Sunday, May 27, 2012

You can't nap during an MRI (and other tales from the sidelines)

I'm a newbie to the whole magnetic resonance imaging thing so I didn't understand why the radiologist laughed at me when I told her I planned to doze off as the machine took high tech pictures of my right leg.  I slipped the required headphones over my ears (another clue) and had just shut my eyes when the sound of a landing helicopter filled the room.  Seriously.  I have flown in helicopters (ok, a helicopter) and the two noises are indistinguishable.  When it would stop briefly, a loud clicking noise that resembled a monotonous techno beat would fill the void.  I actually am not sure if that noise came from the machine or if the radiologist just had really bad taste in music. 

I am still hurt, and worse yet, no one in the community of people who are supposed to determine what is wrong seem to know what's wrong.  There has been little to no improvement.  My right quad remains constantly numb and my knee locks up after about a mile rendering the entire leg useless.  My orthopedist, who works on Olympic runners said to me, "your case is sort of a mystery."  My massage therapist (the best of the best in NYC), says my quad is extremely tight.  My physical therapist agrees.  This has gone from an IT band injury to potential tendinitis, pinched nerve, herniated disc, piriformis or any combination of the aforementioned afflictions.  I plan to add an acupuncturist to my team of specialists this week.

I was reminded yesterday of something Alberto Salazar said.  I'm paraphrasing here, but it was along the lines of "It's harder to not run than to run."  He's right.  Despite that, I am trying to exude positivity.  Negativity doesn't help injuries heal.  There are a million and two things about being sidelined that suck, but I am making a conscious effort to only dwell on those things for a finite amount of time each day.  A very wise runner we'll call "Nathan" encouraged me to take advantage of a life that isn't possible when you are a competitive runner on the side.  I'm doing that by taking a different approach to cross-training.  Instead of trying to replace running with mind-numbing hours on the elliptical and stationary bike, I am swimming when I have time, eating right (minus the ice cream), getting lots of sleep and focusing on stretching and flexibility.  It leaves me with much more time to spend with Lauren and Pepper, read a good book and watch a good movie.

That said, it was in part, bad movies that ended the days of two hour elliptical rides.  I had just finished "All About Steve" and was 25 minutes into "Click" when either my knee legitimately started to hurt or Adam Sandler was so terrible that my brain started sending pain signals to it in an attempt to get me off the machine.  I haven't been on since.

I'm going to try and share the funny, anecdotal side of being hurt on the blog.  There is one.  Look no further than the pool locker room at the Chelsea Rec Center for proof of that.  I'll have to learn Korean to pick up on some of the hilarity but since that's where I'll be centering the majority of my athletic energy until I get this figured out, it might just be possible.  And once I do get this figured out, I have something harder than learning a foreign language to work on -- a marathon PR.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Return of the Low-Impact Triathlete

The only thing worse than coming home from a community pool with the smell of chlorine seeping from your pores is coming home from a community pool without the smell of chlorine seeping from your pores.  Following my first aquajogging session in more than a year, I can report the latter.  It makes you wonder about the cleanliness of the pool at the Chelsea Recreation Center and its urine to water ratio.

Clearly, I am fighting yet another injury or else I wouldn't have spent the better part of a beautiful Sunday afternoon on a bike and in an indoor pool.  This time, it is in my IT band and it came out of nowhere.  Actually, I shouldn't have been all that surprised last Friday when a pain on the outside of my knee caused me to stop in my tracks and walk home.  Just days before, I had proudly told Heidi that I had not been injured in 14 months.  My fate was sealed.

The injured IT band is frightening new territory for me.  I don't know much about it except from what I have learned from the Google.  Of course, Google anything enough and you can convince yourself that the pain you are experiencing is symptomatic of a brain tumor and you have six days to live.  That is why I attacked this injury aggressively and immediately.  Anyone who is familiar with my history of injuries knows I have a tendency to freak out on the first day I am unable to run.  I don't exactly under-react to anything. So, it should be no surprise that I have seen two doctors and one physical therapist so far and will be seeing a new physical therapist on Wednesday.

But that is a little over the top for even me.  Let me explain.  The first doctor I saw was not a runner and gave me some photocopied exercises from Runner's World.  I've been a Runner's World subscriber for many years and my subscription fee is not covered by my insurance.  Some friends recommended another doctor in town who specializes in running injuries.  With nothing to lose, I made an appointment with him and he is the one who diagnosed the IT band issue which he referred to as "acute" and said it would probably take a couple of weeks to work itself out.  He prescribed a heavy duty anti-inflammatory, some topical cortisone cream and physical therapy.  Looking for convenience, I stopped into the PT practice closest to my office. This particular office was also not very runner-oriented, and when the PT told me it was going to be eight weeks before I ran again, I tuned her out.  Everything she said sounded like Charlie Brown's parents for the rest of the visit.  I've learned my lesson.  Check and make sure the practice is accustomed to dealing with runners before wasting your time.

Other than seeking medical treatment, I've hit the cross-training hard, spending hours on end on the elliptical, stationary bike and as of today, in the pool.  I've had to re-evaluate my spring season, scratching this weekend's Healthy Kidney 10K and next weekend's Brooklyn Half Marathon off my schedule.  At this point, I am still holding out hope for a return to racing by late June or early July. 

How did it happen?  I blame Boston and myself.  I think the marathon was the catalyst.  The conditions and the effort took a tremendous toll on my body.  It was a toll that took a week or so to fully realize.  However, the underlying weaknesses were there.  With the increase in mileage and intensity leading up to the race, I let strength and stretching exercises fall by the wayside.  I know full well that to run at the level I desire to run at, these exercises are of utmost importance.  IT Band injuries are often the result of weak glutes, a problem that has been the cause of past injuries.  I hope this is the last time I have to regret my laziness in the prevention department.

Hopefully, it won't be long before I'm back at it.  With any luck, I'll be stronger and well-rested.  Until then, if you know anything about the IT band, or have any good advice, I'll take anything and everything I can get!