Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Arizona or bust.
And, just like that, I'm running pain free again.  How did this happen?

As I said in my last post, I had been in contact with Dr. John Ball these last couple of weeks, bouncing ideas off of him about this injury.  I was receiving treatment from Dr. Lau, but my body wasn't responding quickly enough for me to get back to hard training.  On Sunday, after a few days with no contact, I got a message from John, "running yet?"  I told him what was going on and that things had gotten worse--now pain was coming on as soon as I started running.  His next message said, "Car. Drive."

So, I kissed the Genius and my puppies goodbye that afternoon, and jumped in my car headed for the desert.  I decided to drive rather than fly when I saw that tickets were $700 round trip.  A month ago, I had already planned to take most of this week off from work because I needed to burn some vacation time.  I also thought, way back then, that I would be in the thick of my hard training and could use the break right about now.  Prescient, I am!

B-52 Bomber at the Edwards AFB gate
I spent Sunday evening at Edwards AFB.  It was nice seeing the old Buff (B-52) at the main gate when I arrived.  I worked on these beasts for a few years when I first joined the Air Force.  I woke up early Monday a.m. and kept driving east through the desert.  I really, really love the desert.

I arrived in Arizona Monday late afternoon and went straight to Maximum Mobility Chiropractic.  I was standing in the lobby talking with my old pals about my trip when a woman behind me said, "hey, you're Jaymee, right?"  I turned to see a runner who it turns out is from Folsom, CA and had read about John Ball in my blog.  Michelle was in town for work and decided to schedule a few appointments while she was here.  She's been off of running for 8 months and had run out of treatment options in the Sacramento area.  It was totally great to see firsthand someone benefiting from this blog.  I have no doubt she'll be back to running in no time.

John called me in, made me touch my toes and do some lunges and then told me to go run.  I ran for about 10 minutes and the pain was immediate and depressing.  I reported back.  I pointed to the place it hurt and he immediately pressed on that area, deep in my gluteus maximus, though the muscles involved are underneath that monster.  He worked on some bad tissue in there, had me do toe touches and lunges again and told me to go run again.  I ran for 10 minutes, and it felt better.  I came back in, he worked on that area again and I ran another 10 minutes.  It felt even better.  He told me that was it for the night and instructed me to run the next morning long enough to see how it really felt.

The next morning, I was all excited to test this out and started a run expecting to go for an hour.  About 1/2 mile into the run, I started feeling the familiar twinges in my glute and the run soon became unfun.  I knew I was fine to keep running on it and wanted to see how it felt the longer I went.  The pain/soreness pretty much leveled out after a couple of miles, and I went for a total of 5.  I got back to the parking lot and called John.  I told him he still had some work to do.  He said that the fact that the pain came on 1/2 mile in was progress over my baseline run from yesterday when it had come on immediately.  He felt confident he was working on the right thing.

I saw him again at 4:00 yesterday and he had me go for a pre-treatment test run.  I ran 2.5 miles and it felt much better than my morning run.  I told him this, and he seemed pleased.  He worked on my glute again after my test run and had me go out for more.  This was the breakthrough run: the run where you know you're on the road to recovery.  I felt like I could have run forever, but I stopped at 2.5 miles--10 miles for the day.

He asked how long I was staying, and I told him I wanted to leave Friday afternoon so I could drive back in time to see all of my friends run the California International Marathon on Sunday.  He had indicated when I first got here that we had some "clean up work" to do in my hamstrings and other areas, but he didn't want to work on that until we had eliminated the thing that was causing me to not be able to train.  He didn't do anything more and told me to test it this morning.  I just finished 10.2 miles pain free! Boom!!!!!!!!

While my decision to drive all the way here may seem impulsive or desperate, I had a feeling I would gain more from this trip than just a healed leg.  In addition to a great therapeutic outcome, I have also had a great time meeting, in person, some of the ladies that I have only known through Facebook or their respective blogs.

Kerry Camberg is a masters runner that I first found out about from John Ball the last time I was in town.  We talked on the phone back in May, but I was never able to meet her in person.  We've kept in contact over the past 6 months as she's continued to pursue her goal of qualifying for the Trials (which she's going to do at CIM this weekend!!).  I was going to meet her this week in Sacramento and we had planned to talk on the phone last weekend.  I emailed her on Sunday to let her know that I'd be meeting her in AZ instead!

She and her lovely family have been so gracious.  I have dined with them the last couple of nights and got to watch her kill a goal-marathon-paced run this morning.  She also introduced me to Susan Loken, the legend, as she's known here locally.  It's been amazing to run and talk running with these fantastic women.

When I contacted Kerry to let her know I was going to be in town, she said that Lauren Fleshman would be staying with her this week too.  I was thrilled to get a chance to meet Lauren.  After all, she was the one who introduced me (via her blog) to John Ball.  It's like the circle was connecting in some crazy cosmic way.  I have spent some time with her these last couple of days, and she's just as real and charming in person as she is in her blog.  No, more so.
Kerry, Lauren, Jaymee
I feel really blessed right now to have had this experience.  I feel so charged up about my training and hopes for the Trials race.  Despite John's reminder that I "don't want to get lapped" at the Trials, I feel pretty confident I can set my sites a wee bit higher than that.  What I do know is that I can train hard again, and I feel a renewed sense of passion for my running and training that wouldn't have come about any other way.

Thanks to everyone for your encouragement and kind words. You're all rock stars!    

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And For My Next Trick...

...I will pull a rabbit out of my arse.  That's pretty much what I need to be able to do to get back on track with my training for the Big Race.  After I found my marathon legs in early November, the right one promptly broke.  As you can imagine, the emotional Zipper ride has been pretty extreme these past few weeks.  I haven't felt much like talking or writing about it--hoping I would magically heal and be able to say I dodged the pepper spray.  Then, I read fellow Olympic Trials Qualifier, Nichole's, report about an achilles injury she's dealing with and was able to point her to my blog posts from 2010 where I dealt with a similar issue.  It reminded me that we often learn more from our triumphs over adversity than from the easy wins.

So, here we go...

This particular problem started with what I was calling twinging in my gluteal area, tightness in my hamstrings and some very sore calf muscles.  When I look back at my training log, I was regularly reporting one or more of these issues after most of my longer runs.  I was treating these problems with lots of rolling on my lacrosse ball and was trying to make sure that my hips were remaining flexible.  As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, October was a month from hell in terms of traveling for work.  My thought was that I just needed to get through that month, and then I could take time to train hard and recover.

I finally took my last trip at the beginning of November, but it became clear that my body wasn't going along with my plan.   I took a couple of days off from running and did a little cross training.  I had a race scheduled that week and thought it was a good time to "taper".  I also scheduled an appointment to see Dr. Lau.  When I first made the appointment, I told him that it was really not a big deal, and I was sure that a quick treatment would be all I needed.  A week later, I had started to feel some real pain in my glute and my right shin was unbelievably crabby every time I ran. 

Dr. Lau treated me on a Friday and I ran a half marathon on Sunday.  My right leg was not in pain during the race, but neither leg was on board with my plan to run fast.  It was the strangest feeling: my hamstrings were done with me after the first few miles, and I just couldn't move my legs.  I knew I was doomed by mile 3, but I made the decision to ride it out and get in a workout.  I was so worried about feeling pain in my right leg, that I sort of ignored the pain developing inside my shoes.  I knew I was getting some blisters because my feet were on fire, but my brain didn't register how bad it had become.
Yeah.  That's pretty bad.
I got lots of suggestions on how to deal with the blisters and the best advice was to drain them.  I did this with a sterilized safety pin, and the pain was relieved instantly.  Another friend suggested I cross train a couple of days to allow the blisters to heal up a bit, and so I did.  When I ran again on Wednesday, my right leg was jacked up--shin hurt and hamstring/glute were twinging.  It actually felt better the longer I ran, but I stopped at 9 miles and rode the elliptical in the gym that evening.

The next two days, I started getting symptoms that felt like sciatica, and I started to panic.  I saw Dr. Lau again on Friday and ran 7 miles both Saturday and Sunday.  These two runs sucked.  My leg was getting worse, not better and now the pain was there when I walked too.  We were holding out for Monday to see if maybe the pain over the weekend was caused by the treatment, but another painful run on Monday made it clear that something else was going on.  

So, now we're caught up to this week--Thanksgiving week.  I pool ran my workout on Tuesday and went to see another chiropractor who took a different approach to the problem.  I tried to run on Wednesday.  The pain in my shin and hamstring/glute was immediate and run stopping.  I indulged in a full-on tantrum. 

~A joyful interlude~

A couple of weeks ago, before I knew any of this was coming, I made an impulse purchase through a pro program I get through my affiliation with the military (  They recently added ElliptiGo to the list of pro deals I could get, and I thought I'd check one out locally to see whether I would like it.  I rode one and realized this was the best possible cross training device for a runner, injured or not.  It really feels like running in the air though without any upper body movement.  Forget the fact that you look absolutely redunkulous riding it.  I returned home and decided to take the plunge.  I got the 8C model so I could have lots of gearing options.  With my pro deal, I was able to get that more expensive model for a lot less than even the basic model.  
Big Green
My green machine came in the mail about a week later, but the front fork was bent.  The people at ElliptiGo were very helpful and shipped out a new fork quickly.  It finally came on Monday, and The Genius swapped it out for me so I could take my first ride on Wednesday.  It is really pretty fun.  I was mostly surprised by how hard a workout it is.  Standing upright, your body is like a big sail, so the air/wind adds a lot of resistance.  I see this as a good thing since my job is to get my heart rate up during cross training.  

I had a tempo run planned for Thursday, so I decided to see if I could do the workout on Big Green.  Getting my HR up on this thing is not a problem.  My problem was actually slowing down to rest a bit.  I wanted to keep pushing.  Here's a graphic of the 57 minute ride I did with about a 30 minute tempo effort in the middle (with a short water break at the turn around point).
Big Green does her job.
The red line shows my heart rate.  The faded green line is my speed and the colored slices in the background represent my heart rate zones.  The yellow is my aerobic zone, the light pink is 88-92% of max heart rate (roughly my lactate threshold zone) and the red slice is red-line territory.  So, if nothing else, I have stumbled upon a cross training device that I enjoy, can do outside (or inside if I buy the wind trainer add on) and will give me a superb workout that should directly translate to my running fitness.  I'm excited about keeping Big Green as part of my training in my uninjured future.

~Back to reality~

That face hurts me too.
So, where do I go from here?  I don't quite know.  I suspect I'll have a few more days spent with my face smashed on Dr. Lau's table.  He has been an amazing help through this and believes we've narrowed the issue down to high hamstring tendonopathy.  I have a lot of inflammation in the area and am working to reduce that with ice and both oral as well as topical NSAIDs.   He continues to work on ridding the area of bad tissue and getting my muscles to slide like they're supposed to.  I'm doing daily test runs and have yet to see the big breakthrough run where I keep running and don't look back.  

The biggest lesson learned so far?  Pain = too late.  I have been in touch with Dr. John Ball these last few weeks as well, and he was the one who reminded me of this.  He has been extremely generous with his time; offering advice, gentle reminders and zinging reality checks.  He asked why I hadn't been in to see Dr. Lau for 4 months, and I told him "because nothing hurt enough to make an appointment."  In fact, I had subtle signs that my body was unhappy with me up to a month before I made my first appointment.  They were small things, but I should have gone in to get checked out.

The other lesson, which I seem to learn over and over, is that I really can't fit it all in.  I should have reduced my running workload in October to accommodate the extra stress of my job.  Woulda, coulda, shoulda.       

A very positive note in this sad song is that I have enlisted the help of a great coach.  I realized that I am quickly going to run myself into the ground over and over coaching myself (despite the help of Coach T).  The bummer is that I haven't been able to use the training plan he gave me yet because this injury cropped up around the time we started working together.  I really do look forward to working with him and seeing what I can do under his coaching.

I continue to hold out hope that I'll be able to get in a few weeks of good training for the Trials in the next 2 months, but my goals will need some adjustment.  

Then again, the big win is getting invited to the dance, right?  Well, and not getting lapped by the boys (right, JB?).  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

At last!

I found my marathon legs!  I knew they were hiding from me, but I just didn't know when they would make themselves visible this training cycle.  I seem to be suffering from marathon training amnesia this time around.  I have had trouble remembering what I am supposed to feel like during the various stages of my training.  Throw in the fact that I'm training completely differently than I have before, haven't run a marathon in over a year, and have been traveling all over the place these last few weeks, and you get one tired and confused marathoner.

The training plan I'm using calls for high mileage.  I can handle high mileage when I have the time I need to recover.  Take away the recovery, and the girl begins to crumble.  The week before last was a perfect example of this.  I am going to say right now that it will be the hardest week of training I will do this training cycle.  It wasn't the highest mileage and didn't have the hardest workouts: I ran 90 miles and did one 10k-paced long interval workout on the track Thursday and a 20-miler with surges on Sunday.  It was the stuff in between that ate me up.

Duke Forest Trail
I traveled to North Carolina on Tuesday starting at 5:30 a.m. which meant no running before my flight.  I was lucky to be able to fit in a 10-miler in between arriving at Duke University for my meeting and meeting up with my group for evening activities and dinner.  The lovely thing about running at Duke was the forested 5k loop course that started right outside the front door of our hotel.  The bummer was that it was a loop that had 200 feet of elevation change in 3 miles and the changes were not gentle.  Remember that I rarely see 100 feet of elevation change during one of my regular 20 mile runs.  Lovely as the forest was to run through, I knew my legs were going to be messed up.  I tried running around campus one afternoon and that was no better--no way to escape the hills.  In retrospect, I really should have run on the treadmill, but how could I not run on a trail as beautiful as that?

I was reminded of life's fragility when I ran down a side trail and found the Sally Meyerhoff Fitness Loop that connected to the 5k loop I was on.  It was beautiful and inspiring to think of her running along this same trail training for cross country or some other race.  RIP Sally.  

It was nice to have a safe running trail so close to the hotel because I was running in the dark for at least part of every run.  I beat up my running partner on the first evening run, and he had to take a rest after the second day.  My legs were done by the third day of the trip when I had to do my track workout.  I got to do it in Blue Devils' Stadium at least, but it was UGLY!  Ironically, my Garmin reset itself and completely lost the data for that workout--not in the device history or transferred to my computer--irretrievable.  I'm starting to think this was a blessing.

I became a master of the quick shower and change that week--able to go from lobby to room to lobby in under 15 minutes!  My legs were seriously beaten up by the time I arrived home Friday night at near midnight.  I finally got to sleep for more then 5 hours that night, but it didn't really help heal the damage I had done.

That damage lasted into this week where I began feeling a series of strange things in my right calf and gluteal region.  I rolled religiously and worked very hard to get more sleep, but it seemed like I wasn't keeping up.  This week was meant to be another 90 miler, but I gave up on that idea midweek when I had to travel 9 hours roundtrip with an overnight for work.  I was due for a hard workout on Thursday, but I knew it was a bad idea given a sharp pain I was having in my right calf.  I think it is (was?) what I've seen called posterior shin splints on the internets based on the location of the pain and the fact that all pain goes away after I warm up.

I was able to get in my hard workout on Friday without incident, running 2 x 1.5 miles + 2 x 1 mile all @ 10k pace with 4 min rests between each.  That was a tough one and my legs felt fine.  Yesterday, I experienced the return of the calf and hip pain during my 10 miler and became very worried about my prospects for a long run today.

After worrying a fair bit about whether to even attempt a longer run after yesterday's painful run, I was pleasantly surprised to have a fantastic 20 mile run today.  It wasn't my fastest, but it was certainly my strongest so far.   I had no pain in the calf or glute beyond 3 miles.  I am planning to run a total of thirteen, 20 milers this training cycle and I have 5 under my belt already.  They had not been getting easier until today when I felt especially strong the last half of the run.

Today had two bonuses for me during my run: I got to see the amazing migratory phenomenon of salmon returning to the American River for their last dance before death.  I may be a freak, but I tear up when I see them out there building their redds and dancing around one another.  I also had my third sighting of what the Genius and I are now calling Grassquatch.  This started a few weeks ago when I was running along the American River Bike Trail between mile markers 10 and 10.5.   I saw something about 100m ahead out of the corner of my eye that looked like what I would picture a baby Sasquatch would look like.  As I got closer, I noticed a huge mound of dry grass and a pile of leaves get up from the side of the trail, run across the trail and hunch back down.  Good thing I wasn't finishing my run or I would have believed I was hallucinating.  Well, Grassquatch struck again today and (this time) I enjoyed watching the reactions of cyclists and runners that they spooked with their clever trick.    

This next week I have a  half marathon on tap where I plan to run it at goal marathon pace.  This will actually be close to a PR for me if I can manage it.  I'm not planning much of a taper for it, so it will be a good test of my strength too.

Finally, I want to send a shout out to all the runners who completed the NYC Marathon today!  Amazing!