That explains it!

May 16th, 2007

Well it’s been three weeks since the marathon and unfortunately my injured left leg wasn’t showing much signs of improvement. It had got a little better I suppose, going from not being able to walk on it at all (the day after the marathon) to walking with a badly concealed limp (today).

Time to make a trip to the doctor, thought I, and it’s probably a good thing that I did. Turns out what I thought was a pulled muscle is actually a tibial stress fracture, or to put it another way, a broken shin bone! One MRI, and three rolls of bright purple fibreglass later and this is my new look for the season…

Andy’s Purple Leg

Yes, a delightful purple cast!

Although it’s good to at last know what’s been going on down there and nice to have an explanation as to why it wasn’t healing as well as expected, I’m less than chuffed about spending the next few weeks carting this thing around. Trying to keep everything in perspective though it is only a few weeks, and I’m hoping to be rid of it and starting my rehabilitation after my next check-up in 3 weeks time.

My next question is this: how can anyone sign a purple plastic cast?!

A long day

April 22nd, 2007

Those of us who had been wishing for sunshine on race day apparently wished a little too hard as this year’s London Marathon equalled the hottest previously on record. Such weather might not make ideal running conditions, but the warmth and sunshine made for a glorious start to the race.

It’s hard to capture in words the feeling of being part of a crowd of 36,500 runners come together on a day like this. Surrounded on all sides by people of all ages, many in full costume, many wearing charity vests, the energy in the air was palpable and the atmosphere simply amazing.

With so many people making their way across the starting line, movement comes slowly. First a shuffle, then a walk, then a jog before breaking into a run. I couldn’t have asked for a better start though and for me, the first few miles went perfectly. My running felt relaxed and easy, and after my three-week taper, I felt full of energy.

At about mile 4, things started to take a definite turn for the worse as I felt a twinge on the inside of my lower left leg. At the time, I hardly noticed it. Indeed, while running, all sorts of twinges, aches and pains come and go so I carried on, fully expecting to simply ‘run it off’.

But by about mile 6, it had become obvious that something was not right. What started as a twinge had become a sharp pain and my pace had slowed dramatically. This was all I needed at such an early stage, and I was starting to become very frustrated and somewhat alarmed. After a couple of attempts to stretch it off myself by the side of the road, I pulled over to the side to seek some medical attention.

The kindly St John Ambulance volunteer who helped me didn’t have much advice to give, but offered to massage the injured muscle in the hope that it might ease the discomfort. Alas, this did little to help and I asked how far it was to the next ambulance station where I thought I might be able to find something more than a well-meaning rub.

But by this stage, I could barely put weight on my left leg and the 300-or-so metres to the ambulance station took a painfully long time. Clambering over the double barriers, I hobbled to the ambulance where I got my leg iced and bandaged. Even this hardly seemed to make any difference and as I sat in the ambulance, any hopes I had of running the rest of the race were rapidly evaporating. I discharged myself and started to limp back towards the course, still not completely sure what I was planning on doing. I knew I had to at least give it another try so I climbed back over the barriers and rejoined the race.

As soon as I was back on the course, I started to experience something that was going to become very important over the coming hours. I must have already been very near to the back of the pack, but even as other runners began to run, jog or walk past me, words of encouragement were exchanged. And to the left and right of me, complete strangers shouted my name, which I had written on my vest.

But even with this encouragement, what lay ahead of me seemed like an impossible wall. If running the 20 mile between me and the finish line seemed like a daunting task, the idea of limping and stumbling it with every step causing me to wince filled me with dread. When sitting down and just giving up seemed like the sensible option, it took every scrap of motivation I could muster to keep going. I filled my head with thoughts of my family and friends who had come to see me race, of everyone who had supported and encouraged me through my training, of my charity Kids and everyone who had sponsored me, the hours I’d spent in the cold running round the darkened streets, and every inspirational person I could think of. I resolved that I was going to complete this race, even if it meant I had to crawl.

The memories are so clear that I think I could probably describe almost everything that happened to me as I made my way as best I could (don’t worry, I won’t!). But it amazed me just how many poignant, saddening and uplifting moments can be fitted into one day.

I finally crossed the finish line in a time of 8 hours 24 minutes.

Tapering, tapering…

April 5th, 2007

For the last three months, I’ve been gradually increasing the number of miles I’ve been running each week. When going from running a few token miles to needing to survive more than 26, gradually training up would seem like a sensible approach to take!

But my 20 mile ‘long run’ last Monday marked the end of that process. Paradoxically, even with three weeks to go before the race, marathon training wisdom dictates that now is the point to actually start decreasing the number of miles one is running. So tonight, instead of the expected 10 mile tempo run, it was a much more bite-sized 4 miles (although still at tempo pace).

The idea here is that trying to cover even greater distances at this stage doesn’t increase your fitness significantly, or your likelihood of making it across the finish line. In fact, it can actually have a detrimental effect. Instead, over the next three weeks I’ll be gradually winding down, giving my body plenty of chance to rest and recover from the training it’s just been through, and to start putting away the stores of energy it’ll need come April 22nd. Experienced marathon runners will tell you that if you can run 20 miles three weeks before the race, your body is capable of lasting the full 26.2 miles on race day. The combination of the extra rest, stored energy and the pure adrenaline of race day should carry you those extra 6 miles

So the theory goes, and it’s a theory I’ll be counting on in three weeks time!

The Bearded wonder!

February 26th, 2007

Today, I shaved for the first time in a month. And not out of laziness, either, for this is a charity beard!

As many of you might already know, I’m not running this marathon for purely masochistic pleasure. I’m running to raise money for the fantastic Kids disabled children’s charity. Kids works with the families and carers of disabled children, providing support and services to help the kids get the most out of life. They also work on transforming attitudes and shaping policy to make it possible for disabled children to be included in the play and learning of everyday life.

So, what better way to start my fund-raising than with a spot of charity beard topiary?

The plan was a simple one: for one month, I would grow the best beard I possibly could. Then, after one month had past, the good people at my current place of work—Schlumberger‘s Princeton Technology Center—would be given the chance to propose as many designs as they could come up with for possible ways in which I could craft my month of facial hair. The three best (and most amusing) designs would then be chosen and, by making donations to Kids accordingly, people could ‘vote’ for their favourite design.

Well after a tense round of voting on Monday, the winning design was finally announced: “The Biker”! (I’ll post a scan of the design when I get a moment)

Time for some before and after shots then… after one month’s growth:

Beard leftBeard frontBeard right

(Not very impressive, I admit, but I tried!)

And after a long session with the razor…

Biker leftBiker frontBiker right

Not as bad as it could have been, I must say! Maybe next time my colleagues at work won’t be so kind!

A big thank you to everyone at PTC for their support and donations. I’ll let you know the total raised when I empty the collection box at the end of the week. Every cent’s going straight to Kids and every cent makes a difference, so thank you!

I know the rest of you will all be clamouring to know how you can show your support too, so now would seem like a good time to mention my Justgiving fund raising page!

Just head on over to…

…hit the ‘Sponsor Me Now’ button, and enjoy the pleasure of easy, secure, online giving! Any sponsorship received through my Justgiving page goes directly to Kids so they get the benefit of your support right away.

All your support’s going to really be appreciated by both me (it’s a great motivator!) and Kids, so please do spare a couple of minutes and a couple of mouse-clicks to show Kids some love!

There’s snow business like… running in the snow!

January 29th, 2007

Not exactly what one might want to see first thing in the morning on a day one is supposed to be doing a run, but then again, nobody said this was going to be easy! Yes, the disturbingly mild winter has finally broken and we had our first proper snowfall in New Jersey.

The Mighty Buick in the snow

Fortunately, by the evening, the snow had cleared from the roads so I could venture out without too much fear of sustaining a broken limb. Today I did what those-that-know might call a tempo run. That’s a shorter run at a faster pace than your ‘race pace’, designed to allow you to work on your running style, improve your efficiency and, hopefully, your eventual time. Sounds good to me!

Of course, I’ve still got a long way to go to build up my milage, but I’ll be doing that on my weekly ‘long runs’. Between these shorter tempo runs and my longer endurance runs, I should be able to build my stamina to last the distance and my speed to avoid my time being measured in days, as opposed to the more traditional hours and minutes. So the theory goes… I guess the proof of the pudding will come on April 22nd!

Back to basics

January 25th, 2007

After a weekend of relaxation, it was high time I got back out on the road. The day after my visit to see Dr Lavine, I was somewhat concerned as my foot was actually feeling worse than before! Not to worry though, as Dr Lavine reassured me that this was not uncommon: after all, the foot had been eased back into a shape that, due to the injury, it had become unfamiliar with… the right one!

Now, I have to say, it’s feeling just fine and I’m enthusiastic about trying it out on the road. Not wishing a repeat of what happened before, I thought I should start gently again, so went for a modest 3 mile run today, stopping when my foot started to feel ‘worked’. I think I need to build the strength back very gradually, but time is pressing, so I’ll be out again on Saturday and try and build the distance a bit more.

Spoke too soon

January 12th, 2007

Bother. Depite a 6 miler yesterday that felt great while I was doing it, I’m paying the price today. The old ankle’s certainly letting me know I’ve been using it. Interestingly enough, the discomfort is in the sole of my foot more than anywhere. More rest and swimming for me, I guess. Just as things were starting to look more hopeful…

Wibble wobble

January 10th, 2007

In the words of Borat: “Great success!” Today I took delivery of a Wobble 360 wobble board, from the good people at Fahtee Corp.

The basic idea of these contraptions is that by simply learning to stand on them without falling off, you can improve your balance, coordination and all that good stuff. Using a wobble board for training can also help recover from and prevent injuries.

Why this sudden interest in wobbling, you may ask? Well, the idea came from the esteemed Jennifer-Ann Gibbons, who I visited back in December. In fact, she suggested that I not only learn to balance on a wobble board, but to juggle on it as well! I’ll let you know how I get on!

Lookin’ up

January 8th, 2007

Things definitely looking up: ran just over 4 miles this evening and no complaints from the ankle. Some complaining from the legs, but not the ankle!

We’ll see how it is in the morning, but I’m quietly optimistic that I’ll be able to start ramping up the miles now. I’ve deliberately been very cautious about doing too much too soon, so I’m hoping that my patience will be rewarded and I’ll be able to press on without risking a recurrent injury. Fingers crossed!

Green? Pleasant? New Jersey?

January 6th, 2007

Pakim PondI am always surprised how green and pleasant New Jersey quickly becomes if you drive in the right direction. This morning, that direction was south to Lebanon State Forest about 50 minutes away to join some colleagues from work who had convened for a spot of mountain biking around the parks 34,725 acres. Thanks to Jim’s kind loan of a decent bike, I was spared the indignity of attempting to navigate the park’s various tracks and trails on my road racer (that would have been a spectacle worth seeing!), but thanks to Jim’s thundering pace, after about 16 miles, I was ready to drop.

Mountain biking through Lebanon State Forest again

I believe that this sort of activity falls in the category of ‘cross-training’ and is something heartily recommended by those-that-know as part of one’s marathon training program. The idea being simply to introduce activities other than running into your schedule in order to help build all-round fitness, reduce injuries, keep motivated and so on.

Mountain biking through Lebanon State ForestRunner’s World has a nice article about the benefits of cross training for those that are interested. My plan is to make cycling and swimming feature heavily in my training schedule, so that should give Jim et al. plenty more opportunities to give me a good punishing. Splendid!