Let’s talk about injuries!!!!!
Why am i so excited and why has the hiatus of posting anything been so long? BECAUSE I AM NOT A REAL BLOGGER!!! Regardless I’m hoping people googling various running injuries will get a kick out of the last 12 months of my life.
Summer 2015 was a blast. I did the brave thing of getting on a ketogenic diet. To be honest of everyone who’s afraid of it: this diet really does not suck as much as you expect especially after the first couple of weeks if you do it right! First of all, I know what some are going to think: OMG your cholesterol. I did the weird thing of going to the student health center and asking them for a pretty comprehensive blood panel. Nothing was really different compared to eating a carb containing diet. Not even cholesterol! Imagine that. I spent almost 4 months frying everything in butter and having bacon for breakfast 3 times a week and no health stat really budged. Plus you know the added benefit that I fell from 170 to 150 pounds (i’m like 5 4 or 5 5 tall) almost instantly (well not instantly – in like 4 weeks). Then I kind of stopped losing any weight and gave up on the diet (yeah i really wanted some sweets damn it). but sweets are not why i gave up on the diet. no. running was. although after the first week i had a million metric tons of energy (it’s weird what happens to your body when it’s raiding all of your fat stores), running was so hard. I thought either my heart was going to explode or I was going to incinerate from the inside. Not like “oh the weather is hot, i feel hot” hotness. No, it’s like a different kind of hotness that very much resembles hot flashes upon google searching. yep, while most people feel cold in ketosis i was burning up from the inside every time i was making an effort. Other googling and not primary research literature suggested it might be a thing for women because it is apparently possible to store estrogen along with fat and water. so now it makes sense. But really really really…hard to run. The first time i ran actually, only 3 miles. i threw up at mile 2.5. Your first time in ketosis your aerobic limit is gonna plummet really low. I even ran a half in ketosis. It really didn’t suck as much as you’d think. Sure it was 80 F and 90% humid but I did finish it in 2:33 with no fuel (only some 3 minutes slower than any other half i did before that one on a carb diet. cause i was well. heavy…and out of shape). So yeah ketosis and running need a bit of time to get along. but i promise you they will (and pounds are gonna drop off in an unbelievable way). But what happened when i quit the diet?
Photo from the Mahomet half course below:
I decided to kick the ketosis bucket 1 day before the Mahomet half marathon (august, IL, HOT). so i did that in style, went to Red Lobster and gobbled carbs enough to compensate for 1 of the 4 months of ketosis maybe. Then I ran the next day. Mind you, I had absolutely no distance buildup for a half other than the 5 miles every other day that I was able to do on no carbs, so what happened that unbelievably cool august morning (don’t think it went over 75F) kind of blew my mind. I ran a 2:11. I hadn’t run a 2:11 in like 1.5 years. with no specific training. My running had kicked itself back into gear with…ketosis? Seeing that, I got so excited that I decided to do a marathon before the Chicago marathon, as training for the Chicago marathon…. And I did the Fox Valley Marathon. I DID IT in 4:30 – with my only “long” distance being the Mahomet half….
21 days after that I ran Chicago in 4:22. I wanted to cry when alerts texted me my time. It was 3 min faster than my Empire State marathon in 2013.
7 days after Chicago I ran Empire State half marathon in Syracuse NY (my first love). I beat my halftime in Chicago by 4 min to score a 2:00:48. Just 48 s after the 2h mark. Kind of pissed me off…
Then I said “man, we’re on a roll let’s do a 3rd one maybe it’ll be under 4:20.” So I signed up for Naperville. Which was a great race as well! But the hill massacre that the course was only let me run a 4:44. Oh well.
Then I had prelim (where gradschool decides if they kick you out or let you finish your PhD), then I said:”OH LOOK A 50K IN LIBERTYVILLE IL LET’S DO IT, IF I FAIL PRELIM I WILL ULTRA-RUN MY FRUSTRATION AWAY, IF I PASS I WILL ULTRA-CELEBRATE RUNNING.”
The people organizing The Arctic Frog Endurance run 50k (no, I’m not kidding this is the actual name) may be some of the most competent organizers ever, for the sole reason of “there are so few of them, and so many runners.” Everything was impeccable, maybe except that the aid stations were a bit too far apart and I was kind of sorry I only had 5 gels with me and no water bottle. but I survived. And I learned things. 1) On a trail / limestone…. do not try to keep the same pace you do on asphalt, there’s a reason you’re running slower at the same heart rate. The energy return out of a trail is shitty. Just go with the slow. 2) if you like marathons and you ran 3 of them in the 3 months before you will probably suffer from the marathon distance mental shut down – oy 26.2 let me take off my shoes. So after I reached that distance in the 50 k in some 4h 34min I just kind of gave up and the last 8k was a really long walk for me… 3) if anything this race showed me exactly where both my IT bands were. oh my god. by 45 k whenever my foot hit the ground i felt lightning strikes going up from my knees on the outside of my leg toward my hip. That’s gonna be bad man. (this iwas also part of the reason the last 8k were mostly done walking). Finished in 6:33. Hey you know NOT BAD CONSIDERING IT FELT LIKE I WAS GOING TO DIE. Sat down in the car and drove back for about 2.5 h. I could not lift my left knee out of the car. It was bad. So while i dragged one leg completely straight to get into the apartment and into bed (my knee absolutely seared with pain when i got into bed) i was thinking how bad this would be and cared so much that I fell asleep for some 2h. Then I woke up craving wings like crazy so I tried to order wings online because i was so tired i didn’t want to open my mouth to talk to another human being. I ate 36 wings by myself that evening and IT WAS GLORIOUS. Noticed when i went to open the door for the wings to fly in that my knee pain had relieved. YEAH I CAN DO HOT CHOCOLATE ST LOUIS NEXT WEEKEND.
Then I ran 9.3 miles on the surprisingly hilly course 8 days after the 50k and PRed my CHicago hot Choco 15k time by 50 s . My 15k was 1:24:06 and my marathon was down to 4:22. and my knee hurt a little bit (ok it hurt more than a little bit after the first 6 miles in st louis but I dealt with it and did well). Then I took a glorious 5 weeks off from running. I lied. I tried to run once in those 5 weeks and that outside of knee pain and slightly above knee pain returned after 0.7 miles. so i stopped.
In January 2016 I finally bought myself a foam roller. I have been running for some 9 years, uninjured, without a foam roller, without a stretching or strengthening routine. I just ran. But apparently everyone’s body has a breaking point. I don’t know if my lack of cross training or age or just the fact that I had a continuously improving racing season caught up with me but it was time! it was time to include everything else. I rolled for about 2 weeks before I could get an appointment with a physical therapist. the IT band pain went away (mostly) just with that. I ran the hilliest 15k I know of in the midwest on Feb 6, 2016 in 1:26:16. NOT bad. The front of my knees was still hurting sort of, so I did the race with those Mueller runner’s knee straps. Those things kept most of the pain away.
I went to a great physical therapist at the (UIUC) McKinley health center with my “runner’s knee” and IT band issues. Her name is Michelle Haselhorst and she’s amazing. If anything I wish she took before and after pictures from when I first went to her to 6 months later to see how much more jacked my legs are! The exercises and stretches she gave me sort of fixed my knee. One of the quad exercises seemed to make the quad attachment to the left knee hurt but after many weeks of stretching that problem ameliorated too. My first appointment was on Feb 11. My first race after that first appointment was on St Patti’s day in Chicago (Get lucky half marathon). Like any normal professional athletic trainer she asked me if i was confident about the distance and my answer like my answer about most of my other training is “i never run the full distance before, If i can do 7, I can do 13 miles too, I will live.” I ran that race too. IT WAS FRIGID COLD. my knee was trying to hurt the entire time. I ran a 1:54:53.Also look at those cool pants I got from Fabletics!
well. Where did that come from?…. I was barely running 15 miles a week to give my knees sort of a break… but what was I actually doing 7 days a week? The physical therapy exercises: 1) wall sits with my toes pointed out to strengthen inner quads 2) foam rolling my IT band http://www.runnersworld.com/training-video/foam-roller-it-band 3) foam rolling my butt (professionals call butts glutes: http://thefitnessfocus.com/fitness-tips/foam-rolling-for-tight-and-sore-muscles ) 4) this standing stretch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbyJlxY79Is 5) and another piriformis stretch that consisted of sitting on the floor, the exact version of which I can not find on google. These stretches and minimal mileage cranked my half marathon PR from 1:57:06 at Empire state half in 2012 to 1:54:53 (and the 1:54… was not as flat as the 1:57). Yeah. Do some stretches and wall sits….because now it was really obviousl running wasn’t doing enough anymore (other than injuries). Also my knees hurt for about 30 min after I stopped running. My PT told me to buy rock tape and just wear it. I did the taping for runner’s knee for the next marathon. It worked for the knee.
Some day between that half and the St louis Go marathon I ran 15 miles. On a treadmill. Without rock tape. My knees were upset again. Some other day I got a new quad exercise from my PT that consisted in me pulling an elastic band that i would latch in a closed door with my knee. That upset top part of my left knee intermittently. Then I ran the Go! St Louis marathon. GORGEOUS course btw. That quad attachment started giving me burning hell at about mile 7 ( I WAS FLYING AROUND 8:30 MIN MILES BEFORE THAT) so i realized I had to chill the pace a little. I chilled. That didn’t help the quad. Then I went on and did one quad stretch pause every mile. I stopped 18 times. Finished in 4:21:50. Hey a PR is a PR even by a few seconds. That course is so hilly too, can almost compare portions of it with Naperville. NOT EASY. It was April and I had already achieved the things I set in my mind on new years (I want a sub 9 mm half and a sub 10 mm full-hehe the full was 9:59). How on earth was I doing all of this injured. Maybe I should get injured more often?
Illinois marathon comes around. I hate this race. This race is a metaphor of my time as a grad student at this university. It either gets cancelled and people get left out on the course (I’m looking at you, 2015) or it lives under the threat of being cancelled (I’m looking at you 2016) for weather or apparently (others have told me about past years) for insufficient volunteers. Like seriously. … Why does this happen here? Because I was now under quad pain I rock taped for quad tendinitis at the knee attachment too. I preventively did both knees. Because there was pouring rain forecasted, I bought the brooks LSD waterproof super light jacket (purple – cool) and a cap to put on my head so water doesn’t pour in my eyes for 4h+. And because YOLO, I also did the 5k to get a 3rd medal. I was going to not show up to the marathon because i didn’t want to put my body through torture to just get left out on the course in the rain and get a DNF just like last year. But then I ran the 5k…. My fastest mile was 7:37 and I finished at an 8:00 pace overall (24 min 54 s) – I was 15th in the F25-29 age group somehow…and in the top 3% overall. I don’t like 5ks i can’t even feel like I’m running by the time i reach 3 miles. HOW DID I DO SO WELL? Maybe I should get injured more often. seeing that time. Man, I can’t not run the full….it seems like I’m in good shape….).
So i ran the full…. with the same excessive taping all over my knees. Nothing hurt. Not the quads or the knees. I now tape my knees preventively for runs longer than 5 miles. because. why not? It rained the entire time, and it was cold and it was perfect running weather…. the hat/cap i had on kept water out of my eyes. i got my ipod wet so i didn’thave music for the first 15 miles ….. i went at a sub 4:00 pace ( 9:11 min mile average at mile 20- I was actually sub 9 a lot of the time, but around mile 18 i kind of wanted to throw up a little bit and then the 4:00 pacer passed me, i got upset then I realized I wanted to vomit again so I started focusing more on that than on running sub 9 because a barf and dizziness would affect the time more than a constant slower pace)…. my wheels kind of fell off at mile 23 but i did the struggle shuffle and finished in a 4:08:28. A PR by 13 min…Are you kidding me? You know when you run for many years and PRs just never come again. I PRed in a race I hated (the course is pretty and I guess organizers do their best and everything is overall fine but this race and I …have a lot of negative history). I PRed in a race when I ran for the fear of being as close to the finish as possible when they decide to stop the clocks. My pulse was elevated at the start out of fear. Somehow I came up a little bit faster than the middle of the pack and then I sat in the stadium shivering and watching people come in for about 45 min, I should do this more often. The whole thing kind of made me want to cry. It was an odd feeling. See the excessive knee taping below.
Returning to apartment and taking the tape off I discovered I should have left it on. But my knees were indeed better. You know that pointy sharp pain that runner’s knee is? My knees just hurt diffusely like 2 fuzzy balls of pain… which I guess is normal for a 9:29 min mile marathon after you’ve been injured for some 4 months.
PS: that brooks LSD jacket…totally worth the 90$. Kept me dry for at least 3h out of the 4 i ran.
Having such a successful spring racing season, I decided dropping a few more pounds would make me even faster, so I did ketosis again. Went from 148 to 140 in 1 week. Having a really miserable month of May at work, I felt like I needed another marathon to shake it off. So I signed up for the Minneapolis marathon. LOL, cancelled because they couldn’t get the road permit. (I think this marathon cancellation horror will now follow me forever). So now i Signed up for the Med City marathon in Rochester MN. Another really good and competent organization crew.
Since I knew from the fall that my 3rd marathon in a streak will probably not go faster than my second I didn’t try hard. But when I got on the course and realized the first 6 miles were some pretty decent inclines and downhills I decided to try hard as training for the Boilermaker 15 k road race in Utica, NY in July. So I did the first 9.3 miles in about 1:25 according to my watch. YEAH, 1:25 at the Boilermaker where previous year I did 1:39? That would be awesome. Then I quickly realized what a big mistake registering for a race at the end of May was. After the first 9.3 miles it started getting warm (it was already humid, but I didn’t perceive it as a big problem because I wasn’t feeling hot; oh it was really a problem now!)…. So the last 17 miles of the race? Oh god what a struggle. I was hoping that my period would hold off just enough for me to finish the race? Wrong. Worst cramps started when I had like 8 miles to go. When I had 6 miles to go it felt like I was going to vomit. Practiced some decent walking to avoid the 2 people who fainted and fell backward in front of me in 2 spots on the course…. and again did the struggle shuffle to finish in 4:34. WHAT A DIFFERENCE CAN HEAT MAKE! I stood still after getting the medal for quite some time because I had stars circling my field of vision, but it didn’t take long to start feeling quasi-normal again. Maybe some 30 min walk to my car (I should’ve parked closer, I was stupid, I left the car at Brentwood on 2nd- 20 something min walk from Bus pick up area/finish line.) This course was also really beautiful by the way! Highly recommend. Also, props to everyone behind the race walls who accommodated so many people from the Minneapolis marathon on such a short notice! (enough medals and shirts too, really good last week hustle to have that ready! if it wasn’t they told us they’d be mailed to us).Look how pretty Byron, MN (where the start line was) looked in the morning…
Later that week I went on what was going to be a short hot shake out run but because I wasn’t even sore since I ran kind of slow for that level of fitness, that run went to about 9 miles. Then I got too hot and walked a lot to get back to civilization. Slept like a baby that night, when I got out of the car the next morning to get to lab I noticed my right shin hurts on the front but not the bone, the muscle that is the anterior tibialis…I ran the day before in some 4mm drop shoes close to the ground (Brooks pure flow4). Are the shoes ever the reason for pains? Not usually. So I got back to the student health center to get another referral for PT. Doctor dude presses my tibia and finds a spot that was (I thought) a bit painful. Now I know that if he had real brains he would have compared to the other leg (see, this is the struggle of your medical insurance only covering student health center care as first option and then referrals only if said service are not available at the student health center. Guy sends me to the basement to get an xray front and lateral of tibia and fibula on the right, but writes on the sheet “ look for stress fracture.” I was like:”oh please I don’t have a stress fracture….” A few hours later some nurse calls me panicked to give me crutches on the remaining 22min before the health center closed because my xray showed a stress fracture or “signs of healing stress fracture.” Now you know, because at some point in my life I wanted to go to medschool, I looked at my xrays. There was nothing visibly wrong. Again, why not take an xray of the leg that does not hurt for comparison? xray film is probably 5$. Because although med school is expensive. not all doctors are scientists. What is textbook normal on many sedentary people isn’t going to be textbook normal on someone who runs 40 miles a week. Are you kidding me. I showed the xrays to 2 people who are past their first two years of medschool:”yeah man I don’t see anything wrong, you’re gonna be fine.” Do i need to say HOW ANNOYING IT WAS TO WALK AROUND WITH CRUTCHES OFR 3 DAYS POINTLESSLY BECAUSE IT DIDN’T HURT TO WALK. AT ALL? I could hardly dispense soap cause my wrists hurt so much… after those 3 days I went to sports medicine at Christie clinic. Obviously there I found probably a story that is going to stick with me for decades.
I wait a decent amount past my appointment time but you know ok. Doctors can be late, person before me probbaly required more attention. After the nurse asks me questions like :”was your leg swollen?” you know I don’t think so but maybe it was a little bit when the pain started. “does it hurt # on scale from 0 to 10” right now? 0, but it was probably a 3 the day it hurt…. etc. Doctor comes in, sees I was wearing my Chicago shirt and starts ranting:”oh you ran 2 races in the last 6 months? You’re a female, you’re gonna have a stress fracture.” At this point I decided I should just shut up about how many races I had actually run. If he really cared he could search me on athlinks and create panic, but after I left his office. “do you diet.” Right now? or did i ever diet? I eat meat wrapped in bacon, eggs and ALL THE DAIRY IN THE WORLD. “how’s your calcium level?”…normal?…. “what does do you wear, don’t wear flip flops and sandals, wear good supportive shoes and eat.” do i really look like I’m starving myself? Dr. looks at the xray “yeah, I don’t see anything but sometimes stress fractures aren’t visible, it doesn’t even look like a healing stress fracture because that is normally a bump where the bone is covering up with new bone.” ok but do you see anything abnormal or what that “periosteal thickening” mentioned in the xray report is? “yeah, this edge here is maybe one tiny hint thicker than this other edge here, but this isn’t a stress fracture, also this is not where you say it hurts…” THEN WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME I’M NOT EATING ENOUGH. He then proceeds to bump my heel with his fist while holding my knee, that didn’t hurt. Puts a tuning fork in like 3 spots on my tibia. doesn’t hurt. (supposedly a tuning fork is accurate in like 70% of the cases of stress fractures. meaning if it doesn’t hurt when your tibia is touched with a tuning fork chances are 70% you don’t have a stress fracture….Bottom line :”don’t run for 3-6 weeks, get an MRI if you want, get a bone scan if you want come back for a follow up.” ok so you’re telling me it’s not a stress fracture, then why should i get a expensive imaging tests that are only 80% covered by insurance, to reveal what you 70% already know. Why can’t I just do my free student health center provided FREE physical therapy? I begrudgingly tell the front desk to schedule the MRI and they tell me they’re gonna fax the order to Presence Healthcare and they are gonna call me by the end of the week (next 4 days) to schedule it. This appointment was on June 4th. It is now August 1st and I never got the call for the MRI. LOL what good services. I started doing the physical therapy exercises and didn’t run the whole month of June. (need I say what torture this was for me?) Even if i did have a stress fracture that would have been long enough for it to heal according to most google searches. I did do other stupid things the month of July like Bielmann poses on a balance ball to see if i could actually break my ankle to have a real reason for getting expensive imaging done (just kidding….i was just really really bored). Or wearing my TCS NYC marathon training shirt to compensate for the fact that I wasn’t training .
I started running again on July 2nd…2 miles. no hurt. July 4th – 5 k race 27:21. (it was so hot and humid I wanted to throw up since mile 0.5). no hurt. July 7th – 5 miles no hurt. July 10th Boilermaker 9.3 miles PR 1:23:33 – no hurt (REALLY HILLY AND KIND OF COOL FOR A SUMMER RUN THERE. AWESOME). Lots of beer at the finish line – no burp. See again the excessive knee taping done preventively….
Then I ran 2x a week 5 miles until like July 27, when my other anterior tibialis (left) started hurting, but just a lil’bit. During this time I had been doing toe drops. Back against the wall, heels propped in the floor some 1 ft in front of me (maybe more). Drop toes without touching the floor. Done with toes in, out and straight ahead. Also walking on my toes. with toes, in, out and straight ahead. How do I have weak calves when I run so much? Isn’t this a mystery. Probably because they are so tight? Tight = weak as well cause other muscles have to compensate? Vigorous calf foam rolling on all sides of my calves, vigorous gastroc stretching, soleus stretching toes dug in the floor stretching… http://athletestreatingathletes.com/stretching-pt-8-shinouter-ankle/ mostly these exercises. Now I feel like my peroneals are a little irritated by all of this, but not all the time. Like they’re not irritated after a 9 mile run but they sometimes get irritated after a 5 mile run. (I think I go from excessively no stretching to excessively stretching) Can heat make this sort of inflammation worse? Can I run the Peapod half madness in Batavia IL on August 28th? (It’s now called Verizon half madness) I probably shouldn’t but I think this new problem will be fixed enough that I will PR that course too (it’s hard!).
Then I’m gonna PR Fox Valley marathon and then Chicago. Can’t wait. Did i mention I got in the TCS New York city marathon as well? Yeah. it’s going to be …legendary!!
Oh and I may want to do that 50k in Libertyville again because now I know what to expect…. But i’ll wait to see if I break anything by then.
Bottom line. Do some minimal strength training and you will see your speed improve without even trying.
Have a great fall racing season everyone! and consult google for PT exercises if you don’t have time to go see someone like the great Michelle Haselhorst!
PS: My cat seems really concerned when I do all of these weird activities with stretching foam rolling and weird walking around the apartment: