Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where the heck have I been?

I have been meaning to write an update post for weeks now. I kept putting it off until I had something concrete to write about. I finally realized that everything is always in flux, and you can't predict what will happen tomorrow. So, I will give you what I have now. So many things have changed.

1. I decided a while back not to run CIM.
2. I have a new coach.
3. I am running pain free again.

The CIM Decision

Marathon training was going really well several weeks ago, and I was really excited about CIM. When my IT band started acting up, I knew that I needed to be very careful. I tangled with Gerdy's evil tubercle in 2010 and was out of commission 7 long months. I now know that you can't force it with IT band pain. I also know that rest does not make it better. Treatment of the underlying issue is the only way to get rid of it for good.

Given that, it was pretty easy to make the decision to drop out of marathon training. It sucked slightly that I didn't have a good race to show for all of the training I had done. However, fitness does not disappear overnight. If I am smart and make sure that my body can handle the training load, I may set myself up for a brilliant next marathon training cycle.

My New Coach

Finding myself suddenly injured, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my training. I realized that I made a classic training mistake in that I didn't obey my own 3/1 rule of build/recovery. This rule requires 1 week of recovery for every ~3 weeks of hard training. I was feeling so amazing that I thought maybe I didn't need the down time. Actually, I wasn't really paying much attention until I started having pain in my leg. Then, I looked at my training plan and realized what had gone wrong. I had stressed my tissues beyond their ability to recover. One of my favorite blogs right now is written by Craig Payne and called the Running Research Junkie. I particularly liked his recent post about how to prevent overuse injuries. One passage really sang to me:

"The training routine:
The key to load management is the training routine. That is where a good coach or at least good commonsense comes in. Its all about managing the load on the tissue to such a point that the load encourages adaptation and the load is not so high that the tissues get injured. Way back there was the good old 10% rule to not increase the weekly total by more than 10% or the length of the longest run by more than 10%. The evidence does not actually support that and most coaches have become more sophisticated than that. Its more now about increasing the load, then backing off a bit to allow some consolidation, then upping the ante again. It also the old fashioned hard day/easy day. This is where the value of a good coach comes in as every one will respond differently to training loads. Compared to the time way back when I used to run competitively, I am surprised how many runners have days off these days; but it is probably one of the more effective ways to prevent injury – reduces the cumulative load in the tissues."

I absolutely believe in this principle and am really good about employing it with the athletes I coach. However, one of the reasons I hire a coach is to help me with my training decisions because, left to my own devices, I will run myself into the ground. The injury forced me to evaluate where I was headed and I realized the coaching relationship I had wasn't a good fit for me. Nothing at all wrong with the workouts, but the program was too aggressive for me. The ironic thing is that I was adding little things in here and there and, in many ways, designing my own training plan. So, ultimately, the injury was my fault. But, I had to admit that the reason I was doing this was because I either didn't trust the plan I was given or just didn't like it.

I contrasted this coaching relationship with the one I had with Nicole Hunt from 2007-2010. I am not naturally someone who feels the need to challenge a coach's program or constantly make changes. With Nicole, I did every single workout she gave me and followed her advice to the letter. So something was off with this one. It was a valuable lesson to learn for my own future as a coach. I think it is a hard thing to find a good coach-athlete fit. When you do find it, my advice is to hang on to it.

So, who is my new coach? Well, I decided I needed to go big or go home. I am now being coached by Dr. Jack Daniels through the Run S.M.A.R.T. Project. I had contacted Dr. Daniels back in 2010 when I was looking to make a coaching change but ultimately decided then to go with a local coaching option. I am thrilled to be able to work with him now.

Running Pain Free

It's the craziest thing. After the torture fest in Arizona a few weeks back, I came back to Sacramento to heal. I wasn't healing very fast and kept in contact with Doc Ball. He explained that I needed further treatment and that I needed to continue to do the strength exercises he gave me. These exercises were designed as a long-term fix and not necessarily to get me back to running quickly. The strength exercises were fatiguing my muscles in a way that kept me from being able to run pain free for longer than 4-5 miles at a time.

I went to see Dr. Lau here in Sacramento, and he found some additional problems that he felt might be causing my symptoms. The first visit didn't quite get at the heart of the matter, but the second visit pretty much nailed it. He started testing my functional strength and noticed that my adductors on the hurt leg were not working. He traced that up the chain until he found that my obliques were all jacked up. The external obliques on my left side were hard as a rock (not in a good way) and the internal obliques on the right side were concrete. He worked through the adhesions and tested my strength again and that seemed to have done the trick. I ran that night for 7 miles with ZERO pain. I was only able to go about 4 miles prior to the visit before the onset of pain. I was ecstatic. The next night I ran a workout and again had no pain. Not every run has been as miraculous as those first couple because my body is still learning how to behave properly. But, I am making significant progress.

When I thought about the pattern he described in my obliques, I realized that the blame belonged to two little furballs that I run almost every day (they run about 30-40 mpw). I run them using a waist pack. The "fast dog" goes on the left side and pulls me ahead. The slow dog goes on my right and constantly drags me from behind. When I asked Dr. Lau whether that could be the cause he said, OF COURSE! STOP DOING THAT! Or, at least change sides with them every run. I knew that my abs were getting worked when I ran them, but I always joked that I was being more efficient and getting in a core workout too. Doing that a few times a week for 3-4 miles would probably be okay. 30+ mpw over 6 months is probably a bit too much. Add on the hard training and the lack of recovery and you get one big shitfest.

So, I am finally turning the corner with this injury. I have been able to run fast all along (ala Lauren Fleshman) but haven't been able to run more than 5 miles easy. I ran 10 miles easy on Sunday and that was a huge breakthrough. My new coach has had me doing speed work for the past 3 weeks the likes of which I have never seen in my running career. I have been pumping out 200s and 400s like a mad woman and have surprised the crap out of myself with the speed that my little legs have. I have always considered myself a marathon slogger, but I am somehow churning out 200m repeats in 33-36 seconds with 400s in 74-77. Cray! I have to say it has been a ton of fun to switch it up. Since I haven't been able to run long, I have really savored the faster running. It's not particularly hard for me. It's just a different kind of stress.

Needless to say, I am learning a lot about myself through this and about training in general. I am excited about seeing where this speed work, combined with the fitness I built before the injury, takes me over the next several months. I am tentatively targeting the Napa Marathon in March as my next big race. One thing I know for certain is that I won't push it if my body isn't coming around quickly enough for that race. I am in no hurry.

One very important lesson that I have learned from all of this is that I am ultimately responsible for me. I employ coaches, chiropractors and massage therapists to help me, but I have to be willing to listen to what they're saying or trust my own instincts when they either aren't speaking up when they should or are speaking a language that doesn't make sense to me. I ultimately make the choice about what to do next and can't blame anyone else for what happens.        

 If I'm being honest, I am excited to be spectating at CIM this year. I have 5 athletes running the race this year and am just as excited for them (maybe even more) as I would be if I were running it myself. The Genius is also poised to have a breakthrough race and I hope to witness that as well! This is a great year to be a spectator. The challenge is going to be getting around the course to see everyone. I can't wait!