Friday, March 2, 2012

My First Runner's Massage

It’s official…I’m signed up for the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon, my third marathon in three years! I deferred the race last year after getting into the New York City Marathon. The race was already paid for so they contacted me about re-registering.

Considering I couldn’t run more than a mile without pain, I didn’t see how a marathon could be in my future. Even if I was healthy, did I want to do another one? The marathon involves a lot of time and mentally you have to be totally committed to put yourself through the many miles of training it requires.

Sometimes, though, setting a long-term goal (the marathon is Oct. 28) can be just the motivation you need to push forward. This meant getting treatment for my IT band injury, which had nagged me since my last marathon three months ago. I’m not sure why I had put it off…denial or a fierce independence that I could fix my own problems.

I got my free injury consultation with club sponsor Physiotherapy Associates. They told me I needed to start physical therapy immediately and they recommended going twice a week for 4-6 weeks. My health insurance, however, was going to charge me $50 for every visit. Come up with an extra $400 a month or never run again. I didn’t like either option.

Club members Belinda and Deb said my money would be better spent on seeing a certain massage therapist who deals with sports injuries. Belinda said she had the same injury and has been pain free for two years. Running without pain…dare I hope?

I ran the Freezefest 5K (doing a run/walk with another rehabbing triathlete, Jody) and then headed to my first appointment. Brian, my therapist, was surprised I had never had a massage. I guess I had always thought things like massages and pedicures were extravagances that I didn’t really need. Brian explained that this massage was not for relaxation, but to correct the problem that was causing my injury.

I didn’t know anything about how strong or deep a massage I should get, but I did have the mindset that it should hurt so I knew it was working (Brian said that was wrong too). He told me to tell him if anything was painful.

I felt a little nervous being half-naked in a room with a guy I didn’t know, but for the next hour he worked his magic on my legs and hips. There were a few “tender” spots but afterwards my legs felt so light! My first urge was to go run, but Brian said to go for a walk instead. I needed to adjust to my “new” body. I also found out that the worst thing for me is sitting at a computer all day. Can someone tell my boss that?!

I left the office with a foam roller to use at home. A couple days later I went for a run. I kept waiting for the IT band pain to come, but it never did. I only ran three miles, but it was the first time in months I had run without pain. Could it really be this easy?

Brian had me schedule another appointment for a week later and after that, he said it was up to me. Just going once a month during the season may be all I need to stay on track (as well as my work at home). Stretching, stretching, stretching! I guess keeping my body in running/tri shape was going to require a little more effort on my part. I couldn’t just go out and run. Do I have one more marathon in me? We’ll see….. 

Freezer Run in Iowa

I’ve always been a winter runner, opposed to any type of exercise that involved a treadmill. One of my goals for 2012 was to do a race every month of the year. That meant finding a January race. I was told only hardcore runners do a January race in Iowa.

The race was the Freezer Run 5K in the Amana Colonies. For those not familiar with the Amana Colonies, it’s a group of settlements of German Pietists in Iowa, comprising seven villages. It’s now a tourist attraction with lots of great shops and even a brewery.

I hadn’t run all week due to a bout of flu, but I hoped I had regained enough strength to gut out three miles. Temps were in the 20’s, with a wind chill of 8 degrees that morning. I picked up my race meat bag (Amana has a great meatshop and smokehouse) and downed a coffee for a little morning heat and jolt.

The course was flat, an out-and-back between two villages. I did a nice easy pace, hoping not to awaken the IT band gods that had cursed me since my marathon. I saw a man running in only shorts and shoes. He was quite hairy so maybe that kept him warm. I didn’t get passed by any dogs or baby strollers so the cold must have kept them away.

I had only run 1.75 miles when my IT band began to hurt. I started to wonder if I had really screwed up my body in my marathon two months ago. I tried to do a one-legged jog. I could hear someone coming up behind me. A speed walker went by. Seriously? This is what I’m reduced to?!

It was very depressing. Like the flu earlier that week, my body was failing me. What if this was it? What if I could no longer run? I wondered what I would do if I could no longer be a triathlete or do the things I loved. What would be my identity? Being out here seemed to be the only thing that made me feel alive. I guess I would have plenty of time to contemplate the future. For now I needed to get across that finish line!

I finished and then snacked on coffee cake and cookies (I know, not a proper post-race, but I needed comfort food!). I enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow runners and headed home. I had to accept that my IT band was not going away. I had to make a call to a physical therapist. My body wasn’t invincible and all the toughness and determination in the world was not going to change that. I just hoped 2012 would be the Year of the Comeback. To be continued……