Friday, 28 November 2014

Like the Wind

I've just finished reading the 3rd issue of Like the Wind magazine and I thought I'd share the news: this is a magazine with a difference!

I met Simon & Julie Freeman, the brains behind this publication, at the Trail Team selection weekend in the Lake district earlier this year. I must admit when they showed us the magazine I was put off by the price. At £8 it seems like a lot of money.  It took a couple of issues and the accolades of many people online for me to get over myself and buy a copy.

The thing is though this is not your average magazine. Produced on thick, reclycled paper, beautifully illustrated and with not a single advert in a hundred pages, this is a collection of stories, varied in content and style but with a common theme; a love of running.

The variety is impressive, from charity runners competing in fancy dress, to historical pieces on the characters of our sport, poems, opinions on the nature of addiction and one or two star entries: a short piece including a recipe for cinammon buns from none other than Emelie Forsberg and an interview with Killian Jornet by Ian Corless.

Each article is illustrated or accompanied by wonderfully evocative photographs and just long enough to sit over with a cup of coffee.

What you won't find, in addition to the adverts, are those pointless, how to be a better runner in a weekend style recipes for success the more standard magazines are full of. The emphasis here is on quality writing and its a joy to read. And as for the price? Well bear in mind the feature rich content, there is no fluff, just a hundred pages of words and pictures. And the fact that this is a quarterly edition, so a year long subscription is £40 including the postage. 

I think this represents the future of print media; niche markets, quality products, something tactile and lasting that you will want to keep on the coffee table or bookcase.

So am I converted? Well if you hadn't already got that from my comments above lets just say I'll be adding a yearly subscription to my Christmas list this year and leave it at that.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Injury reframed

Following on from my previous post I thought I should give an update on my ongoing achilles injury. Last week I visited a new physio - Paul Coker at the Treatment Centre in Truro. What makes Paul different from previous physios is that he is also an ultra runner which has to be a good thing.

We spent a good bit of time going over my history and when we got to the part where I mentioned my climbing accident and subsequent smashed up Calcaneous on the other (left) leg, Paul seemed convinced that this was where the problem was.

So here's the theory, broken and deformed Calcaneous, lack of movement & flexibility in certain planes of motion, significantly less strength in the left leg overall (Paul measured my calfs and I was surprised how different they were); all adding up to a leg that was not pulling its weight. The right leg therefore has to do a lot more work and probably impacts the ground harder, especially as I tire on longer runs, eventually causing the injury to my achilles.

There followed some massage to my injured leg performed with a kind of metal knuckle duster and without doubt the most painful massage I have ever received! What was really positive though was that in fact I should not be resting but continuing to run, albeit at reduced intensity for now. I have had a feeling, and Paul confirmed this, that the weeks off had made things worse, not better.  I am to continue with the eccentric heel drops but adding weight to make them harder.

For my left leg I need to work on the part of the muscle that prevents me standing right up on tip toe, currently I can only get up about half way as far on my left leg as my right. This I had assumed was a mechanical limitation I was stuck with but Paul thinks I can improve it: I have to hold myself in position for as long as I can, using as much assistance as necessary to stop my heel from dropping. Eventually once I can do this I will extend the exercise to full calf lifts but I'm a way off that right now.  Paul also thinks I can get some of the range of motion back - I currently can't turn my foot in fully. He thinks rather than a bone on bone limitation post-op this is all down to tightened tendons running down the front of my leg so I have some instructions - including a foam roller and pushing my foot into position - to get this mobility back.

And as for running, its ok for it to hurt! Paul asked me to judge my efforts on how sore I am after rather than during my runs, and this is the best news I could have! Its funny how a little confidence boost like this can make so much difference. I was running previously and wincing at every twinge I felt in my achilles. This weekend I ran free of the fear that I was damaging my foot, happy that in fact I was doing it some good - and the next day: no pain. So next weekend my long run will be just that little bit longer!

Its going to be a while before I am fully fit but mentally I am in a much better place and I'm sure I'm on the right track. Watch this space.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Identity crisis

It took a long time for me to call myself a runner. I ran but I wasn't really a runner. It wasn't until I completed my first marathon that I started to think of myself that way. Not because of the distance, that was unimportant; but it took something as big as that for me to change the way I ran. Up until then I just ran. Two or three times a week, usually a bit longer at the weekend.

In training for the marathon though I needed to follow a plan. Except I didn't do plans, I was all about spontaneity, right? Well, wrong as it happens. In fact I enjoyed following a plan, it took the uncertainty out of things. If the plan said intervals, I ran intervals, if it said hills I ran hills. Easy. And so the training became automatic and I began, slowly, to evolve; over time the act of doing transformed into a state of being; I became a runner.

So what does a runner do when they can no longer run? When the act which defines them can no longer be practised. These last few weeks, months even, I've been out of action with Achilles problems. As the weeks ran into months I started to doubt I could recover. I found this so frustrating, to have trained so hard and come to a new level of fitness only to be laid low, the strength draining from my legs with every day that passed. In my darkest moments I wondered whether I would look back in ten years time on these last two years as a blip, that brief moment in time when I was fit and could do amazing things.

Of course I will recover, I am already on the mend as it happens but it got me thinking, what happens when, as will be the case for us all, I can no longer run or climb, how will that feel; how will I cope with that? I need to work on my patience, that's for sure, or I'm going to have a sad few years stored up in the future. I have to learn to enjoy all the parts of my life equally, take a lay off due to injury as an opportunity to get things done - the little things that slip when everything revolves around training, to revel in a lie in or a lazy lunch break. Time, for now at least, will heal all ills and soon enough I'll be fighting fit and training hard.