Friday, April 26, 2013

Dealing with Injury - don't be a doorknob

Back in March, I had probably one of the most awesome weeks of my life attending the LPC Triathlon Camp in Florida. Certainly it was the most awesome in terms of learning just what I was capable of.

Other than a few scrapes and bruises, I made it through swim sessions, 140ish miles of biking, and a wonderful 10 mile run (and a bunch of shorter ones). Really, I was feeling on top of the world and raring to go when I got home.

And then I tripped over my suitcase. I was at a hotel, my bag was on the ground, and in the middle of the night I tripped over my suitcase and ended up with a terribly painful fourth toe.

I couldn’t walk without limping pretty badly.  Running was out of the question. Swimming was out for a while because the thought of jarring my toe (either flip-turning or getting out of the pool) made me sick. So, I went from 100 miles an hour to almost nothing. I saw my trainer twice a week and I was doing a bit of biking (on a stationary bike), but that was about it.

I knew rest was important, so I coddled my, elevation, the works. It was just a toe, so I figured there wasn't any point in going to the doctor. I just decided to give it a few weeks of rest.

Okay, fine. I'll be honest. The truth was that I didn’t go because I didn’t want to hear my toe was broken and I really should be avoiding running for 6 weeks.

And my method seemed to work pretty well. At least until, when my foot was feeling better, I decided to test it on a treadmill over Easter weekend. This was a full two weeks later. That run felt pretty good, so I decided slow and steady would be fine. So the next day I tried another short run…and just about died.

Not really, of course - but whatever I did was too much and knocked me back almost right to where I started. I was limping again. My toe hurt. Even the ball of my foot hurt.

With my first race coming up (the 5k Race to End Homelessness…see two posts previous for my race report), I knew I needed to go to the Doctor. I now needed to know if the toe was broken because if it was, I knew I couldn't race on it. I also realized that I needed help figuring out the right way to get back to running.

Much to my absolute joy, the Doctor said the toe wasn’t broken. Instead, I’d strained a ligament in the toe. Verdict: It would take a while to heal fully, it would ache for a long time, but I could run on it. The doctor suggested taping the toe to another one (Buddy taping) – and just running on feel. If it was achy, fine. If it hurt – stop.

Now – 4 weeks since the Doctor visit, my toe is almost fully healed. I am still taping it (it is still tender at times so I know it’s not quite perfect yet), but I finally feel good enough to pick my running back up again. I proved that with the most recent 10k I did.

So what’s the verdict of this story?

  • If you get injured – and it’s still bugging you after a few days (after generous amounts of RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) – go to the doctor. I was afraid of what I was going to hear (probably a very common issue with athletes), so I avoided it until I realized I had no choice.  If I’d been told it was a ligament strain right from the get-go and had taped it right from the beginning, maybe I’d have recovered a bit faster (probably not much faster…but still).
  • Be careful ramping back up – I thought I was going easy when I did a second run the day after testing my foot/toe the first time. Apparently, what I thought was easy was definitely not, since I got set back at least a week. After seeing the Doctor, I was smarter about it. I ran the 5k in Florida without a watch, knowing I’d stop or slow if I felt I needed to. The next two weeks, I only ran 3 days a week (which is my usual), and kept the pace very easy. I did one 10k run before my first 10k race, and it was at a very easy pace. I mentally went into the Yonge St. 10k with the belief I was using it as a test run. If I needed to go slower, then I would. After doing that successfully – I am only now stepping up my training by introducing longer runs and speed work. So, take the time you need to make sure you don’t hurt yourself again.
  • Be willing to adjust your training plan - I have a bunch of races planned this year – from 5ks to a marathon and triathlons. After getting hurt, I realized it was better to take my April races easy – than to push hard and get re-injured.  So I adjusted. I signed up for similar races in May, so I could use my April races for training/testing. 
  • Don't be a doorknob - Sure, you can be worried about “what if?” when you get hurt…but don’t let the worry keep you from finding out the truth about what’s wrong. It’s not the X-files. Better to get the truth and go on from there.
I’m a klutz. I expect I’ll end up with more bizarre injuries (hopefully not before big races). Here's hoping I don't forget not to be a doorknob in the future because I love what I am doing right now. I’ve learned that I love running and training and racing. If I’m going to keep doing these things for a good long time, then I need to be smart about what I do when things go wrong.

Similar to going to camp to learn triathlon techniques, when it comes to recovery from injury, I need to pay attention to the people who know best…and not Google Search (Of course I didn’t use that when I first injured myself…cough).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Race Report: Toronto Yonge Street 10k

Wow. I am writing a race report only one day after the race. How amazing is that? Maybe I should wait a few weeks to post it. Or not!

So, yesterday I ran the Yonge Street 10k. Originally, I’d planned for this to be my big 10k of the year (same course as the Sporting Life 10k – which was my first race ever and my running benchmark - just a few weeks earlier), but after spraining a ligament in my toe (and several weeks of almost no running), I decided to make this, like the Race to End Homelessness 5k two weeks ago, a test run. Given a good result, I’d then make the Sporting Life 10k my big effort if all worked according to plan.

I woke up around 6am and had half an English muffin, a tiny bit of peanut butter, half a banana, and a coffee. My stomach had been off for the few days ahead of the race, so I was iffy about eating, but knew I needed something.

I spent a good 30 minutes trying to figure out what to wear. I’d laid out my race clothes the night before, but the morning of the race was -2 – a bit colder than I was planning for. In the end, I went with my plan (capri running shorts, a tee shirt and arm warmers)…at least until I got to the start and was way too cold. Fortunately, I had a light running jacket in my bag check bag, so I traded the arm warmers for the jacket and repined both my Official Bib and my “Runners United In Support of Boston” bib (which I wore on my back…along with many of the other thousands of other runners).

Had a nice chat with another woman in the line for the port-a-potties, and then went off to my start corral. Somewhere in there I also did a bit of a warm up (1/2k jog and some dynamic stretching), although I am sure I should’ve done more. That’s what I get for wasting so much time on clothing choices! Although it was really cold…wonder if all the hopping I did in the start corral counts as warming up? At least it got my heart rate up!

I was in the first corral (not including the Hand-cycle participants who actually started first), so had a pretty good spot to hear the welcome speeches. There was also a moment of silence in memory of what happened at the Boston Marathon. It was nicely done.

The race itself was awesome. There’s really nothing at all like running down Yonge Street with a thousand other people.

My stomach was not happy most of the race (I’d had something of a stomach bug in the days leading up to yesterday). I was just glad it never got bad enough to really affect my pace. Thank goodness!

Mind you, my little stomach troubles were nothing when I saw people in Boston Marathon jackets. Every time I saw them (some were running, some were along the course cheering), I’d run faster. Seeing those jackets was like a shot of adrenaline. Every time I saw one I remembered how lucky I was to be running that day.

I expect every time I see a Boston Marathon jacket for a good long time to come, I will have the exact same response: I will recall what happened there and be reminded of how very, very lucky I am to be able to run.

My final time for the race was 48:40. This was 3 minutes and 22 seconds faster than last year. I was utterly thrilled. I honestly don’t think I could’ve done better than I did. In terms of stats…my time put me:

·         43 out of 533 in my age group of Women 30-34 (top 8%).

·         261 out of 3089 of all women (top 8.5%); and

·         1184 out of 5610 overall participants (top 21%).

Aside: Can you tell I love stats and measuring my progress? I know I am crazy that way – but for me it is part of the fun of it all. I run because I love it. I keep track of my progress (I immediately download my Garmin after every run and compare it to other runs of the same distance) because I wouldn’t believe how much I’ve improved otherwise!  And on that note, I was happy to see that I ran every mile of this race faster than every mile of my previous 2 10k races!)

After crossing the finish line, I got my medal and some nice goodies (the best of which was a great promo race shirt for registering early) and walked a mile and a half to the subway for my trip home.

Final reflective thoughts

What happened at the BostonMarathon was a tragedy – in reality, there is no word strong enough for how awful it was. But running is a gift and one that should be celebrated. And that’s what racing does. It lets you celebrate your achievements, your training, your progress. No matter where you are or how fast or slow you go – you are moving forward. That is worthy of celebrating and supporting – and everyone running in the race today – and the people wearing Boston Marathon jackets and cheering on the streets – knew it.

Never forget what happened in Boston or the people whose lives were changed forever because of it. But don’t let fear ever keep you from moving forward.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Race Report: 5k Race to End Homelessness - Hollywood, Fl.

I signed up for this race back when I decided to go on a cruise. I figured since I was probably going to do a run that day before boarding anyway, why not do the run in a race along the beach?

Of course, at the time I didn’t realize I was going to sprain a ligament in my toe a few weeks before and have only run twice between March 16th and April 6th…but I was still in good spirits. After all, my plane got in after midnight – so I was running the race on 5 hours of sleep anyway. It wasn’t like I’d have been in prime running form in any event – so a toe injury at least gave me a good excuse as to my slowness.

I got up around 6:30 in the morning and ordered a cab. While I waited, I took a quick shower to wake up and I taped my two end toes together (got that advice from a doctor the day before, so I was hoping it was going to work).

I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going, so I wanted to get there early. Being 6:30, I had no trouble getting a ride. On the way out the door, I managed to snag a banana from the front desk (they had a basket of free fruit) and I ate a granola bar. Truth be told, I really could have used something more substantial!

I decided to run this race without my Garmin because I didn’t want to feel pressured into running faster than my foot could manage. I also forgot my iPod (I told people it was intentional, but in reality…I just forgot to bring it with me to the race).

Got to Charnow Park and found packet pick up. For such a small race, the atmosphere was very nice. Since they didn’t have a bag check, I managed to convince their registration folks to watch my bag (which only had a shirt and the freebies I was given in it…I kept my phone/money on me).

Had a really nice chat with an older gentleman running the race that lived nearby. That and a brief warm up (mostly dynamic stretching and a little jogging…I figured I didn’t want to hurt my toe before the start) and it was time to toe the line.

I lined up about fourth row back from the front, which seemed like a good choice given where the race director was suggesting people stand.

I started pretty well, although was quickly caught up by my foot which was definitely bothering me most of the way. I felt like every step took forever. The foot wasn’t painful though – just sore. Which meant the taping was holding up pretty well. I figured I was just a bit low on endurance after a few weeks not running, plus it was quite humid, which always slows me down.

The race ran right down a road alongside the beach for a good mile – which was lovely. It wasn’t a closed course, so I had to dodge around pedestrians a fair bit – but that wasn’t a big deal.

Made it to the 1 mile mark around 7:45 (they had timing signs), which I figured was pretty good for going slowly. I slowed down a fair bit coming into the turnaround, and then the return trip seemed like it was a long way. I could see the finish line, but it felt like it kept moving backwards! Funny how that works.

I saw 24 min on the clock from a ways away and tried to speed up for the finish (although I didn’t speed up much, I am sad to say, my foot was worn out). Final time was 24:26.

Overall, I felt pretty good with my result, especially given I hadn’t really run much (i.e. twice) since my tri camp a month ago. I also was trying to pace myself conservatively (hence not having my watch on).

So you can probably see why I was a bit tickled pink when I won 2nd place in my Age Group. I even got a shiny medal to take home! My first ever running award – for my first timed 5k (my December one where I finished in 23:16 was unofficial).

Guess that’s a big benefit of running in a small race!

Mind you, my excitement was a bit short lived. The first announcement they made following the race was to say that a man in his 50s had been rushed to the hospital with a heart attack and had passed away.

It was heartbreaking. The day was so perfect, that I couldn’t imagine it having such an unexpected awful end for someone and for his family.

Aside: I am writing this post-Boston. It’s hard to reflect on a man’s heart attack during a race, remembering what happened at the Boston Marathon – on what was, or so I’ve heard, another perfect day –a day that was supposed to be one of celebration for so many runners, and yet turned into such a tragedy.

But on that day in Florida, that man’s death struck me hard. I didn’t know him. I didn’t see him fall. But I felt immensely sad about what happened. And when for the first time in my life I won a 50/50 draw, I didn’t feel like I could take the proceeds given the circumstances. So I asked the race organizers to donate the money (about $250) to the man’s family. I figured they could either use the money if it was need it, or donate it themselves in the gentleman’s memory. At the very least, I hoped his family would know that people, even strangers, cared about their loss.

After the race, I walked about a mile to find a hotel where I could get a cab…and then had to wait almost 45 min for the cab to pick me up. Turned out there was a taxi strike…so my ability to get a cab in the early morning hours was quite misleading. But I eventually got a driver and made it back to my hotel. I didn’t mind the wait. In truth, I think I needed the time to reflect.

The lesson I learned that day is one that carried me through the horrifying news about Boston:

Life is a gift. Don’t waste even a day of it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Top Lessons from the LPC Triathlon Training Camp

At the end of my last post, I was on quite a high from a very successful experience at the LPC Triathlon Training Camp in Florida. Looking back, I am so glad I got up the courage to go. I learned so much from the coaches and other campers, that I am going to go  into the triathlon season this
summer feeling both energized and confident that I'll do well.

Well, well for me of course. I don't have any delusions of grandeur. I just want to finish all the triathlons I do with a smile on my face and the knowledge that I am out there doing awesome things.

I've had a bunch of people ask me what I learned at the camp...and I've been spending the past couple of weeks thinking about it (and being completely overwhelmed by real life...hence the delay in this post).

Looking back, I can honestly say that I learned a lot of great skills and drills related to swim, bike, run - and I got a lot of opportunities to practice, especially on my bike (which I desperately needed). The coaches were all top notch, enthusiastic, and very knowledgeable about their respective areas and triathlon in general. All of them were very willing to talk and provide feedback, advice and suggestions.

 But I also learned a lot of other things that weren't necessarily in the camp description - some about me, and some about triathlon... no particular order, the top lessons I learned at the LPC Triathlon Training Camp include:
  1. Wow, the whole cyclical nature of training really works. Looking back, it is easier to see just how the sessions earlier in the week provided a foundation for the last couple of days. Sure it was just a week, but given how many different people were at the camp - the structure really worked - seemingly for everyone.
  2. Triathletes are a really nice bunch. Seriously. I've never met a nicer group of people all at once. Everyone was enthusiastic, supportive and nice - no matter who they were or what their experience was.
  3. Training in adverse conditions isn't necessarily a bad thing. I doubt I'd ever have gone out riding in the rain like we did that one day at camp. But since I was there, I wasn't going to miss a session, rain or not. Now I realize that riding in adverse conditions isn't actually a bad thing. After all, what if it rains on race day? It's a pretty terrifying feeling riding along with rain practically keeping you from seeing anything. Better to have at least some experience early - so you don't panic later.
  4. I really need to buy one of those Aero water bottles that has a straw. It might take me years to learn to grab a water bottle off my bike..and really, water is kind of important. Something easily accessible would be awesome.
  5. Swim starts in a group are crazy. We practiced some swim starts over the course of the week, and one day I managed to elbow one of the guys in the face and knock his goggles off. I had no idea I'd done it and needless to say apologized profusely after the fact (although I'm apparently never going to live down the fact I didn't even notice I'd done it). But there's definitely a lesson there. I expect I'll eventually be on the receiving end of a knock maybe it's important to think about what to do "if" scenarios. Or I can just keep my elbows up high. :)
  6. I'm not a pretender. I went into this camp worrying that I was going to be seen as a pretender. I'm an idiot. I fit in just fine and really need to get over the "I am not a real athlete" mentality. Done. There. Gone.
  7. The Sugarloaf Climb isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I was seriously worried about this climb because I'd heard so much about it. In reality, I got to the top of a series of hills (yes, Florida has them)...and found out I was me, if you're reading this wondering if you can do can. The challenge is actually getting home afterwards because your legs will be exhausted from the hills!
  8. I have way more endurance than I thought I did. I am still blown away by having done a 10 mile run followed by a 40 mile ride on the same day...and not being toast afterwards. I actually got up the next day and did an easy 6k run. Really! How awesome is that? I never would've dared do the two workouts on the same day on my own...but now I've done it - I kind of feel like I can do anything.
  9. Learning from experienced coaches makes a world of difference. I learned more in a week than I'd have learned in years on my own. More importantly, now that I am home, I can keep working on the different drills that I was taught - so I can do triathlons this summer with much more confidence. Sure, you can read books - but having access to real, knowledgeable coaches is worth it's weight in gold. I can now see why people hire coaches to help them over the course of a season.
  10. Have fun! I had a blast at camp. Sure, I went in wanting to learn stuff - but it was darned fun, too. Even during the harder sessions (the rain being the worst), I was smiling. Why do something if you don't love it? Fortunately for me, the camp just helped me realize how much I enjoy training, learning, and pushing myself. I am already looking forward to next year.