London 2016

1/2/16 – Up for the Cup

I had an unwelcome realisation last week. The Semi-Finals of the FA Cup take place on the same weekend of the London Marathon.

Being a Palace fan, involvement in the Semi Finals of the FA Cup isn’t normally an issue. Indeed, up to now, I had only been mildly concerned that our League game against Everton on that weekend might be moved for TV to the Sunday. Although, I haven’t missed a first team game in four years, I’d already decided that missing a League Game would be a minor irritant, but now well… an FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley would be a much greater source of worry.

On Saturday, Palace managed to compound that worry by easing into the fifth round after dispensing with a lacklustre Stoke side. The draw the following day, redressed the whole balance of probabilities somewhat, as we were drawn away to Spurs – not a happy hunting ground for us since our return to the Premiership.

My head can’t see us progressing any further, my heart would desperately love to see us go all the way, even if the personal cost would be high. It would be the height of Sod’s Law if this was the year it happens. But hey, I hear you cry, surely the Semi-Finals are on both Saturday and Sunday – it would still be a 50/50 chance on which day we played. I can admire your optimism, but forgive me if I don’t share it… of course we’d be the Sunday game.

Assuming this all this comes to pass, it presents me with a dilemma. Last year, Sunday’s Semi-Final kicked off at 3pm. At best, I would be crossing the finishing line sometime during the first half. By the time, I might be in a position to get to Wembley, the game would almost be over… but wait, what if there was extra time?

I genuinely don’t know whether I would try and make a dash for it, to the point I was, today, trying to cajole a Met Police Rapid Response Driver of my acquaintance to be on hand to whisk me up there under ‘blues & twos’. Sue – who is, after all, in the same boat – decided I was overthinking it all and not to pester the poor chap, so I agreed to drop it (for now)  – but that doesn’t stop me writing about it.

Anyway, back to the plot (before I lose it totally). Monday was a much needed rest after my trials of the previous day, but I ended the day in an even worse state when around 9 o’clock I came down with a bout of stomach cramps and vomiting. It didn’t appear to be related to yesterday’s run and by the next morning the pain had completely gone.

I decided to run the Classic 5K course, inadvertently adding a quarter of a K on as the watch is now calibrated to miles and I slightly miscalculated the distance. Given my sickness bout, I went for a really easy one, aiming for 11:30 per mile and hit that pretty much bang on without once looking at my watch during the run (36:44).

Wednesday saw a full set of gym exercises, followed by a 1k swim, with no ill effects, which led nicely into my second midweek run on Thursday and it was an unusual one.

I normally run solo, but today I had company. Not Sue, but her cousin John who lives in Australia, but is over for a year. He went out with Sue on Tuesday and decided to join me today. His pace is similar to mine, but he hasn’t run too much recently. We set out and maintain a nice steady pace on the classic course, a bit of chat early on tapered off as the second incline got serious.  A bit of lamp-post work towards the end and a short sprint at the finish saw us come in a few seconds either side of 32 minutes. A time we were both happy with.

Friday was back to gym for another full session and swim. I was in a particularly good mood as Fridays are my weekly weigh-in day and I’ve managed to lose just over half a stone in the month since training began in earnest. Sue has also lost a similar amount, so we both go into February feeling good about ourselves.

We agreed with John that we would all run Crystal Palace parkrun on Saturday as John doesn’t have the footwear to cope with sticky off-road conditions at Lloyd. Sadly, on the day, a sore ankle put paid to his involvement, but Sue and I decided to run that course for the first time anyway.

We both felt up for it and, despite the elevation gain being greater than Lloyd, the fact we were running on firm pathways, saw us both post much better parkrun times. Mine was a 30:21, again, I hadn’t looked at my watch all the way around and was amazed that I was that quick. Each of the three miles were under 10 mins and I was kicking myself that I hadn’t checked the time as I reckon I could have easily pushed the long downhill harder on the second lap.

Sue had the same issue with wishing she’d pushed a bit more to get under the 35 minute bar, finishing in 35:09. Mind you, the ‘official’ results seemed to be one place out of kilter (in our favour) from our watches meaning Sue was recorded as breaking 35 minutes. We both enjoyed the course and will be back soon with John.

Onto Sunday’s long run – 10 miles – determined not to make the same mistakes as last week. I went out equipped with a handheld water bottle, an energy gel and some Sport Beans. The plan worked, I felt good all the way around, albeit a bit slower overall than last week coming in at 1:57 dead (the time, not me!). Taking on fluid, gel and beans accounted for some of this. I also scrubbed off a fair bit of speed on one of the faster downward sections by fiddling with my phone to restart my playlist resolving, once again, to ditch the music next time out.

I’ve been running and gymming without any significant leg pain for a couple of weeks now, but halfway through the long run I did begin to feel something on the left hand side of the base of my pelvis, which is still give me the occasional twinge a bit 36 hours later. I’m wondering whether running with a bottle in one hand might have contributed, as I did feel a little unbalanced at times. And whilst my battle-scarred right knee isn’t giving me trouble when running, I’ve started to notice that it’s becoming increasingly ‘clicky’ and ‘crunchy’. I’ve also noticed some weakness there when executing warm-up stretches and on stairs.

A couple of issues to keep a weather eye on there, for sure…