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!


  1. Sorry to hear about your injury Jay, but I know you'll come back strong! I'm running the Brooklyn Half Marathon next week and I was hoping I might run into you there. Take care!

  2. I'll be there watching Richard! Hope to see you on Coney Island!

  3. Great... hope to see you there! I ran it two years ago and we had a hard time finding each other at Coney Island after the race with so many people there. I'm just hoping to finish in the Top 10 in my age group (tough bunch of runners up there!). I finished 7th in 2010 (1:34:42) and I'd like to be close to that this time around. It helps a little (on placement at least) that I've "graduated" to the 60-64 age group but I'm not sure being 2 years older helps all that much!

  4. Go see Wharton's on 181st...They will fix you and teach you to keep everything firing on all cylinders for years to come.

  5. hi Jay! I'm a friend of Pierce's and love following your running exploits, especially as a former NYC runner. I had chronic IT band problems in high school and early college, and had a similar doctor experience - one "top sports doctor" at UVA told me to quit running and play another sport, another doctor told me they could surgically cut the band to relieve the pressure, and a third gave me a cortisone shot in my knee that made the pain worse. Finally, my lacrosse trainer in college offered a simple, non-surgical remedy that let the IT band heal for the first time in 2 years - they wrapped a 1.5" rubber/elastic strap around my upper thigh to stabilize the band at the top of my leg, which decreased the rubbing at my knee. It was a miracle cure. I've had a few lesser bouts of IT band issues in the years since, and this always makes it go away. It also worked when I put the strap at the base of my quad above the knee. Just thought I would share! Oh, and also a good ice cup message on the outside of your knee and up your outer thigh. Good luck!

  6. Thanks Kelley! I sure hope it isn't that serious! This is my first run-in with IT fun, so I assume, and my Doctor agrees that it is not chronic. I am hoping to nip it in the bud quickly. I start PT tomorrow. At this point, the shot is my second to last resort and surgery is my ABSOLUTE last resort since it can really change your stride.