Being post marathon but pre-Ironman training has been strange. Mentally, I’m ready to start training. I’ve been pouring over my training plan, evaluating warm up races and thinking about nutrition changes. Just a week or two ago I thought I was perfectly poised to start training. Today, physically, I’m thankful that I still have 5 more weeks before my plan starts.
Over the years, I’ve had just about every runner’s injury: runner’s knee, IT band issues, plantar fasciitis, hamstring tend0nitis, gluteal tendonitis. This last year, though, I’ve been injury free. Somehow, during this lull when I’m supposed to be resting and getting strong, I’ve developed a new injury. I am having terrible hip pain. What worries me the most is that I don’t understand why it hurts. I know my sciatic nerve is effected because I have pain radiating down my leg. I know my glute is sore because it hurts when I stretch it. When I read about about piriformis syndrome, it describes exactly what I have going on. To add to the confusion, I damaged a disk in my back shoveling snow a couple of years ago and that can cause sciatic problems, too. I don’t know if just one of these things is to blame or if it’s a combination of all of them.
The pain is at it’s worst at night when I’m trying to sleep and when I first get up in the morning. When I’m in bed and in agony, I question my thinking that I can propel myself 140.6 miles. Once I get going and my hips and legs warm up, I feel full of energy and anxious to train. In those moments, I worry that I should be doing more to get ready. My fear of not being prepared to finish battles daily with my fear of being not being well enough to start. The level of pain I’m having is beyond what I could tolerate while training, so the fear of not being healthy enough to start has won the battle. Luckily, I have all of March to try and get myself together.
The first step in that direction is that I’ve stopped running. If I get warmed up, running itself is okay, but everything seems to tighten up afterwards and the situation worsens. Is it going to help? No idea, but I’ve committed to not running for a couple of weeks and I’ll see what happens. It’s been one week so far and at times I think it’s helping and other times I think I’m fooling myself. I’m hoping that another week off of the roads will be the magic pill I am looking for. If it does help, I may take some more time to make sure I’m totally healed up. If it doesn’t help, then I’ll have to resort to something else.
While I’m not running, I’m trying to do other things to put myself in a good position to train. After successfully improving my fat burn during running, I’ve turned my attention to fat burning during biking. Since biking just uses the lower body, running zones don’t always translate to biking zones. I had the same VO2 testing done but on a bike instead of a treadmill. I have a lot of room for improvement just like I had for running, and the approach is the same. Not running gives me even more time to spend on the bike in Zones 1 and 2. My hip doesn’t hurt at all during biking and it doesn’t seem to stiffen up like it does after running. It’s possible that biking is slowing down healing, but I’m not desperate enough yet to give it up. I’m biking so easy to stay in Zones 1 and 2 that it’s hard to believe that it makes much difference. If a week from now I’m still hurting as much as I am now, I will have to rethink biking.
Swimming was a key workout during my running heart rate training, but right now I can’t swim at all. Whether I’m kicking or using a buoy, swimming right now hurts my sciatic. No swimming for a few weeks, either.
Since I can’t do much, I’m anxious to try anything that might be helpful. I’ve resorted to working on the one area I have avoided my entire life: nutrition. Up until now, I’ve kept my weight in check but didn’t worry too much about what I ate. When I had my VO2 bike test, the trainer stressed the importance of diet and it’s effect on how the body burns fat. I’ve never been a fan of the Atkins approach and could never see myself going on a no carb diet. Looking at my diet, though, it’s hard to deny that my diet is heavy on the carbs. I love bread, chips, cookies and cake. She explained that having a lot of sugar constantly in the bloodstream makes the body very adept at using sugar for fuel and decreases it’s ability to use fat as it’s primary source. Last summer, I kept track of my diet with my Body Media device, and I was eating about 50% carbs, 15% protein and 35% fat. Clearly, there is room for improvement. This week was hard for me as I tried to concentrate on eating protein and avoiding carbs. I’m reading a lot of labels and using the Body Media system to help me evaluate what to eat and track how I’m doing. I’m committed to giving it my best for four weeks and then I’ll have the bike re-test done to see how the change in diet and zone training pays off. I’m hoping that eating this way will be more natural by then and that I’ll be able to stick with it.
Three weeks ago I was at a high point, celebrating my running improvement. Now I’m worried but still hopeful. Five weeks is a very long time and I have many years of training behind me. A couple of weeks to regroup won’t put me too far behind. Now, if I could just have a bowl of ice cream or a cookie to help me feel better…