Saturday, March 19, 2011

21 Days

In an effort to let my knee "re-generate" I've restricted my mind and body from all things running for the past 3 weeks. It's pretty tough to know that I'm missing out on my training but I do have a pretty developed ability to ignore things I don't like to think about. I would describe this as me observing something out of the corner of my eye, or knowing something exists but not giving it my full attention. Homework, or my list of chores for example. This is a beneficial skill that I use mainly for procrastinating.

This ignoring gets tricky now that I've started my new job at a local gym. I literally spend hours folding towels, which I do facing a row of a dozen or so treadmills with people running at varying speeds. In case that doesn't hold my attention, there's also a track circling the fitness floor. Often there will be an elite athlete checking off laps at lightening speed. Leading up to this exercise taking place in front of me is a set of stairs, so that I can observe people's muscles bulging out of their legs as they bound upwards. Meanwhile, I imagine mine wasting away. Thankfully, I don't fold towels the entire time.

The good news is that these past few days I've noticed that I can sit with my knee bent without much pain. Next week I may try a half mile and see how it goes. Since I'm starting at such low mileage I might even attempt this run in my Vibrams. Yes, the weird shoes that have toes. This minimalist approach has been nagging at me since I tried it last summer and now I'm almost ready to bring it out into the road.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Two Steps Back

Last Thursday I graduated from physical therapy because I had been running (taped) pain-free up to 5 miles.  That night I headed downtown for a 3 miler with my friend Sara. I felt a slightly different pain on the same knee during the run which felt like the tape might be a bit tight and pulling, so I didn't worry about it very much. Unfortunately, I had the dreaded knee pain that night and following day.
Naturally, on Saturday I didn't rest. My knee felt better and honestly, I was so annoyed about the injury returning that I figured I might as well get my scheduled 7 miles in and just deal with the pain to follow. The pain ended up being far worse than before and there was quite a bit more swelling despite ice and ibuprofen. Today is Wednesday, 4 days later and it still isn't right. I realize it was foolish running 7 miles on Saturday but hey, what's done is done. I saw that looming training schedule and that pressure plus frustration lead me to cave in and risk it.
Now I'm taking more time off from running while continuing my stretching and strength training in hopes that I might still be able to do Bayshore half at the end of May. If I don't come back in time I'll enjoy being a cheerleader for my friends and family running that race. Then I'll work up slowly for a late summer or early fall half.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I Brake for Runners!

Today I had the pleasure of introducing a friend to my Gazelle Running Group friends. I'm always proud to show them off. They're a little crazy, but always positive and sincerely welcoming to the new kids. We all left at different times today at varying paces, but it creates a small bond to pass a fellow runner on a bridge in mid-February wind gusts and know that although they may be faster (or slower), they're experiencing that little slice of hell right along with you.

I enjoy encouraging people. It's a slippery slope with someone just getting acclimated to the pain that running can bring. And I always feel like a little bit of an asshole when I'm chirping out an "it gets easier" to someone that I assume is thinking run-hate thoughts in their own head. But I do it anyway, because that's what I would've liked to hear. I think back to those summer days huffing it around Windmill Island way too early in the morning in already 80 degree heat. I hated busting my butt to keep up with the rest of the group and it was hard not to let the bad thoughts convince me to give up that day...or forever. Running is very truthfully a mind game but if you can defeat your own doubts, fears and excuses you will eventually be rewarded for that.

Who gets up every Saturday morning before the sun, rain, shine or snow, and suffers a lot or a little for an hour or two every week? People who realize that doing so matters for all kinds of reasons. Show me a runner who's exercise habits haven't positively influenced some other aspect of their life. I'd be interested to learn why they keep heading out there. These people know how to, according to my dad, "make it happen".

And dang it, that's why I love runners!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Physical Therapy Progress

Today my PT gave me the good news that my back was in alignment on first inspection! That would explain why for years I have felt as if one leg was longer than the other. Turns out I wasn't crazy. My tight hip was actually torquing my spine which was affecting the tracking of the opposite knee. This chain of events lead to the knee pain. So resting longer wouldn't have helped a thing.

There continue to be some tight, stubborn muscles fighting to put me off balance again but I just need to continue to stretch and release them. I also have a lot of hip strengthening to do. Now that my body is straightened out I am hoping to add some pain-free mileage. As of now I am running 1-2 miles quite happily a couple times per week but I pay for it with a stiff/sore left knee for the next day or so. It helps if I stretch before and after and if I avoid sitting with a bent knee, to avoid the dreaded "theatre sign".

Things are looking up. I'm really itching to get back to training with all my running friends! Every day my half marathon date inches closer...

Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm Not Going to Panic

For the past 2 months I've been dealing with a running injury. I'll save the whining and just say: it sucks and I'm crabby about it. I credit this injury to not taking the proper time to rest after my marathon, ahem, running a PR 10k six days later, and getting lazy with my before and after stretching. Cross training might have been a good idea, too. The reason I didn't rest was because I felt so strong and I didn't want to lose all of my hard-earned fitness. Well, now I have lost it, lesson learned.
Three weeks ago my orthopedic surgeon sent me for 4 weeks of physical therapy twice per week. I'm making gains in strength and flexibility but here I am 3 weeks in and I can't get past a slow mile on the treadmill without experiencing pain the following day. Take note: when you tell your physical therapist that what you have done so far hasn't helped, she will push you 10x harder and maybe even try to kill you in a single hour session. I learned this today as her dagger fingers dug into my hip area to "release" my iliopsoas muscle. Repeat on the other side. Thanks to my pride, I held back a full-out cry. I could have wept. She knew the pain she was causing because she kept remarking on how tight the muscle was and dealt with my facial cues by breaking eye contact and asking me about my weekend. Smooth woman. The stubborn side finally released about 2 minutes in. When the iliopsoas released the sensation was that of the PT letting up on the muscle, even though she really hadn't. Then she made me do a half hour of the hardest exercises she could come up with. You know, wall sits while squeezing a ball for forever minus a day, standing on a balance board while balancing on one foot and crouching to reach for a stick that was nearly out of reach, that kind of thing.

So, I'll do everything she tells me to do. I'll do all of my homework exercises. I'll push my races back or cut down on their length. I will run again, eventually.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why I Preach of Running

Back in the summer of 2007 I was quite pregnant with my second child and stepping onto the scale during one of my bi-weekly doctor visits. The woman weighing me looked up sympathetically and announced that I needed to go back to the waiting room to wait for a different chair. The fat chair. This was a defining moment because I could no longer ignore the issue of my weight.

Fast forward several months, past the birth of my son and the crazy days and sleepless nights that followed adjusting to life with two children 17 months apart. At some point I found the energy to start using our elliptical machine a few times per week. I lost weight. Eventually my progress plateaued and the dread of heading into the basement to stare at the cement wall while working out on that horrid machine became too much. I'd heard of a 5k training program and I had just enough confidence to give it a shot. Thankfully there were a number of friends who accepted the challenge along with me. We met early in the morning, or later in the evening to get our runs in; whatever it took. In September of 2009 I ran my first 5k. In January 2010 I joined a local running group to train for a 25k. It turns out that particular race experience was awful despite my hard training, so there was only one thing to do after that...sign up for a marathon, of course! I completed my first 26.2 in October 2010 and was ready to run another before I'd even finished.

Running put me outside of my comfort zone. It lead me to meet new people who challenged and inspired me. Running taught me that I was selling myself short in at least one area of life; and taking a risk wasn't only scary but often times rewarding. I started off running to lose weight and now I'm here looking back 65 pounds lighter and realizing how many things it has taught me along the way. It has truly changed my life. Forgive me, but I owe so much to running that I often can't shut-up about it.