After pushing through the 18-mile tune-up, I took my running coach's words to heart and started to just have fun. I found myself running better, not stopping, and truly in my zone. It felt awesome to be back in my running groove, and I was sorry that I ever had left it.
While I mentioned in my previous post I am not injured, very few people get through marathon training unscathed. And age- at least anecdotally- has little to do with it; when I was 20 years old and training, I ended up with Bells Paulsey and half my face was immobile for a week. When I was 32, I ended up with severe abdominal cramping after a 17-mile run which ended up with me rushing to get a sonogram that revealed absolutely nothing. This time around, there have been minor discomforts, like my Achilles tendinitis on my left heel which has been there the whole time. My right lower back has felt some strain that I have never felt before. These, however, have been workable injuries and I find that once the blood gets flowing, around mile 5 or 6, I don't feel them anymore.
This past week, I had wanted to re-do my 18-mile run. But again, I said I believe things happening for certain reasons. Here in NYC we have been in the middle of what I would call a heat wave. It's hot, sunny, closing in on 90 degrees, for the past week in late September. As I did an easy ten miles, a week ago Friday, finishing strong, the pain in my right lower back started to settle in on my right hip. All weekend, walking hurt. No stranger to stress fractures, I feared that the pain I was feeling was eerily similar to that of a small break.
Last Monday morning, I set out to do my 18, with the caveat that given the heat and hip pain I may not. I did five and stopped. The rest of the day, walking borderline on excruciating. The very next day, after teaching my 6am virtual live class, I set out to do my 18 miles. I took three steps; my entire right side of my leg throbbed with pain. I stopped, went back upstairs, and tried not to panic. But I quickly started to go down the rabbit hole, googling "hip pain caused by running" "hip stress fracture" "how to train for a marathon when injured..." I had to stop. So I called my good friend, Pam Gold, who wrote: "Five Pillars to Unlock Unlimited Power and Happiness."
"It's not a shocker that, now that you have addressed your mental daemons, physical pain kicks in," she said. "Give yourself rest the next few days, and have faith that your body will heal itself."
Just six weeks shy of the marathon, where I was already feeling somewhat under-trained, the idea of taking a few days off from running was frightening. But so was the idea of running with such severe pain and potentially injuring myself further. I knew the pain I felt that Tuesday morning was debilitating. And not only if I tried running could I make it worse, my wise mother- a two time NYC Marathon runner reminded me of what I like to call the art of compensation; if I tried to run through severe pain, I may injure an entirely different part of the body which would potentially be overcompensating for my pained hip.
For those of you who have never visited our midtown location, you may not know that we share a floor with two chiropractors. That Tuesday, limping and all, I got myself down to our midtown location to get adjusted. I couldn't imagine that the pain wasn't structural; but if it was muscular or soft-tissue related, perhaps this was something that could be worked out through adjustments, massage, acupuncture, and yes, some degree of rest.
I couldn't believe how much the adjustment helped. I went from having severe pain to a mild dull pain. The rest of the week, I got adjusted, I got a massage which targeted the pained area from a colleague who specializes in marathon runners; I was in shock. What a difference than a few days ago.
Knowing I was not out of the woods yet, towards the end of the week, I ran five miles, had minimal pain, and instead of a run the next day I went on the elliptical. I wanted to go on a long run that Sunday but I wasn't entirely sure that I should. I was walking a tightrope; do I enter the marathon somewhat under-trained yet more-or-less pain free? Or now that I was feeling somewhat better, do I go back to training the way I would have?
That Sunday, the weather was ideal. My client- also a former sorority sister of mine at Cornell- was planning on getting her 20 mile run in. I was aiming for at least 15. But more important; I was hoping to not be in pain. We met at the boat basin, on 79th and the Hudson River, ran all the way down the west side to the Staten Island Ferry, then across to the South Street Seaport, then up the east side. First few miles, I felt some pain but around mile 6 it was pretty much gone. Feeling good for the next several miles, as we were heading up the east side it was not the physical pain but the mental sneaking up on me. Around 12-13 miles in, I felt dehydrated, crampy in the legs, and frustrated. And why was I getting so negative?
“If you are in physical pain you should stop,” my client said. “But you have to try and push through if it’s mental.”
Train the trainer; I knew she was right. After drinking some water, I cut back across from 34th and 1stavenue towards Central Park, and ran up Central Park West, achieving my goal and running between 16-17 miles.
The very next day, I felt mild soreness. In the midst of my panic the week before, I had made an appointment with an orthopedic specializing in hips. I kept the appointment. Official diagnosis; strained hip abductor. We spoke about a game plan. Just shy of five weeks, I still had my 20-22 miler to get in and knew I needed a few more good runs.
“I don’t see anything on the x-ray and I really do believe it is just a strain. To be extra cautious, we should get an MRI,” he said. “But in the meantime, you have to listen to your body. It’s a balancing act. I know you are at the point where you are trying to pile miles on, but perhaps you should scale back and use the bike or elliptical to keep the steady state cardio up. I know it’s not the same as running. But be smart.”
Once again, exactly what I would tell my clients.