Monday, August 28, 2006

Cycling Blog

Well, there is no good news. My leg and hip are still hurting, and I have not run even a tenth of a mile since the 16th, twelve days ago. On a good note, I have only taken one day of cross-training off in that time, and that was intentional, to see if it would improve anything. It didn't.

Since the last post, I have been hitting the bike as hard as my crotch will let me (cycling hurts). Tomorrow I'm getting a trainer so I won't have to wait for the sun to come up to get out on the bike, and I should be able to get in some longer rides in the days ahead.

So you're probably putting two and two together at this point in your reading, and wondering where I'm going with this. Talking about long bike rides, weeks on end with no running, and continuing pain...

I'm not running the marathon October 1.

I got an x-ray on my hip last Thursday, which confirmed nothing except the absence of bone cancer. There was no thin grey line, which is a good thing, but it wasn't helpful for making decisions. I talked with my PT and my doctor about possibly getting an MRI or a bone scan, but ultimately I came to understand that no matter what is causing the injury--a stress fracture, stress reaction, or a muscle strain--I will have to reduce the stress on the injury until I am pain free. Depending on what it turns out to be, that could be as little as a couple more weeks for a strain all the way up to a few months for a stress fracture.

Chances are, because the pain is so slight and so persistent, that my injury is a stress reaction, which is like a stress fracture that hasn't cracked. And chances are it wasn't caused by the TV incident, but rather by running two hard, long runs each of the three weeks preceeding the 5k race. Exhausting your muscles reduces their ability to absorb shock. Without enough recovery, the lack of basic muscle strength that I've talked about before, and with enough mileage and maybe a hard race peppered in there, I can see how I could have developed a problem.

Having a definitive diagnosis would be costly, about $250 out of pocket for an MRI after insurance, and having it show a stress reaction or fracture wouldn't change the advice I would be given, which would start at 'take eight weeks off.' for the least athletically inclined doctors to 'no running until you're pain free and then no pain when running' for those who are more understanding of a runner's needs.

It all comes down to needing to take time away from running. The timing is particularly bad, shooting down TCM and very possibly the Veteran's Day cross country race that I started my blog with a year ago. I'm not as disappointed with missing out on the marathon as I thought I might be. It was going to be my first marathon, and I trained for a long time with that in mind, but more importantly I had a goal. The goal I had for my first marathon since the day I decided I was going to run a marathon was to run it up to my potential. For me, based on my times at other distances, sub-2:35 was a reasonable debut goal, and sub-2:30 was what the training was designed to deliver.

I think three weeks ago, I was primed to run somewhere between the two. Now, even with cross-training going well, I can feel 2:40 slipping away. With just three weeks of potential training to go, even if I was able to run I would be concerned about the goal at this point. Being nowhere near even jogging a slow mile makes it an easy call. Following the theory that you only have so many marathons in your legs, I intend to make every one as good as it can be.

So where do I go from here? First order of business is to get pain free, which will involve cross-training for fitness and some targeted exercises for the pelvic area as well as for overall trunk stability and general leg strength. Later, I'll start using the expensive weight set and bench that we got several years ago and barely use to improve my overall strength, all the while reminding myself that the reason I was so durable in college had something to do with the weight program we were all doing. I saw a video the other day where Paula Radcliffe was doing squats with about 40 pounds more than her bodyweight. She's probably doing that for a reason.

I suspect that in 4-6 weeks I will be back to regular running, given that the pain was always moderate, and never severe. In that sense, being cautious paid off. I could have easily kept banging away, like a lot of runners do, and ended up with a real problem that could have taken months to heal. It doesn't look like I'm in that boat, so I'm happy about that. There's another marathon out there for me, but probably not until May 19, 2007, the Fargo Marathon. It's local, flat, and fast, and the only race in the next six or seven months that wouldn't require an extremely long drive or a plane ride to get to.

For now, this will become a cycling blog. Yeah, I'm sad about that, too. But there should be some nice pictures on the way, so look out for that. I'm going to do a ride in southern Wisconson next week, and I'll snap a few on the road for upload. I'll keep blogging through the rehab, and I'll try to post more often than weekly. That way I won't have to do long winded posts like this every Tuesday.

Thanks for reading. Cheers!

12 Comments:

Blogger Greg

Wow. That sucks. I was really rooting for you to do great on Oct. 1st. I wish I had some great advice to help you get through this, but I don't. It sounds like you're pretty level-headed about the whole thing and are attacking the issue the right way. I don't even want to think what I would be doing in the same situation.

Hang in there Buddy...you still have a great debut in you.

8/29/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Mike

This post makes me sad. Eric, I think you're actually being reasonable about this by not giving this injury the chance to cripple you long term. You know this stuff (becoming the best marathoner you can) takes years, and spending years battling what could become a chronic injury doesn't sound like fun. It makes sense to take time off now.

It probably doesn't matter much to hear it now, but I think you've set a fine example with your training. The work ethic and the desire is always there, and that combination, along with your critical thinking has made your blog one of my absolute favorites.
Even if I have to read about a cyclist for awhile I'm sure your words will continue to inspire.

8/29/2006 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger Lawrence

I think you're being very intelligent about the whole thing. I'll continue to follow your progress. Good luck with the cross-training....

8/29/2006 09:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous

Take it from the voice of experience--you are a wise person. I took the opposite approach to an injury and ended up not running for eight months.

P.S. Good luck in Fargo, the "city" of my birth.

8/30/2006 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Zeke

Eric,

Congrats on "the absence of bone cancer."

Seriously, this sucks but you seem to be making the right choice.

8/30/2006 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Fatboy

That's a bummer, buddy. Have you ever been measured for a leg length discrepancy? A hip injury like that could indicate an alignment issue, perhaps brought to light by all of the miles.

It's too bad you have to pull out of the race, but it sounds like the right thing to do. Get healthy, watch out for saddle sores (we'll leave the scrotal cysts out of this one), and enjoy a few more of those famous Eric Sondag pizzas.

8/30/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Eric

Thanks for the kind comments and words of advice, everyone. I am definitely taking the long view here, although it will be very challenging in the short term.

Fatboy, I have been tested for leg length, and I am all good. I actually had orthotics for a while for ITBS. They never worked, so I threw them out.

Mmmmm...pizza. Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone! I may or may not get a chance to post from the road.

8/31/2006 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger trophycase

Are you using one of those handlebar mounts for your camera?

9/01/2006 02:54:00 AM  
Blogger Eric

No...just using my Treo and Flickr. I can take a photo with the phone and send it to a specific e-mail address with some text and it becomes a blog entry.

I love technology.

I forgot to answer a couple of your questions, trophycase. Run Strong is a good book for all levels of runners, and it also addresses your other question about how to stay healthy while doing the training (and not ending up like me!). Another bit of advice for avoiding injury: don't become a slave to numbers. Most running injuries are chronic overuse problems. If you don't overdo your running, you simply can't get injured. Easy to say, harder to do.

Good luck with your training.

9/01/2006 05:02:00 AM  
Blogger Rob

That sucks man! I am sure that you will be back to run. One of the things I look back at is the amount of time I actually took off and I often wonder if I should have taken the 8 weeks instead of the "run when no pain". I hope that you have an easier time preventing your injury from returning than I am having.

9/01/2006 05:34:00 AM  
Blogger Digger

Sundog, man, I'm bummed out for you. I'm getting settled in here in Hilo and was hoping to ramp up my mileage and kind of mirror what you were trying to do. I've gotten up to averaging an hour a day on some pretty bogus hills, and biking for commute, which means...more hills. Open invitation to come out here in March for the Big Island International Marathon. Think about it, paradise, -500ft in the first 10 miles, and just running one in about 2:50 to see if anything sneaks up on you after 20 miles of "a pressing effort".

For now I guess enjoy the bike, and get some padded shorts and a carbon seatpost.

Aloha,

Paulie

9/02/2006 01:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Evan

Sorry to hear that. It's been good reading about your training and great strides in fitness. Hope you're back to running soon enough, and look forward to the pictures from the bike rides. Being able to carry stuff easily is one advantage of cycling.

9/02/2006 09:07:00 PM  

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