Firstly, many apologies for the months of delay since my last post on here. I am guessing those of you who follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Strava, will have been keeping up to date with my return from injury. For those that don’t, well here is a run fly through of what has been happening in recent weeks, where I am on the road to recovery and the plan for the coming months.
Food and my ongoing battles with the nutrition demons was the main subject of my last post and I have to say that I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback and support I received from so many people about this. It was great to hear that what I wrote resonated with so many and that there are people in a similar position to myself, when it comes to food and running.
So how has my diet gone in the last few months? Well its been a roller coaster ride that is for sure and I have had some great days and weeks, with some terrible ones thrown in as well.
What I have discovered is that I am an emotional eater. In times of stress, pain, when suffering setbacks with my injury or when I am just generally feeling low generally, its food and poor food choices that I reach for first.
Late nights are also my nemesis, especially if sitting on my own in front of the television. There have been a few nights where I have consumed hundreds of calories of un-necessary junk, which my body just didn’t need. What I should have done was go to bed but I was tired, weak mentally and watching rubbish on the TV. It just felt impossible to say no.
That said, I have had some really good weeks too, driven mainly from improvements in my training (more on that later) and a desire to be the best athlete I can be.
I have also made a conscious effort to drop bread from my diet as much as I can. As much as I love the stuff, removing it from my diet makes me feel so much better and when I now have some, I really notice how bloated and heavy it makes me feel, especially if I have it late at night.
So my diet is still very much work in progress and I am sure there will continue to be good days as well as bad. I am not counting calories but am trying to think about what I eat and when I eat it, particularly in relation to the training I am doing.
The key things I am focussing on in the coming weeks and months when it specifically comes to my diet are:
1. Keep the bread intake to a minimum, as this seems to really help
2. Try too eat as clean as possible, avoiding heavily processed stuff and junk food as much as possible
2. Try to add more protein into my diet
2. Try to minimise the eating after 9pm and totally remove the late night binges by going to bed earlier
If I can keep this up, not only does this make me feel better but it should also allow me drop a few kilograms, which brings me nicely onto …
I have been aware for long time now that I am carrying more weight than I need to as a runner. I am not fat by any stretch of the imagination but my running would definitely benefit from dropping a few kilograms, especially over the distances I run.
Back when I was competing in triathlon, I typically weighed around 77kg during the race season. In the last few years I have been just over 80kg and in recent months north of 82kg.
Even before last years injury, I always said I would like to get back down to 77kg before Lakeland 100. Five kilograms is a lot of extra weight to carry across a hundred hilly miles and any reduction in my weight could only be a good thing for my hips and pelvis.
So, with the help of my good friend John Reynolds, we’ve undertaken a full set of measurements to set a benchmark. These confirmed my own thoughts that while I am not fat, I was definitely at the top end of the healthy range for someone of my age and height and I have room to loose some weight and body fat without compromising my health.
I have therefore set myself the target of getting down to 77kg and maybe even as low as 75kg if I can by the summer. I am keen to not only return from injury but also make myself the best athlete I can be. I have had some good race results in the past but I am convinced that with proper focus on my diet and body composition, I could make another step forward.
One of my other main focuses in 2018, in fact since the end of 2017, has been working on my core strength.
Prior to my injury I had always done a few hours of this per week but now, with the help of John Reynolds, Martin Copping and Helen Duggan, I’ve been taking a more structured approach to this, identifying my weaknesses and focusing in on improving these. I’m also including significantly more balance work than I have done before.
A period of enforced rest is a great opportunity to allow any weak spots to come to the fore and what has been really apparent is that my left adductors are working overtime to stabilise me, with my right hips and glutes considerably weaker than my left.
So, while I’m still doing a similar amount of core work as before, I am now able to focus on those weaknesses and try to build a solid foundation to support my running.
During this time I have also been continuing to work with my chiropractor to fix my general body alignment, especially my pelvis, which had a pronounced tilt and twist in it. As we unravel the layer upon layer of compensation in my body, some shoulder alignment issues have also been identified, which we are working on as well.
Yoga and flexibility
In the last few months I have also been doing a lot of yoga, something totally new for me. I am finding that this not only complements my core strength work but also helps with my general flexibility and range of movement.
Surprisingly I also find it quite relaxing and enjoy spending the first twenty or thirty minutes each day on this or doing a quick twenty minute session once home from work, to help shift the stresses of the day.
My focus again is on my hips and pelvis and I have also been doing a number of sessions as a cool down after I’ve run, to replace the stretches I would have previously done.
A lot of the sessions have included an element of inversions in them – gulp! -and I have to say I am tempted to have a crack myself. A loss of body weight, improved balance and body control will all help here and will get better in the coming months. Working towards a full inversion, be that head or hand stand, has to be a great challenge for 2018, so watch this space!
Return to Running
Enough about your diet and core work Giles, what about your running? Well it’s been a slow and painful journey, over two months in all, but as of last week I am finally back running.
I followed a return to running programme provided once again by John Reynolds, with a few adaptations to reflect how my body felt and also how my work schedule allowed me to fit the sessions in.
At a basic level it was a run walk programme, with three runs per week. Starting with repeated efforts of one minute running, followed by one minute walking recovery. This slowly built and shifted the balance of walk to run, until eight weeks later I was running non stop for over half an hour.
If I am honest, as the plan progressed I increased the number of intervals per session beyond the plan and also included a walking warmup and cool down into each one as well. This meant that from week four onwards I was typically on my feet for an hour for each session but this was always run by feel, monitoring how I felt before, during and after each run.
Prior to starting my return to running, I had been doing some structured work on the turbo trainer and mountain bike, aimed at building both my aerobic fitness and also leg strength. This worked really well and despite the limited running in the first few weeks of the program, I could really see my cardiovascular system improving, with my numbers in Training Peaks confirming this. As the running volume increased, so I reduced the bike volume back bit by bit to keep the load on my body consistent.
Along side this I also incorporated some walking into my training, typically going out at lunchtime for a four to seven kilometre brisk stroll around town or out into the countryside. As any ultra runner will tell you, efficient walking forms a massive part of ultra marathons, especially as you increase the distances and head into hillier terrain. In addition to getting my body used to this again, it was also a great way to test my injury in the days following a run and see how it was recovering.
That said, the return to running was not an entirely pain free process, with my left adductors giving me a lot of aggravation, especially while running itself. This caused me a lot of concern, as it was this pain that stopped me running in the first place back in October 2017 and I had some really low days during the process as a result. Surely after nearly five months rest this will have calmed down by now!?
Consulting yet again with John – thanks for your patience and support over these last few months mate – the consensus was that the adductors had been protecting me as the stress fracture developed. There was no apparent sign of injury to the adductors themselves, so it was mainly a question of building the core strength to correct any imbalances I had and gently running through it, to clear out any residual tension.
Despite having my doubts I kept the faith and pushed on through and week by week it slowly improved. What started as painful when just running for a minute was soon pain free for a kilometre and then five. Yes they are still sore even now and really struggle with sudden turns of speed or direction – kids rugby training can hurt like hell! – but we are a million miles from where I was when I first started.
Slowly week by week the mileage built until the last couple of week, where my weekly running volume passed through forty kilometres and my longest run hit ten miles.
Once I hit ten miles I started to include some off road and intensity sessions to see how my body would react, as I had been running on the road so far, to try and reduce the lateral movement and load from trails. I’m pleased to say it’s been pretty good. While the adductors are still sore and a cause for concern for me, they are playing for ball and recovering quickly after the run.
Aerobically I feel great and it was pleasing to see my numbers on Training Peaks showing that my fitness is back at or even slightly ahead of the levels it was this time last year.
As the mileage builds I am at last able to enjoy some of my pre-injury routes and loops, all be it slower than before. I am finally starting to feel like a runner again. It has been more than twelve months since I noticed the first signs of my injury but finally it feels like I’m on the road to recovery.
So what is next? Well I have three races booked this year, starting with the HEINEKEN Race to The Tower in early June, followed by Lakeland 100 at the end of July and The Montane Cheviot Goat in December.
Over the last few months I have told myself that until I could run pain free, I would not even think about racing. While things are improving, my adductors remain a cause for concern for me. However as the mileage increases and I have been able to drop in some intensity, my confidence is growing.
So, tentatively I am aiming to take part in HEINEKEN Race to The Tower in a little over five weeks time. Fifty miles will be a big ask and I will not be aiming to race the event, just enjoy being out in The Cotswolds and able to take part in the sport that I love once again. My main aim still has to be Lakeland 100 at the end of July.
I have learnt my lessons from last years DNF (Did Not Finish) at Lakeland 100 and will not be starting the event if I am not convinced I can finish. HEINEKEN Race to The Tower will not just be an opportunity to run in a beautiful part of the world but also test my body out in race conditions and see how it holds up.
And Project Dragon ?
Before I sign off and head out for a run, the observant amongst you will have noticed that I eluded Project Dragon at the end of my last post. I promised I would write more about that in the days after but the weeks and months passed by and here we are, none the wiser.
So what is Project Dragon? Well those that know me well will also know that for years I have dreamt of taking part in The Dragons Back Race, a 315km race down the spine of Wales, over five tough days running in the mountains. The race was first ran in 1992, returning for second time in 2012 and has been ran every other year since. I had the race firmly in my sights for 2019!
As I just outlined, although I have races booked in 2018, I am still to be convinced that I will physically be in the right place to tackle these. As a result, I have really set my target for a full return to racing to be next years Dragons Back Race. Hence Project Dragon.
When I first made this decision it was nearly a eighteen months to go before the race started. Even now, with a little over a year to go, this seems a more realistic challenge to build my recovery around and aim to get myself in tip top condition, ready to tackle this challenging course.
So, when race entries open at noon this Wednesday, I will be there in the digital queue, credit card in hand, ready to put my name down on the roster. After that a tough and hopefully enjoyable journey will commence, hopefully culminating on me crossing the start line in Conwy Castle on Monday May 20th, 2019.
So there we have it. Looking back over these last three months I am impressed with how much progress I have made. Yes my diet is still very much a work in progress and my adductors are still an aggravation but I am back running and extremely grateful to be back out on the trails.
Hopefully the coming weeks will see me progress on from here and I will be able to start the HEINEKEN Race to The Tower in early June. I will be back with an update on my progress before then and hopefully positive news about Project Dragon. I look forward to seeing you out on the trails!