So-so on the ISO

 

Today’s run (street): 3.4 miles

I went out for a run this morning with the hope that I’d be back to pre-injury form. The temperature was in the high 40’s when I first went out. It felt chilly, but once I got out of the shade I was glad I’d worn shorts. I decided to give my Saucony Triumph ISOs another try despite the difficulties I had last time with my feet getting crammed at the front. I did fine with the Virratas last weekend and I’d go back to them as my primary shoe if they weren’t so badly worn.

While there was no real pain during the run, I did feel that now-familiar discomfort in my hamstring throughout the first mile. My gait felt restricted, but that dissipated over time. Even though I didn’t burn up the road today, it ended up feeling like a pre-injury workout. I’m going to do some dynamic stretching before I go out tomorrow. That warm-up may help me get comfortable a lot sooner.

I paid attention to the Triumphs because I agreed to evaluate them for Saucony. They were the Spring 2015 Editor’s Pick in Runners World based on their construction and cushioning. I realized, after spending time with both the Kayanos and these Triumphs, that I prefer a more minimal trainer. I know that I’m striding differently these days due to the disk issue and that could be influencing my experience.

As I continue to recover, I’ll be curious to see if my opinion of the Triumphs will change as my stride starts feeling more natural. I had three great “running inspired” workouts this week, bookended by some good actual runs. I’m hoping the good running experience continues throughout the weekend.

A ruptured disc is an Annular event

Workouts this week (hybrid fitness machines): 3 sessions, 8 miles total

Well I’m back to weekday workouts and I feel better than I have in months. I suspect one reason for that is because I’ve added three more workouts to my weekly schedule. I’ve been testing fitness equipment and those sessions are providing me a lot of of additional energy. Committing to this testing forced a level of discipline that I really need right now.

Another reason I’m feeling good relates to the recovery progress I’m having with my disc problem. I finally had a conversation with my orthopedist who read my MRI and confirmed both a ruptured disc and torn annular ligament. The rupture may not completely heal, but the inflammation seems to have abated. The soreness is almost gone and I have no ill effects when or after using these alternative running machines.

I’ve done workouts (treadmill, elliptical, test units) almost every day for the past two weeks. Last weekend I had success running on pavement and on the track. Not quite where I want to be, but it was a big gain over the previous weekend. I’m planning to do a neighborhood run tomorrow morning and hoping to see even more improvement. I won’t say much about the testing I’m doing except to note that the experience of running is very hard to duplicate on a machine.

Timely track run

 

Today’s run (track): 3.25 miles

My son competes in Long Island science fairs because of an advanced research project he is doing in high school. Although most of these fairs are held during the school week, he had one happening today. That meant we needed to take him to the high school at 7:00 AM to meet the bus to the event. Usually my wife manages these logistics, but I volunteered to do it today.

It may seem like I was doing this to give Mrs. ER a well deserved break, but my motivation was more selfish than altruistic. Having to get my son to the bus forced me to get out early. I can be an awful procrastinator when it comes to getting ready for a run, but this worked out well since I was planning to run at the high school.

In the days when I’d run before work, I was on a split second time-table. I needed to allow time to get dressed and run my distance in time to get to my preferred train. Without that immovable deadline, I would have have taken twice as long. When I run with my friends, or have a race, I manage to get out on time. When it’s a lazy Sunday morning, time usually slips by.

After I dropped off my son, I went to the track behind the school to start today’s workout. When I arrived, I saw the usual suspects – 30-something women walking in a group, an older couple (also walking) and a middle aged man run-walking. It’s always different people, but the mood and the rhythm is usually the same. Today I played the role of the middle aged man running slowly.

Yesterday’s neighborhood run was a confidence booster. Although my running felt awkward, I ran relatively pain-free. I hoped for the same thing today. I did have some abstract soreness when I started, but no real pain, I tried to force a more natural stride but felt constrained throughout the first half of my run. I wore my Virratas and didn’t experience the the shoe issues that I had with the Kayanos and Triumphs. I guess I’ll be sticking with them for now.

I picked up speed with every mile and I think that was due to warming up enough to open my stride a little. The only negative was near the end, when I could feel some discomfort in my upper thigh as I ran. It was in the same place that I felt the stabbing pain last week. Today it wasn’t painful, more like uncomfortable tightness. I reached my goal distance and stopped the run before that got any worse.

Well I definitely made progress this weekend, but I still have a long way to go. The important thing is that I can run without much discomfort or doing any further damage. I’ll be spending a lot of time on non-impact fitness machines this week. I’m pretty sure they’re helping me recover.

Passing the pavement test

Following the flattest route possible

Today’s run (street): 3.1 miles

If my orthopedist correctly diagnosed me as having a herniated disc, I must be having a remarkable recovery. Based on what he told me, I should be having a lot more pain when running. That’s not the case and I’m thinking of getting a second opinion. I’m still waiting to meet with this guy to go over the results of my MRI. It’s taking a lot longer than promised, because he’s canceled my last two appointments. This is the place that canceled my original appointment but didn’t let me know until I showed up for it. I’ve just about had it with this office.

I’ve been using our elliptical machine at home and have also been testing hybrid running units at a different location. These no-impact workouts have helped me maintain some fitness without aggravating my disc problem. I’d felt incremental improvement in terms of pain prior to my run last Saturday, only to have it return in a big way during that run. Yesterday’s one mile treadmill session was a test to see whether the pain was still present while running. I ran slowly and my gait felt awkward, but the stabbing pain from last week was gone.

There’s a big difference between running on a level treadmill and hard pavement. I had hopes for a painless outdoor run, but feared it was too soon to expect much improvement. The temperature was only in the high 30’s when I headed outside. I dressed accordingly and felt comfortable with the gear I’d chosen. Once my Garmin showed ready, I was off.

I wore the Kayanos rather than the Saucony Triumph ISOs this morning. The Triumphs made my feet feel squished at the front during last Saturday’s run. The Kayanos did the same thing today. It’s clearly related to my current stride and foot strike. Although I’ve continued to work out despite these running problems, ellipticals don’t provide the same level of intensity as a treadmill. Due to that, I’m feeling some conditioning gaps when I run.

I started today’s run along my usual route. The first left off my street goes about a quarter mile up a 2% grade. It’s enough to notice, but usually not an issue for me. Today it felt like I was running up James Street during the Great Cow Harbor 10K. If you’re not familiar with Widow Hill, it’s the stuff of nightmares. For me anyway.

There was no real pain during the run, but my stride didn’t feel very natural. I ran slowly to avoid triggering a problem. My plan was to do my distance and then evaluate both my fitness and my readiness for increasing mileage and pace. For a three mile run, it felt like a lot of work, but I’m very pleased that the soreness hasn’t returned.

I’m going to add 10% more distance tomorrow and I’m thinking about going to the track to take advantage of that soft, flat surface. Someday, I’d like to go there to run intervals. Tomorrow my hope is to do a little more and hurt a little less.

Buzzing, banging and recovering

This won’t hurt a bit

My longstanding soreness has taken a turn for the better lately. For a while, the pain accompanied me on every step I took. I felt stiff and unbalanced when I walked, especially after my 90 minute commutes to my office. When I did try to run, I’d feel acute pain in my hamstring. I haven’t run since I tripped and nearly fell a couple of weeks ago. Extended rest has always led to healing for me and that may be true in this case.

I started my day with an MRI. With all this progress toward recovery, I questioned whether I needed it. That thinking was quickly corrected while I changed for the scan, I twisted my leg slightly in the process and felt a surprisingly sharp pain. I’m not out of the woods by any means.

I’be been through a couple of MRI’s and knew what to expect. Although I had to stay completely still for 45 minutes while a large white appliance buzzed and banged inches from my face, it wasn’t too bad. It may have have been the noise, but I developed a sizable headache by the end. I took care of that with ibuprofen, but I remained a little dizzy and tired throughout the day.

Tomorrow I plan to join the Runsketeers in progress as they take on five or six miles along the Bethpage trail. On the advice of my doctor, I’m limiting my distance to about three miles and will try to avoid hills. It’s impossible to miss them on this trail so I’ll do what I can. It’s been months since we’ve all got together and that’s the important thing about this workout. I won’t be able to keep up with  my friends on the path, but I’ll match them cup for cup at Starbucks later on.

The sting of a million bees

Tools of recovery

Today’s run (street): 3.75 miles

Whenever I go out for a run, I think about the things I should capture in that day’s post. This blog has served as my running journal since November 2008 and it’s been a handy resource for looking back throughout the years. Today I thought about how two people wished me happy Easter as I ran through the neighborhood (hey, what about Passover?!), how I could smell the the salty ocean air and how annoying it was to get gravel in my shoes from all the recent pothole repairs. Little did I know that the key item of this post would happen during the last second of my run.

Things started out okay. My nagging piriformis injury felt a bit more pronounced this morning than yesterday, but not by much. I had used both my massage stick and a tennis ball earlier to loosen up my sore muscles. I was hoping for more improvement. To understand how I felt, imagine how it would feel to have a skilled rolfer jam their index finger knuckle deeply into your left glute every time you took a step. It wasn’t too comfortable, but it was tolerable.

After about ten minutes, the discomfort began to diminish and I started to feel more like my old self. My goal was to increase my distance 10% beyond yesterday’s run and I knew that would not be a problem. I was less than a quarter mile from my house when I turned onto a road I’d literally run a thousand times and made my way over to the sidewalk. I typically end my runs by following this sidewalk that wraps up and around a couple of short roads before delivering me to my street.

Just when I was feeling encouraged by having completed two decent neighborhood runs this weekend, my toe caught a raised section of the sidewalk and I began falling toward the concrete. I know what it’s like to take that fall and did everything I could to stay upright. My instinct was to pull up on my hamstring. When I did that, I felt the pain of a million bee stings along in my lower glute.

My first reaction was frustration that I was back to square one with this injury. I tried to take a couple of walking steps, but was warned off by the pain. Although I was only a minute’s walk away from my house, I didn’t feel like I could do it without making the injury worse. I called my wife and asked her to pick me up. It was not the way I’d imagined this run would end.

After the very brief ride home, I was able to walk more comfortably. That gave me hope that I hadn’t done further damage today. I immediately began icing the sore area and I’ve continually rotated cold packs since then. It’s uncomfortable, but I’m not getting the searing pain I expected when I move around. It’s more of a heightened version of my previous sciatic pain.

I’ve taken a few “running” steps in the meantime and it’s actually not that bad. I’m guessing that all the icing has helped reduce painful inflammation. What I don’t know is how it will feel under non-iced conditions. I’m on vacation a few days next week and was hoping to get in some additional running. With today’s setback, I may need to hold off. I will test the waters with an elliptical session tomorrow and see how it goes from there.

Oh, and you can bet I’m remaking that orthopedist appointment.

I’m running again, if you call this running

The 12/6/14 run that started it all

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.25 miles

Recovery should happen slowly and in stages, and that’s the plan I’ve been following over the last four weeks. Last year at this time, I was training for the Brooklyn Half using the Hal Higdon intermediate plan. That required some type of running workout nearly every day. It was a mixture of long and easy base runs, short and fast speed drills and 3-4 mile tempos. I could manage that because I was injury-free and had a very flexible schedule.

One year later, conditions are different. I have a long early commute four days a week and my running comfort has been compromised since December 6. That’s when I let my ego get the best of me and foolishly overextended myself to prevent another runner from passing me on a long road. The symptoms I had the next day match the ones I have today.

It’s been a roller coaster of recovery since then. A race in late December, along with the New Year’s Hangover Run, reignited the pain and soreness. An icy and snowy January and an unusable treadmill provided time for healing. By the time we acquired our new Freemotion unit, I was ready to return to the run. So ready, that I did a high intensity workout that (unfortunately) produced some serious pain near the end. One week later, I suffered through an extremely painful three miler. It was the last time I’d run until yesterday’s session.

Which brings me to today. After yesterday’s encouraging experience on the treadmill, I considered taking it to the street this morning. It had snowed all day on Saturday and there was still a coating of powder on the roads. I opted for the treadmill and slightly increased both my speed and the length of the run. The soreness was there, but it was fully tolerable during the run. Like yesterday, it felt better as I went on and the soreness is responding to the massage roller.

So I’ve transitioned back to running, but I’m doing it a lot slower than I had before my injury. The things I like about running (fresh air, changing views and the sense of forward progress) that come from being outdoors, are absent. When the weather gets better, I’ll run outside and take it easy. I think I’ve finally learned my lesson but I hope I don’t get challenged to race anyone too soon.

Running without harm

 

Today’s run (treadmill): 32 minutes

After yesterday’s string of bad news and disappointments, I decided to take matters into my own hands and try a run. It had been 23 days since I last ran and I felt that I’d abstained long enough. The pain I experienced in the days since my last run have greatly lessened and I was confident that I could now manage an easy treadmill workout.

Primum non nocere, Latin for “First do no harm” is part of the Hippocratic oath. It’s now my personal mandate when it comes to running. With that in mind, I set the treadmill 1 MPH slower than my usual pace. Running felt tolerable, but the soreness was there. My barometer was focused on the level of pain as I went through the run. If the pain increased, I would slow down (or shut down) depending on severity.

I ended up dropping my speed by another .2 MPH. It was a small difference, but just enough for me to feel protected. The pain (really an ache) was still there. As time went on, the soreness diminished. I wondered if that was due to the warm up of my injured muscles. My heart rate stayed at around 83% of max, exactly where I wanted it to be for this workout.

I ended up running for about 32 minutes and didn’t even bother to look at the mileage. I was just happy to be running. I finished up feeling good about my conditioning, but my concern shifted to post-run pain. Although I did feel a little sore, it was no worse than what I’ve been experiencing after my elliptical sessions.

It’s been snowing all day, but it hasn’t accumulated at all. I’ll try another run tomorrow. If conditions are good, I may just take it outside.

The doctor will see you…soon

Today’s workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

I’m old enough to remember the days when the doctor would come to your house when someone got the sniffles. Besides the fact that physicians actually did house calls, it was remarkable that the doctor could be summoned on a moment’s notice. These days, I plan my doctor visits strategically, taking the first appointment of the day in hopes of “only” waiting an hour to be let in to the exam room.

It’s much harder to get in to see a doctor these days, especially if that doctor is a specialist. I was surprised that I was able to schedule an appointment with an orthopedist as early as next week. I’ve been careful not to aggravate my self-diagnosed piriformis syndrome, substituting the elliptical for the treadmill for the past three weeks.

I thought I’d try an easy run this morning to see whether things had improved. My pain has reduced, but it hasn’t gone away. I still have sciatic pain when sitting for long periods (i.e., my morning commute) and I was curious to know how my glute/hamstring area would respond to some easy running.

I started out slowly “running”, first at 3 MPH and then increasing  to 4 MPH. I felt okay, but noticed a little discomfort. Once I brought it up past 5 MPH, I knew I was borrowing trouble. I shut the treadmill down, walked over to the elliptical and did my workout there.

That experience made me realize that this problem will not resolve itself through patience. I looked online and found a sports orthopedist whose office is located five minutes from my house. I called them up, verified that they take my health plan and made an appointment for next Friday. I was shocked that I was able to do that. The last time I tried to meet with an orthopedist, the appointment had to be scheduled so far in the future that my injury went away before I was due to meet with him.

I’m encouraged to know that I’ll have a qualified person diagnose this problem and (hopefully) put me on a path to quick recovery. I’ve been dealing with running discomfort since last November and have concluded that enough is enough. I fear that the doctor may say that my injury is more serious than I thought, either requiring surgery and/or extended physical therapy.

But it’s better to know the cause than to continue this cycle of running, recovery, and re-aggravation. I just want to get back to running the trails.

The race to recover

Ready to return

Today’s workout (elliptical): 50 minutes

Racing used to be big part of my running life, but I’ve definitely decreased the number of events I do. It’s not that I don’t want to race. Races are fun and few moments in life are better than the feeling you get after you’ve crossed the line. I only participated in few races last year, the last one being the Jingle All The Way 5K in December that I ran with my run buddies. They’re the other reason that races are fun.

The one race I’ve run every year without fail is the Marcie Mazzola 5K in Huntington. It was the first race I did after returning to running in 2008 (at that time it was a 4 miler) and I have a sentimental attachment to both the event and its cause. Two factors that will cause me to miss it this year include my current soreness issue and the fact that the date coincides with a visit with weekend guests.

A year ago, I was preparing for the Brooklyn Half Marathon and used the Marcie M as a speed workout as I got closer to the date. I had every intention of following Brooklyn with my usual set  of races: New Hyde Park, Dirty Sock, Cow Harbor, TOB Supervisor’s, Run for the Warriors, etc. I ended up skipping them all. I’d lost interest in racing after a grueling experience in Brooklyn and I needed to recapture the thrill of the race.

Now the spirit is willing but the glute is weak. I’m anxious to return to the road and start training for something. Spring is almost here and I’m going to get out there as soon as the roads are safe. I’m encouraged by the fact that I can already do long, pain-free elliptical sessions that will allow me to maintain a level of fitness while my body repairs whatever damage I’ve done to it. I plan to visit to a sports doctor if I don’t see fast improvement. I have a good record for recovery, but I’m not so good at staying recovered.