These are my legs.
(flexed for the camera)
My legs are the strongest part of my body (but not the whitest part!)...yep, pretty sure of that. Yet, somehow over the last two months, I've been uncovering their weaknesses.
After being sidelined in the midst of training for the Omaha Half Marathon 2010, I decided earlier this spring that I would not be signing up for any half marathons this year. I wanted to run and stay healthy.
On Memorial Day I ran the Boystown Memorial Day Run 5 mile race. Around this time, I told my chiropractor that I had no desire to race any distance beyond a 10k. At the end of June, the family headed to Wisconsin for a family reunion. I took the liberty of racing my first out of state race at the RCU Charity Classic 10k. I missed my goal of racing it in under an hour by a mere 17 seconds! (I'm not always that fast. The weather was perfect. The course was flat and fast...compared to the hilly terrain that I'm used to.)
Running was going well. So well, in fact, that I decided that I was ready to renig my comment to my chiropractor about not running over 10k this summer. I felt good. I was steadily increasing my milage...at a healthy rate. I was running at paces that I didn't know I had in me! (The first mile I ever ran in my adult life about 3 years ago was timed at 12:40. Here I was running 10:30 on longer runs and breaking 30 minutes for my casual 5k runs...not races!) I decided to keep going. I ran 3-4 days a week. Every 10-14 days, I set out on a new long distance run. I finally made it to that 20 mile/week that kept eluding me. I had almost two months worth of 20 mile weeks! (96 miles in August to be exact!)
Then it started! On September 10, I went out for a 12 mile run. It was going wonderfully, until mile 10. I started feeling a rubbing on the outside of my left knee. Right after this run, I promptly became sick. By that evening, I lost my voice and was limping from the stiffness in my left knee. I didn't think anything of it, and since a price increase in registration for DesMoines Half Marathon was quickly approaching, I quickly registered. Five weeks to go!
The next week I took it easy (because I was sick) and ran a total of five miles that week. That five miler went fine, aside from being tired and battling some abdominal "pulling" from coughing up a lung.
Nine days after my 12 miler, (feeling much better) I set out on a 10 miler. By mile 3 my knees felt tight. I stopped to stretch them. I have never had to stop to stretch mid run. This run was very different. I ended up stopping 3-4 times to stretch. Nothing was painful, but I knew something was off.
With 10 miles complete, I stopped to fiddle with my phone. I was about 3/4 mile away from my daughter's preschool and had planned on walking back up the hill in plenty of time to pick her up. As I tried to start to walk, I realized that my knees were pretty much locked up. I started to panic. Would I make it the preschool to pick up my toddler?! I managed to wobble myself to the preschool. A couple of people at preschool noticed I was having issues.
By the next evening, I knew this wasn't something I could brush off. The right side was starting to feel better, but the left...I had issues. I needed some help! I sent a message to the lovely Lallenia @ Healthy, Fit and Fabulous! I had met Lallenia completely by chance one day at the park that my daughter has soccer practice at. Lallenia called me back. I balled to her about my current condition. She gave me the name of a physical therapist.
Bright and early the next morning, I called Athletes Training Center. Nick answered. I had my first appointment with Nick the very next day. He did lots of test to determine my strengths and weaknesses. Here's the notes that I posted on DailyMile that day: "Had my first visit with PT today. My brain is still spinning with the plethora of information he spewed at me! Reviewing my mileage, he has no concerns with my distances or increases of them. He feels confident that I could maintain that level if I strengthen some key muscles that are causing imbalances in my body. Apparently my hamstrings aren't as strong as my quads, my inner thighs aren't as strong as my outer, and my hamstrings, glutes and obliques aren't properly supporting my pelvis. My pelvis is tilted forward, causing my knees to pull in, therefore irritating my IT bands. Not to mention how ridiculously tight my calves are. Phew! So much to take in! I was given a few exercises to do for the next few days. I see him again on Monday." I told him about being registered to run DesMoines...in 4 weeks! He replied, "That's our goal. You are going to run DesMoines."
Over the next four weeks, we worked on simple, effective exercises that helped me hold my pelvis correctly. I started cycling a bit, followed by elliptical. Finally, we tested out a few short runs. Still there was rubbing on the left knee...not pain though. There was alot of experimentation. He put a lift in my right arch of my shoe. He cued me to push with my right. He urged me to "stride out."
Finally 6 days prior to DesMoines, he had me take on an eight miler. This would determine if I would be going to DesMoines. Notes from that 8 miler: "Longest run since starting PT. Fastest 8 miler ever! DesMoines 1/2 here I come! I was still sore from PT on Friday (one legged squats!). Left knee started rubbing 1.5 miles in. Mantra to remind myself to watch my form, "Stride out. Push (off on right). Find the arch (when landing on the right)." The mantra works. Rubbing on the knee lessens, but my pace quickens ALOT. I wasn't sure I could actually run 8 miles at that pace, and I'm certainly not convinced I can run 13.1 at that pace. As I fatigued from the pace, I would slow down again. My form would go astray and the knee would rub more...so I would repeat the mantra...pace would quicken...rinse and repeat. Pulling thru the pelvis/lower abdomen the whole time...which is common for me at this pace. At mile 5.5, I stopped to stretch the calves. Knee rubbing pretty much went away...but was quickly replaced with discomfort on the top of the left foot, which stayed with me thru the rest of the run."
I ran that eight miler at a 9:39 pace. Prior to PT all of my long runs were run at 10:30s! Sure it felt great to pull that kind of pace for this slow gal, but having not TRAINED at the pace, I didn't know if it was realistic to go for it. I had one last appointment with Nick before DesMoines and his vacation. I voiced my concern about the pace. I know he understood my concerns. He didn't really offer up a game plan for me, just gave me the encouraging eyebrow raise. I told him that I thought a 9:50 pace would probably be more realistic for me. (Prior to PT my most relaxed goal for DesMoines was 2:20 (10:40 pace), but since I've heard DesMoines is flat and fast, I thought in my wildest dreams I could shoot for a 10:00 pace coming in about 2:11-2:12)
After DesMoines, I knew that I still had a lot of work to do to get stronger. I gave myself a week (or two) to recover and finally contacted Lallenia for some one on one. I was ready to get stronger. She spent the first few sessions seeing what I was capable of.
My fourth session, just 9 days ago, on Nov 2, my left knee (the same as the IT band issue) buckled under me during a simple broadjump. I struggled thru the rest of the workout. My knee buckled two more times...doing the simplest of tasks!
Two mornings later, I was back to see Nick for some true rehab.
So, there it is. Nine days later and my left knee is still swollen (you can see it a bit in the photo above). And as the swelling has reduced a bit, it's being replaced by more pain and instability. I have it braced most of the day in fear that I will fall to the ground if it buckles or hyperextends.
I haven't run much in 2 months (46 miles in September and 53 in October). My last run was October 31...almost 2 weeks...and I probably won't be running for a couple of more weeks!
I'm still working with Lallenia. I have alot of work to do. My weakness are certainly not solely in my legs. Like I said in the beginning (of this novel), they are probably the strongest part of my body. I can't do a pushup...not a single one! Baby steps, people!
I WILL BECOME STRONGER! and it will make me a STRONGER RUNNER! I can't wait to see what kind of times I'll be able to pull then!