Just a Little Patience

It’s been a month now since my training came to a complete halt when I was in a car accident that messed up my back. I’ve definitely made progress and I’ve been feeling pretty good…for the most part. For a couple weeks, I didn’t know what to expect from day to day. Sometimes my back was sore in the morning and at night but okay the rest of the day. Other times I felt fine first thing and got sore as the day went on. I’ve had several stretches of time where I thought I felt good enough to consider exercising again, then a new pain popped up to defeat my hopes. The last month has been extremely frustrating. This is much different from the kinds of injuries I’ve dealt with in the past, and my back is not something I want to mess around with.

Pretty much all activity has been on hold. For nearly a month, there has been no running, biking, swimming, or weights. I’ve been able to go for a few walks without pain, but that’s been about it. I keep attempting little things to see how it feels. I’ve found that although I CAN do certain things, I shouldn’t and end up paying for it later. Hanging from the pull-up bar and doing just one pull-up led to pain and soreness for the next two days. I’ve tried a few free weight curls, push-ups, planks, etc. and everything has resulted in back pain the next day. It’s frustrating because it seems like these things should be no big deal. I have to accept that my body still isn’t ready and I really need to be patient. When I’ve taken a break from running in the past, at least I could swim, bike, and lift weights. I’ve come to realize that pretty much everything uses the back in one way or another. After a month off, one of the things that kills me the most is knowing that I’ll be starting from scratch with all forms of training.

As I try to reintroduce activity, it seems like walking has been the safest way to start. I’ve walked as far as four miles without any issues. I got brave enough to try three miles on the elliptical last week and was frustrated by the results. I felt my back in my two main trouble spots, then my lovely IT band problem flared up and irritated my left knee after a couple miles. I’d been making really good progress with that injury prior to the accident, but I haven’t been able to do my hip/glute rehab exercises since the accident. Most of the exercises extend my back in a way that I need to avoid for now. As a result, I think my IT band has regressed. I suspect any attempts at running could be ugly until I can get back on track with the rehab exercises.

I’ve hesitated to try biking because my back gets sore pretty quickly when I sit without back support. I figured I’d give it a shot this past Saturday and I’d quit if I got uncomfortable. I kept the resistance low and successfully rode for half an hour. Finally – something I can do! I’m still feeling some discomfort in my back every day and have to be careful about certain movements, but I’m hoping things are starting to look more promising.

In the meantime, being so busy lately has helped keep me from trying too much. I went to my primary care doctor a week after the accident just to make sure everything seemed okay. I don’t think I gained much from that visit, but at least it helped reassure me that I should be fine. The doctor also made me realize that issues I’ve had with my left ear are due to noise from the side airbag. I’ve had occasional problems with sound getting distorted if it’s too loud. I hadn’t really thought about how loud airbags are, but it’s similar to having a gun go off right next to my ear. Luckily it’s not much of a problem and hopefully it will fade with a little more time. I’ve also been busy with chiropractic appointments. I’ve been going to one chiropractor three times per week and my active release/sports rehab chiropractor one time per week. They have different techniques and while the one chiropractor concentrates mostly on spinal adjustments, the other uses active release that gets the tissues and muscles. He also helps me figure out which exercises are safe at this point. I’m thankful to have a couple of great doctors who are helping me get back on track.

Hopefully the black cloud hanging over me goes away soon because I’m having a streak of bad luck on the road lately. Since the insurance company chose to total my car, I got a new one about a week later. Unfortunately, it seems like I’ve developed a tradition of breaking in my new car by blowing out a tire. When I got my last car, I hit a pothole and destroyed a tire after one month. This time, it only took me one week. Unbelievable. It was on the same stretch of road both times, so now I really dread driving through that area. At least I was just over a mile from home and was able to pull into a parking lot. Plus, since my first flat tire experience had happened only a year ago, it was still fresh in my mind and I was much smoother at changing it myself. It’s also a good thing I was so close to home because Matt was able to come help me. After taking my tire/wheel off the car, I realized it was heavier than I thought and it wasn’t very smart to lift it with my back problem. I’m very lucky that Matt could come help and lift my trashed tire into the trunk!

Obviously the last month has been a bit more exciting than I’d like. Hopefully things settle down and the drama is over. For now, I’m going to continue to be cautious and take things slowly as I try to get back to normal. I’m still hopeful that I’ll have time to get ready for the triathlon season this year. Recovering properly is the most important thing though, so I’m going to try to be as smart and patient as possible.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Car Crash

I’m sure you can guess by the title of this blog that it’s not going to be a good one. On Monday afternoon, I was in my first real car accident when my car was T-boned on the passenger side.

My poor car

My poor car

It was a sunny day with clear roads as I drove from work to the gym. I was less than a mile from the gym when it happened. I was cruising westbound on a main road around 40-45 mph when I saw the red Chevy Cruze on the neighborhood street to my right. There was just enough time for me to think, “Oh crap, he’s not going to stop.” Then BOOM, he flew into the right side of my car. I was completely conscious the whole time, but it was so fast that I couldn’t register everything that happened. I came to a stop and couldn’t see much, then I realized my side airbags were hanging down. I didn’t even know what to do. The car was stopped, so I tried to start it but it wouldn’t start. I realize now that the ignition may have shut off automatically and I probably didn’t even have the car in park. I wasn’t thinking straight then though. I was able to get out of the car and went to the side of the road. My car that had been headed westbound was now facing eastbound in the eastbound lane.

The kid who hit me (who I found out later was 21) came over to see if I was okay. I didn’t feel anything initially and it seemed like I was just rattled but otherwise fine. A nice woman stopped to make sure I was okay, and she stuck around while I called Matt and the police. I’m so thankful for smartphones because it made it easy to search for the right number to call, though it took a few minutes of me typing the wrong letters as my fingers kept shaking. After calling the police, I just stood at the side of the road. The kid said maybe I could try the car again to see if it would move. I did want to get it off of the main road where it was blocking traffic. I climbed in under the airbag and realized I still had to put it in park. Sure enough, the car started and I moved onto a side street. I called Matt again, and luckily he was able to leave work and meet me within 15 minutes or so. I knew I should take some pictures, so I snapped some of the side of my car.

The Oakland County sheriff’s deputy came pretty quickly. He asked me what happened then moved on to the kid. The kid’s mom had shown up and asked if I wanted to wait in her car. I was freezing out in the cold so I went in her car with the heat on for a minute. The deputy asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance, then told me I could wait in my car. I didn’t really want to go back in seeing as how a powdery substance comes out of the airbags and makes the car smell, but I got in anyway and cranked the heat. As I sat there, I realized the kid didn’t get to wait in HIS car – he was in the deputy’s car. The whole time we were there I never saw him get out of the car. Matt got there and I rotated on and off between crying and trying to compose myself. At some point the deputy asked if I was hurt and I said I thought my back was a little sore. He was pretty gruff and wanted a yes or no answer, so I said no. I knew that although I was a little sore at the moment, it would probably be another story by the next day. Aside from my back, my left ear felt like there was water in it or something. It didn’t feel blocked up, but there was a crackling noise. On the surface, I was totally fine. The front airbag didn’t go off, I didn’t hit the steering wheel or anything else, and the side airbags didn’t seem to do anything to me. The deputy returned my license and stuff and gave me a printout with the incident number. We had to go online to purchase the actual report. A tow truck came for my car because the airbags had deployed so I couldn’t legally drive it. We were right around the corner from the dealer, so I asked to drop the car there. I gathered some of my stuff from the car then went to Matt’s car to contact the insurance company.

Matt had an appointment with the chiropractor that afternoon and I said he should still go. He tried to convince me to come in with him, but I was still so rattled and kept crying every few minutes, so I didn’t want to go in and make a scene. He was able to get good information from his doctor and I was convinced that I should get in there as soon as possible. I’m glad we have experience with chiropractors and not only had one to turn to, but also knew the importance of getting in there after trauma like an accident. When we got home, we went to the website to get the crash report. It’s kind of annoying that I had to pay $15 for it, but I wanted more info. I was curious why I never saw the kid get out of the deputy’s car. The report said the kid had a suspended license, so that explains things. That made me even more angry. The report also showed that the kid was clearly at fault for failing to yield to a stop sign. At least there was no question about who was at fault.

I worried about my back when I went to sleep that night and made sure to lie flat on my back. I got terrible sleep. I still felt okay, but I was so worried about all of the things I’d have to deal with that I couldn’t get my mind to shut off. The next morning I was able to get a ride to work with my awesome cubemate, who was also great about taking me to a rental car place after work. I moved slowly in the morning and could tell my back was sore. I had taken some Aleve and figured it helped mask some of the pain. I was able to survive work, but I was very cautious. I take photos of cars and various parts of cars that are being tested, which often requires me to contort my body to get the shots. I really didn’t like squatting or maneuvering around things and made sure I didn’t do anything I shouldn’t. As the day went on, I couldn’t tell if my stomach was cramping or if I was feeling my ribs. In general, I was just sore and very aware of my back.

I was very fortunate that Matt’s chiropractor was willing to see me Tuesday evening. I had met the doctor before, but I had never been to him myself. Since he works with our insurance and is so close to home, I knew I should give him a try. He had me explain what happened, examined me, and gave me a gentle adjustment. He even stayed late to make sure we took care of X-rays. His initial look at the X-rays showed that my spine had twisted. We set an appointment for me to come back and analyze the X-rays more thoroughly the next day. We had plans to go to an Oakland University basketball game that night and I wanted to give it a shot. I held up pretty good, but I got pretty uncomfortable as the night went on. The game went into overtime (resulting in an OU win!) but I couldn’t handle the discomfort anymore and headed home early.

On Wednesday, I realized my stomach was not cramping and I was definitely feeling soreness around my ribs. Not the ribs themselves, but the muscles and/or tissues around them. The chiropractor confirmed that it was probably due to the twisting motion my body had gone through. I felt discomfort in the middle of my chest too. I still felt my back, with the lower back being the worst. I didn’t really have much pain, but I was extremely uncomfortable. I was able to do what I needed to at work, but I really didn’t want to be there. I was so uncomfortable that I felt pretty miserable. That evening I got to see my X-rays. In addition to a few other issues, my lower back had twisted pretty good and seemed to be the primary concern. I knew well enough that it meant a lot of visits to the chiropractor. We went through the options, with his recommendation being to come three times a week for the next two to three months. Of course I don’t HAVE to follow his recommendation, but that’s the best bet to make sure we really fix the problem and hope it doesn’t continue to haunt me over time.

When I got home that night, I was just mad. The night of the accident, I was shaken up and emotional. The day after, I was sore and uncomfortable. By Wednesday night I was in a really foul mood. I was pissed that this stupid kid who shouldn’t have been driving had screwed things up so bad. Now I was going to be stuck going to the chiropractor all the time. Don’t get me wrong – I think the doctor is a great guy and I really like him, but I sure don’t want to visit him all the time. I’d been on the phone and computer a ton to deal with the rental car, auto versus health insurance, whether my car might be totaled and I’d have to get a new one, etc. I knew that our hopes of taking a weekend road trip to Pittsburgh to see three of our favorite bands was not going to happen. I knew that participating in the indoor triathlon the following week was not going to be a good idea. I was pissed. I was extremely thankful that things were not worse and that I was relatively fine. A quick glance at the news was enough to give some perspective that my problems were really not that bad. Still, I was angry.

By Thursday, my mood was a little better. I felt better than I had the previous two days, but I still felt back stiffness in the car. I was moving better at work, but I was still cautious. Bending over, squatting, or rotating certain ways made me aware of my back instantly. After talking to someone at the dealership and someone from the insurance claims department on Tuesday, I knew that my car was damaged bad enough that it was going to be a close call whether they decided to repair it or total it. Everyone I talked to told me that I’d want it to be totaled. I’d have to wait at least a month for it to be repaired and would have to pay for the rental car that whole time. Even after they fixed it, I’d always wonder if they really fixed everything or if any rattle or problem that developed was from the accident. My car would certainly lose resale value. Well, I got the call that I wanted on Thursday afternoon informing me that they were going to total it. They were going to write a check for the market value of the car, and the amount they gave me was right around what I’d been hoping for.

At first glance, it seems like some damaged doors aren’t reason enough to total a car. Especially since I’d only had the car for one year! However, the damage extended into the front and rear just beyond the doors, requiring replacement of those parts. The side airbags would have to be replaced, as would the headliner that ripped when the airbags went off. With all of the parts and labor required, I guess it was more worthwhile for the insurance company to write a check and get money for all of the parts they could salvage from the car.

The damage

The damage

That door is a mess

That door is a mess

Airbags and headliner damage

Airbags and headliner damage

I headed to the dealer to get the rest of the stuff from my car and to start debating if I should try a different kind of vehicle or stick with the one I had. I test drove another one, but ultimately decided that I really liked what I had and wanted to stick with it. Full disclosure – I’m a contract worker at GM so I may be biased, but I sure was happy with how my Buick Verano handled the crash. It kept me safe and I’ve loved the vehicle for the year that I’ve had it, so I’m sticking with it. While it was fun to shop for a new car, I decided to stick with what I know I like. Hopefully everything will come through by early next week and I’ll be in a nice new car.

Though it seems like I’ve felt better the last couple days, by the evening my back is usually worse. The work week was kind of miserable simply because my back has consumed my thoughts almost constantly. I’m feeling it pretty much all of the time. Even when it’s not painful, there’s an aching and uncomfortable feeling there. The tissues and muscles around my abs and ribs are still sore at times. At this point, I’m just worried. I hope that a few months of going to the chiropractor will fix everything, but is there something else going on internally that I don’t know about? Every time I feel a twinge of anything, it makes me worry. My chest was bothering me on Friday night and it freaked me out. I have no idea if anything else could be wrong. I worry that a visit to my normal doctor wouldn’t tell me much if there’s something going on internally. Searching the internet on Friday night was probably not a good way to ease my mind. Reading about people in simple fender benders who ended up with serious health issues doesn’t make me feel good about what this pretty major side impact could have done to me.

In the meantime, my routine of swimming, biking, running, and lifting weights is on hold. I don’t want to do anything stupid, especially when my back hurts whether I’m sitting or standing. The chiropractor asked when my next race was, and he basically let me know there’s always the next one. I had been training so hard and was really excited for the indoor tri on the 15th, but I know I shouldn’t even consider it. Right now I need to make sure my body heals. This is a setback I sure wasn’t prepared for, but hopefully time and chiropractic adjustments will help and I’ll be active again soon.

If anyone out there has been through something like this before and has any advice, please feel free to share.

One more side note – I find it kind of ironic that after months of not photographing one, I’m taking photos of a side impact test at work on Monday. It figures.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Burton Hot Chocolate 5k Race Recap

On February 15th, Matt and I headed up to Burton (near Flint, MI) for the Hot Chocolate 5k. When chocolate is part of a race’s name, it immediately grabs my attention. I found the race on RunMichigan.com when I was looking for races coming up soon. I’ve been anxious to get out and race, having not done so since October’s marathon. My IT band has been getting better and I’ve reached the point where I know I can at least make it through 5k without it flaring up. I waited until a couple days before the race to register when I was convinced the weather conditions should be reasonable. It has obviously been a rough winter when I consider just above 0 degrees to be “reasonable.” Most importantly, we’d had a day or two since it had last snowed. I was hopeful that footing would be decent enough.

One perk about running this race was a noon start. Even with a 45-minute drive we had plenty of time to sleep in. We lucked out with a nice, sunny day. The sun lifted my spirits, but it was deceiving because it was still plenty cold. I wore two layers each of hats, shirts, mittens/gloves, pants, socks, plus a jacket. Bentley High School was the base for the race, so we were able to use indoor restrooms and hang out in the gym to stay warm beforehand.

Bentley High School's gym

Bentley High School’s gym

Packet pickup in the gym, and a warm place to wait for the start of the race

Packet pickup in the gym, and a warm place to wait for the start of the race

We collected our race packets, which included a long sleeve cotton shirt, a few Valentine’s Day candy hearts and mints, and a nice gel ice pack. That was something I haven’t received in a packet before and I’m sure I’ll put it to use. It’s not only large, but it’s also the kind that doesn’t freeze solid, allowing flexibility for spots like shins (the spot I tend to ice the most).

The race shirt

The race shirt

Gel pack

Gel pack

We went for a warm up jog around the parking lot about 15 minutes before the start of the race. I ran just under half a mile before heading to the starting line. We figured we should start pretty close to the front, especially with a gun start. The race started right at noon and we were off.

The start of the race

The start of the race

Pretty early into the race we got to a pedestrian bridge that took us over I-69. The spiral climb up was the only real elevation change throughout the otherwise flat course. Luckily there was a lot of salt on the bridge, leaving no worries about slipping. Certain stretches on the neighborhood roads were a different story though. Some spots were a bit snowy and I had to be cautious, so I was glad I chose to wear trail shoes with a little more traction (Merrell Mix Master Tuff). For the most part, the roads were in good shape. I was fine temperature-wise, but my eyes were watery for a bit and I didn’t really enjoy having tears running down my cheeks when it was so cold.

I felt pretty good for the first half of the race. Since I’ve been building my miles back up slowly as I’ve been coming back from being injured, I knew I wasn’t conditioned enough to attempt running at my 5k PR pace. I figured I would be okay running closer to my 10k pace, and that happened to be the pace I naturally hit for the first couple miles. Halfway through the race I encountered my usual 5k mental challenges. I didn’t want to run so fast anymore, questioned why I put myself through this, calculated what my time would be if I slowed down, etc. My breathing was pretty labored and I’m sure the cold didn’t help. As I approached the bridge over I-69 on the way back, I could see Matt up ahead. He saw me and slowed down enough for me to catch up after I crossed the bridge. He pushed me to finish strong and we crossed the finish line together. My official time was 23:43. When I looked at the results on the race’s site, there were a few pictures of the finish (as well as the one of the start seen above). There was an option to download the pictures for free! I don’t see that very often and really appreciated it. Here are a couple pictures from the finish.

Finishing together

Finishing together

Finishing strong

Finishing strong

Garmin splits

Garmin splits

Although my legs didn’t feel wrecked, my breathing was pretty bad and I needed to walk around for several minutes to recover. Once I felt okay, we headed inside. The school’s cafeteria had cups of hot chocolate and bowls of marshmallows we could scoop up into our drinks. They had little trays with a few small pretzels, graham crackers, a big marshmallow on a toothpick, and a bag of apple slices from McDonald’s. Women at the end of the line poured a big scoop of fudge into a spot on our tray. It was a really good post-race treat.

The cafeteria after the race

The cafeteria after the race

Yum!

Yum!

We sat in the cafeteria for a while and wondered when they might mention awards. Nothing was happening in the cafeteria so Matt walked around to see if he could find anything. He finally figured out that awards were at a table in the gym. I was a little frustrated that no one said anything because the gym was down the hall and there was no reason we would have gone back in there. Matt realized we could scan our bibs to see our results and we were both age group winners! We were excited to get cool little medals, then we were able to start the trek home.

Age group winners!

Age group winners!

Cool medal

Cool medal

Race stats

Race stats

We both really enjoyed this race. Neither of us considered ourselves in peak race shape, but it was nice to get back out there and enjoy the race environment again. I saw this race as a way to measure where my current fitness level is coming back from injury. I was really happy with how it went, though it’s clear that I need to work on speed endurance more. I felt good, but I know I have more in me. I’ve just worked my way back up to 20 miles per week again and have slowly reintroduced speedwork the last few weeks. One of the most important things for me was to get through the race pain-free. I’m sure it helped that the course was so flat, and luckily the climbs up and down the pedestrian bridge didn’t seem to bother my IT band. Though I would have told you otherwise halfway through the race, it was nice to get back to racing again.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Rebuilding a base

After running a total of 37 miles in December, I was pretty happy to make it up to 69 miles in January. One of the most frustrating parts of dealing with an injury is how slow it can seem to rebuild the base mileage. I’d prefer to maintain a base of 20-30 miles per week, but that just wasn’t possible when I could only run three miles at a time a few times a week. I’ve increased my mileage gradually over the last couple of months as my IT band has become more cooperative. I’m up to four days of running per week now and have finally gotten close to 20 miles per week. Crossing that line back into the 20s makes me feel more secure and like I’m heading back towards where I want to be.

My IT band recovery has been going pretty well. ART has made a difference and I’m now going in for treatment every two weeks or so. I think the hip/glute/core rehab exercises have made a huge difference. I’ve been doing things like side leg raises, clamshells, squats, exercises with a stability ball, etc. on a regular basis and it seems to be paying off. I’ve been running pain-free for the most part, but I’m not totally in the clear yet. I realized that the hard way when I attempted to run five miles at Stony Creek Metropark recently and couldn’t pull it off. I’ve been trying to run on flat stretches as much as I can. The flattest stretch at Stony tends to be really windy at the beginning, and we went on a day when the wind was especially brutal. I thought it might be best to avoid that stretch and head up the hills instead. Even gently rolling hills make a difference with a sensitive IT band, and I guess it doesn’t take much to set me off. I had decided to go out halfway and run back, which was a mistake. I was feeling overly confident because my knee hadn’t hurt for weeks. I’d been smarter for other outside runs because I’d never go more than a mile or so away from the car in case the pain started and I had to quit early. Well, I started to feel my knee after three miles, meaning I still had two miles to go. I managed to push through four miles, but the pain got bad enough that I had no choice but to walk. When it’s windy and 10 degrees outside, it’s no fun to walk a mile to get back to the car. That was a frustrating run for me and made me realize that I still need to be cautious. I was smarter during a run at Stony yesterday and stuck mostly to the flat stretch, adding a little bit of hills towards the end of the run. The pain still caught up to me eventually, but I made it through 6.75 miles – my longest run in recent months.

Regaining a solid base has allowed me to reintroduce a little bit of speed. I’ve taken that slowly as well, starting with some 400s at 10k pace one week, then 800s at 10k pace the following week. Last week I rotated between 800s at 10k pace and 400s just below 5k pace, making it through three of each before I’d had enough. So far so good! I’ve been on the treadmill for the most part, which is the only way I’ve been able to get good enough footing to pick up the pace. The few runs I’ve done outside have been on the slower side due to spotty footing. It seems like the snow has been non-stop this winter and I’m extremely cautious about slipping. I really don’t like to run on slippery and snow-covered sidewalks, and doing so while my IT band is iffy probably isn’t ideal. Smart layering has helped me feel fine running in the ridiculously cold temperatures – it’s really the footing that bothers me the most.

The treadmill is really getting old, so I’ve tried to get outside for a run each weekend. When I heard that a ton of snow was coming last weekend, I was frustrated. I really didn’t want to attempt six miles on the treadmill, but knew things would be really messy on Saturday and Sunday. Matt and I debated whether we should try a run late on a Friday night while it was still clear. It had been a long day on my feet at work, followed by dinner and a basketball game. Tacos and a couple of monster sugar cookies aren’t my typical pre-run meal, so I didn’t know how well that would go over. We didn’t get home until after 9:00 at night and I was pretty wiped out. A run didn’t seem ideal, but neither did running through the snow or on the treadmill the next morning. Knowing that Oakland University’s campus is well-lit, we knew we could get away with a nighttime run there. We viewed it as an adventure and figured we’d cut it short if we didn’t feel up to it. Oakland’s campus has some rolling hills, which I’ve been trying to avoid. We managed to find enough sidewalks and empty parking lots to get the mileage in while also keeping it relatively flat. We had headlamps, but didn’t need them for the most part because nearly all of the areas had enough light. I’d been aiming to run six miles and luckily my knee held up. We finished the run sometime after midnight and we thought it was a pretty fun and different kind of Friday night date. It’s definitely not our typical running time! One of the best parts was sleeping in the next morning, seeing a ton of snow out the window, and knowing we didn’t have to go anywhere. Instead, I hopped on the bike in the basement in the early afternoon and got in a workout without having to venture out in the snow.

Speaking of the bike, I’ve been trying my best to ride three days each week. I’m not always successful but have been pretty good. I’ve made it up to 22 miles for one long ride and I try to ride at least half an hour each time. I love having a bike in our basement because watching TV keeps me distracted. I watch anything from the news to Seinfeld to concert DVDs and it really helps the time go by.

I’ve also been pretty good about swimming twice a week. I’ve been getting up crazy early to swim a mile one morning during the week, and I get in a longer swim during the weekend. I’ve built up to swimming two miles the last few weekends, and I feel like I’ve definitely improved. I’m sure swimming twice a week has made a big difference, versus the one weekend swim I used to do each week last year. I’ve been working in some speed, doing 8x50m repeats at first, then bumping up to 100s. The last couple weeks I’ve done 8x100m repeats and felt pretty good. I’ve been trying to get some brick workouts in as well, even doing the full swim/bike/run thing a couple times. I realized today that I probably need to fuel better when I do that though. After swimming a couple miles and biking 10, I got on the treadmill for a few miles. Things were all good for the first mile, but then my stomach cramped up. Every now and then I get stomach cramps that I can’t run through, and this was one of those times. After a mile and a half I had to call it quits. I drank a few sips of water between sets while swimming and drank fairly often on the bike, but maybe it wasn’t enough. I’d been working out for a good 1:45 when I had to quit running, and I probably need a sports drink or some kind of snack to fuel that kind of workout. I guess training is a good time to realize these things.

I’m trying to get enough solid workouts in for all three sports because triathlons are my ultimate goal this summer. The first race that I’ve actually signed up for is coming in mid-March. That’s when our local Life Time Fitness has its yearly indoor triathlon.

Life Time Indoor Tri

Life Time Indoor Tri

When I did the race last year, it was my first attempt at doing any kind of triathlon. I loved it and I’m curious to see if I can improve on last year’s time. I’m not feeling confident that my run is fast enough yet, so hopefully working harder on biking and swimming lately can help make up for it.

In the meantime, I keep eyeing 5ks each weekend. For the most part, the weather and poor footing have kept me away. One of these weekends maybe I’ll finally decide at the spur of the moment to go for it. There’s a hot chocolate 5k in Burton next weekend that I’m considering now. It starts at noon, involves chocolate, and it might be a little warmer – definite perks.

I have a couple more things to update that tie in with my last post about strength training. First, I’ve been sticking with the pull-up workout I talked about and it’s going really well. I’ve been doing it for a month now and have already been able to do a few more reps than I could do when I first started the workout. Matt started doing the workout as well, and it’s fun to encourage each other and see how we improve. Second, I finally found a way for all of the time at the gym to pay off – literally! Matt and I went to Oakland University’s homecoming basketball game a couple weekends ago. There were a lot of different activities, including a push-up contest. I was really excited about that because it’s right up my alley! Orthopedic Spine and Sports had a table outside the gym where people could do push-ups to win a pizza or gift card. The male and female winners would get $25 gift cards, and anyone who did at least one push-up would be entered to win a pizza at halftime. I was thinking more about the pizza, but was curious how many push-ups the female leader had done. 35 was the number to beat and I figured that would be pretty rough since I usually stop at 25, with 30 probably being the max I’ve ever done. I had to give it a shot though, and immediately I realized that their setup made things easier for me. They had a foam block on the floor to make sure everyone’s chest went low enough. I usually go low enough for my nose to touch the floor, so I didn’t have to go quite as low as I’m used to. It allowed me to squeeze in a few extra push-ups, and my arms finally gave out after 36. That was good enough to take the lead, and apparently I hung on to it since I got a call the next week to pick up a $25 Visa gift card! I was so excited. It’s not too often I come across a push-up contest, let alone one that earns me money!

Even if I’m not quite where I want to be with running right now, mixing it up with weights, swimming, and biking is keeping things fresh. I’m sure all of the other activities have helped me maintain a level of fitness that helps make up for running fewer miles. Hopefully my IT band will continue to improve, and in the meantime, I’m satisfied that I’m nearly up to seven miles considering how I struggled to hit three just a couple months ago.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Women and Strength

A couple weekends ago, we were in our basement with my father-in-law and he saw the pull-up bar that’s set up in a doorway. He asked if I could do three pull-ups. After I demonstrated that I could, he said that I could be a Marine. I realized why he mentioned that when I came across an interesting article from The Washington Post a couple days later. Apparently fewer than half of the female Marine recruits in boot camp training last year could not meet the minimum requirement of doing three pull-ups. Because of the poor results, there is going to be a delay in changing the physical fitness requirements for women. In the past, women have been required to perform a flexed hang with the chin above the bar for at least 15 seconds.

It was interesting for me to read the article because I had just assumed that more was expected of female Marines. I hadn’t ever really thought about a few pull-ups being so tough, especially for women in such a physical job. The article made me realize that women aren’t usually trained to do pull-ups. The article quotes Stew Smith, a former NAVY Seal and fitness expert, who says, “At an early age, we have been telling young girls that they cannot do regular pull-ups because they will never be as strong as boys.” It’s really very true. Fitness tests back in middle school and high school usually focused on the flexed arm hang for girls rather than pull-ups, and I can’t help but think about those darn “girl” push-ups versus traditional push-ups. It sometimes seems like people are shocked if a girl can do “real” push-ups, pull-ups, or anything else that requires strength because we’re taught that it’s not really expected.

It makes me think about how I got started with strength training. We spent a little bit of time learning about lifting weights in one of my high school gym classes. Being a skinny girl, I liked believing that I was tougher than I looked. I enjoyed the weights segment of the gym class and kept interested in weights from that point on. Rather than just feeling like I was scrawny, I liked the idea of being strong. I always like to push myself to see what my limits are, and lifting weights is just one example of that. When I push myself I can see how I improve, and that improvement motivates me to keep with it.

Even though I enjoy strength training, something in me has always made me kind of shy about it. I’ve always felt like there’s a social stigma against women having muscles because they shouldn’t look like a “dude.” I’m not striving to be a bodybuilder or anything, so I don’t know why I worry about it. Maybe I feel like some men would react in a weird way because it’s just not as common for women. So, despite my enjoyment of lifting weights, I’ve always been pretty quiet about it.

In 2011, I ran my first half marathon in Kalamazoo. I saw that there was a “pump and run” challenge that people could sign up for and it intrigued me. People had to bench a percentage of their body weight based on age and gender. Time would be subtracted from the run time based on the number of reps. Since I like to lift weights, I thought it would be fun to try. I had gotten used to using the chest press machine, but had never actually done the conventional bench press. Matt gladly helped me at the gym as I attempted it the first few times, and I found that it was definitely more challenging than using the machine. I’m glad Matt was so encouraging because I got pretty frustrated. I struggled to balance the bar by itself and wondered how I’d be able to lift it when I added weights. I stuck with it and got the hang of it, and as I trained for the half marathon, I also trained for the pump and run challenge. The challenge occurred at the packet pickup the day before the race, and there was a spot at the expo with a couple of benches and a bunch of Marines helping people and counting reps. I got really nervous and it took a few minutes for me to build up the courage, but I had trained for it and eventually I got brave and went over. The Marines were very encouraging as they counted my reps and it was actually pretty cool. A week or so after the race they finally released the results for the pump and run challenge, and I was excited to see that I had won my age group and got a medal for it! I knew that not many women had even participated so there wasn’t much competition, but it was still cool. Despite my excitement, I was shy about actually talking about it. I happily talked to people about my first half marathon experience, yet I kept quiet about the pump and run.

Pump & Run Challenge medal

Pump & Run Challenge medal

Last week, my work/running buddy Jeff came back from the gym after lunch with info about a max pull-up workout designed to increase the number of pull-ups someone can do. He explained what it involved and I said it looked interesting. This time, I did actually speak up about being able to do pull-ups. He was kind of impressed because he doesn’t know a ton of women who can even do pull-ups. I don’t know why I get embarrassed about that kind of stuff, but I do. He was totally cool about it though when I said I was interested in giving it a shot.

A workout plan for increasing pull-ups (click for more detail)

A workout plan for increasing pull-ups (click for more detail)

Part of the appeal to me is that with training and practice, anyone can do it – men or women. Some women might say they can’t do pull-ups, but that’s because they don’t work on it. I know it’s easier for men, but women can do it too. I probably wouldn’t have been capable of running a marathon when I first started running, but with training and dedication I made that possible. Once again, I was driven by the challenge of seeing what I can do, so I started this pull-up workout last week. I was able to max out at 8 “normal” pull-ups, and I’m curious to see what happens as I stick with the workout. I do some pull-ups fairly regularly, but never more than a couple sets at a time. I was awfully sore the day after I started because I had to do five sets with as many reps as I could. The soreness faded after a couple days though and I’m sticking with it. Jeff wants to see how we both improve over time. It’s more of an individual challenge for myself, but it’s fun that he’s supportive and it helps me realize that I don’t always have to be so embarrassed to talk about strength workouts. Matt is always supportive too, yet that social stigma about women and strength keeps me feeling shy about it in general. It’s not holding me back from doing what I enjoy though, and I’m here to say that the 55% of women Marine recruits who failed the pull-ups requirements ARE capable – they just need to work at it.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

2013 Review

Another year has come to an end and it’s always fun to look back and reflect on everything. This was my fourth year of participating in races and was easily my best yet. It was a year with a lot of firsts for me – I wrote my first blog post, I did my first triathlon, and I ran my first marathon. At the start of the year, I had a couple of goals in mind. I wanted to venture into triathlons and I wanted to take things a step beyond a half marathon by running a 25K. Little did I know that I’d end up aiming for a marathon as well.

The first real goal of the year was to finally try a triathlon. I’d gotten back to swimming near the end of 2012, I’d been biking a little bit, and obviously I had the running thing down. I took things slowly, starting with a short indoor race in March at the Life Time Fitness in Rochester Hills. 10 minutes of swimming in the pool, 30 minutes on a spin bike, and 20 minutes on a treadmill seemed very doable and gave me the courage to give it a shot. It was a lot of fun and I was surprised to find out that I was the female winner! I realized that doing so well in my first attempt was a sure sign that I should really get into triathlons.

A nice award for my first triathlon

A nice award for my first triathlon

I followed that up with three outdoor triathlons this summer. Again, I took things slowly with my first “real” one and did the First Try Triathlon in Linden. It was a great introduction to triathlons and was very beginner-friendly. It was considered a “mini-sprint” distance since it was a little shorter than a typical sprint race. I’m really glad I chose that race for my first real experience.

I finished my first real triathlon!

I finished my first real triathlon!

I did my second tri at Metro Beach and my third in Clarkston. All of the tris were a fun challenge and I really enjoyed them. By the middle of the summer I had started marathon training, so it got tricky to juggle training with triathlons. Trying to do long runs the same weekend as a triathlon was not ideal, so I called it good for my first year of triathlons and vowed that I’d do more in 2014.

Pictures Matt took at the Village Triathlon in Clarkston

Pictures Matt took at the Village Triathlon in Clarkston

On the running side of things, I got a new 5K PR in March then again in June. I managed to hover right above or below 22 minutes in two races, with one race being a little long and the other being a little short. I guess I technically broke 22 minutes, but next year I’ll see if I can do it by a little more to convince myself that I’ve legitimately broken that 22-minute barrier.

May 11th was the big day I really trained for all winter and spring – the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K in Grand Rapids. I had run three half marathons in 2011 and three in 2012, so I felt ready to jump a couple more miles in distance and try racing 15.5 miles. I had a great training segment and it ended up being one of the most successfully-executed races I’d ever run. I took things a bit easy for the first half of the race, then stepped up for the second half. I got faster and faster during that second half, broke my half marathon PR within the race, and felt so strong at the end that I was running at 10K pace for the last couple miles! I was thrilled with how the race had gone.

After the River Bank Run

After the River Bank Run

I couldn’t believe that I felt that strong for 15.5 miles. It really gave me a boost of confidence and led to toying with the idea of a marathon. I had never seriously considered running a marathon because it kind of seemed crazy and torturous to me. I never really had the desire to try a marathon. After dealing with shin splints for so long, I wasn’t sure my body would want to go through that kind of training. However, the 25K went so well…

I started to look into potential fall marathons and Grand Rapids stood out as a good one. It was small, some of the course was the same as the 25K, it was billed as fast and flat, and I’d heard nothing but good things. I kept debating if I really wanted to do it, and at some point I finally broke down and decided to go for it. Being super ambitious, I decided to follow Hal Higdon’s Advanced 1 training plan. Obviously I was not advanced when it came to running a marathon, but the advanced level incorporated the kind of speed and tempo workouts I’d already gotten used to running. I followed the plan pretty closely and training went great. Aside from developing a sore hip a couple months in, everything went as planned. I ran the Romeo 2 Richmond Half Marathon in the heart of marathon training and officially broke my half marathon PR by about two and a half minutes.

When October 20th rolled around, I was ready. The Grand Rapids Marathon was a great choice for a first marathon and I had a great experience. Aside from knee pain for a few miles in the middle of the race and the struggle of getting through the last few miles, the race was great. My ambitious goal was to finish around 3:35, though I really wasn’t expecting to hit that on my first try. Finishing in 3:42 was awesome to me. Although I hurt everywhere when I finished, it wasn’t bad enough to keep me from considering future marathons. I had never seriously considered trying to run a marathon until mid-2013, but once I set my mind to it, I was all-in and I’m thrilled with how it went.

I'm officially a marathoner!

I’m officially a marathoner!

Before starting marathon training, I questioned how my body would hold up to training. Little did I know that it would be AFTER the marathon that I’d have to worry about. When I felt my left knee for a few miles in the middle of the race, it was surely the beginning of this ugly IT band issue I’ve been battling ever since. It’s been a frustrating struggle to get back to running. I’ve taken time off in the past to deal with shin splints, but the pain was never bad enough to shorten my runs. It was always the after-effects that really got me. Dealing with my IT band has been a whole new challenge for me. It’s the first real injury I’ve had that has really prevented me from running. I made six attempts at running in the six weeks following the marathon, and the pain in my knee never allowed me to make it much more than a mile. When the pain hits, it’s not something I can push through – I have to stop.

Several visits to Dr. Erik Barazsu at The Active Fix have helped me improve. I still can’t run as much as I’d like to, but I’m getting there. I’ve been hovering around a 3-mile plateau lately, making it as long as 3.75 miles a couple times. Most of my runs end when my knee hurts bad enough to stop me in my tracks, or when I’m smart enough to stop just before the pain gets that bad. In addition to going through active release treatments, I’ve started to do a bunch of stretches and exercises to work on my hips, glutes, and more. I made it up to 5 miles today and my knee was still okay, so I’m hopeful that things will look up heading into the start of 2014.

So far, I don’t have any races in mind for 2014. I’m going to take things slowly and see how recovery goes before I sign up for anything. If I get back on track, I may consider a spring half marathon. Who knows, maybe even a late fall marathon? In the meantime, I definitely want to aim for more triathlons this coming year. I found out pretty quickly that I’m okay at swimming and the run is my strong point, but I need work on the bike. I didn’t put nearly enough time in on the bike last year and I’m already working on that as this year wraps up. With a new stationary bike in our basement now, I plan on getting in a lot more miles. I’m thinking that I’ll try to do at least one Olympic-distance triathlon.

Here is 2013 in terms of numbers:

- 12 races (3 were triathlons)

- 1351.5 miles of running. August was my biggest month with 210 miles. My biggest weeks were around 56 miles.

- 583.3 miles on the bike

- 45.75 miles of swimming

- 80 times of strength training

2013 was a good year and I’m looking forward to what may come in 2014. Happy New Year everyone!

- Janet

ART Treatment

As I’ve dealt with chronic shin splints for more than a couple years, I’ve probably read about every possible solution. The first solution that finally helped was going to a chiropractor. It was a very slow and gradual improvement, but I finally reached a point where my shins didn’t throb the day after every run. The pain was reduced enough that I felt confident enough to commit to marathon training. I did still have some shin issues during training, but the pain was not as bad as it had been in the past. Still, I wondered if there was a way to completely shake the problem. As I kept searching for a solution, I was always a bit curious about active release techniques (ART). I read that ART can help deal with scar tissue that builds up as a result of overuse, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that was part of my problem. I kept wondering if I should give it a try but didn’t actually pursue it.

Six weeks after running my first marathon, I was pretty frustrated that IT band/knee pain kept me from running more than a mile at a time. Rest was not fixing anything so it was time for me to figure out the next step. I considered physical therapy, going to an orthopedic doctor, etc., but I was still curious about ART. I liked the idea that it is supposed to help loosen tight areas to allow a full range of motion. Typically, ART is practiced by chiropractors, but not the one that I’ve been going to. That meant going through the complicated process of figuring out how to find a doctor. I always hate trying to find a new doctor. Without a recommendation from someone, I feel like I never really know if I’m picking the right person.

As I began my search for someone who practices ART, I spent quite a while trying to find someone close to home. I found that my choices were pretty limited. In a way, that was a good thing since having less people to consider made the decision process easier. Activerelease.com lists nearby providers and I found three doctors within 13-15 miles from home. I read through their websites and debated who might be best. I found myself leaning towards The Active Fix in Berkley because Dr. Eric Baraszu is a runner, has worked with triathletes, and the site mentioned using ART to deal with things like shin splints and knee problems. When Matt and I looked at the Facebook page, we saw that a runner friend had liked them. We asked her opinion and she had great things to say, so at least I finally had a recommendation from someone. I knew that insurance wouldn’t cover it and it was going to be pricey, but I wanted to give it a shot.

I called Dr. Barazsu to get more info and liked what I heard. For one thing, it was nice that I actually got to speak to him. I asked if he likes to have people start out by coming three times a week, which I’ve found to be kind of typical for many chiropractors. He doesn’t push that, which was another bonus. I set up an appointment and went for my first visit on December 4th.

My first ART visit was somewhere between 60-75 minutes, including paperwork, an exam, and my first treatment. The exam involved things like doing squats, balancing on each foot, rotating my body to each side, etc. I laid on the table as we started with the active release, beginning with the easy stuff and saving the painful stuff for later. He’d apply pressure to certain spots and have me do things like stretch my leg out and to the side as far as I could, or start with my leg straight and bend back as far as I could. Some things were difficult because I was stretching more than I was used to and I really felt the burn from the stretch. Other things were difficult because the pressure he applied could get painful in spots. When he applied pressure to my knee, that hurt as expected. My left adductor hurt a bit too. It seemed like as he felt around, he kept finding new spots. I wasn’t even aware that most of the spots were an issue until I felt the pain! I was surprised that my knee wasn’t the most painful spot. He did something where he bent the three smallest toes on my left foot and I was in agony. I am not very educated about all of the muscles, but I believe he told me it was triggering the extensor and peroneus in my lower leg, as seen here (from NY Times):

Lower leg muscles

Lower leg muscles

In a way, I viewed the pain as a good thing. I figured if it hurt, he was probably finding an area that needs work. As I knew going in, although the knee is where I feel pain while running, I probably have a bunch of problem areas. Limited motion in other areas could be causing the knee/IT band problems.

I expected to feel sore the next day and I was a bit, but probably not as much as I expected. A couple spots were a little sore, my knee was tender to the touch, but the psoas was the worst. That’s a muscle I didn’t know anything about before going in. I felt a little bit like I’d been punched in the side and the pain had faded for a day or two. Overall, it really wasn’t bad. He told me to go ahead and run to see how it went.

I ran the day after my first visit and didn’t know what to expect. I was hopeful that I’d see some improvement, but at the same time I was skeptical because I’d only had one treatment session. I got on the treadmill and was thrilled to make it 2.5 miles. That was double what I had done earlier in the week and the longest I’ve been able to go post-marathon. Maybe I’m on the right track by trying ART? I ran a few days later and made it to 2.1 miles. I went for my second ART treatment the next week, and I was really thrilled when I made it to 3.75 miles the following day!

I’ve been in for ART four times now over the last few weeks and I like how it’s been going. The sessions are around half an hour long. I’ve gotten used to “normal” chiropractic adjustments being pretty quick. It seems like there are usually a bunch of people waiting to be adjusted, you see the doctor for maybe five minutes, then you’re done. I understand that adjustments may not take longer than that, but the half hour ART sessions make me feel like I’m getting more for my money at least. Working on the soft tissue takes longer. I like that Dr. Barazsu didn’t pressure me to come in several times a week. I was very overwhelmed when I first went to a chiropractor because I felt like I was being told that I had to come three times a week for several months, it was going to cost a lot, and they wanted a decision and huge payment right then and there. Dr. Baraszu monitors progress as we go, and he hopes to see improvement in three to five visits. I definitely made some progress right from the beginning!

I’ve been using the treadmill because I don’t want to worry about my IT band stiffening up from the cold, uneven footing with snow, and most of all, because I never really know how far I might make it before the pain starts. Typically, when I start to feel my knee, I need to stop within a minute or two because the pain kicks in pretty quickly. I don’t want to be stuck outside half a mile away and have to walk it in. I’m tired of the treadmill but I’m trying to tough it out for now. My last few runs have hovered around three miles or so, always ending with the same pain on the outside of my knee. I’ve been hoping to make it longer, but I’m also thankful that I’m beyond a mile now. I’ve tried keeping it slow and easy, and I’ve tried speeding up to as fast as an 8:00 pace. I don’t think the speed makes any difference in how soon the pain kicks in.

I’m going to continue with ART and I’m hopeful that it will help. In the meantime, 10 miles per week has been my peak mileage lately. It’s not where I want to be, but what can I do? I’m swimming, biking, and doing more strength training at least. I’m curious to see how things go as I continue on with treatment.

- Janet