Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Brace Yourself

I'm running out of clever post titles.

After a few weeks of grappling with the fact that my running season may be over with this knee injury, I had an epiphany. I've always sort of wondered why my left knee had bothered me, but my right one didn't. My right IT band has always been tighter than the left, and I had so many peroneal tendon injuries on the right side that it just seemed that if I was going to have knee pain, it would be in that knee. Thinking back to my crappy 5 miler a couple of Mondays ago, I remember looking down at my left foot and seeing just how crooked it was (you can see this in a photo I posted a little while back too). My right foot would strike the ground at almost a perfectly straight heading. Yes, my knees do cave in and I've got the knock-knee thing going, but the foot issue seemed a bit unrelated. Why does my left foot hit the ground at this weird angle? Then it hit me... the brace. I've been running with a $50 6-year-old brace on my right ankle for years now. It was originally due to the torn peroneal tendon, but I've come to rely on it (I know, this is a big no-no in sports but I can't help it). I had just bought a new brace while picking up a knee brace at Kinemedics in Ottawa, so I had a second ankle brace floating around. It's old and ratty, but it still worked.

So this weekend I went to Washington DC to escape the cold and try a run. I strapped my right ankle brace on, then my left knee brace, then my new left ankle brace, and I took a bigass long breath and prayed for a miracle. Well, that miracle lasted an entire 4 miles. I had mapped out a nice 2 mile loop near our hotel and figured that if I got pain, at the very least it would be a short(ish) walk. I managed to do it twice (I'm glad I mapped the loop regardless... I had to make a pit stop before my second loop!). It felt amazing... there were hills, sidewalks, trails, curbs... all sorts of things that would make my knee cringe. And I did it... pretty much pain free until the last 5 min (and even then, it was a twinge, not a pain).

Today I'm facing a different type of pain. For me, it's waking up to find that you've ballooned up about 2 dress sizes. You're busting out of your bra and you feel bloated all over. This started a couple of weeks ago but I guess my body finally caught up to the fact that I had cut back on so many workouts. I actually obsessively took pregnancy tests cause the big boobs and bloating seemed to come out of nowhere (women, you have permission to hate me: when I gain weight, the first place it goes is my boobs... and that's the last place I lose the weight). Now, I finally have the ability to run again, but I'm in a crappy place physically. The burning in my throat is still there on some of my cardio sessions. I've felt so busy and have had such a hard time scheduling workouts that I keep missing things I'd like to do. I know I want to avoid being in the past, but I wish I had the same discipline as last year... I wish I had the motivation. I think a lot of it has to do with the weather up here. This winter has dragged on longer than expected and I just want the heat to be turned on. I think once it's sunny and I can get out and suck in some warm, non-gym air, things will improve. Luckily I managed to keep a 9:00-9:30 pace with the injured leg(s) and on a very hilly route this weekend, so the Scotland race isn't going to be a huge write-off, but I do wish that I had discovered this sooner so I could've prepared better. Oh well, will just make my race in 2014 all the more impressive.

My TWO best friends... 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Shoes and a New Sport

I went out for a 5 mile run on Monday night to try to get back in the groove. It was warm out for March (around 7°C) and I was so exhausted that I was hoping some fresh air would wake me up. My iPod has been injured for a little while, so I was pleased when I got it working without any static for my run. I got really inspired running to Selah's I Turn to You and felt like I was really starting to get on a roll. I kept up a sub-9:00 mile pace for the first 3 miles. Then everything hit the fan... the light ache in my knee turned into a world of hurt. My Achilles in my left ankle started screaming at me too. I limped home (doing my very pace to maintain a 4+ mph pace). Somehow after walking for over 2 miles, I still ended the session with an average pace of 11:30. My knee always gave me problems in the past, but it was on long (6+ mile) runs and as long as I kept my runs to a shorter distance, I never had an issue. This whole experience made me reconsider.

My new best friends?

On advice from a fellow blogger  , I bought a pair of Saucony Guide 5s, men's 10.5. While tying them up in the store, I had my doubts... they felt a little weird. It was only when I stood up and started trotting around the store that I was convinced to buy them. They felt light as air, especially compared to my Rides that currently have clunky orthotics in them. I'm a little worried about the toe box being too small, but Sauconys are definitely the best for width in that department. I guess my first run will tell. I plan to take them to the gym tonight for a short 1 mile warm-up and cool-down for a strength session. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, my injured self has been on a bit of a running diet. With Monday's run solidifying that things needed to change, I started focusing on strengthening my leg muscles (especially the non-running ones) and aiming to do a few more hot yoga classes. I made my way to spin class last night dreading the burning in my throat that I got last time. That problem was fixed pretty quickly. I realized that my resistance wheel thing had gotten stuck during my last spin. When I thought I had turned my resistance all the way down, it was still around 3 full rotations on. So when the instructor had everyone increase their resistance, my bike was a full 3 turns ahead. Spinning with the right resistance was ten times easier. It turns out that the burning in my throat was due to me working out too hard, but I had no idea just how hard it was. Thankfully, the class was manageable, I felt good, and I just bought a 30-class membership to my new cross-training activity. Hopefully if I combine it with hot yoga this summer I'll be in a nice position to do well.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Spinning Out

I'd been having something of a mental breakdown for the past few days which was really a reflection of the past few weeks/months. Aside from a fitness kick in Dominican Republic, I really haven't had much in the way of training since I came down a really crappy flu back in December. To be honest, I haven't felt like my normal fit self since last August, when I came crashing like the Kool-Aid man through a wall.

After sleeping lots and lots this weekend (and I mean lots), I decided it was time to drag my butt to the gym for a solid workout. That solid workout turned out to be an hour-long spin class of death. I'd gone spinning years ago when I lived in Toronto and it was always a decent workout, but when I moved back to Ottawa, I could never find the right class for me. I went to a place in Ottawa called Inner Soul after seeing that it was the only place in the city with a Sunday evening spin class. It started off well enough. The bikes had digital monitors which was a good feature (I started spinning in the stone age of spin technology, I guess). Things started to go downhill the minute we started going uphill. The music was pumping, the disco ball was turning, and I was feeling good… until I got the burning. It felt as if I’d swallowed a tube of Bengay. I was gasping for air and trying desperately to figure out where the burning was coming from. I know I have been getting over a cold for the past few weeks, but I wasn’t sure if this was even in my airway. This has happened to me twice in the past week and both times have been around 2 hours after I ate and then did vigorous exercise. I have a very slow digestion time… a lot of people can run/work out 1-2 hrs after eating. I need usually at least 3, if not more. I’m trying to figure out if this was exercise-induced heartburn, or if it is a respiratory thing. I’m really hoping it’s the former because I think I’d just punch someone in the face at this point if I had to be sidelined from exercise again.

Tonight is Day 2 of Week 1 of my Stew Smith workout plan. I’ve been doing this workout plan for the past 4 months and I’m still on Week 1. That’s how terrible my training has been going. Oh well, one day at a time…

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dallas Form Follows Fitness 5K Recap

The Dallas FFF 5K was a spur-of-the-moment decision for me. I had run two races this winter (both in not-so-great times) and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to run, but my husband was down in the DFW area for an appointment on a weekend and EWR-DFW loads were very, very good. It also helped that we had just gone through a cold snap in Ottawa and I was ready to get out of the frozen tundra. My original plan was to run the Cowtown 5K. Unfortunately for me, online registration closed on the Wednesday (when I hadn’t decided if I was going or not) and there was no race-day reg. The only time I could register would’ve been on Friday evening. I arrived at midnight on Friday night/Sat morning, so it was the FFF 5K for me. As a matter of interest, I dropped my 5K results from the FFF 5K into the Cowtown results and found out I would’ve placed 11 of 183 in my age group.

The weekend started out promising. I got on a flight from Ottawa to Newark that was supposed to have no seats on it and still managed to score the exit row. I had packed half-thinking I wasn’t going to make it but I’m glad I threw my running gear in there. There had been weather all over the place and every flight from Ottawa to Washington and Chicago had been cancelled, so I’m surprised I made it on a plane at all. I was a bit panicked once I got on the Newark flight, but some Red Mango tart frozen yogurt at the airport helped that! Man, I love fro yo. I got into DFW around 12:30 am, stopped at Whataburger, checked into the Sheraton downtown with the hubby, and passed the f--- out! I’d been having trouble sleeping all week and I was stressed that the ~5 hrs of sleep pre-race coupled with all the insomnia was going to wreak havoc on my race (not to mention my stomach had been sketchy all night and Whataburger wasn’t going to help).

I woke up, grabbed a coffee, and headed to the race. Note to self: Make SURE you have cash before going to a race-day reg! I tried pulling cash out from an ATM at the airport when I landed and when I was at the hotel, but both were out of service. I ended up having to run all over downtown trying to find an ATM. All the office buildings are closed at 8 am on a Saturday so I was grateful that there was a Chase ATM just around the corner from the race. I literally had just enough time to pay, stick on my number, and go.

I started middle of the pack since it was chip-timed and I didn’t really care where I was positionally. Apparently a lot of people had this mentality… there were way too many walkers ahead of me and I spent the first mile dodging people left, right, and centre. I think this took a bit off my time, which is a shame. I settled into a good pace (around 8:30) and appreciated a nice downhill section after the first mile. At around 1.6 miles I started to realize that my time was on PR pace and I had strong legs.

Running strong at around mile 2

I had a good pace going towards the end of the second mile, but saw a hill (which was more of an on/off ramp) ahead and tried to slow down my pace. I saw a ton of people sprinting up this hill and I thought to myself “man, they’re going to be tired”. Turns out they were just smart and looked at the course map before running the race. The finish line was literally RIGHT after this hill. I only realized this when I rounded the crest and saw some pylons funnelling everyone into the finish line chute.
Some more evidence of my really messed-up stride.

I gave it my all when I saw the clock ticking towards 27:00. I completely forgot the race was chip-timed and got an extra 30 seconds on top of that. I finished in around 26:50 clock time, and had an official chip PR of 26:22. I managed to come in 6th in my age group (of 43) and 50th women overall of 450.

This was right before I ran into the photog. Who stands in the middle of the finishing chute??!

Props to my husband for sitting in the cold for a half hour waiting for me. It was a very chilly morning and not what I expected for Texas (it hovered around freezing). I’m glad I had my gloves. Speaking of clothes, isn't my Lululemon getup adorable? I got ribbed tremendously for wearing my bright neon orange jacket to work, but it did a great job of keeping me warm, yet cool in the right spots, during the race.

$40 entry fees should always mean free beer

The race felt really good and, if I had known the hill was near the finish line, I would’ve gotten a few extra seconds. Combine that with the slowpokes up front slowing me down for the first mile and I think I would’ve been well into the 25:00 range. I also ran on no sleep, had Whataburger the night before and just a coffee morning-of, and I hadn’t been training too hard since I had dealt with the bronch/injuries right up until February. It really is mental! Sub-25:00, here I come!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

And she comes crawling back...

So I came back to this blog yesterday because I somehow managed to catch a cold around the same time I had bronchitis last year, and I wanted to see how slow my progress was back then. Believe it or not, how I was feeling March 5, 2012 was almost exactly how I felt March 4, 2013. After a bit of convincing from my husband, I decided to come back and blog again. He's promised me the readership of at least one (him), so I guess that's good enough -- though I have so many injury that I'm sure I'll be a great hit for all those Google searches. So to recap my race season so far:

I PR'ed in the Dallas Form Follows Fitness 5K on February 22! Yay! Race blog will be posted tonight/tomorrow.

Everything else has been shit, shit, shit. Well, that's not true... I managed to do a few nice sub-8:00 miles and I'm pretty sure I held a 7:45 pace in the 5K for a bit (before they made us run up an on-ramp in the final quarter mile stretch... WHO DOES THAT?!), but these injuries have got me going ballistic.

I noticed after a nice long illness/bronchitis spell at Christmas/New Years that my foot got numb when I ran. I noticed this even more with a pair of new shoes (I am attempting to "recreate the magic" I felt with my original Saucony Rides... so far the men's Ride 5 is a lesser equal). I was running in the women's version - which has a small toe box - and my foot just went straight-up numb. Couple this with the fact I was running on a 300m indoor track at my university and I felt like crap... the constant turning aggravated my knee injuries. I went sulking home with a numb foot and a busted knee.

I got back into things a little more and kept running with my too-worn Rides. I'm having a different type of buyer's remorse.... not buying enough! Should've bought the store out of those shoes when I had the chance. Anyway... the numbness issue continued, but to a lesser degree, so I kept the runs going. I know that I have the "sweet spot" of 6 miles before my left knee starts to give me shit, so I decided to finally do something about it. My wonky race pics didn't help. I might be flying like the wind, but I look like I'm taking fartleking to a whole new level:

WTF is wrong with my leg??!?

See how my knee caves inwards?

And there goes the ankle kicking out...

Yes, that picture was on uglyracepics.com ... My husband always says he never worries about me picking up guys at the gym because I'm just really not that hot when I workout. I think I have to agree.

Basically, my biomechanics are f***ed. You can even notice on the above photo that the left foot that is on the ground has a weird angle to it... instead of my toes pointing straight forward, they're almost turned to a 350-degree heading.

I finally picked up the orthotics that are at least supposed to help with part of this last week. I did my first "run" with them tonight but my feet were soooo sore. I kept getting pain on the outside of my foot. I'm not sure if it's because they're not broken in, my foot is just used to no support, or what... but I really hope it goes away.

On top of that, the numbness is coming back and I got diagnosed with Morton's Neuroma in that foot, so now I'm on the hunt for a shoe with a bigger toe box to stop the pinching.
On top of that, I'm hesitant to go for a neutral shoe (was going to try the Saucony Kinvara). I am somewhat considering a stability shoe and ditching the orthotics.
On top of that, my gait is so screwy that I'm doing two physio sessions a week to try to correct all this wonkiness.
And on top of aaaallll that, I need to lose 15 lbs in the next 2 months to be at my goal race weight for the summer (150 lbs).

Phew. There's a lot of nonsense going on and a lot of decisions to make. I don't even want to begin thinking about the amount of money I spend on running. Between races, shoes that may or may not fit, orthotics, physio, Lululemon.... Oh dear.

So here's my plan:

1. Keep going to physio.
2. Research physio places in Ottawa that might specialize in runners. I want to walk into an office and go "Fix me!" and they hook me up to a ton of machines, make me run, make me fast, etc.
3. Research shoes and get some opinions on stability vs. neutral. Neutral accommodates orthotics... stability might be nice to run in without orthotics, but in years past they gave me nasty-ass blisters.
4. Get my food shiz together and get a proper workout plan in place by next week (this cold is still lingering). Thankfully I have some great workouts provided to me on a weekly basis so I have the framework, I just need to not get sick or injured for once!
5. Get a new iPod.

Umm, I think that's it?

Oh and I should start getting more sleep. So that's what I will do! I will do my best to blog the Dallas race tomorrow!

Good to be back! Lots of thoughts from tonight's run and I'm glad I can get them down somewhere again. Sorry if this one sounded so frazzled... to document every injury/thought/plan from the past year-ish into one blog was hard.