Tag Archives: running

343/365 – Sweating out the turkey 

After two days of Christmas indulgence and my third tonight, I needed an exercise fix today. The sun was finally shining and nostalgia came over me – I decided to run my favourite route near my family home. With amazing views across Edinburgh, the 9km route is always a pleasure.   

Today I did it without medication which is a first. I woke up late and didn’t have time to digest breakfast, take medications and then go running. I didn’t intend to go out for a long one – just a quick burst to get my heart pumping harder. But with the sunshine and as the wind of the last few days finally calm, I was really enjoying striding it out. 

I managed the distance at an easy pace but by the end of it my legs were heavy. I’m delighted that I made it and feel better for it, but wouldn’t run without medication in normal circumstances.

244/365 – Personal best 10km run post myasthenia

Today I ran the Salford 10km  – starting and finishing at the Media piazza beside the BBC studios in Manchester. I did it in a good time and am proud of myself although I did have a mini incident around 0.5km from the end. More on this later.

My friend Melissa had asked if I fancied doing it a few months ago and, as I haven’t done any other races this year, I jumped at the chance. The last couple of years I’ve been focusing on running half marathons but I’ve not had the time or strength to train for one of those this summer. A 10km seemed perfect and I had the idea of trying to do close to my personal best (pre myasthenia) -45km. 

I’ve not done a running schedule this year but I have been working out in other ways to keep strong. So this morning I felt confident about completing the race in a good time after fuelling up on pasta (and tiramisu) last night. Ever since I passed out at the end of a half marathon five years ago, there’s always doubt in my mind but since then I’ve not had any incidents. I’d say I have a healthy respect of what I’m expecting my body to do and wouldn’t push it too far. Today, I had to dig deep to cross the line. 

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was hot when we set off. Still the first 5km passed quickly with lots of pretty scenes around the canals to look at. I started to feel my body tire after that and gave myself periods of going faster and slower. When we got to Old Trafford, Manchester United’s stadium, I was ready to be finished. 

Still I was doing well time-wise and had a glimmer of hope that I might get close to my 45 minute personal best. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

At the 9 kilometre sign, I stepped it up and started to run fast but realised I couldn’t maintain the pace until the end. Then I started to feel funny – like I was going to be sick. I had never once been sick running and can’t remember the last time I was sick for any other reason. But when I kept going and started to dry heave, pulling out of the race for a minute was the only option. Moments later I was throwing up at the side of the road to the sound of trainers striking the ground and the clock ticking. Quickly I felt better but I rested for a few minutes to make sure it wasn’t going to happen again. Thankfully, after setting off slowly, I felt completely normal and was able to sprint in the final straight to cross the last straight. 

Why was I sick? The heat, the effort, a lack of training at that speed? Perhaps all of these things, but I think the key reason was because I didn’t have enough food for breakfast to protect my stomach from the heavy medication. A lesson I’m glad I’ve learned now as I’ll know in my next race to get up earlier so that I can eat more before the run. 

Thankfully, after some yoga stretching and a bath, I’m feeling good and am more than happy with my 50 minute effort. In fact, I now have a post-myasthenia personal best. 

236/365 – Choosing a run over a beer

Today I chose a run over a pint or two in the most boring decision of my adult life. My colleague is going on secondment for a while and the usual suspects headed to our local to wish him well. 

As I stood at the bar, I was full of conflict. As I watched my colleague taking the first sip of her pint, I imagine how good my first sip would taste after a full on day. At the same time, I could feel my trainers kicking me through my rucksack while shouting ‘Oi, no, it’s only 10 days until you have to run a 10km and you’ve not done a proper run in a few weeks’. My trainers won the fight – probably because they were kicking me. 

While I really didn’t feel like it, I’m glad I got some miles in tonight. It was only when I started running that I realise I had only had one mestinon all day – what often happens on busy ones – but my body held out fine over the 8km. After this weekend, it’s unlikely I’ll do another long run before the 10km so the fact that I did near the distance comfortably was reassuring. High on my healthy choice, I even went to the gym afterwards to do some boxing. I’ll need to make up for all this clean living over the Bank holiday weekend. 

220/365 – Good week for maintaining fitness benchmarks

As part of my drive to keep fit and strong, I like to set myself tough benchmarks to try to beat or at least maintain. I have several of these benchmarks and this week I’ve manage to hit two of them. 

Running

My best 5km time at present, on the busy London streets, is 22 minutes 15 seconds. I’ve tried to match it for a while, but have been struggling of late due to lower energy levels. On Tuesday, when running late for Childline, I was able to match this time to the second. It made me think that the key is to be in a rush for something (when am I not rushing). Frustratingly, I think I would have beaten this time had I not got stuck in the people jam around the Bank of England HQ at Bank.

Regardless, after weeks of testing myself against this time, I was delighted to match it. 

Rowing

Today, I had an intense gym session at lunch which ended with my usual rowing rest – how quickly can I row 1,000m. While I’ve done it in under 5 minutes before, my bench mark is 5 minutes. After not having done it for a while, I was expecting to be well over the target today. However, I was under by a couple of seconds…and as you’ll see from the photo above I was delighted about this. 

While these are my bench marks, ideally I’d love to be able to run 5km in 20 minutes (and 10km in 45 mins) and rowing 1,000m in 4 minutes and 45 seconds. While achieving these tough goals feel like a real challenge at the moment, they keep me pushing forward and working hard.

137/365 – Raising awareness via Twitter competitions

Yesterday I received an interesting tweet that is definitely worth writing about. After entering a competition to win a pair of New Balance trainers on Twitter, I received a response from the company’s account. The sports brand has asked people to tweet reasons why they enjoy running with the hashtag #useyourrun. I decided it was a good opportunity to raise some awareness about myasthenia, and also  potentially win a new pair of top of the range sneakers, so I tweeted:

I run to keep on top of my #myastheniagravis

While this is true, I had also hoped that people looking at this feed would be curious and click on the MG hashtag. What has happened, if it comes true, is even better.

New Balance asked me to follow them so they could direct message me. They then asked whether I would allow my tweet to be part of a campaign they are running with the Hearst magazine group. As in the company that owns Vogue, Men’s/Women’s Health etc. Not only will the Twittersphere be curious about MG, but hopefully so will the thousands of readers of these magazines. I would say that is #winning at its finest. 

131/365 – Learning to walk 

I had my last massage before the Camino today and boy did I need it. After lots of hill sprints and a few longer runs last week, the muscles around my back and hips have been full of knots. The pain was relieved with a little yoga yesterday, along with a massage kindly ‘donated’ by Elaine, but I was still far from fixed. Time to dig into my pockets and call the work masseus.

As he started to work wonders on my muscles, the crackling of knots was deafening and the pain intense. My shoulders were so tense working on them took the majority of his time. Sadly he was reluctant to work on my lower back, saying putting more pressure on it is was not a good idea. He suggested once my shoulder tension is relieved the pain in my lower back should ease off. To help, he advised changing the way I walk and run. 

Due to my ‘curvy’ back (pictured below), when I’m running my lower back is coping with a lot of stress. The same applies when I’m lifting weights, according to my masseus, and so it’s no wonder that my back has been playing up with the amount of both I’ve been doing. He told me to fix this I could try tilting my hips forward when I walk and run. Anyone who has ever tried this will know it’s not an easy and all you need is a pout to feel like a right Mick Jagger. 

  
As I have a big few weeks ahead, I’ve decided to stop running until after the Camino to give my body a chance to recover and rest. For now, if you see someone deep in concentration it may be me teaching myself to walk all over again. 

115/365 – Day before the duathlon

Tomorrow is a big day for me – my first ever duathlon. Although it is a mini one (4km run, 20km cycle and 4km run) I’m excited, nervous and intrigued about how it will go. 

From my experience of doing running events, the way you behave the day before massively dictates how you find the run. I’ve done events where I’ve been training regularly but the day before I’ve misbehaved (ate the wrong thing, had a few drinks, smoked a lot etc) and I’ve found it a real struggle/been unable to finish. Once I ended up in an ambulance after passing out. There was another time when I didn’t know I was doing a half marathon until the day before but because I rested and ate well on that day, I finished it comfortably. 

At this point I am feeling strong and well rested after a 10 hour sleep. I carbed up last night with spaghetti bolognaise and intend to do so again tonight. I am drinking a lot of water and plan to do so for the rest of the day. I haven’t done any running or cycling since Tuesday and the muscle aches I was feeling earlier in the week have vanished. I’ve done a light run with Elaine and Sarah to loosen up before the journey through to Essex for the event. 

Other than have an early one tonight, have no alcohol and make sure I eat carbs, at this stage it feels like there isn’t anything else that I can do. I turned down a Bermondsey craft beer crawl today which was definitely the right decision although it was difficult at the time. 

We will head through to Essex in the early evening to make sure we’ve got lots of time to wind down before bed. Then it’s game on. 

101/365 – 14 days to my first ever duathlon 

I figured out on Sunday that my first ever duathlon is only two weeks away. Sure it’s a mini one – 4km run, 20km cycle, 4km run – but that doesn’t stop me feeling worried about the distance (particularly cycling distance).

I spoke to my fellow duathlete Sarah during last week about how she is getting on and she’d felt good doing a half version of the distances (something I hadn’t attempted yet).   It’s my first sporting event of the year and the nerves are setting in. I’ve been running and cycling as regularly as possible but decided with the time left I should do a trial version to see how I coped with the distances. 

Stage 1 – 4km run

I set my alarm for bright and early yesterday morning so that I could do a trial run of the distances and still have time to do something else with my Sunday afternoon. Dragging Elaine with me, we set off to do a 4km close to home. Although it was a shorter distance than I was used to doing, I always find running first thing in the morning a challenge. My legs felt heavy, the distance felt much longer than it should have and I could feel that I hadn’t digested my breakfast and morning medication properly. Also, conditions weren’t great. Although the sun was out there was a very strong wind making breathing more of a challenge than it should have been. Part 1 was a bit of a drag and I was dreading the next 24km.  

Stage 2 – 20km cycle

Without a doubt, this is the section I was most concerned about. I had done the same distance a few weeks before but never bookended by runs. It took about five minutes after the run to get all our kit sorted and bikes ready, but once we got going, I started to enjoy myself. The wind that had been challenging during stage 1 had died down and the sun was heating up so that it was even warm in the shade now. 

We took the same busy route through Camden to Regent’s Park with a couple of challenging hills that seemed like they would never end. Once we had reached the park, we raced five 1km laps of the inner park road to see what time we could do it in. I managed in 15 minutes and 20 seconds which I was happy with. We then took a 20 minute break stretching out in the sun (I was craving a caffeine fix) before heading back home. Although I had the traffic lights with me on the way home, I was still overtaken by casual cyclists and a grandad out with his small grandson who was holding onto the front handlebars. Think it’s safe to say I’m not going to be the next Bradley Wiggins. 

We ended up doing 21km by the time we reached home and my legs were starting to feel like jelly as I stepped off the bike and got ready for stage 3. This was the bit I had been waiting for.

  

Stage 3 – 4km run

Within the first few steps I knew I wouldn’t be able to race the last 4km in. The switch between cycling and running made it feel like I had to train my legs how to run again – gradually – or I might fall over. I ran the same route as earlier still lacking any spring in my step – here I was thinking the running part would be easy.

Consciously trying to do a better time than the first 4km, where I was coasting, I managed to shave about three and a half minutes off by sprinting the last half km. The knowledge that I would get to stop at the end driving my tired legs on. 

It took me around two hours (excluding breaks) to complete the duathlon. After I stopped, I had enough energy to do some cleaning and go for a light walk before finding a comfortable armchair to relax in. 

I’m feeling much more comfortable about the duathlon being days away now that I’ve tested myself. As long as I’m feeling good and get enough rest in the week before, I am now confident I’ll be able to cross the finish line which is more than I could say yesterday. 

92/365 – Feeling good, looking terrible

Although my eye was bad yesterday, when I woke up this morning it was significantly worse. It would hardly open first thing as I stared at myself in the mirror feeling like I was looking at a stranger. Why did I feel that way? Because I didn’t feel bad – I felt great but I looked terrible. 

After a really deep sleep, my energy levels were back to normal and I was actually excited for the day ahead. But myasthenia gravis can sometimes be slow to catch on – my body wasn’t going to let me away with three heavy Dublin nights. It wanted revenge. 

I think my colleagues got a shock when I came in today as since I’ve started my new job it hasn’t been this bad. Looking at myself in the lift mirror, I realised I could pass for someone who had been punched in the face. When it’s good, you forget how you look when it’s bad. The annoying thing was I had a very relaxing break. Sure I had been out dancing and cider sipping but it was made up for with long lies and taking it easy. 

While my eye was the big give away, during my lunch time run my body started to show it’s fatigue with my legs feeling shaky and heavy after only a couple of kms. Still I managed to run 15.5km today all in all and cycle 5km. My legs are tired but in a satisfied way and I got to see this amazing sunset in different stages all the way home.   

I’ve upped the mestinon and am about to have an early night in the hope that tomorrow the MG will catch up with how I’m feeling. Or maybe I’m just kidding myself. 

67/365 – Shared exercise regime

It seems like a good time for an update on my training and upcoming events. I mentioned it briefly here, but next month one of my best pals and I are taking part in a mini duathlon. The distances are a 4km run, a 20km cycle and a 4km run to finish it/us off. It’ll be a challenge for us as neither of us are keen cyclists, but being challenged is the point. Well that and doing something ‘fun’ together.

After booking it a couple of weekends ago, we have been keeping each other up to date with our latest training schedules and this week we have set ourselves the challenge of following the breakdown in the image below (excuse the pervy images).



 Strength training is important in the build up to any kind of distance sporting event – particularly strengthening the glutes to prevent IT band-related injuries and core strength to give your tired legs a boost when the going gets tough. 

The first outdoor run I did last week surprised me. I thought as I had been training hard in the gym – including lots of treadmill work – I would find it easy. I set off fast, loving the stimulation of running along London’s beautiful streets again, but by around 4.5km I was starting to tire. My legs felt as shaky as they did when I started running again last year – without the intense winter training I’ve done this year. It was clear that I need to get out and clock up the miles before tapering down at the end of April. 

Sharing the pain

Before a couple of years ago I was never really one for sharing events or training plans. I think years of playing in football teams and with a boxing club, where there are always some people you take to more than others,  made training solo new and exciting. I was my own boss and could push myself as hard as I wanted. However, having friends/Elaine taking part with me on each of my ‘staggered triathlon’ events last year, and the year before Michelle and I completed the 26 mile Kilt Walk and E and I did the Royal Parks half marathon, made me realise the benefit of having someone to push you on. 

During any kind of endurance test, having company means finding ways to distract each other and either keeping focused or keeping your minds from the scale of the task ahead. During Elaine’s first half marathon, we kept each other from thinking about the distance by planning, in explicit detail, what we would have for our Sunday lunch. It was kind of like the trick you see prisoners use in TV shows to distract themselves.

Why do distance events if they can feel like torture, you may well be asking? Particularly since the MG diagnosis, testing my body to prove it’s strong enough to cope is important to me. As is having something to train for when my motivation, or mood, dips. But also it’s about the shared memories – I know in years time I’ll still be speaking to my friends about the incidents around the events in the same way I still share stories with my university football team mates about our ‘glory days’.

Although Sarah and I are pushing each other on remotely via Facebook photos and messages, it makes a difference knowing someone is expecting you to be fit enough to do an event with them. It always feels worse letting someone else down and by not being able to complete the duathlon I know it would affect Sarah’s experience (like it did with my friend when I couldn’t complete the overnight London to Brighton cycle last year). Unless things with the MG take a turn for the worse, I will do all I can to cross that finish line.