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A classic case of “It was all going so well, until it wasn’t.”

09/25/2012

I was invincible this summer. Sailed effortlessly through triple digit weeks. Watched wide-eyed as my long runs got faster and faster… and faster. No injuries, no pains, nary an ache to speak of.

And then.

This Saturday, I dragged myself out of bed early to cram in an 18-miler before a class field trip. After shaking the limpness of sleep out of my limbs, I cruised comfortably through the familiar dark until about 40 minutes into the run, when I gradually became aware that something was off.

There was no pop, no twinge, no acute episode, just an abrupt consciousness of tightness at the hamstring attachment point behind my knee. I was already seven miles from home, so I ran through it, easing off the gas for preventive good measure.

I ran again the next day – easy, short, an assessment of the ache. I still had an awareness of the tightness, but felt fine.

I ran again on Monday – easy, longer. Started getting some of the same odd tightness in my other hamstring in addition to the first, and took this as a good sign in that it might mean there were merely some kinks to be worked out.

Today was the turning point. I met a running buddy for 10 miles at what was to be somewhere around our goal marathon pace. We set out at ~7:00 pace and I felt great for the first 40-45 minutes, but then there it was again: the tightness, the not rightness, the sickening hitch in my leg mid-stride that felt insidious enough to launch me into a horrifying premonition of spending November 18 bundled up on the sidelines cheering for my friends instead of being out there myself with the miles melting away before my feet.

I had to stop and stretch multiple times, and my running partner was gracious enough to slow the pace in order to accommodate the sad reality that I couldn’t hold 7s without altering my gait.  We finished the piece, and instead of jogging the two miles home, I walked.

Now I’m here on my bed staring agog at the backside of my leg and wondering how this all came on so quickly, wondering how the crook behind my knee can look so normal and unchanged from the outside even though something is indubitably amiss in the mystifying mess of fibers and blood and strings alleged to exist beneath the skin.

I have a fairly simple personal rule of thumb about aches and pains: if I can’t run without altering my gait, and if this persists for more than a few runs, it’s time to manage for an injury.

Eight weeks out from the marathon is not when I want to be taking a week completely off from running, but my base is ferocious, so I’m not concerned about it yet. I’m hoping a solid block of days off will afford me with sufficient protection from something more sinister and chronic. I’ll have to settle for (hopefully) holding steady instead of making gains in my fitness, but part of me suspects a little time off after such a long string of high mileage weeks will end up being a fantastic thing for my musculo-skeletal and cardio-respiratory systems.

I don’t mess around with this soft tissue stuff anymore. One awful experience with my psoas in high school woke me up to how bad things can get if you’re not proactive, and I think this mentality is part of the reason I’ve gone so long without an injury in spite of my high volume: as soon as I get even a whisper of an ache, I turn into a theatrical drama queen about it and declare that I must take time off, self-administer trigger point therapy, perform modern voodoo on myself, and fall asleep at night visualizing muscle fibers in the offending area miraculously healing themselves. Usually I worry like hell over my “injury” for a week or two and then it turns out to be nothing at all.

In the end, it’s just running. I have so many other things going on right now that if I were to sustain a long-term injury, I’d be able to distract myself with school, job searching, and social life (…can anyone speak to the benefits of excess hops consumption for soft tissue injuries?).

And hey, if I do become for-real injured, my first order of business will be getting my butt back into a rowing shell and refitting these grown-soft palms with a few blisters and callouses. I think I could deal with that.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. 09/25/2012 09:56

    I think you will be fine. Especially because of the whole proactive dramatic response you are giving it. And 100 miles/week all summer!? I think a mellow week could do you good.

    And of course, as probably any runner, I can relate. I’m on my third day off due to a serious ouchie that came out of nowhere. I woke up Sunday to run and within 1/4 mile had to turn around. Thanks to my years and years of not being proactive, I suspect something is seriously effed with my entire hip system. Sad and terrified that I may have to sideline my upcoming marathon, but fuck it. Whatever I have to do.

    • 09/26/2012 17:47

      Last two lines are my mindset right now. Good luck to us both. I think my entire hip system is compromised too, and suspect that most of the problems I’ve had in the past with my hammies are hip-girdle related…. the myrtl routine has kept me issue-free in the past few months until now…

  2. 09/25/2012 11:09

    Oh dear, sorry about the setback! Honestly though, you do have a killer base and some days off will probably be beneficial. I hope you feel better after the rest. You seem so on target for a truly awesome marathon!

    • 09/26/2012 17:50

      Thanks — I hope so. I do have more confidence in training than I do in rest, since there’s so much more instant gratification (sweat! sore muscles! elevated heart rate!), but I know it’ll do me good in the end.

  3. 09/25/2012 18:25

    As 2/3 of a physical therapist, I highly recommend consumption of hops as my #1 go to treatment for soft tissue injuries. Totally evidence based practice right there. Sounds like you are doing the right thing, and you’re not kidding about that ridiculous base so I doubt a few days off will do you any harm at all.

    Also, I dream of 7:00 being my marathon pace…you beast.

    • 09/26/2012 17:57

      Excellent. I will conduct a one-participant sample pool and report back on the results. Actually, I just googled it and saw a few things that say hops may act as an anti-inflammatory. They also help with sleep (necessary for soft tissue healing) and are a relaxant so that I won’t jump to terrible conclusions. Perfect.

      And yeah, I dream of 7:00 marathon pace too! Not there yet… hopefully someday…

  4. 09/27/2012 05:29

    […can anyone speak to the benefits of excess hops consumption for soft tissue injuries?]

    *raises hand* Extra soft tissue! Around the gut. I speak from experience. 🙂

    Just kidding. You’ve got a beastly base, I think you’re going to be just fine. Keep us posted!

    • 09/27/2012 05:46

      Hahahaha. Fabulous. Hey, I don’t know about you, but bathing suit season is over in my neck of the woods. Time for winter padding.

  5. 09/27/2012 05:48

    Oh crap. It’s been a few days, hope it’s way better. You’re right, your base is ferocious so no worries on that score. Crossing fingers that all is well, I’m dying to see what you do in November, it’s going to be epic, so you can’t cheer for your friends, you must race! 🙂 Sending healing hammy thoughts…

  6. Ewen permalink
    09/28/2012 02:13

    I’m thirding excess hops consumption as a therapy. My mate Andrew from the Sam Adams Brewery tour put me onto that.

    If it’s right behind the knee I can recall similar symptoms some years ago — repsonded well to some days of rest. Hope yours is the same.

    • 09/30/2012 16:54

      Yeah… a few days rest is always the final answer with an overuse thing like this. My pain is behind the knee, but sort of… laterally? I’m thinking it’s biceps femoris at the insertion point.

      • 10/01/2012 02:18

        Does sound similar to the pain I had which disappeard of it’s own accord after a week or so. Good luck!

  7. 09/29/2012 02:07

    Hops consumption. Yes. Also what everyone else said about your monster base – you should have no worries about a week or so of down time. Finally, just to add something moderately original to this comment, when I had hamstring issues (which sound very similar to yours) I found that stretching them in the traditional way was actually counterproductive. It only started getting better when I switched to a combination of foam rolling and dynamic stretching using a TheraBand. If you google “dynamic hamstring stretch theraband” check out the first youtube video that comes up. Good luck!!!

    • 09/30/2012 16:57

      Fashioning myself a makeshift theraband as we speak… thanks for the link. I’ve been doing the old trick of massaging my hamstring by rolling it out on a tennis ball while sitting on a wooden chair, too. Hopefully a little bit of this stuff will go a long way.

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