26 September 2010

No miracle

Mon: 4k, 3k, 2k, 1k at HM pace in 16:08, 12:03, 8:00, 3:50 with 4, 3, 2 mins walk rec. Total 16k in 72mins (av 4:30) - last chance to test the leg

Tues: 30mins elliptical + weights
Wed: 40mins easy - no watch (maybe around 5:00-5:30 pace)
Thu: OFF
Fri: 30mins run (av 5:38 min/km), painful  + 30mins elliptical
Sat: 19k easy in 97mins (av 5:10 min/km)
Sun:  10mins run. painful + 40mins very easy stationary bike
Total about 50k of running

Miracle didn't happen, so unsurprisingly, I have opted to downgrade to Half Marathon last Wednesday. Earlier in the week, I still harboured a little hope of doing the full mary and did another test in form of repeats at HM pace. While I nailed the workout and the leg pain was in general, tolerable, my heart rate data shows that I had to work significantly harder (or maybe from lost fitness due to lack of training). As the injury is the anterior tibialis area (the muscle that lifts the leg up), my foot just didn't have any strength to push off hard My running gait was also altered, and I could feel the knees had to absorb more shock than usual. As it currently stands, there is no way the leg structure can last the full marathon distance, especially at sub-3 pace attempt. Another thought was just to run the marathon at a moderate pace, say to finish in 3h:15m - for another Boston qualifier (to make it 4 times in a row). But all things considered, doing the HM is probably the best option and will give me a quicker recovery and healing time.

Even for the HM, I am not confident I can run at a decent time. As mentioned above, I just can't push off hard due to the damaged ankle extensor tendon. Consequently, my stride lengths are also getting shorter (turnover still in 170s but shorter). This means I have to work much harder in order to run at the same pace. Anyhow, we are going there primarily for holiday and to relax.

So, there is no 4x10 for me (marathon stats at 7am). This means I will have to wait for another 100 years to finish a marathon at 10 on 10-10-10, oh boy :)

Although, this is disappointing, I am actually already looking forward to train for the next marathon. We have travel plans in Dec and Feb (3 weeks holiday in Europe), so there is no chance to run marathon in the first quarter of 2011. This means that I will also miss out on my favourite marathon, Seoul International in March. Therefore, it seems my best chance to run a marathon is Gold Coast Marathon in July 2011 (would love to run Perth, but unless if I can upgrade myself from a marginal sub-3 to a 2.55 shape runner, then Perth will be a lonely tough race especially in the last 10k). With this in mind, my priority for the rest of this year is to get over the injury and do easy-to-moderate training for fitness maintenance. I also hope all the hard marathon training from the last 3-4 months will not go down the drain! Starting in March 2011, I will start to train proper for GCM - this will give me a 4 months training window for the next sub-3 assault.

This training cycle has taught me some lessons. From now on, I have to focus much, much more on muscle recovery, such as religious stretching, foam rolling, icing, massaging etc. As I am nearing 40, my muscles have a lot of their elasticity and strength. Also, my training environment isvery  unforgiving. My area (district 9) is a concrete jungle and the softest surface is asphalt and mostly cambered. I have to run 5k on concrete in order to run at a small grassy soccer field or 10k in order to run on the trail (I hate to commute in order to run). Also, the weather conditions cause the body to lose fluid and minerals rapidly (I am a heavy sweater), resulting in more frequent muscle cramping and tightening.

Another (funny) change that I will make is to limit myself to 2-3 pairs of shoes. I am currently rotating 6 pairs - all different brands and types and I had a f***ing hard time to determine which shoes that were partially responsible for the injury ! Because I rarely got injured (but when shit happens, it is nornally 1-2 months on the sideline), I became a shoe-aholic as my past experience shows that my foot is flexible enough to run with any shoes.

Anyway, the plan for next week is to combine cross training and a bit of  running. I would say that my injury probably only improved by 10% since it first occured 3 weeks ago. This is driven by the fact I am still forcing myself to perform various 'running examinations' before giving in.  This 'it aint over, until it's over' kind of thing was a gamble and at the end,  luck decided not to part on my side.  Now that the decision to pull out of the marathon is finally confirmed last Wednesday, I have virtually escaped from the 'ponderland' and can afford to forget running and focus on recovery. One thing that I need to figure out is how not to get sore arse from sitting on stationary bike !

My injury description is below and it says recovery may take a long time.

19 September 2010

21 days to go - slipping away

Mon: OFF
Tues: 45mins (av 5:30 min/km)
Wed: 60mins (av pace 5:15 min/km) - pain, pain, pain
Thu: OFF
Fri: 40mins (av 5:38 min/km)
Sat: 28k easy (av 5:05 min/km) - glute pain, over-compensate
Sun: OFF
Total 55k for the week

Not happy with how things are going at the moment - both physically and psychologically.

Went to see a sports doc early this week and after spending a couple of hours of various tests (treadmill video analysis, x-ray for stress fracture etc), he confirmed my & Epi's suspicion that the problem was anterior tibialis extensor tendonitis (left leg). As mentioned in my blog a month ago, I was having tight calf issues which affected some of my workouts, but did not cause any pain so I just ran through it. As a guy who is so damn lazy to stretch and prefer to rely on sports massage once every 1-2 weeks, I had one period where I trained hard for a full month without massage/stretching. The tight calf caused muscle imbalance and altered my biomechanics. Instead of the heel/mid-foot landing flat on the ground, the tight calf caused it to land half-tilted. As I unconsciously ran this way and continued to train hard, the tibia and extensor tendon got damaged and the pain goes all the way from ankle joint to the lateral shin since the tendon is inter-connected. The doc thinks probably it will take a few weeks of reduced running to fully heal and I might have to look at orthotics or alter my running gait to prevent it happening again.

After incorporating anti-inflammatories, massage, and ankle strengthening exercises this week, the pain seems to improve slightly by the end of the week. I decided to give myself an 'exam' in the form of long run. If I can last something around 32k, then I' rate myself  a good chance to make it to the starting line. At the end, I stopped the run at 28k which included breaks every 5k to give the leg some relief. Although, the anterior tibialis and extensor tendon issues were tolerable, but my right glute got very sore since it had to over-compensate my troubled left leg. I decided to stop due to tiredness (very warm morning) and the painful glutes.

Psychologically, I feel like Alice in a wreck land. With 5 weeks to go, I was all systems go and my body was ready to tackle 3 weeks of high mileage and sharpening workouts, followed by a 2 weeks taper. The injury changes everything and now I am looking at a premature 5 weeks taper. It is just so damn frustrating to look at my training log this week and being unable to do any runs faster than 5:00 pace. To make things worse, my last long run further than 30k was done 7 weeks ago, so unless things improve dramatically and somehow I can magically do 30k+ run in the next week or so, I would go to the start lime without any long runs in the last 2 months or so.

What's next? I just found out that although 10k and HM slots are full, but those who entered the marathon during the early bird/normal registration period can still downgrade. However, it seems there are conflicting deadline dates. In the Melbourne Marathon newsletter, it says that the last day to change event is 22 Sep (this Wednesday). On the flip side, the website says that changes are still allowed even until the race week. Will call the organizer to confirm.

Downgrading to the HM is an attractive option since 1) it allows me to manage and nurse the injury, 2) even with low mileage, I think I still have a chance to run a decent time, 3) no requirement to taper until the last few days (possibly means 2.5 weeks of hard training); and 4) easy to recover and I can still train/race until year end.

On the flip side, marathon is truly something special and sub-3 is like a sub-4 mile for a guy like me who picked up running in his 30s. Prior to the injury, I'd say my training was much better than my previous prep for Gold Coast and Seoul which yielded 3.04 and 3.03 respectively. So, sub-3 was certainly a chance, especially if the weather conditions, pacing, and fueling on the day are perfect. But now, I feel that chance is slipping away. I expect my finishing time to be volatile. On a good day, I possibly still can run 3.15 and under. On a bad day or in a situation where my legs can't hold up, I might be looking at 3.30-4.00 hour marathon. At this juncture, I am in no mood to do a marathon for sight-seeing unless if it is held in the Himalayas or Santorini.

In ideal world, I would like to delay my decision as late as possible, say until the race week in order to allow myself a chance to run the marathon. If they confirm the deadline is this Wednesday, more likely than not, I will downgrade to half mary barring any miracles. There is no marathon race planned until Gold Coast 2011 - which is 9 months away.

It is just amazing what marathon training can do for you. With 5 weeks to go, I was strong as bull, then bang !! - shit happened. I then virtually lost 2 weeks worth of training time. And now there are only 3 weeks left and the worse thing is that I might not train much at all :(

12 September 2010

28 days left - what to do?

Monday (easy):
45mins easy treadmill (av 5:18 min/km)

Ran at 4% incline to reduce landing shock.

Tuesday (semi long-run):
17.5k in 1h:26m (av pace 4:55)

Trying to run close to 90mins in order to decide whether I should do the HM this weekend or not. First 20mins was terrible with the legs aching real bad. After an hour of easy running, decided to test the water a bit by running the last 4k at tempo pace, averaging 4:12 pace (just above marathon pace). Not good, but not bad either. Foot was painful for the rest of the day, especially the front ankle and the lateral shin.

Wednesday (easy):
AM: Ultrasound & shock wave treatment
PM: 35mins easy treadmill (av 5:32 min/km)

Thursday (rest):
OFF. Deep tissue massage

Friday (easy):
55mins easy (av pace 5:05 min/km)

Saturday (rest):

Sunday (race):
2.5k warmup
Safra Army Half Marathon in 89:35 (av 4:14 min/km)
Overall #122, Mens closed  # 41
3k cool down
Total 26k for the day

Was in two minds whether I should race or not given the leg injury. At the end, I decided to give it a go because I needed a 'proof of life' that my legs could tolerate sustained running at MP or faster. Started with a low expectation that if my legs went, I just shut my system down and jog to the finish point. Used my planned marathon shoe - Nike Lunar racer and popped paracetamol at the start as insurance. Started too fast due to pent-up energy resulting from the reduced mileage, including a couple of kms at 3:50s. Passed 5k in 20.15 (4:03 pace) including one 500m long hill. Began to feel the burn, I cautiously eased back into the MP territory, running the next 5k in 21:04 (4:13 pace) - cumulatively 10k in 41:19 (av 4:08 pace). Began to feel dehydrated after 10k since it was hot and humid (30c heat index at 6am) and walked at the drink station to get a drink. The split for km 11-15 was 21.43 (4:18 pace), slower than MP due to the drink stop but cumulatively I passed 15k in 63:00 mins, av 4:12 pace so still right on target. Leg tendon began to get sore and ache after this point and I simply decided to switch on the cruise control, passing km 16-20 in 22.14 (4:27 pace). I picked up the pace slightly in the last 1.1k to around 4:00 to finish in 89.35 (just under MP).

At the end, I was reasonable pleased with the result, despite all the similar story with all my HMs in Singapore. My pace always went progressively slower - on track for the 1st half before slowing down in the 2nd half. I think I am okay with running 5k-10k in Singapore, but anything beyond this (north of 40mins), my performance deteriorates sharply due to the heat and humidity effects . The only positve thing that comes out of the race is that I was able to run 21k at goal MP even with a bad leg.


70k for the week with only one workout (HM race). After some mileage reduction, physio session (ultra sound, shock wave) and massage, the legs began to feel better - at least to the point that I was able to start a race. But unfortunately, the race put me back in the square one again. Was limping all day after the race. Thinking to see a sports doctor this week to get a verdict. Heard from a friend who is being treated by a sports doc that the the only solution from injured tendon is prolonged rest.

This leaves me in a very deep shit, especially with only 4 weeks left before the marathon. The original plan pre-injury was to race hard during today's HM and train hard in the next 2 weeks before tapering. But the injury changes everything and the sub-3 dream is now becoming more remote.

Downgrading my marathon slot to HM or 10k is impossible now since both events are full. So it's either the marathon or DNS.

One thought I have to do minimal running this week in order to nurse the injury. Then I will do a reverse taper and train hard in the next 2 weeks before embarking on a 1 week taper. Don't know whether the concept of 'reverse taper' will be too risky or not.

Another tought is to mix rest/XT with running. I was thinking maybe to run just 3 times a week but all 'hard' - primarily one long run and one tempo. The other days are either total rest or non-weight bearing XT (elliptical, stationary bike). Based on my experience this week, it seems the ankle, tendon and shin splint is at their most painful after the run and the following couple of days (for example, I was able to start the race today after resting 2 out of the 3 days pre-race).

What do you guys think?

05 September 2010

Injured ! :( :(

Monday (easy):
AM: 45mins easy (av 5:08 min/km)
including 4 x 15secs barefoot strides on grass

Tuesday (threshold + hills):
3k warm up
3 x 3k HM pace, 3mins jog in between
12:15, 12:15, 12:21 - av 4:06 min/km (av HR 165)
10mins jog
4 x 40secs hill reps, walk/jog down
4 x 15secs hill reps, walk down
10mins cool down
Total 18k in 1h:27m (av pace 4:50)

The plan was to run 4 x 3k at 4:00-4:05 pace but only did 3 due to discomfort in the left ankle. Yesterday's rub mainly focused on the usual supects such as hammy, calves, glutes, quads, and ITB so the problem was undetected.. I completed the first and second reps at the slow end of my target pace but then in the third rep, the discomfort got worse and I slowed down to around 4.07 pace. Decided to skip the 4th rep and to salvage the lost quality, I did a few short hill reps (definitely not be the wisest thing to do!)
PM: 30mins slow jog treadmill (av 5:45 min/km)

Wednesday (easy):
50mins easy tradmill (av 5:26 min/km)
10mins light weights

Ankle got worse and the pain has spreaded to the lateral shin.

Thursday (threshold + reps):
20mins warm up
8k Tempo in 32:16 (av 4:02 min/km)
5 mins rest
4 x 400m in 82secs, 1min walk recovery
20mins cool down
Total 17k in 78mins (av pace 4:35)

Ankle was painful when I started and had to resort running at 6:00+ pace for the warm up. I wanted to do a continuous tempo and decided to play by the ear. If I can only last 3k, then be it! Surprisingly legs felt prety good and I completed 8k at 4:02 min/km. It was hard but not a ball-busting workout. After drink break, did 4 x 400m at 2400m pace on a marked bike path to get some running faster than HMP/MP. Unfortunately, this aggravated the foot problem and had to run very slowly for the cool down. Iced the ankle and shin and put some voltaren afterwards.

Friday (easy):
38mins easy treadmill (av pace 5:30 min/km)

Saturday (long):
24k long run in 2h:02m (av 5:02 min/km)

The plan was to do a 3 hour at easy effort, but stopped at 2 hours due to foot problems. Went through the first 90mins pretty okay, but the pain got siginificantly worse from there. The pain also has spreaded to the shin and knees. Run, stop, run, stop, run, stop for a few times before deciding to have had enough and catch a bus home.

Sunday (rest):


A crap week affected by foot injury. 90k for the week with 2 tempo sessions and a cancelled long run.. Went to the pyhsio on Saturday and he diagnosed two issues 1) damaged tendon in the ankle joint (anterior side); and 2) lateral shin splint. He didn't think that there was any stress fracture at all. Most likely the problem was due to over worked muscles. I hope it's not something serious like compartment syndrome, although Satuday's long run experience sounds like early signs of CS (after stopping, the pain dissipated but then re-appeared again).

A huge setback for me with only 5 weeks left to go to the marathon. It has been a good long streak running without any significant niggles and injuries, but suddenly shit happens. The last time I visited a physio was 18 months ago for a damaged ankle ligament on the right leg (this time is left leg) and it put me out of action for 3 months. The difference is this time I am walking without pain, so there is every chance that I can make the start line.

Will do a wait and see approach for next week. The physio's suggeston is very predictable - which is to rest fully. I might do elliptical in the gym or if things improve, I will just run through the pain and see what happens. My objective going forward is simple - to go to the marathon start line in a healthy state in 1 month time.