A Ball Of String

“Knowledge equals power, power equals energy, energy equals matter, and matter equals mass. And mass distorts space. It distorts a library into polyfractal L-space. So, while the Dewey system has its fine points, when you’re setting out to look something up in the multidimensional folds of L-space what you really need is a ball of string.”

Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

I have a ball of string. I have several of them. They’re not actually mine, in as much as I went to a shop, asked the nice assistant for a ball of string, took the ball of string from the nice assistant and handed over money in exchange for it. No, my dearly beloved wife did that at least twice to my certain knowledge because there is a ball of string on the bookcase in the hall and another in the conservatory and that dearly beloved wife of mine is no string thief. No, she would have paid for any string in the house.

It’s just about possible that Kick the Cat would have stolen the string and brought it back like she once did with a chicken carcass and a sausage still warm from someone else’s barbeque but she showed no real interest in balls of string when they weren’t being dangled in front of her. Then, she would playfully eviscerate anyone foolish enough to toy with her in such an obvious way and leave the string unravelled over their twitching corpse.

So this ball of string, what is it for and why am I writing about it when I really should be describing great deeds of heroic heroism at the county champs this afternoon? Really, it’s displacement activity. I had yet another DNF today. The calf injury which I picked up over Christmas and which has stopped me running since the Ely New Year’s Eve 10k last week had subsided to the point I could contemplate racing today. I thought that I would start gently, see how I felt at the end of the first lap and push on if I could. It turned out that I couldn’t even get to the end of the second lap and pulled out.

I shouldn’t have started, really. I was certain that I had entered via our C&C website but I didn’t feature on the list of runners which Ric circulated. He got me in when it really shouldn’t have been possible (for which many, many thanks) so I felt obliged to turn up and give it a go. I was right at the back of the field when I dropped out. There were maybe half a dozen runners behind me. That didn’t bother me in the slightest. Today was about getting round and having a play on the course while the the young, the beautiful and the speedy mixed it up at the front.

C&C runners took all three places in the Senior Men’s race. Well done to Jeppers, Sullivan and Chris for that. I was the last of the C&C team on the course at the point I stopped. The pain was too great and I didn’t think it was worth hobbling round for another half hour just to give Richard or Megan more work to do. My stupidity and ambition has already given them quite enough to do.

The ball of string also gives me licence to talk about the quotation from Guards! Guards! above. There is another one along the lines of a bookshop being a cultured black hole which has learned to read. Something like that, anyway.

Words are important. Pratchett knew that. We all know that. You don’t need to be one of the modern world’s wittier writers to know that words have power. What you say, when you say it, to whom you say it and how you say it are all really important. It’s probably the subject for another blog post because I’m thinking now about John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word… and no good will come of that in the context of a race report on a DNF and a really sore Achilles.

I want to talk about the power of words to help and heal and to pull down and destroy but that’s definitely a different post for another day. I’ve already touched on it several times in other posts here and on Farcebollocks. I think I’ll close for now because I’m eagerly anticipating whatever Anne is conjuring in the kitchen from the mince she’s defrosted. Mince is Scottish soul food. It has healing properties greater even than porridge. Neil and Katie will be pleased to hear that the #porridgereport is back on Twitter and who knows, there may even be a #mincereport on occasion too.


(For those unfamiliar with the #porridgereport, today it was blueberries, flaked almonds and maple syrup. Good creamy consistency. Satisfying quantity.)

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The Moaniness of the Long Distance Runner

I’m injured again. Again, I’m injured and I tell you what, it’s a complete pain in the arse. Except that it’s in my right foot, and up the outside of my right leg and ultimately in my groinal bits. A physio would probably say – has in fact said – that it’s because of weak gluteals but that’s by the by. It’s a pain in the arse foot. I should probably try to have Anne massage my intimate areas. It wouldn’t be any sort of cure but it would definitely cheer me up because there’s nothing quite as mardy as an injured runner.

I’ve had a couple of weeks off now ever since having to stop at 8 miles in the Wimpole Hoohaah Half Marathon. I shouldn’t really have run there, just as I shouldn’t really have run at the Bourn to Run 10k the previous week but having got away with it once, I thought I’d get away with it again and I really, really didn’t. Coming downhill at speed resulted in stupefying pain and I ended up gingerly walking down the hills and caning it up them. I was climbing at better than 8:00 per mile and descending more slowly than 10:00 per mile and the whole thing was a mess so I’m moaning about it now. I finished, by the way, in a PW of 1:55 something, jogging in while people frothed and foamed and sped and sprinted past me. Well done, them.

I’ve been moaning about it quite a lot to anyone who’ll listen and it’s a testament to my friends and clubmates that they will listen to me. Endurance runners all know what it’s like to be on the bench. They will lend an ear to one of their own in pain because they know, know in their super-stressed ligaments and bones that they will hurt too soon. Perhaps “moaning” is the wrong word, at least for what everyone else does. We swap stories of our aches and pains. We get help and advice and support from one another. Positivity comes but first there’s the grouchiness and ouchiness and just the faintest tangs of whine. “Oh, it’s nothing really but I’m slightly fed up…”

The thing about not being able to run is that nothing else is really the same. I wanted to take my bike out today but it rained off and on all day. Running in the rain is a joy. Cycling in the rain is misery cubed. I hummed and hawed and bumbled round the house not doing any chores until I dragged my weak glutes to the gym for a stint on a rowing machine. I lasted all of fifteen minutes. Fifteen miserable minutes or miserable misery. Chris said on Facebook that I should have taken my bike out in the rain. He was probably right. I’m going to try again tomorrow. I’ll take my headphones and listen to some music or a podcast and maybe I’ll last longer or maybe I’ll just break down.

I have another week of Not Running. I’m being good. My foot feels okay with just a hint of tighness across the top when I dorsiflex my toes. I’d like that to be gone before I try again. Patience is a virtue, quite an old fashioned name for a girl and something with which I am usually completely unacquainted. It’s so tempting to join in with tomorrow’s session running the triangles on Parker’s Piece or the mile time trial on Tuesday night at C&C. I need to be sure that I’m back properly before I start training again so the idea is to have a bimble round a parkrun on Saturday and if that goes okay to do five or six miles on Sunday. Please God, let it go well. I can’t cope with being this grumpy for much longer.

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My Left Foot

I’m on the injury bench again. It’s quite comfy. We have hypoallergenic cushions and buckets of chocolate as big as your head. You’d love it. Or you would if you didn’t have a marathon in October and were facing the loss of three weeks to three months of training.

After last weekend’s Runstock (thank you, David Mould) I was on top of the world. I came through a big weekend of hard miles intact but slightly stiff. I couldn’t find my favourite post-run shoes – K-Swiss Blade Lights – and instead pulled on an old pair of sandals. I wore them for about half an hour and pulled them off when I noticed that a pad was folded over and digging into the instep of my left foot. I couldn’t really walk on my that foot the next day.

I had a couple of days of not running. I had Monday off completely but on Tuesday I went down to the track to catch up with friends at the C&C Tuesday night training session. I wasn’t intending to run at all and hadn’t dressed in running gear or taken a pair of road shoes. I was wearing the kit I’d intended to take to the gym for a core workout including my blue Hattori shoes. At best, I was going to run a stopwatch for the track session and hold some clothes. The road group were heading out for a fartlek in the country with Neil as leader. He asked me to come along with them because it’s the session I’m going to be taking on my own later in the month. I almost said no, but I love the fartlek so I went out in my silly slippers and long gym shorts.

Neil got lost. He took a wrong turning and took us on a small detour. It didn’t matter much in the end. It added about three quarters of a kilometer onto the usual route but everybody got the reps they needed and a little more jog recovery. More to the point, my foot was okay. It had been fine during the day and I’d been a little worried before I set out but I had no problems with it all evening.

I didn’t run again until Friday evening. I missed C&C’s round of the Kevin Henry partly because I was still tired but mostly because I was helping out at the water station at the end. I didn’t want to run another 22:30 5k which was all I thought I’d manage on tired legs. On Friday, I did two long reps of 5 miles each with four minutes recovery with Alan Baldock alongside me on his bike. I was quite tired at 9 miles but I’d been keeping a steady 8:35 to 8:40 per mile. I was comfortable at that pace and was cruising along easily enough. I had another four minutes before starting my final 5 mile rep. Two miles into it, I felt my foot begin to throb and just before the end of the third mile I felt a sharp pain and had to pull up.

My left instep is angrily inflammed now. I’ve been treating it with ibuprofen gel to reduce the pain and inflammation, rest and elevation. I’m going to rest it for the week I’m away in Scotland next week and see a physio when I get back if the current dull ache and reddened appearance hasn’t gone.I might need an x-ray or a scan so if you know a way to blag one of those, please let me know. I’d like to rule out a stress fracture or a serious soft tissue injury.

Whatever happens, I’m withdrawing from the Amsterdam marathon. Every time I try to increase the intensity or duration of my marathon training, I get injured. I don’t think that this is not a training injury but I’m fed up feeling like this. I just don’t think that my body can cope with high-intensity marathon training. All this to break four hours for the first time. It’s just not worth it. Instead, I’m going to transfer my entry to the half marathon and run it if I can. I can take a break from running now, continue my cross-training on the bike and in the pool to maintain my fitness then when I restart my running do a shortish programme on the run-up to Amsterdam in October. That way, I can have a holiday with my friends and enjoy the weekend with the prospect of 13.1 instead of 26.2.

There are other things I can do. I can concentrate on 5k and 10k road races with occasional half marathons just because I like running 13.1 miles and I’d like to see how quickly I can do it. There’s a series called the A1 which is made up of a lot of local races at a variety of distances from 15 miles to 5k. It would be fun to do the whole lot in 2013 and fit in my first triathlon as well at some point. The important thing is that I’m changing the focus of what I do. I just can’t do distance, not now. Maybe I’ll be able to go long again in the future but I just want to keep running, get quicker and enjoy myself. I can do all that much better without the pressure of 26.2 hanging over me all the time.

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