Friday, February 10, 2012

An Ounce of Prevention...

Another February rolls around, and my old friend I.T. Band makes his annual visit.

If you've followed my story (even before the blog started) you'll know that after starting my running journey in August of 2009, I started my first 10K race and in the early stages felt a twinge on my outer knee. I had no idea what it could be, and like many newbie runners...I simply ran through it. (No pain, no gain am I right?). After limping around the weekend, I went to the doctor on Monday to get an education about what an Illiotibial Band was. I wound up on a physical therapist's table for about 4 weeks without running in an effort to build flexibility and strength in my legs.

Less than one year later, and rapidly diminishing use of IT band stretches, my old friend makes an unannounced visit during a 10 mile race in February at mile 6. Instead of ignoring to him, I succumb to him and walk the rest of the way. That's perhaps one of the smartest decisions I ever made, as I believe it did not aggravate it to the point it did in the previous year. I had recently made my own foam roller because I heard it was a good tool to use for all sorts of running ailments.

I can only describe the feeling of using a foam roller for the first time on this with a tight IT Band as blinding, searing, excruciating, make you want to wet your pants and scream for mercy pain. I'm not too much of a man to admit that there were tears. Not Saving Private Ryan tears but tears nonetheless. Somehow I endured this pain long enough to offer some relief to it, and began using the foam roller on a nightly basis for the next several months.

Using the foam roller kept me "healthy" in 2011.

...or so I thought.

You may remember from my Charleston Marathon Recap I mentioned some hip flexor pain. I developed this pain on several of my longer (3 hour plus) runs including my marathons, but never any runs under 18 miles or so, regardless of the pace.

After Charleston I decided that I needed professional help if I was ever going to do another marathon. I want to run one and feel like I was up to the task for all 26 miles. Unfortunately in each of my three previous marathons, I wilted like a flower in the last 10K.

I check in with my old friends over at Proaxis Therapy a couple of weeks ago to help me figure out where the problems lie with my hip-flexors/abductors. My wife has been going to Proaxis for quite some time as she is in an epic battle with the Greek Warrior Achilles. After every visit she told me how awesome her therapist was, so I schedule an appointment with her. I explain my issues to our therapist and she listens intently to my problems. She asks a few questions, asks about my future running goals, then goes to work on me. She stretches here, stretches there...massages a bit... (hey I could get used to this kind of pampering) and then decides on my diagnosis.

Any guesses on what it is?? IT Band? NO...of course not. I'm foam rolling so my IT Bands are great thankyouverymuch. Besides, the problem is on the inside of my thigh, not the outside. Gotta be some kind of hip-flexor type issue. Guess again. Trust me, I have been all over WebMD...I know what I'm talking abo--

Diagnosis: Tight IT Bands.

Seriously? Here is where I get an education on how that the human body works as a SYSTEM and is completely interconnected. Apparently you can't just point at the anatomy of the human body and start working on that part. Go figure.

You know on a car if your wheels are out of alignment your two front tires might be pointed in opposite directions?
Your car will still get you to where you want to go. You might have a vibration, you might not even feel it at low speeds...but eventually you're going to have to pay the piper when the tire guy comes in and says you need a brand new set of radials.

This is where I am. Our working theory is that my IT Bands are tight and have a constant pull outward on my legs. My abductor muscles are trying to compensate for this pull and keeping them in line. This symbiotic relationship works for about 3 hours. At the conclusion of the 3 hours, the abductor muscles say "Screw this noise, we're done for today." They then decide to pack up and leave for the day, leaving me 5-6 miles from the finish line.

And so, for the 3rd consecutive year, I am battling IT nemesis. I should feel good about it though, I seem to be improving on how quickly I identify them as an issue..SCORE! (Mar 10, Feb 11, Jan 12). Let's hope this trend doesn't continue.

Where does that leave me? It leaves me doing familiar stretches from 3 years ago, and exercises that humble me to my core. (Get it? Core? #Fitnesshumor) I'm trying to stand on a Bosu Ball and do squats. Leg lifts while doing a plank. Reverse plank thingys with my feet up on an exercise ball, rolling it under my butt....OH and today I did some of these...
Not an actual picture of Randy Coffee, but close enough.
If anyone ever says or insinuates that running a marathon somehow equates you with being in "great shape"...I think I'm going to punch them right in the mouth. These are some of the most difficult and maddening exercises I have ever done, and it really gives me a sense that I've got to do more than just run if I want to go beyond 20 miles.

I'm learning my lesson kids, and I'm taking my lumps...stretching is important....strengthening your core is important. I can't do it all by running alone.*

So while I may not be very talkative on the blog or on DailyMile, just know that I'm out here still plugging along. I'm going to get better at this, and I am going to FINISH STRONG.

Please tell me I'm not the only runner in the history of marathons to think all I have to do is run...right? Anyone?

*my wife is laughing maniacally..saying "I told you so."


Kesha said...

That was my mantra for the year to run AND strength train/stretch. I learned the hard way last year that my body needs more than just plodding ahead one foot in front of the other. I haven't had the motivation yet to do said things...but I know in order to finish strong and pain-free again, that is exactly what I need to do. I face your same dilemma with tight ITs and for me, no amount of stretching seems to loosen them. It's nice to have a diagnosis and a plan, but man it stinks that there isn't something that can be done in a snap to help! What I've learned is that when I'm at the point of pain, that means I've wound my body up so much over time, and I need to be patient and understand that it's going to take just as long, maybe longer to unwind all of that tension and heal. Look at it this way, now you and Christy can both suffer through the lovely PT exercises! and ps...that one with the feet on the ball and pulling it toward you IS torture! Worse than foam rolling to me!

David H. said...

As I do more and more core and upper body work, the less strain I feel like I'm putting on my lower body. While I'm not losing weight like I want, that effort is paying off. Having 2 ITB injuries in the past, I've done a little bit of everything to get over it. Going to a chiropractor and getting my pelvis aligned was definitely the best solution.

As for the foam roller, someone explained it to me this way when it didn't seem to be the right answer -- it's like picking a scab. You pick and pick and pick and it never gets better. A foam roller can help, but it's not the go-to answer for everyone.

Tiana said...

Hi Randy! I am so sorry to hear about your IT band issues. I can oly Maine your frustrauion, the good news is that you are a great runner so once you whoop your IT bands into shape you will be in GREAT shape for your next marathon. No a surprised that I haven't seen you a Proaxis since that is where I be chillin after my fall. Keep up the core work!

Tiana said...

Wow, auto correct killed that message, sorry! *I can only imagine and *I am surprised that I have not seen you