October 3rd

It’s the 3rd of October, and in my life as a runner, this date is significant. 

Exactly one year ago today was my first run back after my last (and 9th) stress fracture. This means that I am officially ONE YEAR STRESS-FRACTURE FREE. I am so grateful to be able to say that, despite how strange it might sound to all of you. I have to say that I’m not exactly sure how I managed to do it, but I’m so happy I did. October 3rd is similarly significant because it was the date of my first stress fracture six years ago. 

In this past year, I was able to:

  • train healthily for my first half marathon, and crush my goal (1:35) by a minute and a half (1:33:33).
  • find interval and other speed workouts fun again
  • train healthily for my first marathon, and also run faster (3:25:02) than expected (just under 3:30), with a negative split I would’ve been scared to see beforehand on paper (1:43:50-1:41:12)
  • qualify for the Boston Marathon by 9:58
  • run a 5k PR (track excluded)
  • run River to Sea
  • run HOOD TO COAST WITH NUUN!

I have big running plans for the near future, but I also know that patience really plays a huge role in becoming the best I can be. There have been several things in life lately that have given me good reason to totally dismiss the phrase, “good things come to those who wait.” The one thing that keeps me from doing so is running. Though, I should rephrase it a little:

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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.

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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. 🙂

Longest run ever!

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First 2 hour run! (Ignore the extra 16 seconds…I accidentally split my watch instead of stopping it, and did not realize this until 16 seconds later, apparently. Picture spoiler, I know.)

This past Sunday I ran my farthest run ever! I met up with Kate, Martin, Daniel, and Julie at Montgomery Middle School at 8:30am (Brennan was out of town 😦 ). It was a beautiful winter morning: sunny for once, as Sundays should be, 20-25 degrees, with minimal wind. Martin had mapped 17 miles, but I wan’t quite up for that…so I gmap-pedomedered (a new verb, by the way) a 13.1-miler, cutting off a loop in the middle. I thought breaking away from them at that point would work out well, since he and Kate were planning on doing 7 miles at 7:20 around then, which I also was not ready for. However…we missed an integral turn very early on in the run, and ended up adding on a couple miles. Once we reached the canal, we reassessed…they ended up running something similar to my original plan, which would now equate to 15-16 due to our mistake. I decided to turn early on Canal Rd. to run up tothe Griggstown Causeway (I love the word “causeway” – makes me think of going somewhere exciting). The towpath wasn’t an option – it was covered in 5-6 inches of uneven snow. Running through that for 3 miles would make me grumpy, not to mention frozen.

Included: 15.23 mile long run...my weeks are rather long run-heavy, but hey, it works....

Included: 15.23 mile long run…my weeks are rather long run-heavy, but hey, it works….

I got into a good rhythm once I waved Martin and Kate off on their extra loop. I checked in with my form via the circular mirrors on the side of the road meant for cars coming out of driveways, which was neat. I felt strong for the whole rest of the run, save for some noticeable tightness in my right Achilles/lower calf. Back at the parking lot, my watch read 1:57:xx. There’s no reason I shouldn’t run two hours! I thought. So, I ran a couple laps around the lot until my watch said the magic numbers: 2:00:00. I walked around and stretched, satisfyingly tired. Longest run ever! What a feeling! It would’ve been great to run with others for the entire run, but the company for the first seven was great! When I got home, I mapped the route I ended up running, and it came to 15.23 miles, putting me at an average of 7:52/mile! I secretly hate when I map a long run and it ends up being significantly over 8:00 pace when it didn’t feel like it was. I was pleased with this.

My favorite part of the long run!

My favorite part of the long run!

During the run, I asked myself, What am I doing differently? referring to the past four years in college, in regards to running. I think I’ve got it: Each night, I’m not worrying about injuring a specific body part more than any other. That is, I’m not letting any pain or ache get to the point where it could turn into a real injury. Normally, if I say, “my hip’s bothering me,” for example, it usually means I’ve already developed a stress fracture. That is why I have to be so incredible careful with my training. After a long run or a hard workout that leaves me wondering if it will push me over the edge and leave me injured, I ask myself, “If you could ice one thing right now, what would it be?” and it takes me more than five seconds to think of what to ice, I’m fine. That’s not to say aches and pains aren’t inevitable, but how you respond to it is very important. Catching them early and taking extra precautions (e.g., cross training for two days instead of one or none, hopping on a precautionary rehab routine along with your regular resistance training) is key. I am (hopefully) starting to respond to hard training as a “normal” runner does. I like it.