Speedwork and Physical Therapy

On Tuesday night, I finally made it to the Harvard outdoor track for some speedwork. My DFMC teammate Katy met me there. We were debating whether we should run on the dark-ish track – there are no lights – or around the neighborhood. In the end, we decided we’d rather run on the safe track than the dicey streets of Allston and/or Cambridge. Running along the river at night is also scary, because it’s dimly lit and had to see where you’re stepping (I found this so unsettling during my Midnight Runners excursion). A practice at the soccer fields behind the track must’ve been scheduled for 6:30 or so, because those lights eventually came on and made it a lot easier to see.

20170503_190002Katy had never done speedwork before and I only have a few times, so we decided to run 400s – a full lap around the track at your 5K pace. We did this 6 times at a 9:00-9:15 pace, with 200m (half a lap) of recovery in between each one. We meant to be around a 9:30 pace but it turns out we were a bit faster than that. Fine by me! I was winded but felt good. I think most of that was due to running in truly cold weather for one of the first times this year. After almost 2.5 miles of speedwork, we called it a day.

Wednesday was my first VINYASizzle class at Acorn Yoga since March. According to the website:

VINYASizzle – hot power flow

Build stamina, endurance, and strength in your body as you work through power poses.

VINYASizzle is a more fitness-based approach to yoga, allowing you to work up a sweat and build heat in your muscles.

The instructor creates a unique flow combining traditional and modern styles of power yoga in a full body workout. VINYASizzle will challenge your strength and endurance capacities, but also incorporate stretching to lengthen muscles you work.

Expect 85-90 degrees – cooler than other ‘hot’ yoga styles by 15-25 degrees – lobby kept cooler in case it gets too intense on your mat.

*Some yoga experience recommended, but all levels are welcome

I had some extremely noticeable tightness in my left hamstring, to the point where the instructor pushed me deeper into pigeon on my right side but when she came by to do the same on my left side, I nearly yelped in pain. That pain has been nagging me for a while now, but it seems to have gotten a lot worse in the last 2 weeks. I’ve been heating it as often as I can to keep it loose – I’m really just trying to hold myself over until after the half.

On Thursday I went out for my first evening run around town since the clocks changed, so that meant it was pitch dark when I headed out. For those of you who aren’t in New England, or even on the East Coast north of NYC, I cannot even explain to you what it’s like to have the sun set at 4:30pm. Most days, I’m just getting home from work then. The last two winters, I was lucky to leave the office before 6pm and there was no time for a lunch break, so that meant entire days without sunlight. There is some serious talk about moving New England or even just Massachusetts to Atlantic time permanently (no Daylight Saving Time), and I am SO on board with that.

Stampyc_1510275781469Anyway, I donned myself in reflective gear and chose a route that I knew would be well-lit, very lightly trafficked, and had a smooth/even surface – the carriage road of the Newton Hills! I hate running out & backs but it’s a necessary evil on cold, dark evenings during rush hour.

I ignored my heart rate for this run and ran simply based on how I felt. And I felt good (aside from that ever-present arch pain and rather severe hamstring pain, which thankfully is no worse on runs but just kills 24/7). I was actually a little disappointed to see that my pace was only 10:27. I felt like I was flying, in a good way. It felt like a comfortable, easy pace but then again, I was running some crazy hills. I stopped at Heartbreak Hill Running Company halfway for a cup of water. I also needed to re-tie my left shoe as it was tied way too tight, but stopping (inside the store!) for 2 minutes was too long. I could NOT warm up for the whole second half of my run. Granted, I was running uphill and there was a pretty significant headwind, but it was a good reminder that stopping during very cold runs is no bueno, especially for someone like me who sweats SO MUCH.

On Friday, I went to my first real physical therapy appointment. Ben is my new therapist and he really seems to know what he’s talking about. We started with reviewing my symptoms in detail (since last week was just a short, free screening to confirm yes, I do need PT), which included me saying how much worse my left hamstring pain has become in the last week. He measured my range of flexibility and strength in both ankles/arches and then hamstrings. The good news I am still incredibly flexible – something I never lost even 10 years (possibly to the day?! I think I torn all my ankle ligaments about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving!) after retiring from cheerleading. The bad news is that I’m uneven in strength. My right ankle is slightly less flexible and but stronger, and my right hamstring is a little more flexible but a lot weaker than the left. All that means my right arch is constantly in pain and my left hamstring is doing more work than my right. I also have very weak glutes (butt muscles!) so my hamstrings are doing the primary work when they should be doing the secondary work while my glutes bear the brunt of the effort.

Apparently this is quite common in runners, so Ben had lots of ideas up his sleeve. We started with pelvic inversion bridges. First, he had me do a bridge on my own. “I do this at least twice a week at my various classes, Bennnnnnn.” Except, like he suspected, I do them wrong. I don’t till my pelvis up and in. I tilt my pelvis down and out, which causes my back to arch, which puts all my body weight in my hamstrings. Instead, he showed me how to tilt my pelvis and lift while basically sucking in to keep my back flat. Instantly, I felt it in the cheeks. Whoa!

After a bunch of those, I flipped onto my stomach to do prone hip abductions on both sides. Basically you lift one leg off the table using only your glutes, keeping your hip bones pushed against the table. Then you move your leg out to the side in a very controlled manner, hold for a second, bring it back to center, then down to the table. After each time (and after each bridge, too), Ben had me relax and consciously reset my pelvic tilt because otherwise, it’s so easy to get lazy and do it wrong.

Those 2 exercises combined with the 2 he taught me last week are my homework every morning and every night until the half. I see him again on Tuesday morning and then we decided to schedule another appointment for Thursday morning so he can give me one last guided appointment before the race. Then afterward, we start the real work – no running, no impact at all, and lots of therapy. Possibly 3-4 appointments per week, as much as I can squeeze into the rest of 2017 (thank you, low deductible insurance!).

If this ends up being my last post, it’s because I died of hypothermia on tomorrow’s long run. No seriously, the forecast is calling for 27 degrees at 9am, but a wind chill of 17 degrees. Full sun expected, so that helps, but the wind on the Newton Hills is typically intense during cold weather. I decided to meet my DFMC teammate Meghan at Heartbreak Hill Running Company for their Saturday’s group long run. We’ll go up Heartbreak to BC, past the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, then take Beacon Street from BC through Newton all the way to Newton-Wellesley Hospital, then run Miles 17-20 of the Boston Marathon course, and then we’re done – 10 miles later. I had originally hoped to run 11 but I was only supposed to run 9 last weekend and ending up doing 10, so I’ll be happy with whatever I can get done tomorrow. After all, it’s my last long run before the race so it’d be worse than anything to overdo it.

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