Thursday, March 31, 2011

three things thursday

1. I am slowly but surely recovering from last weekend/the past 2 weeks.  I still have some pain when I walk, but each day I wake up and very definitely feel better than the day before.  I'm doing my PT exercises religiously, I'm steering clearly of any and all things that cause pain, and mentally, I am feeling just fine.  I can say with confidence that making the decision to run last weekend was absolutely the right one.  It has left me with no anxiety about not being able to run right now, which is a refreshing change from the 2 weeks leading up to the race.  I've got 6 more weeks to get back on my feet for the 70.3, and the less I can run right now, the more I can ride, anyway.  I'm not sure where this calm demeanor and patience with myself has come from, but I will happily roll around in the sweet life where there is no stress about running.

2. I gained about 3lbs during my "taper."  Part of me is mad, 3lbs?!  And part of me is like, is that all?  I should eat nothing but Oreos more often!  I guess laying in bed sobbing burns more calories than I originally estimated.

3. I was rather disappointed to find that even my official race photos were actually kind of pleasant.  I guess when I'm not snorting and puking my way to a huge PR I have time to smile.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

wordless wednesday

My puppies, they love to run.

So do I.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

half marathon training recap

I think the best way to do this would be to evaluate the first 7-8 weeks and ignore what went on the last 2.  Because swimming 15000+ yards over 8 days and spending the rest of the time in bed eating Oreos by the handful is not exactly what anyone would recommend for a proper taper.

Here's a shot of my original training plan (click any of these to make larger):
And here's a shot of my executed training plan:
The obligatory disclaimer: what worked for me might not work for you.  It might not even work for me the next time around.  Also, I did not get injured from any aspect of this plan.  I got injured because I got realigned/released 2 weeks before the race, which triggered a whole slew of problems.  External forces, not anything wrong with my training.

So, what worked?  
  • Swimming as active recovery - most weeks I swam on Monday to give my legs a break from the weekend.  This left my legs feeling pretty fresh by the Tuesday evening track workout.  
  • Running 4 days a week (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday/Sunday).  This allowed me to rest my legs the day after both the track workout and the tempo workout.  My back-to-back days were the long run and the recovery run, both of which were at an easy pace.  I am definitely going to stick with this for the near future.
  • Pool running at least once, if not twice a week.  Pool running on Wednesday was a great recovery for my legs after Tuesday's track workout, and many weeks I squeezed in another pool run - sometimes on Sunday after my recovery run, sometimes on Monday coupled with swimming.  I completely believe in pool running as a supplement to land running.  My body doesn't like high mileage on land, so this allowed me to have high mileage overall weeks without increasing the risk of injury.  
  • Taking both Friday and Monday as an easy active recovery day.  I would either swim or do an easy ride on these days.  The one week that I did a long ride on Monday, I paid for it Tuesday night at the track.  I found that I preferred swimming on Monday as recovery and cycling on Friday - all my best long runs happened after I did an easy ride on Friday.
  • Following my Sunday recovery run with yoga.  It made a nice end to the training week and I felt really helped me recover from the long run.
  • Stepping back my long run distance almost every other week.  Alternating high and low mileage weeks works for me.  I had one instance where I had two high mileage weeks in a row, and I was really ready for the step-back week by the time I was through those weeks.
  • Lifting four days a week.  I stepped my lifting back from the 5-6 days a week I had been doing, and this allowed me to maintain my fitness in the weight room.  In some higher mileage weeks, I stepped down on the weights to balance the overall intensity of my training.
What didn't work?  
  • Trying to maintain a decent cycling base.  I think part of this was due to the fact that this was a winter training cycle and I simply don't like to ride in cold weather.  I rarely got in more than one ride a week, and some weeks I didn't ride at all.   
  • Resting the day before a long run.  I discovered that complete rest made me feel sluggish and slow, but some easy movement left me feeling fresh.
  • An 11-week plan.  I created a long plan because I was still coming back from surgery and wanted to make sure I had a good base, but 11 weeks was still too long.  I was race ready three weeks out.
  • Not planning a longer tune-up/practice race.  I only planned one race - a 5K - in this cycle.  Next time I'm in a half cycle, I'd like to include a 10K or even a 10M race, depending on where it falls in the cycle.  I think this would also prevent me from peaking too early.
  • And, of course, doing something completely new to my body 2 weeks out from the race.

What's next?  You might have forgotten, but I didn't.  I've got a 70.3 right around the corner.  I'm in the hands of an excellent PT right now, and she has okay'd cycling and swimming.  I mapped out a 70.3 training schedule a few weeks ago, but now everything is different.  For the next two weeks, I'm going to focus on getting my cycling base back up - lots of easy miles.  I'm going to continue swimming at least twice a week.  I'm going to pool run at least once, if not twice a week.  I'm going to keep lifting like I have been.  And I'm going to let my PT call the shots on the running.

The great thing about this 70.3 is that it's not an A race for me.  It's a foundation race, it's a check-and-see-where-I-am race.  So I am not stressed about my preparation or my time.  If I can't run by then, I'm okay with that.  I can still swim-T1-bike-T2 and then walk, or just skip the run and DNF.  There is still a lot of value to be gained by doing 2/3rds of the race.  And no matter what happens at that race, I'll be spending the following week in Jamaica on my honeymoon!  Life could be a whole lot worse.

Monday, March 28, 2011

the inches we need (National Half: race report)

I wasn't ready to talk about this on Friday.  

I saw my PT Thursday evening.  Essentially, I was in so much pain on Wednesday because my body was trying to re-un-align itself.  I felt flat and defeated, but asked the million-dollar question anyway: I can't run on Saturday, can I?  I was surprised when she told me to try it.  She said, get up, go to the start, see what happens.  If it gets to the point where I am limping badly or physically unable to go on, then stop.  She said I wouldn't be damaging myself in any permanent or irreversible way by running, but to expect a bit of a set-back.  The hardest thing, she said, would be managing the pain.  And finally, I think I started to see the lesson in this mess.  How strong am I?  How hard and long can I fight?  It was so clear, what I would do.  I would start.  

I know that all of you guys know this, but I've been in a pretty deep hole these past 2 weeks, dealing with this injury and the pain.  I've had some of the darker moments of my life.  Sitting at home and letting the race start without me would have been a crushing blow.  I would have no idea how to move forward from that.  But when I walked out of PT on Thursday evening, I felt light again.  I didn't feel weak and broken, I felt strong.  All I ever know how to do is fight.

I didn't really want to talk about it on Friday because I needed to do this my way.  I fully expected to DNF the race.  I didn't know if I would make it 1 mile, 2 or 3.  I warned my parents and friends that they might go to all this trouble just to be home by 8am.  I didn't know if I'd make it past the start line more than a few steps.  And I didn't care.  Being there, attacking this distance head-on, was so much more what I needed.  I would not hide.

So I did all my pre-race juju Friday night.  I ate dinner at Sweetwater and was in bed early.  I washed my lucky PR underwear, I laid out my race clothes in a little pile, and untied my running shoes.  I put 3 hours of music on my shuffle, because 3 hours was the limit on the Half course.  I did my PT exercises and went to bed.  And when my alarm went off Saturday morning and I climbed out of bed, my back did not hurt.  For the first time in 2 weeks, I was able to walk to the bathroom without pain.  I had no idea why, or what combination of events led to that, but the piercing pain in my SI joint was gone.  My piriformis/sciatic nerve irritation was still there, but I could walk.  I ate my granola bar, I drank my water, I got dressed, and we left.  I'm not going to lie, I was terrified.  I had no idea what to expect, but I was afraid of the pain, that it would be worse than what had happened the past 2 weeks, that I might hurt myself beyond my ability to handle.  Faith, not fear.

I met up with some teammates in the Armory, and took the time again to stretch.  We made a porta-potty stop and then split up to head to our corrals.  I had hoped to meet up with a friend, but we couldn't find each other in our corral, and when the race started, I was alone.  

On Friday I was exchanging motivational videos with some friends running the race, and the poet sent me a link to Al Pacino's speech in "Any Given Sunday."  I listened to it once.  And again.  And maybe 35 more times Friday afternoon.  It was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.  He says (excerpted), "Life's this game of inches.  One half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it.  One half second too slow, too fast, and you don't quite catch it.  The inches we need are everywhere around us...We claw with our fingernails for that inch.  Because we know when we add up all those inches, that's gonna make the fucking difference between winning and losing.  Between living and dying."  Inches.  When I crossed the start line, this is what I was listening to, and there were tears running down my face, and I started to run.

Holy hell did it hurt.

The pain in my SI joint came back in just a few steps.  But it was dull achy pain, not horrible stabbing pain.  So I ran a few more steps, and it didn't get worse.  I decided to run the first mile, and I was listening hard to my body, and it didn't get worse some more.  I was so slow and so far behind the starting line that when I hit the 1 mile marker it said 20:xx on the clock, and I didn't care.  I was running this race.  In pain, but running it.  I knew that my parents and some friends would be just past the 3-mile mark, so I decided that all I had to do was get there and then, if the pain was worse or had become unbearable, I would stop there.  3 miles, that's all I had to do.
And when I got there, I waved and they cheered and yelled and I decided to keep going, because it wasn't worse.  It was the same.  I was running slowly and smoothly without a limp.  So I kept running.  
I knew that some of my teammates were going to be cheering somewhere after the 6 mile mark, so I just told myself, "Just get to Cristina.  Just get to Cristina."  If I wanted to, if it had gotten worse, I could stop there.  And when I got there, not only did I want to keep going, but Cristina, like a little running angel, jumped in to run with me up the hill.  Exactly what I needed.  And she talked to me and I'm sure I grunted and snorted back at her and suddenly, we were up the hill and she was gone.  And the sun was shining and my legs were turning over and I was dealing with the pain, it wasn't getting worse, it actually started to feel like it was getting better.

My amazing traveling cheering squad had planned to hop in the metro after they saw me at mile 3 and get out at Columbia Heights and see me between 7-8.  My Garmin flipped out in the Dupont tunnel so I didn't have a good grasp on where I was, but I was barely looking at it anyway.  And at the top of a little hill, I saw the poet on the sidelines and I am sure I got the most ridiculously stupid grin on my face at that moment, because that was the moment when I realized I was going to finish.
So I kept going.  I probably ran 2 miles with the hugest smile on my face.  I didn't care about my time, I wasn't running hard, I was running easy and relaxed and had no desire to go any faster.  There was a point somewhere in the 8-9 mile range where I glanced down at my watch and thought, "Wow, if I turned it up a few notches, I could probably break 2 hours!"  And then I gave myself the biggest mental shake I could.  This day was not about time.  This day was about finishing.

My legs didn't really start to complain until late in mile 11.  I did not run a single step for 2 solid weeks before this race, which is actually not the recommended way to taper for a half marathon.  I swam a few times, but I mostly spent those 2 weeks in bed.  Late in mile 11, my calves and quads started to ache and cramp and seize.  I told myself that I could walk if I wanted to, but that I would get there faster if I ran, and I was actually afraid that if I stopped and walked, I wouldn't be able to start running again.  Then "The War" started playing in my headphones, which is one of my toughing it out, don't quit, 100 miles on a bicycle and still don't stop songs.  Lyrics?  "Believe you want this."  Over and over and over.

So I kept going.  The full marathoners split off and I knew I was close.  I could see the fences, and then we turned a corner and I could see the finish line, and I ran as hard as I could for it.  And then it was over and I could stop and the poet was there and he caught me and it was over.
I immediately took 4 advil and a muscle relaxer.
I took my medal picture and stuffed a few bananas and a bagel down on top of the medicine.  
I went and found my family, then my friends, and we eventually ended up back home.

And how I feel today?  Well, first of all, I'm fine.  I mean, everything is incredibly sore and tight and painful and I can't walk up or down any steps or sit on the toilet or really get off the couch at all, but none of it is alarming pain.  It's the pain of running a race after 2 weeks of laying in bed, plus nursing a lower back injury.  I am not worried about any of the pain I am in right now.  Mentally, I'm in a better place than I've been in since this all started happening.  I feel calm and centered and proud of my damn self.  I ran my own race.  It wasn't the race I thought I was going to run back in December when I signed up, or the race I've been visualizing over the past 3 months, but it's my race and no one could run it for me, I was the one who ran it.  None of the rest matters.  

I'll be sure to take the time to analyze what worked and what didn't in this training cycle and what I'm going to do moving forward, but right now I'm just going to celebrate the fact that I did this.  I'm not sure why I sometimes have to fight so hard for things that come so easily to others, but for whatever reason, this is my journey and I will own it.  And right now I'm standing on top of the mountain, hollering at the top of my lungs, because I did it.  
Life's this game of inches.

Friday, March 25, 2011

to everyone..

...running the National Half tomorrow.  I wish you the best of luck.  I hope you crush your personal goals and have solid races.  May you neither blister nor chafe nor vomit nor cry.  May your bones, muscles and ligaments carry you easily to the finish.  Smile and celebrate your race, celebrate the fact that you are alive.

I'll see you there.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

three things thursday

1. I know you guys are tired of hearing about this injury soap opera, but trust me, I am WAY more tired of living it than you are of hearing it.  I saw another (new) PT yesterday.  Hey, your SI joint is out of alignment, did you know?  So she put it back, very gently, which of course brought my pain back up from an 8 to a 10.  I guess the reason it hurts so much is that as soon as someone aligns it, it starts trying to un-align itself again, which results in my sacrum grinding against my illus and the big fat stack of spinal nerves that live in there.  Yes, I said "grinding" and "nerves" in the same sentence.  Oh, and she agreed with Dr. P that my piriformis problems were actually a symptom of another problem (everything on my right side being tight + bad alignment) and that the pain I was feeling in my piriformis was actually my sciatic nerve being compressed.  High fives for getting incorrect treatment in PT for 3 months!  So I left PT barely able to walk and had a few more meltdowns over the next 2 hours.  Who wants to trade lives with me?

2. I also know that you guys probably think I love my dogs too much, but if it wasn't for them, I don't know that I would have made it through the past 2 weeks.  I definitely wouldn't have made it through yesterday.

3. I've already picked out a back-up race.  I do NOT want to talk about it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

wordless wednesday (with words)

 Little Miss Molly.
Beautiful Graham!

Also, the verdict from the fabulous Dr. P:
Lower back strain, to the point that it's pulling my spine down (it was CURVED on the xray!) and all my hip bits up.  He put me on super steroids and said I need e-stim + heat, so off to PT I go.  After a day of steroids, I feel maybe 5% better, so I'm hopeful.  More of an update tomorrow after today's PT session.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

so, what a-happened, was....

I hit rock bottom.

As you know, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in bed.  Friday night I had to go rescue the poet, who fainted at urgent care at the thought of a tetanus shot (I know), and then we had to go to CVS to get him some antibiotics.  On the way into CVS, I slipped in the parking lot.  I didn't fall, just slid a little on some loose gravel, but the way I grabbed myself sent ridiculous and searing pain everywhere.  And about 10 steps later, I could no longer walk.  Literally not one more step.

I'm not sure how I got back to the car, but I sat there while the poet waited on his prescription and bawled my little eyes out.  And when we got back home, and I didn't have the strength to lift my legs out of the car, I knew I was in a dark place.  That's it.  That's the moment where I hit rock bottom.  I could not take another moment of being in that kind of pain.  We started talking about going to the emergency room right then, and I started googling what was going on some more, because the universal message I got from everyone on Friday was, "hmmm, you really should be feeling better by now."  According to Dr. Internet, if it wasn't SI joint inflammation (which should have improved after a week), it was probably a hip or pelvic stress fracture.  As they say in the big city, fanfuckingtastic.  We decided that it would be a long night in the ER and instead to go the next morning.

Saturday morning I got up and called a close friend who is a doctor (an ER doc, in fact) and he told me what he would do if I marched into his ER, which was essentially take x-rays and refer me to an ortho.  So, hoping for a shorter wait than an ER, I went over to Urgent Care in Arlington, prepared for a long day with granola bars, 2 books, a fully charged iPad and a Costco-sized bottle of ibuprofen.  I was there for most of the day.  They gave me a shot in the butt of Taradol (super-sized NSAID) and took a round of x-rays.  The first round was inconclusive, so they took a second set focusing on the sacrum and from a few different angles.  The doctor that examined me was concerned that I either had a stress fracture or a ligament strain, the latter of which could have pulled a bone fragment off of my sacrum and that, boys and girls, could be what was causing all the pain.  After the second set, I waited for a few hours but as it turned out, their x-ray-reader-machine wasn't cooperating, so they sent me home with a script for Flexaril (super-de-duper muscle relaxer) and told me they would call me.

They did, Sunday morning, but only to tell me that it was inconclusive again.  The Taradol seems to have calmed things down a bit, thanks heavens.  I'm still in a fair amount of pain while walking, and I'm still getting sharp stablets of pain when I twist or bend oddly, but it's less excruciating.  The muscle relaxers don't seem to be doing much for the pain but baby, do they send me flying.  As you are reading this, I'm sitting in the waiting room of the magical mystery man, Dr. P, hoping for a band-aid that will allow me to race on Saturday.  
I'll worry about the rest of my life next week, but I'm sure it will start with another round of PT.  And yes, I took a shower AND put on makeup for my appointment.  Wouldn't you?

So, for now, no news, but just the act of doing something has helped me to start climbing out of the huge canyon of sad I was in last week.  I am so grateful for all the good karma you guys are sending my way.  Thank you so incredibly much, and please, if you can, keep it coming.  I need every drop.  And it's what I'll be thinking about when I'm lined up Saturday morning, ready to fight.  You can count on one thing: I will not go quietly.

Monday, March 21, 2011

happy birthday, little blog

Yesterday marks the one-year point since the first post on this blog (which was unbelievably lame, but I think that's how a lot of things start out in life).  When I started it, I just wanted to have a voice in the community of runners that already existed.  A way to pipe up and chime in, instead of just standing outside with my face pressed up against the window.  Look what that little voice has become.
A year later, I think this blog has lived up to its name (although recently I have considered changing it to "injured this amazing day").  A great deal of it IS about running.  But I'm also hoping it is living up to the other half: being thankful for this - for every - amazing day.
There isn't much I don't write about.  A great deal of it has, oddly enough, been about running.  More has been about recovering from injury, and the ups and downs that come with training.  A lot has been about triumph.  I finished a triathlon.  I ran again after surgery.  I survived an open water swim, and 100 miles on a bike, and set a PR for this first time in 3 years.  And then another one.  And another.  I celebrated a year in races.  I discovered that I may be built for cycling, and saw the sun come up over the Potomac more times than I can remember.  And my personal journey took many huge steps forward, with tons of new friendships, a new puppy, and a surprise wedding.  I gave up red meat, then most meat, and moved to a more protein-based diet.  I discovered that I loved to cook, despite the fact that at least 50% of my cooking experiments have been total disasters.  I've only set fire to the stove once.
But a great deal of this blog has been about struggle.  About struggling my way through some pretty dark times, about what it feels like to get down on your belly and slog through the really ugly parts of your life.  And that's why I've decided to write this post, because as much as it's ironic that I'm trapped in bed a year later, waiting to heal, it's this kind of stuff that makes me the person that I am, and the blog the journey it has been.  I could probably link back to at least 20 posts where I talk about this, about the raw emotional bumps that come along with being injured and unable to reach the goals I set for myself.  But this means I also get to talk about why the fight is worth it.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of that, right now more than ever.
My very first favorite post dealt with this struggle.  It was kicked off by a twitter conversation about why we run.  It made me think about why I run, why I continue to battle against something my body very clearly is not happy about.  But more importantly, it was about not returning to a place where I've given up.  Because I've given up before, and I will not go back.  
And that's why I live, why I love, while I'll never stop fighting.  I thank you, God, for most this amazing day.  And I thank all of you guys, for a year most amazing, for giving me a place to twist and grow towards the sun, for the times you've reached out to support me, for the amazing friendships I've made that I know I'll have for life, for the times when I've been surprised by how much this feels like a great big crazy family.  That's a big part of the reason why it's different this time around, why I haven't given up.  Because of all of you, and your kindness and humor and wit and the way that you will not let me give up, no matter how badly I am hurting.
Oh, and this?  I'll be there on Saturday.  I'll get dressed and fueled up, and I'll drive to RFK and park and find my friends and shiver and stamp my feet nervously.  I don't know how far I'll make it.  I might run 2 steps and have to stop.  I might make it only a mile, or 2.  I might finish but just inside the 15:00 minute/mile pace cutoff that exists for the course when most people are long gone, or I might not even finish at all.  But I will be there.  I will not slink off and hide, I will thrash and kick and yell every step of the way.  I will not stop fighting.

Friday, March 18, 2011

things that suck

It's now been a week since the sports massage that kicked off this wonderful chain of events, and I am not noticeably better.  I'm actually pretty (irrationally) angry at almost everything and everyone, and while I really do appreciate all of the comments, emails, calls, texts, it's hard to glean the support that is at the heart of it and ignore the pieces of "advice" that make me purple with rage.
Yes, I own a foam roller.  I purchased one in 2004 and spend plenty of time with it on a regular basis.
No, this IS NOT BECAUSE I DON'T TAKE ENOUGH REST DAYS.  This happened because I was out of alignment, and someone put me back, and none of us realized that I didn't have the strength in a few very small but important muscles buried deep inside my core to hold my sacrum where it was supposed to be because those muscles had never needed to hold it there before, or that my hyper-mobility would allow my joints to move around in such a way that would cause this pain.  None of that has anything to do with overtraining.  I am not, was not, have not been overtrained.
No, I can't "go out and drunkface it up while I'm not training."  Maybe you missed the part where standing, sitting, walking, or even sneezing cause sharp stabbing pains in my back and right leg.  
No, you stubbing your toe and not being able to run for 2 days is not the same thing.
Yes, I actually have tried stretching.
No, I probably shouldn't "just ignore it and test out some running."
No, I am not going to "give up running because I'm finally seeing how bad it is for me."  If this leads to me giving up running, it's because I can't bear the emotional hell of being devastatingly injured twice a year for the rest of my life.
Yes, I've tried taking some ibuprofen.
I honestly do know that everyone is just trying to help, and I feel like a complete asshole being angry about it.  If I had a friend who was injured in this way, I would probably send the same kind of useless sentiments her way because I wouldn't know what else to do, either.  And I REALLY do appreciate the thoughts, kindnesses, and support, because sometimes it makes me feel better to get all fired up over how dumb but truly heartfelt and well-meaning people, as a species, can be.  It makes me feel better, like I might actually get through this.
But there is nothing to do here but wait.  It's not a muscle that needs to rebuild over a tear.  It's not a bone that needs to repair a fracture.  It's a joint that got inflamed and needs to calm down.  I get to do a set of 4 core exercises and stretches no more than 3 times a day.  I'm icing for 20-30 minutes several times a day, and yesterday I started trying heat to see if that would help (it hasn't).  I've been taking 800mg of ibuprofen 3-4 times a day, because while I can't honestly tell if it's helping, I don't think it can hurt for this short duration.  And that's it.   
Other than a few short trips out here and there, I've been laying in bed since Saturday afternoon.  Monday evening I tried swimming.  I thought it was successful so I tried it again on Tuesday, along with a PT appointment and a test bike ride.  One of those things brought me back to the level of pain I was at on Saturday.  I tried a pool run Wednesday morning, and when I got out of the pool I felt tight and weird, so I've decided that complete rest is what I'm going to do until I can walk without pain.  Which means I spent the entire day on Wednesday in bed, crying my little broken heart out.  And the entire day on Thursday in bed, not crying my eyes out but definitely feeling incredibly depressed and sad.  I can't even walk out back to see spring.  It's just too much work, and it's too hard to look out and see that I'm yet again missing the first gorgeous days of the year, days that I should be out on a bike or a run, and instead I'm trapped in bed.  For the most part, alone.
It's almost too ironic to mention that my blogiversary is this weekend.  This blog is about to be 1 year old, this blog that I started while I was trapped in bed after shoulder surgery, staring out the window at the gorgeous spring days that I was missing while I recovered.  For a few weeks now I've been thinking about the 1 year post I wanted to do, talking about all the amazing people I've met and ridiculous things I've talked about and how my life has changed because of it, and I am far too broken-hearted to be able to do that right now.  I can't bear it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

one thing thursday

1. I spent the first few days being stalwart but, you guys, I am really really not okay.  I am trying not to completely harass the internet with how completely not-okay I am, but I am not doing well.  And it's not even (totally) about the running at this point.  I'd like to be able to get out of bed without stabbing pain in my back.  I'd like to be able to drive to Target without having to think about whether or not an hour is enough time, because it hurts to put any weight on either leg so walking is pretty slow, or if it's even worth the trip because I'm hurting THAT badly.  This isn't like my IT band, where it hurt to run, but otherwise I could go out and have fun and live my life.  I've essentially been in bed for 4 solid days and it is NOT okay.  I do know that I am doing everything I can do to help this heal, but it's not happening quickly - if at all.  And yes, I have a foam roller.  Yes, I've stretched!  I've iced and seen a great PT and made doctor's appointments.  

I don't want to take a break from the blog but I'm not sure what there is for me to talk about.  "Today I cried for 6 hours and ate only Oreos while reading DIY house blogs because I can't bear to touch my Google reader."  Yeah, that's no fun for anyone.  So I'm going to try and post updates as I have any, but really, no update is no update is no update.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

wordless wednesday

Beth let me come visit the cold plunge pool at her gym yesterday in yet another effort to calm things down.
It was cold.

SI update: very definitely not better.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

all-call: swimmers ahoy!

Well, it appears that I can still - sort of - swim.
I (very apprehensively) went to the pool last night to test out both swimming and pool running.  Swimming seems to be okay - there is some slight awareness going on when I kick, which I think is from body roll, but it's pretty slight and I'm hoping I'm not making anything worse.  I'm going to go bazooka-insane if I can't do anything, so swimming it is.  Pool running was another story - I thought I would try it without the belt, because working the core is how this will heal, but I was a mess after 2 minutes so I went and got the belt.  With the belt, I was able to very slowly and gently cycle my legs without pain or discomfort.  But when I got out of the pool afterwards, things felt a bit weird and tight, so I think I might nix the pool running for a few more days.

However, I'm bored to tears with my current swim sets and would love some input on ways to mix it up.  Here's what I did last night:
- 1000yd warm-up (500yd free, 500yd pull)
- 500yd drill (5x100yd: single arm drill, fingertip entrance drill, body roll drill, catch drill, 3/5/7 breathing)
- 1500yd step-down ladder (increasing speed with each set: 400yd, 300yd, 200yd, 100yd, and then attempt to maintain the 100yd pace for 500yd, be ready to puke if you don't start carefully)

This is basically a variation on my usual swim - warm-up mixing free and pull, 500 yards of drills, and then some kind of sprint set - either a ladder (50/100/200/300/200/100/50 being a favorite) or a descending ladder like last night, or alternating hard/easy 50s with no recovery.  Usually I do a few kick sets, but not with the current state of body affairs.  But I'm getting bored, so I'm sending out a plea for help.  A few disclaimers: now is not the time to learn other strokes (back, breast, fly, side) because I want to not do anything new that might eff up my back.  I'm going to leave kicking out until I'm healed, and will probably do more with the pull buoy than usual to try and protect myself.  Otherwise, let me have it.  What are some of your favorite workouts in the pool?  

Monday, March 14, 2011

not this time

I'm been having my usual piriformis problems the past few weeks.

My step back week seemed to make it flare up.  Cycling makes it feel much better, and I don't notice it while running, only after.  About a week ago it started to intensify a bit.  I've been really good about icing, stretching, and foam rolling, but to no end.  Since I've graduated from PT, I figured I just needed someone to dig their elbow around in it for a while, so I scheduled a sports massage appointment for Friday based on the recommendations of my training partners.  It (my piriformis) was the usual amount of cranky after Tuesday evening's track workout, and while it felt amazing during my Thursday evening tempo, it had tightened up again by the time I drove home.  So I felt like the timing for this appointment was perfect.  

It was very unlike other sports massages I've had.  We talked and then she spent some time evaluating what was going on in my body.  All my piriformis problems are on the right side, and it blew my mind when she told me that my hamstring and glute were tight on the left side, which was making my right side overcompensate.  I also had several core/hip muscles/stabilizers that were short (I assumed this meant "tight") and my sacrum was tilted/moved somehow which was making everything a mess.  It's likely that I'm not reporting all of this correctly, because it got kind of hard to keep track after a while.  When she started working on me, it also wasn't the sports massage I was accustomed to - less like a beating and more like releasing points and making adjustments.  But when I stood up, even though I still felt pain, things felt looser than they had in a while.  She told me it might take 2 or 3 sessions to get things really straightened out, but it seemed like an end was in sight.

I was actually pretty pleased when I got home.  Since my PT discharged me, I've been feeling kind of hopeless about every getting over my piriformis issues.  Rest seems to make it worse, not better.  Which has led to a lot of anger and frustration on my end.  But this made me hopeful.  A few more appointments, some stretching and strengthening, and maybe I could both run AND live my life pain-free!

I asked her about running the next day, and she gave me the go-ahead as long as I felt okay.  So I stayed with the plan to run 14 - the last long run of this training cycle.  I was spending the weekend with Lauren, who was in town, and we headed over to meet up with CAR for the Saturday morning long run.  
We started easy, just running and chatting.  We did 4 out-and-back, and then I dropped her at the car (to change and drop some things off - she was only doing 10) and headed up the trail.  I felt a little stiff in the first mile but everything seemed to shake out pretty quickly.  I picked up the pace in the middle third and then stopped briefly to Gu in Bethesda.  I did the last 5 miles as race pace miles and finished up back at Fletcher's, thrilled to pieces about how well it went.  I felt amazing!  My knees and lower back felt a tiny bit sore from running for 2+ hours, but that's to be expected.  Everything else just felt a bit stiff and tired - like I'd just run 14 miles.
I stretched a bit before we got in the car.  We stopped to get coffee on the way back, and when I got out of the car, I couldn't believe how much I had tightened up in the 10-15 minutes we'd been driving.  I stood in the corner and stretched while LPT got her coffee.  But one more in and out of the car wasn't happening.  By the time we got back, I couldn't stand up.  I had a hot rod of pain from the top of my hamstring all the way through my butt and up my back.

I was pretty concerned at this point, so I took some time to foam roll everything, stretch carefully, took some ibuprofen and then got in an ice bath.  And almost ripped the shelf off the wall trying to get back out.  By the time I was changed and had eaten, I was very worried, upset and in a lot of pain.  

Amy was kind enough to offer up the tall girl's PT skills, and after we talked through it on the phone, I think she determined that my SI joint was the culprit.  I did some Dr. Internet-ing based on where I've been feeling pain and it appears that the internet concurs.  I can't sit or walk without pain.  Bending, putting weight on either leg and standing up all send hot fire stabbing up and down the right side of my body.  I've been icing and doing some very gentle stretches and taking ibuprofen on a stopwatch, but as of right now, nothing has helped or improved.  

And I'm back on the emotional roller coaster that comes along with an injury.  My heart is broken.  I can't stop crying, and I'm so angry.  I've been so careful this training cycle.  And I'm really trying not to devote too much time and energy to anything except thinking about how to get through this day, and then the next and the next.  I've got an appointment tomorrow to see if I can get any relief and get things going again.  I can deal with 2 easy weeks of tapering and show up even more well-rested than I expected, but I cannot NOT show up.  Because this can't be a DNS kind of injury.  It just can't.  Even if I have to drag myself through 13.1 miles using only my front teeth, even if it wrecks the rest of my year of racing, even if I have to have my right leg amputated at the sacrum, so help me, I will not DNS this half marathon.  Not this time.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

i bust mine

It rained pretty steadily throughout the day yesterday.  Like most runners, I hate going out to run in the rain, but once I'm out, I'm pretty happy and feel like a badass.  The rain died down a bit just in time for me to show up at the track for tempo.  Only 3 other - much faster - people showed up.   I was ordered to decided to just do a 5K tempo instead of the usual 4 miles - I've got a key long run coming up this weekend, plus a race that I'm not planning on racing, although no one believes me!  

My tempo pace felt the same as it always does - comfortably hard - and it was actually pretty windy around the back side, so I was surprised to hit the .25 split almost 10 seconds ahead of where I usually do.  I heard, "too fast, slow down!" float back to me as I passed, so I relaxed the pace.  It started to feel hard where it always does - about halfway through - and I was thrilled to bits when Jessica (who had only done a 1M tempo because she's working back from injury) jumped in to join me.  And then it started to rain again.  

This wasn't normal rain.  This was a torrential downpour that instantly flooded the track and, after about 2 minutes, caused the lacrosse game on the field to shut down.  We were dodging huge puddles and I was soaked to the skin.  As we were approaching the 2M mark, I asked her, "Do we stop?" - pretty desperately hoping for a yes at that point.  But we kept going.  I couldn't hear my 2M & 2.25M splits over the rain and wind, so it wasn't until about the 2.5M mark that I started doing the math and realized I was running right around my 5K PR pace.  I tried to pick it up again but the wind, rain, and people wandering around the track made it a mess.  When I went past George at the 3M mark, I didn't hear the split he called again, but just tried desperately to haul ass to the 5K line.  And here's what happened:
Ignore the distances, the Garmin isn't correct at the track, but I was lapping it at every mile mark, and then lapped it again when I hit the 5K mark.  I tied my 5K PR - down to the second.  Who does that?

My first reaction was to be incredibly pissed.  Major props to Jessica, who let me rant and rave about 1 second (and who dragged me around the track 6 times in the rain!)  I feel like I'm in much better shape that I was a month ago when I set this PR.  And when I set the PR, on a really hilly course, that time included 30ish seconds of stopping to stretch, so this actually means I'm in WORSE shape.  I think I would've been happy with even one second faster!  Frustration.

But once I got home and dried off and had time to think about it, sanity returned.  I wasn't running at race pace, I was running at comfortably hard tempo pace, and it felt easier than normal until it started to pour.  Plus all the added factors of a tight calf, running a tough 6x800 workout two days ago, etc.  I was even more irritated to have run a positive-split tempo, but I realized that I probably would've negative split it if it hadn't started to rain like crazy (halfway through mile 2 - the graph on Garmin Connect is awesome, you can see my pace drop a bit at the exact place where the wind became insane and I started having to dodge and dance through puddles).  So it sits well with me, today.  And it's actually faster than the 5K tempo on the interval chart that I'm stalking to try and pick a 13.1 goal, so you might even call me pleased.

Speaking of getting home, here's what I looked like when I sloshed in the front door (wearing my AMAZING new GasCap visor that I won from Dash!!).

I bust mine.  To kick yours

Thursday, March 10, 2011

three things thursday

1. I've had a knot in my calf since Sunday.  Felt fine on the recovery run, fine at yoga, and about 10 minutes after I got home something woke up and started yelling.  I iced, advil'd, foam rolled, and stretched Sunday & Monday.  Tuesday it was quiet so I figured it had gone away, but track on Tuesday night woke it up again.  I rolled, advil'd, and stretched my brains out all day yesterday, but add that to the tangled hip/piriformis mess that came back with a vengeance during step back week and by the time I got home I was beyond cranky.  I scheduled a sports massage for Friday morning and then sat in this for 20 minutes to try and calm everything down.
It looks kind of badass but really I was just too lazy to ice one part at a time.  I started a new pair of shoes last Saturday (same model, new pair), so I'm hoping that once my legs adjust the calf thing will go away.  The hip/piriformis mess it appears I am just going to have to live with, as I've been treating it for over 3 months now and it is neither getting better nor worse.

2. I've decided to take my recovery run to the St. Patrick's Day 8K this Sunday.  I swear I'm going to take it easy, and I'll wear my Garmin to make sure I stay at my recovery pace.  But I'm going to make it a race-day-clothing test run just to make sure that nothing moves or rubs or twitches oddly before I take it out for 13.1.  Plus I get to partake in a St. Patrick's Day race without dumping me out of training for the surrounding days.  Sounds like a good reason to celebrate with a post-race beer!

3. I've been talking to some training partners lately about periodization, and we had a particularly interesting conversation yesterday via email about focusing your training and culling the junk out, taking rest seasons, and moving through cycles of training within one training cycle.  My year is pretty carefully mapped out until the Kinetic 70.3 in May.  I'm signed up for the San Francisco Half Marathon in July, but that will most likely be a fun destination race instead of a PR-attempt, based both on the course (hilly) and the weather in the 8 weeks preceding the race (ridiculously hot).  The past 8-12 weeks have been really focused on running, and I wanted and needed it to get back in shape after having surgery.  And I very definitely have something to prove - if only to myself - at the National Half in a few weeks.  

But I really miss cycling at the volume I was doing last summer - who ever would've thought?  I've had the conversation with a triathlete friend several times - I love triathlon training, I love the variety and the balance, but triathlons are expensive and race day is a pain in the ass.  So instead of racing the fall 70.3 that I was sorta kinda thinking about - or just instead of making it my A race - I think that I might take the June-October months to really focus on cycling - still run and maintain a good base, but not with quite the same intensity I've been training at for the past 2 months.  I'd really like to get revenge on the Reston Century in particular, and I'm hoping that a sub-6-hour century isn't all that far away for me.  Then when the cold rolls back in, I'll pick a winter half marathon to try and knock out a PR.  What do you guys think?  Does your training move in cycles?  Do you take rest seasons?  I think this is a very different conversation depending on whether you are a runner or a triathlete, and I'm interested in both sides.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

house projects: living room

A deviation from obsessing about training and the 13.1 that is inching ever closer...a house post!

When I moved into my house, it had stood empty for over 2 years.  It had been broken into and every appliance was stolen, along with every door inside the house.  There were no blinds on any windows, the floors and walls were a mess, and the people who had lived there last had done quite a bit of DIY which only made many things much, much worse.  The kitchen was an empty room with some pipes hanging out of the wall.  In the first floor bathroom, when you sat on the throne you could see directly into the living room of the house across the street.  And the day we moved in was hot and wet and the air conditioning didn't work.

Over 2 years later, it's still a hot mess, but it's getting there.  My "house to-do" list is a huge spreadsheet, and we try and balance what is necessary (roof) against what we want to do (baseboard molding).  

The only picture I have of the living room from the day we moved in is this one (you can click on any of these pictures to see a much larger version):
You can kind of see the disgusting fireplace and banged up walls.  Here's a close-up of the mantle.
Gorgeous construction, right?

So, after living in the house for a while, and once the kitchen was installed and the roof was replaced, I went after the walls.  They had been painted some shade of white many years earlier, but they were damaged and disgusting.  My reaction to this was to paint every room a strong bold color.  I chose a coffee-colored brown for the living room.
My parents were kind enough to come down for the weekend to help work on things.  My dad decided the mantle mess had to go.
So it went, but it was replaced with a temporary few pieces of wood that were just kind of sitting there.  
The wood surrounding the tile was falling apart, and you can still see the old baseboard molding, which was disgusting.  The baseboard molding was replaced about 6 months later, and then we started the project of the built-ins.  Before:
I was thrilled with the difference it made in the room, but then started lusting after a new couch.  And I realized that the couch I wanted would look awful in a brown room.  So one Friday afternoon I went and bought some paint samples.  
Looking at this, I actually can't remember which one we picked, but I think it was the top one.  In person, it was obvious which color was the right choice.  Two coats of primer+paint later, we had a new living room.  I'm in love with the way it turned out.  But then had to do something with the giant empty wall that we had been ignoring for months.  From several other DIY house blogs, I had the idea to do a photo collage.  4 trips to craft stores and 2 trips to pick up printed out photos later, the wall was no longer naked and alone.
I love the way this turned out (they are all crooked because every time the puppies wrestle into the wall they wiggle, and I've given up on straightening them).  I also love that we can continue to add to it - it is a story that is not over.

After stalking the Crate & Barrel outlet for 3+ weeks, we brought the couch home, and then a few days later a rug.  The living room isn't done - we need to stalk home the matching chair, and buy a new coffee table and an end table - but it's one of my favorite rooms in the house.  The couch itself is more comfortable than our own bed.  
And even though it's not done, it's one of the few rooms that I can sit in and look around and not start making a list of the things that need to be done to make it better.  We're getting there!