Ultrasound and Intervals

LifeCycle is a hard game: very hard.

Sometimes (well, quite often if I’m being really honest) I ask myself if I’ve bitten off too more than I can chew, taken on a challenge that’s beyond me, particularly at my time of life. I have a good job, a marvellous person who I’m proud to call my wife, kids who are just sport daft 24/7, and a desire never to be beaten at anything. That last statement probably sums up why I’m still sitting at 100% miles, almost two wild, cold wet months into 2014. I actually have to pinch myself when I consider that I’ve banged in over 1100 miles this year and we’re only in the third week of February.

But everything comes at a cost: always. Something has to give…

When I was a runner back in the 1980’s, I had a virtual season ticket for the sports injuries clinic at The Tryst in Cumbernauld. Actually they didn’t do season tickets so I just paid full whack to be there every Monday and Thursday night after training at The Running Club: Between them, Brian Walker and Margaret Kidd managed to keep me on the road when my body had long given up trying to cope with the stress of running 80, 90 and 100 miles a week. You see, I was never meant to be a long distance runner: I’m just not built for it. Biomechanically, my body is a running disaster zone. The problem was, I was actually quite good at it, and things you’re quite good at, you tend to enjoy in a masochistic sort of a way. That’s the way it was for me anyway: more pain, more gain.

But you learn a lot from having a season ticket at a sports injuries clinic, asking how such and such an injury occurred, how long it’s going to take to clear up, and how the treatment works. It can (and did for me) cost a fortune. Consultancy with the doc, physio (usually ultrasound or Tens) and that’s you cleared of this week’s beer money. Like I say, you learn a lot and you learn fast: you learn enough to be able to say to yourself “I know where this hurts, I know what did they did the last time I was here, I know how to sort it”. So fifteen years ago, back in the mid 90’s I bought myself an ultrasound machine. I’d had a Tens machine for (strangely enough) ten years before that so basically, from an ongoing self diagnosis and treatment point of view, I was sorted. And I still am…

But as I’ve racked up, and latterly whacked up the miles, I’ve begun to notice wee niggles. Cramp here (I never, ever got cramp as a runner; never), a wee dull pain there. A twinge here, a strain there. And then there’s falling off the bike. I keep telling myself that I’ve got to stop doing it but I never listen, not to myself anyway. My wife will probably say it’s because I talk rubbish most of the time anyway. For the record, I’ve come off twice in the last two weeks, definitely my own fault, and always as a result of being clipped on when I needed not to be in an emergency. I know I’d find it funny to watch a cyclist going down sideways. Unfortunately for me, I always go down to the port side and that inevitably means a rewind back to The Battle Of Wounded Knee (end of November 2013).

Anyway, I digress, so back to the story: I’m pushing big, big miles and have been for seven weeks since the turn of the year. The legs are complaining. First it was a quad muscle in my right leg just above the knee. This is a first for me as I’ve never had a quad injury before. Hamstrings, calves, achilles, groins, feet, toes, knees, ankles… yes, but never quads.

But ultrasound is the cure for everything muscular. Always has been in my experience and I’ve been doing it for God knows how long. The situation with the quad started because Dennis (our baby cat) likes to sit on my lap, and he particularly likes it when I tuck my feet up on the settee. The problem with that, as I now know, is that it puts my right quad on a permastretch after I’ve got off the bike: and it doesn’t like it. Cramp ensues and following cramp, pain in that muscle while I’m riding the bike. Not good!

This is a job for ultrasound and massage!

On ultrasounding the muscle, I could actually feel the painful knot in the muscle whenever the device went over it. However four or five days later, at twice a day, both the knot and the pain were gone. Let me see: “physio, twenty quid a session, ten sessions, that’ll be two hundred notes please”.  The machine only cost me a hundred. And it’s kept me on the road, so I never actually missed a single mile. Now I’m pain free once more. There you go: result!

This week I tweaked a calf muscle: once again it was my own fault for trying to beat the lights at Mearns Cross before they went to red on the way into work. Yes I made the lights, but the cost was a dull nagging pain. Send for Ultrasound:  two days later and the pain’s almost gone! And once again no miles missed. There’s another fifty quid saved.

Everything sorted and still on the road. Max miles and spring’s on the way. Allegedly.

But there’s more…

In an alternative (previous and occasionally current) life, I am a middle and long distance coach in athletics, I did my badges 25 years ago but now I just advise people on an ad hoc basis whenever an athlete wants to achieve something they thought was impossible.

Cat…

How shall I put this? Cat is an athlete who has not, until this point in time, been an athlete. However a missed opportunity sits well alongside unfulfilled potential when you have a desire and a work ethic the like of which I haven’t seen in twenty years (apologies in advance to everyone I have worked with in between). Cat exhibits every trait of wanting to fulfil a dream that you can only stand back and admire as a coach. I don’t care that Wayne Rooney has signed a deal that’s going to earn him £300K a week for the next four years, I would take Cat’s desire over Rooney’s inflation every day of the week. It’s what makes amateur sport what it is: the backbone of Team Hard Work.

It’s Friday night. What do you do on Friday night? Hit the town and get hammered; wake up Saturday morning and waste your weekend? That’s what a lot of people do…

Not Cat.

We train with a brain. Friday night is interval night. Interval training is hard. Interval training in the winter is hard. Interval training when you’ve never done interval training before is even harder. And this has been a dreadful winter to be a (first time serious) athlete. And tonight was no exception.

So we shifted the session…

If you’re a runner and you’re reading this, you’ll understand what I mean. If you’re not a runner, I apologise but ask that you just stay with me…

16 x 600m with a token 400m thrown in for good measure at the end to bring the session up to 10K of hard painful intervals. All delivered at 4% above anaerobic threshold to guarantee lactate tolerance.  It’d been blowing a gale all day and the forecast was for lashing rain (which duly delivered) by the time I’d finished work.

So what did we do?

We moved the session indoors to the Clyde Tunnel.

Now if you’ve ever been coached by me, and I know that a few folk who’ll be reading this have been, you’ll know that when the weather’s rubbish on the outside, the Clyde Tunnel offers great indoor training facilities, and for free. For the uninitiated, the pedestrian/cycle tunnels are over 750m long and with 600m intervals to do, what we did was skewed the start and finish points so that each 600m leg was mainly downhill, with a short uphill walk at the end of each leg to the other side to start the next repetition. Cat did the hard work: I just got on my bike and legged it to the other side with the stopwatch.

In my experience, it’s when you see an athlete under stress that you see the real person, the person that really wants the result that’s maybe three or four months away.

In the depths of a dark, cold, miserable Scottish winter, Cat has shown exactly the same I will see this through to the end spirit that I know that will see me through to the end of LifeCycle sometime in 2016/17/18… I really, really appreciate that in an athlete: It’s what makes coaching worthwhile.

Some people think it’s all over: no chance!

Not with Ultrasound and Intervals…

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