Tonight I went for a five mile run and it was (nearly) pain-free. And, though not very long--not even a 10K--it was the longest run for me in two months, since the Frederick Mission 10-miler (on the heels of the DC Half) left me limping and whimpering. Trail running didn't help, the inconsistent surface further stressing my knee.
(To recap: I pulled a hamstring at the DC Half on St.Pat's Day. A week later, I injured my ITB at the Mission 10-miler. Running is like that for me.)
My body adapts much better to running after a long (long!) warm up. Not dynamic stretching or brisk walking; more like 15+ miles on a bike. Which is why I'm better suited for triathlon; I thrive on the cross-training and rarely injure myself on the run when I come off the bike. (Knock on tree bark.)
So that is how I approached my healing after the Mission race. I rested (a little) and vowed not to run unless it was a brick. After weeks of running 1, 2 and 3-mile brick runs, I finally braved one without cycling first. It was okay. As soon as I felt any knee tension, I backed off.
On Monday, I ran just over 4 miles and it went well. It was the heat and humidity that nearly wiped me out instead. It was so hot, my muscles were probably the consistency of taffy.
Tonight I decided to go for 5 miles. It was really tough to get moving; I'm not used to working out in the evening. Though I welcomed the cooler temps at 7:30 PM, my body was not quite on-board with the idea. There was an absolute disconnect between my brain and my body. My legs, which felt like they were encased in concrete, were protesting loudly:
You cannot be serious. We're really doing this? NOW? Seriously?It's almost 8:00. WTH? Shouldn't we be kicked back in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream by now?
Then, two miles in:
Okay. You win. We're really gonna do this thing? Then let's do it.
Enter the negative split.
I ran the last 2.5 miles at1:15 min/mile faster than the first 2.5. Which is not to say it was fast; it was a work in progress. But . . . before I hit mile one, I got a fleeting pain, like a cramp or a charlie horse, in my left butt cheek. (What? It's usually the right side that smarts.) Then it was gone as fast as it had appeared.
At mile 3, a similar cramp-like pain struck my left hamstring. (Oh no. Not the hammie again.) It was as if my left hamstring had morphed into some sort of belt or strap, like when you're wearing a backpack that is too loose and you pull on the straps to make it tighter. Every few steps, the strap was yanked, the muscle pulled taught, like the distance between my glute and my knee was getting shorter. I had flashbacks to the DC Half and immediately stopped to stretch the hammie. One more mile to go. I finished, but my hammie was wagging it's finger at me; a warning.
I'm cautiously optimistic that I'm almost healed, almost out of the woods. Almost. But running still always feels like I'm playing a game of injury roulette.
The thing is, you've got to play to win.