Running quote of the week

“I love track running. There’s something about that red 400-meter circle that lets my brain switch off—no roads to cross, no bikes to watch out for.” – Kate Carter

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I'm running again, if you call this running

The 12/6/14 run that started it all
Today's run (treadmill): 3.25 miles

Recovery should happen slowly and in stages, and that's the plan I've been following over the last four weeks. Last year at this time, I was training for the Brooklyn Half using the Hal Higdon intermediate plan. That required some type of running workout nearly every day. It was a mixture of long and easy base runs, short and fast speed drills and 3-4 mile tempos. I could manage that because I was injury-free and had a very flexible schedule.

One year later, conditions are different. I have a long early commute four days a week and my running comfort has been compromised since December 6. That's when I let my ego get the best of me and foolishly overextended myself to prevent another runner from passing me on a long road. The symptoms I had the next day match the ones I have today.

It's been a roller coaster of recovery since then. A race in late December, along with the New Year's Hangover Run, reignited the pain and soreness. An icy and snowy January and an unusable treadmill provided time for healing. By the time we acquired our new Freemotion unit, I was ready to return to the run. So ready, that I did a high intensity workout that (unfortunately) produced some serious pain near the end. One week later, I suffered through an extremely painful three miler. It was the last time I'd run until yesterday's session.

Which brings me to today. After yesterday's encouraging experience on the treadmill, I considered taking it to the street this morning. It had snowed all day on Saturday and there was still a coating of powder on the roads. I opted for the treadmill and slightly increased both my speed and the length of the run. The soreness was there, but it was fully tolerable during the run. Like yesterday, it felt better as I went on and the soreness is responding to the massage roller.

So I've transitioned back to running, but I'm doing it a lot slower than I had before my injury. The things I like about running (fresh air, changing views and the sense of forward progress) that come from being outdoors, are absent. When the weather gets better, I'll run outside and take it easy. I think I've finally learned my lesson but I hope I don't get challenged to race anyone too soon.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Running without harm

 
Today's run (treadmill): 32 minutes

After yesterday's string of bad news and disappointments, I decided to take matters into my own hands and try a run. It had been 23 days since I last ran and I felt that I'd abstained long enough. The pain I experienced in the days since my last run have greatly lessened and I was confident that I could now manage an easy treadmill workout.

Primum non nocere, Latin for "First do no harm" is part of the Hippocratic oath. It's now my personal mandate when it comes to running. With that in mind, I set the treadmill 1 MPH slower than my usual pace. Running felt tolerable, but the soreness was there. My barometer was focused on the level of pain as I went through the run. If the pain increased, I would slow down (or shut down) depending on severity.

I ended up dropping my speed by another .2 MPH. It was a small difference, but just enough for me to feel protected. The pain (really an ache) was still there. As time went on, the soreness diminished. I wondered if that was due to the warm up of my injured muscles. My heart rate stayed at around 83% of max, exactly where I wanted it to be for this workout.

I ended up running for about 32 minutes and didn't even bother to look at the mileage. I was just happy to be running. I finished up feeling good about my conditioning, but my concern shifted to post-run pain. Although I did feel a little sore, it was no worse than what I've been experiencing after my elliptical sessions.

It's been snowing all day, but it hasn't accumulated at all. I'll try another run tomorrow. If conditions are good, I may just take it outside.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Orthopedist appointment invokes Murphy's Law

 
I cannot remember the last time I've run, but it was at least three weeks ago. Since then, my workouts have been done on the elliptical machine. It's a fair trade-off, but not an equal one. I know I've lost fitness as a result. While I've wanted to return to running, I've been concerned about further aggravating what I'm calling a piriformis issue. I wish I could be more specific about the cause of this soreness. Unfortunately my opportunity to get a diagnosis today was taken away by an incompetent receptionist.

Most people are familiar with "Murphy's Law," the idea that if something bad can happen, it will. That law has been in full effect today, starting with news from our electrician that the cost to bring our pool electrical system up to code will be five times what we expected. And we'd expected it to be a lot. Next it was the plumber, who informed us that the cost to replace our leaky shower fixture will be double our expectation. We have to stop inviting these people to our house.

A little later, I received a message that the cool new fitness equipment that I'm helping to test (they're no-impact treadmill alternatives) will be delivered late. I was counting on having access to this gear so I could do workouts that match running intensity without inviting further injury. The stuff is coming, but I'll need to wait a couple of more weeks to start the program.

The worst of it was when I arrived at the orthopedist this afternoon, after waiting three weeks for my appointment, only to find that the doctor wasn't in. Apparently they'd tried to call me to reschedule, but the person who made the appointment had recorded my number incorrectly. So, after looking forward to some type of resolution of this problem, it's still a mystery. I still don't know if I should be running on it, but my patience has grown short.

I'm going to try a run this weekend, either on the treadmill or around my neighborhood. I don't think I've run on pavement since January and I don't expect it to be easy. I plan to take it very easy and stop if the soreness goes past moderate discomfort. I'll make another doctor's appointment and will hopefully be able to schedule it soon. But I'm going to lay low for the rest of today and let Murphy find someone else to bother.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The doctor will see you...soon

Today's workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

I'm old enough to remember the days when the doctor would come to your house when someone got the sniffles. Besides the fact that physicians actually did house calls, it was remarkable that the doctor could be summoned on a moment's notice. These days, I plan my doctor visits strategically, taking the first appointment of the day in hopes of "only" waiting an hour to be let in to the exam room.

It's much harder to get in to see a doctor these days, especially if that doctor is a specialist. I was surprised that I was able to schedule an appointment with an orthopedist as early as next week. I've been careful not to aggravate my self-diagnosed piriformis syndrome, substituting the elliptical for the treadmill for the past three weeks.

I thought I'd try an easy run this morning to see whether things had improved. My pain has reduced, but it hasn't gone away. I still have sciatic pain when sitting for long periods (i.e., my morning commute) and I was curious to know how my glute/hamstring area would respond to some easy running.

I started out slowly "running", first at 3 MPH and then increasing  to 4 MPH. I felt okay, but noticed a little discomfort. Once I brought it up past 5 MPH, I knew I was borrowing trouble. I shut the treadmill down, walked over to the elliptical and did my workout there.

That experience made me realize that this problem will not resolve itself through patience. I looked online and found a sports orthopedist whose office is located five minutes from my house. I called them up, verified that they take my health plan and made an appointment for next Friday. I was shocked that I was able to do that. The last time I tried to meet with an orthopedist, the appointment had to be scheduled so far in the future that my injury went away before I was due to meet with him.

I'm encouraged to know that I'll have a qualified person diagnose this problem and (hopefully) put me on a path to quick recovery. I've been dealing with running discomfort since last November and have concluded that enough is enough. I fear that the doctor may say that my injury is more serious than I thought, either requiring surgery and/or extended physical therapy.

But it's better to know the cause than to continue this cycle of running, recovery, and re-aggravation. I just want to get back to running the trails.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Good news, selfish reaction

Work sweet work
Today's workout (elliptical): 55 minutes

My professional life has shifted a bit this week, with a mixture of good news and selfish disappointment. After leaving my old company in 2013 after 20 years, I'd hoped to enjoy a long relaxing semi-retirement. My plan was to take on consulting engagements that interested me and enjoy a far more flexible schedule. That worked fine until last April, when I was offered an extended project that would put me back into a regular working and commuting routine.

I accepted that project role and have enjoyed every minute of it. Work stress has been near zero, because I haven't had to worry about politics or long term issues. I was supposed to finish up by June and looked forward to returning to my open consulting schedule that would give me time to run every day.

That will not be the case because I've just agreed to become a permanent employee. It's good news because I like what I do, and I'm fortunate that fitness and health are a big part of the organization's mission. I'm a little disappointed that I won't be returning to the easy life in June, but I work from home on Fridays and have a lot more time in the evening compared to my old job at Time Inc.

I'll be spending a lot of time working out at the office over the next six weeks and I'm hoping that will help prepare me for springtime running. I didn't even attempt to use the treadmill this morning because I've learned my lesson about pushing too hard during recovery. I may go on it for a few minutes of easy running tomorrow to see if things have improved. This morning's elliptical workout was pain-free and the soreness has reduced overall.

I still plan to see a doctor to get the problem diagnosed. In the meantime, the recovery is going very well and I don't plan to make the same mistake as last time.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The race to recover

Ready to return
Today's workout (elliptical): 50 minutes

Racing used to be big part of my running life, but I've definitely decreased the number of events I do. It's not that I don't want to race. Races are fun and few moments in life are better than the feeling you get after you've crossed the line. I only participated in few races last year, the last one being the Jingle All The Way 5K in December that I ran with my run buddies. They're the other reason that races are fun.

The one race I've run every year without fail is the Marcie Mazzola 5K in Huntington. It was the first race I did after returning to running in 2008 (at that time it was a 4 miler) and I have a sentimental attachment to both the event and its cause. Two factors that will cause me to miss it this year include my current soreness issue and the fact that the date coincides with a visit with weekend guests.

A year ago, I was preparing for the Brooklyn Half Marathon and used the Marcie M as a speed workout as I got closer to the date. I had every intention of following Brooklyn with my usual set  of races: New Hyde Park, Dirty Sock, Cow Harbor, TOB Supervisor's, Run for the Warriors, etc. I ended up skipping them all. I'd lost interest in racing after a grueling experience in Brooklyn and I needed to recapture the thrill of the race.

Now the spirit is willing but the glute is weak. I'm anxious to return to the road and start training for something. Spring is almost here and I'm going to get out there as soon as the roads are safe. I'm encouraged by the fact that I can already do long, pain-free elliptical sessions that will allow me to maintain a level of fitness while my body repairs whatever damage I've done to it. I plan to visit to a sports doctor if I don't see fast improvement. I have a good record for recovery, but I'm not so good at staying recovered.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The end of running, for now

Patience is a virtue
Today's workout (elliptical): 50 minutes

For now and for the foreseeable future, I am no longer a runner, emerging or otherwise. Like the old adage that insanity is repeating the same action but expecting a different result, I've concluded that running right now will only result in pain. I'm not as upset about this as you'd think. I don't plan to change the name of this site to "The Former Runner." I'm just hitting the pause button until nature fixes the problem.

Thursday's treadmill run was (literally) an exercise in determination. I was sure that getting through my three mile workout would somehow prove that I could always run through this problem. The bigger issue was that it hurt. First a little and then a lot. I knew that this was no way to handle things. I ended up skipping my workout on Friday because I needed to meet an insane work deadline that used up every minute of the day. An opportunity to recover somewhat offset the guilt.

I was still sore this morning and I knew that I couldn't repeat Thursday's experience. My strategy was to first do an elliptical session and then test the waters on the treadmill. The elliptical session went great. No pain during the 35 minute workout and no pain after I'd finished. I hopped up on the treadmill and set the speed to 4.1 MPH, hopefully fast enough to "run" without aggravating the source of my problem.

It only took a few seconds to realize that running at any speed right now will result in pain. I further backed down the speed and switched to walking for ten minutes, playing with inclines and declines between +/- 3%. Once done, I returned to the elliptical for 15 more minutes of pain free exercise. Stepping up my effort on the elliptical did not produce any pain. Better still, the soreness from my brief treadmill "run" was completely gone.

So today's lesson is that running hurts and ellipticals heal. I'm going to use the elliptical exclusively while my body works on whatever it is that's causing my running pain. I've decided to give it three weeks before I try another easy treadmill run. This is exactly what happened between the time when the old treadmill failed and the new one was installed. I did fine in that transition, but made the mistake of pushing my speed (and my luck) and that brought me back to square one.

If this plan doesn't work, I'll visit a orthopedist to get an MRI or meet with a physical therapist. They say time heals all wounds. Let's see if that's true.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hard times on the short track

Sounds about right
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

My current level of fitness is probably at its lowest since early 2010. Back then I was recovering from a bout of pneumonia that had me in the hospital for a week. My time away from running (after our treadmill failed) had an effect on my conditioning. More concerning is an injury that surfaced in early December. Things improved a lot in January but I made the mistake of pushing hard on a run one day and that re-aggravated the problem. Three weeks working out exclusively on the elliptical got me back in the game.

Things started going downhill after we got our new treadmill. I had three decent runs and concluded that I was back on track. I was having a great run last Friday and decided to step up my speed. That was a big mistake. I suddenly felt searing pain in the area between my glute and hamstring, Even though I stopped right away, the damage was done. The closest thing that I've found online that describes it is something called hamstring tendinopathy.

I was back to the treadmill on Saturday but I struggled to the point where I had to stop. I completed my workout on the elliptical and didn't even attempt to run on Sunday (elliptical again). I hoped that a three day layoff since Sunday would allow sufficient time to recover. I felt okay at the start, even though the modest speed I'd set felt as fast as race pace.

Despite the challenge, I was determined to see this run all the way through. The pain started increasing after ten minutes and I decided I'd deal with it for as long as I could stand it. I hoped I wasn't doing any damage and felt okay when I finally finished, but I've been very sore all day. I'll give it another try tomorrow but I won't be a hero. Reducing speed seems to keep the pain in check so I'll see how it goes.
 

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