Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Iliotibial band story. Don't Fret, be smart.

So , it happened. I had my first injury , or better defined overuse syndrome . Ironman Coeur D Alene being June 29th, we decided to prepare with Ironman 70.3 ST George on May 3rd, as it is a very Hilly and challenging course. Up to this point I had been lucky, no injuries so far even after two previous marathons in the last 6 months. Running is obviously the hardest on the body and is definitely my weakest of the three events. So , yes , it happened. The bike for Ironman St George had a gain of 4,000 vertical feet throughout the 56 miles. I know in that race I had to be tweaking my form to stay in the saddle . There were several bikers that had to get off their bikes on the vertical in Snow Canyon. I don't remember feeling any pain while biking however. The run was crazy hard. Basically 1000 vertical feet climb in the first 6.5 miles, then turn around . It was about mile 7 or 8 that I felt the pain in my left lateral knee, a burning , aching pain. Wow, I thought. This is not good , this is not my final destination. I had 8 week until my full Ironman. I began to try and take it easy the last half of the run. I stretched and stretched for the next 24 hours after the race. Then two days later I was still super stoked about completing IM St George that I decided to get right back into my training. 5 mile run, and ouch, there was that pain. Oh crap, this is not good I thought. I stretched and iced and decided to rest it and only swim and bike the next three days. Ok felt better, Then that Friday did a an hour bike , 5 mile run. Felt great on the bike, felt great the first 3 miles of the run, then bam, the pain was worse! I had to walk my last mile. OH HELL you think. 8 weeks until the hardest, longest most grueling athletic endeavor of your life. Ok be smart , I thought. this has to be classic IT band syndrome. So the exercise physiologist in me went to work. The beauty of the internet , is you can acquire a lot of information fast. So, I started reading as much as I could about IT band syndrome. However, I believe no matter what the symptom you Must figure out the underlying cause. In running it is mechanical. Yes , you have to heal the injury , but more so fix the problem that got you in the situation in the first place. I went to a Physical therapist friend, whom I trust, he is 30 years experienced. He assessed my injury and confirmed it definitely was IT band syndrome. I love how he thinks, he showed me some stretches, and suggested deep tissue massage to loosen up the band, but said Heather , you need to figure out why this is happening. My father was a nuclear engineer , I did inherit some of his Physics sense. Plus I had been studying Running chi. It makes so much sense. If you are going to force your body into extreme endurance you have to make it as easy on the joints as possible. First step in fixing my IT band. Stretches, stretches and more stretches. Religiously stretching. And I actively rested. I took one week off of running and did long swim sessions instead. But I stretched and stretched. My husband and I created a daily routine of stretches that really stretch the IT band , the gluteus Maximus, gastrocnemius, and peroneus longus. Basically stretching the hips, to the calf and shin. In 5 days no more pain. Ok need to start easing back into the running. But I was terrified I would just reinjure and have to start over with the resting and now there are only 7 weeks until my IM. Second step , I changed my shoes. It was more a mental move , or wishful thinking, since so many other Blogs on IT band syndrome suggested it. I bought two new pairs. I brand new pair of the same shoe I have been using, which was the Saucony Kinvara 5 and then I went out on a limb and also bought fully cushioned zero drop shoes from Altra. The zero drops arrived first. I put then on and oh my god they felt like I was wearing slippers. The toe box is so big they felt weird at first. The story behind the Altras is that they claim to make you run more naturally and in more correct form, again back to Running chi. I ran one mile. No pain. Ok, so the next day I biked and ran two miles. NO pain. The next day I biked and ran 3 miles no pain. Day four my new Saucony's had arrived , so I ran a 4 mile run in them and OMG there again was the pain! Not horribly but there it was again. OK, back to the zero drops. Sorry Saucony, you have been shelved!
So, IN the weeks to follow, I have been stretching every day . I ended up running a 1/2 Marathon on May 31, nice and easy, without strain and my time was not a PR but descent and I had no pain in my IT band but a slight burn at 12.8 miles when I had to climb a steep descent to the finish line. So I am sold on the zero drops. And sold on the stretching. The other mechanical things in my running I have paid attention to closely are not over striding or heel striking. Higher cadence with smaller stride. Posturing slightly forward. ON the bike, keeping the knees pulled in. I think there are several variables in keeping yourself injury free, but for overuse injuries you must get to the root of the problem. Proper stretching after every training session and in between is what I feel has helped tremendously.

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