Friday, September 20, 2013

The Problem Is That I DO Run Like A Duck.

I haven't posted in a couple of weeks.  It's not that I haven't had anything interesting to say, it's that I have one big question in my brain and I couldn't quite put a post together.

When teaching kids about equine conformation, we tend to show them a right and wrong image.  The "right" horse will have every detail perfect and the "wrong" horse will display all of the common faults in one animal.  Of course, no horse has all the faults and no horse is completely perfect.

This is the guy that ends up hanging by his underwear from a flagpole.

This equine Angelina Jolie probably refuses to share a table
in the lunchroom with the chap above.

If I were to diagram the different injuries I have had since I began running four years ago (three years for triathlon), I would look a lot like horse number one.  If I sit down and think about it, it get pretty frustrating.  I am getting to where it doesn't matter what ailment Runner's World decides to cover this month, I've had it.  The most difficult part is the lost time.  In the last three years, I have spent 15 months sidelined by running injuries and another 6 running with an injury limiter.  I have hovered at the same weight (gaining and losing the same 10 lbs over and over and never getting to the next 15) and level of fitness, unable to string together the time necessary to break through that threshold.

With each new round, there has been an effort made to correct mistakes.  I have changed my shoes, changed my cadence, changed my conditioning program.  This has spanned four different coaches, a multitude of training philosophies, nearly every type of nutrition program known to man, Chiropractors/ART/Massage Therapists/Acupuncturists/Orthopedists/General Practitioners, in three different states and countless cities, leading to an overhaul of my general health.  In many respects, I am healthier than I have ever been... but I can't run without pain.  At this point, I have the best brain I know coaching me and a really top notch support team but I still can't string together more than 6 months of light run training.

In spite of myself, I have gotten faster.  I have not been able to build up any substantial endurance though as that requires me to be able to run more than 20 mins at a stretch and for more than 6 months at a time.  And many of these injuries don't just impact my run.  They interfere with time on the bike and in the water.  They keep me from doing other things that I love like hiking.  They cause me enough pain to impact my job.

When I don't do what I love, I'm not the only one losing out.

After this latest injury, a mystery niggle that appeared right as I stepped back to get my breathing issues under control and has turned into months of downtime, I went back to the drawing board again.  I went to a sports medicine center in Dallas (I was in the area for work) and had a functional movement analysis done.  This is where you do a bunch of odd movements designed to reveal weaknesses and imbalances and then they videotape you running so that you can be horrified by your butt jiggle see what you are doing when you run.

I supinate, even with a forefoot/midfoot landing.  I have some weaknesses in my hips.  Mild in the left and pronounced in the right (but then, the right hip has been injured for a while so that is not all that surprising).  I rotate through my stride and cross behind in the recovery phase.  None of this is surprising.  My legs are crooked to the casual observer. But none of the gait issues by themselves should really result in the ongoing parade of injuries, unless you happen to be hypermobile.
There is plenty that can be done to improve my run form.
I just worry it won't make a difference.

I land and take off rolled to the outside.
I realized last year that I never put any weight on my big toe,
which apparently is a problem.
The wear on my shoes confirms this.

I didn't know a thing about this until my primary chiropractor/ART doc (Dr. Z) kept using the term.  Apparently, it is not normal (though it is hereditary- my sister is the same way) to be able to do the splits at 40 with no flexibility training.  Apparently, you are not supposed to be able to bend your knees backwards.  (Yeah, yuck.  Go ahead and say it.)  I have tightened up over the years but not in an all-over-strength-and-stability-way but in a spasmed-overloaded-by-too-much-movement kind of way.

And then there is the job.  Dr. Z pointed out that my tipping point for injury isn't my training load.  It's my training load PLUS my job.  All those hours standing on a ladder twisting at the waist with my knees lock out and back across a ladder rung... yeah, not helping.

I don't know where all this is going.  I don't know if I am going to be able to keep training the run or not... or even if I want to.  It's been one heartbreaking setback after another.  I have NEVER made my goal race.  I have never done more than two tris in a season.  I have never gotten through a season without losing most of my progress to a layoff.

I enjoy running and I LOVE triathlons but right now I am questioning whether or not I want to be on this path.  Shoulder pain has left my ability to swim in ruins and the run... oh, the run... well, let's just say I am a one trick pony.  The only part of all this that I can do effectively is cycling.  I also know that I have become so protective of my body that I no longer do many things that I really love for fear of an injury.  I don't hike or trail run, kayak, SUP, or try new things any more.  I also don't race very much.  I certainly don't try adventure races or anything else that involves unusual movement.  And I certainly don't want to drag myself back from another injury only to lose another year to the next one.

And about that shoulder injury.  Swimming used to be a happy place for me.  Now it hurts.  ALL. THE. TIME.  I have watched my paces for 100 yd speed efforts gain (not lose, GAIN) roughly 45-50 seconds over the last two years.  I can no longer breathe bilaterally, something I have done since I was 6 years old.  I my form has degraded and I literally swim half lying on my side, taking a much deeper stroke with the good arm since I don't get much forward motion out of the other.  I worry it's only a matter of time before the shoulder that is doing most of the work, decides to go on strike.

Even running is not the experience I wish it could be.  I never get to just be in the moment.  During a run, I am very dialed in to how my feet are hitting the ground because it is so easy to put a foot wrong and roll an ankle.  I have done it too many times.  The doc doing the movement analysis said that at points during the test, she worried I could break my ankles.  I know I sometimes land that supinated but I was landing pretty straight (for me) in the video.  I was in brand new shoes which helps tremendously.  I get about 50-60 miles out of a pair of shoes before I start to break down the outer edges and really rock to the outside.  The more cushion, the worse this gets.  I had a month old pair of shoes I retired this summer that didn't even sit flat on the ground when I wasn't wearing them.  

Even Dr. Z came right out and told me I needed to consider life as a bike racer.  My friends tell me I need to consider a switch.  I have many times wanted to make the switch.  I do love triathlon but that doesn't mean I would love something else.

At the beginning of this year, I made a decision to give it another try.  I resolved not to run through pain (I didn't) and move forward with consistency being the primary objective.  I took care of myself, didn't overdo my workouts (much), didn't dig holes.  Brian was all over every little detail.  I cut back how much I worked.  I scheduled breaks.  I think I also believed, really believed, that I would make it through this time.  I broke anyways.

Maybe next time is the charm.  Maybe I am just delusional.  I am moving forward right now but with no real belief that this time will be different and no real passion or fire.

I can't offer a really good reason why I am still in this fight.

But I am.

And I don't know the answer.

And I don't know what to do.


  1. Argh. I always get annoyed when I see people running with HORRIBLE form (winging, toeing in, etc in horse terms) and I wonder "why are they not injured" I also feel like I've been racing with an injury setback all year and though not major, it sucks. You can get through it, maybe just needs a detour for a bit. Decisions you make now are not locked in for life, right? Do what is right for right now.

    1. I know. It makes total sense to race the bike for a while and maybe return to tri down the road. I just seem unable to let go. I only started riding as a part of tri training and the idea of shifting tracks feels too much like giving up. Intellectually, I realize that nothing would prevent a return to tri later on. In fact, the AG format means that I can pursue challenging competition goals much later in life than is possible in cycling. It makes sense to pursue that now and tri later... but it is creating some awful cognitive dissonance!!

      I really need to make a decision and apply myself. I think that majority of the angst is coming from feeling directionless.