Milldale I got de ja vu, who can tell me which relays have been run through there??

On my way off the steep hands on knees hill I went over on my left ankle, which normally isn't ideal but actually stopped me concentrating on my hip, watching for any little niggle. Still, I wasn't really moving anywhere fast, so I decided on my second climb out of the valley to miss a 10 pointer. At the top I had a decision to make, get 2 more controls to make my total 485...or go for a 15 pointer as well to make the 500! I probably just had time....didn't I?

No, no I didn't. I got the 15 pointer and had 20 minutes to get 2 more controls and back to the finish covering over 2 miles and some climb. If I could just stride out properly...
I upped the pace a bit but couldn't lift my leg quite as well as normal yet. Still, only 8minutes late! I finished with a score of 482 points which I thought was enough to keep me on the series podium but I knew today should have been a 500+ points day. And I was right, Rosemary got 506 points winning the day and series! What a great race to the end :-)!

What I didn't expect and made me extra happy was to finish 2nd on the day, giving me a total of 295.2 in the series and moving me up to 2nd overall!  Worth the gamble of racing I think! :-)