We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life — those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength.- Oswald Chambers
I have written about many races I did over the past few months. You can read some race reports here, here, here and here. Races are like mountains (sometimes literally) for runners. They are the high points of our lives, beautiful attractions.
We look forward to a race for weeks or months, we put in hours of training before a race, and we sometimes travel to an exotic destination to do a race. Races usually have a festive atmosphere, like a big traveling party is going on, complete with food, drink, and entertainment. At these parties, however, the guests are providing the entertainment as well as being entertained. One French marathon that I wrote about serves steak, oysters, and wine to participants as they traverse 26.2 miles.
But racing usually makes up only a small percentage of the time we run. Most of the time we start out from home (or in my case, the local rec center), have a route in mind that will accomplish our goal for the day, and begin putting one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes that goal is to do some intervals, a tempo run, or some hill repeats to increase our strength and speed. Sometimes that goal is to do a long run to increase our stamina. Sometimes that goal is to relax, recover, or socialize, so we set out with friends at a leisurely pace and converse.
I wrote about feeling jealous when I see someone running when I am not, even if I just finished my run. That feeling is amplified now that I am injured. For the two weeks I didn’t run at all, it seemed like I saw runners everywhere, jogging effortlessly along the sidewalks, gliding around the high school track, traversing the bike path without even breathing heavily.
If earlier, I wrote the good stuff about running, the races, the fun, the mountains, I now must write the not-so-good, grinding it out in the valley. Here are my tales from the valley.
In order to determine exactly where the pain in my hip was coming from, I first visited my family doctor. She did some perfunctory tests, poked around a little bit, and told me that she would send me to a physical therapist for evaluation. She gave me an initial diagnosis of piriformis syndrome, which means that your piriformis muscle (a muscle in your butt) is exerting pressure on your sciatic nerve, which is what causes the pain. She also told me she didn’t think that was the only problem.
I was able to get an appointment with the physical therapist the next day. She did some more extensive testing and agreed with the doctor’s diagnosis of piriformis syndrome. She had me do some exercises at her office, gave me a “stim” treatment with heat, and assigned more exercises to do at home.
Stim, by the way, refers to electrical stimulation. Yes, they shoot electricity into your damaged muscle. When my PT first applied stim, I almost jumped off the examination table. I have a very high startle response. After one second, I kind of liked it. It felt like a thousand tiny, tiny fingers massaging deep inside the affected muscle.
Some of the assigned exercises stretched my piriformis muscle and some stretched my hamstring. Those of you who know me will not doubt that I did the assignments religiously. I am nothing if not an overachiever.
The piriformis exercises made my muscle ache in a “hurts so good“, stretching-a-tight-muscle kind of way. I loved doing them; they made me feel like I was making progress loosening up a tight muscle. The hamstring stretches, however, hurt in a “Yowch!” kind of way.
I mentioned this to my therapist, who told me to do the stretch only until I felt a gentle pulling on my hamstring. The problem was, there was no point at which I felt “gentle pulling“. It was either no stretch at all or sharp pain.
After doing the stretches twice a day for a week and a half, my hip actually felt worse than before. Not the result I was hoping for. I emailed my doctor. She responded that my hamstring tendon is probably inflamed and is getting “ticked off” at being stretched. I agreed. She told me to stop doing the hamstring stretches. My hip began improving almost at once.
After another week, I was climbing the walls, ready to try some form of aerobic exercise again. I stepped onto the elliptical machine at the rec center and started moving…no pain! I felt so good, I stayed on for an hour. The next day I could barely get out of bed, not from hip pain, but from pain in my calves, which were not used to the elliptical motion. My hubby just shook his head and smiled.
Here is a summary of my workouts since I have started again.
Tuesday: 6 miles on the elliptical
Thursday: 3.2 miles on the elliptical
Friday: 3 miles on the elliptical
Sunday: 3.3 miles on the elliptical
Wednesday: 8.4 miles on the elliptical, 4.6 miles walking, .25 miles pain-free running
Thursday: 6.3 miles on the elliptical, 1 mile walking, .5 miles pain-free running
It is a beginning. Greetings from the valley.
I am linking up with Clean East Fast Feets for her Week in Review, Shank You Very Much for Global Blogging, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, and blovedboston for Weekending,