Monday, April 30, 2012

Oh, Our Aching Backs--Part One

Congratulations to everyone who ran the Big Sur Marathon (especially Kathy!) and the Eugene Marathon yesterday. I was jealous (my second "did not start" since my injury diagnosis, a 15K, came and went on Saturday), but also very happy for all of you.

I also want to say GOOD LUCK to the four hearty (and sleepy) souls who signed up for the May Sleep Challenge with me. We have a tough road ahead of us. It's not May quite yet, but I tried to practice last night and therefore was "lights out" at 9:34 p.m. Instead of falling into blissful slumber until my alarm sounded at 5 a.m., I tossed and turned and got up to use the bathroom and adjusted my pillows until about 10:20, when I finally drifted off. Then I woke up three times in the night for no good reason, finally rising for good at 4:50. At least, given how tired I am right now, I don't think I'll have as much trouble falling asleep tonight.

This week, I have no physical therapy appointment. I'm just keeping my nose to the grindstone with my ab and glute exercises. So I asked some bloggers who I know have experienced my injury--to remind you, it's called sacro-iliac joint dysfunction and it affects your lower back, hips, bottom and hamstrings--and lived to run again to tell their stories via a Q&A.

Tara and Jessica were nice enough to get back to me. Their stories give me hope, so I'm sure they will help someone else with SI issues who might despair, thinking that once your lower back goes there's no return. Tara is now expecting her second child (she ran a half-marathon pregnant in January!) and is looking forward to a big return to PRs after he is born. Jessica, who has three small kids, just took third place in a 10K and in her most recent marathon qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time with a huge PR.

1. What caused your SI joint issue? (If it was a combo of things, definitely share that too. My issue was mainly caused by pregnancy, but doing too much running too soon afterwards, carrying toddlers, driving a stick shift, sleeping on my stomach and doing the wrong core work exacerbated it over the ensuing five years.)

Tara: My SI issues were caused by having extremely weak, inflexible hips and weak glute muscles.  Now, if I were just sitting around all day, my weak hips and glutes probably wouldn't have been a burden to me, but I trained for three marathons in under a year and did absolutely NO strength work whatsoever.  No squats, no lunges, no hamstring work....nada.  All of that running and no strength work eventually caused my SI joint to become hyper-mobile and my glutes/hips couldn't hold the joint in place.  The joint pulled on my piriformis muscle, which caused me to have piriformis issues, which in turn pulled on my IT band and caused IT band pain. I finally had to pull out of the Chicago Marathon two weeks before.

Jessica: I think my issue was caused by two things: horrible posture habits which were made worse during pregnancy.  When I was a new mom I would carry my babies around on my hip and do a million other things at the same time (put groceries away, wash the dishes, carry the laundry basket etc) - never paying any attention to how I was holding my body.  As a result I had a weak core and my SI joint was completely out of whack.

2. Did you see a practitioner (physical therapist, chiropractor, doctor or other) to help you alleviate the problem? (I'm seeing PTs referred to by my doctor, a sports medicine specialist.)

Tara: I went to see a sports medicine doctor for my IT band pain and he sent me to a physical therapist who eventually diagnosed the root cause of my problems, which was that stupid SI joint.

Jessica: The first time I tweaked it, I went to see a chiropractor.  He was more of a "back cracker" and just adjusted me, told me to stop eating gluten, and sent me on my way.  It was frustrating.  When I was pregnant with my third baby last year one day I just went to tie my shoe and - TWEAK - I was in so much pain.  After the baby was born I found a new chiropractor who has honestly been so incredibly helpful to me.  He takes a much more holistic approach with his care - ART, chiropractic adjustments and massage.  He figures out where the imbalances are in my body and gives me exercises to do to strengthen them.  He is really wonderful and I am so thankful.

3. What sorts of exercises/adjustments/other therapy was prescribed? (For me, an SI support belt, regular adjustments and dry needling, massage and various at-home exercises have been my mainstays for eight weeks now.)

Tara: My PT had me doing at home hip exercises, squats, lunges, core work, etc.  I never knew that I had such a weak butt!!!

Jessica: I work with a theraband, do pilates exercises and foam roll every single day.  I also do strength training twice a week.  When I see my doctor (about once a month during marathon training) he will do ART on my super tight spots, STIM [electrical stimulation] and massage along with whatever chiropractic adjustments he feels are necessary at the time.

4. What factor or combo of factors finally got you over the hump with your SI problem? (I, alas, am still not really over mine. Trying to be patient.)

Jessica: Honestly, mostly just becoming so much more self aware and intentional with how I move and use my body.  I became a Pilates teacher two years ago and those exercises have changed my life.  As a busy mom of three I can forget myself easily on a daily basis and try to do too much at one time.  My SI joint will get cranky if I do that and I feel tweaks as a result.  So if I am mindful and I practice Pilates every day, it really helps.

5. Does your problem still flare up? What do you do when it does?

Tara (answering 4 and 5): I find that if I lapse on my strength work, the SI joint pain comes back.  I have learned to recognize the symptoms, which can be pain in the lower back, glute, hamstring, groin pain or a combination of all. I am currently getting ready to enter my 6th month of pregnancy and with pregnancy comes the hormone relaxin, which basically relaxes our joints, including the SI joint.  I am working with a chiropractor to keep my back "healthy" and he initially gave me the Serola SI joint belt, which I used for awhile, but I have been diligent about keeping up my strength work during pregnancy and I haven't needed the belt in the last few months.  I have a feeling that I will forever deal with the hyper-mobile SI joint. I must be diligent about strength work.

Jessica: Yes, it does on occasion.  I have not had a flare up for a year though, which is so wonderful!  If I feel things get tweaky, I will ice, rest and go see my doctor.  I bring more awareness to how I am using my body and try to slow down and pay better attention.

6. Any other advice for people who may be dealing with this? Any advice on how to prevent it happening in the first place?

Jessica: Take Pilates!  I really think it helps so much.  We ALL have imbalances in our bodies, even the strongest most fit athletes in the world.  We have to become self aware and pay attention to how we are using our bodies.  I think this is what has helped me so much.  I used to have issues with my SI on a pretty regular basis, and it was so depressing.  I would be laying on the couch afraid to move as my kids played around me.  I hated it.  I did not want to go through that again and Pilates has really saved me.  Also, find a doctor you really trust - not someone who will just adjust you and tell you to take supplements.  Find someone who wants to help you improve your quality of life.  Someone who "gets" you.  Check in with yourself throughout the day - when you're standing in the line at the grocery store - are you slouching?  Are you jutting out a hip?  Is your core engaged.  Stand tall and breathe.  Relax.  Be mindful and intentional with how you are moving.  And move every day - movement heals!!  You do not have to move fast - just move.


Thank you, Tara and Jessica! I also want to give a shout-out to Michael, who when I was initially diagnosed sent me a great article with a thorough explanation of this problem and some adjustments and exercises to help alleviate it. I've found these to be a big help in addition to my formal PT program.

In "Part II" I will give you a detailed description of my PT program as it stands right now.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Coming in May: Sleep Challenge

This is me with Ruthie in January 2007. I had an excuse for missing sleep back then.

A co-worker and I were talking a couple of years back about the little quirks and tics of some of the other people we work with. Most of the things we were coming up with were things that annoyed us. I asked her, "I wonder what they would say about us."

"Well," she replied, "you're kind of funny about sleep."

Funny is one way to put it. Obsessed is another.

I love sleep. I've never done any formal or informal testing to try to determine the amount of sleep that's ideal for me, but based on past experience my guess is somewhere around 8-11 hours in a 24-hour period, depending on how much I'm running.

Since I had my kids five years ago, I've gotten nowhere near that amount. At first, of course, with tiny babies, there really wasn't much choice in the matter. You get what sleep you can, when you can. But once my kids grew out of that newborn stage, they got to be pretty good sleepers pretty fast. Sure, we have lapses, when one is sick or when my son is on a bedwetting jag. Sometimes they have a nightmare or need help in the bathroom overnight. But mostly we can count on them to go to bed around 7:30 p.m. and sleep until 6:30 or 7 the next morning (my daughter, a morning person like me, gets up with the sun, so this time of year she's up on the earlier side of that).

So why am I still not getting enough sleep (my occasional problem with insomnia aside)?

Because I haven't made it a priority. Once the kids are down, I like to putter on the computer, hang out with my husband (a total night owl--this is the only way in which he and I are ill-matched), read or (lately) do physical therapy stuff that I didn't get done earlier. By the time I head to bed, it's often after 10 p.m. and sometimes pushing 11 p.m.

Now, I think, is a good time to start pushing my bedtime to where it really needs to be: 9 p.m., or 9:30 p.m. at the latest. This is the time that will allow me to rise comfortably for my workouts at 5 a.m. and give me a nice extra cushion on mornings where I don't have to do that.

So my challenge for the long month of May will be to go to bed by 9:30 p.m. on nights when I have to wake up early the next morning, which is usually three or four days per week. It will set up good habits that will carry over when I return to running and training for races, and it will be better for my health overall.

How much sleep do you need? Are you getting it, and if not, why not? Care to join me in May to try and change that?

All you have to do is email me your sleep goal (which may be different from mine) by the evening of April 30 (next Monday). I will check in with you via email every week to see how you are doing. At the end of the month, I'll have a small prize for the person who comes closest to meeting his or her goal.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Physical Therapy Ch. 7

Wow, seven chapters on my physical therapy visits! I never knew I'd be writing such a long (and boring) book.

It's about to get longer, too.

Here's the quick and dirty summary of my appointment with Cathy (back from Australia and all tan):

1. No needling today (I'm glad to have had a break from that)

2. My sacro-iliac joint looked good to her. I'm now allowed to remove my SI belt for four hours a day. I still need to wear it at other times, and most especially when I'm riding the recumbent bike, walking for exercise, doing weight-lifting and doing my PT exercises. As I'm typing this, I'm out of the belt. While I don't miss the constant wedgie, I am missing the support a bit. But I figure that's OK. I'm near the end of the four hours so it makes sense.

3. My abs are getting stronger! Cathy thinks I'm close to being able to do those elusive leg lifts on the Swiss ball.

4. BUT...and here's the big BUT (or maybe I should say BUTT) glutes are still far too weak to consider running on them yet. She ran me through some tests that confirmed it: I have a serious case of white-girl butt. This explains many things: why my finishing kick in all my post-pregnancy races has been lacking; why it's so much harder for me to power up hills when I'm hiking; why I tended to avoid lunges and squats in weight training class.

Cathy actually quantified what I'm in for thanks to the weak bottom: three more months of no running (though I may get to hop on the Alter-G sooner). I think it's a good sign that this didn't surprise me much. On a trip last week to the park with my kids, I saw from afar as my son fell off his bike. I ran in his direction...or tried to run. I felt it instantly in my SI joint....and at that moment I knew that, geez, if I can't even jog over to help my crying kid, I probably shouldn't be huffing it around the neighborhood yet (even with lots of walking in the mix).

5. I have new PT exercises for homework. They all involve the glutes. I plan to attack those suckers. Buns of steel, that's what I'm going for. It took me six weeks to get my abs to where they are now (and yes, I'm still working on the abs, too). I know I can expect the same amount of time for the glutes.

So here are my priorities, in order:

1) Do everything necessary to rehab my back. This means a) do the PT exercises the prescribed 3-5 times a week, 50 reps each and building, b) learn to sleep on my sides and back, relinquishing forever my beloved stomach cuddle and c) be vigilant about my posture and lifting technique.

2) Maintain my cardiovascular fitness so it's still intact when I return to running (I know the running muscle strength won't be there--nothing I can do about that). This means the recumbent bike is my best friend. I've even named him Pitbull, after the vulgar-yet-charming-and-certainly-catchy hip-hop dude whose music accompanies me on all my "outings" on this bike. Move over, Mario Lopez--I have a new Latin lover.

3) Maintain my weight. So far, so good on this. But I know I can continue tweaking my diet to include even less sugar and even more fruits and veggies. I'm wondering now if I can even lose a few pounds and finally hit the low 120s. I'll be writing more about this later.

4) Improve my sleep habits. More on this in a later post as well.

5) Do upper-body weight work.

6) Remember that these months away, which are crucial to my long-term health and my abilities as a runner, will someday be just a blip in what I hope will be a lifelong relationship with trails, roads and running shoes. I can and will take as much time as this problem requires.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Injury Loves Company

Last Monday, I walked into the waiting room at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and settled into a chair with a magazine ahead of my physical therapy appointment. It was about lunchtime, and the only other person in there was a young guy.

"You injured?" he asked.

I closed the magazine. I knew what was going to ensue, and I've started to like these conversations, which make me feel less alone.

"Yep," I said, and told him about my back. "What about you?"

"Yeah," he said. "My shoulder. I have six pins and a plate in there now."

That sounded much worse than my problem. And he certainly had a better story.

"How'd you do it?" I asked.

"It was a ski accident," he said. "First run of the day. I was headed down at, like, 65 miles an hour and I turned and bam! ran into an elk."

Whoa. Further conversation revealed that he'd been hoping to make the leap to professional and had been in PT for 10 weeks, about four weeks longer than I have. He's still hoping to go pro. But he's clearly got a lot of work to do first. He's 24 years old. What a bummer!

What did I learn from this conversation? Well, it reaffirmed that there's always someone with a harder road than yours. (It also confirmed that I'm really not interested in learning how to downhill ski. I've heard too many catastrophic injury stories associated with skiing. Yeah, I know, that's sacrilege in Colorado. But I do believe we need to choose our challenges where we can in life, and downhill skiing? Not going to be my choice.)

A happier version of "tell me about your injury and I'll tell you about mine" occurred when I was waiting in line for tacos after Dan's race last Tuesday. A willowy female master's runner (who it turns out won her age group) was in front of me, and a wiry male one (who placed in the top three in his) was behind me. We got to talking about injuries. The woman had been sidelined from running several times over the course of a long career as a recreational runner and triathlete. And the man told me he actually shattered his patella in half in a race one year.

They were philosophic about it. If you run long enough, they said, you will deal with an injury. Yet, there they were, having great races in their 50s and 60s. At one time, the woman said, she was out for six months. It seems like a blip now, she said.

Yesterday, after my 75-minute recumbent bike session at the gym, I talked to a bodybuilder/cyclist acquaintance afterwards (I'm at the gym so much now that I'm starting to get to know people there). He told me he himself had dealt with a bad lower back years ago, and that faithful core work had kept it at bay. He said he noticed that if he went even three days without doing his core exercises, the pain started creeping back in.

He's a nice guy, and he gets it about having goals. "I bet you're not dealing very well with this, are you," he said.

"No," I replied, "it's been really hard. The exercises are so small, and boring."

"Yeah, not the kind of person who likes baby steps, are you? But you have to see it as your new challenge," he said. "It's what you have to tackle right now."

And of course he's right.

Any other good injury stories out there?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

(Spectator's) Race Report: Dash n' Dine 5K

Those who can, do.

Those who can' their husbands do!

Last night the kids and I turned out to support my husband, Dan, in his first real race since 2008 (I'm not counting the hilarious but deliberately-not-speedy Muddy Buddy run and ride that he and I did as a team in 2010). In the summer of 2009, he injured his Achilles tendon playing ultimate frisbee, which he loved almost as much as I love running, and it's taken a very long time for him to feel comfortable on it.

But things have been better for his ankle lately. Last year he did some physical therapy for it, and recently he's been regularly running the steep trails behind the laboratory in Boulder where he works, mostly without pain. And when one of his co-workers asked about an easygoing race, preferably on trails, for all of them to do I jumped at the chance to live vicariously through them and did a little research.

What I came up with for them: the spring Dash n' Dine 5K series. It's a great little set of races. Every Tuesday starting in mid-April and going through May, the organizers have a laid-back out-and-back 5K that starts at 6:30 p.m. on a course next to the Boulder Reservoir. After the race is done, a local restaurant provides a dinner that's included in the race fee. Spectators also can buy dinner for $5 each. Last night's fare was tacos and burritos from Wahoo Fish Tacos, one of my family's favorite places to eat.

There's no chip timing or finishers' medals. It's just old-school racing. Because it's Boulder, there can be some fast winning times. (Top man last night: 16:28--pretty fast; the top woman was 20:57, fast to me but not as fast as it could have been). But there are also slower runners and walkers who turn out, and all ages from 7 to 70 were out there. The prizes for placing and for age-group placing (at least last night) were candles.

Another fun aspect is that the more of the series you show up for, the more likely you are to win "series points," especially if you place well. Last night's race was the second one of the season. Dan's friend Hannes, who ran 20:23 for 15th place in the race and 7th in the 30-39 male age group, got 10 points and is now ranked 15th overall in the series. With four more races to go, he could move up in the rankings depending on how many others he does and how well he does (which of course depends on who shows up on a given night and how fast THEY are).

Moreover, they have a prize at the end of the series for the runner who improves his or her time the most over the weeks.

I loved the laid-back vibe. The start/finish area is grassy and (last night anyway) nice and cool. The kids and I watched the start, then sipped some Max Muscle recovery drink samples and bought our dinner tickets while we waited for the runners to come back. We cheered in the winners, and then Hannes...and less than four minutes later Dan ran by! I had to restrain my son from chasing him. Then we waited for Dan and Hannes' other friend, Jim, and cheered him in, too.

Dan was really happy with his time given that he runs at most every other day and hasn't been specifically training. His 24:02 was good for 10th in the 40-49 male age group, and actually beat his second-to-last 5K, the 2007 Colder Bolder, which he ran in 24:07 (it was way off his 2008 Colder Bolder time of 22:42).

How was the course? The guys agreed it was mostly flat and had some nice dirt stretches, though the parts at the beginning and end featured a slight hill and were on pavement. The line for food was long, but there was plenty for both runners and spectators. Dan said later that he and Hannes will almost certainly want to do at least one more race in this series.

I, of course, think they should show up every week, but they are much more mellow than I am (and also not running-staved by injury). I'm also hoping Dan will consider doing the Bolder Boulder this year. Right now, he's saying he might. I think he'd forgotten how good the buzz after a good race feels!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Physical Therapy Ch. 6

First off, congratulations to all of you who stuck it out and made it to the finish line of the Boston Marathon in that heat today. Hearing about the temperatures almost made me glad I wasn't there.


Inspired by these marathoners' example of doing what needed to be done when it needed to be done, I went to physical therapy with a spring in my step....and the news after six weeks was good. My joint is still not perfect, but it was better than last week. And Sue took as a good sign the fact that I had less pain all week (even with all the air travel and sitting, cute little baby holding, bag carrying and Saturday's hike).

I had an adjustment (these feel so good) and some needling (this actually hurt a bit, but she got right into the tender spots around my sacrum, so I think later it will help). She also did some intramuscular stimulation with the needles. She'd done this last week, too, but I forgot to mention it. I felt it more this time, though. Here's a definition:

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)
Intramuscular stimulation (IMS) is a perpendicular dry needling technique, deep into the motor points and muscular tendinous junctions to release muscle shortening. It is effective but may be painful.

It sort of feels like a dull little pinprick shock. For me, it isn't painful. But it is uncomfortably weird.

Then I got two new exercises, one designed to loosen up my tight mid-back muscles and another to activate my multifidus muscle, which runs along the spine and needs to be doing more of the stabilizing work than it is right now. Yes, yet another back muscle I'd never heard of before and apparently haven't used in years!

It's actually on both sides of the spine, but this gives you the idea.

The best news was that I can now throw in some consecutive days on the recumbent bike....and it's time to start walking, walking fast....AND (drumroll) if all goes well this week, next week could bring walking with running intervals.

I almost couldn't breathe when she suggested that.

I realize it may not happen. You never know when a bad week will hit. Also, Cathy, my original therapist, will be back then, and her recommended course of action may be different from Sue's.

Still, this has given me a new fervor for my PT exercises. After the kids go to bed tonight, I plan to spend some quality time curled up with my stability ball, my foam roller, and my Theraband.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

California Dreamin'

Just a quick post because I have Mexican lentil soup simmering on the stove and in just a few moments I'll need to go fry up some plantains! But I wanted to put something up so all you nice people don't think I'm always grumpy.

My trip to California has been fantastic. Here's a quick run-down:

1. I slept until 9:30 a.m. yesterday (that's 10:30 a.m. Colorado time). I think this might be a post-child record for me. It definitely wasn't something I expected to do in a house where a newborn baby is in residence.

2. Speaking of the newborn baby, red-haired Lucy Anne and I bonded last night while her parents dined out. She slept in my arms for two and a half hours, allowing me to watch Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre was my second DVD of the day. Lucy, my sis-in-law Jessica and I had watched Little Women earlier (does Winona Ryder annoy anyone but me? She always seems to be that wretched chick from that wretched movie, Reality Bites, no matter what part she's playing).

3. This morning I woke up with the sun, on my own, and took the train over to Old Town Pasadena and hung out with this lady:

Lovely Caroline and Terzah!
We had a fantastic time, hanging out at a coffee shop for over two hours and talking about everything from running marathons (which she will do!) to how we met our husbands (very similar love-at-first-sight kinds of stories). She is as real as she comes across in her blog. Another girl who had been sitting near us actually stopped at our table on her way out to tell Caro that she is lovely. It's so true! She just exudes lovely!

4. After I got back, my cousin Andrew came over, and he and my brother John and I went hiking. I was worried about my back, but it didn't even give me a twinge as we climbed up up up a mountain above Pasadena called Mt. Lowe.

The view was wonderful. That's my brother in the middle with his dog, Dottie Jo, and our cousin Andrew on the end.

Thunder storms had rolled through yesterday and the air remained cool and fragrant with sage and rain. It was fantastic, a great substitute for my usual recumbent bike ride and nothing my PTs would object to.

5. Now, I'm making soup (and will soon make guac), and I'm planning on another good night's sleep and some more good healthy California food (plus some decadent gelato) before I head back to Colorado tomorrow.

My attitude has definitely undergone a positive adjustment. I'm looking forward to my Monday PT appointment AND to following all of my friends who are racing tomorrow in various locales and of course on Boston!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ten Good and Bad Things About Not Being Able to Run

This weekend I was supposed to be racing a half-marathon. I paid for it back in January. That race will mark my second Did Not Start (DNS) ever, and it will be swiftly followed by a 15K DNS on April 28. My first DNS was a 10-mile race I signed up for in 2006. My excuse then was that I had just found out I was pregnant with twins--I wasn't sad about missing that one.

Because I AM sad about missing these two races, I thought I'd better do some hard-core non-Terzah-like seeking of the positive. Number one, I am pleased to report, isn't negative at all. Two and three are pretty positive too. They may go downhill from there, though.

1. When I realized, yes, I WOULD be missing this race, I scheduled a trip to California, where I will be meeting two people I am very excited to see in person. They are:

My month-old niece, Lucy Anne!


Caroline, the Canadian Runner in Exile

Who needs a half-marathon?

2. I am catching up on sleep in a serious way. It's true, I do get up early on some weekdays to get the recumbent bike sessions in. But since I'm sleeping in on the every other days off that I'm forced to be taking by the physical therapy process, I'm getting at least four hours more of sleep per week than I was getting when I was running and/or spinning six days a week. This feels GOOD.

3. I have more energy to pay attention to my diet, and it shows. I have gained no weight since the running interdiction. I'm continuing my "no sugar except on Sundays" thing beyond Lent. I still have cravings for sugar, but they are much abated. On Monday, the day after my Easter chocolate binge, I actually felt hung over. My mind seems to have finally learned that sugar is the reason for that lousy state--and has stopped asking for it. Today I sailed by the candy bowl at work and only later realized I....didn'

4. Learning patience is no longer optional. I have to learn it in order for this never to happen again. And I never want this to happen again.

5. An easy 20-minute run is no longer something I would turn my nose up at. I'd be slavishly grateful to be able to do one, in fact. Small blessings, right?

6. I've been forced to slow down in many ways. This has not been a bad thing. But I'm learning that I'm really not a person who wants to slow down. When I can go fast again, I will. I need to remember point number 4 in the meanwhile, though. Sigh.

7. The last time I had this little control over what I wanted to do with my time was when I had two infants/toddlers. I like having control. Life doesn't always let you have control. Suck it up.

8. Boy, being injured does nothing for helping you become a nicer person. I'm jealous--GREEN WITH ENVY--of everyone running the Boston Marathon on Monday, the Bolder Boulder in May and just about any race you can name out there. True, I would not have been at Boston even had I not been injured. I haven't earned a spot. But at least I could have been working towards it.

OK, so that's not a good thing about not being able to run. I guess maybe learning about your own bad qualities is a good thing, because then you can work toward improving them. Except I'm finding it really hard to do that. I'm just....jealous, and likely to stay that way.

What would a good person do? Walk races, maybe. Volunteer. Go out and cheer other people on. I do plan to do the latter for Kathy and Cynthia and Jill and Julie (and virtually for others of you). You are friends and I want you all to succeed. But I don't want to walk races or volunteer right now. I just don't. I want to run. If I can't run and there's no one to cheer for, I'm staying home and doing my PT exercises for the umpteenth time.

9. I'm starting to resent the Facebook pages I've liked that have anything to do with running. I'm particularly sick of the one that says, "You either ran today or you didn't." Yeah, so I didn't. Can YOU come fix my back so I can, please? No? Then don't thrust that self-righteous statement in my face.

Maybe this will teach me to be less self-righteous toward non-runners. Maybe they have reasons we don't understand for not doing what they don't do.

10. I'm being more pushy with my husband about his running. Every day that he runs I make him share every detail with me. The hill steep? And how much did you sweat? What did it feel like when you were done? Did you know there's a 5K at the Reservoir next week? Wanna do it? Can I watch?

It's sort of pornographic, voyeuristic, something.

Lucky thing, he still loves me. Even after nearly six weeks of me not being able to run, when I'm not loving myself so much.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Physical Therapy Ch. 5

It's almost Boston Marathon time, and the happy preparation tales have been out there for several weeks. Which makes the post I did last year even more relevant now than it was then. I wish I could say my character had improved some in a year, but I guess it hasn't.

Sometimes the task ahead of you isn't the task you want to work on. But you have to work on it anyway. And that brings me to......

Two steps step back.......

It's now been five weeks since I began physical therapy.

Today, after a two-week hiatus, I had a visit with Sue. It was good timing because yesterday morning (Easter Sunday) I woke up with the worst pain I'd had since beginning the process of trying to make my back better. I don't know what I did to provoke it. I hadn't even been on the recumbent bike in two days due to the holiday craziness at my house (in-laws visiting, volunteering at the church potluck, two five-year-olds with three Easter egg hunts to attend) and the gym having odd hours.

Sue worked her magic with needles, adjustments and some massage-like manipulation, and I feel much better. She also said it wasn't a huge step backwards or anything dire--my sacro-iliac joint had gotten a bit out of alignment again. I don't have to step back my exercises or my time on the bike.

But it's deflating because I had been feeling much better in the days leading up to Sunday, enough that I could honestly have said the pain was the least I could remember having for a long time, enough that simple motions that have hurt for a really long time (like putting my elbows on my knees when sitting down, pushing in the clutch in the car with my left foot and twisting to watch behind me when backing out the car) were starting to...not all. The PT exercises were starting to feel easier. The muscles in my lower abs are starting to feel more like muscles contracting and less like the twitch of a dying mouse (this at least hasn't changed!).

I told Sue all of that. She said I still need to take it easy this week, not add anything new, and let the latest issue unwind itself. The only new instructions are to do some mild stretches when I first wake up (knees to the chest, cat/cow) and, because I'm a stomach sleeper, put a pillow under my belly when I sleep to keep my back from arching. Had I come to her without Sunday's flare-up, she said she might have let me add some consecutive days on the bike and some new PT exercises--but now that won't be happening this week. I also asked her about the Bolder Boulder 10K (on Memorial Day) and, alas, it's not going to happen for me this year either.

She did say that we will probably be talking--soon, she said!--about transitioning me back to running. She mentioned the Alter-G and pool running, both of which would be an amazing treat to me. Pool running is the cheaper option since I belong to the rec center, but I might be willing to pay for (or even use one of my precious insurance-covered PT appointments for) a session or two on the Alter-G. It's just so much more like real running than slogging it back and forth in a pool (where music isn't an option).

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and stories on my last post. I plan to reply to them all in the next couple of days (along with catching up with your blogs). Happy late Easter, everyone! I ate some sweets and I hope you all did, too.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Adult-Onset Athlete

Many of you out there in the running blog world have been athletes for a long time. Off the top of my head, I can think of a baseball player, a horsewoman, a gymnast, a figure skater, and numerous participants in cross-country and track (of course).

But there are others of you who are like me: adult-onset athletes.

I wasn't a complete non-participant in sports as a child. I played several seasons of elementary-school soccer, made one sad attempt at being on the basketball team in seventh grade, one attempt at cross-country in ninth grade and spent a miserable season in tenth grade on the high-school soccer team. Despite these desultory efforts, or maybe because of them, I never would have called myself an athlete back then.

Nor do I think I deserved the label. The elementary-school soccer was entirely at the behest of my parents. I remember numerous ignoble attempts to avoid going to games, including faked illnesses and one day where I hid under the bench to avoid being made to play goalie. (Goalies, I had learned, were always blamed when the team lost.) I quit playing soccer as soon as my mother's will crumbled before my lack of interest.

I tried basketball, cross-country and soccer because as I got older, I became aware that people who played sports were cooler than people who didn't. This was not, however, a good reason to participate, and so I eventually failed at all these efforts too. It didn't help that none of those teams had coaches with any interest in or empathy for kids who exhibited little talent from the get-go. I'm not saying I'm an advocate for the "everyone's a winner" attitude. Far from it. But I'm also not a fan of those coaches (and the three in question all fit this description) who gave off a tacit "If you're not a winner, you're a loser" vibe.

Middle- and high-school sports did nothing for me but make me feel like a loser: cowardly, awkward, the furthest thing possible from an athlete. There's a famous John "The Penguin" Bingham quote: "The miracle is that I had the courage to start." The Penguin (I think) was talking about running a marathon. But in my case, the miracle is that I ever had the courage to enter a race. Someday I'll tell you the story of that first race, and why I think it "took" when nothing else ever had.

For today, though, I'm thinking about these things because Jeff at The Logic of Long Distance has a recent post about how un-reflective he was as a young athlete and how reflective he is now, and how he views this change. He writes, "What would the 20 year old runner I used to be say about the runner who now writes these blog posts? Then, I did not think of running as therapy, I thought of it as an expression of passion, joy, and competitive spirit. I engaged in it recklessly....[running] needed no further justification beyond the fact that I was good at it, loved it, and wanted to do well for my coaches and teammates."

Reading it, I felt a little sad that I have never been that kind of runner (or that kind of athlete). Yes, I'm grateful to have become a runner and an athlete at all. Given my past attitude toward sports, it really is a sort of (very) minor miracle. And, yes, I do have chill-down-the-spine moments during good runs and races. My running is not without passion.

But I still envy those of you who had that young, impetuous, all-in athletic experience, who fell in love with sports early enough to bring an unpremeditated enthusiasm to them, who remember a time when you didn't need to think so so hard about what running means to you or why it should mean anything. Jeff, and many of you reading this, got to be both kinds of athlete. I will only ever be the reflective, sometimes hesitant adult variety.

Do you remember a time when you were a young athlete, the kind Jeff describes? How much of that is left in you, and how are you different now? Do you regret the change?

Or are you the adult-onset variety, thoughtful, grateful, still a bit in awe that you're doing it all?

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Cleanse Report

Can't see nothin' in front of me
Can't see nothin' coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can't feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I've gone
How far I've gone
How high I've climbed
On my back's a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line
--Bruce Springsteen

This morning I woke early, stepped outside to drive to the gym and ran smack into my favorite kind of weather. Chilly, cloudy, misty, still. A front was moving in, sweeping out the heat we've been experiencing for two weeks now (yesterday's high was 84, too hot for April Fool's Day, I'm sorry).

I wanted to run so badly.

But I put in 65 minutes on the recumbent and watched a glorious sunrise through the window from the bike. The golden disc of the sun slipped above the horizon, briefly shining in on me through the flower-covered tree branches outside. Then it just as quickly slipped under the cloud bank, leaving the eastern sky pink in its wake like a small dusk. The wind kicked up.

Now, on my lunch break, I still want to run. But I'm willing to be patient longer. I've been in my sacro-iliac support belt except for sleep and showers for four weeks now. I've been doing my exercises. Two days ago, I think I could actually feel that my transverse abdominis muscle is flexing more. My back still hurts in the morning and if I do too much bending or sitting. But I'm making progress.

Yes, I can be patient.

And now, because cleaning up the food act and not gaining weight is an important part of the physical therapy process too, here's a diet update.

The restrictive part of my cleanse ended Thursday and went well. For this part, I used the four-day "kick-start" that's part of the Prevention Flat Belly Diet plan (the book is just called Flat Belly Diet). I never do the full diet (no diet has ever worked long-term for me), but this "kick-start" is great because it's all four days of menus and snacks spelled out for you and it's all about busting cravings, eating clean (complex carbs, protein, fruits and vegetables) and eliminating possible allergens (wheat and dairy and soy). It's very similar to the way I like to eat leading up to a marathon so I don't have any poop issues during the race.

I do NOT adhere to their calorie restriction guidelines (roughly 1,200 a day for the four days)--I exercise too much for that, even at my cut-back level right now. What I DO use are the food suggestions for each meal and snack, and the "Sassy Water" recipe (stupid name, good stuff). If I'm hungry, I stick to the same foods, just eat more of them.

On Friday, I started eating normally again, and was pleased to note that my cravings for sweets and carbs were MUCH better than their frenzied level before the four days. True, on Saturday night, out to dinner with friends en route to The Hunger Games, I went nuts with chips and guac, a glass of wine and two super tasty fish tacos that left me feeling over-full for several hours afterward. But I went back to clean eating all day yesterday and skipped my Sunday treats. Saturday night's lapse must not have done too much damage, because I didn't miss the chocolate at all and still don't. Hopefully I can keep this going!

Meanwhile, I'm still taking the herbal supplements, a product by Renew Life called "First Cleanse." I take two in the morning that supposedly work on my liver, blood etc. and two in the evening that are supposed to help with elimination. They are reputedly pretty mild as these things go (I deliberately chose a product for newbies), and honestly I don't know if they are really doing anything. But they certainly aren't hurting, and if they're playing a role in the craving reduction, I'm all for them.

Tomorrow is my weekly weigh-in. I don't expect to have lost weight, but I don't think I've gained any either. As long as I can maintain my weight through this hiatus from running, I'll be one happy rehab patient.