Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Got a spring back in my step! Summer is nearly here...

Wow…where has this year disappeared to? I cannot believe it is June already but it is so delightful how light the evenings are now and that can only mean one thing in my world….more time to do quality training in glorious (or not so) sunny weather.

So A LOT has happened since my last posting back in February. Way back then I was really struggling with my lower back injury and had not long received my diagnosis of an annular disc tear and prolapse in my L4/5 and L5/S1 discs. I had committed to a 2 hour daily rehabilitation and conditioning regime and was receiving twice weekly treatment to help ease the muscle spasm and mobilise my spine. I want to take this opportunity to thank my manager Cris Kellett for his fantastic efforts in helping to sort me out – without you I would not be able to do what I am doing now – so I am eternally grateful for all those acupuncture needles and deep tissue massages – making me wince like a child!

In retrospect looking back to February/March I believe I was probably coping with my injury the best I probably could. Trying to look at the things I could do, not the things I couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong watching all my Tri-club buddies compete in races and head off on lovely winter bike rides was hard but I feel I have taught myself a lot about being patient and channelling my focuses elsewhere. At the end of the day I was fortunate in the sense that my injury happened during the winter months, out of competition, and so I tried to utilise the time that I would have spent training to do thorough rehabilitation sessions.

My sessions largely consisted of x-training to begin with on the elliptical machine. This machine has similar physiological demands to running but without the impact and actually I always felt much better after having a session on there. These sessions were supported with strength and conditioning circuits to target my core and gluteal muscles as they play a vital role in stabilising the spine and pelvis. I also used the opportunity to get in the pool more – and I must say for someone that generally doesn’t really enjoy swim training, I have seen small improvements and actually enjoy getting up at 6am 3 days a week to throw myself in the cold waters of Impington Village college pool! Recently Open Water swim sessions have recommenced so once a week our club arrives at Milton Country Park to don our wetsuits and get tangled in weeds. Jesus Green outdoor pool is also a fun place to train as it is known as the longest pool in the UK (91m!) and so you can just keep going and going!

Whilst all the sessions in the gym and pool had started to improve things somewhat I was still very much aware of my pain on a day to day basis. Not as severe as in the initial stages but noticeable. I decided to have a review with Professor Cathy Speed to discuss the options and it was suggested that perhaps an epidural injection would be helpful. Now, bearing in mind this was early March and the last week of March I was due on our Cycling and Triathlon club annual cycling camp in Mallorca I had a big decision to make. Do I just keep on with my rehab and see if it’ll settle with time or try to take a helping hand and literally get jabbed in the back with a needle full of corticosteroid and anaesthetic? After much pondering I went along to see Dr Rokas Tamosauskas at the Spire Cambridge Lea who is a Consultant in Pain Medicine and Analgesia and we agreed to go forward with the procedure. In hindsight I am not sure whether the injection or the rehab did the trick but fortunately I was able to go along on the training camp in Mallorca and to my delight complete the entire week. It was by no means pain free or easy but it enabled me to get back on my bike, relatively comfortably and get lots of miles in the legs! I managed to complete a notoriously famous climb and descent on the island known as Sa Calobra which I have wanted to do for a few years now – so was super chuffed that I achieved it.

Amongst getting back on my bike I had also started to do a few sessions a week on the Alter G Anti-Gravity treadmill to start getting back to running again. Because of all the hard work on the x trainer these actually felt relatively easy and by off-loading my body weight at around 80% I felt as light as a feather so I had minimal pain from impact. Over the weeks I gradually increased my body weight back to 100% and whilst in Mallorca completed my first run in over 3 months on the beach front and it was pain free! Happy days =)
Pre injury I had already booked up my events calendar for the 2015 season and as much I was delighted at all the positive steps forward I was making I was still deeply gutted that I had to pull out of a few events. The first being the Cambridge half marathon which is always a great buzz as the city streets are lined with friends and family members and the atmosphere is electric. Second was the European Duathlon Championships in Alcobendas, Spain and after such a great race at Worlds last year it would have been great to put my GB suit back on but I would not have been competitive and therefore was not really worth my while. Instead I decided to build up my mileage and tissue tolerance to load rather than push speed or performance.

In May I took the decision that I would try to race the Belvoir middle distance triathlon. As I had not really felt comfortable on my time trial bike I thought it would be best to ride my road bike. Less aggressive and aero it would undoubtedly cost me time on my bike split but to be honest I just wanted to compete and enjoy the process rather than worry about the result. So rather than rush through transitions I took my time and actually chatted my way around the bike course. Getting out onto the run felt great (despite it involving 4 x 2.5k hill reps!) and I smashed through the field to finish 11th overall and 3rd in my AG. On a high from this race I raced another half distance race called the Outlaw 2 weeks later at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham. Once again I was without TT bike but improved my bike speed on the last race by over 2kmh. I unfortunately developed an excruciating stitch on the run which slowed me down somewhat and in a very big field of 283 women I finished 30th which I know I could do better but again I was just thankful to compete.

Moving forward I have A LOT coming up! Another half iron distance race called Graffman at Graffam Water next weekend, a cycle trip across the pond to Paris, the long course weekend in Tenby which is the notorious Ironman Wales course split over 3 days, the marathon leg of the Outlaw Iron distance race alongside super pro Lucy Gossage and mega swimmer Helen Gorman, 2 weeks training camp in the Italian Dolomites with my lovely Tom & friends, another half ironman called the Vitruvian at Rutland Water and then my first FULL Ironman race in Mallorca at the end of September! I am ever so slightly anxious!

Outside of triathlon and training I have been beavering away trying to utilise my time to get stuck into my MSc research. Since September 2012 I have been studying for an MSc in Sports Injury Management and the only thing that had stopped me from completion was my dissertation. So alas I got my head down and finished my project which looks at the use of Performance Profiling in physiotherapy. After submission I had to take my final exam which was a spoken viva about my work. Fortunately I did very well and I am pleased to announce that I gained a distinction overall and will have my graduation in November up at Sheffield Hallam University. I am currently in the process of submitting my work for publication so keep your eyes peeled and hopefully in my next blog I’ll have it printed up in a sports medicine journal of some kind.

Alongside cracking on with my research I embarked on a 2 day intensive running course at Lee Valley Stadium with Blaise Dubois, a physiotherapist for the Canadian Athletics team. It was a fascinating 2 days and completely challenged my way of thinking and analysing running. Since the course I have become registered with The Running Clinic (check out the website at: www.runningclinic.ca) as a Specialist Therapist in the analysis of running biomechanics. We discussed the concept of barefoot running and minimalism and the advantages this plays over the use of over bulky shoes when done in a timely and appropriate way. If you are interested in finding out more about the way you run and how you may be able to improve, or are injured and would like to return to running then why not come and have an assessment here at Progress?  We have also received our shiny new Watt Bike Pro which is an excellent way of capturing accurate data to help improve cycling fitness and performance. If you are interested in being tested to find out your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), Maximum Minute Power (MMP) or pedalling efficiency the give us a call on 01223 200 580 or find us at www.progresshealth.co.uk to get booked in.

That’s it for now, hopefully my body will not be completely broken by the next time I write!

 Pictures from my Cycling Camp in Mallorca – March 2015 with CTC & CCC
Me & my best friend Aimee as we reached the bottom of the iconic Sa Calobra
Me, Tom and our housemate Dave
Me & Tom having fun pre ride on the beach front!
My medal from completing the Outlaw half ironman
 31st May 2015!

Our shiny new Watt Bike Pro! 

3rd place in Age group at the Belvoir Half Distance Triathlon May 16th 2015