October 15, 2008

Working Through An Injury, And Logging Miles Again

I guess I should have elaborated when in my last posting I said "I've come to terms with my injury". It's not like I woke up one morning and was like, 'yeah, ok, I'm injured, I can handle that...now I'm going running!'

The issue is an overuse injury that has shown me definitively that my Glute Med muscles are underdeveloped. This lack of running specific muscle development has managed to cause me quite a bit of misery over the last few months. By far the worst day I have had since this flared up back in mid August, was when Jackie and I did Wedgemont Lake in Whistler over the labor day long weekend. We were not pushing the pace at all, and yet after our ~15km return run I found that I could not walk without significant pain for days afterwards. Jackie wasn't even sore! My glutes were not firing properly which would lead to secondary muscles having to pick up the slack. This secondary muscles strain lead to exceptionally sore IT bands, and then played out with a serious knee pain. So bad was the pain in my left knee that even after being diagnosed by one of the best sports med Doctors in North Van, I questioned that accuracy of his opinion.

Me to Jackie...the physio!

"It's not possible for my KNEE to be hurting this much from weak muscles up around my hips! I think I have cartilage damage or worse?"

"Have you been doing your strengthening exercises Gary?"

"That's besides the point, my knee is messed up here!"

"Uhh huh..."

Eventually I got it through my thick skull that I couldn't question a diagnosis until following the Dr's orders of daily strengthening around the area in question.

The days following Wedgemont sucked, and then I started wondering if I should be skipping races to fully recover. Of course the answer to this would be yes, and of course I would do no such thing! After a solid race at Cle Elum in Wash I was again left sore for days, but it seemed to be getting somewhat better and was nowhere near the pain suffered after our run in Whistler a few weeks prior.

Two weeks after Cle Elum I had two goal races, in back to back weekends. The MOMAR on Sept 27th, and Run For The Toad on Oct 4th. I knew that if I competed at C.E. then I'd be racing three times in four weeks as The MOMAR and RFTT were not races that I would be able to pass on so freely. At least by making it through the C.E. 50k I knew that I could still run for 4+ hrs without making things worse then they already were.

I started in on a daily routine of rolling my quads and legs on a 'foam roller' to help alleviate the tension at its source. I would also take cold water showers over my legs after every run and elevate my legs whenever possible. This was to help flush lactic acid build up, and 'bad blood' from my legs. As always I used 'the stick' on my calfs and shins twice daily. I also started booking in for a weekly suffer session known as deep tissue massage...seriously, deep tissue masseuses like to hurt people...yeah I'm talking to you Lesley-Anne White!! Oh yeah, and I was utilizing a knee wrap that would act as a band-aid between the source of my pain, and the area it was being played out in. Basically a mini shock absorber that stopped my knee from shutting down on me, which was a good thing! Through all of this however I still managed to overlook the basic importance of helping to strengthen the actual Glute Med muscles.

Todd and I had a solid MOMAR, even if I was stressing out about my knee just minutes before the race started, and I was able to hold onto a 2nd place finish at the Run For The Toad in Ontario. I had made it through the toughest part of my racing year. Three races in four weeks while struggling with an injury that limited my training runs to 1.5hr max. Outside of these races I had not run even 2hr since my knee originally shut down on me while Jackie and I were tackling 'Golden Ears', one week post Stormy. I was very happy with everything, but starting to fear the most important race of the year for me, the November 1st Mountain Masochist in Virginia.

I arrived home from The Toad on Sunday and as mentioned in my previous posting went to work on logging kms again. I figured that if I can run 50k races then I must certainly be able to get through training sessions of 2hr or more! What I found was that while racing I was ignoring quite a bit, and in training I was unwilling to do so for fear of worsening my injuries. Over the previous six weeks whenever my knee flared up on me I shut it down. As it turns out, whenever my knee flares in training, all I really have to do is stop and stretch for a few minutes. The pain that feels like it's going to cripple me subsides instantly and I am free to go for an additional hour of somewhat pain free running! With this knowledge firmly in hand...and having finally added a daily strengthening routine through usage of a simply piece of latex known as a 'Thera Band', I started knocking down miles again in training.

Last week I was very happy to have put in my second biggest week of running ever, behind only my 100 mile week of training back in July! I was originally shooting for another 100 miler, but after logging about 85 miles / 135 kms of solid running I decided it was alright to pass on my original plan of a 25km night run on Sunday (following a 20k fast paced am run before work). The 85 miles were far more intense then the 100 I did back in July and I was finally starting to feel good both mentally and physically.

I was feeling great after such a big week and most of all without making my injuries any worse. I was even starting to think...dare I say it...that I might actually be recovering finally! I've been religious with my daily routine for a few weeks now and it has certainly making a massive difference to how I've been feeling.

I took Monday off of training and they yesterday decided to fully test myself. We were blessed with another incredible October day here in North Vancouver and I set out to run the Hanes Valley route. This is a sweet little run of about 26km which starts in Lynn Valley. The coolest part about this run is that although readily accessible it has a very definitive back country flare to it. You end up climbing close to 4,000 feet and go straight up a mountain pass in the process. This would be my second time doing this route, with Jackie and I running it in the late evening back in July. We finished with our headlamps on in about 4.5hr...I was thinking it could be done in under three.

I started at about 12:30 and if memory serves me correctly I hit Norvan Falls in about 37m, came into the clearing at the base of the main climb in 1h06m, topped out on the climb in about 1h34m. Hit the forest service road at the top of Grouse in exactly 2hr, and then the Grouse Lodge in 2h05m. I had 55 minutes to descend all of Mountain Highway and then run a short singletrack route back to my car in Lynn Valley to hit my goal on the day. I believe the distance from here was about 11-12km...and all downhill. I started in on the descent and was tentative for a few minutes. I was truly worried about how my legs would hold up after such a pounding as it's pretty much all a hard packed forest service road. I even had 'flashbacks' to Wedgemont Lake but told myself that I simply needed to know where I stood so I leaned forward and let it go.

Roxy logged every single mile with me last week, which amazed me, but with the cooler temps she's been a rock star runner lately. As I was bombing down Mtn Hwy she started falling off the back for the first time since I upped the miles again. I kept calling her on and telling her we were nearly done, and she responded by short cutting the switch backs through the forest!

I hit the final turn onto the last section of singletrack in 2h50m and pulled up to my car just over five minutes later! I had knocked down Hanes Valley via Mtn Hwy in 2h55m30s, and felt great in doing so!! The best news of all is that as I sit here today I am not suffering any ills effects whatsoever. A few more long runs this week and then a taper till Mountain Masochist, and things are finally starting to look good for this race!!



Darin said...

It sounds like you've got things under control which is good. I'm pretty sure we have somewhat the same problems. I took about two weeks off after Spartathlon and did that two hour run, then the next day at my A.R.T. session, the doc said that I wasn't tight at all in my hips or IT bands. Even my last massage got the thumbs up. And all that without really using the foam roller or stretching. Go figure. Wishing you all the best to qualify for WS on the 1st.


garobbins said...

Thanks dude! Yet another runner who doesn't have to stretch eh...what planet are you freaks from!

Anonymous said...

I never saw a guy with a knee brace that I coudn't beat:)

How was this weekends race???

garobbins said...

There's a first time for everything!
Race is Nov 1st, we ran The Howe Sound Crest Trail on Sunday, photos to come soon.

Jeff Hunt said...

I spend the majority of 2008 with a left knee overuse issue. I just went on the hopes that it would go away...of course, it didn't. I, too saw physios and the like, and they all agreed that it was strength-related, and not cartilidge, etc.
After doing the 56K GLW in mid Sept, I have been doing some hard off-season strengthing (with the motto: Stronger, not Bigger). I have put aside 6 weeks for this training. I am dying to go running, but know it is not the best thing for me at the moment.
I hope you find a solution to your left knee, and I look forward to hearing about your future adventures.

garobbins said...

Thanks for the insights Jeff, I have certainly realized that the biggest part of ultra running is injury prevention and maintenance. Thankfully I am feeling great right now, with only one race to go the timing is perfect!

Anonymous said...

I love the close-up shot of your foot, with Roxy sitting patiently in the background with her ball at her feet. Was that posed?

Gary Robbins said...

I was wondering if anyone would notice that! I didn't even see it till I downloaded the pic, pretty funny!