Posts Tagged ‘injury’

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#46 – Running Goals

19 January 2008
Start Running

Start line of the 2007 Healthy Paws Healthy Cause fun run.

We all have to start somewhere. On January 1st, 2004 I went running for the first time in years. I made it just over a mile before I had to stop, gasping for breath and wondering if this former high school track and cross country guy could still call himself a runner! I set a few goals for myself and now here I am in 2008 with over a dozen running races and a few thousand miles underfoot since that humbling one-miler four years ago.

What initially set me down this path wasn’t even running – it was softball. In the fall of 2003 I played on my company’s co-ed softball team and was embarrassed to find myself out of breath just by jogging out to center field! Back in my college intramural days I could run all over the outfield without feeling winded, so I decided to get back in shape and I chose running as the means.

Running soon became the end, not just the means. I think a lot of runners can tell a similar tale of how just wanting to get in shape resulted in the discovery of a new passion for running. Ever since I have made sure to set many goals for myself, both for my running and for the rest of my life. These aren’t “resolutions”, mind you, but simply challenges to myself to remain focused in life.

The new year is a convenient time to review last year’s results and set new goals for the coming year. As early as last October I thought I had my running goals for 2008 all figured out – my plan was simple:

However, a deceptively severe hamstring strain has altered my plans. I don’t want to push myself to be ready for a spring marathon in case my hamstring doesn’t respond accordingly; plus, I haven’t been able to maintain an aerobic base over the winter like I’d been planning. So what do I do now?

No problem. Adapt my goals – after all, goals are challenges, not “assignments”. My 2008 racing goal is simply to finish the Wild West 100K, which will be my second ultramarathon and the first at that distance. My previous ultra was in 2006 when I ran the North Country Trail 50M as my primary running goal for that year. If all goes well, I’ll parlay that training into a sub-4:00 marathon, perhaps the Grand Rapids Marathon.

Clearly my time goals show that I’m not a competitive runner and my goals go beyond performance at races. In 2007 I ran 30% of my runs with a dog and I’m aiming to improve on that in 2008 with a goal of including a dog on at least a full one-third of my running sorties.

Along those lines I want to increase my trail running totals by logging at least 25% of my miles on trails. In 2007 I managed 22% of my distance with dirt underfoot. I toyed with the idea of bumping this goal up to 33% but I didn’t want to force myself onto the trails. I enjoy exploring (both the countryside and the neighborhood) during my long runs and that usually leads me out onto the roads.

It also leads me to my next goal: run a race purely for fun and photograph the experience. When aiming for specific finish times I don’t want to be distracted by a camera in hand, but seeing how much fun Scott Dunlap can have as a first-person race “journalist” has motivated me to try it out. While Scott is fast enough to document the front of the pack, my subjects will be from the middle of the field on back. 🙂

Lastly, I have the goal of running 2008 without injury. Realistically that’s near impossible – there are always aches and pains to varying degrees – but towards that end I plan to be much more proactive in preventing injury via cross-training, stretching, and responding more urgently to any tweaks. I probably could’ve cut a couple weeks from my hamstring recovery time had I actively sought treatment right away rather than waiting a month, hoping for it to heal.

Live and learn, which is another good reason for setting goals – it gives us a benchmark to measure our progress and allows for some instructive retrospective feedback for the next time we toe the line at the start of a new challenge in life.

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#43 – 2007 Summary

1 January 2008

A year of good news and bad news, so I’ll get the bad stuff out of the way. 2007 ended not as I’d hoped thanks to my hamstring injury but at least it’s getting better with physical therapy. The downside was that I didn’t run a single mile during all of December, the first time I’ve missed a whole month since I started running four years ago today.

The good news is that I had a great year of running yet again. I ran 13 races including a post-high-school PR in the 5K and then lowered that mark with the help of my dog. It was all part of 1018.5 miles underfoot in 2007 so despite the injury, I was happy to crack 1000 miles even if it’s just a number. One of my goals for the year was to run 250 times but I only reached 207; however, I probably would’ve hit my target if I’d been smart enough to not overtrain into an injury. Live and learn.

Another positive is this very blog – since writing reason to run #1 back in April (which has been one of the most popular articles) there have been over 5200 visitors to Why Run?, much more than I would’ve thought my writing would attract. Thanks for reading!

Looking forward to 2008 my first priority is to get running again. Before the hamstring acted up I was hoping to try for a marathon PR in May and do some serious training for a sub-4:00 finish. Hopefully I can still go for that, but right now the prime race on my radar this year is my first crack at the 100K distance in August. Aside from that event I’m still working on sorting out my race schedule but I won’t be racing as many 5Ks this time around.

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#42 – Put Some Elbow Grease Into It

21 December 2007

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to schedule a physical therapy appointment!  Since my hamstring has been slow to heal I decided I better have someone take a look at it.  I had an appointment for last Tuesday but the trainer called in sick.  No other time slot was available this week and with next week busy with the holidays, I was looking at waiting a long time.

No way.  I wanted to get this leg taken care of – I really miss running!  So I called another branch of the rehab outfit and set up an appointment for first thing this morning.  As I’m eating breakfast I get a call that the trainer at that branch was sick!  I decide to call the original branch to see if I would be lucky enough to find a cancellation.

Even better, almost…  they had me on the schedule for right that minute.  What?!  For some reason I got put on the schedule at both branches at the same time.  If I could leave at that moment, I could get there in time for a therapy session so Amanda and I rushed out the door, I dropped her off at 2 Feet 4 Paws and then buzzed on over to the rehab facility.

The trainer started by testing the strength and range of motion of both hamstrings.  He discovered that my injured right hammy was a bit less flexible, but the strength in it was virtually the same as the left.  After double-checking for any palpable muscle tears, he was able to conclude that my hamstring was not an acute strain but a significant case of micro-tearing.  Basically I overdid the running, which I had guessed was the cause in the first place.

So far, so good – everything was making sense.  He checked out my right knee and hips to ensure there was no related injuries and then started my leg cooking under a heating pad.  Once warmed up he prepared for some deep tissue massage.  Upon hearing this I remarked: “Sounds like fun” to which he replied: “Um, no it might actually be painful.”

HOLY COW!!  Was he ever right – it hurt.  He was actually using his elbow on my hamstring and leveraging his entire weight into the effort.  Ow ow ow, but in a good way.  There was no sharp pain, just a strong soreness, if that makes sense.

After the massage he worked on flexibility.  While lying on my back he grabbed my right foot and next thing you know he’s pushing it up to the ceiling while forcing my knee to remain locked.  It was a pretty tough stretch but not too bad, then he asked me to push down with my leg against his hands.  It’s difficult to apply much force when your muscles are fully stretched out but I got a good push in.

Then he had me stop and relax the leg, after which he stretched it farther up and out!  Yow!  Once again another push against him, relax, and then he stretched it even further!  My foot was in a position relative to my head where I haven’t seen it before.   He asked me to push down again and all my leg could do was tremble.  Finally he put my leg back down and and with that I was done.

I’ll be going back next week for a follow up with instructions to do a lot more stretching in the meantime.  He strongly recommended that I use The Stick so I went out and bought one tonight.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about them and I’ll let you all know how I like it once I get a little more experience with it.

Thankfully my leg was never badly injured and the trainer was confident that I’d be running again soon.  He asked what level of running I wanted to get back to and I told him 20-40 miles per week.   He replied: “OK since it’s winter I’ll just write down 10-20 per week.”  I had to correct him; I run all year round outdoors.  He thought I was crazy enough but when he found out that I’m eyeing a 100K this fall, he flat out called me nuts.  That’s OK – sometimes it’s fun to be a little nutty.

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#41 – Not Running is No Fun

6 December 2007

I haven’t written much lately for a couple reasons:  1) Amanda and I have been busy starting up our new business, and 2) I haven’t been running.

The latter is significant because much of my blog is about my running and without that, what do I write about?  OK there are plenty of other topics, but also important is that not running can be depressing.  It frustrates me to no end that I haven’t been able to run – I missed all the good 50-degree weather in early November and now with snow and ice on the ground I can’t even ride my bike.  I’ve used the stationary bike at home a few times but that’s even worse than a treadmill.  I did get in a great long ride in mid November – 35 miles in 2.5 hours, and it was fun the whole way.  Since I don’t have clips on my pedals it’s hard for me to engage my hamstrings, which is good for my injured right one.

I don’t think I ever recovered from the Harvest Hustle and Doggie Dash, running 5K PRs on back-to-back weekends.  Or rather, I didn’t allow myself to recover.  I was feeling so strong after those races that my next couple workouts were faster than usual and after the second one my hamstring tightened up afterwards.  I took a couple days off and then ran a couple more 5-milers, the last one on Halloween, but it was still feeling tight, so I figured I’d be conservative and rest it for an entire week.

After the week off I ran a couple short runs under 3 miles with a day rest in between, and my hamstring felt no better than before!  Ugh.  So I took TWELVE days off with no running, although I did get some cycling in.  I ran on Thanksgiving day for 3 miles with Haven and my hamstring felt great!  No problems.  I took the next day off just to be sure, then ran 3 miles with Beacon and as soon as I got home and stopped running, my hamstring was more sore than it’s ever been and I was even limping for the rest of the day!  What the heck?

Partly I can “blame” Beacon.  We ran at what felt like a 9:00 pace but when I mapped it out afterwards I was alarmed to learn that he had pulled me to a 7:30 pace!  Still, it felt easy and I was paying close attention to my legs and never felt a twinge of anything until after the run.  Now I’m in the middle of another forced layoff and just hoping that my hamstring will actually heal.

Hopefully it is healing.  I haven’t felt any tightness in about a week and I’m actually considering running on it – very slowly and very briefly – sometime soon.  Yet there’s some trepidation because the last two times that my leg felt healed it turned out not to be, so maybe I should wait another whole week just to be certain?

I know that healing takes time, but what’s so odd to me is that my initial injury never felt anywhere close to serious.  Just a little stiffness in the hamstring; in fact I’ve had that before after some speed workouts.  It’s never hurt to the point that I couldn’t run without pain but I wanted to catch it early before injuries started cascading.  This has never felt like an injury that would’ve required more than a couple days to heal, yet here I am.

The good thing is that Amanda and I have been busy with 2 Feet 4 Paws so most days it’s easy to forget that I’m not running that day, but I can feel the effects.  It’s harder to wake up when I’m “not a runner” and food doesn’t taste as good when I haven’t been exercising.  Time heals all wounds and eventually it will heal this one, but boy is it tough having to wait!

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#16 – Speedy Recovery

24 May 2007

If you’re ever unfortunate enough to get injured in an accident, the speed of your recovery will most likely be proportional to your fitness at the time. Take for example, Danelle Ballengee

Ballengee is one of the world’s top endurance athletes, most notably as a mountain runner and adventure racer. Last winter she was badly injured when she fell 50 feet down a rock face while on a training run with her dog, Taz, who wound up being instrumental in saving her life. This happened in December 2006, and doctors figured she’d need up to six months to heal her shattered hip before she could walk again.

Well, guess who competed in a 12-hour adventure race under the name “How’s This For Rehab?” about a week ago? Five months later and she finished among the front-runners! In fact, some believe that her injuries at the time would’ve been fatal for most people. Not only did she survive, she recovered in remarkable fashion.

Running sure is fun, but it can also be a great insurance policy even if running caused the malady. Go Danelle!

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#10 – Learn to Exercise Prudence

21 April 2007

It’s Saturday morning and I’m signed up for the Striders Saturday Classic 10-mile race. Sadly, I’m sitting here writing this entry instead. Why? I’ve decided to be conservative and rest a minor injury.

Last Sunday I ran 16 miles exploring the countryside, then Monday I ran 6 miles; after the Monday run my left achilles became quite stiff and sore. It seemed OK during the run but when trying to stretch out afterward, I had far less range of motion. Even walking was difficult the rest of the day.

Fortunately Tuesday it felt great and I even got through softball practice with no problems. So Wednesday I set out for a 5 mile run and after one mile the achilles got stiff again. I should’ve stopped right then, but I was running someone and didn’t want to leave him hanging, so I toughed it out. Oops. The stiffness and soreness returned.

This time I hadn’t regained full range of motion by Thursday, a day later. Still, I went to softball practice and survived, but this time I could notice that my ankle wasn’t 100%. By Friday the range of motion was back to normal, but not without a feeling of tightness when pushed to the limit.

Alas, reasoning that 10 racing miles on the road would bring the problem back as bad as ever, I decided last night to skip the race. My ankle feels good now, but if it’s only “Tuesday good” then trying to run 10 miles could lead to a more severe injury. What a bummer – I was really looking forward to this race as Striders puts on good events and the course is reputed to be quite hilly. I even got a cool bib number: 88. Reminds me of a certain quote from Back to the Future! “When this baby hits 88 miles per hour…”

I believe I made the right decision, but it’s not easy to pass up a fun race, especially when I currently feel OK and could probably have finished. Further straining my achilles, however, could have grounded my running ways for a long time.