Monday, January 6, 2014

The Training Continues- and It's a Pain in my Foot!

      Ever since the conclusion of the Austin 70.3, I have been training for my very first full Marathon, which I will be participating in on February 16, 2014. The Austin Marathon is a relatively hilly course through the heart of Austin, and helps the city live up to its title as the "Live Music Capitol of the World," by featuring over 30 bands along the course.

        At this time last year, when I began getting in to shape and running my second-ever half marathon, I swore up and down I'd never be interested in running a full marathon. However, then I got the crazy idea to do the Half Ironman (If I can run 13.1, what's the big deal adding a swim and a bike ride, right?). I was losing weight and watching my body transform in ways I had never imagined, and began to see fewer and fewer limitations as to what I could do. Then, the bombing at the Boston Marathon happened. I am not usually the one who gets emotional over tragic events far away- probably just desensitized to it from overexposure, which is sad, but a topic for a different blog- but this really hit me. My heart broke for those athletes and spectators, because I knew just how joyous and supportive an occasion those terrorists had just destroyed, and there wasn't anything I could do about it (except help out the Red Cross, of course!).

         I decided the day after the bombing that I would sign up to run a marathon, if anything, to honor those who will never be able to again, but mostly, because I believe in the spirit of runners, and know that at this year's Boston, they'll be stronger and more determined than ever. I won't be running fast enough to qualify- you have to do a 3:35, and I'll be happy with a 4:30! - but I will get something I never thought I'd be capable of knocked off my ever-growing race bucket list, and keeping that spirit in mind will keep me going.

          To get me there, I have been training on my own during the week, and with my two running friends on Sundays. There is no way I would make it through those long runs - 20 mile as of yesterday- without them to talk to! We get fired up discussing all kinds of things, or get lost sharing book and music recommendations, and the miles melt away. (HAH- but really, when we're talking we're not thinking of how much our legs hurt at least!)

            This week's run was 20 miles, which with crazy-strong winds and freezing temperatures, we finished at the slower end of our pace at around 10:30mins/mile. It wasn't our best run ever, but we got it done and finished strong, even though my friend's watch died at mile 19, so we had to use our exhausted brains to do fractions at the very end to figure out how far we had left! In those last achy miles, I noticed a few things going on below my waist that I wanted to address: the back of my thighs felt very tight and a little painful around the sciatic nerve area, and my right foot felt like it suddenly had a huge bruise in the middle of it, so I thought this post would be a good one to talk about injuries, since I need to find out what's going on with my body!

For my foot: At around mile 15 yesterday, I noticed a sudden pain in the middle of my right foot. It wasn't sharp or deep, but nonetheless, my runner's paranoia kicked in and I feared a stress fracture, mainly because I have had shin splints that progressed to that point before. Rather than a sharp pain at every step, it felt like I had a bruise on my foot at the very top that just kind of throbbed. Today, the day after the run, I can still feel it with every step, but again it is just a bruised-feeling, so I found the article linked above and this video and did a little self-assessment.

I have no visible swelling, bruising, and checking those bones as in the video does not produce a great deal of pain, so I think with a little rest this week and some ice, I should be OK. However, if it gets worse, I will have to check my pride and see a doctor, because as it says in this video, you can't get a PR in a cast!

For my thighs: The past few long runs have left me feeling a sore, throbbing stiffness in the back of my thighs. Usually, it's just during the last mile or so and afterwards that day, but with rolling out and stretching, it goes away after my rest day and I don't experience it on shorter runs. However yesterday, perhaps due to the cold and the number of hills we ran early on, I experienced the pain much earlier, around mile 8. At first I hoped it was Hamstring Strain, which this great article has a lot of things to say, but after reading how he diagnosis it, I am thinking it's definitely more related to my sciatic nerve area. When running, it is a constant throb at the top of my thighs, right below my butt cheeks. If I tweak a little to the side, say, going around a corner, it can be a sharper pain. Then, at rest, it continues to throb, one time bad enough to wake me up from a nap because it was traveling up and down the back of my thighs.

This Doctor here suggests that even if it is sciatic nerve issues, it can still be caused by overstressed hamstrings, which means I may be able to solve the issue through being more diligent about stretching and performing some strengthening exercises. a great list of which can be found here.

This article provides a list of possible causes for this pain, and definitely makes me think I'm getting closer to the root of the problem- slacking on my form and more so on my recovery. These include:
  • flat feet and over-pronation
  • irregular biomechanics or imbalance
  • uneven pelvis, or one leg slightly shorter than the other (I have both these issues)
  • curved spine, Scoliosis (that’s me!! I have SEVERE Scoliosis)
  • tight glutes, hamstrings
  • lack of core strength, weak, lack of flexibility in lower back muscles
  • improper running form, improper shoes
  • sitting or standing for long periods of times with no stretching

I am going to spend today stretching, with this one looking particularly relieving:

I'll update next week on if it helps!

Just like the article about foot pain says, "that this is one of those arenas where you really do need to trust your doctor and physical therapist. But for some runners, that's often harder than training." How right that is- just because we are runners, we are not automatically physical therapists, doctors, podiatrists, or personal trainers. These professionals are educated in their fields and know what they are talking about, while most of us runners are just good at googling what's currently hurting. Therefore, if it hurts and keeps hurting, you need to see a doctor. They are the only ones who should clear you to keep training. Many injuries are common to endurance athletes, and easily treatable if caught early. Happy training!

This blog is following my training as I get ready for the Athleta eSpirit de She event season. Two events happen in Texas, the Duathlon in Dallas and the Cycle Tour in Austin. I'll be doing both, and you should do at least one!

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