Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Here comes the towel

Sadly, I have to throw in the towel (for now at least). My foot just wouldn't seem to strenghten and there was no point in pushing it. There'll be other races.. I'm not going to target anything specific just yet; I'll rest and not thinking about it for a while will surely help recovery.

Take care and see you all soon.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A new goal

I tap my latest musing from the soothing comforts of the bed – it is from here that I nurse a distinctly numb foot after a close encounter with a rather large needle. While this sensation of deadening numbness may be new to my lower limb, the feeling is a familiar - if somewhat unwelcome - guest to my body. It is in fact the same heavy state that my jaw and cheekbone carry after I’ve spent 2 hours cursing the dentist - wriggling in her chair and pleading for the bright light overhead to finally come and take me away. Today however, no piercing instruments of dentistry were involved, merely a cortisone injection into the sheeting around my tendon (the name of which escapes me). 

I have a little tale… it involves a physio, a specialist, me, and it culminates in an uncomfortable visit to the hospital – hmm, that line that may yet grace my epitaph as it tends to feature in most of my life stories (for example, that time I had to get an x-ray in Ecuador and they thought they had ‘rayed’ the wrong hand – bit of a ‘lost in translation’ moment that, or that time my finger was smashed to bits and Bec fainted on first sight of it, or that time I got an asthma attack while on the piss 2 hours from the hospital and had to stop off for oxygen on the way at a doctors surgery, any one of the three operations on my eyes, or that time I got hypothermia as a child, or that... you get the picture).

Anyways, a little bit of a recap is in order (it wouldn't be a blog without it) as a lot has happened since the last update
  • Physio the 2nd wasn’t overly confident my MRI had been read correctly (by the ”specialist”) due to the length of time I have been laid up. 
  • (So)… I returned to the offending hospital, picked up the MRI scans on CD, and trotted out the door to get someone else to read them. 
  • (So)…. Armed with the necessary data, Physio the 2nd managed to squeeze me an appointment with the Irish Consultant who specialises in sports related injuries (Dr Eanna Falvey – Irish runners who have gone through the mill have probably come across him) 
  • (So)…. the consultant sees me the following week and spotted issues with the sheeting around my tendon on the MRI scan (it’s a tendon that runs from the calf, through the foot and onwards to the big toe). It appears herein lies the problem and it was all triggered by my insistence on running over the arch after hitting that f^$&*~g stone (no offence geologists, stones are awesome).
  • (And So Finally)…. In order to do everything to keep Paris a realistic target, I was elevated up the waiting list (once again) for an appointment in the hospital at 2:30 today (3 days after the referral l).
Here comes the ever-so-slightly embarrassing part; the only way to fit me in was to get the injection in the BIU. When they asked me was I comfortable with getting it done in the hospital’s BIU, I told them sure, no problem, BIU, look for signs for the BIU, gotcha, make it happen, let’s get this puppy on the road. Today I found out that the hospital’s BIU is the ‘Breast Imaging Unit’. Yep, Cork’s only breast imaging unit. Picture the scene, a 30 minute wait, me and 15 women of varying vintages squeezed into a small pinkish alcove. Before us, a pyramid of women’s magazines… fonts of womanly information… Hello, OK, Soap UK,they were all there. Not a Top Gear nor a Golf World amongst them. While I busied myself looking awkward and desperately trying not to catch anyone in the eye, the elderly lady beside me coloured in the areas of her breasts that were of concern to her on her forms. Finally, the nurse arrived came out, “EMER MORRISSEY, is EMER MORRISSEY here”, to which I burst forward but shyly remarked… “Elmer, it’s Elmer Morrissey”…. “ah yes, so it is, my apologies”…  to which I replied… “no bother, it seemed fitting”. 

So here I am, back home, and give or take, it’s 8 and a half weeks to Paris. I am not to run for 6 days. After that, I can load up on runs of increasing length for 1 week (up to around an hour in length). Once that’s out of the way, I can START my training programme. I would welcome any suggestions as to condensing a 3-4 month marathon training programme into 6 weeks… seriously. 

The bet, it’s on hold, it would be naive and probably catastrophic to pursue that target time. That’s ok though, I have a new goal - I want to enjoy my first marathon, I want to soak in the atmosphere, the highs and the lows, the nervous tension of the start as well as the explosion of emotion at the finish. Running the Paris Marathon will be enough.

59 days to Paris.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Is the fog clearing?... actually I don't know!

Ouch… the last time I scribed a rambling, it was 121 days to Paris! That’s a little lot unnerving on many fronts. Anyways, during that time, I have been toying with updating the blog many times; but a conveyor belt of faltering starts on the trails had robbed me of my enthusiasm to relive in detail more frustrated pull ups and depressing walks back to the car. That notwithstanding, much as this frustration embittered me to the blog, I continued to crave a good… solid… long… free… uninterrupted… run! (what did you think I was going to say - naughty).

A chance meeting with a friend last Sunday culminated with a recommendation for a new physio to have an experienced poke. Long story short, I’m ‘kind of’ back running again, with a few caveats – my foot is  heavily strapped up, I’m confined to grassy terrain, and although I can choose the pace (within reason) the duration is restricted to specific periods (these days, no longer than 30-35 minutes). I say this like I’m desperate to run for hours – I’m not. Come the end of my 30 minutes, I’m yelping down air as the lungs and head send conflicting messages to the legs to run a touch faster. BUT, I’m not in pain at the end, I’m aware of tightness and soreness, but not pain. And the strapping is lending me the necessary support. Crutches and restrictions aside, it’s f*cking awesome!

What’s going on, actually, we don’t know. As the MRI didn’t show up anything conclusive bar tissue damage, we’re shooting blind. So, my runs are experiments; the strapping which is pulling in the inside of my foot, together with my own body sensing feedback, are the parameters we’re going to analyse at the end of the week. She’s working on the theory that I’ve pushed a bone out – can’t remember, or even pronounce it, not to mind spell it, so I won’t embarrass myself here with any attempts. But as you look down at my feet, you do notice a bulge inwards on the right foot. It’s rare, but it happens, and the stone story tied to running on the arches would explain how it might happen. Anyway, if her theory is right, there are two potential working outcomes (1) there is no bone damage, and with strapping, I’ll be able to recover/run with mild irritation and soreness, or (2) the trauma was severe and caused bone damage. I don’t even want to think about 2 (I asked, she answered, and I don’t fancy airing what would be next steps) so we’ll work towards theory #1.

Given my penchant for myopic recovery plans in the recent past, I’ll stick to the physio’s sage advice to take it handy as I slowly load up my foot with longer runs at a ‘reasonable’ pace. I’m not jogging, I’m running – that’s all I really wanted anyway. Paris is 50/50 but who cares at this stage. These are my cards I’ve been dealt for this hand of poker. 

Experimental runs they may be, I’m just happy to be out running again.

77 days to Paris (sssshhhhh)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Not my thing patience, or swimming for that matter

A debilitating compulsion to experiment with myopic “recovery” plans has left me ruefully sitting on the platform once again; the 18-week-to-go-carriage pulled out of the station last Sunday, I was not on board, I was left waving my mechanical allegory a pitiful adieu. 18 weeks is a countdown milestone for me, as it was the starting point of my training plan for Paris. Filled with fartleks, hills, sprints, long runs, short runs, fast runs, slow runs, striders and well, that’s it I think, said plan has been forced to make a B line for the bin (recycling of course).

I only have myself to blame; I charged into recovery mode around three weeks ago (ignoring some sound advice from seasoned peers). Damnit, who ‘charges into recovery’? That shouldn’t even be a term, or maybe it isn’t. It’s probably just me; perhaps I just invented it. Anyway, I dutifully ignored every flare my foot was sending out as I tore around five mile loops with horses willing but carriage buckled. ‘My foot hurts, stop being a pansy, suck it up Morrissey’… (c) Gollum.
This latest tale of woe transpired two weeks ago, the Thursday run left my foot feeling sore and tight, the Saturday run… well… I knew things had gone very wrong – the remnants of my injury (plantar fasciitis) collapsed once again when I overtook a girl at the furthest point from home (why is it always the furthest point from home?). It was awful, I knew I had damaged it again, but I was overtaking a girl! What was I to do!? Enter the ego, stage left; I lumbered home at the same 7:30 min/mile pace (which was a protracted brain fart of an idea) burdened by the loathsome truth that my usual enthusiasm (that I’ll need in the run up to Paris) had landed me into some murky injury waters once again.

I’m floundering about in hiatus mode again. I’m probably a little cranky and I’m definitely agitated. Running makes me happy, so without it, I guess I’m not. At least the weather sucks (for runners that is – I’d imagine any soul under the age of 18 is doing a daily merry dance) – I couldn’t have run safely anyway. I can also take some solace that my humour is shared by the rest of the country as we prepare to bend of the barrel and empty our sparsely laden pockets into the well oiled hands of an incompetent fleet of wbankers.

Moan moan moan.

An inability to carry out a patient recovery aside, do you know the other thing I’m crap at (there are only two): swimming. It’s true; I’m a god awful swimmer. I’m the guy that dunks himself into the shallow end of the 25 m pool and if you were a bystander, you’d swear I was a dolphin. I certainly look the part. I have a little checklist of items to get through before I depart the safety of the shallow end: I adjust my goggles (glugging a layer of saliva into them in the vain hope that they won’t fog up this time); I ensure my swimming hat’s middle band of white runs from front to back (slight OCD); I lurch forward - as I have no glasses on - shuffling down the lane as I strain to see the stamp-sized information board directing me to swim anticlockwise; finally, I set my watch. Ready, set, go... I fire down the lane in an explosion of splashes calling on all to note my aquatic adroitness. After a sleek and nimble start, I begin straining fast - the body movements become laboured, my arms start to burn, and I begin chugging more than kicking. Worringly, the cogs are beginning to seize and this is half way down the lane, ¼ of the full distance! I invariably reach the turn completely shagged, but push off the end with a hefty (cheating) wallop on the side of the wall in the hope that this new found momentum may be difference between life and death. On a few more metres and I’m at the point of near delirium; I’m convinced I’m going backwards, no it’s ok, it’s just a 'relative' thing - some fossil in the slow lane has used a strong breast stroke to push on ahead of me. Races with the elderly aside, my breathing isn’t breathing anymore, it’s gulping; half air, half water. With no rhythm to speak of, I start wavering wildly around my own lane (blindly ignorant of directions to swim anticlockwise). Time starts assuming an elastic state and I've lost track of how long it’s been since I held the side of the pool. Mentally listing the loved ones I wish I was kinder to over the years, I spot that sweet incline of tiles at the bottom of the pool through clouded goggles. Not a moment too soon, sanctuary is near, which is beoming a pressing neccessity as I'm fit to die. The last stretch tends to draw a blank until but I invariably float in to the finish, as soon as a mere fingernail rests – rather than slams – the sides, BOOM… I’m on my knees, head out of the water and straining to mask piecing gasps for oxygen (the top half of my mouth inhales wildely, the bottom busies itself spluttering out gallons of pool water). It's a unique ability if you think about it. Unperturbed, I clumsily mash the stop button on my watch - I mentally record a 1 minute 3 seconds. Nice. 10 recovery minutes later, I hurl myself down the left hand side of the dividers again in an effort to match my PR. Nine more of these puppies to go.

God I can’t wait to be running again.

121 days to Paris

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Sold out – Paris that is, not me. The 2011 Paris marathon has hit capacity for ‘Joe Blogs’ entrants. I don’t know why that’s made it more exciting, but it has. In fact, I’m jittering with nervous enthusiasm again just thinking about it. I feel I’m part of an exclusive club – if being ‘1 of 37,000’ is exclusive (that may be straining the definition of ‘exclusivity’ now that I think about it). Anyhoo, I’m in, and the die is cast.

My apologies I’ve been remiss in updating the blog. I’m sure you have all - all 19 of you that is - been aching for a new update with hourly screen refreshes. My excuse: I’m flat out busy with work, and who can really turn down work these days! Just look at the IMF, look at the debacle they’ve taken on… just to make a few bucks before xmas presumably! I can picture the scene in the kitchen in the Chopra household 30 minutes after ‘Chopper’ arrives home from Afghanistan and Mrs ‘Chopper’ is back from tennis club:

Mrs Chopra: “You take your ass over to Ireland, take the reins, earn some money and get me that ski lodge
Mr Chopra: “Ireland, are you for real!
Mrs Chopra: “Do you want sex any time this century
Mr Chopra: “Yes Dear, I’m on the ryanair website as we speak

Editor (me) – we’re all answerable to someone after all

Right, so, injury woes. Welllllllll, deep breath, it’s a bit of a long story that I’ll sum it all up as follows: I got scan results that gave me the all clear about two weeks ago, I try the odd 5 mile jog but my foot consistently hurts the very next day. So I talked this through with my physio who assures me that this is to be expected. She also mentioned that my strength exercises were not just for Christmas, her words, so I’m calf raising like a Kango hammer these days. It’s a bit of odd scene that I tend to limit to our home. So, overall, I get about two 5 mile jogs in a week with some cycling and swimming heaped in for good measure. Hardly the conditioning of champions, or sub 3 hour marathoners, but it’s all I got so I’ll make do.

Seeming as I needed a motivational pick-me-up to get through this exceedingly long rehabilitation period, I’ve started questioning what’s motivating me. It’s not the €300 bet (oh, sorry Bec, did I forget to tell you, the lads were taking the mickey and they goaded me into it – they questioned my pride for God’s sake, what’s a male to do!).

So, that digression aside, here are the 3 main events that I think motivated me into doing the marathon…

Several months ago, myself and three other buddies were lying down on the leeward side of Mt Mangerton (outside Killarney, Co. Kerry). We were tucking into one or two bottles of Heineken having successfully tackled the mountain. It was on a Saturday of a stag and we were all in relaxed and jovial form – full the brim of hearty banter that is all too rare now as we get older and ‘grow up’. The rest of our hiking troop had marched ahead – eager to complete the mountain in record time. We had stayed behind as we were eager to adopt a different approach; soaking in a glorious view, a warming sun, and some sparse alcohol. For whatever reason, the subject of running came up and I mentioned that I was thinking about taking my new hobby more seriously – I was going to try and run (1) a 10 mile in under 60 minutes and (2) a marathon in under 3 hours. Unsurprisingly, this exchange of views was more one way traffic, but none of my friends dismissed me out of hand (completely). I wouldn’t say they believed that I could definitely do it, but they thought I might be able to do it. As the weeks passed and as I began discussing this with others who knew me from my team sports days, I started thinking about it a little more. It really resonated with me… maybe I could do it… maybe I should definitely try and do it… maybe I’d regret if I didn’t at least try and do it.

Now I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for inspiring quotes. My PhD thesis is littered with them; I’ve one or two in my room; and of late, I’ve begun sprinkling them around this blog too. When I was initially getting into middle distance races, I came across this quote from the 1952 Olympic marathon winner who won the race having never run a marathon before (he decided to run it a few days after winning the 10km!). He is quoted as saying, “If you want to win something, run 100 metres. If you want to experience something, run a marathon” (Emil Zatopek). When you talk to people who’ve competed in marathons (and even those who have injured themselves in the process) most of them will echo his sentiment. A marathon was always on my bucket list, but now more than ever, I want to feel it and live it.

However, the final inspiration probably lay in a feature length film/documentary I watched in May of this year: Spirit of the Marathon. Released in 2007, the film captures “the essence, drama and unique spectacle of the famed 26.2-mile race”. It charts the progress of five runners, - three amateurs and two elites - as they train for and ultimately run the Chicago Marathon. It's an inspiring show, I won't go on abou it, but when the credits rolled by, I think that was most likely the point that I knew I wanted to run a marathon.

Why I made the bet, if I’m being truthful, that’s probably for my ego. I need to know that I can still excel in a sport that I always looked at and thought… I could do that (if I wanted to).

Happy Trails

137 days to Paris

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Let's talk about yoga

That's yoga Jim, not Yoda, although the force would come in handy these days...

Now, my yogic prowess is questionable at best - I’m about as flexible as the Titanic was. This disabling lack of limberness is all the more disappointing as it’s not exactly the most taxing of activities. As a male, I can grudgingly accept that I’m not as good a F1 driver as Fernando Alonso, soccer player as Wayne Rooney or rugby player as Brian O’Driscoll. However, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when my own mother can probably outperform me when call upon to touch ones toes. 

I joined a beginner’s yoga class about 6 or 7 years ago in the college gym. Two weeks into the eight week term, my fellow neophytes were rapidly extending limbs to extremities unimaginable to my rigid mind - they seamlessly slipped from one pose to the next, propped by nimble muscles that held strong in glorious displays of amateur abilities. These arty exhibitions stood in stark contrast to the giraffe in the corner of the room. My own body shook widely when called upon to assume the simplest of poses. Where the lithe bodies of my peers gracefully assumed a stream of flexed body positions, I audibly flapped around like a fish landed onto the deck of a trawler . It seemed to pain our teacher just to look at me.  My version of the ‘V’-like ‘dog pose’ invariably resembled a ‘W’; arms and legs fired out to all four compass directions. At the conclusion of the two month course, while the rest of the class would be advancing onto the intermediate group, my teacher felt it best if I stayed behind to repeat (thankfully she whispered her  assessment  to me in private to save my blushes). I didn’t return.  

In an effort to avoid further shame - or at least to confine it to the four walls of a living room - I bought a yoga DVD last week. Not just any yoga DVD, one for old fogies! I figured a normal DVD mentored by some 20-something-year-old elastic band would sweep through the positions and I wouldn’t be able to keep up (again). Given my penchant for protracted flapping, the pace of a DVD aimed at the 60 year old market seemed about right. In a way, I thought myself to be an embarrassed genius. Unfortunately, the DVD is paced sooooooooooooo slooooooooowly, that I’m blissfully snoring on top my resurrected yoga mat by the time old dear gets around to the first pose. Keep this up and my body is doomed for evermore to be as pliant as concrete. I still can’t touch the top of my socks when bending over (unless I cheat and bend my knees). 

In running related news, I'm awaiting the MRI results; hopefully I’ll have word towards the end of the week. As for my burgeoning golf career - I'm tied in 17th place going into the closing day of the Sinapore open.

154 days to Paris

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Full Stop

An aim of mine when I decided to kick off this blog was to – at the very least – update with weekly anecdotes. I felt this would paint the trusted representation of the journey. I’ve never been one for keeping diaries (too lazy and easily distracted); maintaining a blog would be the kick in the arse needed for consistent input. In years to come, I wanted to accurately recall the journey, rather than blatantly revise it with epic fibs and untruthful revisionisms, regardless of the outcome. 

I had this notion that the journey would be rough in places, especially around the 2nd month (circa Jan ‘11). The sadistic side of me relished the thought of visiting some dark physical and mental places during long lonely trails; my aim was to scribe my recollections of these miles with positive insights and fun recollections. Sadly, I didn’t anticipate that I’d have such a downer this earlier in the whole process – I’ve struggled with the motivation to write this update. But, it may be therapeutic, and I’ll keep it short. 

I had started out several days ago so hopeful – I was convinced I had left the foot heal long enough. Regular ice and strength work were now normal activities in my daily routine as I laid the groundwork for a full recovery. Sadly, a casual ‘test’ 5 mile run last Sunday went fairly badly, my foot ached towards the end and things didn’t improve the next day.
Leaving it another day, I got in touch with my physio on Tuesday… her concerns mirrored my own – it was unlikely that we were still dealing with a normal strain. She’s fearful that the stone I hit may have chipped some bone which triggered various ancillary issues and protracted healing. At this point, an MRI is my only option so that we can develop a plan of action. This necessitated a visit to the doctor on Thursday for his referral letter - €50 for a 2 minute Q&A and a rubber stamp. Why is it that I need a doctor’s referral for an MRI when he knows significantly less about the whole experience, asks several pointless questions, and subsequently voices a recommendation for an MRI based on nothing more than a clumsy unskilled prod of my foot. Galling. 

I’m in bad humour about this anyway, so being ripped off by an aged clown doesn’t help. 

I await the MRI which takes place next Thursday, and I guess I’ll take it from there. Damn.

In unrelated news, my Wii avatar’s career (on Tiger Woods Golf 10) is progressing nicely after a slow and somewhat faltering start. Although he has failed to make the cut in any tournaments yet, he has bucket loads of potential. We're going to work on that potential this Saturday.

162 days to Paris.