Cleared for Take-Off: My Return to Running (or some semblance of it)


One of my favorite movies! (source)

One of my favorite movies! (source)

Last week I finally got cleared by my chiropractor to run again after a long 10+ week hiatus. Back in September I signed up for the Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler in Portland, but I made a wise decision not to run it even though I probably “could” have.

Casey, my chiropractor, said that I could run on a flat surface and no more than 3 miles. Well, obviously the 4 mile, very hilly course on Thanksgiving was out. Fine by me! I secretly hate that race anyway; however, I’m the idiot that continues to sign up for it because all my friends run it…

Between the holiday craziness, the icky cold weather, and work I wasn’t able to run until Saturday morning. I put just about every winter layer of running clothes I had on, since the last time I ran was back in September in shorts and a t-shirt. Apparently, I have become a cold weather wuss… I normally have no problem running in rain, snowstorms, hurricanes, and on ice, but now that the temperatures have dropped below freezing my body has decided that it prefers warm weather. I blame hot yoga…

I’m a veteran of returning to running after an injury. You’d think I would be used to the pain and mental mind-f*** of sheer lack of any aerobic fitness that a person has due to running. I brought my dog, Reagan, with me on the run for motivation (okay, maybe I was hoping that she’d just drag me around the trail…). That dog loves to run (and chase birds and chipmunks).



I felt good the first mile. I was running again! Yippee! I wore my Garmin but didn’t really pay attention to pace or time. I knew I would be slow. I just ran by feel. Around the Mile One mark I looked at my watch to check my pace and heart rate. I was going just a hair-below a 10-minute mile. Not bad for a slow, long run pace! Then I looked at my heart rate… 178bpm. No wonder I was sucking wind and felt like dying. I was running damn near my zone 5 heart rate!

Time to slow down a bit before I succeed to keel over from a running-induced heart attack… the “return to running” pain started to set in a bit during mile two. Argh, this process is going to suck. I was starting to get a small twitch in my right knee again. Please no! I was hoping with my running hiatus that my knee/IT-band issues would start to resolve! It was getting better post Ironman as I was focusing on rebuilding my lack of running fitness in August and September. Grr…

The knee was really starting to bother me after my Garmin beeped at the Mile Two mark. I held out until 2.25 miles and then surrendered and finished with a walk home. Why make the problem worst now?

Over all, it felt good to run again. I miss running. It’s going to take a long while to regain my running fitness, since I never really had any all of 2013 due to the knee/IT-band issues that began fairly early in my season. I’m okay with that. My big “A” race in 2014 isn’t until August, so that gives me some time to really ensure my body is healed enough to begin picking up the intensity and volume of training.

I will continue to run a couple times of week now, but my main focus right now thorough the early winter will be rebuilding my bike power. I’m hoping that we’ll get a lot of snow this year in the Greater Portland area so I can do a lot of cross-country skiing in place of running. And stay tuned for more pathetic stories of my return to running. J

~ Happy Training!

Hip Stretches for Athletes

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Stretching is actually a controversial topic in the exercise physiology research world. There are several types of stretching. The two most common are active and passive stretching.

Active stretching – Is accomplished by contracting the antagonist muscle (the one opposite the target muscle you are trying to stretch). For example, to actively stretch the hamstrings, the quadriceps must be contracted.

Passive stretching – Uses gravity or force from another body part or person to move the body segment to its end range or motion or beyond.

The October 2009 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published two different studies on the potential hazards of stretching. The first study showed that muscular force was diminished in those who performed static stretching just before activity. Static stretching can be performed both actively and passively. Actively is much safer than passive. The second study showed that sprint ability may be compromised following static stretching in young male athletes.

Dr. Richard Dominguez, the author of The Complete Book of Sports Medicine and Orthopedic surgeon at Loyola University Medical Center, says the most damaging static stretches to the body are the yoga plow, hurdle’s stretch, toe touching, and stiff leg raise.

However, yoga when performed correctly can greatly improve “whole-body” flexibility. Yoga poses should be performed using a slow, deliberate, and easy motion and not be performed in a hurry. Many athletes tend to perform the poses too fast and hard potentially causing more harm than good.

My chiropractor shared a few really good yoga poses to help me stretch out my tight and problematic hips. So far they seemed to have helped a lot better than the more traditional static stretches that I have been taught in the past. Many runners and triathletes are extremely tight in the hip region and I thought I would share these in hopes that the poses/stretches may help you with any pain that you may have. Enjoy!

Hold each pose for 3 minutes at a time for each side.

1. Child’s Pose – Start in kneeling position and then drop your butt to your heels as you stretch the rest of your body down and forward. Take your knees out wider than “normal” child’s pose.

2. Frog Pose – Start in a table top position. Walk your knees out as wide as possible. Flex your feet pointing the toes outward and bring the inside of your feet to touch the floor. Bring your hips down and backwards.

3. Shoelace Pose – Start in a table top position. Bring right foot under left buttock and left foot over right knee and sit back on foot. If sitting on your feet hurts then try to pick them away from the body as far as possible.

4. Modified Pigeon Pose – Start in a table top position. Bring right leg forward and bend leg in front of you. Right leg should be bent in a 90 degree angle with lower leg against the floor. Lay upper body over front leg.

5. Firelog Pose – Get in a seated position with both legs in front of you. Bend the knees, bring your legs one at a time under you stacking your legs one at a time. In a perfect flexible world, the hips, ankles, and knees of each leg should form a 90 degree angle. Lengthen your spine and lean forward over your legs. If two legs are uncomfortable, then put one leg straight forward as in a reverse modified pigeon pose.

Stay tuned for some hip strengthen exercises this week!


~ Happy Training!

IT-Band Updates


I left off last time stating that I was going to do my first run in over 8 days. It went okay. I made it a mile relatively pain-free and then the pain started in during the second mile. That Saturday I had a client early in the morning and then headed out for my 2 hour ride. I attempted my 15 minute t-run, but made it about a minute before the pain set in and this time it set in with a vengeance. My biotech job and my gym are right across the street from each other so I had purposely brought my keys with me to stop into the lab to grab ice. On my return to the gym both my bosses were in their office looking at each other and then at me. As I approached them, one of them asked the other who was going to spank me. I then succeeded to get a lecture on how I shouldn’t run on an injured knee. Opps! I guess at 26 years old “mom and dad” will still spank me for misbehaving. Yikes!


Later that day I also got a Restore massage at Athlete’s Touch. The massage was focused primarily on my IT-band, Quads, and hip region. The therapist told me that my knee region and hip region were quite inflamed. I could definitely tell that my knee was. It was a bit swollen and sore. I had removed all my KT tape a few days prior because it was irritating my skin and I think it was irritating my knee too.


Anyway, fast forward to this week. I saw my chiropractor on Wednesday and reported back to her my failed attempt at running. She  did some massage and stretching work on my knee region. She’s beginning to think that my IT-band is probably okay. We both agree that it is part of the issue, but the real issue is my quad muscles are overactive and causing all the problems. Of course, the root cause of all my issues is my right hip. Every time I go in to see her my pelvis is always twisted.

The past couple of weeks I have hit the gym hard with some rehab exercises to strengthen my hips. Lots of clam shells, lateral legs raises, mini-band work, and donkey kicks. I’ve started to slowly add in some hamstring curls and wide-stance squats to strengthen my hamstrings and adductors.

I’ve spent a lot of time icing, heating, and also self-grastoning my quads and IT-band. It’s been great fun. My boss asked me the other day why I was “scraping” my quad muscle with Biofreeze and the handle of a butter knife. I love Graston! At least I have the proof to show my chiropractor that I listened to her advice – a few lovely bruises.

Lot's of icing!

Lot’s of icing!

Saturday afternoon the nor’easter rain decided to take an afternoon siesta so I decided to test my knee out. I laced up my new Mizunos and hit the flat, paved trail behind my house. I walked down the giant hill to the trail and then succeeded to run. The first mile wasn’t bad. There was a little soreness, but no sharp pain like previously. I kept going. Soon enough the pain started to ease back into my knee. When it got bad I just walked. When I felt okay again then I jogged. I did this for 3.2 miles. My running was super slow. I’m pretty sure the turtle I saw crossing the trail was moving faster than I was, but I was running. And running relatively with no pain. Now that’s improvement and I will take it.

Yesterday after my 4 hour ride I decided to try out my legs by attempting my 25 minute T-run. I took my time transitioning from bike to run clothes. I started out slow and took short strides. I wore my IT-band strap this time too. Guess what? I actually ran pain-free!! Initially I was just going to try for 10-15 minutes, but I felt good and I continued the full 25 minutes. Granted it was extremely slow, but running pain-free was a blessing. I’m hoping that I am on the tail-end of this injury mishap and I’ll be back into the full swing of training ASAP. I will still continue with my icing, heating, and self-grastoning in hopes that I won’t relapse!

In other news, Ironman Lake Placid is exactly 2 months from today and they got 3 feet of snow this weekend! Seriously, what the heck Mother Nature?!

~ Happy Training!

IT-Band Woes

The IT-Band -

The IT-Band –

I spent the last 8 days swimming, biking, and doing core work. No running. Why? Stupid and annoying knee pain. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had developed knee pain in my right knee making running a very unpleasant chore. I managed to compete in my first tri of the season and actually place well, but not without facing the consequences afterwards. Perhaps I should have DNF? Nah….

After the PolarBear I had a 60 minute endurance run in my training plan for that Wednesday. I was feeling pretty good and really wanted a good run. I haven’t had a good run in a while. The weather was beautiful out and I was pumped. I laced up my shoes, turned on the Garmin and did my dynamic warm-up while my watch was searching for the satellites. I swear my watch takes forever to find the satellites. Then it was off. My house is situated on a hill. Either way I have to ride or run down before I hit any flat-ish pavement. I took the hill easy because I knew it would irritate my quad. The hill went okay. About two minutes into the run the sharp nagging pain returned on the bottom outside of my knee rendering me to my little hobble/jump run gait. It’s quite the sight to see I’m sure.

I stopped, stretched (maybe prayed a little) and then began again. I managed to jog very slowly for 10 minutes but still had that nagging pain. After about a mile I knew I needed to stop. The pain intensified leaving me in tears. I turned around and hobbled/walked myself back home crying. Yes, I fully admit that I cried. After my 18 minute mile home I sat myself down in the chair with an ice pack and my laptop. I succeeded to email my coach (while crying of course) letting her know that I could not run and I had no clue how the heck I was suppose to do an Ironman in 10 weeks! Perhaps I was being a bit dramatic, but I was very frustrated.

Not being able to run while training for an Ironman is not good. Normally I would be the idiot and try to run through all the pain. However, the past couple of years I really have learned the value of rest and listening to my body. My body was telling me to stop running and figure out what the root cause of my knee pain was. Mary quickly replied to me to tell me that I would take a full week off from running and let my knee heal. We would see how it feels the following week and slowly build my miles back up. I still have plenty of time till Lake Placid.

I saw my chiropractor again on Monday and we both agree that my knee pain is being primarily caused by my IT-band. My quad muscles are also suspect in the situation too. Along with that pesky little piriformis muscle that I strongly dislike. We’ve been taping my knee and IT-band with kinesiology tape for the past three weeks. It seems to be helping. I’ve been very religious about icing and rolling out with my foam roller, stick, and lacrosse ball. That has seemed to help a great deal too.

Sweet Taping Job

Sweet Taping Job

I think the most important aspect of healing my IT-band is rest. I’ve done some research online and most sports medicine professionals recommend anywhere from 3-10 days of rest from the problematic activity (i.e. running in my case). I’m lucky that swimming and cycling doesn’t bother my knee and/or quad and IT-Band. Tonight is going to be my first night running again. Just an easy 30 minute run. If the knee bothers me then I will stop and continue to rest again. When dealing with injuries you have to be smart. I’m going to be smart this time. Let it heal and then strengthen it. I’ve been discussing with my boss at the gym the ideal strength/rehabbing plan for my IT-band to ensure going forward I don’t have chronic issues with it. Hopefully I’m on the road to recovery!

Here’s to hoping my run goes well!

Anyone have any advice on treating IT-band issues? What’s your worst sports-related injury?

~ Happy Training!  

Race Report: The PolarBear Sprint Tri


2013 PolarBear Tri (

Going into this race I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, I was about 90% sure I was going to DNF after the bike due to the major knee pain that I have been having. I saw my chiropractor on Thursday and she worked things out a bit and then taped up my knee to help with the patella tracking. I woke up Friday feeling great. After work I did my quick 20 minute bike and then 10 min run. Knee felt pretty good and towards the end a bit sore. I iced and rolled before hitting the sack.

Sweet Taping Job

Sweet Taping Job

Race Morning

Woke up with a stiff knee. Awesome. Ate my breakfast and threw all my stuff into the car for the 1+ hour drive to Brunswick. The race is a pool swim and thus only 32 swimmers could be in a wave at a time. I had to be there and set up in transition but 8:10am, but my swim wave didn’t start till 10am. Lots of sitting around and chatting time. My knee was definitely sore and I was visibly limping to and from my car to get my stuff. Not a good way to start a race morning. I met up with my fellow TriMoxie athletes and also saw some other athletes mingling about all waiting for their respective wave starts.

This was my first PolarBear Tri. It is considered to be the season opener for us Mainers who have to ride our trainers all winter long and swim in the pool until June when the lake water becomes tolerable (with wetsuits of course!). This race tends to bring out the big guns in the sport too so I was excited to see how I would do in a very competitive field. I was not expecting much at all due to my recent knee issue and the fact that my general fitness, and especially my speed, is pretty poor this year. My coach wanted me to race this race and I really wanted to. Of course, this was given to me before the knee became kind of a limiter. I told her before the race that if I felt good then I would race. If my knee was okay then I would just turn it into more of a training day. If the knee was causing a lot of pain then I was going to DNF after the bike. I was completely okay with a potential DNF too. It’s not ideal, but my ultimate goal this year is Lake Placid. A little sprint tri in Maine is not going to derail me from that goal.

The Swim

The swim is a 525-yard pool swim. I didn’t bother to warm-up because I would have just sat around from 90 minutes waiting for my turn. This definitely put me at a bit of disadvantage because I am the type of swimmer that needs a lot of time to warm-up to truly find my groove. I chose a lane in the middle of the pool and luckily ended up having the lane to myself. The whistle went off and I found a comfortable pace and settled in a bit. My intention was to keep track of my laps, but somehow I managed to forget after the first 125 or so. Typical. About what I estimated to be the 300 mark I tried picking up the pace a bit. I felt okay. It wasn’t my best swim, but it was not bad. I tried not to kick too hard because of the knee. I finally got the “last lap” sign and I pushed it to the last wall. I struggled a little bit getting out of the water trying not to somehow tweak my knee getting out. I hit what I thought was the correct button on my Garmin 910XT, but turns out it wasn’t. Opps. From looking at my data afterwards it appears I hit the 525 mark at about 8:42. I then set out on a half jog/ half jumping on one foot to the transition area. My knee was definitely sore, but tolerable. The swim time (I’m pretty sure) includes the run from the pool to the TA so my time is a bit slower due to my inability to “run” like a normal person. I can’t imagine what I looked like when the Capstone Photography person took my picture leaving the building…

Swim: 9:20 (1:47/ 100 yards)

The Bike

Transition went by quickly. I made sure not to dilly-dally around too much. I grabbed my bike and headed out on the long run to the mount/dismount line again with my awkward little attempt at running. I hopped on my bike and headed out on the 11-mile bike course. I hadn’t ridden the course before, but from what I was told that it was pretty flat with a few rollers. I had my Garmin Edge on my bike so I had turned that on in TA. The satellites took forever to find. I checked my watch to see my bike time, but didn’t realize that the watch was still set in swim mode. The course was relatively flat so I kept my power up and pushed it. The course was pretty empty, which was nice. I got passed by one speedy woman on a road bike and tried to keep her in my sight the entire time. I then got passed by some big guys flying on their tri bikes. I let them go since I had absolutely no hope in catching them. There were some upgrades at times so I ended up doing a lot of shifting to keep my power consistent and my cadence in a good range. My Power VI was 1.08, which is pretty damn good for me! 🙂 Even though the course is pretty flat, it has a lot of sharp corners. I’ve always been pretty timid going around corners, especially sharp ones, but I have made a good effort to get over my fears. I did super good today not slamming on my brakes and really riding the corners and then accelerating hard out of them. I’m quite happy with my bike performance. I was second in my age group for the bike split. I missed the top slot by 5 seconds. I probably lost those by trying to go the wrong way into the TA after dismounting. Opps! Knee felt good on the bike so I made the decision to run.

Bike: 36:06 (18.3 mph; 133 watts, 1.08 VI)

The Run

Transition went fairly quickly. I found my rack quickly, hung Azul up and grabbed my running shoes and headed out. The first 300 yards or so were very painful. I thought about just throwing in the towel, but made the decision to keep going. I made it this far and after having a great bike split I knew that I could be on my way to a podium finish in my age group. I just needed to keep my legs moving. The first part of the run was on the baseball field. My legs definitely did not like the long grass. I focused on taking short steps and moving forward. Then it was a quick jaunt on the trails and then onto the road. The further I got the better my knee began to feel so I kept moving. I passed a few people and a couple of people passed me. Finally I came to the first aid station and ran through it. I knew the first mile was almost done. During transition I realized that my watch was messed up so I was able to set it in run mode. Because of the pool swim I had no satellite data. Luckily I knew this would be a problem and put my foot pod on my shoes before the race. I hit mile one around 9:50ish. Not my fastest at all, but I was okay with it. I was running and that was what mattered. A 54-year-old woman cruised by me at this point so I picked up my pace. Funny thing was the faster I seemed to run the better my knee felt. Around the 1.5 mile mark we turned onto dirt trails. There wasn’t many people on the course so it was a bit lonely. I hit the second mile at a 9:11/mile pace so I know I doing better. My goal at this point was to negative split the run and also not get passed by Tammy, a super fast TriMoxie athlete who started about 20 minutes behind me in the pool waves. I knew since she was super fast that she might pass me in the run so I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen. Plus it kept me motivated to keep moving. The third mile was a bit mentally tough. We looped back on the same dirt trail again and I could feel my knee pain again. I just knew I needed to make it to the finish. I passed a 65-year-old man in the final yards of the run. I crossed the finish line and limped my way over to the Med Tent to get ice for my knee.

Run: 28:04 (9:22/mile)

Race Bling

Race Bling

Total: 1:15:44; 3/12 AG; 32/133 W; 111/257 OA

Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth - all taking home hardware after a great race!

Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth – all taking home hardware after a great race!


Overall, I’m pleased with the result. Obviously, I wished my knee would not have been an issue so I could have pushed it more, but it is what it is. I know my speed isn’t there and my general fitness is lacking. However, I had a good first race. My transitions were good. I didn’t stand in TA and play with my watch forever like the Y for the Tri race last year. I went in, did my business and left. I had a great bike split and I did manage to pull off a decent run split. My knee was definitely sore Saturday after the race and I spent a long time icing it. Hopefully, we can get this knee issue figured out so I can start running again without pain. Ironman Lake Placid is in less than 3 months! Yikes!

~ Happy Training!

Second Opinions

After work on Monday I saw my chiropractor for treatment on my hip and also a second opinion on the plantar fasciitis. I’ve been seeing Dr. Casey Ericson of The Wellness Solution for a year now and she treated my first bout of plantar fasciitis last fall. I was really hoping to get in to see her before I went to the podiatrist because I really respect her opinion and much prefer her method of treatment over the conventional treatments for plantar fasciitis. However, she was fully booked until Monday.

I’m super glad that I saw Casey. She gave me a MUCH better prognosis and gave me almost instant relief from some of the pain after her adjustments and Graston work. I swear this woman has magic hands! One thing that I love about Casey is her philosophy about treating the whole person and finding the root cause of the problem. The root cause of my plantar fasciitis is my right hip. The foot doctor, even though he is one of the best in the country, didn’t care about my hip. Casey was glad that I did see the foot doctor before seeing her because I was able to tell her that I had clean x-rays. That ruled out some potential problems there.

She spent a lot of time adjusting my foot, ankle, and hip. She also spent a great deal of time doing some graston work on my calves, Achilles, and foot. I highly suggest the graston technique if you have soft tissue problems and/or major tightness in your muscles! It seriously does wonders! Micheal Phelps swears by it too! 🙂

Here is what the website says about it:

Graston Technique® is an innovative, patented form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization that enables clinicians to effectively break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions. The technique utilizes specially designed stainless steel instruments to specifically detect and effectively treat areas exhibiting soft tissue fibrosis or chronic inflammation.

Here’s a video of what Graston looks like

I have chronically tight calves (like most Americans) and graston has really helped break up the scar tissue and loosen them up for me. My chronically tight calves and my right hip being out of alignment is also probably the root cause of my plantar fasciitis according to Casey. I completely agree with her. After all, the hip, leg, and foot are all connected. If my right hip is out then my gait changes and then I walk/run “funny” on my foot causing potential problems, such as plantar fasciitis. She also thinks I have a mild case of Achilles tendonitiis, which would explain why my Achilles has been so tender and weak lately and why I had almost no strength during my “pull” of my pedal stroke on my ride on Saturday.

She told me that if we loosen everything up by next week (I see her again on Wednesday) then it is not up of the realm of possibility that I could still run my half marathon at the end of the month. I’m not 100% sure that I will. If anything, depending how I feel, I might just run a couple miles of it and DNF. But we’ll see. I don’t want to do anything stupid and really hurt myself more. I’ve been wearing my super sexy night splint boot while I sleep and will wear the custom orthotics, at least for a little bit. But, as Casey pointed out, the doctor molded my feet when they were injured and thus my foot will be “cast” in the wrong position in my shoes. I understand what she is saying. I’m not 100% sure if it will make a difference, but I am certainly not a fan of wearing orthotics.

Don’t you wish you could wear one of these to bed too?

So, I’m very happy that I might be able to run again soon! And hopefully ride my bike again soon too! I’m suppose to ride in the Dempsey Challenge in a few weeks with my bik shop, but I don’t think my Achilles is up to par for a very hilly 100 mile route. In the mean time, I will focus on Operation Six-Pack! 🙂

~ Happy Training!