A Break from the Pain (hopefully it’s permanent)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

                I may regret these words in the very near future, but I want to say that recovery has finally ended and training has begun again. On July 27, I lined up for and started the SF Marathon. Looking back, I see that one of the reasons I was pushing to get back after Western was because of this race and Squamish, which is in 9 days on Aug. 16. It took me a while to realize that while I wanted to run these races, I didn’t/don’t feel any real compulsion to do well in them. That being said, I will always give my best effort, but I knew that I was not coming into either race 100% (far from it, in fact). So at the start line of SF, I figured I’d run the first half and see how I felt. My knee was still bothering me, but not to the point of being unable to run, so after the first 2 miles, it loosened up and I settled into a pretty good rhythm. I was maybe a minute back of the lead group heading onto the bridge and made up some ground on them, eventually pulling even in the park around mile 14-15. While my knee was feeling surprisingly good, my hamstrings and butt tightened up in a matter of minutes heading around Stow Lake. I pulled the plug at mile 18 (right near the 1st half finish), got on the bus, and was at the full marathon finish in time to see the winner. I was a little disappointed because I knew I had a shot at the win, but that’s the way racing goes – you have to be able to run the whole thing, and on that day, I couldn’t. My knee felt pretty good afterwards and Rachelle (who ran the 1st half despite getting food poisoning the night before) had a good race as well. We spend the rest of the day hanging out with friends (can’t wait to see Ethan and Kim in Squamish) and had a great dinner to end the weekend.

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Coming off the bridge

                I knew my knee was improving as I was able to run on Monday without too much pain. I saw Hal to get some work done on my IT band and the pain shifted from the outside of my knee to being under my kneecap. I think he said that this was the progression of things as my IT band loosened its Vader force choke on my knee. Frankly, I was just happy to have the pain shift to somewhere else. I ran pretty well the rest of the week, saw Hal again on Friday, and went into the group run at SF Running Co. on Saturday feeling pretty good. However, just a couple of miles into the group run I found myself counting the miles. Not a good sign when you’re thinking: only 12 miles to go. My right foot was having some major issues in the shoes I was wearing and I think it threw my stride off a bit, as my whole right leg felt off. I was able to make it through most of the run but with about a mile and a half to go, my knee went from being OK to forcing me to stop within about 10 meters. I walked for a bit and it loosened up. So I started jogging again and was able to make it back to the store, where it felt remarkably normal upon stopping. I’d like to note that during the run, I had made the decision to stop running until my knee felt normal again. I wanted to go an entire day without any pain or discomfort before running again. I don’t know why it took my so long to realize that I’m not worried about the outcome of Squamish, but I’m not. That realization allowed me to be content in my decision to not run until the race if that’s what my body wanted. I had tired of running in pain, as it was making me dread my runs rather than look forward to them. So as of Saturday post-run, I was not going to run until my knee stopped hurting for an entire day.However, as the day went on, it continued to not bother me. I took Sunday off and Rachelle and I took advantage by tandem biking from SF to Sausalito. Super touristy, but also super fun. I highly recommend it if you haven’t done it. My knee didn’t whimper once.

Tandem Biking on the GGB

We passed all the tourists

                On Monday, I got out of work a bit later than usual so the plan was to run 6-7 miles, since I had gone the entirety of Sunday (and Monday) without a hint of pain. I was rewarded with no pain in my knees (FINALLY). I wanted to go my usual 12 miles, but convinced myself not to push it. I ended up running 8 and felt great the whole time. On Tuesday, Rachelle and I joined the West Valley workout for the first time since early June and it was great to be back out there. It also served as a painful reminder of how different ultra-distance race pace is versus cross country race pace. My legs were not ready for that sort of speed and while I suffered a bit, it felt good to move fast(er) again. We did 3 x 2 mile repeats around Stow Lake and up Strawberry Hill, with the last one being a more moderate effort, and my knees were totally compliant. Last night, I ran out to Tennessee Valley Beach and on the bike path with the SFRC group run. My right IT band tightened up a bit just above the knee, so I’ve got to keep an eye on that. Luckily it responds well to foam rolling, so I ordered a firmer one since my current one seems a little soft. I am optimistic that as long as I’m vigilant in stretching and working on it, it won’t prove to be too much of a problem.

Next up is the Squamish 50 miler on Aug. 16. I am beyond excited to run in this area, as it’s absolutely gorgeous. I know Gary Robbins has a devil of a course waiting for us, but I’m pumped. No expectations and I’ve given myself full permission to drop should it come to that. After Squamish, my next big race is the NYC Marathon (Nov. 2). I’m really looking forward to training for that and racing the local cross country races in preparation. I want to get some speed back in my legs. Western took a lot more out of me than I had imagined it would and I’m ready to get back after it finally.

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About afvarner

Runner. Donuts. Sneakerhead. Not necessarily in that order. Nike Trail Elite. Picky Bars. Gu. Vicory Sportdesign.
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3 Responses to A Break from the Pain (hopefully it’s permanent)

  1. josh says:

    Hi Alex, What shoes are you wearing/do you recommend for marathons these days? Thanks much, Josh

    • afvarner says:

      I’ve really liked the Nike Lunarspider LT line, but they’re not available in the US (I’ve ordered them from a couple of retailers in China in the past). Other than those, the Lunaracer and Streak 5 are good options. The Streaks are a good deal firmer than the Lunaracers (which are really soft), but both are light and durable. I’ve run in the Lunarspider R4 as well, but that didn’t have enough cushion for the marathon for me.

  2. Pingback: Injuries – A Necessary Evil (guest post from Alex Varner) - Picky Bars

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