Monday, 25 January 2016

Pay Attention

Two weeks ago today I was rear-ended at a stop light.  Had a sore neck for about a week, but last week felt "fine."  Two days after the accident I went to hot yoga after a run and struggled with poses that I'm usually rock solid in.  Hmmm.  Must be tired.

Then I ran an easy 10K in the COLD and felt my L iliotibial band starting to tighten up.  I blamed it on the cold, but it scared me because 10 years ago I had the same thing happen and it sidelined me for months.

A week later I finally got back to the gym for the first time since the accident and during my usual single leg stance balance and lunge exercises I could NOT stand on 1 foot for the life of me, especially the R foot.  I was struggling and looked like I was standing on quicksand.  It had been too long since my last workout and I left feeling weak.  I hate feeling weak.

Then yesterday I did my long run and after only 5K I felt the peroneal tendons in my L ankle start to ache.  After the run my L achilles seized up.  As I hobbled up the stairs to get food I wondered if I was falling apart a mere 3 weeks into my year long training schedule.

Then I looked in the mirror.  Those constant hunger pains had left me with some nicely developing abs.  No I do not spend long hours gazing in the mirror at myself.  But the trained physio eye in me did note that my abs were not symmetrical.  My R abdominals were more active, my L abs underactive, my hips were sitting at different heights.  A light switch came on.

My pelvis was out!  I did a few quick landmark measurements on myself and all of a sudden things made sense.  I was NOT falling apart.  I was just not quite together.  In my pelvis that is.

Way back in 2004 I struggled during my first marathon training season through severe left IT band syndrome.  I had tried EVERYTHING to treat it, but it only resolved when I discovered that my left sacroiliac joint was totally locked which made my pelvis dysfunctional.  Once that was treated, I ran the marathon (relatively) pain-free.

I could tell the same thing was happening again.  And it all started a few short weeks ago after being rear-ended with my R foot on the brake.  After a quick check-up by a coworker this morning here's a summary:
1) L leg longer 1/2"
2) L side of pelvis rotated forward
3) L SI joint very stiff
4) R SI joint very mobile (unstable)
5) hip flexors totally locked down

It is notable that since the accident I have not felt ANY low back or pelvic pain.  Upper back and neck pain yes, but no pelvic pain.  But there was a waterfall effect down my legs that started to create a mess all over the floor given enough time.

Result: A quick treatment at Foundation Rehabilitation Services @ The Pan Am Clinic where I work, and a lot of focused stretching and self muscle releases and I worked out today feeling like a rock.  Solid and stable on one leg and very much relieved that I had paid attention to the warning signs that something wasn't quite right.

My warning sign:  I know that I am rock solid in the single leg squat or stridder (click for video).  All the time.  After 2 workouts where I could not control my knee over my ankle I knew something was wrong.  This is a great self-check for any runner, as long as your strength is good and you can do a single leg squat during healthy times with no difficulty!

Moral of the story: Know your body.  Pay attention to your body.  React when you can tell something is not quite right.  I have the luxury of a trained eye and years of running experience to guide my instincts, but if you are not sure what's going on, get professional help.  I sure hope this is the last of my pelvic instability issues.  If not, my car insurance will hear from me :)

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Winter Training in Canada

Further to my last post and in light of my race plans for 2016, I started my 20-week training block for the Grand Canyon Ultra on January 3.  Last week the temperature starting dropping and "real" winter descended upon southern Manitoba.  Up until that point, it had only reached approx -15C and my coldest run had been at -12C.

If one is to commit to an ultra-marathon, one needs to COMMIT.  Which means that runs need to happen regardless of your excuses, weather being the least of them.  When the thermometre started to drop into the -20's with windchill in the -30's, I started to question which I hated more: running on the treadmill, or running in the cold.

I have only done 3 seriously cold runs so far, so I am by no means an expert.  I am very fortunate to have some hardened and wizened Manitoban friends who gladly have been offering me all kinds of advice on clothing, hydration, face masks and general mindset, in addition to lending me gear.

One good thing about it finally getting really cold is that people have stopped telling me that "it's not cold yet, just you WAIT until it gets cold" every time I ran in a new personal cold record that didn't qualify as cold enough to the locals - sufficiently making me feel totally soft.

I was seriously initiated on Sunday when I ventured out to Birds Hill Park with Todd to do a few loops of the lovely winding wooded Bur Oak trail.  This is what I woke up to:
Gearing up to go outside - a tad terrified.  I lost the ski goggles quickly as they fogged up and were generally annoying.
Running Bur Oak - yes my mitts are off.  Sweat was dripping off my fingers.
So in my limited experience, the learning curve has been STEEP.  Here are a few things I've learned during my runs:

1) Listen to the experts.  And be grateful for friends who look out for you in your ignorance.

2) Layering is key. Up to -18C I need only 1 layer on my legs, and 2 layers under my wind jacket.  Colder than that I have experimented with adding 1-2 layers. Winter running can be expensive.

3) Do not wear waterproof wind pants when running in wind-chill of -36C.  The moisture will trap under them and you end up with a layer of ice and frost on your next layer.

4) Gortex shoes are a must.  I am in love with my Saucony Xodus 6.0 GTX shoes.  My feet have never been cold and they have awesome grip.  They are very stiff, but all shoes will be in cold temperatures, and they work ok for flat terrain. Not so great for hills.

5) I love the Cold Avenger Mask.  I hate face masks that stick to my mouth, get wet and then blow into my mouth with the wind, creating a feeling of suffocation.  The Avenger Mask fixed that problem for me, and warms the air before it enters my lungs.  I look like quite the crazy person running in it, but I honestly feel almost like I'm running on a warm day while wearing it.
6) You sweat a LOT more than when running in warm weather.  Sounds crazy, but it's true.  And you can't drink as much because your water freezes.  And then you would need to stop to pee, which would mean exposed fragile skin.  So I end up quite dehydrated after my winter runs and have followed advice to pre- and post-hydrate excessively.

7) I am told that you work 20% harder to run in the cold, and I would agree.  Possibly even more.  The energy expenditure to haul heavier shoes and clothing, run on slippery terrain and against the wind, and to simply to keep warm is enormous.

8) Do not stop once you've started.  It's amazing how warm I get while running even at -30+ but the instant I stop, the cold settles in really fast.

9) Mitts, not gloves.

10) It's all relative.  For every colder run that I do, I realize where the annoying comments telling me "it's not cold yet" came from.  Hence, gratitude for those days when it's only -10C!

The verdict: A sunny trail run in the snow at -36C wind chill beats the treadmill hands down.  As long as you dress accordingly, it's possible to run in the cold.  Is it my favourite thing in the world?  No, but any run day is a good day.

Now...when you're worried your car may not start after you've been running for a few hours, it may be time to reassess...but that wasn't me.  Nope.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Race Plans for 2016

In the 6 weeks since my last post, a few things have happened.  I've signed up for a few races, and winter decided to finally arrive for real in southern Manitoba.  Both things have brought out a little crazy in me.

Starting with the races, 2016 is going to be epic.  My best running year yet.  Two races on the calendar, both equally exciting and challenging.  Training for both to be done in a FLAT place.  I like a challenge.

1. Grand Canyon Ultra 50 Miler - May 21, 2016
I am so stoked to be heading to the Grand Canyon as it's a place I've wanted to visit for years, and the best way to see it is up close and personal.  Even better, my bestest running bud Sarah will be coming with me.  When I left Vancouver Island last summer, we made a pact that we would meet up for one race a year, and this was the race we chose for 2016.  I can't imagine a better way to see the GC than on foot, supported with food all along the way, emergency medical aid available, and travelling super light.  I plan to take many many pictures and savour the whole day.  A day or two in Vegas afterwards with Sarah won't be too hard to handle either!
That's going to be me in May!!!

2. Fat Dog 70 Miler - August 12-14, 2016
Since moving to Manitoba, I have made some really great running friends.  Somehow I stumbled upon Todd and Scott, a couple of amazing athletes and solid humans.  Scott had Fat Dog on his bucket list of races and decided this was the year to do 120 miles.  He convinced Todd to come with him, and when I heard about them going to BC to race, I joked that I couldn't let them go without me.  This led to an official invitation to join them, so I found myself setting my alarm for 2am Dec 15 to get up to register for the race.  And the Manitoba Dawgs were formed.
Just breathe...
I definitely am not up for 120 miles, but I do have a goal to do a 100 miler in 2017 (when I may or may not be turning a crucial age). So doing a 70 miler this year seems like the next logical next step.  And again, I am fuelled by gorgeous vistas, the smell of an evergreen forest, gnarly trails and long climbs.  I simply cannot wait to show the guys some BC mountains - up close and deeply personal.

Training for and and running an ultra marathon can easily become an all-consuming and frankly, selfish, endeavour.  Todd suggested that we give back and use our run to support a good cause.  We decided that we will be fundraising for Cancer Care Manitoba as we train to run a total of 310 miles combined.  Why?  Let's face it - who hasn't been touched by cancer?  We are in the process of registering with the organization, but please stay tuned with how you can donate to support Cancer Care.

I also plan to do a few shorter races, including the Spruce Woods Ultra as part of my taper for Grand Canyon, and if I'm not totally wrecked after Fat Dog, I plan to do the Lemming Loop again in October.

We are 1.5 weeks into January and I'm into my second week of my 20 week GC training cycle. It's winter in Manitoba.  Check out the rest of the story in my next post: Winter Training.