Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Stretching - cause or cure of injuries?

Getting back into seriously running, after a long break with very low mileage I have started to feel the common small twinges in various muscles that I had all but forgotten about.

Historically I've been quite plagued by injuries, heel pain, several kind of foot injuries, knee pain, thigh pain and when I was training for Copenhagen Marathon in 2010, I had to take a break right in the middle of my highest mileage weeks because of a calf injury.

Last week I started feeling a twinge in my left calf that has persisted, it's not really a pain, more of a feeling that the muscle is about to cramp, without it actually happening. On my run today, it made me think of what I used to do when I started noticing something wrong, I'd stretch and stretch but I can't actually remember ever having a problem going away with stretching, if anything I suspect that I might have stretched too much and aggravated a potential injury.

My usual stretching regiment wasn't very serious to begin with, 5-6 minutes after a run, usually compromised of calf and thigh stretches and maybe a few heel dips.

This time around I'll do my own little one sample experiment, I will only do dynamic stretching, especially before hard runs, but no static stretching at all. I'll update the blog with any injuries.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First triathlon

It's been almost exactly year since I ran Swiss Alpine and any race at all, but last friday I finally did a race again. I already run and bike, so this time I tried a triathlon.

The race is 400 meters openwater swim, 18 km bike race and 4 km run (0.25 miles swim, 11.1 miles bike and 2.5 mile run). This is a roughly 1/10th distance mini-race that is arranged by the local ironman-distance race Challenge Copenhagen to give people a taste of triathlon. While we don't have any dangerous fish or creatures in our seas, my mind had no trouble conjuring up strange beings that could lurk in the deep, only waiting for a naive runner to jump in and I was frankly terrified of the idea of swimming in the sea. It's been 10 years since I last swam, but after two trips to the local pool, I was pretty confident that, while I am apparently an amazingly bad swimmer, I could at least survive the swim and so I signed up for the race.

I found out that a couple of guys I know where also doing the race and smartly enough had actually bothered to take swimming classes for most of a year, so on raceday I met up with them at the bike check-in. Turns out none of us had tried openwater swimming before, so we were all pretty exited an nervous about it.

We readied our bikes and gear and lined up for the swim start. The start was in waves with 50 participants every 3 minutes and you'd just line up when you where ready and wait for your turn. Not long after we were off and running out into the cold water. The speaker said it was almost 20c, but I later heard 17c and I think that is more likely.

I manged to struggle through the swim in 15 minutes. First by breaststroke, freestyle then floating on my back and doggy paddling, but most importantly I didn't encounter any nasty critters :) I used a lot of energy kicking in the water and was a bit wobbly when I was helped up on dry land.

I managed to find my bike, put on socks and bikeshoes and ran to the bike start and jumped on. The race was draft legal, so I had really hoped to find someone else going at my speed that I could draft after, but after being passed once in the beginning, I only encountered people going way slower - I think most of the really fast people was long gone because of my slow swim. I ended up with a decent time of 29 minutes 44 seconds for an average speed of 36,3 km/h, ok on the short course with lots of turns.

After the bike I slipped into my running shoes and wobbled the first km on what felt like rubber legs before getting into my stride. I'm not quite as fast a runner as I was before my injuries, but managed the 4 km in 18:47 for a total of 1h12m12sec.

It was really a different experience from a pure running race. The different sports really effected my performance in the following one but it was great fun, so much so that I'm thinking about joining a triathlon club and learning to swim. I'm in pretty good shape and in my age group I had the 7th fastest bike time, but placed 112 out of 115 people in the swim - that is how bad I sucked :)

Still, great fun and if you have the chance to try a triathlon, I highly recommend it :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Swiss Alpine K42 race report

This is a copy of the race report I posted on the C25K forums. I wanted to tell the story on my own blog as well.


All my worries about the weather went away when I woke up on race day to helicopters buzzing around on a clear blue sky, they where filming the start of the 78 km race that takes place in the city of Davos. The marathon route joins up with them for part of their run later on.

Image

After a good breakfast, lots of antichafe and way too little sunscreen, my friend and I and a lot of other runners took the train to Bergün where our race would start. While waiting at a stop about 20 km away, we were passed by some of the K78 runners and they got a bit of cheering on their way

Image

In Bergün we had about 1½ hours of waiting time before the race started. We spend it getting ready enjoying the scenery and relaxing in the sun. We looked a lot at the surrounding mountains and wondered whether it was any of those we would run up. The weather was getting really warm and there was not a cloud in sight.

Image

Finally we hear the gun and we're off! The race starts with a nice steep downhill before looping back into town and changing to a climp.

Image
Image

For the next 5 km, it was slightly uphill. Not that much worse than what you can find in Denmark, but for a much longer stretch. Our hills are seldom more than 200-300 meters long at most.

Image
Image
Image
Image

Then the grade began to increase and from 5-6 km we hit a bit of narrow trail that was quite steep. I saw the first people walking, but at this point I felt really great. I had lots of energy and my legs felt fresh. After this trail, it leveled out a bit again and everyone returned to running

Image
Image

Soon after we arrived at an aid station. I know you shouldn't try anything new in a race, but for some reason as I was mentally set on running this race for the experience and not to set a fast time, I had convinced myself that it was ok to just get energy from the aid stations. I would later on after the descents experience quite a bit of nausea, perhaps this is the cause. They served water and ISOtea at all the stations which seems to be some kind of sweetened ice tea and in the mountain aid stations they also had warm bullion and bread. Here I am all loaded up on ISOtea

Image

We continued thought some wonderful scenery

Image
Image

There was a great and friendly atmosphere, lots of others ran with cameras and took time to stop and get a few shots. Almost everytime I had mine out, someone asked if they should take my picture with it and I offered to take theirs, with their own.

Image

You may notice my fairly light skin where my usual shirts have covered me up. Earlier on I only applied sunscreen to my nose and on the top of my shoulders thinking that the rest would manage just fine. I am regretting that as I am writing this. Red as a boiled lobster everywhere but the nose.

We're now past 12 km and it's beginning to get a bit steep

Image
Image

When I saw this guy and his seeing partner I was impressed, but it is nothing compared to now. Thinking about the type of trails we ran later on, I can't imagine how they managed. Notice the red bib number, that means he's doing the 78 km race. Well done!

Image

From this point it really goes up. At most times it's impossible to run, both from the incline but also the congestion.


Image
Image
Image
Image

In the Danish singlet we have Rie. She is a 21 time marathoner, half ironman triathlete and an all around wonderful person. I began chatting to her here and we ran the rest of the race together. At this time I still had great legs and lots of energy and she told me I didn't have to wait for her. I'm glad I did though, she really helped me through to the finish after we got down the last mountain.

Image

There where quite a bit of cows along the route. Featuring bells and seemingly wondering what possessed us to go racing up their mountains

Image

Along the course, in addition to our own kilometre markers, we also saw those for the K78. I was rather pleased at this point to not have run 50 km already and still have 28 km to go.
Image

At many points the trail was crossed by water running down from the mountain tops. Some places we had to jump from stone to stone in order to avoid getting wet feet. This is at about 2350 meters altitude.

Image
Image

Up it goes

Image
Image
Image

This is a look up at Keschhütte, at 2625 meters above the sea. This is the highest we'll get.

Image

Almost there

Image

After a short pause for pictures, down it goes again
Image
Image
Image
Image

Here the K78 runners split up from us as they will take a trail called the Panorama trail between the two mountains where as we will run down into the valley below and up again.
I was actually quite surprised how hard it was to run down. Not only was the trail filled with loose rock of all sizes, so it took all your concentration to avoid falling, every step also jarred the legs and in fact the whole body as you tried to break the descent. No pictures of the worst stuff as I was just trying to avoid braking something.

Next time I'll also bring trail shoes!
Image

Finally we arrived at the last aid station before the climb to the next mountain. The scarlettapass
Image

A look down at the aid station
Image
Image

If I thought the climb earlier was steep, I was in for a surprise. This one snaked up the mountainside with lots of bends to keep the grade down.
Image

It was tempting to throw a snowball at some one, but I doubt anyone would have appreciated it at this point

Image
Image

At this time we joined up with the K78 runners again. You can see them coming from the left up in the snow patch
Image

I think these pictures illustrates the climb nicely. At this point we're at about 2400 meters and my heart rate is 160 bpm while walking. Normally I'd be running around 4:55 min/km at this HR.

Image
Image
Image
Image

Here we have another dane on the top taking advantage of the free massage. I wish I had! On the following descent, you instantly knew who had gotten a massage as they all smelled strongly of menthol

I'm really happy I ran in the Danish singlet. There where lots of other Danes at the race and lots of chatting going on. The Swedish spectators where also very good at cheering us on with "Hop Danska, hop!"

Image
Image

After a bit more raisin bread and ISOtea, doesn it goes again. This descent was if possible, even worse than the first one. I don't know what I had expected - maybe flat trails that you could actually run on, but this just seemed to be very rocky trails with rather bad footing. I kept hoping for it to level out so that I could actually run instead of just a semi controlled stumble.

Image
Image

After a long descent and finally a few small hills we hit some almost flat trail where it would have been possible to keep a good speed if my legs hadn't been totally shot from running down the mountain. Fitness wise I was ok. Tired but not that bad, my legs where just dead heavy. This is also around the point where I was hit with nausea whenever I ran. We had about 12 km to go and Rie tried to keep my spirits up by reminding me how short a 12 km run was in my normal training. It did help, but man was I busted.

The scenery was still fantastic though.

Image
Image
Image
Image

I'm not the only one who was tired
Image

With just 4 km to go, we hit a final climp. It's just about 100 meters of steep uphill, doesn't look like much on the photo but I found it very very evil to place another hill at that point
Image

This was a damn nice sign to see
Image

Back in the city outskirts. People where sitting in the gardens and along the streets cheering

Image

Finally we could hear the music and cheering from the stadium. The announcer on the speaker mentioned the two Danes who where almost done and I was so incredible happy to run the last half round on the 400 meter track before crossing the finish line. Got our medals, a finishers jacket and for those who wanted a beer. I stuck to water though and had my celebration beer later
Image
Image

Check out the salt :)
Image

While this was hard beyond my wildest imagination, it was also the most incredible experience. Living in pancake flat Denmark, I'm amazed just by seeing a mountain, but to actually run a marathon in them was fantastic beyond explanation. The atmosphere in the city of Davos is also great. Over 3500 participants ran one of the various races from the Nordic walk, over the K11, K21, C42 to the K42 and K78 and today many of them are still limping around the hilly streets of the city, struggling to stand up after sitting at restaurants and almost walking backwards on the streets that go downhill :)

As I am writing this the whole sky above the city is filled with fireworks as there is a local festival together with the races. Just amazing.

I'll definitely be back again another time. But next time I'll hopefully have trained more on hills and remember the sunscreen, I am so burned now that I could hardly sleep last night.

If you have the chance to run this marathon or even one of the shorter events, do it. The race is very well arranged, the scenery couldn't be better. It's simple an experience for a lifetime. I can't recommend it enough.