DIARY: Facing “extremes” and dodging bullets

With just three weeks remaining before Copenhagen there are no more very long runs and no more very long steady running. The Lydiard system is all about not overcooking it, and Arthur always reckoned that in any given marathon, the majority of people at your level are out of the game before they even take the starting line because they are undertrained, overtrained, injured or will make huge tactical blunders on the day.


Going into a big race you need absolute confidence in yourself, so part of my priority is to get as settled with my drills and improved running style as possible.I Attempting to do the Sunday “longer run” (I call it this as the Coordination phase long run is only 18.5km) on tarmac in VivoBarefoot would tell me a lot about how far I had come. When you try to run with new technique at first, your aerobic system can get agitated (as in “what is happening” type of panic). For me, I spend a lot of time thinking of Franz Beckenbauer, his puffed forward chest, and holding the strong posture I am learning through the “Swan dive” drill. This is still hard work, mentally, as my mind takes every opportunity to try to revert my core alignment, and thus my posture, back into a more seated mode where it is comfortable.

So Glenmacnass was going to my trial on a wet, windy and miserable day. Up and up slopes the road and for 8.5km I decided to go outbound before deciding I had enough and headed back. Running downhill on the day was more challenging as I began to notice my heel clearly striking the ground here whereas I had managed to keep a nice clean and fast stride going out. I eventually corrected and was delighted to be able to run 18.1km with VivoBarefoot shoes.

Five months ago, doing even 1km in such shoes would have been impossible for me. When you are still working to transition to a new stage where you can just “switch off your mind completely” during running, it’s easy to forget just how enormous the change has been sine October.

Have I changed my training for the marathon?

When I asked Tony: “Honestly, if I did no more of my aerobic training for the next three weeks and just worked on technique, would I run faster?”

His answer was that it would stress me too much and fill me with too much uncertainty to abandon the current program but that the answer would be yes: because my aerobic system is already so heavily developed, being able to run the marathon with superb technique would get me further. So I am adopting a hybrid-approach now of closely following the schedules but continuing aggressive drill work and doing all my runs in the VivoBarefoot shoes for the moment. On Monday this almost back-fired. Looking at the Lydiard-schedule the sessions seemed perfectly suited for the type of quality and technique focused work with runs such as 100m/100m windsprints and an 800m/200m time trial (today).

However, I almost ran myself off track by underestimating the mental and technical demands of the speeds involved in those sessions. Coming out of Sunday’s run my body and mind were clearly still absorbing running a very long run with the new style. When you run “barefoot style” or “natural”, you are executing ~180 small plyometric jumps per minute and when I began running on Monday evening my ankles were sore in a way they had not been since October.

Curing the ankle malady – once and for all?

Since using drills and running correctly has recently allowed me to remove any such sensations “on the run”, I decided to just trot slowly into the session and count on it going away. When it didn’t, I made the mistake of progressing with the windsprints anyway. I was never at ease or comfortable doing this and by the 6th I had to pull the plug as my ankles were burning and I even had to take a walking break during my cooldown before I managed to trot home without further discomfort.

Next day, the left ankle was locked up the way it had been after the fateful 5 mile time trial in June which ruined the rest of my season last year. For a second I conceded the thought that I had outdone my technical capabilities so much that I had created an actual tear but then I decided that it was just an inflammatory response created by my mind because it was unhappy with what I had been doing (and for good reason).

Tuesday, I crammed in four drill sessions were I kept working until every posture was right and until I felt definitively looser. After the third evening session, I went to lie down 20 minutes, to fully relax, and then went back and did the whole thing again. Only once I could jump and move pain-free did I go for a run. I looked at my old shoes and thought “perhaps the safe choice”, then reminded myself they would just make it harder to “run correctly” and went out in the VivoBarefoot.

Things were instantly better but there was still some discomfort so I stopped a few more times and did more drills. Then it was there: eureka! Suddenly the stride clicked, “so this is what running feels like”, I thought as I struggled to slow down. I settled on a very short run to make sure I had the concentration to keep strong form throughout. By the end of the run, my ankle seemed fine, it was like “a lock” inside it had gone. I walked up and down the stairs. Definitely gone. This was the same ailment that had cost me from June to October last year.

It’s not so mysterious when you consider it. Most inflammatory responses last only 48-72 hours after which the body will release an anti-inflammatory response to complete the healing cycle. This was my objective: convince the primitive part of my brain that there was nothing seriously wrong, get moving again in a way that did not cause new irritation and new inflammatory responses and eat and relax enough to support this process. Having it work in 24 hours has dumb-founded me as I had already begun to plan cancelling most of my weekend’s running activities, including the Saturday race.

One thing that will have further helped is that I am eating using Maffetone’s “two-week test” for the next two weeks, I’ll talk more about that in my next entry.