August Training: Super Deluxe Depressing Injury Edition!

I’m approaching the conclusion of my fourth week in which I’ve been unable to run. Had I not seen steady progress, I would be a lot more depressed about this state of affairs than I am. But I will say that the first two weeks were grim indeed.

First, let’s look at the stellar week of workouts that I enjoyed before my gluteal erruption.

I had a well-timed day off on the first of August, which was great because our house was in dire need of attention. So it’s not like I didn’t exercise that day. On Monday I had a fantastic progression run on the OCA Trail north of Sleepy Hollow High School. Then a track workout with Sandra the next day that also went fabulously well (for example, I gave her a 3:08 800m when she wanted a 3:15). Wednesday the heat wave reasserted itself, but I did fine over the next few days, having comfortably picked up my pace on recovery runs. And then Saturday was my disaster in Central Park.

The next five days were not happy ones. My log entries for Sun-Thu of that week are all identical: “Hip/buttock/hamstring issues continue. On painkillers, anti-inflammatories. Walking is extremely painful.”

I could not walk properly, or move anywhere on my feet for more than 5-10 minutes. Over subsequent days I experimented with various forms of treatment and relief, with mixed results. Later in the week I had the first of several myotherapy sessions with Sandra. Those were helpful for confirming that the problem was muscular (specifically, knots or “trigger points”), but in some ways the cure was worse than the ailment. Painkillers dulled the pain, but if I happened to forget to take one, I was completely screwed.

So that was Week 1 in Injury Land.

Week 2* wasn’t much better. This was the week that hopelessness and fear of a long-term layoff began to settle in. Lots of frustration too, because not being able to walk and being in constant pain gets really old after awhile.

This was the week I started sleeping like a cat. I needed 9-10 hours a night. I needed naps. I suspect a myriad of reasons behind this need for sleep: for one thing, the massage sessions were really rough on me; for another, I was worn down from the constant pain and I think the painkillers were accumulating in my system; finally, I was getting depressed and if there’s one thing I can do well when I’m depressed, it’s sleep excessively.

Sandra had to head out of town until early September, so I was heading into Injury Week 3 without a good massage therapist.

I attempted some cross-training on the bike, but that aggravated the knots, as did many of the stretching/strengthening exercises I had. I checked out my local YMCA and YWCA during this and the following week, which were great facilities, but my timing was terrible: all of the local Y’s pools were closed for cleaning until after Labor Day. So my last option for non-impact cross-training — pool running — was no longer on the table. The local health clubs up here are really awful, and I couldn’t accept joining one just to get a week or two of pool time.

I would describe my state of mind that weekend as bereft. Coupled with this was the awareness that I would start losing fitness quickly if I didn’t do something. But what could I do? I was going to have to take matters into my own hands. I started a 10 day course of Nabumetone to try to help kickstart a reduction in inflammation. I also iced like crazy. Lots and lots of ice baths and sitting on ice packs. Sugar free fudgesicles too.

By the 22nd I’d managed to wean myself off all forms of painkiller. I wasn’t even taking Tylenol anymore. The problem muscles had calmed down and things were looking up, however subtley. The next day I started a regimen of massage to attack the knots, now that I could actually get to them. I knew that working on them, however painful, was not going to make the problem worse and would only make it better. So attack them I did. Or I should say “we” did. Once or twice a day I’d aggressively work on myself with various tools. Then, in the evening, Jonathan would play amateur myotherapist and also work on them.

On Tuesday the 24th I had what felt like some sort of breakthrough — I could actually walk around in the house that morning with minimal pain. But that confidence was severely erroded upon attempting a shopping trip. Within 10 minutes, the area had seized up again. It has taken me quite awhile to figure out that it’s not walking that screws me up — it’s driving.

On Wednesday the 25th I was finally able to get through one of my stretching/strengthening routines without incident. Biking was still a problem, so I avoided it. On Friday I did another routine and then (on Jaymee‘s advice, which turned out to be spot on), took a break from all massage for the next 24 hours. Whatever I’d done in the preceeding days was like some sort of magic, because my training log for Saturday reads: “Today was a miracle. I felt really good in the morning. Around noon I decided to try 20 mins on the bike at low resistance/high turnover (Resistance Level 4, 80RPM). That presented no problems. So I walked for an hour on the treadmill at 2.7 mph/22:00. A litlte pain/tightness, but it didn’t get worse. Felt fine afterwards. Went shopping and had no problems. I have renewed hope.”

Over the next few days I did some treadmill walking, each one progressively faster. I attempted a few seconds of running, but it was too painful. I also kept up the massage and stretching/strengthening work and got some bike time in.

On Tuesday of this week I was (not surprisingly) exhausted and took a nap, then decided to attempt a real workout on the bike. I did 90 mins at average 72% effort with four 5 minute surges at 85-86%. That felt really, really good — almost like running! — and presented no issues. Since I was due for a day of rest from the massage, I left myself alone. I also took the following day (yesterday) off from exercise. I had a meeting that I had to drive an hour to each way and, once again, I was semi-crippled upon arrival.

I’ve got two clearly-indentifiable knots from the original five. So we’ve made huge progress. But the one bad one is deep in my gluteus medius, and I believe that this is the knot that gets aggravated by driving. I’m also not convinced that I can get rid of this on my own. Fortunately, I see Sandra again next week, so she can whale on it with her expert hands and elbows then.

Not being able to run has been frustrating and upsetting. But at least I’ve made progress. Today’s Thursday. I have plans for another big bike workout today, and some treadmill walking again. Then an easy day on Friday and another bike workout on Saturday. I have optimistically scheduled a half mile test jog on the track on Saturday morning. But I’m fully prepared to jettison those plans if I’m obviously still not ready to run. Tried to run on Sunday, Sept 5. That did not go well.

*Apologies for the fact that all my week numbers are screwed up on my training log. I’m too lazy to go back and fix them.

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