Sports doctors and physical therapists must really love runners. We are all such obsessive boneheads that we will keep on running and running even when we know we shouldn't. And of course when we do that, we end up hurting ourselves. Can you say 'repeat business'?
Yup, that's right - I once again find myself in runner purgatory, otherwise known as CJW Sports Medicine.
Given a stellar experience at the marathon and hardly any residual pain afterwards, I was feeling pretty invincible. I signed up for the Richmond Road Runner's Spring Marathon Training Team and the inaugural Rock n' Roll Marathon in Raleigh, NC. I ran 15 miles in the 10 days following the race. On Thanksgiving Day I did the notoriously hilly Turkey Trot 10k at the University of Richmond.
It deserves its notorious reputation. Definitely the most difficult 10k course I've ever run. Of course I was stupid and really ran it instead of taking it easy. But I still felt fine afterwards and went on to stuff myself silly at Thanksgiving dinner.
The first SMTT run was the Sunday following Thanksgiving. I went, and by the end of the 8 miles my left glute was killing me. I took off on Monday, then went for what I hoped would be an "easy" 5 miles on Tuesday morning with Greg and Kit. That day, an odd feeling came over my left side from my lower back through my glute, hip, quad, and knee. It all felt heavy and uncooperative.
I gave up and made an appointment with Dr. Cutter, who saw me on Friday afternoon. Diagnosis: one very out of whack SI joint, which is what I had thought the trouble was all along. He quickly passed me off to Steve, who did some quick intial observations that left me feeling, once again, like one of Ripley's Believe It or Not Specimens. My SI was so messed up that my left leg was visibly shorter than the right during the diagnostic stretch. Then, as I stood up straight with feet hip width apart, the following exchange:
Steve: Are you standing up straight?
Me: Um.... yes?
Steve: Are you sure?
Me: Um... yes?
Steve: Man, how in the heck did your back so twisted up?
Me: (heavy sigh) I guess I'm just talented.
A few adjustments later (by "a few" I mean like 20), I was feeling much better, but had not escaped additional therapy sessions. That was ok though, because it seemed that the source of the problem had been found and that with a few more adjustments and therapeudic heat/electrical muscle stimulation treatments, I would be good as new.
Fast forward one week and two therapy sessions. My back felt light years better. I behaved myself and did the elliptical, yoga, and a swimming instead of running. I decided that I would go out on Sunday with SMTT. It was, after all, only 8.5 miles. Shouldn't be a problem.
The heavy, numb, uncooperative feeling was back. Except this time it was much worse. I felt like I was literally dragging my left side along rather than it moving on its own accord. As I watched Teresa and Kit get further and further ahead of me, I got more and more pissed off. Will stuck with me and as I cursed and whined, kept asking if I wanted to stop and walk. NO! Of course I did not want to stop. I don't walk. Ever.
It felt like I was running underwater. Or like someone had strapped a cinder block to my left thigh and told me to go run. The longer I went, the weaker my leg felt. It seemed like I was running at an 11:00 pace and was shocked when I looked at my Garmin and it was showing a 9:00 or better. I'm pretty sure that pace was fueled by anger and cursing alone.
If I thought the feeling during the run was bad, I was in for a rude awakening because the next day I was in excruciating pain. I rigged the world's most ghetto standing desk at work, but even when standing, I had tears in my eyes. I am the world's biggest needle phobe, but if a doctor had walked up to me that day with a giant needle and told me that if he or she stuck it in my back, the pain would go away, I would have done it in a heartbeat. That is a pretty bold statement as most days I'd rather slam my finger in a car door than let anyone come near me with a needle. I am the girl who refused to get stitches after my graceful sidewalk surf session back in June and now have big ugly scars because I preferred them to the needle.
Yesterday morning I had a previously scheduled appointment with Steve. I confessed to my transgressions in full, expecting to receive quite the scolding. To my surprise, there wasn't much at all. I guess Steve has been dealing with boneheaded runners long enough to know that we always break the rules. A quick recheck of my hip and spine alignment revealed that my SI was once again completely out of whack. In turn, that had really inflamed my piriformis, which is screwing up my sciatic nerve, which is the reason I am getting that lovely dead feeling in my left leg.
The back bone's connected to the... hip bone... the hip bone's connected to the... leg bone. Etc.
An hour and a half's worth of manipulations and electro shock therapy later, I felt semi-ok physically.
Mentally, I am still pissed as all get out. I am supposed to be training right now and I haven't really run in 2 weeks... and will likely be taking off for the rest of December. Not to mention December is probably the worst time for me to be without my emotional and caloric outlet, given that I generally dislike the holidays and have been eating like complete crap for weeks.
The only slightly good thing about the whole situation is that I get to hang out at CJW Sports Medicine for a few hours a week. Strangely enough, although I despise having to go there because it means I am injured, I actually enjoy my time there, chatting with the PT staff, watching ESPN, and bonding with the other broken people.
It's like the Island of Misfit Toys for athletes, where we can all bemoan our injuries and dream of a day when Yukon Cornelius, Rudolph, and Hermie come to save us from our fate.
This latest issue has got me to thinking about running and why I insist on continuing to do it. Some of the reasoning is vanity (I'm the first to admit it!), but most of it is just that it has become not something that I do, but something that has become a part of who I am. I am not a person who runs, I am a runner. I can't just stop. It would be like cutting off an arm.
So instead, I will behave and do what Steve tells me so that I can get back to being myself as soon as possible.