Monday, May 30, 2011

My Neck, My Back.... knee, my IT band, and my hip. Gotcha! And you thought I was going to write (the totally inappropriate for this blog) lyrics for a song of the same name.

Nope, this is actually a post about my running injuries. Yesterday was the one year anniversary of a running injury (this would later become injuries after a professional opinion) that I've been working hard to overcome.

The injury occurred at mile 8 1/2 during the 2010 Buffalo Half Marathon. I had been keeping a steady pace throughout the race and was on track for a finish time of 2:15:00 or possibly even less! My goal was to shave 15 mins or more off my previous half marathon time of 2:33:41.

Shortly after glancing at my Garmin and seeing that I had just reached 8.5 mile, I felt a tight, intense pain in my left knee. It felt like someone had looped a rubber band around my knee and pulled, HARD! I immediately stopped and tried to stretch. I then tried to walk a few paces after stretching and found walking to be more painful than running. So, I began to jog instead. The pain set in again after a few paces and I began the process over again- stretch, walk (too painful), jog, make a little headway, more pain...

This continued for the next mile and a bit. I was finding it hard to get a good stretch while standing (this too would be explained after getting a professional opinion). But eventually I was able to pick up the pace with only a small, nagging ache in my knee. I turned the volume up louder on my Ipod and pounded the pavement as fast as my injured knee could carry me. I hit the final straightaway and began to sprint- in hindsight probably not the best idea.
I had finished in 2:25:21- only 8 minutes less than the previous half marathon a year before.

Later that day I relaxed, took a few Advil, and iced my knee- fully expecting to feel fine after a few days. However, this process of ice, Advil, and high expectations continued into the summer. I would run but after 1-2 miles, the pain would become unbearable. I would ice, medicate, rest, and try again a few days later. I self-medicated via Internet research (never a good idea) and bought a foam roller. The foam roller helped a bit, yet I managed to run only a handful of days throughout the summer.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with running, as in, I hate doing it and love when it is over! But I actually began to fear running. I was afraid of running only a mile and a bit after I had worked hard to run over 13, I was afraid of the pain, and I was afraid of doing permanent damage.

Maybe you are wondering why I didn't go to the doctors- I still wonder the same thing myself. I think all those thoughts/feelings would take another blog post!
But I can tell you what finally motivated me to seek a professional opinion- 1. my mother-in-law scaring the crap out of me with horrible knee injury/knee replacement stories and 2. the school year began again and I'd often see runners on my drive to work. As I watched them, I thought to myself, "you should have been doing that all summer long!"

I went to see my doctor, who then sent me for an x-ray that did not show anything.
The next step was physical therapy. I showed up for my first appointment and 5 minutes after meeting my physical therapist (hereafter referred to as "PT Nazi"), he asked me if I was married. I began to wonder what I had gotten myself in to until he explained that he was about to leave a bruise on my leg and didn't want my husband to come after him. The "PT Nazi" ran two fingers down the side of my left leg from my knee to my hip. And he did so with so much pressure that I would in fact develop a bruise a few days later.

After a few more tests (none nearly as painful as the first), he informed me that my legs were uneven (left is longer than the right). Medical term: I had a leg length discrepancy.

Apparently this is a common problem and most people don't even realize it. It can happen from falling, stepping off a curb wrong, etc. I have no idea when or how it happened to me. Although, running with uneven legs causes a host of issues and because I did not know my legs were uneven while I trained, I developed: runners knee, an inflamed iliotibial band, and hip bursitis all in my left (and longer) leg.

I also trained too fast and too hard for this half marathon. For my first half marathon, I began training in December and increased my long run mileage in half to one mile increments. This half I began training in late March and increased my long run mileage in two mile increments each week (in one week I think I went from 3 miles one Sunday to 6 miles the next).

Here is a picture of your iliotibial band (IT band) or PT band as my cousin/running buddy Tom likes to call it. I am looking forward to introducing him in an upcoming blog post.
It is a big, important muscle for running that extends from the side of your knee up to your hip.

The hip bursitis looks like this:

So to wrap up what has become an excessively long post about my injuries, I had obviously done a great deal of damage, so I began 4 weeks with PT Nazi. He was insanely intense (therefore earning his nickname) but he taught me the correct stretches and exercises to strengthen my left leg. Stretching the IT band is not easy to do while standing which is why I had such a hard time getting relief during the race. While I joke about my physical therapist being the PT Nazi, he did get me back on the treadmill. I had become so overwhelmed by the injuries that I had psyched myself out. He encouraged me to begin again and I ran an entire mile that first day back!

One year later I am still healing- I have yet to run more than a few miles at a time and the routine of stretching and strengthening continues. I have found that consistent running helps, so I think that this summer goal (turned bet) fits well in the recovery plan. I also have time during the summer to (slowly) build up my mileage.

And even with uneven legs, I am confident that a 2:15:00 half marathon time is in my future....

On an extreme couponing side note:

Today, I bought a 12 pack of Scott toilet paper, 1 Crest toothpaste, and 2 boxes of CVS brand Allegra for .90 cents!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What do Navy Seal Team 6, extreme couponing, and running a mile every day have in common?

Believe it or not, all 3 do have something in common....they are my goals for the summer of 2011.
I know what you are thinking, Navy Seal Team 6? As a 5'0'', 110lbs woman my chances of being a Navy Seal, let alone a member of the elite Team 6 is slim to none. But, #1- it's good to dream and #2- I can wish to be as bad-ass them, right?

Extreme couponing is certainly more attainable than my previous goal. Yet after hearing what I consider horror stories, of coupons in file cabinets, binders, etc. and 20+ hours a week spent researching and organizing coupons- that goal was removed from the list too.
**I still plan to spend more time this summer following local grocery store ads and being more aware of available coupons, but not to the point where I become known as a crazy coupon lady!

So- I am left with the more feasible goal of running at least one mile every day of my summer vacation. Running a mile each day may seem like a drop in the bucket to many runners. Actually, most of my high school students who run track and cross country chuckled at my plan for the summer. But this girl has struggled with running consistency for a long time and I intend to break the cycle.

I did not plan to blog about my experiences this summer until my goals came up in a conversation with colleagues a few weeks ago. The reaction to my goals were a good mixture of, surprise, support (not so much for Team 6), and teasing. Not to mention, comments such as: "I think you are funny, but crazy", "Team 6, huh?", and my favorite reaction (the catalyst for the blog)- "you cannot run every day, it is against human nature."

This quote came from Lynn, a fellow teacher, whose constant banter with me is a running joke in our department. I decided to challenge him and the outcome was the following bet: I run everyday at least a mile, he buys me two lunches when we return to school. But, if I miss even one day, I buy him two lunches. Another member of our department couldn't help but get in on the bet too- Adam will also buy me one lunch or vice versa if I lose.

The outcome of the bet is not what will drive me this summer- it will be the sheer pleasure of proving Lynn (and "human nature") wrong.