Sunday, February 24, 2013

ITB Blues.

So the last running related post I did on here was my marathon recap. Nada since then. Nada, unfortunately being a word that can also be applied to the amount of real running I've done since the marathon, in early November.

I can count on two hands the number of times I've ran. Since early November. Three plus months ago.

I haven't wanted to write about it, because it's just a bummer, and also because I've been slightly in denial. But I feel I can share now, because today, for the first time since the marathon I ran more than a mile without any knee pain. In fact I ran three. And I am super, super hopeful that this means I can finally return to my beloved city streets on a regular basis (that sentence also reads like I could be an on-the-mend prostitute, rest assured, I don't mean those kind of streets).

I did what all runners do with any kind of injury. I googled the shit out of it. Although from my own running history I kind of immediately knew what the likely culprit was:

Back when I was in my wee, early days of running, I trained for the Monument Ave 10k and promptly got injured. My sports med doctor called it a hip strain. And it was, kind of. But it was also, as my physical therapist, could quickly see, the symptom of a larger problem, ITBS, or iliotibial band syndrome. I did PT for several weeks, lots of clam shells, lots of stretches and strengtheners. I got a foam roller and learned about its magic. And it got better.

Nearly two years later however, ITBS reared its ugly head. It's an overuse injury, which means it doesn't start out screaming at you. It starts out quiet. I noticed it during my long training runs a month or so out from the marathon. Pain on the outside of my knee. At the time it was relatively dull and I could run through it. I'd be sore around the area for a couple of days, mostly going up and down stairs. But I could push past it. I had my eyes on a shiny marathon medal and a 26.2 sticker, and pesky knee pain wasn't going to stop me.

Plus there was the whole last minute calf strain thing, which pushed any other aches and pains out of my mind. And then there was the marathon. I'll just quote myself to describe how my knees were doing at around mile 20.

"The walk/run strategy was okay other than the first 30 seconds of starting to run again. Every time I did that I had to brace myself and hold my breath for just excruciating pain as my running muscles started up. Both of my knees felt like they had shards of glass in them and the transition from walking to running made those shards of glass really, really pissed off."

Oh yes. That. A normal person would, I don't know, stop doing an activity if said activity made it feel like there were shards of glass grinding around inside their knee. But this was on marathon day, so clearly I was not in any way a normal person. I put it to the back of my mind. I remember it very distinctly, how my knee felt every time I started to run. I think I knew then, what it was costing me, that I was doing something very bad to my body. But of course I kept going. I had to. Even now, knowing what I know, I wouldn't have stopped. I would have been just as much of an idiot, because when you run a marathon you have to stop being smart and start being stupid. Stupid during a marathon is the language of your heart. Brave, heroic, but incredibly stupid.

I tried to run about a week after the marathon, and honestly I don't remember that run being all that bad. Maybe because my body was such a wreck that there were too many aches and pain to differentiate from, but it wasn't until the next run that I knew something was wrong. I went out for a run, and right around the mile one mark, the side of my right knee started hurting. Within a few minutes it went from dull pain that you can run through to sharp, bold pain that demands stopping. I could even feel a tender to the touch spot on the side of the knee when I went to examine it.

And that is the story of the next handful of runs I attempted. I would wait a week or two, think it was "better", and then try to run. I would get a moment of hope at the beginning of the run when I was pain free, but like clockwork, ten minutes or so in, the knee would start to hurt, really hurt. I would walk/run for a few more minutes, until even that was too much. And then I would end up walking home, defeated. After all of these runs I'd have pain in the knee for the next couple of days whenever I went up and down stairs or if I kept my knee in one position too long.

I increased the time between my runs, hoping that might help. The longest I went was three weeks. Three weeks. Without any running. It broke my heart, but the worst part is that the time didn't seem to help at all in recovery.

Which brings me to the googling portion of this story. And the asking for advice portion. All of which led me to the same conclusion. ITBS. My case was textbook. I read dozens of similar stories from other runners, all of them frustrated by the same thing, but the inability to run. Some scared the crap out of me, with tales of not being able to run for six months to a year. Others gave me false hope by promising that one simple stretch would completely fix the problem.

I knew what I needed, physical therapy. PT has helped me through two running injuries now, and both times the staff at Physical Therapy Solutions have been miracle workers. It's such a holistic approach, with so many different angles, from stretches to strengthening to massage to ultrasound therapy. The only problem is that I'm a student and have crap insurance, and physical therapy would have to come out of my pocket.

But then, in a moment of clarity, I realized that yes, physical therapy, would be ideal. But I've already done the PT thing for ITBS when it was manifesting in my hip. I can't give myself ultrasound treatment or TENS, but I have the tools for almost everything else. I know by now what works, what needs to be done, and so why was I sitting on my butt, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for my knee to get better? Why wasn't I being proactive and doing things to achieve that?

So a couple of weeks ago I started. I have thrown everything including the kitchen sink at it, including:
   -daily Advil (trust me, I am a nursing student, and know NSAIDS should only be used for a short     term approach)
-strengthening exercises like my old friend, the clamshell
   Dramatic reenactment: I do not look this happy when I'm doing it
-I've been using my stick roller massage thingy (that is its technical name). One thing PT taught me is that massage for rehab should not be relaxing and pleasant. It should hurt like hell. I cannot imagine the amount of scar tissue and adhesions that have built up around my IT band since training. And I can feel them when I roll over them, because it does not feel like that when I roll over muscles elsewhere in my body. In this case, pain is a good thing.

-I've been using ice (probably not as much as I should because I forget)

-I've been using homeopathic gel with arnica (yes seriously). A lovely friend from nursing school gave me some Traumeel before the marathon when I had my calf strain, and I swear that stuff made a difference. So I thought, why not try it again? It's all-natural and it's not harmful. I may not be a homeopathic buff or even really believe in it for a lot of things, but for inflammation and sports injuries it makes sense to use plant based remedies that people have been using in that fashion for centuries. Plus when I apply it I have to massage those muscles again, which is also good.

-Finally and last but not least, I have been stretching like crazy. My eye doctor of all people, recommended a stretch using a counter top. You can see a demo of it in this very low budget Youtube video

I really like stretches that make you suffer a little, because then it feels like you're actually challenging your muscles. This one is killer. I can feel it all the way from my butt to my knee. I know some people say that the ITB cannot be stretched because it's mostly fascia, and okay, fine, that sounds scientific and true. But whatever this stretch stretches, I feel it right along where my IT band runs.

And that's the whole kaboodle. I was literally at the point where I would try anything, so I tried almost everything.

I cannot say if one of those things worked. If so I could never say which one. Maybe it was the combination. Maybe it was none of them and my IT band just randomly decided to stop being a jerk. For whatever reason, something changed, because today I ran three miles with zero knee pain. Not a twinge. And it makes me so happy, because God I've missed it. It was sunny and beautiful out today, and I can't tell you how much I've needed. The gym five days a week is bleak. I never realized how much I needed running not just for the mental and physical exercises, but for the very basic fact that it gets me outside, where there is sunshine and not just fluorescent school or hospital lighting. 

I don't want to get too excited, because I know this injury may very well not be over. ITBS isn't like a strain that just heals. It tends to stick around and rear up at inopportune times. I'm not going to over do it and jump back into running too fast. My post marathon idea of running a spring half marathon is pretty much out the window.

But I am cautiously optimistic. And I am humbled. I knew going into the marathon that it wouldn't be free. 26.2 miles can't possibly be. I was prepared for a cost, but I didn't know it was going to be three months without running, three months without gorgeous Sunday afternoons, without my city streets racing past, without fresh air in my lungs. I paid dearly for the marathon. And I just hope that it's done now. That I've paid my dues and I can get back to running.

Because I love it. Because my life isn't the same without it. Because today, running three miles felt like coming home. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

3 things for Tuesday night.

1. One word. Buttermilk.

Okay maybe I need a few more words. One of my favorite foods to make are oven baked chicken nuggets (because they are the closest I can get to my beloved McD's nuggets without sacrificing my health and dignity-although when I am sick and/or hungover, screw my dignity, give me some nuggets and spicy honey mustard). In the past I've stuck to a simple recipe, chop up chicken breasts, dip them in olive oil then Panko bread crumbs, then bake at high temps to get nice and brown.

I stumbled on this recipe from one of my favorite food blogs How Sweet Eats. I didn't make this recipe exactly but I stole a few ideas. #1: soaking the raw chicken in buttermilk for a few hours in the fridge (how could I have never done this before?!) #2 using a wire rack on top of the baking sheet #3 spraying cooking spray on the nuggets and #4 using some whole wheat flour along with my panko.

I neglected to take a picture because I was too busy stuffing the nuggets into my face without stopping to chew/breathe. But, they were awesome. The meat was much more tender and juicy than without the buttermilk and the whole wheat flour gave them a much more traditional nugget crunch than just the bread crumbs. So, so, so good.

2. My Clarisonic Mia has changed my face's life.

I have incredibly weird skin in the sense that on my cheeks and forehead it's pretty nice and smooth. I may have even received random stranger comments on occasion. But, and here's a big but, I have had T zone problems since I was 12. I've managed to keep it more or less under control but only by using an Acne specific 3 step system (Clinique for the last 6 years or so) every morning and night (it takes me like 30 minutes to get ready for bed, there are so many nights when I stay up late just because I am too tired to get ready for bed). I wash my face religiously. I never don't. And only by doing that have I kept relatively pimple free in recent years. But my skin is still oily in my T zone. I have huge pores around my nose. Blackheads (have I over-shared too much yet?). Far too many stress induced breakouts since going back to school.

But then. The skies parted. The sun came out. I finally ponied up the dough to buy a Clarisonic brush. I've had it for almost two weeks, and I can already not imagine life without it. I know that sounds silly. But if you have problem skin try one of these out. I know they are a little pricey. But I can guarantee it's worth it. My skin looks different already, but the biggest change is what it feels like, so smooth, and everywhere on my face now, not just my cheeks. I wash my face and all I want to do after is touch my face (which I know is not the best way to keep it all nice and clean so I resist the urge). I swear my pores have shrunken.

I'm sure I will still get the occasional stress breakout. But I really do feel like this has drastically changed my skin. And no I am not getting paid by Clarisonic. But I just had to share, because I'm sure there are many out there like me, adults who are sick and tired of that monthly break out and not wanting to not feel like Kelly Kapowski in that one episode of Saved by the Bell where Zac sells her defective acne cream to treat her giant, Rudolph nose pimple.

3) Last dodgeball game tonight. 

Also, on a related note I'm playing on a social dodgeball league! I'm finally fulfilling my mom's wishes, who before I started dating my boyfriend made a habit of every few months saying something along the lines of "why don't you join one of those social sports leagues? It's a great way to meet single young people." Much to my boyfriend's relief, I am not playing to meet young singles. I signed up with a bunch of my nursing school buddies as a way to force ourself to still have moments of fun in our lives during the semester. And much to my PE hating former self (I literally hid in the bathroom, that or faked a headache, or if I really wanted to get out of it, lady cramps), I have had a great time dodging balls. And that is pretty much all I do. Apparently throwing a dodge ball with enough force to get someone out requires arm strength that I do not, nor ever will, have. I can run 26 miles. I can not throw a ball with even a remote amount of force. 

But that's okay. We have lost almost every game (except for two come from-behind, last minute....ties). And it has still been good, silly fun. Especially because our team isn't big fat cheaters like almost every one else who plays. 

We may be 4th from last place in the league, but we've left it with our dignity. Plus beer vouches. And t-shirts!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A really good weekend.

On Thursday I saw this,

Mumford and Sons. Live. In person. With my eyeballs. And my ears. And my mind grapes. Rob and I went up to Fairfax for Valentine's Day, and I am no mushy Valentine's person but this, this was perfect. Champagne + a quick cheeseburger and fries at the hotel bar + a ginormous beer at the concert + a concert tee (oh how I love my concert tees) + the gentleman also known as Mumford and Sons. They have fast become one of my favorite bands in the last couple of years, and that status only increased after seeing them live. One of the rare bands that is incredible on a CD and better live. Just this giant, British ball of energy and talent and suspenders and white button up shirts. One of the best concerts I've been to without question.

Saturday we hung out in DC.

Walked from sister's neighborhood Cleveland Park to a really cool place in Dupont for lunch, a modern take on a Jewish deli called DGS Delicatessen.

Had knish and a white fish salad bagel. Never eaten either of those two things before. The verdict=yummmmm (and kosher to boot!)

After lunch we spent the next few hours with my sister, niece, and baby nephew at my favorite place in DC. The zoo (yes I am a child). When I was briefly my niece's nanny back when she was a teeny baby (get misty just thinking about it), I took her to the zoo in her sling almost every day. Being outside in the sling was one of the few times when she wouldn't scream. We would wander around for content hours, her bundled in the sling, me with a large Starbucks coffee. I would happily look at all the animals. She would inevitably fall asleep. I would point out the baby gorilla. She would keep sleeping. It was a good arrangement. And I will always have lovely memories of our walks there.

Friday was a gorgeous day, so we spent a couple of hours there (the DC zoo is so huge and fun you could easily spend 12 hours and not see everything). Lemma pointed out all "her" animals (she lives almost next door so it's basically her backyard and the animals are her pets). We saw the giant pandas munching on bamboo. We went to the invertebrate house, because Lemma loves the anemones (doesn't sound very exciting, but octupuses and jellyfish are surprisingly cool). We watched the big cats (my second favorite animals there after the gorillas) for a while. We walked up the North American trail and saw all the perky, active animals (must have been the nice weather break) like wolves and beavers and seals. It was a good way to spend a nice afternoon in DC.

After a Two Amy's (some of my favorite pizza) dinner at my sister and brother-in-law's apartment we headed back to Richmond. The rest of the weekend was spent studying and doing school work, but Thursday and Friday were a perfect little mini-weekend, and the stress relief I desperately needed.

Because school is crazy this semester. Crazy and cool (I saw a baby get birthed y'all, more on that later). Which is why I am writing so sporadically. But am going to try to do better. Pinky swear. Hope you all had equally lovely Valentine's Days and weekends.
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