Friday, October 11, 2013

In the blink of an eye

I am walking a tight rope right now. It is a very thin rope that represents the line between being super fit and being injured. If I maintain my balance, I will stay on the rope and continue to train hard. If I lose my balance, I will fall into the abyss that consumes injured runners. To do big things you have to walk the tight rope.

About 2 weeks ago, I ran the best workout of my life. I'm not exaggerating. It was 14 miles total and I had 3 x 3 miles at 6:10-6:20 pace with 3 minute recovery jogs in between. I was lucky enough to have a friend just crazy enough to do this workout with me in the dark at 5:30 a.m. We warmed up for a couple of miles and then took off, headlamps flashing along the bike trail. I settled into a nice pace for the first couple of miles and finished the first repeat in 18:36 (6:12 pace). It felt controlled though not necessarily easy. I jogged around a bit and then took off for the second repeat. My legs were feeling excellent at this point and I was shocked to see 18:15 (6:05 pace) on my watch when I hit 3 miles. Wow. I ran the last 3 miles in 18:17 (6:05 pace), with the last mile clocking in at 6:00.

In my build up to Eugene, I had run this workout about 3 weeks out from the race and nailed it. I remember that workout being the mental game changer for me. I knew I was fit. I ran those in 18:50-18:59 (6:18-6:20 pace). So, here I am, 10 weeks out from my goal marathon and I am running 10-15 seconds per mile faster than that? I actually started to freak out a little. thinking maybe I was peaking way too early in this training cycle. My coach tried to assure me this was not a bad thing and that I still had room to get even fitter. I just couldn't shake this ominous feeling I had.  

That feeling was there for a reason. On my evening run that night, I was stopped after about 3 miles by pain in my lower leg. I thought it was my peroneus longus muscle for a while, but the muscle seemed to be okay. I took the next day completely off and then ran the following day going about 7 miles. My entire right leg was tightening up on me.

I tried rolling and getting massage. While the muscles released after the massage, my leg went right back to a rock-like state after every run.  I knew something was really off. I then tried taking days off from running and just cross trained on my Elliptigo. The pain still came on during the next run around 2.5 miles into it. I started playing around with speed and found that I could run fast without any discomfort, but the tightness would start up once I slowed down.

I contacted Dr. John Ball knowing that, if I wanted a shot at getting back to my training, I needed to act fast. I couldn't take much time off from running or I would not be able to ramp up my training in time to peak for CIM. Losing fitness was less of a concern to me given where I was just 10 days before. I left Monday morning for Arizona for the Maximum Mobility Spa. I spent three days in treatment for 5-7 hours each day and walked out with a tenderized right leg and the bruises to prove it.
After day 1

After day 3
I always learn a ton from these visits and this one was no exception. I learned that the IT band attaches in 2 places and that where I was feeling the pain was the lower attachment point, below and to the right of the knee cap. I learned that the manual treatment on my leg hurt Dr. Ball just as much as it hurt me. He kept saying, "how can someone as small as you create this much damage?" I was tenderized on the EPAT machine for more time than I care to recall. This softened up the tissue so John could get in and manually get at the deep adhesions. I also learned that IT band injuries have few cross training friends. The IT band likes swimming and maybe biking, but not elliptical, pool running or ElliptiGO. So, the hard XT I did on the ElliptiGO all week was really exacerbating the problem. Good to know. I got some challenging rehab exercises along with a swift kick in the ass on my way out Wednesday and headed back to Sactown.

My tight rope is very thin and wobbly right now. I can easily send myself flying by trying to force myself back into my training. I have to be patient, smart and respectful of my body's needs or the tissue will not heal. Dr. Ball told me to run every other day. I run to the point that I feel the pain, and then no longer. The idea is that with 48 hours of rest in between runs, the length of time I can run before hitting the pain threshold will increase to have me running as long as I want relatively soon. Then, I can start back to back days of running.

At this point I've taken a total of 4 days off from running scattered over two weeks. Losing a couple more while I heal is no big deal. I am using the bike as my cross training tool but will resort to swimming if necessary if biking starts to irritate the tissue too. I run today to see if I can get farther than 4 miles before feeling the tightness come on. That's where I left it on Wednesday--being able to run 4 without pain. I started with 1.5 miles on Monday, so I'm already making progress.

I had questioned whether I should spend the time and money to head to AZ for this treatment and now there's no question in my mind that I made the right decision. I had a lot of damage that needed to be dealt with and there is no better place to get healed than Maximum Mobility. I also now have a good diagnosis and some rehab exercises that will help me build my hip strength in all the right places. It is also fun to meet elite runners swooping in for some TLC from the good doc. It's like a parade of Runner's World covers. I felt very lucky to get so much of John Ball's time, even though that meant putting up with his sarcastic sense of humor.

Wish me luck, peeps!