Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How Am I Doing After Comrades?

Today I had physical therapy.  It was my first PT appointment since the Comrades Marathon.  Actually, it was also my first PT appointment since my DNF at the Med City Marathon.  Between the Memorial Day holiday and my travel to South Africa, I wasn’t able to schedule any appointments last week.

The obvious question is “How am I doing after Comrades?”  It seems like my body was sending me mixed messages, both before and during the race.  Since the race, I’ve had the usual post-race soreness, but I really couldn’t tell if running Comrades set my recovery back.

I saw the same therapist today that I saw two days before Med City.  I brought her up to date on how I felt during both races.  Then she evaluated my range of motion, strength and whether any spots were tender.  The short answer is that I’m doing OK.  I didn’t mess myself up by running Comrades.  My recovery hasn’t moved backwards at all since my last appointment.

The reason it’s been so tough for me to evaluate my own progress is that recovery from an injury like this doesn’t progress in a straight line.  To begin healing, you need to rest.  To fully heal, you need to resume using the muscles.  In my case, that includes running.  As you resume activities such as running, you sometimes stress the muscles too much and take small steps backwards.  Then you continue moving forward again.  Over time, you improve, but the improvement isn’t continuous.  She said complete recovery typically takes six to eight weeks.  It’s been four weeks since the injury.  I’m not fully recovered, but I’m making progress.

I told her what my race schedule looks like for the next two months.  I have 16 days to work on recovery before my next race, but it’s a 100 mile trail run.  Then I have another two week break.  Then I have an absolutely insane race schedule in July.  On four consecutive weekends, I have a triple, a tough trail marathon, a road marathon that descends 4500 feet, and finally a 78K trail run through the Swiss Alps.  It would be really good if I could go into July healthy.

Aside from “How am I doing after Comrades?” the other question I had to ask is “Can I recover in time, or do have completely unrealistic expectations?”

The good news is that I have a realistic chance of recovering in time.  She couldn’t make any guarantees.  I’m putting my body through stuff that the average person just doesn’t do.

She noticed that I have strong quads and tight hamstrings.  This combination is probably compromising my running mechanics in ways that are putting increased stress on other muscles.  I knew I needed to improve my hamstring flexibility, but it’s even more important than I thought.  It’s going to be an important component of my continuing recovery.

She gave me a new hamstring stretch and some pointers on how to do two of my other exercises.  For the next two weeks, I’ll be seeing a different therapist who has more experience working with runners.  She’ll probably give me additional exercises.

I wasn’t given any specific restrictions on when, how far or how often I should run.  I’m supposed to listen to my body.  My body is saying stick to cross-training for a couple more days.

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