The Blonde Runs

Colorado lovin'


…just when I thought I was ready

Just when I thought I was ready to start training, add a little umfph to my workouts, alas, a slight setback.  While I wasn’t really sure what to attribute it to, my right hamstring is feeling rather tight.

Since arriving in Australia a little over three months ago, I’ve played it “safe” with running.  I’ve not been training.  I’ve not ramped up my miles drastically.  I’ve not even done any real speed work.  I’ve only maintained about 30 miles a week that included a weekend long run of about 10-13 miles.  This is nothing I wouldn’t normally do when I’m in my off-season.  So, what gives?

After running a 12 miler over a month ago, in preparation for my 32k relay leg, my right hamstring seized up. There was never any sharp pain, never a time in the run where I could pinpoint that something had happened. It just wouldn’t relax afterward. Then, the following weekend, after actually running the 32k leg of the relay race, I knew I should get some advice on the situation. Especially since I was just beginning to feel a solid routine with my weekly mileage and starting to get the tiniest little niggle of wanting to start training for something. Anything.

After three weeks of PT, I am finally feeling somewhat “better.” The pain has been attributed to my lower back and great pains have been taken to relax it, including dry needling, which is truly a great pain. But I stick with all of my exercises and hope for the best. On a pain scale of 1-10, I’m down to a 3ish on each run. Which is drastically better than what it was even a week ago. I dropped my weekly mileage by about half and eliminated my long runs for the past few weeks. Better to preserve the old bones for November races, and I do have November races. So, now that I’m feeling better, time to slowly, smartly, add a few miles here and there.

What’s hard is that I’m considering myself injured, without having done anything to actually prompt it. I mean, maybe if I had been up to 65 mile weeks, at the peak of training, I could understand aches and pains and pulls and such. But not this.

I suppose, as usual, running is a metaphor for life. When you feel like you’re in a groove, things are smooth, and then…WHAM! Out of nowhere, something happens to shake it up. What’s important is how you react/respond to the situation and keep a good attitude.

Thanks for the “life” reminder, Running…



…in the clear

I’ve taken these past 6 weeks to visit with a fantastic PT, an in-tune sports massage therapist, and increase my mileage. This from 6 weeks of nothing. But I’m definitely feeling better than I have, well, all year! In retrospect, it’s somewhat a shame I put off seeking “professional help” until recently. However, like any season of running, I’ve learned from this too.

While it can take up to 18 weeks to fully heal the remains of scar tissue, and I should continue to heat before EVERY run during that time, I can run and add simple speedwork as normal.

Despite the hurts-so-good excruciating pain during PT sessions, I realize in these past few weeks that I’d almost forgotten what it was like to run pain free. But I want to continue to run pain free. Or at least, as best I can.

So, how will I know, next time, when to run through pain and when to seek help?

I asked this exact question of Heather. She said there was no definitive answer, but to follow these steps:

1.  See a massage therapist to work out the top layers
2.  Notice whether or not the pain subsides over the next week
3.  Cut back on distance and speed, giving the injury time to heal itself
4.  Finally, if there is still pain or the pain increases, see a PT

Seems pretty reasonable to me. And since I plan to run FOREVER, I need to follow these steps to a tee.

So, now, I continue to build up mileage and increase my long runs.  I’m voraciously shopping for a Turkey Trot.  I was advised that it must be a 10k or longer; any shorter and it will take longer for my hamstring to heal.  I’m not hoping for a PR or anything.  Just the feeling of flying again…



…to a PT

I visited a PT earlier this week, on the recommendation of the lovely and talented Courtney. It wasn’t so much that I thought I needed a lot of work done as it was just wanted to check to make sure I was on the right track. Because as good as I’ve been feeling this past month of buildup, I want to be confident there is nothing else going on that I need to be addressing.

So, when I visited Heather North of Boulder, I was anxious yet excited. Can you be excited about PT? Well, I was. Turns out next time, I won’t be. Not for the poor diagnosis (there wasn’t one) but for the pain I had to endure.

While I sat and talked to Heather North of Boulder, going over every little detail of the past year’s running; Rim Rock marathon, the hamstring tweak I felt a few weeks before that race, the cutback, the Boston training, the miserable Boston 2012, the summer trail running, the back to back halves, 6 weeks off, the gradual buildup; she was able to make some interesting connections that, of course, I hadn’t considered.

It all boiled down to the fact that runners run through pain. Truth.

I had felt something off in my hamstring before a marathon almost a year ago. But hoped that through cutting back on training, I’d be fine. And while I really was mostly fine, I wasn’t great. I felt a dull ache in that hamstring all through Boston training. So I eased up, stuck to trails, and threw in some hip conditioning. But it never truly healed. Not when I keep pushing through and run back to back halves. So I took time off.

I thought it was my hip rotators, all in a cluster, and the pain was running into my hamstring. Turns out, the pain in my hamstring, is really just my hamstring.

Luckily, “it’s not as bad as you think”, Heather North of Boulder said. She stated I had scar tissue in my hamstring; because I had run through the pain, like most do. No guilt. No judgement. Just truth. But when she bore down on my hamstring, breaking up the scar tissue, I clinched my teeth, my upper body contracted, and my eyes watered. I may be 31, but I’m not beneath crying. It happened in the dentist chair not too long ago…

She worked on my hamstring for about 10 minutes; just breaking it all up. It had to happen in order for it to properly repair. You see, scar tissue is just a way for your body to repair itself when there has been an injury. The cross fibers stabilize the affected area and it will restrict motion. By breaking up the cross fibers, you restore normal function to the damaged tissue.

Afterward, a pinching round of acupuncture, and finally electrical stimulation.

An hour and half later, I’m out. But with the assurance that I should be running “an easy long run each week and also a simple speed workout.” Um….okay! Gotta love when your PT is also a distance runner, with a professional runner husband, who GETS IT.

So, it looks like I am on the right track after all. And I can increase my workouts. I need to be diligent with heating my hamstring before every run and doing the hamstring exercises I was given. Piece of cake.

See you in two weeks Heather North of Boulder! Hopefully, for the last time.



…injury: 7 Stages of Grief

A running injury feels like the 7 stages of grief. Hear me out.

While it was several months ago that I noticed the pain in my lateral hamstring, I was shocked that I was feeling a tightness and brushed it off as overuse, since I was training for a marathon. I figured that the 4-6 weeks that I backed off of running after that marathon would do the trick. Then, I started training for Boston this spring and while I was able to ward off the intensity of the pain, I could still feel the strain on my left leg, especially on my highest mileage weeks or my toughest speed days. I saw a massage therapist a few weeks before Boston and she confirmed that the 6 deep external hip rotator muscles were all in a cluster. She worked them out a smidge, but I ran that hot mess of a marathon anyway. Afterwards, I continued my (1) state of denial and switched up my training to primarily trails. I cut back on long runs and any sort of training plan. I wanted to run when I felt like it and however I felt at the time. I foam rolled, tennis balled, and iced as I normally would. When the pain began to intensify, I started to feel (2) guilty for not doing more to address the issue. So I began a series of hip conditioning exercises that a PT would typically give someone like me for rehab. After a few weeks, I really did start to feel better! There were many runs where I had little to no pain! Yes! I was beating this! Then, I ran those back-to-back races. Two races that weren’t exactly easy. That’s when I knew.

Even though I cut back significantly after that weekend and I resumed my hip exercises, it seemed that every run was such an effort. I could feel my form change significantly after just a few miles into a run. And I would wince in pain every time I stretched. I got (3) angry and started bargaining with myself. If you keep up with the exercises, you’ll be fine. If you see that chiropractor, you’ll be fine. If you stick to trails, it’s less impact, you’ll be fine. But when I saw my chiro, felt good for about two days (sans running), then felt the pain come back, I knew this was a bigger problem than something I could just “run through” and brush off. I wouldn’t dare mention the I word.

I know it’s not a good hurt when I decide to put myself on running restrictions, without the prompting of my doctor. I’ve (4) pouted a lot in those weeks. Running is my addiction. My drug. When I’ve had a bad day, I’m only one run away from a good mood. When I’ve had a great day, a run only enhances the feeling. I connect to my dearest friends when running. A run becomes my therapy session, and those friends my therapists. I was already feeling so lonely and left out, after only a few days!

I reached an (5) upward turn, though, when I started working. I’m a 3rd grade teacher, and the beginning of the school year always requires me to put in extra hours. By throwing myself back into work, I was able to focus my attention on something else. After a few weeks, I could see some changes. I was able to move my leg in positions that used to hurt. I could put my foot on the edge of the tub and shave my legs without pain! Little things. Maybe this “time off” thing wasn’t so bad.

When I began running again several weeks ago, I was nervous. After taking 6 weeks off, I wanted to notice a difference. And although those first few runs weren’t pain free, they was significantly less strain than I had felt before. This was/is my (6) reconstruction and working through it stage. As I gradually add more mileage each week, I don’t want to overdo it with speed and distance. I want to come back healthy and strong.

I think the final stage, (7) acceptance and hope, is coupled with the previous stage. They have seemed to go hand in hand for me, as I see my hip holding up on each run. And in each run, there seems to be less and less pain. While my left side feels weak and tender, there is no distinct pain! This feels good! I want to continue to be diligent with my before and after exercises, see my massage therapist more regularly, and take great precautions as I build up again.

Of course it’s when I’m on restriction that I have a strong desire to train and race! It didn’t help that I gave in to some race shopping a few weeks ago. Just perusing, though. At least I know where my heart lies and what I want to accomplish once I’m feeling healthy again.

I’ll be working on gradual build-up through the next few months. I am hoping for a Turkey Trot and a holiday race in December. And then, big dreams for 2013!!



…making her way back

You may have noted my reference to some hip pain in the last few months. You may have seen a drop in my mileage via DailyMile last month. But, after 6 weeks of time off to let my hip heal, I’m making my way back.

It’s never easy to admit that you have an injury. And given the fact that I’ve been running for over 20 years, I feel fortunate to say that I can count on one hand the number of injuries I’ve had in that time. But, when you feel that nagging ache that just doesn’t seem to go away, you have to re-evaluate. In considering my next 20 years of running, I had to take care of me now. I think it’s worth it to sacrifice a few weeks off now to ensure that I can run for many more years to come.

I know I pushed my body a little too much this past summer. I ran those back-to-back races. Two races that weren’t exactly easy. And even though I was only in a little bit of pain at that point, the doubles put me over the edge. I tried to just cut back in July, do a lot of hip conditioning, and stick to trails, but by the end of July, I knew I had to take more drastic measures.

August probably ended up being the best month to take off, as I was starting the school year again with my 3rd graders, moving houses, and adjusting to a longer commute. Honestly, there wouldn’t have been a ton of run-time anyway. At least I didn’t have the pressure of training or maintaining during those weeks.

But now, I’ve been taking the past month to slowly ease back into it. I’d rather take it easy and not re-injure myself. I’ve been incorporating so much extra body work before and after running. I continue with hip conditioning, foam rolling, tennis balling, and stretching. It seems like I spend more time preparing and doing post-run exercises than the actual run!

Overall, those 6 weeks I took off had me really thinking about running injuries; specifically in relation to the 7 stages of grief! I’ll post on that later.

I will tell you, it just feels good to run!



…reviving the Vibrams

They’ve been sitting around. Or at least tucked away securely in their box, keeping their beautiful white hue. A hue that has stayed around for nearly a year and a half, thanks to being hidden in that box, not seeing much light, or mud. I’ve brought them out to play a time or two; albeit, not for very long. And they’ve remained in their box, in the closet, next to a gazillion other shoes, mostly forgotten.

But then I started training for that marathon. And then I started getting tight in my left IT, hip, glute. Then I read Born to Run.

All that left side pain didn’t seem to effect the marathon. I think the marathon effected the pain. Afterwards, I cut back on mileage to heal up before starting Boston training. I ran what I wanted, when I wanted, and however slow I wanted. It didn’t add up to many miles. As I inched toward the end of my “off” season, I was realizing the pain was not subsiding. So I started to stretch more. And foam roll. And even iced.

Then, I remembered Born to Run.

It’s chock full of running tidbits that will make you rethink everything you thought you already knew about running (this from a runner of 19 years!). But as I battled the tightness on my left side, I began to recall particular things. Things about running in your shoes until they literally fall apart, things about minimalist footwear, things about barefoot running. And all the benefits! Running as nature intended us to run, not as nurture has coddled and cushioned us via brand names and marketing.

Now, don’t me wrong! I love to be coddled and cushioned by brand names and marketing! A lot! But just for a moment, I wondered…

If minimalist and barefoot running was so beneficial to athletes, namely in the way of preventing injury, why not attempt to run more in my Vibrams? I already have them. No purchase necessary. Can’t hurt. Well, maybe initially until my feet and calves get used to it.

I was always the skeptically one when it came to barefoot running and minimalist footwear. Oh sure, I had read all the articles I could find on the interwebs, in magazines, in books, etc., but I wasn’t sure what it meant to me.

Until I read Born to Run. Until I started feeling…injured?

I decided to unbox them a few days ago. Give them a little love on an easy 4 miler with my lululemon run club. It felt pretty good. Not a “the-pain-totally-went-away-and-these-Vibrams-are-the-CURE-ALL-for-running-injuries-and-world-peace” type of good, but a “delayed pain” sort of good. While my leg would typically start hurting right away when starting a run, this time the pain didn’t start until about 2 miles in. Don’t jump to conclusions, I told myself. Could be a coincidence.

The next day I ran 5 in those coddled, cushioned, brand name shoes, followed by an hour of yoga (yeah, I’m on that train). And today, I ran another easy 3.5 miles in my Vibrams. Not much pain at all. Hmmmm…

While each day this week I’ve been consistent about foam rolling and stretching, part of me really feels like the Vibrams are helping. Perhaps it’s because I run differently in them. You can’t help but run differently in them!

My goal now is to continue running my easy miles in them. Build up my calf muscles and my feet. Taking the leap into barefoot running?! NOT HARDLY. I know I don’t have the prettiest feet, thanks to several years of distance running, and the accompanying toenail loss, but I’m slightly too vain to get on board with that one! Have you seen their feet?! But I do want to see if I can avoid an injury by using minimalists. For research purposes, of course.