Thursday, January 14, 2010

Born to Run

I am currently listening to Born to Run on audio and I am really enjoying the stories of these ultra runners. Like others, it has reminded me how much I love to run. I think now more than ever, after a forced hiatus from running, I realize how much I enjoy running.

Like the author of Born to Run, I am frustrated by an injury and even more frustrated by the conflicting advice that is currently saturating the running community. Newtons and the Barefoot phenomenon vs more supportive shoes is just one example.

I have not finished the book but my husband and others have, so I know generally how the author feels about stretching, cushioned running shoes, podiatrist, orthotics, etc -- and spoiler alert -- he thinks they are crap.

I am currently running in a light weight fairly neutral shoe. I have been wearing this exact shoe and style for over a year, but in that time, I have gone through 3 pairs and until mid-November I was totally injury free. In fact, I have run for exercise for as long as I can remember and have never had a running injury.

I know a lot of people who swear by stretching and orthotics and others who think they cause more harm than good.

So what gives? Is there a right answer? My guess is that it depends on the person, so I need to figure out what I need. Has something changed in how I run and what is the best way to be entirely injury free again? I am working on getting these questions answered.

After 3 weeks of rest from running and 6 weeks of PT, I have had three runs back. My first run, a 4 miler, went off without a hitch and I had no pain during or after. My PT encouraged me to increase my distance to see how I felt, so on Tuesday I ran 7 miles with no pain during the run, but I felt the Piriformis Syndrome for the rest of the day. It is not extremely painful, but, it is literally, a pain in the butt! It also makes my leg tingle. I had no pain on Wednesday though, so I tried again this morning and I will see how I feel the rest of the day. I had no acute pain during today's run.

I have an appointment on Monday with a new podiatrist that treats a lot of local triathletes and runners. I will be interested in what he has to say. I still have some pain in my left foot in the anterior tibial tendon, so I will ask him about that too.

So, the bottom line for me is that neither of my injuries bothered me while I was not running, but came back, at least to some degree, when I started running again. I know there is a formula to get back to the point where I could run forever without any pain, during or after, and I just need to figure out what it is.

The good news is that the fire pain I felt in my calves on my two runs immediately before I took my 3 week break has not returned. That was the main driver on taking the time off. At the time the PT thought I may have been overcompensating from the Piriformis Syndrome, but I think it likely had more to do with the hills and speed work I did the weekend prior. The PS in my right hip and the tendonitis in my left foot don't hurt (much) while I am running, so I am confident that I can simultaneously work on correcting these issues while keeping my April races on track. A bike focused program is usually beneficial to triathletes, right?

So, for now, I am gathering opinions on the best course forward. My last PT appointment is tomorrow so I will see what they have to say. Then there is the podiatrist appointment, and I am also looking for someone to look at my running form. I would love to hear what you all think.

Do I hang up my running shoes for a while longer? Note: I don't think this is the answer :)

Do I try custom orthotics?

Do I work on my running form?

Do I do nothing and see if I leave it alone - no PT to aggravate it, whether it gets better on its own?

Recommendations on who to visit for a second / third / fourth opinion?

Something else?

I do agree with the author on one thing for certain -- we are born to run and running should be generally pain free. I WILL find a way to get there again!


jessithompson said...

My husband is currently reading the book and really into it... I agree that you have to find out what works for you.

If you haven't tried this yet, you may consider going to a chiropractor and having them look at your SI joint. It is a SUPER common problem for triathletes. Because your SI joint is in your pelvis, the problems radiate and manifest as butt issues, PS, knee problems, ankle problems... because all of that motion stems from the pelvis. I'm certainly not a doctor, but when I was treated for this after battling with a bunch of other butt/knee/"running" injuries for over a year, it saved me. I saw one of the leading sports physicians in the nation, Dr. PZ Pearce (he puts on the sports medicine conference in Kona each year during the IM World Championship and is the medical director for most of the IM North America races and he said that many, many people miss this injury for triathletes and treat the manifestations and not the actual cause of the problem.

Anyway, if you're up for trying anything... might not hurt to look into this.

Wishing you the best - keep on asking, talking, and seeing people until you find answers and results that fit for you. Be an advocate for yourself and keep on keepin' on...

:) Jessi

Ironman By Thirty said...

Man... I wish I had some answers for you, but I don't. I think you are on the right track though by asking questions.

I think that getting fit for a new pair of shoes is going to be a good start. Regardless of whether we should be running in shoes or barefoot, I think that everyone can agree that if you are running in shoes, they should be the correct type for your stride and footfalls.

I suffered through injury (IT Band) back in 2005 and thankfully after 3 months of rest (absolutely no running), I was able to start over from scratch and build back up. My build up process took a good year. I did a max of 3 miles at time the first month. Probably not what you want to hear, but I guess that is where a cycling and swimming focus can take over.

Good luck and I hope you heal quickly and find the answers you need!

Eliza said...

I am listening to Born to Run too!

Kelly said...

I just ordered Born to Run and can't wait to read it. As you know, I've been going through similar problems (I'm icing my heel as I write!) I've been using Vibrams for about 7 weeks, and my form has totally changed for the better. I still run in regular shoes too, but just a few miles a week barefoot really make a difference for me. I also think that it is really common for our bodies to have niggles and such as we build fitness. go with your instinct, and maybe try to find a doc that is an athlete, so they can really understand where you are coming from!

Hang in there, Anne!!

sallyaston said...

Its great that you are going to see a doc that understands Triathletes! Hope you get some good and helpful advice! :-)

goSonja said...

You ask some really huge questions. Big hairy, tough questions.

My general theory is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". If it is broke, exhaust all options, and ht it from all angles.

One thing that struck me from the book (I just finished it) was the notion of foot strength. I think walking around barefoot, wearing crocs, uggs and flip flops and maintaining or building foot strength is big. Also, it's something that may help, but probably won't hurt.

Just a thought.


There is always the "old man" approach (mine that is) to triathlons. Do your IMs knowing you are going to be a biking phenom and a running slug. As you know, I don't go over 10 miles in training and don't run over 20 miles a week (because us old guys are injury prone).

Makes for a slow marathon (as you know passing me at mile 24 with a one hour head start), but one hell of a bike..

But I know you like to run... so no help here.

Mark said...

Anne, I finished Born to Run a couple of weeks ago and thought it was really great read. The book has many facets, from chronicling the Tarahumara Indians, ultrarunning, and finally the compelling and convincing argument McDougall makes about the human physiognomy and the "evil" of running shoes. I found all of the anthropological rhetoric to be particularly fascinating, whether you end up drinking his kool-aid, or not.

I, for one, am a convert. I will still run in my running shoes, but am looking forward to running sans shoes on grass this summer as part of my training to help strengthen my feet and avoid injury. I agree with Kelly, perhaps finding a doc that is an athlete is a good idea.

If you do not know Fred already at, check him out. He has been chronicling his running woes for quite some time and he is "down" —(uh, my true hip-hop sensibilities at work here) with the Vibrams.

Good luck!