The most impatient-sounding update ever

In my post reflecting on my marathon, I mentioned how I was used to sitting on the sidelines and spectating my friends’ races. Well…apparently it was decided I should go back to that for the time being, because here I am. I’ve been doing well with physical therapy; I had my third appointment today and have added in some additional exercises to strength and stabilize the pelvic floor. My PT said I should try running within 24 hours of today’s session, to see if we had activated my glutes and hips enough to make my ITB stable and pain-free. Since I was without pain the rest of the day, I decided to give it a go and try to run about a mile in the evening. After about a minute, I could feel a dull pain that I knew would not be going away. I did not feel like it was a good idea to run more than five minutes, so I stopped and walked. DAMN IT. I was optimistic; both he (the PT) and I thought I would be fine to run a mile. So, as all runners who have had this experience know, that definitely ruined my day.

Last night was the third week in a row I spectated a race. The past two weeks, there were track meets held on weekday evenings that I would have totally participated in if I had been able to. I attended both, took pictures, timed splits, talked to people. And then went home thinking about how much better my day would have been had I been able to run, exhaust myself, push myself, test myself and see what I could do. I missed out on a 5k last night in which I think I could have contended for second or third overall, and more importantly, a race that my running group entered as a team for the first time. For some reason, the post-race-you-couldn’t-race-because-you’re-hurt slump I have experienced many times before hurt way worse this time around. Maybe because I have so many people to run with, and I feel like I’m missing out on social opportunities. Maybe because the marathon was so awesome and I thought I was finally over my injury-prone tendencies. I hate that phrase “sometimes the only thing you can do is run” when I’m injured, because I feel like screaming, I know! But I can’t! So what should I do? Frustration.

End vent. Let me just share the top 8 reasons why I need to get better NOW (I never claimed to be a patient person…).

1. This. Interpret as you will.

2. I signed up, afraid the sprint would fill…it is on July 20th….

3. Say hi to the the team captain…(August 3rd)

r2c 4. Ummm, of course this is happening. Definitely what I’m getting healthy for the most! (August 24th-25th)

htc_300x300

5. I’m an Ambassador for this race, on October 13th…

6. I WANT TO WIN. THAT IS ALL. (November 3rd. Not yet registered, I am trying to get a comped or discounted entry now that my store is a sponsor…that’s how I roll run.)

7. I decided to do the Philadelphia Half recently (November 17th). Despite how much I wanted to run the marathon again immediately after the NJ Marathon…it will be Boston 2014. Clearly it took a toll on my body I didn’t realize. It sounds ambitious maybe, but I’m going to try for as close to 90 minutes as I can (current PR from first and only half is 1:33:33).

8. Princeton Intervals. Workouts with them were highlights of my week, and it definitely feels like something is missing now that I can’t join them on Tuesday nights.

PI after winning 3rd place team at the Firecracker 5k. It was bittersweet because I can’t wait to join them again….

Phew, there you go. My ideal second half of 2013. One thing is for certain: I’m going to rehab like I’ve never rehabbed before. This quadballer is going to wear out. My therabands are going to snap (in addition to the three times they did yesterday). My core and glutes are going to laugh in injury’s face. And all this is being said by the runner who already was doing ITB-specific PT for a year and a half. I’m going to take it to a new level. Wish me luck ( I need it)!

Neurac PT

Note: Read on for some valuable strengthening exercises!

When you have done all you can possibly think to do on your own to no avail, it’s time to seek some outside help. As someone who aspires to be a physical therapist someday, I get excited at the challenge of trying to learn new things to fix my own body. After doing an open water swim last Saturday that left my ITB in more pain than ever, though, I was beyond frustrated and decided to make an appointment for PT from someone other than myself.

There is nothing worse than getting your hopes up before seeing a doctor or PT that the appointment will be the answer to all your problems and you will walk out totally optimistic only to be told, I’m not sure what is wrong. I am speaking 100% from experience here. If I was going to seek professional opinions and assistance, I was going to go above and beyond to find a place that would actually tell me that something is wrong. If “nothing is wrong,” well, it’s hard to fix anything, isn’t it? So, that’s why I went to the Neurac Institute, which uses “Redcord® and one’s own body weight to restore proper neuromuscular control and functional stability for sports or daily activities.”

This was one of the exercises I did at PT. Looks fun, huh?

At many other physical therapy centers, therapists will test individual muscle strength; but, how helpful are strong right lats, for example, when you’re running a marathon with hundreds of other muscles? At Neurac, the therapists hook you up to slings and bungee cords to test your muscle strength while nearly every other muscle is also in use, making it a much more practical test of strengths and weaknesses. Basically, if the cords are shaking, you’re not stable – simple as that. During my first visit, it was clear that I was more stable in my right side, but my right shoulder sometimes leaned back to compensate during movements. My body rarely makes any sense to therapists and doctors. So it was no surprise that at my second visit almost a week later, the entire home exercise program focusing on the spiral line was null, because I was much better that time around, and went up from a 1 to a 3 on all the tests. He changed his mind and decided the problem was entirely on the left side. I‘m not exactly sure what I did right, but I was pleased. 

That was Monday. I’m getting to the point where some days I feel like I’d be fine to run, I’m just waiting for more consecutive days feeling like that. I know myself too well to trust no pain as indication I should run. Believe it or not, it makes more than that to convince me I’ll be fine when I actually start running (source: every run I’ve done that started fine and left me walking back…). Some days I feel just like I did after my ITB gave out on May 16th (over a month ago now…ughhhhhh). One of those days, unfortunately, is today.

I do realize that not 100% resting is setting me back a little, but I think I’d go crazy if I did nothing this time of year. This week is the start of Masters Swimming! More on this in another post soon!

In addition to the PT exercises I have been keeping up with since February 2012 when I hurt my right ITB badly, I’ve added the ones that the PT sent me…I did them all yesterday, and here are some that I think every runner should incorporate into his or her strength training routine! Small, stabilizing muscles and core >>> bigger muscles. They will get enough of a workout when you’re running/biking/swimming. I’ve always been a believer of that.

lumbar

hip 2hip

Another thing I’ve upgraded to in the past week is…THE QUADBALLER. I have been rolling on some kind of foam roller – cheap, ProTec brand, harder black styrofoam, The Grid, etc. for years nearly every single day. People say rolling hurts…um, it doesn’t anymore. Even when I have an ITB injury. What is wrong with me and my pain tolerance, right?! While I think it is pretty high (that doesn’t explain my total inability to use the cold shower at the pool this morning at all…), I really don’t feel the rollers much anymore. I could feel a tight spot with the Grid on my ITB, but it just wasn’t doing much for it. Then I found the Quadballer! Because it is the same texture and density of my beloved TP Massage Ball, and it is contoured, it gives a much smoother roll. Within a day, I found a difference. I will hereafter be using “quadball” as a verb…also other forms of speech in casual conversation. You may hear:

“I quadballed last night.”

“I want to quadball before work today.”

“I’m taking my quadballer to work so I can quadball throughout the day.”

“We are out of quadballers; I sold them all.”

QuadballerGo ahead, make fun of me. 🙂

Learn to Row Day

It is really natural for a runner to consider biking or swimming as a form of cross training or another endurance activity to take up and try to improve in just for fun. I did that very early on, and while there is a lot of work left to do for my abilities in those fields to catch up to my running, the novelty of the sport of cycling and swimming has worn off…or was perhaps never quite there. While a team sport, like a pickup game of softball or kickball sounds like fun, I would never commit to regularly participating…too much skill and standing around, not enough pure rhythmic, repetitive expenditure. Rowing was a mystery to me all throughout high school and college. My high school did not have a team, but the shiny new Camden County boathouse on the Cooper River was a turn-around point for a ten-miler I did from my house. When there was a regatta and we didn’t know, my teammates and I would dodge bows and fear for our lives for a few minutes, then take another route instead.  In college, I knew of a couple people who were on the club crew team and practiced earlier than my team did during indoor track season. This was about all I knew about rowing. Then, I started working at the running store in 2010, and realized how prominent rowing was in Princeton. My first week of work was also the first week of work for two [former] coworkers training with the National team at the Princeton boathouse. One was a tall, strong rower and the other a short, strong coxwain (spoiler: the former went on to win bronze in the 2012 Olympics). We became close working weekends together when their practice was over. Sometimes I would ask questions, but the sport was still so foreign to me that it remained mysterious and intriguing.

I met several other rowers at the store after that, as many would come in for running shoes or gels and chat about their training. Early this year, I thought about what it would be like if I tried to row. I train like a triathlete year-round; the upper-body strength requirement wouldn’t come as difficult to me as many other runners. I also thrive on endurance and I imagined that a rowing workout or race would be pretty mentally and aerobically comparable to running a workout or race. If there was a perfect place and time to try, it was here and now, when I can do whatever I want with my training and am immersed in an area where it is just as common for someone to row than to play baseball.

So on Saturday, June 1, I participated in National Learn to Row Day with the Princeton National Rowing Association at Mercer Lake. I decided to do this event versus others in the area because 1.) I would actually be able to row on the water, not just in the tank and 2.) it was free (duh). I showed up pretty darn excited. After a brief introduction from Princeton National Rowing Association, a group of about 20 of us went inside to the erg room. I had never been on the erg before, mainly because I didn’t want to use it the wrong way, honestly. PNRA rowers taught us the technique in steps, and it was much easier to get the hang of that way. To improve the cross training of everyone reading, here is the proper way to use the erg:

1. The Catch (position 1): Your seat is all the way forward, knees vertical, arms and wrists straight.

The catch.

The catch.

2. The Drive (phase 1): The legs extend powerfully, the torso leans back, and the arms bend at the elbow to pull the handle to the sternum. In this phase, it was very helpful to think, legs-body-arms.”

The drive.

The drive.

3. The Finish (position 2): Legs are contracted and straight, abs are engaged as the torso is extended back.

The finish.

4. The Recovery (phase 2) : the triceps work to send the arms forward. The torso then flexes forward, and then legs bend as you slide back up the catch position. This is essentially the opposite order of phase 1: “arms, body, legs.”

The recovery.

We stayed on the erg for about 20 minutes. It was amazing how much more efficient (and fast) you can get after spending time getting your form correct! It was way different than running, when you can let your mind run free and not concern yourself with what you’re really doing. I suppose once it becomes second nature rowing could become more like running, mentally, but I still think there needs to be more focus involved. [This is a good video demonstrating proper form.]

After the erg lesson, it was time to get on the water! I was able to get out twice, in two different boats. Some of the Mercer Juniors (high school rowers) hopped in the eight boats with us (and coxed) so we would have some experienced rowers with us. The coach’s boat went out beside us and we did some sequences that would allow all of us newbies a chance to really row and understand how it feels. One thing we did I felt was most effective was having the bow four and the stern four take turns rowing together. The feeling of making a strong, smooth stroke and feeling the breeze on the lake was so awesome! (In other words, it was cool that I was part of actually making the boat move….)

This turned into a rather long post, but in summary: I loved rowing, it didn’t hurt my ITB at all, and now I have a new cross training activity that certainly isn’t easy!

Lake Mercer…I will be back.

I guess I’m hurt…but here’s how I’ve kept busy

It’s probably easy to figure out that I’ve been out of the loop (blogging, reading blogs, doing exciting runs that are causes for exciting blog posts) because I’m hurt. If not…well there, I said it. I used to be accustomed to this…but to be honest, with the luck I’ve had this year, I am really disappointed. Long story short, the ITB injury isn’t a debilitating injury like last winter’s ITB injury on the other side, or a stress fracture. I can walk around without pain and do short little jogs across rooms, but I know that if I went on a steady run, the grinding pain at the knee would be inevitable. So, I am trying to be patient. I have races to run this summer! I’ve never been injured this time of year, and I need to get better so I can enjoy it! Let me reword that: I like running when it starts to get really hot so that the rest of the summer I am already acclimated and it’s no big deal. Honestly though, call me crazy but  there is no weather that is bad running weather for me. I’m doing all I can for it, and that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

The route.

My last post, on the surface, seemed like everything went downhill. That’s not true though, as my life has a strange way of balancing itself out, often by weighing down both ends to the extreme. On Memorial Day weekend, I attempted to not get so down about the inability to do a long run on such a nice Sunday by planning an alternative: a bike ride to Lambertville and back. It was also my first bike ride with someone else. I wasn’t sure what to expect…crazy, considering I prefer to run with other people as much as possible. You may remember the time I ran to Lambertville with Brennan in February…we basically took the same exact route there, but biked to our starting point from where we were. Some of the hills and gusts of wind were rough, but I tried to not let my speed get too low. I find that my pace varies probably a bit too much on rides, depending on elevation, and sometimes I don’t push hard enough and lose focus. This ride was a new experience for me because I was constantly paying attention. While nothing feels as satisfying as running, I could tell by the end that I had made a much greater effort than usual, without totally overexerting. The trip there was about 18 hilly miles, for which which we averaged 15.2 mph. We found a great sandwich shop when we arrived and ate lunch on the bank of the Delaware River. Getting started again, especially starting up THE BEAST (River to Sea Relay reference: hardest leg of the relay…now imagine it on a bike) was rough on our quads, but we made it up and over. Unfortunately my bike buddy suffered a tire blowout less than four miles from our finish, and I had to finish alone and turn back for a rescue mission via car. I ended up averaging

The view.

16 mph for the return trip, which was our goal (yes, we had a pace goal for this casual ride, whose blog do you think you’re reading?!?). All in all, it was a great way to spend a cool spring day when running unfortunately wasn’t an option. It had been awhile since I hadn’t spent a weekend in a huge rush, driving and running around trying to get to places on time and get things done. This weekend was just what I needed – the very opposite of that. I enjoyed it for what it was, and didn’t think about what it would have been like had I been able to run. Easier said than done…but logically, what’s the use in that?

 

I love presents!

I’ve been getting a lot of packages at work…this makes me happy. I never get packages at home! Often, they are seeded clothing pieces, since I am serving as our store’s “apparel liaison” and therefore get to try out some of the clothing we stock so we can better sell it. On Tuesday, however, I noticed there was a small, lightweight box addressed to me from an unfamiliar address in Massachusetts. I opened it and was so surprised! I immediately burst into laughter. The contents:

When in Boston this year for the marathon and expo, I was on a mission with one of my shoe-company rep friends to steal a Sam Adams 26.2 pint glass. Sunday night, we knew it was now or never, and we tried so hard only to return from the bars empty handed. I can’t tell you how many times we ordered the special edition brew. I mean, not just for the glass, but we definitely would have added more variety if not for the glass mission! So, he had sent me a plastic 26.2 glass! How awesome is that? Apparently at his recent sales meeting in Boston, they gave them out…with the yellow handkerchiefs, I suppose just to look good and not snap. I’ll get a real pint glass someday, this one is good enough until then. 🙂

I never put recipes on here, mainly because my version of cooking or otherwise food-preparing would probably be mocked by everyone else out there. That being said, I’ll supply you with the specifics of the really interesting sandwich I had in Lambertville from Ennis Market (made by someone else, see what I’m doing here?). It was awesome. Raisin bread + turkey + scallion cream cheese. It was put in the panini press, but I’m sure a toaster oven would do the trick. Simple. The onion perfectly complemented the sweetness of the raisin…who would’ve thought?

Random link of the day…I was introduced to Kristen Bell’s sloth meltdown clip on Ellen tonight. I love it. She is now my storytelling idol. I think it’s great that celebrities act ridiculous about things just like everyone else does, in some way. If you’re feeling down, definitely watch this gem.