Saturday, January 15, 2011

Running is Hard

For those of you who don't already know, last year my wife and I ran the Triple Crown of Running and the Mini Marathon.  The Triple Crown is a series of three races: a 5k (3.1 miles), a 10k (6.2 miles), and a 10 miler.  The mini is a half-marathon (13.1 miles).

We started training about 16 weeks before the mini, following a training program from Runner's World.  The program had us running 3 times a week, gradually increasing our mileage to work on our speed and stamina.

Being the stubborn/overconfident person I am, I didn't take the training too seriously.  The runs early on were easy enough, so I skipped some here and there.

Of course, it all caught up with me one day when we went to Tom Sawyer for a 7 mile run.  We were tired of running on the treadmill at the gym, so we decided to go for a run around the park.  We started out following a trail, but eventually decided just to make our own route across the fields.  Somewhere between miles 3 and 4 my left knee started feeling stiff.  I thought it was from my lack of training, so I pushed on.  At mile 5, I couldn't catch Jennifer to save my life.  The pain was sharp, and flared up as I would bring my leg forward for another step.  I barely managed to hobble back to the car to wait for her to finish the next two miles.

Some research online and a trip to the doctor confirmed that I had strained my patella tendon.  Resting and icing my knee a few times a day was about all I could do for at least a week or two.  To avoid straining it in the future, I needed to build up my quads (since that's the muscle that's connected to the patella), get better shoes, and gradually build up my running (ie - follow the training program like I should have been doing all along).

I did as I was told, and I was able to get back into running again within the next couple of weeks.  We even found this band that is wrapped around the base of the kneecap that's used to help stabilize the patella tendon.  It's amazing, but a little $10 elastic band wrapped around my knee allowed me to complete all four races.

So you would think I had learned my lesson, right?

Nope, not me.

We've just completed our second week of training for the same races this year, and I'm already down with another injury.  Last Saturday, I ran my first long run of the training program.  The run was an easy run -- 5 miles at a 5.3 mph pace (which is an 11:19 minute mile).  Definitely something I could handle, as I usually run at around a 6 to 6.5 mph pace.

A little before mile 4, I start to "notice" my right knee -- no pain, but I was aware that something was going on with it that's not quite normal.  Being the first week of the training program, and again because I'm stubborn or overconfident, I decide to push on.  I wanted to follow the training program to a T this year.

I should have known better.

This time I think I've strained my I.T. band, which runs from your hip down the outside of your leg.  Since I was running on flat ground this time, I think it's a factor of worn-out shoes (since we've been using the same shoes for over a year now), not doing enough strength-training on my leg muscles, and not stretching properly.

We have ordered new shoes, and I've been icing my knee.  To help me stay in the routine, I've still been going to the gym, but I've mainly been focusing on strength training and getting some moderate cardio in on the bike (which is supposed to be the best thing for I.T. band injuries).  I'm really hoping to gradually catch back up with the training program over the next two weeks.

Finishing a race gives a great sense of satisfaction, but running is hard :-/


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