Posts Tagged ‘stretching’


I could probably save myself a bunch of typing and just go back to a year ago and copy and paste my posts from last October into this year.

Four weeks to race day. One very long run. And I’m broken again.

I ran my 14 miles successfully on Saturday. I foam rolled before I left the house that morning. I came home and took an ice bath. I received a professional stretching session. I was up and at ’em for the rest of the day, no problems. Sunday was more of the same. Slightly sore muscles but no issues.

Yesterday, I took myself out for a (relatively) easy 7 miler, and by mile 3, I knew I wasn’t going to make it; my left knee was killing me. It’s that familiar anterior pain I know so well. My IT band is jacked up. Last year it was the right knee, this year it is the left. I came home after only 5 of my 7 planned miles.

I am frustrated. Why does this happen in the Summer/Autumn training season but not the Winter/Spring? I have run two half marathons in March with no IT issues, and I am getting ready for my second November race, and have my second major IT injury. It can’t just be the long distance runs triggering it because I would have the same problems during my spring training.

I know the drill. Back off running. Stretch. Ice. Tape. Compression. Massage. I could pay the $35 a session to go see Dr. Green at Active Chiropractic, but work and finance considerations don’t really allow for that (work more than anything else).

This is so familiar that I can set myself my own treatment plan. No running this week; I will consign myself to the stationary bike. I am icing it regularly (like, right now). Foam rolling. Self-massaging the band along my knee. Stretch breaks in the conference room.

We are supposed to run 10 miles on Saturday. I was really looking forward to it because first, it’s a drop back week, second, 10 miles is my favorite distance, and third, it will be in the 30s on Saturday morning and I love cold weather running. Now my week will be full of self-doubt and questioning on whether I should go or not go. I *want* to go. I *need* to go. But I also can tell you from experience that it would probably be best if I didn’t go.

What a depressing reality.


An Ambitious Plan

So, half marathon training is underway. It has gotten started in spits and spurts. The first week was fine, no problems except that first team run was very hot and humid and my guts threw a fit. I couldn’t finish the 4 mile route; I turned back early.

The second week was fine, but I missed the training team weekend run because I was onsite for the ACL practice all weekend. That was a great, energetic weekend, but when I got nipped on the back of the leg by a dog, opening up one of my spider veins, it set my running back a bit while that healed up enough not to reopen.

So Saturday’s six miles were the first miles I had run in over a week. I was nervous. I hadn’t run anything over 4-5 in a while and I hadn’t run at all in a few days. It turned out just fine. I paced with some women who were trying out the intermediate team (they found the novice to be a bit too novice) and stayed with them for about 4 miles. That was great until I realized I could push it a bit faster, so I asked if they minded if I went on. Of course not, so I picked up my pace a bit and went on.

After a little while, I was joined by Cooter Coach Greta (I am on Team Red Bellied Cooters, in case you are wondering at the term) and she and I ran together, talking and just going. She helped me get over that subtle and very long hill heading east on Grove Avenue that ALWAYS kicks my butt. My pride kept me from asking for a walk break, and I never really needed it. By the end, the last little bit at McCloy and the hill back up to the Stadium, I was very tired but determined, and that hill did not stop me. I felt like a hero when it was over.

Okay, an 11:35 min/mile pace hero, but still. I was very happy.

Sunday, rather than a rest day like the novice schedule says, and which I am used too, Sunday is now a 5 mile day. Unfortunately, I waited until the sunniest, hottest part of the afternoon to go out, and my legs let me know in short order that just because I had had a great run the previous day, I was not going to get a repeat performance. By the 3 mile point, if I had had my cell phone on me, I might have called for a pickup. I was just that tired. I am glad I didn’t though because I did finish out my 5 miles, and the last mile was hard but it was mostly downhill and that was good for my brain.

I overcame.

Mondays are for cross training. Thinking of the higher mileage schedule, I have decided to apply much more running focused cross training exercises. No Michelle Obama Shoulders Plan right now (though my shoulders still look pretty damn good from the training early in the summer and an active late summer). For now, it will be strength training focusing on my core and my lower body with the goal being to prevent injury. Also, I am going to really try and add some yoga workouts into my weekly routine. That will probably mean setting the alarm for 5:30 in the morning, and my discipline for that is WEAK.

One of my favorite fitness bloggers posted an article last month on strength training for runners to prevent injury. It was exactly what I needed to read and today, I put it to good use.

I am not used to circuit training; I am more programmed towards strength building through heavy lifting, then one minute or so rest between reps. Circuit training was surprisingly challenging; I broke a serious sweat. I followed Tamara’s suggestion to pull one exercise from each of the 4 categories: single leg hip thrusts (both sides), a 30 second plank, lateral lunges (both sides), and a bent over dumbbell row with 15 pound dumbbells (that was when I noticed my shoulders don’t suck, haha). I did the 4 exercises with no rest between, then a second repetition. I was challenged enough that I did not do my planned 3rd rep.

I liked that workout; I didn’t need special equipment and I could probably do it at home if I dug out my heavier dumbbells or found my E-Z bar. Afterwards, I did about 10 minutes of timed stretches focusing on my lower body and back, and especially on my IT band and lower back. I like that I can swap in and out different exercises if I am bored with say, hip thrusts, then I can just switch to the hamstring curls with a ball.

My goal is to do that workout twice a week; Mondays and Fridays would be the ideal. It feels ambitious to say I want to run 5 days per week, cross train 2 days per week, and then find some way to squeeze a yoga session in there as well.

It is a lot, to be sure, but I want to run my best time ever this November. Really, I do, and the only way to do so is train harder than ever and avoid injury. I have to shave about a minute per mile off my pace to reach my goal so speed work, tempo runs, and strength training and stretching will be extremely important to staying healthy.

Owie, Again

I am dancing around the edge of being injured again. Another very common, typical runner injury; my left piriformis is angry at me. In the colloquial, my butt hurts.

It isn’t crippling, although every now and then I will get gasp-inducing shocks of pain in my left hip when I take a step, but they have come down in frequency since I started addressing the issue with stretches starting back on Sunday.

I am frustrated because I know the reason I am hurt; I sit at a desk all day and I have extremely inflexible hip flexors and weak hip abductors. Even Dr. Green commented that I have extraordinarily inflexible hip flexors when he was adjusting me back during the last round of IT problems.

It is not my habit to really stretch out after a run; I am time-pressed, I am overtired, I am rushed to get back to the office/home/wherever, insert whatever other excuse here. Further, I haven’t done any sort of strengthening exercises for my hips and glutes. As I said even in my last blog post, I haven’t been doing any lower body workouts aside from running. Well, the hens have come home to roost because of all my excuses.

Of all the possible times to be injured and need a little bit of rest from running, this isn’t the worst possible time at least. The next two weeks will see me sucked down the rabbit hole of SCA activities, and I have no long runs planned at all. I will keep my short runs on my schedule, and keep the stretching going that I have been doing. I need to find a hard ball to use on the piriformis muscle itself because the foam roller cannot get deep enough into the mass of muscles in that area. I need to keep up my daily stretching I am doing when I wake up in the morning. But I also really need to incorporate something like yoga into my routine, and I have known that for a good long while.

Like last time, I will set myself up a treatment plan including stretching, deep tissue massage (with a ball), and strengthening exercises. If it doesn’t resolve in the next 2 weeks with my own homework, I’ll call Dr. Green and get on his calendar. I guess I also need to find a yoga class at the Y to take on a semi-regular basis too.

I just wish yoga was as fun as running. I suppose it is more fun than being injured, though.

My Legs Are Fine, After All, They Are Mine

I left a little early for City Stadium on Saturday morning — I had left my headphones attached to my work computer, so I stopped by the drug store to pick up a new set. It was raining and cold. Thirteen miles without music to disassociate to was just not going to happen. Little did I know…

Sitting in the parking lot at City Stadium, jamming out to the fun. album (God I hate trying to type their name; the proof reader in me freaks out every time), listening to “Stars” at excessive decibel levels, it was exactly 7:20 a.m. when the first gigantic snowflake fell across my line of sight; 10 minutes before go-time for the run. I sent a rare text to Byram announcing the changeover from rain to snow and decided I must be crazy.

We pulled out of the parking lot in what I would call a heavy snow squall; the flakes were enormous so I knew it wasn’t going to last forever, but it was impressive looking. It was about 35 degrees, so the snow wasn’t sticking to anything except my wet technical clothing. I was proud of myself for being clever enough to wear my baseball hat, keeping the snow and rain out of my eyes.

Around the 4 mile mark two things happened. First, it quit snowing and switched to occasional rain showers. Second, a lady I had been pacing quietly behind turned to me and said “We ought to run together” I guess since she and I were the only ones from the team in sight. I never run with a partner, but we had a similar pace going and she said she was only running 10 miles; I figured it would just be temporary, so I agreed, plucking my brand new ear buds out of my ears and looking forward to hearing my music again later.

When we got to the spot where the novice distance runners were going to split off from the 13 mile runners, she said “You know, I feel good and you are helping me so much, I think I will do 13 miles.” Like it or not, I had a partner for the next 2 hours. We talked a lot; we had some similarities in common aside from our pace and we made small talk. I told her about my gastric bypass and talked about my running history and such. She told me about her kids. We talked about her job and mine; we both work for the state. She knew someone who works for a division here at my office, which led us to talking about the delicate balance of state regulation and the free market. I love sharing those ideas and inherent difficulties.

Her company really helped make those dull middle miles between 5 and 10 go by with less boredom. By mile 10, we were both tired and between mile 11 and 12, we did a lot of walking. My hip was really bothering me, and she had something bothering her, but I don’t remember what now. My memories of the late miles in really long distances are never very solid. Byram and I have concluded it is due to the fact that all the oxygen in your body is going to your heart, lungs, and limbs, and less so to your brain, which is why late in any aerobic effort is a TERRIBLE time to try and learn technique or skill. In a run, it is the ideal time to zone out and ignore as much going on around you as you can and still stay safe.

The last couple of miles were slow and painful. We talked much less and I don’t recall many specifics; I know I talked about how much I hated what a slow runner I was. She offered some encouragement but shared similar sentiments. We acknowledged that we could still be in bed doing nothing; instead, we had accomplished something extraordinary.

If you consider running 13 miles extraordinary. Not everyone does.

We got back to McCloy Avenue, at the bottom of the stadium, a little less than a half mile from our parking lot, but no matter which way you go, it is straight uphill to the lot. I remember very little aside from telling her if she felt she could go faster not to feel like she had to wait on me. I also remember the moment her Garmin chirped that we had done exactly 13.1 miles. We were still only halfway up the hill.

There were 4 cars in the lot when we finally arrived; 2 people were just talking and hanging out. The other two belonged to us. We took the Red Lantern award – the last finishers. But we did finish, we did the full 13 miles not the Novice 10 that she had set out to do. And it was all over.

I got to the van feeling completely destroyed. Just like I felt after the Instant Classic last year. Just like I felt after the Richmond Half Marathon last year. My whole body was sort of a nexus of pain, but from the hips down, I felt like I had been beaten with a sack of oranges by a couple of angry gorillas. Just like both times I ran 13 miles last year.

Ten minutes later, I was grinning, singing along to “Carry On” at the top of my lungs, trying to keep from speeding south on Chippenham Parkway heading home. Adrenaline is an incredible restorative, yes?

Will there ever come a time when 13 miles isn’t agonizing? What would I have to do? Run longer distances and run 13 miles much more frequently, I suppose. Would I want to do that? Why? I certainly enjoy the post run adrenaline rush but is there ever a reason to go further, longer, harder? I really would like to finish 13 miles not feeling like I just described above.

13 is a lucky number for me. I have now run that distance 3 times and each of those three times was similar — painful but rewarding. Exciting and slightly terrifying.

When I got home, Byram greeted me at the door with a huge smile, and as wet and sweaty and gross as I was, I accepted his bear hug. I earned that hug. I skipped the ice bath as the snow and sleet had just done me in for cold; my lips were a bit blue between cold and probably all the oxygen in my body still being concentrated around my core. I stuck to the foam roller and The Stick to work on my hamstrings, IT band, glutes, and calves. That seemed to be sufficient since the next day, I was not as sore as I have been after the races I have run. I didn’t even need so much as a Tylenol. I will remember that for post-Instant Classic.

I am enjoying the feeling today that I ran 13 miles without all the post-race baggage I tend to come up with. After a race, I get those post-race blues; not so this week. This is what I believe is the most important aspect of that 13 mile training run. It did a lot for my body I sure, but it did the most for my brain. It is a good feeling.

Less than 4 weeks and counting now. We run 10 miles this weekend, then I anticipate another 12 miles on Saturday, March 3rd, and then a serious drop back the week of March 9th; probably 6-8 miles that Saturday when we begin tapering for March 16th. That means only 2 more double digit runs for me until the race. It’s getting real now. That’s good. I’m getting to where I finally feel ready for this.

Hope, For a Change

I spent around an hour at Active Chiropractic with Dr. Green and his staff this morning. My first visit to a chiropractor. Like many people, I grew up hearing the myths: they aren’t *really* doctors, they are quacks, they have crazy/dangerous ideas about how to get or stay healthy, and so on.

Most of those myths had been dispelled by the time I reached adulthood, but I still hadn’t availed myself to a practitioner, partly for a lack of need, and partly because one last myth remained: that no insurance would cover chiropractic care. Now that the last myth has been thoroughly rolled back, I find myself more than happy with the care I received in that brief hour I was in Dr. Green’s office.

It helped that I knew what was wrong with me, that I have experience with IT band issues, that I had been trying on my own to recover, and that I had been educating myself on IT band pain treatment options. We didn’t have to waste any time covering basic education on my injury, or of what his method, Active Release Technique (ART) is, and how it works. I had done my homework.

After introductions and minor pleasantries, we went straight to work. Mostly, it involved him applying deep pressure to the areas below, above, and all around the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) as I flexed and extended my right knee.

The woman who referred me to him told me it was very painful and that she had wanted to punch him from the pain. Dr. Green joked about positioning himself carefully in case I felt the need to kick him.

I neither kicked or punched. It hurt but it hurt in the “this will help” feeling, or what he called “therapeutic pain.” I have been dealing with pain that can spike to a 8 or 9 for the last ten days, so this kind of pain was no picnic, but it didn’t warrant punches or kicks.

After the ART therapy, he showed me two new IT band stretches. We talked throughout about my running history, his own (he is an Ironman Triathlete and distance runner himself), and races we have done. He thought it was cool that my first half marathon was a trail race.

After stretches, he sprayed some BioFreeze on the area and said this would help dry out my skin and make the tape he was going to apply stick even better. He said KT Tape is a little lower quality than what he uses in his office (Kinesio Tex Gold was what he used) but still effective. He made me realize I was seriously over-stretching the KT tape when I applied it, which is why it would peel off so quickly or seem so ineffective. He also explained that the tape was not to support the ligaments below so much as to lift the skin and allow better circulation to the affected area. His applied tape is supposed to last 3-5 days!

I am glad I didn’t write my intended scathing review of KT Tape. Now my opinion is reserved for the next time I have to apply it.

The final part of the appointment was when he turned me over to Christine and she hooked me up to their Electronic Muscle Stimulus machine, or what they called their stim unit. I figured it was identical to a TENS unit, which I have had used on my back for severe back pain, but he said its frequencies were different and it was more fine-tuned to this kind of injury. I had to do some Google-ing, but I did learn that the major difference is a TENS unit is designed to ease pain through stimulating nerves, while the EMS using brings no pain relief, but speeds healing by increasing circulation and blood flow to the affected area (or that is what I took away from my Google-efforts).

While the machine sent a flow of electricity around my knee, they put an ice pack on it, and I enjoyed the sensation of what felt like carbonated water on my knee; a sort of fizzy sensation. It was relaxing and not at all painful, unlike some of my TENS unit experiences.

I set up my follow up for next Tuesday, and feel more optimistic than ever that I can not only run the Richmond Half Marathon, but that my goal time is not necessarily an impossibility. I got my bib number and Wave Assignment (I go off at 7:46 a.m.) yesterday, and plan on availing myself to the Richmond Road Runners Pacer for my goal time. I do extremely well when following someone with a solid cadence, so since the service appears to be free, I am going to find my rabbit and chase her or him all the way to the finish line.

Now, I leave you with a big grin (this was 2 miles before it REALLY started to hurt last Saturday).
(Photo taken and owned by Chris Schuessler.)

9 Miles

I ran my 9 miles on Saturday morning in the most adverse conditions I have encountered so far. It was in the low 30s and alternating between heavy mist and pouring rain. I am actually really glad I did not hold out for Sunday’s group because Sunday was slightly drier, but it was much more windy and the windchill was in the low 20s. I prefer the rain to the wind.

So, 9 miles. I took gels around miles 3 and 5 and that was sufficient. I didn’t go through as much water as I did the previous week. The hills on this particular route during the early miles were really brutal and I lost track of the group by the time we hit the Lee Bridge. I managed to keep my paper with the route printed on it together until I hit the Boulevard and then it disintegrated. I got a little panicky on Monument because I just didn’t gather how far it was from Monroe Park to the Boulevard and I started getting a little irrationally afraid of missing the Boulevard (simply not possible).

Of course, I didn’t get lost. What can I say? I was alone and I was very tired.

I did a little stretching in the parking lot, but that was it. No foam roller or anything extra. I was so severely chilled that I could not bear putting my body in an ice bath, so I skipped that step too. I don’t deserve to feel as good as I do, all things considered, but, for now at least, it seems that the DOMS I was experiencing several weeks ago has stopped. I was very sore on Saturday right after the run, but after a nap and some time, that became very minor. Today, two days later, I still feel fatigued in my legs, particularly in my quads, but it isn’t pain and even my hip isn’t bothering me.

I have a major problem coming up and I have known this was coming for a while now. My training schedule has me running 3 weekdays a week — Tuesday through Thursday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are ALWAYS just 3 mile runs. Wednesdays have been 4 mile days until this week. Starting this week, and continuing through all of February, the Wednesday runs are going to vary from as little as 4 miles to as much as 6 miles.

I simply cannot do a 6 mile run on my lunch hour. I am not fast enough and I have to allow for time to change before and after. 4 miles currently is the longest run I can fit in my hour. That leaves me running in non-daylight hours. The Y limits machines to 45 minutes and they go into Cool Down automatically at 45 minutes, so again, I hit the 4 mile limit (also, I am ready to scream with boredom with just a few minutes on a treadmill). Running in my neighborhood sans daylight is just not a good plan for my personal safety in general.

Right now, I just don’t know what I am going to do. I could ask to use some personal leave and do the runs at lunch, but I can’t guarantee I will get any approval for that, especially if it affects the phone schedule. I could ask to leave early and take 90 or so minutes of personal leave and change and go run before 5pm. Again, run the risk of not getting approval.

The only other thing I can think would be to split the workouts. It wouldn’t give me the longer distance training I need, but if I did say 4 miles at lunch and 2 miles at the Y, or 3/2, or whatever, I would at least keep my mileage base for the week up where it needs to be.

Would love ideas or thoughts, but am too embarrassed to ask the HMTT right now, given that I don’t really know any of them.

8 Miles

I was irrationally nervous about Saturday’s 8 mile HMTT route. It just felt scary to contemplate running that particular number of miles. If I could explain why, I would. Maybe it was because I didn’t run any of the short scheduled runs during the week so I felt unprepared, but either way, I was very anxious about it.

Strangely, I do not feel the same intimidation about this Saturday’s scheduled 9 mile run. I haven’t seen the route yet, but I am curious about where we will go this time. We went north last time, going all the way to Bryan Park. I don’t think we cross the Nickel Bridge until the 10 mile route, so I am very curious where we will be going.

But back to last Saturday. It was not my best run. I tired out very early on and my quads were unusually fatigued; they were burning at only two miles. It might have been the cold, it might have been a little dehydration, or maybe my head just wasn’t on right, but it was a tough run, with the last two miles probably being almost equal parts running and walking. I made sure I stretched in the parking lot and again with the foam roller when I got home, and my soreness level was significantly less than after the 7 miler 2 weeks ago. Big win for me there.

Likewise, yesterday I did 3 miles, and while I tried very hard to do some speedwork, I similarly tired out very early on and had to even stop at the halfway point.

As a result of two sort of “off” runs, I am pushing water and electrolytes. I have decided I really do like the Nuun tablets I have been using instead of Gatorade but I have to get more of them.

Tonight, I need to do 4 miles on the treadmill at the Y. I find running at night not to work exceptionally well for me; I am tired, I find the treadmill boring, I find the news on the t.v. on the wall depressing, and I get a little self-conscious with all the people behind me on bikes and elliptical machines looking right at my jiggling parts for 30-45 minute stretches (I am embarrassed to admit that I even think about that).

One last thing: Yesterday marked exactly two months left until the Instant Classic Half. I am getting excited about it. Not nervous yet. Just excited. Hope they get a map up of the half marathon route up soon though. I would like to go explore the trails we will be racing on, but I am pretty unfamiliar with Pocahontas in general.

I will try and update about the 9 miler next week.