Posts Tagged ‘scaphoid’

I have been reading a lot recently and thinking about my training plans for 2010. At the moment I have a pile of books next to my bed which includes: The Lore of Running, Advanced Marathoning, The Competitive Runner’s Handbook and a few copies of RunnersWorld magazine.

The more I read, the more I realise that – beyond the basics – there is little consensus amongst running experts. I think this is probably because running is such a natural thing to do and, therefore, there are as many right ways to run as there are runners. For some people huge training volumes work – for others this would simply result in injury. Some runners focus on speed work and speed-endurance – for others this would limit their aerobic threshold and their ability to complete a long run. The basics that I refer to are, of course, accepted principles that form the basis of almost everyone’s training schedule. But I am now more interested in the refinements to my schedule which will get me around the Paris marathon in a PB time.

However reading RunnersWorld last night, with the Swiss on the train home from dinner at a friend’s house, I realised that maybe some of the basics need to be revisited occasionally. So here, in no particular order, are my top ten basics for 2010:

Stretching – OK. I’m terrible at this. I never stretch before I start running (although I have read that this is not a bad thing because stretching cold muscles can lead to injury). However there is no excuse for not stretching after running and I think that many of my injury woes can be partly attributed to not stretching. I should admit that part of my reluctance to stretch comes from the fact that whenever I see people really stretching after a run, I think they look ridiculous. However I look more ridiculous hobbling around with a freshly torn ankle ligament of calf strain. So stretching is top of my list of things that I will start doing in the New Year – who knows, maybe it will catch on at the club!

Core strength work – my research has highlighted something that I have known for a while, but tended to ignore because it was going to be too much like hard work. However the evidence is compelling – core strength is crucial for successful marathoning. My own theory on this is that core strength becomes increasingly important with two factors: increased speed and increased physical bulk (i.e. the less like an elite runner with a small frame and very low body mass one is). So for me – who is approaching my maximum speed in the marathon and has more body mass than I would like – planking will become a regular activity in 2010, along with getting back in the pool and on the bike now that my scaphoid injury allows. There are no excuses – a session doesn’t take long and I seem to be quite strong in the core already compared to the people I train with so I have a good platform to build on.

Nutrition – this is one of the three sides to the ‘runners triangle’ – the other two being rest and training – and shouldn’t be ignored. It is undoubtedly difficult to get nutrition right all the time, but the Swiss and I do pretty well. I think that aiming for low-fat, low-GI meals with lots and lots of fruit and vegetables, some good protein and a few hits of oily fish every week, is the basis for a good diet. I also think that a little-of-what-makes-you-happy is a good thing. However I tend to indulge too often – too many sweet things and too much fat. One of the things I know I can do to avoid my frequent nutrition slip-ups is to get organised. It is all too easy for the Swiss and me to fall back on ordering a pizza when we get home late from work and there is nothing quick and healthy to eat, so trying to have good food in (and in some cases already cooked) will be a massive help. Oh and portion control will also be on the agenda for 2010.

Long-slow runs – the competitive beast that lurks in me (or should that be ‘is at the forefront of everything I do’???) means that very often I end up running too fast on my long runs when I am with others. One of my club-mates in particular (John) seems to have a total inability to run in a group and is always 5 meters off the front pushing the pace, although it is worth noting that even when John isn’t with the group the pace inexorably rises and rises. This means that the whole group ups the pace to catch whoever is pushing the pace, which that person reacts to by increasing the pace further. Nett result? An eighteen mile run at 6 min/mile! Greg McMillan has a calculator on his website with allows one to input some basic details and delivers a whole page of paces for different runs. Based on my marathon PB, my long slow runs should be run between 7 min/mile and 8 min/mile. I believe in the value of long-slow runs and so I am going to put them in my schedule and stick to a slow speed… probably!

Massage – this sits alongside stretching. I know there is some debate on the benefits of massage (as there is with ice-baths), but I demand much my body and it is only fair to look after it. My experience is that massage does help to work out the knots and seems to help to prevent some injuries, so I think that a monthly massage should go in the diary.

Rest/Recovery – being a naturally lazy person, this is something that I am inclined to be rather good at. However I often wait until I’m exhausted before I rest and that means that it is not controlled and I tend to rest for more time than I should (i.e. taking two or even three days at a time). What I do know is that I am not getting any younger and I need to build in time for the training I do to improve my condition, and that will only be achieved by resting and by trying as hard as possible to get at least 8 hours sleep per night.

Solo runs – as I mentioned in an earlier post (in fact I have probably mentioned it at least a dozen times!), I think that my best result to date is my run in the 2009 Reading half marathon (1:16:44). I have attributed that result at least in part to the fact that I ran the race on my own. For 2010 I want to reprise my solo runs. I have already commented on my need to control the pace of my long-slow runs and that is probably best achieved by running on my own. There is also a body of opinion which says that psychologically it is good for marathoners to run solo – lets face it, come race day there won’t be very much conversation going on!

Race pace training – alongside the controlled long-slow runs, I am going to return to doing race-pace runs. I seem to have spent quite a bit of the last 6 months doing speed work or slow runs and not much in the middle. Jack Daniels, in his book Daniel’s Running Formula, writes that running at race pace, for anything up to 16 miles, is an ideal way to prepare the body for the race itself. I am going to take his advice and apply it to a number of my longer runs this coming season.

Speed-work – I just need to keep doing this. Actually the reason I’ve added this to the list is that I know that in the next 10 or so weeks there will be some terrible sessions in the pouring rain, etc but track is crucial and so I will keep bashing out the 800’ and the 1K’s and the mile reps!

Shoes – When I started running marathons I was pretty good at keeping track of how long I’d had a pair of shoes and when they were due to be ‘retired’. I wasn’t ever really scientific about it, but I would assume that I was running an average of 50 miles per week, roughly alternating 2 pairs of shoes so each pair was doing around 25 miles per week so would need replacing after 5 months or so. More recently I have lost track entirely! So I have bought a couple of new pairs – the Nike Marathoners and another pair of my current favourites the Asics Speedstars and I am going to take all my old trainers to the recycling point at my local running shop. New year – new shoes – new targets!

So these are the things I’m going to focus on for 2010. Oh and having fun with my running. I hope it will yield the sorts of results that will mean I look back on 2010 with fondness as one of my more successful years.


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Last night was the Chasers Christmas party. I think this event epitomises the club’s feel as well as anything – a friendly, completely inclusive meeting of people who share a love of running. There was good food, bad music and (for those who wanted it) enough drink to float a ship. I had a ball.

And I was there with my best friends from the club. It gave all of us an opportunity to reflect on the year past – there really aren’t any races now until 2010. As I have mentioned before, I have had a pretty low-key end to the year. Actually it’s been a bit of a disaster. My broken scaphoid bone and subsequent operation on my wrist has been the low-light and the injury to my peroneus longus was the icing on the cake. Still, I had a good start to the year and I am confident that 2010 will start well.

Whilst at the party last night I spent as much time as I could with the good Doctor – my compatriot at the club who took my half-marathon ‘record’ from me. I had the fastest half marathon time at the club for the last 9 months, but now I have a new target to chase. I think that I am slightly in awe of this chap. He is clearly a great runner (in club terms) and has an ability to train really hard and then deliver at races. As I said in my last post, our histories are significantly different – he has always been a runner and a sportsman and whilst he’ll happily go out for a few beers and let his hair down, he didn’t have years of excess like I did. And so last night I consoled myself with the fact that he is 60 seconds faster than me over the marathon distance and 60 seconds faster than me over the half marathon distance. He himself admits that part of the reason his results are improving is my running and the results I am achieving. So I feel much more positive this morning – I am going to give my body a break for another week or so, work hard on my wrist and then approach 2010 like a fresh challenge. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain… and I can’t wait!

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I think it is obvious that running is one of the things that defines me as a person.

I like to think that my love of running stems from a desire to do my best and reap the health beneefits. Both noble reasons to run. Sadly this is not all that drives me to run – my sense of competitiveness and some vanity also contribute. Not such noble reasons.

When I started running it was because I was disgusted with myself and ashamed of my physical state (there’s vanity playing its part!) I was happy to just finish my first marathon. My second, third, fourth and many subsequent marathons were about getting fitter and beating my personal best time and my competitive nature was kept in check. I was only competing with myself.

However once I had run close to 3 hours I started to think I was better than average. Then I broke the magical 3-hour barrier in Berlin in 2007. Now the group of people that I considered to be my closest comrades were the fastest runners at the club. Even the fastest marathoner I know is a sub-2:40 runner, and I am ‘only’ 10 minutes slower than them so they are still metaphorically within reach.

However I have a nagging thought that I have no right to be in this group. My companions in this group are not ex-smokers. They do not have a history of narcotic experimentation (ahem..) They didn’t spend their twenties piling on weight thanks to a strict regime of exercise-avoidance and over indulgence. I did.

Based on my youthful excesses I sometimes think I should be happy that I run at all. I should be content that I no longer smoke, I eat well, I exercise regularly.

But I am not happy. Last weekend one of my compatriots beat my half marathon time, which for 9 months had stood as the fastest time at the club. Others have been breaking barriers – TC ran his first sub-80 minute half marathon and MH broke the 3-hour barrier for the marathon. All the while I have been dealing with a broken wrist, the fall-out from surgery and an injury to my ankle. So right now I feel envious and frustrated.

Try as I might I cannot accept, that in running and triathlon, I have achieved more than I have any right to expect to have achieved – I want to achieve more and remain in the top echelons of the club. I crave the admiration of others and I covet being associated with the fastest runners in the club. I read recently “We take our points of reference from those around us: our friends, our family [or fellow runners?]. These are the people who determine our feelings of success. Which is why Rousseau wrote that the best way to become rich is not by trying to make more money, but by separating yourself from anyone around you who has had the bad taste to become more successful than you. It’s a facetious point, but it’s also a serious one.” (Alain de Botton in an interview with Adam Baer in The Atlantic Monthly, June 2004)

So one option is to find a new running club, one populated by slower runners than me with little or no ambition to improve. That way I will always be the king of the castle… or I can do what feels right – revel in my compatriots’ successes, enjoy the spirit of competition, learn from others and push myself to be the very best I can be regardless of what that means in real terms. For now I’m going to keep up the treatments on my ankle and my wrist, return to swimming and keep running easily, enjoy Christmas and the new year and then launch myself into training on 4 January 2010. Oh and plan a few new challenges in 2010… more news on that to come.

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Short post – the marathon was a resounding success.

Apart from a hiccup at the start when I corrected my alarm clock (iPhone) to take into account the fact that in the US daylight saving happened on the Saturday night before the marathon and the phone then automatically adjusted itself as well, which meant that I got up an hour late for my ferry to Staten Island, everything went as well as could be expected.

The Swiss and I eventually got the ferry together without any problem, we were dropped at the start line area in plenty of time and walked to our start pen calmly. The start itself was brilliant with a belting rendition of New York New York and a huge cannon signaling the start (well I suppose having the start on a military base means there is plenty of heavy artillery around!) and we were off, over the Verrazano-Narrows bridge and into Brooklyn.

I could write for hours about the race, but I doubt I’d write anything interesting or new. So I will stick to the sharp end of the race. Needless to say the first 15 miles seemed to go past in a blur of supporters, bands, water stations, high-fives and grins all round.

After 15 miles the Swiss started to struggle a little, but the only outward sign was that her smile slipped a little. She was still doing well and knocking off the miles well inside 4-hour pace.

Around mile 20 the Swiss really started to slow. I was expecting this but I knew we had a few minutes in the bag. The important thing was that she didn’t walk – then we would blow it and miss the sub-4 hour target. I had spent the whole race updating her in our pace at each mile but I think she’d been ignoring me in favour of her Nike+ gear. By mile 20 however the Nike+ was ‘out of sync’ and she was relying on me to keep us going at the right pace (and I love having a role so I was happy to oblige!)

For those who know the New York marathon course, miles 22 to 24 are along 5th Avenue where there is a very noticeable rise until you enter Central Park. Despite the amazing crowds along this section the uphill can spell the end for many – not so the Swiss! She put her head down and just kept going. At mile 23 I knew we only had to run the last three miles at a little under 10 mins/mile and we would be in under 4 hours… the next mile took 10’30” – oops!

The last three miles confirmed for me something I had long suspected. My girlfriend, the Swiss, is a very determined woman. She dug deep and found enough to pick up the pace and grabbed my hand as we approached the finish line to cross in…. 3’59”25. Brilliant!

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After the last post things went from bad to worse with the scaphoid break…

On my second appointment at the fracture clinic I saw a different doctor from the one who initially diagnosed a broken scaphoid. This doctor confirmed the break but was also concerned by a large gap between the scaphoid and lunate. I thought that I would be there for a simple check-up, but this doctor had other ideas. He pulled a few strings and before I knew it I was being prepped for a MRI scan. That is quite an experience which involves a canula in the arm and (in my case) laying face-down with one arm – the broken one – extended out in front of me, Superman style, without moving for 25 minutes while all around is banging and whirring.

The MRI confirmed… nothing new. It showed the break in the scaphoid and the gap between the scaphoid and the lunate, but couldn’t confirm whether or not the ligament that is supposed to hold the scaphoid and lunate together had snapped. Luckily a wrist and hand expert was in the hospital and she was able to come and take a look. She talked to me and explained that she would like to operate, which would allow her to check the ligament and ‘while in there’ put a screw through the scaphoid to fix it in place once and for all. That was on the Wednesday – surgery was scheduled for two days later!

I’ve had a few operations in my time, most notably to insert a metal plate in my ankle which I broke playing rugby at university 15 years ago. However I’ve never really been in charge of the process – my parents have always been involved. This time I had to deal with all the paperwork, etc myself. Thankfully the Swiss was on-hand to come and collect me from the hospital and guide me into a taxi to take me home – I had the operation at lunchtime and I was ready to be collected by 5pm.

I spent the next week at home in quite a bit of discomfort. The great news was that upon opening me up the doctor discovered that the ligament was intact and so she simply screwed the two halves of the scaphoid together and sewed me up. However I was in a lot of pain and my forearm was wrapped up in at least 3 kilograms of plaster and bandages, as thick as my thigh. For that week I was completely unable to get my arm into a sleeve so I sat at home, rendered dozy by the codine I’d been given for pain relief and watched DVDs or surfed the web.

After a week I returned to hospital and to my immense relief all was well. The doctor said that the wound was healing well and I could just wear a brace on my wrist. The bad news – no cycling or swimming for the foreseeable future (several months probably). The good news – New York marathon was possible, but I had lost a lot of training in the three weeks leading up to and following the operation

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The news from the appointment with the fracture clinic was not good – I have a clean break through the scaphoid and the treatment consists of a plaster from mid-forearm to the knuckle and along the thumb for 9 weeks… NINE WEEKS! Shitbags. And only after 9 weeks will the doctors know whether I’ll then require an operation…

I keep reminding myself that things could have been much, much worse, but the idea of running the New York marathon in a cast is not pleasant and training has come to a complete standstill – nothing for 7 days now. [Remember, it could have been much worse….]

I am planning on doing some turbo sessions at home to keep the legs turning over and I will certainly go for a run in the next few days, but I suspect that just finishing the marathon will be a challenge – sub-3hrs must be out of the question.

This whole incident has made me realise how debilitating it is to be injured… I can’t imagine how it must be to be really injured. I have a friend who broke his neck and is now confined to a wheelchair, which makes a broken scaphoid pale in significance. Actually that sort of thing makes me realise that I just need to HTFU. [Remember, it could have been much worse….]

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… ‘Be prepared’ was the Scouts’ moto when I was a lad and clearly I wouldn’t make a very good Scout now – I thought I had prepared for all the things that could (and probably would) go wrong in the lead up to the New York marathon; vitamin C and anti-bacterial handwash to ward away colds – check; ice-packs and stretching programme to deal with over-use injuries – check; trainers and kit well worn-in to avoid blisters and chaffing – check.

Then I fell off my bike and broke a bone in my wrist. Bollocks!

This happened last Wednesday. Five days after I fractured the scaphoid bone in my left wrist and the pain is still pretty distracting but I have pushed my luck and managed to bully my way to an appointment with a fracture specialist tomorrow which I hope will mean that I can get back to training (my brilliant idea is audiobooks and treadmill sessions)

At the moment I have not worked out what impact this will have on my race in New York. Part of me says that I should be able to nail a sub-3 hr time for the 26.2 miles despite the fact that training has stopped for a week provided I get some running done in the next few weeks. Based on the fact that one of my club mates has not done any real training for 8 months and ran 03:28 in a recent marathon gives me hope. However in the same race another club mate, and one I have trained with on average a couple of times a week for the last year, posted a 01:28 for the first half and then stopped at mile 18 and DNF’ed… which makes me worry!

In reality I know that what I need to do is see the specialist tomorrow and see what they have to say… then I can readjust my target for New York accordingly. I’ll update here once I know!

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