All about knees

Ironman 70.3 UK is just a month away and Peter has decided it’s time to man up and ignore the dodgy knees. Here he provides his top tips for training through the pain…

The last thing you want to hear about is my knees. But this would hardly be a truthful blog about my training if I didn’t write about the thing that’s been uppermost in my training thoughts… night and day.
 
I wish I could talk about broken ribs and collarbones from some dramatic crash. There’s something particularly un-heroic about knee pain. King Arthur would have been safe in Guinevere’s affections if Prince Lancelot had had to withdraw from jousting due to hurty knees, fallen arches and a touch of lumbago.
 
But the fact remains that hurty knees are a bit debilitating. Patellar tendonitis. That’s what the physio tells me I have and the best cure is rest. I told her I had already ‘rested’ for three weeks or so, but on cross-examination had to admit to a few short runs, a couple of cycles and a skiing trip. So I’ve now had a week off altogether.
 
Not much change, yet. So, as far as I can see, it’s time to man up and ignore it.
 
But on the basis that I should try to make this a useful blog for other old blokes, here are a few strategies I’m employing.
 
Cycling position: I’ve had a cycling friend check my position and it turns out I had my saddle a bit too high and too far forward. I know that I had been doing this to overcome the pain; but it seems I overdid it and exacerbated the problem.
 
Gears: My friend also noticed that when I got off my bike at his house, I was in a very high gear. And come to think of it, my approach to gears has always been, when riding felt easy, immediately to change up and to keep doing so until it felt hard. ‘No pain, no gain’ or something like that. But, on reflection, this is pretty inefficient and certainly more tiring. So now I’m consciously cycling in lower gears, at a higher cadence. I suspect I go faster over a long distance. It certainly places less strain on my joints. Which is fine until I reach a hill.
I’ve finally given in and am buying a new, decent, bike with compact gears. I had never given much thought to gears at all – most of the triathlons I’ve done have been relatively flat. Wimbleball isn’t. Nor is the Land’s End to John O’Groats ride in September, with 20,000 metres of climb. I had been embarrassed and furious at my own decrepitude to find I was struggling up hills that others sailed up….until I noticed that their feet were going round twice as fast at the same speed. Low gears, it turns out, are not all made equal.
 
Running shoes: I read recently that you should change your running shoes every three or four months. That sounds a bit OTT, but it did make me think again about the fact that I was still using the same shoes I had trained for a marathon in five years ago and used ever since. I bought some new shoes (Asics, £115) and sure enough, I’m amazed how much less impact I can feel. Sad to say farewell to those faithful old shoes, though.
 
Stretching: I suppose I had always thought that stretching was for cissies… I sometimes stretched after training, but never before. Now I’m trying to be good.

And that’s it. I promise this blog will never mention knees again. Just a month to go to Ironman 70.3 UK…

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