Fear the bike. Respect the bike.

Coach Sandra sent me a series of stationary bike workouts about a month ago that she says she got from Joan Benoit-Samuelson. Joanie used these back in the 1980s when she was just starting to establish her status as Patron Saint of Injured Marathoners. Now I’m trying to schedule an interview with Ms. Samuelson so I can 1) talk to her about how she trains today by comparison to back then and 2) actually share these workouts if she’ll give the okay.

I was given a free issue of Running Woman — or Women’s Running(?) — magazine. I can’t remember the name, but it was bland and featured an equally bland, heavily photo-retouched non-runner model on the cover with huge tits and it’s downstairs and I am upstairs and don’t feel like walking downstairs for reasons I’m getting to. In that issue was an article by Joanie about tempo runs. In it, she states exactly how to do the various runs. So I’m hoping she won’t have a problem with sharing these workouts with the world.

So, back to those workouts (and the reason I don’t want to go downstairs again today). I received three workouts. Two of them are what I could call reasonable. I was not worried about them, having done similar stuff on my own already. But the third one I was actually afraid to try. It takes about 96 minutes, 40 of which consist of the warm-up and cool-down. I’ll leave it at that.

I did the workout yesterday. The spin bikes at the gym only allow you to “program” an hour. So I had to do two 50 minute sessions, ending the second one 4 minutes early. A guy got on the bike next to me when I was 35 minutes into my first session, then looked mildly alarmed when I finished that one and sweatily punched in another 50 minutes. I could hear his thoughts: “Head case.” He left long before I was done. He probably thinks I’m still there.

It was hard, but not as bad as I thought it would be. At least not until today, 24 hours later. I did lower body weight work for an hour this morning. That was hard, but okay. Then I got into the pool to do a 45 minute session (this is now considered a short session for me, but we had a meeting with a client later on so I had to keep things brief). My plan was to do 15 minutes of half-pool length intervals (you “run” all out for about 30 seconds, then rest on the turns for about 10-15 seconds). I warmed up for 15 minutes and launched into my first interval. My legs were dead. I have started doing pool runs after weight work, so I don’t expect them to be peppy. But this was different. I could not do anything hard. I gave up and just ran easy for another 10 minutes and wrote off the workout.

That was one sneaky bike workout. It took 24 hours to show just what a pummeling it packed.

I will try again in the pool tomorrow morning. But I would not be surprised if I have trouble. My legs are still fatigued now, 36 hours later. I run again tomorrow afternoon, on grass, for 30 minutes. I’m sure I can manage that. I think.

In other news, Joe Garland is making a noble effort to revive the Ekiden in New York (his older post about that is here; old dreams die hard, it seems). I am trying to help, since for all my bitching about the More Marathon, I still love the idea of people racing multiple loops in the park. Just not 9,000 people. I think 150 or so is a good number.

I am also attempting to plan some good shows for the Runners Round Table podcast in the new year. My first planned show is a January 5 hour on eating disorders and exercise addiction. I’m no expert, but the people I’ve invited on are. I have other ideas for shows, but I want to see how they pan out in terms of getting good guests before I blather about them here.

Diagnosis, prognosis and status

“Oy, my bursitis!” Listening to people talk about their medical ailments is about as much fun as walking up a broken escalator. So I’ll make this brief (brief for me, that is). I’ve seen two orthopedists (whom I’ll call Ortho 1 and Ortho 2 in the Seussian tradition). Ortho 1 is my primary giver of treatment, Ortho 2 is…well…I’ll get into that.

Diagnosis: Make that diagnoses: stress fracture of the right sacrum; osteistis pubis. The first item is a bone crack. The second one is inflammation of the tendon that attaches one of my adductor muscles to the area of bone that is cracked.

Prognosis: Good to excellent. I will run again, even if I’ll never play the violin again. The fracture is healing up nicely and the tendon problem is getting better, although it’s taking its own sweet time in calming down.

Status: Ortho 1 says I can start running for 30 minutes every other day, but they must be very easy runs. And no hills. Coach Sandra says the plan will be for 1 day running with 2 days no running for two weeks, then every other day running for the following two weeks. She’s being conservative and that’s fine with me. I also need to do strengthening work on hips/glutes/core and stretch the hell out of the adductors going forward. I started that yesterday. I haven’t done lunges or leg presses since July. They were easier — my legs have gotten quite strong from all the other stuff.

I may also be getting a steroid shot to the tendon if its pokey recovery continues. That was a source of major confusion. Ortho 1 said last week, “I’m sending you to Ortho 2 for the injection since it’s in such a specific place and may require special equipment to pinpoint.” For weeks and weeks, “injection” has meant “platelet rich plasma injection.” So I went to Ortho 2 and said, “I’m here for a PRP injection.” He said that wasn’t what I needed (because that’s for the bone, not the tendon). So I felt like an idiot.

It turns out that communication between Ortho 1 and Ortho 2 was garbled (or perhaps non-existent) and I’m just the dumb patient trundling between their Manhattan offices brandishing my MRI images, my checkbook, and lots of misinformation. The upshot is that Monday’s 10 minutes with Ortho 2 were a total waste of time and money. When I told all this to Ortho 1 yesterday, he was a little dismayed and said he’d clear things up.

But, quite honestly, I’m disinclined to go back and get the stupid shot. I have run with adductor pain much worse than this (for 10 weeks about two years ago), and as long as I know it’s not harmful to do so, I can live with it. Also, Ortho 2 (and his facility) does not take our insurance and he is Expensive with a capital e. Monday’s adventure cost me $300 plus parking. This is on top of the $517.23 I pay per month for my Totally Fucking Useless health insurance policy from HIP. Did I mention that Ortho 1 does not take our insurance either? But these are supposed to be two of the best sports orthos in the country. So I pay. And laugh at everyone who gushes about how great a hobby running is, because it’s so inexpensive.

Ortho 1 mentioned that he used me and my MRI in a lecture he gave over the weekend. So if any of you were at a talk about running injuries and a “45-year-old woman with a sacral fracture and osteitis pubis” was mentioned, that was my hoohaa up there on the big screen.

In the meantime, I’m borrowing an Exogen 400 bone stimulator machine from my stepmother. I’m to use that for 20 minutes a day for two months. I’m getting a new training plan this week which will incorporate road miles, but all my hard running workouts will stay in the pool. I ran into Sandra at the gym yesterday and asked if I could possibly run the Joe Kleinerman 10K early next month. She looked doubtful — and wondered again how I can enjoy running in sub-freezing temps so much; but her blood’s Caribbean and mine’s Norwegian — and would only offer that we’d see how things go.

Coaches are there, in part, to keep you from doing stupid things. Racing a road 10K on hills in a month is a stupid idea. Still, it’s an appealing one…

Injury Shminjury. Let’s get going.

Naturally, now that I’ve found a doctor who I need to pay upwards of $200 per visit to…and I’ve had an MRI…my injury has receded rapidly. Once the ass and hip pain subsided in mid-to-late September, it was replaced with chronic adductor pain. That was enough to keep me from running (along with fear of a stress fracture) up until now.

I ran for 20 minutes around a baseball/soccer field on Sunday. I had bad adductor pain all morning and while walking there. But I figured it had been 12 weeks. Even if I did or do have a stress fracture, I’d served my requisite time off. And if it wasn’t — meaning it was a strain or a tear — I probably couldn’t do much more damage by trying. The typical idiot runner logic.

The pain did not get worse during or after the run. And, aside from a lot of leg soreness yesterday (much of which I attribute to a very hard pool run on Friday and heavy duty weight work on Saturday), there was no obvious fallout from that run. In fact, the adductor felt almost good today. I overnighted my MRI images to new Dr. to read today. I go see him for a diagnosis on Thursday morning. I’ll tell him that I ran and see what he says.

I will say that running felt very weird. It’s been 12 weeks. I haven’t taken more than a week off (before this, obviously) since 2006. I was aerobically fit and wanted to run faster. But it was difficult from a muscular standpoint. It was like starting all over again in that regard. I was not ready for that sensation and it was kind of a blow mentally. I won’t be able to just go out and run 10 miles again immediately. I’ll need to build up. I also know that every twinge will make me nervous.

But, hey, at least I ran for 20 minutes (18:34, actually). I haven’t lost sight of that. It makes me happy to know I can get back to it soon. I should add that Jonathan ran with me and had no pain in his foot. I think he’s going to be training hard before I am.

I ran about 90 seconds less than he did because at one point I ran up a hill. I wanted to try running down it to see if the glute pain would return. Walking downhill was excruciating right after my injury occurred, so I thought a run downhill would be the real test. While I was at the top, I met a friendly black cat. It was Hallowe’en. The cat crossed my path, but then came back to say hello. Nice kitty. The run downhill that followed was fine. Thanks, kitty.

I will be switching my Houston registration in January to the half marathon. I don’t want to try to run a marathon on 8-10 weeks training. But that is enough time to get ready for a good half marathon. I’ve got the plane tickets and the room reserved, and we got work through the end of the year that I wasn’t expecting, so we’ll enjoy it and not think about the fact that we’re spending a shit-tonne of money to fly to Texas to run 13.1 miles.

Assuming I am training again without injury soon, the plan is to train properly for a good race at the Napa Marathon in early March. Houston is five weeks before that. It’s not ideal timing, but after the last three months, I’m not looking for “ideal” anymore.

Training: Oct 10-23

The grind continues. Today marks 11 weeks since someone or something gave my running the stinkeye.

I continue to train hard using alternate methods. To break up the monotony, and make sure I’m working hard enough, I’ve started getting creative with cross-training:

Spinning: I naturally tend to work harder in a spin class than when I’m on my own. Unfortunately, my schedule does not always mesh with the gym’s, so I’m doing a lot of spinning on my own these days. I focus on getting my heart rate up, evidenced by a) a high heart rate and b) getting myself to sweat like a pig. I achieve this with lots of standing up while pedaling alternated with 2 minutes of pedaling like I’m being chased by a mob of zombies — the fast kind, not the slow kind.

Elliptical: You can do speedwork on the elliptical. You can also do hillwork, but I’ve been told to stay away from doing that because it could aggravate whatever my injury is — plus the focus for us distance runners is high turnover, strength and endurance, not being able to do the equivalent of running up stairs carrying a dishwasher. So I do surges here too, getting my reps up to 210 (and making sure I’m pouring off sweat) for 2-3 mins with 1 min recoveries. In the case of both spinning and elliptical, I note the days I’m doing intervals with a plus sign.

Weights: I have yet to have found a way to make this work creative. Although I do enjoy the fact that I’m usually the only woman in the weights area. I feel so special. Let’s move on.

Pool: I’m beginning to not mind the pool so much. For one, I’ve developed some mind games to play. But when I’ve got an entire lane to myself for upwards of an hour and a half, there are no distractions and the act of running in circles becomes meditative. Pool running is the priority among all these gym activities, so it’s where I work the hardest. I tend to “save my strength” for the pool — meaning I am conscious of not trashing my legs in whatever I’m doing before I hit the pool for a hard session, meaning anything harder than an hour’s steady effort of 72-75%. What are hard sessions? Right now it means three things: long run (80-90 mins at 75%+), fartlek session (around 18-25 minutes of short and long intervals with very short recoveries), progression run (I start at 65% and work up to 85% in 10 minute increments). Once I’m back to regular running training, I’ll still be hitting the pool 3x a week as well as doing 3 sessions of spinning and frequent weight work.

I met up with Sandra a couple days this week at the gym. She was doing a little training, but as she’s dealing with a knee problem, couldn’t do everything with me. Still, she hadn’t seen me at work in a few weeks and she seemed surprised at the effort I was putting into it. I also sent her my training log and her reaction was that I’m probably training a lot harder than I was when I was “just running.” She swears I’ll be faster when I hit the roads again as a result of this conditioning work. I hope she’s right. At least I’m getting a nice pair of legs out of the deal.

So, where do things stand right now? An MRI should provide some clues this week. If it’s a stress fracture then I guess I’m sidelined according to how serious it is. I would be very surprised if it needs surgery, but what do I know? The other possibility to be ruled out is a hamstring tear. I have not looked into what that involves because I’ve already wasted so much time Googling injury-related information. I can’t do it anymore. I’m sincerely hoping it’s merely inflammation in the joint that can be treated fairly quickly so I’m back on the road next month.

As for training and racing plans, there will probably be adjustments. In the training realm, one piece of news is that Sandra and Khalid are moving to Colorado Springs next month to pursue some opportunities she has out there, live at altitude and leave the high cost of living in New York State (and horrible weather) behind. It’s also a quicker trip to Mexico, where they spend a fair amount of time every year.

I knew when I started working with Sandra in July that this was their plan, but now it’s really happening, which has not been easy to accept. I got a mere month of road/track training in before I got injured. So that’s been a source of disappointment. But I have to acknowledge that I learned a lot about training in that month — and in the “injury months” since then in terms of how to apply cross-training (both while injured and as a supplement to regular training). Sandra and I communicate well, so I’m feeling confident that we can keep up the good work using the various modern tools at our disposal — Skype, Google docs and email. I was also encouraged to discover that the majority of the Houston Hopefuls are successfully working remotely with their coaches.

As for racing, I have no idea whether I’m going to Houston in January. If I can start marathon training in, say, two weeks, it’s probably enough time — around 12 weeks — to get me in shape to run a good marathon, if not a great one. If it’s a longer wait, another option is to train for and race the Houston half instead. I love the half and working toward a PR there would be a good stepping stone to returning to the marathon, so that’s a compromise I could live with. And if I’m completely screwed for a January race, one idea I’ve proposed is switching my plane ticket and targeting the Napa marathon in early March.

Nearer term, I would love to race something, anything, as soon as possible. Watching the Fifth Avenue Mile last month — not just watching, but limping around as a volunteer — was enormously depressing for me, as will be watching the New York Marathon next month. I don’t want to get greedy and demand a race when I should feel lucky to be able to run anywhere for any distance, which I still can’t. But I’ve appreciated in the past couple of months that, while I enjoy training, the racing is what the training’s all for. I have it my head to try to run the Joe Kleinerman 10K in Central Park in early December. It’s a carrot to chase after mentally. But, ultimately, my body’s going to be the one calling the shots.

At least I’m not living alone in Injury Land. And I have a reliable cross-training partner most days, although he recently had to drop out for a bit while battling an infection. Anyway, here’s yesterday’s quote of the day, triggered by the arrival in our mailbox of an entry form for the Marisa Fund 5 Mile Turkey Trot.

“It’s amazing to think that just five months ago, I won their 10K on that course. And now I couldn’t even win a snail street-crossing contest.”
– Jonathan Sumpter

Training: Sept 5-18

Yellow has always meant "day off from running". I am living in a world of yellow.

I was originally going to title this post “Cross-training: Sept 5-18″ but then decided against it. Although “running” has always been synonymous with “training” the fact of the matter is that I can’t run at all anymore. So cross-training is my only training. Therefore, “cross-training” is now synonymous with “training.” I may as well drop the compound and save you a few milliseconds of download time.

A week and a half ago I joined a gym. Now I spend much of my time there. I feel like I’ve been going there for six months.

Cross-training is a total grind, let me tell you. It takes hours. There’s a lot to do: spinning, ellipticalling, weights and circuit training, general stretching/strengthening, and lots and lots and lots of pool running. And it’s all indoors.

Outside the windows of the gym the air is cool, crisp and dry. It’s perfect running weather. I have a terrible feeling that, after suffering through probably the hottest summer I have experienced since moving to NYC in 1984, I will miss the fall entirely and — if I’m lucky, that is — find myself out running in another brutal winter.

But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I need to focus on the here and now. The exploration into what’s wrong with me continues next week. Or at least I hope it does. The person Sandra wants to send me to is proving difficult to get hold of. In the meantime, I am bracing myself for the worst. Sandra is starting to say things to also prepare me for such eventualities. Things like, “I did this pool running for two months when I had IT band syndrome and ran a good marathon afterwards.” It’s helpful and not helpful.

I got incredibly depressed on Friday evening. Meaning “in tears on the couch with vodka” depressed. I don’t usually do this, but what set it off was trying to run and failing again. Reading about stress fractures keeping people out for six months was also a contributor. And, really, it’s looking at my race times and seeing that the last time I made any real progress was two years ago.

These days, I have a tremendous amount of time to think about things while I’m driving to and from the gym, and plodding along in the pool. I often find myself wondering why I’m so driven to continue. One insight emerged during an interview with Houston Hopeful Julie Wankowski (to be published soon) one evening this week. She described her first sub-3:00 marathon in magical terms. It was one of those rare, ellusive “perfect” races. Such races are transcendental (see also: Flow). Those experiences are among the few during which I’ve felt most alive, masterful and accomplished. I offered to her that those magical races are what keep us striving mentally, despite failure, stagnation, injury and other setbacks. And they keep us training. Or, in my case, cross-training.

Training July 18-24

The adventure continues. As does the heat wave.

This past week was typical of what I’ll be doing in the coming weeks: speedwork and lots of progression runs. I didn’t cross-train as much as I’d hoped to, but I’m working on making biking and weight work more of a priority. I also got my first massage since right after the Green Mountain Relay in June. I was informed that my hamstrings aren’t nearly as tight as they were then. But my back, shoulders and neck are still a holy mess.

Monday was really, really hot again. So I did my short progression run on the treadmill. That went pretty well, considering that I’d raced hard on Saturday. Wednesday was another really hot morning at the track — 90F with a dewpoint of 68. I had to do longer intervals, which was mentally difficult.

Then I stupidly ran an extra 5 miles, bringing the total to 11, which was supposed to have been distributed over two runs: 7 at the track and then 4 recovery in the evening. I got so used to running lots of miles around track sessions last year that it’s hard to break that habit. I won’t do that again. Coach Sandra was not pleased and thought I was just being overly enthusiastic (so unlike me) or simply non-compliant. I told her that I merely have poor reading comprehension sometimes and all was forgiven.

On Thursday, as often happens the day after some faster running, my legs felt zippy. So I ran the recovery run by feel, which turned into a slightly higher effort outing. But I knew I had the next day off from running, so I didn’t worry about it.

Saturday was, once again, very hot and humid, so I took the progression run inside again. This was a horrible run. My stomach was a mess and my right hamstring felt very stiff. I ended up puttering along at 10:45 pace for 4 miles before I was able to pick things up ever so gradually and run the last few miles at a properly fast pace. Given how shitty I felt, I was tempted to abandon the workout, but remembered that if I don’t finish a week, I need to do it all over again. I didn’t want to be held back in what is the training equivalent of Kindergarten.

Besides training, it was an eventful week. For one thing, it was my first week as a non-IBMer in 7 years. That took some getting used to. I also updated Houston Hopefuls at long last. Then I worked on my first byline piece for Running Times, a profile of one of the masters runners who has already qualified for the 2012 Marathon Trials, Tamara Karrh. Originally I’d hoped to do a piece on the growth of masters participation in that race over the years, with Karrh as personification of this trend (but not the article’s centerpiece). But getting historical Trials data on short notice proved impossible, despite how annoying I made myself (in a friendly, grateful way) to the USATF. Fortunately, Karrh turned out to be a great interviewee, worthy of a profile focused on her alone. That will hit the newsstands/web in October (November issue).

This week is more of the same: track work (with Coach and stopwatch this time), a tempo run and more progression miles. I’ve been exploring the local trails, to save my legs by running on soft dirt, but also for a change of venue. I don’t actually have to be anywhere these days. I can drive to a trail. I can stop and look at other creatures’ homes. I can wander the aisles of Costco at 2:00 in the afternoon. I don’t feel a shred of anxiety over this current state of affairs. I have not felt this relaxed in decades.

Training: May 3-9, 2010

50 mpw seems to be my training “set point” these days. I hope it’s not too much of a shock when I start up higher mileage in the summer. But I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

This was an eventful week for two reasons. First of all, this week featured the first race in which I was sporting a blue bib. The other big event this week was that both Jonathan and I joined the ranks of running clubdom. But two different clubs.

Joe has been working on Jonathan for awhile to join Warren Street and finally broke him this week. Then I was plied with iced tea and delicious nibbly things by a New York Harrier on Saturday and in a moment of weakness said I’d join up to bolster the 40+ womens scoring.

I don’t know how competitive these two clubs are against each other, but I suspect that once we start racing for points in earnest, the crockery will be flying. I’ve already warned Joe that I plan to sabotage Jonathan’s training at every opportunity.*

I also have to admit that I don’t really understand the points scoring system, which seems arcane, at least at first glance. But this isn’t the first time I’ve committed to something with only a vague understanding of the requirements or consequences.

Below is a picture of me with said troublemaker. We are admiring our magical blue bibs (her first as well).

Bibstruck.

The week was capped with Yet Another Race, a Mother’s Day themed 4 miler. This is getting old, I know. So old that I’m not even going to write a dedicated race report this time. Since I’m on the subject anyway, here’s my quasi race report:

On the surface, it looks like I made zero progress between this 4 miler and the 4 miler on the exact same course in March. March was a 27:34. Today was a 27:35. But one must look at the splits, grasshopper. The splits. Very important. The splits, they hold the knowledge.

March: 6:47, 6:48, 7:06, 6:42

Today: 6:47, 6:43, 7:18, 6:34

It was hellaciously windy this morning, a very strong wind mostly going from west to east, although at times it felt southwesterly. My goal was to try to run 6:45s for at least three of the four miles. Mile three on this course is always awful for me — the transverse is often windy (as it was today) and the hills on mile three, while rolling, are exhausting.

I established a 6:45ish pace pretty much immediately and was feeling really good until the transverse when the wall of wind hit us. I was really working during mile three but trying to not work so hard that I’d wreck myself for the last mile. I was more successful with that today than I typically am, as evidenced by my 6:34 final mile. This is why looking at splits is important; they tell a more informative story than the finish line clock does. I’ve got a higher level of speed endurance than I had six weeks ago. I credit all the racing for that.

I also started up with the weight training again and have been experimenting with eating loads of protein and a bit more fat throughout the day. I lost three pounds, although I know quite a bit of it was water weight. But at least the scale’s moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, as part of this effort I’m tee-totaling, which is always a drag. But I find it’s easier to just not drink than to try to drink in moderation. Not because I have a problem. I just love to drink.

I briefly flirted with the idea of doing next Saturday’s Healthy Kidney 10K race. But I need to keep my eye on the immediate prize: running a halfway decent 1500 on the 18th. Racing a hilly 10K three days before that is not going to help. So next week will feature two speed sessions: another cutdown workout on Tuesday followed by some 300s (this is new) on Friday.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 400m repeats I did this week, hitting most of them at 90, although I cut the session short at the tail end of the ninth one when my pace fell off and my left hamstring started complaining. It’s taken so many hard lessons to learn to cut a workout short when there’s an issue, or not do it at all if it’s the wrong day to try.

In other news, my Olympic Trials interview project has started off well. I’ve got at least six women who are very interested in taking part, and I’m hoping to add at least a couple more to my roster. But I haven’t stopped looking. All the women have quite different running/racing backgrounds, which I’m very happy about. They are all interesting in one way or another.

*Since I am the nutritional director of the household this should be very easy for me to do. I’ll plan to feed him copious amounts of goose liver paté, slightly spoiled Stilton cheese and Baconnaise. I’m also going to start keeping an airhorn next to the bed for very early morning wakeups.

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