Running Enoshima Tokyo, Aug 2015

Posted: 14th August 2015 by mockjogger in Running Away
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I seem to have spent a lot of time whining on this blog recently. Injuries, lack of running opportunities, blah, blah. So while the story still feels a bit more “travel” than “running” I am happy to say that the feet have been hitting the path much more regularly of late.

This summer we decided to spend our vacation in Tokyo and the nearby beach resort of Enoshima. Jetlag was playing roulette with my brain, and at 5.30am on the morning after we arrived at Enoshima, I was wide awake and ready to rock and roll. I pulled on the runners and headed outside into a wall of 27 degrees heat. My new Garmin synched in no time, and I ran about 200m to the promenade which sits along the edge of Shonan beach. I headed right, and why not?

Much to my surprise the beach was heaving. The 30-odd beach lifeguard crew were doing what I guess was lifeguard training, running up and down the beach in red swimming costumes in slow motion. Was I hallucinating, or did there used to be a TV program like that? Anyway, I digress. There were also 100+ surfers already out in the sea looking for surf to stalk. On this particular morning there wasn’t much surf to be seen, but they seemed happy. Everyone seemed happy. There were quite a few runners making use of the promenade before it got ridiculously hot. Several of them waved at me. I remembered that I have a habit of running with my thumbs up. Maybe people in Edinburgh are used to it or maybe they are suspicious, but the folks here were just friendly. I ran on alongside the beach straight towards Mount Fuji in the distance [when I brought my camera next time out Murphy’s law required it to be cloudy :(]. I felt seriously good. Injury-free on a breathtakingly beautiful path with some like-minded runners.

This is why I run. Well, this and medals.

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After about 3.5 miles of this I turned back and retraced my steps, this time running into the sun, back towards Enoshima Island. A total of, um, 7 miles. This was more like it. By the end the temperature was over 30 degrees and I was doing a good impersonation of a fountain. I took a cold shower and downed a litre of Pocari Sweat. Other electrolyte drinks are available, but none with sweat in their name.

Two days later, another 5.30 start. Only 5 miles this time, but hey, I am on holiday and we had a bit too much red vino the night before. Next time out I didn’t want to stop, but settled for 10 miles. On the last morning I ran alongside the beach again, but this time I added a spur to Enoshima Island and up the first flight of stairs to the first temple. Enoshima is a bit of a tourist magnet, but at 6am it was just me and a couple of keen walkers.

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This was running perfection for me, and those four runs reminded me of why I get up so early when everyone else is asleep. I’m sad it has to come to an end. I am rebuilding though. Enoshima, bookended with some runs in Tokyo, totalled 50 miles over 7 runs over two weeks. That’s further than I have ever gone on holiday. I want more.

Running Beijing, Jul 2015

Posted: 18th July 2015 by mockjogger in Running Away
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If this post is anything like my run it will be short and wet. I’d skip to the pictures if I were you.

And so it came to pass that I found myself in China with a seemingly impossible mission to accomplish a gazillion meetings in 4 cities in a week. Shanghai, Namjing, Xuchang, Beijing. My runners didn’t stand a chance. The day’s started early, usually involved a couple of meetings, a flight or high speed train, and a late arrival at a new hotel. I will never do this again, just like I promised myself last time.

There was simply no opportunity to run, until the very last morning in Beijing, when I dragged myself out of bed at 6am determined to record one city run. Of course, the heavens decided to vent themselves at exactly that moment, so I strolled out of out of the hotel door into a monsoon and pressed the “find me quickly” button on the Garmin. “Aye right, with all these buildings?” was the response. I cursed the watch and marched up and down trying to embarrass it into action. It finally deigned to synch and off I went like a Chinese bullet.

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As the saying goes, if you want to run in a city, find a river. Most of the roads were making good impressions of rivers, but luckily I found a real one after a mile. People were swimming! Well, two of them. At 6.30. I was in awe.

I might as well have been swimming. The path beside the river was totally flooded. I remembered I was going home later and wondered if wet clothes counted as liquids for security purposes. Another half mile and I turned for home.

I squelched through the lobby of the Shangri La hotel, trying to look inconspicuous, and failed. The time to get to the 22nd floor was measured in millilitres of water on the floor. After taking a hot shower I spent the next 45 minutes trying to make my running kit and Nike Fkyknits less damp by using the hairdryer. Until it expired. I checked out guiltily, and faced the last day of this epic trip.

And that’s the trip done. I’m writing this at 30,000 feet on a huge Airbus 380 en route to home. I feel like a curry.

Running Tokyo and Osaka, Jul 2015

Posted: 12th July 2015 by mockjogger in Running Away
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Two days after arriving in Tokyo I had my first running opportunity. 6.30 am, jet lag was sending me dancing messages and the family was asleep. I checked messages and discovered it was a heatwave in Edinburgh. Outside I could see grey clouds and heavy rain. I felt like I was having a summer bypass, but pulled on the travel Nike’s anyway. Like most opportunities on this trip I had a limited time window, so it was going to be a 5k and not much more. I followed a route I used last year, but didn’t even get to the scenic bit. This time last year I didn’t get out of bed for anything less than 7 miles. I returned home wet and unsatisfied. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

After an all too brief weekend with the family it was back to business. I stayed at the Intercontinental, Tokyo Bay hotel for one night before checking out to take the Shinkansen south west. Now a ‘mare was going to happen at least once on this trip, and I now know that multitasking a Twitter check with a hotel checkout is not  a good combination. I let my iPhone sitting at the reception desk as I headed away blissfully unaware. Half an hour later I needed to feed my Twitter fix, but of course the iPhone was not there. I guess if you are going to do something stupid like that, Tokyo is the place to do it. A colleague phoned the hotel and they had it safely for me to pick up when I got back. So no pictures from Osaka but a panic averted.
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I like Osaka. It’s a trading city and everyone is a salesman with a story to tell. I was going to run it no matter what. No matter what left me with a half hour window between arriving at the hotel and a dinner meeting. I set off to break Mo Farrah’s 5k best, only marginally dissuaded by my Garmin taking forever to synch amongst the tall buildings. Thee streets were busy and no one was running. Everyone seemed to be doing something important on their phones. I ran through this sea of people in a kind of figure of 8 from the hotel. Two miles in it was decision time. I could either continue for another mile to make it a minimum acceptable distance or leave time for a shower. It was as humid as a steam room and out of respect to my dinner buddies I stopped and hit the shower. Honestly, these runs are getting shorter and shorter.

And that, I’m afraid, was that. No other running opportunities presented themselves. Now I am heading for Shanghai. At least, that’s the plan. There is a typhoon over there right now and I am sitting at Haneda Airport with no clear departure time. The joys of travel.

Running Seattle and San Jose, Jun 2015

Posted: 2nd July 2015 by mockjogger in Running Away
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Last week I was running along a beach in Crete. This week I’m running round Seattle Airport. My new Nike Flyknit travel runners have their own air miles account, and over the next three weeks I hope they also score some road miles as I travel the globe on a humongous business trip, stalked by Hertz, it seems, who somewhat bizarrely don’t think their cars have wheels (tweet since deleted).

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After a 10 hour flight from Amsterdam to Seattle, made tolerable by three episodes of House Season 1, I checked in at the Airport Hilton and opened by case. I am travelling the world on hand baggage so it is not a huge case, but I did squeeze in my Paris Marathon shirt and a pair of shorts. For the occasions where my schedule does not allow hotel laundry, I also squeezed in some hand wash. Anyway, on went the kit and out I went. I looked left, looked right, figured there was less traffic left and went that way. After 1.6 miles along airport hotel street and into a suburban ‘hood, inturned turned back and retraced my footsteps. Perhaps the most boring run ever, but hey, straight off the flight and onto the road counts for something.

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Next day I flew down to San Jose and arrived just in time for dinner, so no running opportunity. Jet lag decided that waking at 4am would be a good idea, and after struggling not to wake up for a couple of hours I pulled on the Nikes and headed out. This time, for variety, I went right, and ran for about 15 minutes past some of the iconic residents of Silicon Valley before heading back for a shower. Travelling on hand baggage does have its downside and one of them is kit cleaning. A quick hand wash later and it was time for a smug breakfast. Next, Japan.

Running Gouves Crete, Jun 2015

Posted: 25th June 2015 by mockjogger in Running Away
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Early last week, I was considering a comeback race, my first since the Great North Run. Playing chicken with my Achilles over the last couple of weeks was working and I had logged a couple of 6 milers with no after-effects. So while the rest of the world was gathering for either the West Highland Way race or the Seven Hills of Edinburgh race, I had my sights on the slightly less challenging 10K Great Scottish Summer Run. But the comeback will have to wait, as instead of two loops of Holyrood Park, I found myself running along a beach at Gouves on the island of Crete.

Laura and Ceri, aka Valitsa Sisters are on an extended Greek island-hopping mission. They would be in Crete at the weekend. Easyjet had a direct flight. It was too good an opportunity to miss. I booked the flights, packed my flip flops, pulled on my new black Nike Free 4.0 Flyknits, a compromise between something I can travel in and something I can run in, and hit the airport. I would have packed more, but somehow my bag was filled with a girls-stuff wish list. Fortunately, security were easy on me, and I did not have to explain why.

After hooking up, the girls led me to the Sport Cafe Central in Gouves, which seems to be home away from home. There may have been beer. Yes, there was definitely beer. And other beer-like stuff. Next morning I woke up around 8.30. Breakfast until 10. There was time …

The hotel was right on the beach, and I headed left along a promenade. There were one or two other runners out there and I settled into a nice relaxed pace of about an hour per mile. When the promenade ended, I beached-up the Nike’s in loose sand until I hit about 1.5 miles. Then I turned, relaxed the pace further, and ran back. I reached the start point again with 3 miles on the Garmin and ran around for a bit longer until I clocked 3.1 miles, enough to count as the worlds slowest ever 5K.

Vague plans for more of the same never materialised, as excellent food, a challenging up / down beach bike journey to Hersonissos and the beach intervened. I think I might be the reigning pool champion at the Central, but the memories are kind of fuzzy.

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Let’s Be Having You, Mr Achilles

Posted: 20th May 2015 by mockjogger in Medical
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I’ve been good, really good. Not a single running stride for three weeks. My cunning don’t be a dick algorithm has been hard-wired into my brain, helping me resist any urge to get out there and just see how things go.

A week ago yesterday, my Achilles achieved “no obvious discomfort” status, and I advanced along the algorithm’s mandatory 7 day countdown. Numerous times a day I massageimaged the tendon, daring it to speak out. Several folks in meetings were asking me what the hell I was doing as my hand reached down yet again, but there are enough hardcore runners at work these days to pervade the empathy. Mr Achilles stayed low.

Five days in, I allowed myself to kick a ball around with the Junior Mockjoggers. I took things gingerly and was constantly aware that I was stretching the parameters a bit. Afterwards I felt a little sore, but convinced myself that it was not enough to reset the clock. The next day there was a vague hint of stiffness, but again not enough to reset the clock.

Seven days in, I decided to give it a go. I have to admit to being a bit nervous as I pulled on the Mizunos and headed out the door at lunchtime. I set out like a tortoise on restraints along the central Edinburgh bike path. Smooth, flat and s-l-o-w. I may have been overtaken by a dead snail, but that may just have been my imagination.  I didn’t care. My companion, Mr Achilles was being unusually quiet.

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I could feel nothing, even when I tried my hardest to detect any signs of discomfort. Another half mile and I turned back, retracing my steps.

Mile 2: 10.00

Ten point zero zero exactly, my algorithm must have been proud of me. I started to enjoy the jog.

Mile 3: 9:56

Run in pace 10.10

The jog complete, I stretched like a professional and resumed life, feeling pretty darn euphoric. I resisted the urge to google marathons.

Today the stiffness quotient is low-to-unnoticable. I am not going jogging, but I’m very tempted to go out for another 3 mile snailathon tomorrow if there is no reaction. I know my algorithm says wait another 7 days but sometimes you need to show technology who is the boss.

After a few days of professional-grade denial, I’ve decided to come clean with myself and admit I have a sore Achilles’ tendon. This is something of a setback to the reboot, but it is what it is, and now that I’ve come to terms with it I can start working the problem.

It first surfaced 3 weeks ago on my first run for about a month. I warmed up properly like a good runner should, and abandoned the run when I felt some tightness, smugly thinking I was bound to be rewarded for this uncharacteristic prudence. It was a lunchtime run and I clocked 5 miles, walking the last mile back to to the office. For the next couple of days the tendon was a bit stiff, but nothing to write home about, so I set off on the same route a week later. Same story; run abandoned for the sake of prudence.

Once bitten, twice err bitten. Yet again, another week on and the stiffness had gone so I set out again, this time after resurrecting the compression socks I scored for the Great North Run. No problems for the first 4 miles or so, until Mr Achilles woke up again and commanded me to walk home.
Now, I may be slow but I’m not crazy. Another week on, it’s finally occurred to be that this cadence is not working and I am abstaining from anything more than a walk.

Walking is OK. The tendon feels stiff in the morning and I can feel some pain if I massage a specific spot above the heel. To resist the urge to do more harm than good I have come up with the following cunning plan …

  1. Massage the tendon gently but frequently
  2. Monitor for signs of stiffness in the morning
  3. When (1) and (2) show no negative effects (not even a hint), go to (4)
  4. Wait 7 days
  5. Go out for a gentle 3 miles at > 10 min/mile
  6. Wait 7 days
  7. If tendon is sore, go back to (1) and double the time in (4)
  8. If tendon is not sore, go back to (5) and double the distance in (5)

imageI’ve had injuries before. I just need a little pa… Hold on, I feel a song coming on.

 

 

 

8 miles, 8 months

Posted: 30th April 2015 by mockjogger in Inspiration, Medical
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In the movies, when a story is running thin they start it over and call it a reboot. Well, here in real life, I am going to do just that.

I have been off the grid for so long I can hardly remember what it’s like to line up at the start of a race, gaze wistfully down the course and wonder if today is going to be PB kind of day. It’s nearly a year, a YEAR, since I PBd a half marathon at Dundee. I remember thinking at the time “that’s a good step forward, when is the next marathon?”.

So what happened? I haven’t lost my running mojo. I just keep getting stymied by events and injuries. I wish these things could just get together and decide to do what they have to do AT THE SAME TIME, rather than act as a relay concert. Work busy-ness peaks and hands off to stomach muscle tear. Several visits to the physio later, stomach muscle tear finally abates enough to let me get out there, only for work-busyness to appear from know where and pick up the baton again. Then, just when the end is in sight and finally I start a week where three runs are a possibility, I get a pain in the calf. It’s not really the calf, it’s actually the achilles, but I’m pretending it’s the calf.

And that is where I am today.

This sorry succession of excuses has left me with nothing worth writing about. Really, this is the most interesting thing going on right now, so you see what I mean.

So, reboot. I have nothing on my race calendar. Apart from the Edinburgh Marathon which I entered in a blaze of optimism after the race last year. And, as I have not run more than 8 miles at one time since going on for 8 months, that’s a non starter. The organiser’s of the Edinburgh Marathon are as about as flexible as an iron stick when it comes to switching races, so my grand plan of switching from the marathon to the 100 metres and building back up from there is not going to happen either.

No plan, but as a great philosopher once said “you can do anything you put your mind to, man”. I just need to put my mind to it. And get some new legs.

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Let’s take stock. My last run was about 3 months ago. The sun was shining, and my only dilemma was which pair of shorts to wear. In the meantime, the only part of marathon training I have been able to keep up with is calorie intake.

It’s not all bad news. I joined the new Pure Gym in Exchange Crescent, Edinburgh, which is within walking distance of home and my new office. I haven’t been able to run, but I did manage the very occasional spin class and half-hearted turn on the low impact cross trainer. The net result is that I am 6kg heavier and have lost a lot of fitness.

Worse than that, the gremlins have stolen my running stuff. Or so it seems. Garmin watches should have a built in GPS location feature. I finally tracked mine down at the bottom of my kit bag, paired it with my new shoe attachment and made my way nervously to the bank of treadmills.

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The aim here was to try out a gentle run to see if my side muscle pain was still a problem. I figured the treadmill would be easier on me than concrete, or perhaps I was looking for a subliminal ruse to avoid the sleet throwing itself down outside. Anyway, I am treating this injury with respect.

After quad, calf and ITB stretches I stepped on the machine, set the speed knob to a round 10.0, set the program to “Rolling Hills” (because too much respect can be a bad thing) and off I went.

Straight off I could feel the discomfort in the region normally known for stitches. I persevered and it after a while it kind of faded away. This is going to be OK I thought. Then the hills started a-rollin’. I was struggling to keep the dial at 10.0 but somehow I got it in my mind that 9.9 would be failure, gritted my teeth and kept going. It was hot and sweaty on those hills as I looked outside at the sleet still powering down.

I counted myself lucky for the next few minutes but then started wondering what to do. I could look outside o look at the music videos running on a screen in the background, but it was kind of, well, boring. A half hour and 3.11 virtual miles later I hit the red button and stepped off the machine.

Today I can feel some tightness, but nothing to write a blog about.

Running inside in Winter has its obvious advantages but I’m not sure if my boredom threshold would last more than half an hour. Still, I’m not ready for concrete yet.

An Enforced Sabbatical

Posted: 11th December 2014 by mockjogger in Medical
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OK, so where were we? Ah yes, I remember. The Great North Run. Sunshine, blue skies and a calf strain. I was happy just to get around. I looked forward to the next race.

Then I was tag teamed by two completely unconnected occurrences and stopped running. And blogging. And twitter.

acquisitionFirstly, the company I set up three years ago with some like-minded friends, Metroic was acquired by a large multinational company. This was a great step for the team, but consummating the relationship and starting to integrate the business took all available time. I know it’s a cliche but really, there Was. No. Time. Plus, I was travelling 3 weeks out of 4 and was lucky to find a shirt, never mind locate the runners.

At the same time, the calf strain matured and departed as these things do, only to be replaced by another niggle. This one was more problematic. I had been experiencing a pain in the lower stomach / upper abdomen area when starting runs, but shrugged it off. Now the pain started to re-surface, more strongly, mid way through a run. I felt pain anytime I stretched my right quad. Then I found that I could not raise my right leg from a prone position, and crunches became painfully impossible. I left it for a couple of weeks hoping it would get better, rationalising that I didn’t have time to run anyway, and may as well take the break. It didn’t get better.

Rather than ask Dr Google again I went to an actual real life doctor. The actual doctor said “hmmm” (as they do) “that’s in hernia territory, you need to see a specialist”.

ab side muscleYesterday I went to see a specialist in hernia and abdominal problems. I had a consultation and an MRI scan. The results were available immediately. No hernia, no lumps, but a suspected tear where the side muscle joins the six pack muscle. OK, in my case more of an aspirational six pack muscle. The Doc said he wasn’t a specialist in this area, but it will likely just heal over time. He said some physiotherapy may help. A follow-on appointment with a sports injury specialist was arranged for January.

With some trepidation, I asked the question that had been in my mind for some time. “Doc, can I run?”. And Doc said “I’m not a specialist in sports-related injuries, blah, blah, blah, but if I was you I would start again slowly, and stop if it’s painful”. I filtered out the noise and heard “yes”.

Aspirations to run another marathon next year are put in a box for now. I need to restart slowly and, to meet my cliche quota for this post, take it one step at a time. Even if I was 100% fit, I don’t have the time to adopt a serious training plan and won’t have for the foreseeable future.

I might make the treadmill tomorrow though.