Finding a Fix (Hopefully)

After three months of at-home muscle rolling/sticking/abusing and rehab exercises, my hamstring injury is still just kind of, there. Not getting worse but not getting better, and I’m finally just fed up of not feeling 100%.

shitty legs

symbolic “these are my legs, they want to feel better so they can want to run again instead of feeling like the bird poop they’re stepping in” pic

The massage and Active Release Therapy that Dr AJ did back in January made me feel like a new person with a brand new leg – all the crap built up in my muscles was being worked out and put in its place and it felt like rainbows and glitter and happy marathons (<— oxy moron?) Unfortunately as I continued to run and workout, that build up slowly started coming back. It finally became apparent I wasn’t going to clear up this tendonosis shit on my own, so I started the search for a local office to beg healing from (I saw Dr AJ in Arizona on a work trip, ICYMI.)

Friday I pulled out all our insurance paperwork – there is a disturbing amount of verbage regarding whether certain cosmetic surgeries are covered or not, by the way – and tried to translate what might be the most cost-effective form of treatment for me. Other than a sinus-related rhinoplasty or medically-necessary tummy tuck, which are real things I guess. I’m still not 100% confident that months down the road bills for a billion dollars won’t show up, but it seemed a chiropractor was the way to go. If anyone reading works for Cigna in CA and can tell me if “Covered, $15 copay” actually means “you’re about to fuck your financial world up, honey” I’d appreciate it.

Anyway, my first appointment was this morning. I blindly picked a name off the network list based on who was closest and who had anything “sport”-related in the name. It’s early going, but the signed athlete posters (surfers, motocross, soccer, mountain bikers) and casual “former triathlete” mention made me feel in good hands. Well that and my currently bruised, numb, and taped, but pain-less left leg.

I’m going back for more treatment in a few days, and in the meantime he said to just “be smart” about workouts and running. No, there’s no need to shut down. Yes, the treadmill is your friend. Yes, running faster and shorter is better than slower and longer. You said marathons? You look like a 5k or 1500 runner. Thanks dude, I know I have boobs and a body fat % in the double digits, I’d be mad but that metal knife tool you’re digging into my ass hurts more than your words so keep on, man.

trackstar

now do I look like a track runner to you, doc?

Why is someone saying “you don’t look like a marathoner” the only thing that triggers my desire to run one? Instead of saying I hate long distance and actually prefer shorter and faster, I got way defensive and played my 2-minutes-from-BQ [lame] card like my only goal in the world was to get back to a 26.2 start line.

Tell me I can’t so I will.

[haha jk not running a marathon]

[[… right now]]

Ok I’m going now before I say something I’ll regret.

Sarah OUaL

The One That Should’ve Been a Catastrophe, but Was the Best Instead (Ragnar Del Sol Ultra Recap)

(SET SCENE: 7am Monday, drinking coffee with Brian before work after dropping Jocelyn and Robyn at the airport, officially closing the curtain on our Ragnar Del Sol weekend.)

S: “… fuck. I didn’t fill up the van before we returned it yesterday. How insanely inflated do you think their refill rates are? It’s like a 25 gallon tank.”

B: “Probably pretty h…”

S: “(puts shoes on – sneakers without socks which is a big time life no-no – walks out door with coffee cup in hand) BYE LOVE YOU HAVE A GOOD DAY AT WORK!”

B: “…”

So I sat in front of the rental office until they opened and begged them to let me fill it up before they checked it in. The fact that “it’s the shiny clean one, not the one covered in window paint!” that some other team didn’t wash before returning helped my cause, I think. Anyway they were very nice and let me off the hook so yet another relay crisis averted. If you need a van in OC call Ace Rent a Car!

Now to the actual relay’ing…

fasterbunnytweet

Our official team name was Undecided3 (quick backstory: registered for vegas, didn’t have name, someone else already registered as ‘undecided’ so I put ‘undecided2’ and forgot to update with a real name before the race. it stuck and will probably stay forever), but when Margot posted the tweet above, #TeamTitanic was born. We were a bruised and broken ship destined for catastrophe but determined to hang on as long as possible. Place your own iceberg/floating board/Jack-Rose analogy here.

Typically for 200 mile relays you have a team of 12 people. We like running with 6 because ultra teams get special colored bibs, you feel badass running through exchanges instead of stopping, and you have half the number of people to try not to lose or get mad at. Plus we’re clinically confirmed batshit crazy masochists with finish line amnesia.

But like I said before we left, a last-minute injury left us scrambling at the 11th hour and we took off for Phoenix with 5 runners, one out-of-shape driver (me) on a mileage budget, and creatively reconfigured leg assignments:

ragnar del sol ultra leg assignments

not exactly by the book…

So, Undecided3/Titanic was operating as what we deemed a 5.25 woman ultra team, which was still generous considering the flu, slight injuries, and “last day at work, moving to NorCal next week” were plaguing the “healthy” runners.

Determined to have a good time and hopelessly optimistic about survival, we rolled up to the start line at 12pm Friday. We were originally slotted for a 3pm start based on our pre-Titanic pace predictions (slow teams start first to give more time on the course, fast teams later so everyone gets to the finish line around the same’ish time) but knew we’d be too slow to have any hope of starting that late and not getting swept off the course. So we showed up early to state our sad case and request an early departure.

ragnar del sol undecided3 team titanic

“but really, everyone write your ICE info on your bib… just in case”

Except when we got to the park, there was no one there. A lonely Ragnar arch in right field of a softball diamond, a group of volunteers sitting in the grass eating bagged lunches, and a crew packing up the official merchandise tent.

“Ummm… did we miss it? We aren’t supposed to start till 3 but were hoping to leave early because <insert Titanic story>”

Course Supervisor “We just sent out the last morning group, and aren’t starting anymore teams until 2:30. You can start then.”

Our patched-up ship was sitting in the port with nowhere to go.

“No, I don’t think you understand. We literally cannot start that late. Your clean up crew will be chasing us the whole time. <another broken/bruised sob mini-story> Is there anyway we can start now? We don’t care if we’re out there alone as long as we can get a head start.”

CS “Let me call the race director – you all seem pretty sad and desperate, I feel really bad for you and want to help.”

Thankfully the RD gave the green light, they adjusted our official start time, and at 1pm Kristina took off through a very anti-climactic start line into her first leg, 1.5 hours after the last teams and 1.5 hours before the next were due out.

ragnar del sol start

when you start all alone your team can stand inside the chute for supreme cheering + photo opp-ness

We spent the entire first round of legs without seeing another runner. Hung out at exchanges completely alone, kept the bored volunteers company and asked 10x if they were SURE it’d really been over an hour since another team had been through. Major exchanges, usually packed full of big white vans and loud chaos, looked like ghost towns. Kristina ran 14 miles, Sarah ran 20, Robyn ran 17, Margot and Jocelyn both ran 13, and I put in my piddly 2.2 miles without a single “road kill” (passing a runner.)

It was really lonely, but hey, we asked for it.

ragnar del sol round one

K refilling SR’s handheld on her 20 miler (legs 3,4,5), sunglasses+headlamp Robyn getting tagged in for 17 (6,7,8) of her own

ragnar del sol ex9

Hanging out in the parking lot of exchange 9, discussing whether or not it was possible we were actually the only team running at all (and a lot of other inappropriate, had-to-be-there things) (cred @kackelac)

At exchange 11 they told us we were the last team on the course, that the clean up crew was heading our way, and that we’d have to pick up the pace if we didn’t want to get swept. There were 15 teams due to start after us, and we hadn’t been passed by anyone yet, so this threat from the power tripping, clipboard-wielding volunteer was as confusing as it was irritating.

ragnar del sol tweet2

I took my frustration/fear out on the course and attempted to make up all the time in the world on my 2 mile leg. Clearly the 60 extra seconds from redlining and dying a painful unfit death were going to make a huge difference in us catching teams dozens of miles ahead of us…

(sense sarcasm)

leg12 strava

ragnar del sol tweet

tasted blood and fought “track hack” for a few hours after. worth it.

By this time we’d been on the course for almost 12 hours, and it felt like we’d never ever, ever finish. Round one was really tough on everyone (except me, because, 2 miles) and I was getting a little nervous about morale and how all my teammates’ already-taxed bodies were going to hold up. As the lame duck with fewer than 10 total miles to run, I felt an over-compensatory responsibility to make up for the lack of mileage and carry my weight whatever other way I could. I also just felt like a turd, like getting cut from the basketball team but getting to stay on as “team manager” because the coaches feel bad and someone needs to wash the practice jerseys and fill the water coolers, anyway.

This “but I just want to help!” led to dumping a bunch of water on the floor of the van trying to get the cooler out by myself to drain it at 2am, and having to flip quite a few questionably legal U-turns because I couldn’t read the directions in the dark, so I may have done more harm than good but at least everyone had company waiting at the exchanges and cheers on their run-throughs!

(mental note: don’t get injured for next relay. team manager is NOT as fun as miserable billions-of-miles tired, sore, and cranky runner)

exchange entertainment

cheerleader shadow puppets + handstands are classic OUaL entertainment tricks

But the girls kept trudging along – Round 2 had shorter legs for everyone, and the quiet exchanges made sneaking a few winks of shut eye easier than normal. Kristina caught the team’s first kill on leg 14 and SR caught two more on hers – and we were finally creeping up to the back of the pack! Robyn, Margot, and Jocelyn all ran solid legs and finally just around daybreak it was my turn to run again.

With 7.1 rolling miles on tap, I tried to keep my nerves and adrenaline in check. The furthest I’d run since December was 5 miles, and I knew the hills could be problematic for my bum hamstring/hip, not to mention my lack of fitness. I was legit nervous about the distance but also desperate to feel like I was contributing to the team. We saw Jocelyn rolling up, finishing strong; I promised the team to run as best as I could and I took off into the sunrise.

(won’t apologize for the corny imagery – it was magical and emotional and if you don’t believe it you’ve never been on the rebound, ran a relay, or just wanted to make someone proud)

The girls had really closed the gap on the teams in front of us now, and I had plenty of people to pick out and pick off, which made the miles fly. I didn’t wear a watch or use strava, and didn’t want to focus on anything but running as strong as I could while staying under that approved 2-3 on the pain scale.

The first mile or so was probably a little too fast, courtesy of the girl I left the exchange with ducking in behind me and my stubborn refusal to get passed. Eventually I had to let her go on an uphill, because 1) out of shape and 2) the reminder that I still had a lot of ground in front of me. I may have spent the rest of the leg dreaming of something smug to say when I ran through the next exchange, but sadly I didn’t see her. (and most def wouldn’t have had the nerve to if I had – was fun to think about though.)

I went through the exchange after 4 miles, still feeling good and so happy to see (and hear) my team cheering. I heard SR yell “keep running steady!” as I headed out for part two, grinning like an idiot and trying to push away the fears that the wheels were about to fall off.

3.1 hilly miles, a few more roadkills, and no walking later, I cruised into exchange 24 to tag Kristina in for the last round of the relay. I took the van keys back from Margot (she was equally as relieved to give them up as I was to be back in control) and we sped off to support K on what was becoming a very hot morning.

I spent the rest of the day riding a pretty serious endorphin high.

K to SR

K finishing 11 miles (legs 25,26) with a gnarly 4mi climb, SR heading out for 18 and officially earning the title “workhorse”

After SR bossed her last leg, Robyn took off in the heat of the day for 12.8 miles in bad shape. Dealing with some serious health issues, dead legs, and a hilly route ahead, we deliriously disaster planned. Jocelyn offered to relieve Robyn halfway through, taking on an extra 6 miles despite still having 11 of her own on tap, and saving Robyn from god-only-knows what kind of trouble. Talk about a team player, and exactly the type of person you want in your relay van.

Margot took off for her final leg, and did not disappoint in the sleep deprived, Spacey Margot department. If you’ve ever run a relay with the FasterBunny or seen her really early in the morning, I’m sure you can dream up what her interaction with exchange 33 might have been like. ;)

ragnar margot tracking

Margot to Jocelyn

there may have been some moments of concern, but she did make it safely to the next exchange!

I don’t know how to wrap this up so here’s this:

Finished in around 28 hours, but were unfortunately classified as a Mixed team where we placed 2nd in division. If we’d been correctly listed as Womens we’d have taken 1st place division by 3 hours, and been the fastest women’s team overall (ultra and 12-man regular, all classifications.) Shit happens and we know we won even if the “official” pdf says otherwise.

undecided3 ragnar del sol

SR, Jocelyn, Kristina, me, Robyn, Margot

I think we all agreed that this was our favorite relay yet. Van personalities matter 10x more than fitness or running strength, and we nailed it with a solid group of girls that totally owned up to the “have fun” goal of the race. Not to mention we kept the Titanic afloat and pulled off a pretty respectable time in the process. So proud of my team and absolutely DYING to get the next relay on the schedule so I can work on repaying all my mile debts to them.

Sarah Still-Fucking-Love-the-Relay OUaL

  • Thanks again to Pro Compression for sponsoring Undecided3/Team Titanic, and keeping our legs as fresh as possible on a 5.25 person 200 mile relay can. Code DSRUN should still get you 40% off + free s/h if you want some socks of your own.

procompression ragnar

Coming Back and Running Cadence (also, a trick to staying sane on the treadmill)

I’m slowly growing my mileage and slowly growing my hair out. Which would you like to hear about?

Running? Ok fine. Operation awkward pixie grow-out will have to wait for a rainy day.

photo 3 (1)a

ironic bandana and heavily-filtered on purpose

It’s been five weeks since my visit to Dr AJ and my diagnosis with high hamstring tendinosis, which in laymen’s terms is: chronic pain in the butt crease caused by effed up tendons that connect the hamstring to the hip bone. A little more eloquently explained by a smart doctor runner from the “for running clarity” article AJ sent me:

The hamstring is made up of 3 muscles which all attach to your ischial tuberosity – the bone in your bottom. The hamstring tendon is vulnerable to compression against the ischial tuberosity when the hip is flexed and also has to deal with high loads during running. This combination of compressive and tensile load can make it vulnerable to developing tendinopathy. So, baring this in mind, what 3 activities are likely to cause high load on the tendon; Running uphill, running carrying a heavy load and doing prolonged speed work.

- source, Running-Physio

post-script self memo: hurry up and get the eff back to healthy so everyone can stop reading “high hamstring tendinosis” every time they come here and want to take you out back and saw your stupid leg off to put you (and them) out of your laymen misery.

So somewhere back in like, August I did something like that. And kept running through it like a moron because it never felt like a “big enough deal” to really address it. I’m lucky it didn’t turn into a more serious issue, but if I wanted to finally straighten out those tendons and get back to running pain-free I had to do a few things:

  • Treatment. ART and deep-tissue massage recommended to break up all the junk build up, but for a girl on a budget I was assured extensive foam rolling (this plus lateral side-to-side rolling) and softball-sitting would suffice.
  • PT exercises to strengthen and prevent re-injury. I keep saying I’m going to do a post on these, and I probablymaybesomeday will. Hips, glutes, obliques primarily.
  • Run. Smartly.

The last part was going to be the tricky one. I mean, I’m sure you’ve dealt with some degree of injury at some point, and that “I’d kill a stranger’s baby just for a few good miles” urge to run when we shouldn’t is a real bitch to fight. And then on top of that, getting brainwashed by endorphins and “woopsies ran twice as far/twice as fast as I should have” is a greedy threat every time you do make it into your sneakers. Knowing how far to push, and having the clarity and discipline to rein it in when needed, is probably the toughest of all.

My guidelines for comeback are simple on paper, but knowing the evil runner brain hiding ready to sabotage them, I approached them with overt caution and a side of “quit being a baby, seriously?” Scaredy cat, safety first when there’s nothing to rush back for. The guidelines were as follows:

Run one mile. If no residual pain or stiffness the next day, run a little further. Then a little further.

Never let the 10-point pain scale tip past a 2-3. Step back when needed. Repeat.

No hills, sprints, or friends until 100% pain and niggle-free.

I’ve slowly built my way up over the last month+, and last night I ran 5 whole miles. It felt like my early runner days, bragging to my college roommates about running two miles “straight! no stopping!” when I came in the door and beamed at Bri, still sweating, earbuds still blaring. Sure have missed those little victories.

strava 5m

are you on Strava? I’m still deciding whether it’s worth the homescreen space on my phone or not.

Something I’ve been focusing on which has helped make the short barely-worth-it runs seem more worthwhile is cadence. I’ve mentioned it on a twitter a few times which piqued a few interests, but I avoided elaborating because it seems so silly and dumb spelled out. Like, sorry if I let you think I had a brilliant miracle training secret or something – you’re going to be pretty let down.

Once upon a time, somebody decided 180 strides per minute was the “ideal” cadence for runners. Like everything else on the planet, there are dozens of variables that could sway that high or low for personalization, but in general, let’s go with it.

I hopped on the treadmill for one of my short (<2 miles) runs, and once I was warmed up counted out steps for 10 seconds. I got 26, or 156/min, at my usual lollygag pace. Not awful, but pretty lopey and la-dee-da. Curiosity (and the challenge, let’s be honest) got the best of me and I spent the rest of the run randomly counting out steps to see how closer I could get to 30 (=180) without employing some ridiculous looking stride. Those horrifying mirrored walls apparently have a use, after all.

gymselfie

useful for more than just gym selfies!

Picking up my knees, kicking my heels a little higher, and really focusing on midfoot strike has gotten me up to 168/min comfortably, and I’m hoping once my overall speed quickens it’ll be even easier to sneak up to that goal of 180. While that number is pretty arbitrary, reaching for it has gotten me to focus on my form and running more like an athlete, which I can’t deny is something my marathon shuffle desperately needed. Not only is a shorter, quicker stride more efficient, but it leaves less room for error while feet and legs are airborne. A whole lot of goofy crap can happen between toe-off and foot-strike, and getting from here to there the quickest and shortest way possible just seems like common sense.

I’m a fan of common sense. I wish there was more of it in the world.

Sarah OUaL

More info on cadence from people smarter than me: