Friday, October 17, 2014

Ups and Downs

I've been running for a little over 2 months now since my PT gave me the green light to resume back to normal in August.  On the whole, I'm pretty happy with how it's been going.

I started with 3 mile runs every other day.  Pretty early in the process, maybe late August, my hip got inflamed/irritated and I felt that old familiar groin pain.  It started at the end of a run, but even lingered into the next day while walking, so I went the overly cautious route and took an entire week off running.  When I resumed, everything felt good.  That's been probably my biggest set back so far, which is really just a small blip; definitely nothing to complain about.  I stuck to 3-4 mile runs for the first month.  I've connected with a lot of other runners who had this surgery around the same time as me through Facebook and various running forums.  Some of them were doing a lot more running and a lot earlier, but I've been fine with my conservative timeline. 

As part of physical therapy, I was scheduled to have a video running evaluation done, which my insurance would pay for.  Score!  So we decided to do that at my next appointment.  After checking my range of motion and doing some drills to warm up, I walked on the treadmill for a few minutes. Then she had me run at a 10:30 minute mile pace to warm up. After a few minutes of that, she bumped it up to a 10mm and started videotaping. I probably ran for about 10 minutes or so while she switched the angles of the video camera. Then we played the video back both in real time and in slow motion/frame by frame.

As it turns out,  I have almost perfect running mechanics. My pelvis was straight, my feet landed at the right angle, my take off was exactly off my 4th metatarsal, my trunk vertical (or something like that) was perfect. She was so pleased with the video of my feet landing/taking off that she asked if she could use it in an upcoming presentation. Sure! So maybe that's why I've never been injured before this hip stuff happened -- I have good mechanics!  The only thing I could work on was cadence. Apparently my knees could be a little more bent when landing and the way to improve that is to up your cadence. She suggested running with a metronome set at 174bmp (a 5% increase from my current 168.) But she also said if that doesn't feel natural, that I should just roll with what feels the best.  I got as far as downloading a metronome app on my phone, but in all honesty I haven't gotten around to using it yet.  

I was still being pretty conservative about my running, with most of my road runs being 4-5 miles in length and trail runs slightly longer.  (My hip feels better on the soft surface of the trail.)  That is until I was convinced to register for a 6 hour race (Goosebumps 6 hour race in La Crosse, WI.)   I was initially going to just volunteer, but friends convinced me that I should run a little.  So what the heck, okay.  The good thing about timed races is that you can run as little or as much as you want to.  It was a 2 mile loop, so my plan was to run a loop, then walk a loop and repeat that sequence until I had done 6 loops.  That would give me 6 miles of running and 6 miles of walking, which I figured was acceptable on a still recovering bum hip. 

Of course you can figure out that I did more than 12 miles.  After the initial plan, we decided to a walk a little more.  Walking turned into a run/walk.  I wound up completing about 18.5 miles total in 4.5 hours.  My hip was starting to get cranky toward the end (just achiness on the outside, but no groin pain), so I called it quits, but I'm pretty amazed by how well it held up at just 6 months post-op.  General leg fatigue also set in after a few hours, as my body just wasn't used to moving for that long anymore.  I was happy to stop and drink beer until the race ended.  I was a little sore for two days afterward, but nothing lingered and I resumed my normal every other day running routine without any problems from my possible stupidity.

Me and my friend D before the race.

I'm not surprised at the 12 month recovery period for this surgery.  I still feel like I am making small gains even now.  I keep hitting new levels of normal.  My running has been moving more and more toward being 100% pain free.  I still get twinges or aches every now and again, but they never last and they are coming less and less frequently as time progresses.  My brain still hasn't caught up with my body.  Before surgery, when I would stop during the middle of a run and then resume running, I would get more intense pain.  Or going for a run somewhere and then getting in a car to drive home, I would get pain getting out of the car when I got home.  Now when I do those things it doesn't hurt anymore, but my brain expects it to.  I'll randomly start smiling in the middle of a run because I still can't believe that it doesn't hurt.

So far my longest run has been a 9 mile trail run.  My tentative plan is to keep my long runs to about 10 miles this winter and just base build.  I need to get more cumulative miles under my belt before I start upping my long run.  I've continued to stick to running every other day, but my PT told me to try running two days in a row soon.  I think my body feels ready for it, but I'll keep the consecutive runs short for a while.  Speaking of PT, they finally kicked me out after almost 8 months!  It was almost a little sad, because I liked my therapist and we had spent so much time together, but I'm so happy not to have any appointments scheduled in the near future.  I hope I never have to go to that building again!

Weekly mileage over the last 12 months from my running log.  Slow and steady build up.

Trail running through the autumn leaves.