Friday, March 31, 2017

It's Still Personal (Yeah, Boston, I'm Coming For You)

  Those of you that read my last post know the warfare that I announced against my hammies.  Wanted to follow up to let all know how the battle is going and also just to voice my attack again in case my hamstrings missed it the first time.  Yeah, hammies, it's still personal.

  I continue to employ all of my tactics that I talked about last time, easy training, yoga, stretching, strengthening, Trigger Point therapy, visits with Dr. Houssain, playing with my dogs; you know everything I can think of.  It all continues to progress nicely.  I still have minor pain and some achiness now and then, but for the most part, my training continues.  More on that later....

  One thing I mentioned last time is how the last 9 months fighting my legs has introduced me to something that I have been wanting to try for a long time - yoga.  Yoga continues to bring me more joy than it probably should!  I am to the point that even if my legs are not hurting but I am feeling a little tired or a little anxious or a little stressed, I do a quick 10-15 minute sequence.  It amazes me how refreshed it makes me feel after a short 10 minutes on the mat.  It is becoming ingrained in my life.   I truly regret not finding the time for yoga earlier in my life.

  One new development has been that our Y has recently started BOGA classes - you know, essentially yoga on a floating board (think SUP).  My wife and a good friend of ours wanted to try it so we signed up for a 4 week class.  I could not make the first Friday's session due to my soccer announcing obligations, but did make it the past two weeks.  Oh my!  So hard, but so fun!  I now know that I have many more muscles than I thought because I had muscles making themselves known that I had never felt before.  Amazingly, the first week I went, I didn't fall off once - well, until at the end when we were practicing tree pose.  Yeah, I can barely do that on solid ground, let alone on a floating paddle board.  My tree pose practice consisted of trying to lift the one leg, followed by awkward moments of trying to catch my balance without falling off, then followed by my splashing into the pool.  I definitely see BOGA evenings with my wife more often.  The last class of the series is tonight and I am not going to be able to go, again, due to soccer announcing, and I am going to truly miss it.  If you have not tried a BOGA session yet, find one close to you and go.  You won't regret it.

 Now back to my training that I promised.  As you might recall, my 5th Boston has been on my radar, but my hamstrings just weren't cooperating.  Up until last weekend, I was pretty sure that it was not in the cards to go.  I was really bummed and I felt like I was letting down my family as they have been looking forward to going back to Boston for a while now.  It was really them that talked me into going again this year.  I was also bummed because I was not going to get to meet up with some of my Nuun HQ friends at Boston.  Oh, and yes, I was bummed about not getting to run Boston again.

  I kept putting off the final decision for as long as I could.  I had told my family that we likely would not be going.  I ran a local 10 miler a couple weeks ago just to see what it would do.  My plan was to run it "gently" and then try to add in 5 immediately afterwards to get 15 and see how my hamstrings felt.  During the race, which truly was a training run with a bunch of other friends for me, I had to really watch my pace and back off when my hamstrings would start to bring up that they were there.  I got the 15 in but it gave me no real confidence that I would be able to make 26 miles without a complete meltdown.  I pushed the decision off another week (agonizing the whole time) with my plan being to run an 18 miler the next weekend.  That next weekend came quickly and I set out on my long run.  I felt great until about mile 8.  From then until mile 14, it was a game of running until my hamstring started barking and then backing down for a while until it stopped.  Each time it barked, it barked a little louder and slightly longer.  Truly on the verge of tears during one of the worst episodes, when I had convinced myself that I needed to take a right turn off the greenway and head for home, I internally cursed at my hamstrings.  Yes, being honest here about being close to crying and about the cursing.  It is humbling when one realizes how much being able to freely run without injury means to one's self.  As I came up on the sidewalk where the turn for home would occur, and where my trip to Boston would officially cease to be, I had a weird sensation in my leg.  Weird in that the soreness and achiness immediately disappeared.  I can't explain the feeling exactly.  I do know that it was different.  So, instead of taking the turn, I convinced myself to keep going to see what might happen.  From that point, which was around mile 14, until I finished my run, I had zero soreness.  I ended up not only making the 18 miles, but I felt so good and so free that I tacked on 2 more miles to get me to 20, with the last 4 miles around 7:00 pace!  This long run, especially the last 6 miles, will stick in my mind for a long time.  By the end, I was again on the verge of tears (for anyone that saw me, it was the wind making my eyes water, I promise ;-), but this time from pure joy.

  Now, I didn't immediately make a Boston decision after this long run because I wanted to see how my hamstring responded over the next couple of days.  I would be lying if I said it has been fine and dandy since.  It has not.  It is more achy than it had been.  I have backed down on mileage, not that it has been real great for the last 9 months, and have been taking extra care with my legs.  However, based on my hamstrings' response, my confidence in going to Boston has gone from about 2% chance up to 98% chance at this point!  At this point, as long as a complete seizure doesn't occur in my hamstring, I think I can make it 26.2 miles and get to once again enjoy the pleasure of seeing the Boston finish line for a fifth time.  I have some options if I need to drop out, but I am sure hoping I do not have to use them.  We are going to Boston!!!  It will likely be my slowest marathon to date, if I am able to finish, but I really don't care.  I just want to toe that starting line and see the finish line pass beneath my feet.  If I can do that, I will be ecstatic.  That will be my victory at this point.  And, yes, there will be tears, just telling you now.

  How are your own personal struggles going?  Sticking with your warfare?  Having to adjust your tactics any?  Finding things you didn't know you would love so much?  Trying new things?

  Keep it up, no matter what your struggles are.  Don't let your struggles define you or stop you from fighting.  Toe that starting line with the plan being to cross that finish line.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

This Time It's Personal

As some may know from my past posts or rants on social media, my hamstrings have been giving me fits and starts for some time now.  I have, in the past, taken time off, gotten PT, and have done exercises given to me from my Doc, but I have never kept them up once healed, which is probably the exact reason why I have never fully healed.  I have gotten better to the point where I could race and run a marathon, but somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew I wasn't getting myself fully healed.  Thus, since the end of June 2016, one or both of my hamstrings have kept me sidelined.  Yep, you read that correctly, it's been 8 months; no serious training, no races, just soreness.

I have not been pleased with my hammies for some time now.

About a month ago, I had a mind shift.  I am not young like I used to be, and there are no quick recoveries anymore.  There likely are not going to be any more PRs in my future either.  I cannot stick with the status quo of training and injury recovery anymore.  So hammies, this time it's personal.

I have, for a long time now, thought that I should be doing more to increase my flexibility, upper body strength, and core strength.  Yoga always interested me because it would address all of these items if I gave it the time.  But the problem was I never gave it the time.  I have told myself that I should buy a trainer and ride more.  But the problem was I never followed through.  I gave up whenever I would tell myself to start doing either of these things.  I made excuses about not having time, when really, I had plenty.

So, part of my mind shift and attack on my hammies has been introducing yoga and core strengthening exercises as well as cycling on my trainer on days I don't run.  I have been doing these consistently over the past month.  Given I am still not back to running every day, I have been performing yoga in the early hours (usually with my two yoga buds Amy and Lacy).  I have been cycling after work on the days I don't run.  I have been doing my exercises and yoga in the evenings while watching hockey.  I have been paying more attention to keeping my pace slower when running even if my legs are not achy or sore because I know they are still healing.

My Yoga Buds

It is working.  My sly assault on my hamstrings appears to be paying off.  They are less achy and sore every day.  I am able to do yoga positions deeper than when I started.  My Doc, Dr. Houssain, recently made the comment that he was able to stretch my hamstrings farther than he has ever been able to since I have known him.  Mind you, those that are truly flexible would laugh at my tightness, but to me, there is a definite change.

My Assault Weapons

More importantly, by making exercises and yoga a priority, I am finding that I enjoy my time on the mat.  I look forward to it.  I find that my yoga sessions are getting longer and I am trying new positions that I would never have considered a month ago.  I bought a mat for at home and for at work.  I find it relaxing just rolling out my mat, knowing what is coming.  I grin slyly at my hamstrings because they have discovered that, indeed, this time it's personal, and they are scared because they know they are under attack from all angles.

Are you injured?  Are you looking for something to help with flexibility or core and upper body strengthening?  Are you tired of a particular part of your body hurting?  Then have a mind shift and find something that you have been wanting to do but keep making excuses that prevent you from doing it.  Attack whatever is holding you back.

Make it personal.