|Thanks to the City of Boulder's Web site for the photo. As usual, I forgot my camera.|
I will run a lot--a lot--at Coot Lake and the nearby Boulder Reservoir again when my back is better.
Speaking of my back, I thought it was time to tell you what had gone on with it leading up to last January's spasm that finally sent me to the doc and physical therapy. I know it seemed to come out of the blue and so I wanted to explain why I just started dealing with it.
My back has been hurting since a few weeks before my twins were born. Here's what I looked like then (if very pregnant belly pictures turn you off, look away, scroll down, whatever):
My arm is in the way, but just behind it my poor lower back is painfully arched from the forward momentum of that belly. By December 8, 2006, when I delivered Will and Ruth by C-section five and a half weeks early, I was regularly sleeping with two body pillows and weighed 50 pounds more than my usual 125.
Once I'd had the kids, the back felt much better. But I never really got to pain-free. Think about it. My lower abs were shot, not only from stretching during the pregnancy but also from being under-used then and afterwards. My body had grown used to this state of affairs, and my back was now routinely relied on to support the functions the lower abs are supposed to perform. I didn't do anything about this because....who had time? I had two infants and a job. I barely had time to get out and walk or run, much less rehab my abs.
Moreover, as those infants got bigger, there was more carrying them on my left hip so my right arm could do its thing (whether that thing was dealing with the other toddler or holding the phone or punching buttons on the microwave or folding laundry). As the months and years wore on, it became clear that my LEFT lower back was where most of the pain originated.
I didn't completely ignore this state of affairs. Dan and I, thinking it might be the aging mattress on our bed that caused my ongoing issues (some mornings my back hurt so much I had to roll out of bed), bought a new one in 2009. I attended a class called "Lose Your Mummy Tummy" and went to a holistic massage lady, who said all my problems stemmed from scar tissue where my C-section had happened. (Needless to say, I do NOT believe this.)
None of it did any lasting good. And since no one told me running was bad for a back like mine, and since I love running, which at that time was mostly done to keep me sane, I soldiered on with it. My first post-pregnancy race was a 5K when Will and Ruthie were 9 months old. It took me 29 minutes and change. I was disappointed (my 5K PR, set two years before, is 22:34), but not greatly so. At least I was IN a race.
As the years wound on, I kept running like this and ignoring the pain in my back. I did register that it seemed to hurt more with certain strength training moves (100s, a Pilates move, was particularly spasm-provoking), so I avoided doing a lot of core work (a mistake). But I kept entering races and, as I got more sleep with the kids getting older, my results improved despite the ongoing back pain. I even ran a half marathon in 2008, getting it done in 2:06.
But the race times didn't improve as fast as I wanted, and I found myself regressing. In the spring of 2010 I ran the Bolder Boulder 10K almost a minute slower than I had the prior year. This sent me into a depressed spiral. Could it be that my early 30s were really my fastest epoch? Surely not! There are tons of stories of women setting PRs well into their 40s. So I decided it was time to train again for real.
And my back? Well, running wasn't the thing that really aggravated it. Needing a big goal, I decided to go for a Boston qualifying time, started this blog and began training for marathons again. I didn't even consider my back, except to vaguely hope it would just....get better on its own.
I did pretty well until late January, when once again I tried to focus on my core. And you know the rest.
What's the moral of this story? Don't ignore pain. It WILL slow you down, if not right away, then eventually. There are things you can do about it. Yes, these things may take longer than you want and may involve some pain themselves (not being able to run IS painful).
But what we all want is to be able to run until our race is truly over. That's what I'm aiming for now, even if it means BQing by 41 or 42 instead of 40. (I'm still hoping it won't come to that, though. :^) )