Wednesday, 29 July 2009

stretch that iliotibial band ...

You may remember a couple of posts ago, I explained why I don't run these days ... you can read the story here, but essentially it linked back to an injury from 25 years ago when I hurt my hip running the Dublin marathon in worn shoes ... or that was the problem at the time, and I thought that it was a recurrence of this injury that has thwarted (I like that word ... thWARTed) my infrequent efforts to get back running over the years.

Well, it turns out that, while that injury didn't help, it seems that the real problem is just that I've probably got Trochanteric Bursitis! Oohhh, that explains it!

Okay, I hadn't a clue what it meant either ... but when I decided to take on a running element to my challenge, and had quickly got my running up to 5 Km about four times a week, I was acutely aware that in the past, running that sort of distance would lead to problems, and already I could feel a niggly ache in my left hip again. So I decided to go and see someone about it.

My GP referred me to an orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Andrew Phillipson at a local sports injury clinic, and within a few short minutes of history-taking and hip-poking, he was confidently telling me what he reckoned was wrong ... and, more importantly, how to fix it.

Essentially, Trochanteric Bursitis is characterized by painful inflammation of the bursa that is located just superficial to the greater trochanter of the femur ... okay, put more simply, there's something rubbing that sits across my hip bone (not entirely medically accurate, but it'll do), and this has become inflamed from the repetitive movement of running - very common in that breed, apparently. And the simplest and first stage of treatment is physiotherapy, to help stretch the iliotibial band (but you already knew that, didn't you), so that it isn't as tight and is less likely to rub the bursa - simples! If that works, then regular stretching should be enough to ensure that my old aching hip (and long-term excuse for not running) will be sorted!

If that doesn't work, Mr Phillipson can give me an injection to reduce the inflammation, but hopefully that'll not be needed if I'm a good boy and do my stretching! I've an appointment with his physio on Monday (forgive me Phil, if you see this, but it was just easy keeping it all in-house). I've already found some rehabilitation exercises on-line that I've begun anyway, so fingers crossed!

I'm taking a few days off running just to get the stretching started and let the hip settle, but as I've only got 35 days of my 365challenge year to go (yikes!), and still 86 Km of Hadrian's Wall to run, I promise I'll be back at it again by the end of the week.

Wish me luck ...

Friday, 24 July 2009

Anouska tackles the LEJOG

Anouska, one of the early adopters of the 365challenge for Cancer Research UK, is at it again!

Anouska took on the 365challenge, starting last October, to commemorate her best friend, Debbie, who died aged just 27. Since then, she's already run the equivalent of 16(!) marathons, including actually completing the Edinburgh marathon on one of the hottest days of the year so far - read that story here - and check out Anouska's 365 website here.

But is that enough for a 365er ... Hell no! You can't keep this girl down!

Tomorrow (July 25th), she's only starting off on the 1600 Km cycle ride that is the Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) ride, from the southern-most part of England to Scotland's most northern-most point - and she's not pratting about like me, doing it over time on a stationery bike ... oh no, she's doing the real thing, with a bunch of friends, taking to the road and planning to complete the trip in 12 days!

Wonderful! And if I tell you that she's pretty much a novice cyclist, I hope you can appreciate just how big an undertaking this is for her - she only really got her bike and started training for this earlier this year, and already, she's tackling the BIG ONE.

You can read updates on her progress on the blog that's been set up to support this adventure - LeJoggler - which is being maintained by her fiancé, Rob, who, Tweeters amongst you, can follow on Twitter as @robyouds

And if you want to support Anouska's immense efforts for CRUK, please do visit her Justgiving page and make a donation ... she's already the most successful 365er on the sponsorship front, and has set herself a target of £10000, which she is not far off hitting ... I truly believe that she will blow this figure out of the water, but do feel free to give her a hand along the way!

Go Anouska, I'm totally over the moon at all the effort you've put into this - body and soul - and I KNOW that Debbie would be so proud of you ... have a great LEJOG, and I'll look forward to meeting up when you get back to salute you!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Now what have I gone and done ...?

I probably should have left it at that: all four of my original 365challenges completed, with even an extra one thrown in for good measure (climbing the 3 Peaks in the flesh, remember ... keep up!), within 10 months of starting. That's not half bad, now, is it? I should have just left it there, really, don't you think ... I'd done enough to earn all of your sponsorship, hadn't I?

But over the 10 months, clearly I've gotten fitter (and stupider), and, me being me, I couldn't just stop with still 2 months of my 365challenge year to go. So I've only gone a settled on a final challenge - to run the width of the island!

It's not complete lunacy - I've chosen Hadrian's Wall as my route: it's probably the narrowest part of the island (I'm not a complete numpty), but, the thing is, I've not been able to run much for years because of an injury I picked up - running! The Dublin marathon! (and I can hardly believe this next bit ...) 25 YEARS AGO!!!

It left me able only to run about 3 miles/5 KM at a time (I was used to regular long distance runs of 10+ miles for several years up to that) before my hip would sort of "twang" and that would be me floored for days or weeks before I could run again. As you might imagine, that got old (and painful) very quickly. So ... I gave up running! You see, at that time, 3 miles was just a warm-up and having to stop at that point just was so very, very frustrating, I couldn't face it any more, so pretty much stopped running at that point. I made a few efforts again over the years, but then my hip would go again, and, well, it just wasn't worth it.

So ... although I've been back in the gym for the past year, I've not been running - look at my original 365challenges: no running for me, no sir! I'm certainly fitter with all that cardiovascular exercise I've been doing over the past 10 months on the bike, step machine, rower and in the pool or on the mountains, but running? Nah, nothing.

It makes sense then, clearly, that I chose a final 365challenge that means I have to run 84 miles/135 KM! WHAT WAS I THINKING? And ... with the 59-odd days I had left to complete my 365challenge year when I chose it, that meant I had a lot of running to pack in! I'd tested the water (or should I say, hip) with a few 1 KM jogs, followed by a 3 KM run last week, which seemed to go okay. I guess with all that leg-work on the other challenges, I've got a certain level of fitness in my legs and lungs to be fit enough for this part of my 365challenge, but ... damn it, it's running 84 miles/135 KM, YOU IDIOT!

This morning, after a few days away with family in Ireland to celebrate Brenda's life, a year after she lost her battle with cancer, I had to get back out there and get going with this challenge. So it was off to the gym at 8 am, and after some stretching (which does help my hip a lot), I managed to run 5 KM (3.1 miles) in just over 32 minutes! My first run over that distance in probably 10 years! And, apart from a little tightness in the legs, my hip seemed fine (touch wood), which was great.

So now, with 50 days (or so) left of my 365challenge year, and 124 KM of the distance left, basically, I have to run at a rate of 5 KM every other day til the end of my 365challenge year on August 31st!

Well, it wouldn't be a challenge otherwise, would it? Wish me luck ...

And if my hip goes, I can always drive the rest of the way, can't I?

Monday, 6 July 2009

Ben Nevis ... completing the 3 peaks in the sunshine!

**Long Post Alert **
Saturday, July 4th, Independence Day in the US, maybe, but for me and a committed bunch of friends, supporters and other 365ers, it now marks the date that we completed our very own 3 Peaks Challenge for the 365challenge (oh .... and Danielle's birthday!). View the photos here first, if you're not ready to read this epic blog yet ...

Ben Nevis
Well, it was quite a day, and I suspect that we're all still feeling it a bit (well, maybe not Garry and Lee - not the climb part, anyway!), but I can honestly say that it was well and truly worth all the effort that has gone into making this part of the 365challenge a success. But let's not leave it at that ... I think the Ben Nevis story needs a little more detail ...

On Friday, Dave (who had driven up to us in Chester on Thursday from Reading) and I set off for Fort William, our base for this walk, 350 miles away. The latter half of the journey was spent driving through torrential downpours and flooded A-roads at a snail's pace, as all the traffic seemed to want to go the same way and the conditions just did not allow for any heroics. Seven hours later, after driving through the Western Highlands (but only knowing we had done so because the map said we had, we certainly didn't see it in the horrible rain), we arrived at our destination, Ashburn House B&B, in Fort William, run by the wonderfully helpful and very welcoming Christine.

To tell you the truth, after the weather we'd had for the Snowdon and Scafell Pike walks, the prospect of facing Ben Nevis in that horrendous rain did not appeal too much, but
Christine informed us that it had only just begun raining in Fort William before we got there, after it having been a lovery day up to that point, so we felt a twinge more hopeful for the next day's walk. In fact, the evening cleared very nicely, so we wandered into Fort Wiliam for some food and a few pints of Brewhouse Special at the Grog and Gruel Pub on the High Street, making for a very pleasant end to a long day.

We woke on Saturday morning to blue skies and sunshine, completely the opposite of all the forecasts, but we weren't complaining. After breakfast, we grabbed our gear and headed off for the meeting point at Achintee House Car Park to find ... no-one waiting for us. Not a soul. At which point, my phone went: it was Karen asking where we were, as she and Alan were at the car park? Then came the next message, and the next ... all essentially saying the same thing, but clearly something wasn't quite right here! It turned out that they were all (and I mean ALL of them) down the hill from us, at the Glen Nevis Information Centre car park. I told them to wait there and Dave and I booted up and walked down to them ... now, here's the philosphical question this creates for me ... if you're the only one who makes it to the right car park, while four other car-loads of people arrive at the wrong car park, does that mean you are in the wrong? Four car-loads of people seemed to think it did, but hey, I can take it, because I KNOW I was right!

Once we'd all collected together it was time for the introductions, as we had some new bodies along for this final leg of our 365challenge 3 Peaks walk. "Old hands" (and completing their 3rd Peak) Karen, Fred, Oli, Dave and I were joined by Al, Lewis, Danielle, Mitch, Paul, and, making up the numbers (;-D), the 300miles guys, Lee and Garry, who had driven over from Edinburgh that morning, setting off at 5 am. Also there was Paul's wife, Audrey, who is another of the 365ers, and their two boys, Gareth and Elliott - Audrey and the boys joined us for the first bit of the walk, but were then going off to find other exciting things to do. So off we went, and in no time at all, the growing heat of the day was making itself felt, with everyone doing variations on the theme of impressions of Andy Roddick after 5 sets against Federer (all right then ... if I have to, I'll explain: sweating so much it was dripping off us - nice!).

The main path up Ben Nevis is well marked and laid out, but it's a steady slog, and very busy. The group split occa
sionally, with Lee taking the lead like an excitable puppy (he's far too fit for his own good), having to be hauled back occasionally by Garry, or, more creatively, by Lewis, who craftily engineered it so that he let his rucksack tumble down a steep slope at one point just so that Lee could have something new to occupy himself with while the rest of us caught up!

Al was feeling a little under the weather, which was a little worrying, but he was determined to keep going, and paced himself carefully all the way up and down. Fred was also soon suffering, with her hips once again causing her a great deal of pain, but I've met few people as determined as she is, and however long it was going to take, she was going to bag "The Ben" (which we can now offically call it, having climbed it, I believe).

I think we were all helped along the way immensely by the wonderful views that opened up to us across every ridge, especially as we had seen so little of Scafell Pike or Snowdon, and over the next 3.5 hours, we all made it to the summit of this great mountain, all 4409 ft/1344 m of it. The summit was quite busy, but that didn't take away from the spectacular 360 degree views that greeted us. It's only when you get the chance to see the cliffs along the north of the summit that you can appreciate just how dangerous this mountain must be in poor conditions, so we felt incredibly lucky to be able to take all of this in safely as we sat having lunch and grabbing what photos we could.

Then it was the long slog down, with the afternoon sun making itself well and truly felt as we plodded down the rocky south-westerly-facing path. Interestingly, towards the bottom, I noticed no-one was complaining too loudly when we reached the Achintee Car Park (the correct car park) and I directed them into the Ben Nevis Inn that was conveniently waiting for us, to slake our thirsts and catch up with Audrey and the boys. When Audrey then produced a bottle of champagne and cups to celebrate the completion of the 365challenge 3 Peaks adventure, it marked the occasion perfectly.

Afterwards, it was off to our various accommodations to rest and clean up before meeting again at the Grog and Gruel for a pint, followed by dinner together at a local Indian restaurant, whose name I've forgotten, but where much chat was to be had, ending with a surprise candle-festooned (okay, single-candle-decorated) dessert for Danielle to celebrate her 27th birthday.

From there, it was across the road to another
Ben Nevis bar (hey, that makes 3 Ben Nevis' in one day, is that a record? Probably not up in Fort William!), where we spent the rest of the evening, enjoying the company and watching Mitch and some eastern european guy take turns to claim ownership of the pool table. Quote of the night may belong to this mystery man who, when Mitch asked him where he got his jeans, replied simply "In a shop!"

Our numbers gradually faded away over the course of the night, with me finally taking my leave of Lee and Garry at around 12.15, after a final drop of malt to toast the day. Garry later posted on facebook that he and Lee closed the town down at around 2 am, so I guess us 365ers haven't quite got the stamina of those young 300milers, eh!
Next morning saw me feeling incredibly well, if a little tired.

Following another lovely breakfast from Christine, Dave and I packed the car and headed south, and discovered that there ARE actually mountains in the Highlands, as the drive through this time was beautifully clear. Despite the lack of torrential rain (apart from a real beauty of a downpour somewhere on the M6, where it was almost impossible to see the road markings), it still took almost 7 hours to get back to Chester, where we were able to take in the epic 5th set from the Wimbledon Final.

Dave headed off then to face another 3 hour drive back to Reading.
Monday dawned, and I woke feeling as tired and achey as Roddick must have felt, but more than content to know that I have completed another milestone along the way to finishing my 365challenge year. The problem is that I've finished all that I'd originally set out to do (and more!), with still 2 months of my 365challenge year left, so now I have to fill the remaining time with a final challenge. I've decided to cover the width of the country at Hadrian's Wall, some 84 miles/135 Km in distance ... and then I will be done ... or will I?