On Monday I had a day off and paid a visit to Gino the physiotherapist over at Sports Solutions. ('How on earth did you hear about us?' 'Blog.' And of course when your ex-colleague, the best athlete you know, links to it you pay attention.)
Of course, like a good reporter, I took notes.
- If the same muscles cramp at the same time in every marathon - chances are it's good old fatigue. Of those particular muscles. Some possible reasons...
- ...I am knock-kneed. Yes, this was the bane of my life when I did ballet - YOU just try being knock-kneed AND duck-toed at the same time. 'Turn out! Turn out!' 'I AM turned out!' (Except you never, ever talk back to your ballet teacher - you just push yourself harder.)
- ...My knees collapse inward, because my gluteus medius are weak. (More on that in a bit.)
- There are all kinds of unholy knots in my ITB and hamstrings. (And also my calves, but those aren't causing any issues yet and...oh hello foam roller, nice to see you again.)
- We didn't do a running gait analysis for now. Frankly there are other obvious fixable issues to deal with first, which are causing my vastus medialis muscles to fatigue first.
And came home with some suggestions:
- For general fatigue: During the marathon training cycle, do the occasional long run that goes up to the duration of the marathon, but at a much slower pace - this is probably a good idea to put a heavy dose of fatigue into my legs and let them train their way out of it. But something I'd do probably only once or twice per cycle. Four hours of running, even very slow running, is likely to leave me wiped out for the rest of the day.
- For the gluteus medius weakness leading to fatigue of the quads: I came home with a couple of exercises - leg lifts (the secret is to point your toes inwards) and standing leg lifts. I reckon I should also continue with those hip hikes and single-leg bridges I've been doing...
- Consider a 10-day or bigger training cycle - I am ruling this out for the time being because it takes all of my logistical ability to even plan a single week's sessions. I do start with a rough week by week plan for the whole cycle. But the time that I start work changes from week to week. The time that I get off work changes from day to day. I have slight control over the former and almost no control over the latter. It is tough enough to figure out when I can go to track or swim with my tri group, and/ or ride or run with friends, when my training week is the same length as everyone else's! I might consider this when I have a more flexible (and relaxed!) schedule. Someday...
We also did a bit of dry needling on my leg to attack those unholy knots, but since I am a single data point and the only available data is how I feel pre-treatment and how I feel post-treatment (remember I have never done this before), it's impossible to tell whether it worked, only that my leg felt subjectively less knotty.
Of course then this week I hurled myself right into training for the Tri-factor OD in September so now everything is back to normal. Hungry, tired, knotted up, etc; and I haven't been in the pool or on a bike for ages so now I am remembering how to swim/ ride all over again. (In fact I went to swim training this morning and the swim coach was like 'HEY, LONG TIME NO SEE', but then I survived 2.2km of swimming so it's all good.)
Meanwhile my training group is trying to find a new head coach, since the last one left for family commitments. I really liked working with the last one because he wasn't super technical or a lifetime elite athlete, but empathised with what it's like to be a slow talentless adult beginner who struggles. (My philosophy is, if you have zero natural talent you cannot get by just working hard, you have to work smarter than everyone else too. And if you cannot be tougher physically, well, you can be tougher mentally.)
That's also what irks me about most athlete autobiographies. I must be the only person on earth to dislike Chrissie Wellington's 'A Life without Limits'! I simply could not get into the 'I'm a gumby n00b but somehow I managed to win this tri' tone. (She and I have very different definitions of gumby n00b. During my first tri I was trying not to fall off the bike or drown.) Dancer biographies are so much more relatable - dancers are all very tortured people...