Yesterday, Wednesday 111, 22 days to the marathon, my left knee felt tender during the day, and of more concern than anything was that I felt discomfort in the front of the knee below the kneecap. I hesitate to call it pain, but it was definitely enough to instill doubt about the most appropriate course of action for the evening running.
I headed to the sento and found it deserted. Got changed, hung around a bit, still nobody showed up. So I set off for some easy running in the park to see how the leg felt. Met up with Stuart and Kibe-san and we jogged around at 5:10/km for 7 km or so.
Being the first Wednesday of the month the club interval session would be six by 1000 m, and I thought that at this stage of the marathon preparation that might be as good a workout as any if the knee was up to it. So we headed to the track. It was a very large group of Nambanners gathered for the session, and being the first time I'd jumped in with the communal workout in ages, it was nice to catch up with some people. I got a few comments that I am fading away, which I was surprised to hear because every time I jump on the scales there is no change. Later in the sento the scales did suggest I've lost a kilo in the last week or two.
I could still feel the knee during the easier running, but it was not really painful and not getting any worse, so I thought I would give the intervals a go. Interestingly, in the first few the knee actually became completely pain free while running at 1000-m pace. It started to hurt on number four, moreso on number five, and although I started number six I decided after 300 m or so to back off to something less intense, and that worked out OK.
During the first interval I was following behind Teruyuki (Terry) and was using him as my cue to stop. But when we came to where I thought we should stop, he kept going. So I thought, hey?, did I miscount the laps? And kept following him for another lap. It turned out he had simply decided to do an extra lap, the bugger. So my first 1000 m rep was actually 1400 m.
Anyway, the times were: 5:14 (3:44/km), 3:38, 3:33, 3:37, 3:35, 4:09 -- not as even as I'd like, but the knee and size of the group had something to do with it. Plus after reps three and four I ran at about 4:50/km for most of the recovery period. I'm not sure why, but I just felt that standing around chin wagging for almost three minutes was not a particularly constructive use of training time :-).
It was interesting running with the large group. There was one particular pack of guys that included Motozo & Paddy and a couple of others whose names I'm not sure of. They would always leap out of the blocks ahead of me and for the first 100 m I would be running behind them and feel as though we were all on about the same pace. But then suddenly it would be like, oops, watch out guys, and I would be nearly tripping over them and have to sneak around or through or whatever. I talked to Motozo about it later and mentioned that I didn't think I was speeding up, and he confirmed that he definitely, but not consciously, slows down. So I don't know if it is my superior aerobic base or their superior fast twitch muscle ratio or what, but whatever it is, it really seems to suggest some fundamental difference in physiological composition.
I iced my knee front and back when I got home and slept with a medicated plaster on it. Seemed a bit better this morning, but I took a couple of Ibuprofen anyway. You can never be too careful.