Monday, January 17, 2011

Running Injuries

So, January has not been good for my running.

I went into December with a nagging injury in my left knee that was making it nearly impossible to run.  I could tolerate the pain, just barely, but everyone I ran with could tell that I was favoring one leg and that my stride was way, way off.  I tried to stay off of the leg as much as possible, only testing it when I had to in order to make sure that I could run the Goofy at Disney January 8-9.  The knee actually felt better after that 40-mile weekend than it did before it, and I was excited to take a week off and get back on her on Saturday, but then Saturday came.

The mere 3-mile run outside in the slushy, sandy, salty, snow was painful.  I followed that with 6 miles on a treadmill Sunday morning--again, painful.  I wish I knew how to fix this, but I'm afraid I just need to take a full month off from running, which basically kills any hope of running the Zumbro 100 on April 8-9.  The good news is that I'd still get to pace my brother, who's much more on track, and pain free, than I am at the moment--well, always has been really.  Oh well.

I've gone through quite the roller-coaster ride with running in the past year, trying to figure everything out with my feet, knees, stride, shoes, etc.  Basically, I'm struggling to learn how to run, and with these new knee issues, I'm completely lost again.

I started running in New Balance 1063/1064s as a heel-striker last February.  I ran my first marathon in May and wanted to know why my quads cramped at mile 22.  Heel-striking at 220lbs seemed like a decent-enough answer, so I tried to make the transition to a forefoot strike in one fatal swoop--by running on my toes for a 14-mile run in June.  I made it 7-8 miles before my calves just gave out, and the next week was more painful than the aftershock of my first marathon.  That was a painful way to learn that it was a forefoot strike that I needed to transition to, not just completely running only on my toes. Trust me, you'll only do that once before you learn that the heel actually must hit the ground, just not first.

Anyway, in August I ordered my first pair of Brooks Mach 11 cross country flats. Wow--those things were great!  It was impossible not to forefoot strike in those shoes!  It was also around that point that I really tried to shorten my stride and emphasize the whole notion of running behind you.  Let me tell you, that was great!  Running was easier.  My times were dropping drastically with little to no increase in effort.  I was really packing on miles, my weight was down to under 200lbs, and everything was going great!  UNTIL mile 19 of a 26-mile run in late October I felt a sharp pain under my left forefoot just behind the pinky-toe joint.  I remember laughing, imagining myself at the doctor's office, saying, "Doc, my foot hurts."  "Well, what happened."  "At mile 19 of a 26-mile run in cross-country flats, on pavement, my foot started hurting."  "I think I know what the problem is.  You were on mile 19, of a 26-mile run, in cross-country flats, on pavement."  I had to take it easy in the Brooks Mach 11s for a while.

That was right about the time the New Balance MT101s came out, so I started running in those.  I even took them on a 32.5-mile road-run around Mpls with Andy.  They felt pretty good, too!  But I figured that I better get something made for roads and high mileage, and that's when I got the Saucony Kinvaras.  The Sauconys were interesting at first, but I liked them well-enough to use them on a 35-mile treadmill run in November.  My weight was down in the low 190's, and the 35-mile run went well enough, but the size 14 Kinvaras gave me blisters on the outside of my right foot.  I initially chalked the blisters up to foot-swelling from the distance, and kept using the Kinvaras, but 4 days later my left knee started hurting, and it hasn't really let up since.

December was a bust.  I thought I could just run through the pain at first, even doing a 20-mile treadmill run two-weeks after the 35-mile run, but the pain kept building.  A few 6-10 mile runs here and there to test and see if I could give the Goofy Challenge at Disney a go in January was all I had in me for December.  I ended up running the half at Disney in the Kinvaras, but with more blistering at just 13.1 miles, they're getting retired.  I ran the full at Disney the next day in the Brooks Mach 11s, and my Achilles is responding with a big, painful "thanks" for that.  Plus, now I've got pain in both knees, but I think the right pain is just overuse--I'm fairly sure that it's been shouldering the brunt of the load lately with my new, horribly awkward and very painful stride.

I miss pain-free running.  Badly.  So it's time to shut her down for a few weeks and hope that she'll finally heal.  Bring on the bike and free weights.  Hopefully I can drop some more weight in the process as well and take more stress off my joints/ligaments.  The saddest part is that I have a pair of Nike Free 3.0 V2s from runningwarehouse that will be here tomorrow, and I won't be able to run in them for a while.  Such is life.

Part of me wants to abandon the low heel-toe drop shoes and move back to the NB 1064s for a while when I get back into it.  Another part wants to build up mileage again, slowly, with the minimalist shoes.  The smart thing would probably be to provide a mixture of both with some actual barefoot running thrown into the mix as well.  Whatever it takes, I just want to run again.

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