Monday, February 29, 2016

I'm Finally Running Again

A few weeks ago, I wrote about cancelling my plans for the Los Angeles Marathon and how difficult it was to read posts about the race and the Olympic Trials, which were held the day before.  This past weekend, I was supposed to be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon.  I saw a few posts from friends who did this race, but this time my mind was on a different race.  All I could think about was the Boston Marathon.

Last summer I had mixed feelings about registering for this year’s Boston Marathon.  On one hand, I knew I wouldn’t be in shape for it.  On the other hand, I’ve run it four years in a row, and I didn’t want my streak to end.  I eventually decided to register for the race.

A few days ago, I got an email from Marathon Tours & Travel (MT&T).  To get a (somewhat) affordable hotel rate, I booked my room through MT&T.  Sometimes people make a reservation, but then they need to cancel.  This email was a reminder that anyone cancelling their reservation after March 1st would have to pay for the first night.  Anyone cancelling before then would have to pay a $60 cancellation fee.  (That’s still a lot less than the room rate for one night!)

Going into today’s physical therapy appointment, I had doubts about whether I could run the race.  The last time I ran was January 12th.  That was one very slow mile on a treadmill, wearing a compression wrap on my right leg.  Since then, my only real training has been on a stationary bike.

This past week has been a physical and emotional roller coaster.  In addition to my PT exercises, I was working on getting hip rotation when I walk.  Before I could start running, I needed to be able to walk normally.  By mid-week, I was already making noticeable progress, and I was feeling cautiously optimistic.

My left hamstring has been bothering me for the last week and a half.  During my daily bike workouts, it felt OK, but after each workout, it felt inflamed.  I finally took a few days off from biking and went for long walks instead.

For about a month, I’ve been trying out a medication to see if it would help with the stiffness and cramps in my legs.  I was starting to notice a difference.  I didn’t get as stiff during the night, and I wasn’t experiencing any cramps.  Then I forgot to take my pill one night.  Skipping a day is bad!  For the next two days, I felt like I was back to square one.  My legs felt stiff almost all the time.  Also, I found it difficult to walk normally.  Despite my best efforts, I was falling back into the habit of waddling around with rigid hips.  While much of my recent progress was the result of PT, I underestimated the importance of my medication.

During those two days, my exercises seemed to inflame the muscles in my left leg.  I wondered if I had pulled both my hamstring and one of my glutes.  By this morning, the stiffness was gone, but the inflammation was still there.  I had serious doubts about whether I would be able to start running this week.

Today was the last day of February.  I had to decide if I was running Boston or cancelling my reservation.  I waited to see how PT went.

My therapist is very observant.  As I walked from the lobby to the physical therapy area, I’m sure he noticed the improvement in my walking.  I told him how things went this past week, and he told me the discomfort I’m feeling in my left leg was probably just normal soreness from overusing muscles that are still weak.  He didn’t think I caused further injury.  We made a joint decision to put me on a treadmill to see how running felt.  I ran for several minutes, while he took video from different angles.

Running felt better than I expected.  A few muscles are sore, but the soreness didn’t get any worse.  I was able to get good hip rotation.  I’m out of shape, but that’s no big surprise.  After about five minutes, I stopped and we reviewed the video.  From the side, I looked pretty good.  My foot strikes close to my center of gravity, which is good.  My upper body posture is perfectly vertical.  Normally, that would be good, but my therapist wants me to lean forward slightly.  That will force me to use my glutes, which will take some of the strain off other muscles that are currently overworked.

From the back, I didn’t look as good.  My right leg is OK.  When my weight is on my left leg, my left knee moves inward slightly, and my upper body shifts sideways.  It could be that the muscles around my left hip and the left side of my butt are still too weak.  It’s also possible that I’m subconsciously compensating for the soreness on my left side.  Viewing at full speed, I could see a slight side-to-side motion in my shoulders.  In slow motion, I could also see how my left knee moves inward.

Next, I got on the treadmill again to practice adjusting my posture.  I can do it, but it takes a conscious effort.  I also tried speeding up, to see if my form improved.  It did, but there was still some imbalance.  I couldn’t run fast for very long before getting tired.  Also, “fast” is a relative term.  What seemed fast today was a pace that I used to be able to run comfortably for hours.

After I got off the treadmill for the second time, my therapist said he was curious to know how I would feel after running.  I was also curious.  So far, I feel surprisingly good.  I feel much better than I did after my last few bike workouts.  I also felt better doing my other exercises today.  I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow, but for now, I’m pleasantly surprised.

I’ve been cleared to run 1-2 miles every other day.  On the days I don’t run, I’ll continue to work on walking.  I’m not sure where biking will fit in.  When I’m not running or walking, I may be better off resting.  Fitness will come later.  First, I need to improve my mechanics.

I won’t be cancelling any reservations.  Boston is on!  I won’t be in shape to run fast.  I might not be able to run the whole thing without walking.  I’m optimistic, however, that I can get to the starting line healthy.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.

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