Monday, 24 February 2014

The Strassburg Sock

After last year's too-small smalls (emergency pants bought in a French supermarket), another in my series of irregular articles on cruel and unusual punishments masquerading as underwear. This time it's the Strassburg Sock, and it singlehandedly (though that should possibly be singlefootedly) is responsible for four nights - and counting - of broken sleep. Here's the offending item:

Sexy little beast, isn't it? And yes, that really is a strip of material connecting the toe to a band that runs round the calf, pulling the toes up into a permanent 45 degree angle.

As intimated above, it's nightwear. But why oh why are you inflicting this upon yourself, do I hear you cry? No? I'll tell you anyway. It, apparently, is an effective and natural remedy for heel pain, including the Achilles, from which I have been suffering in recent times. And I have to say I'm noticing an immediate difference.  I ran two hilly half-marathons on Saturday and yesterday, and contrary to recent experience after such exertions, my first few steps this morning were not sanctioned by the Ministry of Silly Walks.

The theory of the thing of course is that it very gradually stretches out the calf and Achilles whilst you sleep, which is supposed to accelerate healing. When I bought the thing of the interweb this time last week I naively assumed that as the thing had "sock" in its title, it would come as a pair. Wrong. Just the one appeared. I have to say I wasn't tempted to buy a second - the thing is absurdly expensive for what it is - but even if I had been there would have been no need.  The night before last I was so uncomfortable in it at 3.23am I switched it from my right leg to left leg, and that seems an ideal arrangement - both Achilles feel better.

Tis a good job Mrs Monmarduman is now in France for five weeks however, for there is much thrutching (Cheshire word I believe) and a rustling of a night-time when I swap legs, undoing and redoing two velcro straps.

So there we are. I'm managing to manage the pain while carrying on running, and hopefully there's even a recovery brewing. Anyway, it's nearly time to don the thing for another night of joy, so I'll take my leave.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Book of Revelations

Yesterday was a day of revelations, though none biblical as it happens. Only the recent rain is that. Anyway, yesterday's were, in chronological order as the day unfolded:

- Mrs Monmarduman can get up early at the weekend for something other than a car boot sale. When I announced last week that I was going to have to leave home at 7am (on a Sunday) to get to Keswick in time to start my mountain running skills course at 10am (it doesn't take that long, but I had to add contingency and the faff factor on to journey time), I completely expected to be going alone. However, the good lady wife announced she too fancied a day out in the Lake District. So darn me if she wasn't out of bed voluntarily and with no incentives or threats at 6.30am. What a nice surprise it was too.

- I met the winner of the Nicest and Politest Man in the UK 2014 competition. His name was Dunna, a Dubliner resident in Glasgow, and was the only other participant on the course, there having been two dropouts during the week. He arrived late, apologising profusely for his tardiness, though he should have been also sorry for the dilemma he's placed me in, namely whether I can reinforce national/racial stereotyping by revealing the reason he was late. Oh sod it. We were supposed to meet in the car park at Booths supermarket in Keswick. His Celtic ear however meant that he turned up at Boots, and wondered why no one was there. It was hard not to laugh, to be sure. He was however, as I say, the most delightful and considerate running partner through the day; one of life's genuine nice guys.

- I'm not as crap at map reading as I thought I was. Though I can now take proper bearings and navigate by compass alone. Which is nice. And necessary, as it turns out that's what I'll have to do on the mountain marathon at the start of April.

- talking of which, navigational skills will probably be just as important as fitness in determining the time I manage in that event. This is quite a scary prospect, not least because I'll be doing the event alone rather than with a partner, which is how a lot of people do it apparently.

- back to Mrs Monmarduman: she walked nearly as far as we ran during the day. Whilst the miles we did were fairly extreme, being off marked paths for much of the time in bogs and on rocky fells, and were done in a screaming, freezing wind, we didn't do that many of them; 7-8 perhaps. Mrs M managed to resist the temptations of the Keswick Pencil Museum (I sh*t you not); she does have a heart condition after all, and that level of excitement could have been dangerous, so she took to the countryside too, knocking off a good few miles of walking herself. She had roses in her cheeks, as they used to say in the 1950s, when we met back up in the afternoon.

- finally, and a bit boringly, clothes matter. I had 6 layers on yesterday and was shaking with the cold at times, and was certainly colder than the other two, who each had 3/4 better quality layers on. Might have to spend some money.

So there we are. I haven't covered the stuff I learned, though contours are indeed king, and DDTT isn't a type of explosive, but it was a good day. Just need to do some more training now, of both the running and navigating kind.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Such a cliché...

...that all this running has found my Achilles heel. Literally, in this case - both of them. Yup, for the last couple of weeks after runs the right Achilles has been sore, as has the underside of the left heel, which, it seems, is just a different manifestation of an Achilles problem.

So I consulted my favourite doctor (that'd be Dr. W. W. Web), who said that Achilles pain can be brought on by any one of the following:

- front foot-landing running (that's what I do; saves lots of other problems)
- speed work (check; lots of sprints round Regent's Park recently)
- hill running (I only run in the hills at the weekend)
- not doing enough stretching of the lower legs, calves in particular (erm, yes again; oops)

So I'm now doing a new set of exercises three times a day to try to get the soreness out of the damn things. I'm still running, which perhaps isn't wise, but the discomfort is at its peak in the first couple of hundred yards of a run, and then it settles down. So whilst that's the case, I'll keep going. Which is just as well, as I'm off to Keswick this Sunday for my mountain running skills course; it's a practical course, so there'll be plenty of time on my feet.

And that's not unlike the next couple of days....I'm in London, as per usual, and there's a Tube strike over the next 48 hours, so there's four walks of two and a bit miles coming up. I don't mind actually, but I hope the weather turns out a bit kinder than the forecast.

Back to the running. Training at the moment consists of a few short runs in London during the week, and a couple of long-ish hill runs at the week. Marathon training suggests that you gradually increase the distance of your weekly run till you reach 75% of marathon distance. Training for an ultra-marathon is different. If you do 75% of an ultra, you're basically going to be knackered for several weeks afterwards, leading to reduced training that's not going to move you on; so that's to be avoided. Instead, you do two medium to long back-to-back runs at some point in the week, the theory being that on the second you've got some residual tiredness from the first. So that's what I'm doing. We'll see how successful it is in due course - but it's leading to a few Sunday afternoon snoozes at the moment, and the consumption of quite a lot of porridge - which, I've discovered, is a lot more interesting with a splash of Jack Daniel's over the top. And on that happy thought, enough for now.
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