Training Roundup: Conquering Achilles


George with my Scotia 2013 finisher's medal

George with my Scotia 2013 finisher’s medal. He’s the reason I run.

With the Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon eleven days in the past, my period of sitting on the couch doing sweet eff-all post-race recovery is over. I had a harder time than usual with my recovery, because I wasn’t in top form on the day, and all of the downhill running killed my quads. For four days, I couldn’t walk down stairs without whining like a little girl.

I finally laced up my running shoes again on Tuesday. In a rare departure from the norm, I was actually in the mood for the treadmill at the gym. Tuesday was a rough day – it was the first anniversary of the death of Fran, one of my best friends – and I went through the day in a state of emotional upheaval. I needed the noise and busy-ness of the gym.

I hammered out a fast 5K or so on the treadmill, and it felt surprisingly good, physically and mentally. The exercise helped clear my head, and doing a fast workout with high leg turnover loosened up my muscles. I was back in the groove – or so I thought.

I woke up yesterday morning with pain in my left Achilles tendon. It eased up throughout the morning, but when I tried to walk from my house to the bus stop down the road, I discovered that all I was capable of was a hobble. As I went about my business for the afternoon, things loosened up and I felt OK, but from time to time I’d feel that Achilles tendon nagging at me.

I came home and iced it, and resolved to rest for at least two days. The last thing I want, as I head into the next phase of my training, is a torn Achilles tendon. The next phase of my training is going to be very intensive as I work on both speed and mileage, and I need to be in the best form possible. I don’t have time to be messing around with injuries, so I’d rather just rest up properly now instead of letting things get worse.

While I’m resting, I will be planning out the training schedule that will get me from here to my Big Race of the season: the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon on October 19th. My calendar this year includes a distance that I have not attempted before – 30K – but my ultimate goal is to get a personal best time at the Scotiabank half-marathon. That is my autism run, my opportunity to do my small part in making the world a better place for my son and other kids with autism. All of the other races throughout the summer are training runs to prepare me for the big event. It is on October 19th that I really want to shine.

So here I sit, with ice wrapped around my ankle and a calendar in front of me, figuring out a schedule that will help me go further and faster.  I will also be searching for ways to fuel my body better, and that quest will include a mission to find a healthy cheesecake recipe. Because – you know – cheesecake.

What are your health and fitness goals for the summer? If you’re a runner, what is your “A” race this season? And do you have any healthy cheesecake recipes?

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.



Book Review: The Art of Running Faster (Julian Goater, Don Melvin)

When I was given the opportunity to review The Art of Running Faster by Julian Goater and Don Melvin, I was hesitant. Although I have a passion for running and am on a permanent quest to be better at it, I have tended to find books about running to be a little dry. The books have contained good factual information, but they don’t make for easy reading.

Two pages into this book, however, I was hooked. Julian Goater, the primary author, is a former elite runner from England. The advice he offers in The Art of Running Faster is liberally interspersed with anecdotes from his competition days. He gives lively accounts of races that he and his contemporaries took part in: the book artfully combines instruction with storytelling.

Goater manages to give solid advice in easy-to-understand language without talking down to his audience. He strikes a tone that is authoritative yet conversational, and while the book does seem to be geared more towards competitive athletes, there is plenty of advice for runners of all levels.

A book like this one has to meet two basic criteria in order for it to be deemed a success. First, it has engage the reader and hold his or her interest. Second, the reader has to be able to follow the advice between the covers and judge whether or not it works.

The authors have unquestionably succeeded on the first count. The material is clearly presented, the topics are covered in a way that is both informative and entertaining, and each chapter concludes with a nifty point form summary of the main topics covered.

With the first criteria met, all I had to do was test out the content of the book. In doing so, I discovered three things:

1) The advice is clearly laid out and not couched in theoretical language. Julian Goater tells runners exactly what steps to follow in order to improve things like  form and hill running.
2) I didn’t have to get through most of the book before finding advice that I could act on. I was able to practice techniques I read about from the very first chapter.
3) The advice actually works. Since reading the book and using it to change various aspects of the way I run, my average long run training pace has improved by about thirty seconds per kilometre and I am no longer completely intimidated by monster hills.

This book has earned a permanent home on the “frequently read” section of my bookshelf. I have a feeling that I will read it many times, and each time I will get something new out of it.

In spite of its title, The Art of Running Faster is not only about becoming a faster runner. It is about becoming a better runner.

(Review copy and image of book cover kindly supplied by Human Kinetics)