Saturday, November 8, 2014

Marathon training injury

I just ran five miles and nothing hurts. This is quite an accomplishment because for the last  three months, I haven’t been able to get past three miles without my knee killing me.

Let me fill you in on what has been going on with my running.

My last post was in June and all was well. My marathon training was on track and I was steadily increasing my weekly mileage. On June 24th, I ran a very hilly 20K and finished with a time of 1:49:15. My time was a few minutes better than the year before so I was happy. On July 4th, I ran a very hilly and rather challenging 10K with a time of 50:51. This course is out in the country and follows dirt roads, gravel roads, and about two miles of wooded trail. I had run the race last year and wasn’t sure if I would ever want to run it again. But as the race drew near, I found myself signing up. I managed a second place age group win and now think this might be one of my favorite races. It’s a tough course and the finish line is at the top of a steep hill. I felt like I was going to die around mile five, but crossing that finish line was fantastic. The next day was Saturday and rain was forecast for Sunday. Even though I had just run a 10K, I decided I could still do a long run. I wanted to do at least 18 miles.

When you train for a marathon, you have to learn to pace yourself which means running slow. Slow for me is a pace of 9:40.  You wouldn’t think running slow would be hard to do, but it is. I would look at my watch and see 8:20 or 8:15 or sometimes 7:55. “What’s the hurry?” I would ask myself. “You’re not racing. SLOW DOWN!” Runners talk to themselves a lot. On my long runs, by mile 14, I was usually tired because I had started out too fast. By mile 14 I would have to take a short walk break or just slow way the hell down and finish the run in an embarrassing shuffle.I was getting better at running slower, but had a ways to go.

On that particular long-run day, the one after my 10K, my right hip started to hurt at mile 15. A year ago, I hurt my left IT band training for a half marathon. I was able to fix it by backing off my milage a little, using a foam roller, and doing tons of stretching and strengthening exercises. By race day, I was good to go. I’d never had a problem with my right leg before. My right leg was always the good leg.

Because I am a runner, I kept running despite the pain in my right hip. I only had a few more miles to go. By mile 16, I was limping and now my knee hurt. Luckily I wasn’t too far from my car at this point and decided to stop and hobble to my car. I did some stretches and drove home. The next day, my right leg hurt from my hip to my knee. What had I been thinking? I’d just raced a 10K. I should have rested, not try to run 18 miles. 

So I rested for three days and then went out for a three-miler. There was a slight twinge in the hip, but nothing too bad. I dug out my foam roller and found all my old IT band exercises and started doing them again. They had fixed my hip before, they should be able to do it again. On my next five mile run, the IT band pain flared up and spread to the outside of my knee. With my left leg, the pain had stayed in my hip. 

The next day, my knee was stiff and hurt. Runner’s knee? A few days later the knee was fine and I went for a three mile run. No problems, but I decided to skip my weekend long run. I still had plenty of time before my marathon.

The next weekend I decided I was OK to run 17 miles. At mile 10, the hip started to hurt. At mile 12, the knee started to tighten up and hurt. But I pressed on. By mile 15 I was done. Every leg muscle on my right side was tight and throbbing. After doing some research, I decided to take some time off from running. A week was all I could stand and after a thee mile run that was mostly pain-free, I signed up for a 5K race.  On August 8th, I ran one of my favorite 5Ks with a time of 24:09 which was good enough for a Master’s win. I was worried about the IT band and the knee, but everything felt great. Thinking my IT band might be fixed, I started increasing the milage. At this point, my marathon was two months away and the the farthest I’d ever gone was 17 miles. I needed to hit 20 for mostly psychological reasons. If I could run 20, I could run 26. But If I couldn’t get to 20, then I’d never be able to get to 26.

On August 14, I ran a 5K with a time of 24:05 and on August 23, I managed a time of 23:29. I was able to run a 5K just fine, but when my run went past 28 minutes, the pain would start. This confirmed that it was my IT band and not runners knee.

I bought an IT band strap, but it did nothing. I bought a knee sleeve and a knee brace that was supposed to help. They helped a little, but after eight miles, I was unable to run any farther. The pain in my knee was like an ice pick. With the marathon nearing, I saw a sports chiropractor. She confirmed my IT band was ridiculously tight and tried some massage and manipulations, but time was running out. Unable to get past 10 miles without being in pain, I deferred my marathon to 2015. Marathons are not cheap and I didn’t want to just throw it away.

I cut my milage back to 12 miles a week and never ran for more than 28 minutes. Anything beyond that made the knee throb. I foam rolled, I did every IT band exercise I could find. The problem seemed to be my glutes. They just weren’t firing when I ran. I sit for a living. I sit in front of a computer all day and even though I get up every few hours, it’s not enough.

With the marathon out of the picture, I researched the glute muscles and how to get them to wake up. Weak glute muscles make everything else work harder. My quads were doing all the work which was making my IT band tight which was making my knee hurt. In a way, there was nothing wrong with my knee, it was just the weakest link in the chain.

$100 Gift Certificate for a First Place Win.
On September 14th I ran a 23:34 5K and the knee felt great. But I wasn’t going to be fooled. The glutes were still refusing to participate.

My marathon came and went and all I could do was look up friends’ times. A lady I had planned on running with finished in five hours and 36 minutes. Another friend finished in just over four hours. The glute research continued.

I watched training videos, I did exercises, I changed my running form. I made sure my foot was going straight down and that I was landing mid-foot. I shortened my stride and increased my cadence.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to try for four miles which would put me past the 28 minute danger zone. I strapped on the knee brace, which seemed to help a little, and headed out. The knee brace has velcro straps that go around my knee and hold it in place. At one point, the tip of the strap hit my left knee. I hadn’t pressed it down all the way. This happened several times. I had to stop and redo the strap so it wouldn’t dig up my bare leg. Then I realized something. That strap shouldn’t be anywhere near my left leg even if it was sticking out a little. If my feet are pointing foreword and I’m running along, my knees should be a few inches apart. The brace added maybe half an inch to my right leg. For the rest of the run, I concentrated on keeping my feet, knees and hips pointing straight ahead. I completed the four mile run in 38 minutes and the knee and hip were fine.

I’ve seen knock-kneed runners run. Their knees cave in and their feet go out. They look weird, but somehow they can still run. Was my right knee caving in when I got tired?

A few days later, I tried for four miles again. This time I thought about the position of my legs for the entire run. Feet straight, knees straight, glutes firing on all cylinders. Again, no pain.

Today’s five mile run is the farthest I have run in a long time. I completed it in 48 minutes. At one point, my inner thigh/groin area started to hurt, but that went away when I moved toward the center of the road.

Am I fixed this time? The exercises, the change in form, the reduced mileage, is it working?

An IT band injury is usually an overuse injury. I thought I was training smart for my marathon, but apparently I wasn’t. I’m going to do the five mile long run three more times before I push toward six. And only when I can comfortably run six will I try for seven.

I’ll be 50 years old next year. I really wanted to run a marathon before I turned 50, but I guess running a marathon at age 50 will have to due.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Run Like the Wind

I have read that the definition of an elite runner is a runner who believes he or she can win. Not come in second, or first in their age group, but first for the entire race. The first male or female to cross the finish line.

Last month, I was an elite runner.

Having not run a 5K race in awhile, I decided it was time to find a 5K to see if I could still run fast. I am training for a marathon so my running style has changed quite a bit. I am now trying for distance, not speed. This means I have to run slower. Which is harder than it sounds.

So I woke up early Saturday morning and headed to the race. It’s a course I’ve run several times, very flat out and back. It was a fundraiser for the local zoo. Good cause even though I don't like zoos. Too sad to see animals pacing in cages.

Approximately 100 runners showed up. I was happy about that. I like to see a good turnout for a race because it makes all the work that goes into organizing a race worth it, and it lets me know how good or bad I’m doing. It’s hard to judge how well I really did when only 20 people show.

My plan for this race was to just run and not look at my Garmin. When I glance down at my time, I am either freaked out by how fast or how slow I am going and alter my pace. For this race, I was just going to run like the wind.

I lined up just behind the front runners and off we went. There were a number of young guys in front of me who all took off at the speed of light. Then there were a few slower runners who I quickly passed. The next runner in my way was a guy dressed in blue who kind of ran like a pony. Clomp, clomp, clomp. He wasn’t a big guy, but he sounded like he weighed 500 pounds. I passed him because I found his running style annoying. That turned out to be a mistake because he tucked in behind me and started clomping faster. Determined to get away from the clomper, I ran faster. He couldn’t keep up and the clomping faded a little. Next thing I knew the front runners were coming back at me. I counted five, then two more, then two more. I made the turnaround and headed back to the finish line. I was in 10th place with just the clomper behind me. I kept on the lookout for the first female still coming up on the turnaround. Finally I saw her, a young, thin girl who looked like she could really run if she wanted to. She was probably three-tenths of a mile behind me. She could be waiting to make her move for the second half of the race.

I did a quick assessment of my body. Legs - good. Lungs - good. Heart - good. A young guy came up along side me and slowly passed me. I was now in 11th place and the next female was probably gaining on me. I kept running.

When I got to within a half mile of the finish, I heard the clomper gaining on me. Determined to not let him or anyone else pass me, I gave it all I had. I would either win or run out or energy. I was running to win.

My time across the finish line was 23:02. The clomper wasn’t far behind with a time of 23:12. First female, yes! The second female was several minutes behind me.

First place and new PR!
This race had medals for the winners. I like medals over cheap plastic trophies. I proudly accepted my medal and a $10 gift certificate.

After the race, the clomper found me and said “nice race.” We talked for a few minutes. He was an older guy wearing a Boston Marathon shirt. He had run the 2104 Boston Marathon and said it was his last. He was getting too old for marathons. I told him I would be running my first marathon in October. I asked him if he had any advice for me. “Don’t go out too fast. You can’t bank time in a Marathon.”

I defiantly won’t be trying any elite moves in my marathon training, but it’s nice to know I can run like the wind when it comes to a 5K.

23:02 was a new PR for me. Now I have to break 23:00 before the running season ends. It's good to have goals. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

It's Been Awhile

I guess it has been awhile since I have written here. There’s only so much that can be written about running before it becomes boring and repetitive. Maybe the same can be said about running itself which is why I have chosen to run a marathon this year. It is in October and I am very excited about running it.

I will start with a quick summary of my 2014 running season.

In January, I ran the January Winter Freeze series which is a 10K race held every Saturday in January. The first race was canceled because it was insanely cold. This was a really cold winter. The race was canceled for the volunteers who have to stand in the cold and not for the runners. I ran three out of the four races. My best time was 50:48. That’s better than last year.

January Freeze 10K. I'm the one in fluorescent green.

Running the very cold
Cupid's Chase.
I kind of 5K’d myself out the last two years and decided I was only going to run a few 5Ks this year. I picked the Cupid’s Chase 5K in February because I really enjoyed it last year. I didn’t enjoy it as much this year. I did get a first place age group win and a medal. My time was 24:something. The temperature was 8 degrees and I had a hard time breathing. It was colder than any of the January Freeze races.

In March, I ran a little four-miler and won overall female for that race. It was a really windy race an there were spots where it felt like I was going backwards. My time was 30:something. 

5K in Arkansas. I'm the one in black.
In April, I was in southern Missouri for work and would be there over the weekend. I found a race in Arkansas to run. It was on a small campus of Arkansas University. There were only 50 people, but it was a fun little race. The actual distance was 3.3 miles and my time was 25:something. I came in fourth overall which I thought was pretty good. I guess I’m fast in Arkansas.

My finisher medal.
My next race was the Binghamton Bridge Run Half Marathon which was last weekend. Last year, this was my big race for the year and I trained like crazy for it. This year, due to a lot of cold and snowy weather, I didn’t train as much and felt very unprepared for it. It was supposed to rain the day of the race, but it didn’t. Instead, the wind blew like crazy. This was a hard race. I have been battling hamstring injuries and at mile nine, the right hamstring started to hurt. At mile ten, the left hamstring and foot started to hurt. By mile 11, I really wanted to quit running, but that would have been really stupid with only a few miles to go. At mile 12, adrenaline kicked in and I was able to finish the race quiet strong. My time was 1:51:14. I wanted to beat my time of 1:53:03 from last year and I did. So I was quite happy and the ham string pain was quickly forgotten. My legs were a little sore the day after, but I was fine the next day. I guess I am in better shape than I think.

At the finish line of the Binghamton Bridge Run Half Marathon.
So now marathon training begins. I know I can run a half, but I have to start running smarter if I want to go 26.2 miles without dying at the end. I need to hydrate better, and run slower. I ran a nice steady pace for the first seven miles in the half, but then I started slowing down with each mile after that. Of course, running into the wind didn’t help.

It’s beautiful outside today and I’m going to try to go for a nice, leisurely ten-mile run. I need to find that perfect cruising speed where nothing hurts and I can just run forever.