Running, not swimming is keeping me up at night

It’s been a crazy busy spring, and summer is looking to be even crazier and busier.  So let me jump right in and get you up to speed on my training.

Swimming:

I have been in the pool a lot.  Just this past Sunday I swam 31 laps!  Hot Damn!  Thirty one laps equals about .88 of a mile and I have to swim .93 miles for my August Tri.  So from an endurance perspective, I’m covered.

What I don’t have covered is speed or bilateral breathing.  I was able to choke and cough my way through three ugly laps while breathing to my left while wearing flippers.  I drank more pool water in those three laps than I have in the past 10 months.  It was ugly, it was uncomfortable, it wasn’t good but it’s a start.  I’m still frustrated, but at least I made a bit of progress.

I’m also very, very, very frustrated on my lack of speed.  I have not made any improvements on getting any faster.  My .88 mile swim on Sunday was at a pace of 3:33 per 100 yards.  I need to swim AT LEAST 3:19 per 100 yards to make Ironman cutoff.  SIGH!  Beyond frustrated.  I don’t even want to talk about it so I’m moving on to my biking update.

Biking:

I finally got my bike off the trainer and out of the basement and in some fresh air.  It was a horrible spring here in Wisconsin – we got over 36 inches of snow in April – and that forced me to stay inside longer than I would have liked.  But I just did my first two outdoor rides and so far, so good.  And by that I mean, I didn’t crash!  I set the bar low for myself so I can tip-toe over it!

Running:

Running should be my easy sport.  It’s what I’ve done for the past 10+ years and it’s the one I don’t have to think about.  Unfortunately, it’s all I’ve been thinking about.

As you may recall, during Fall 50 training in 2015 I started to complain about shin splints.  And I’ve dealt with the nagging pain ever since.  Pain and frustration led me to dig a bit deeper into my shin pain and when I did this, I realized that what I thought was shin splints this whole time was not.  It is something called Compartment Syndrome.  What is Compartment Syndrome you may ask? Well, let me tell you.  Actually I’ll let Mayo Clinic tell you…

“Signs and symptoms:

  • Aching, burning or cramping pain in the affected limb — usually the lower leg
  • Tightness in the affected limb
  • Numbness or tingling in the affected limb
  • Weakness of the affected limb
  • Foot drop, in severe cases, if legs are affected
  • Often occurs in the same compartment of both legs
  • Occasionally, swelling or bulging as a result of a muscle hernia
  • Begins after a certain time, distance or intensity of exertion after you start exercising the affected limb
  • Progressively worsens as you exercise”

If you read the causes listed above and are still a bit confused, let me try to clarify it by giving you the example that the doctor gave to me.  For all Wisconsinites, you’ll understand this analogy, for those reading this outside of WI, sorry but I may lose you here.

Try to think of my muscle as the “meat” and my fascia as the “brat casing”.  When my muscles warm up, just as the meat of a brat does when cooking, it expands.  And if you cook a brat without poking or cutting the casing, the meat will explode when too hot.  My muscles aren’t actually exploding, but they are being squeezed inside the fascia (or casing) and there’s no way to relieve the pressure.  Well, there is a way to relieve the pressure and it’s the only way to treat Compartment Syndrome and just like in my brat analogy, my fascia needs to be cut.

Fun!

I did ask if my fascia can be “poked with a fork” like when cooking brats.  But not only did the doctor not find me too amusing (I wasn’t even trying to be funny, poking it seems less invasive and painful), he said that wasn’t a solution.  It has to be surgery and they have to cut it, not poke it.

The problem is that recovery is 6-8 weeks.  Not only do I have a lot of triathlons this summer on my race calendar, I have the Marine Corp Marathon in fall.  I don’t have 8 weeks to set aside for recovery.  I have plane tickets to Washington DC purchased so I’m going to run that damn marathon.

There is no other treatment or cure unfortunately and surgery will be in my future.  But I have found a “band-aid” fix for the time being.  I am terrified that my band-aid will soon fall off and it will no longer help me.  Compartment Syndrome is so painful that I can’t run through it.  It stops me in my tracks.

But what I have found that has worked as a MacGyver trick is to stop – often very suddenly I may add – and walk when I feel it coming on.  And walk slowly.  Yes, super slow.  It usually starts coming on around a 1/2 mile into my run (which makes starting a race really fun when you start to walk less than a half mile into the race).  I can’t stop too soon and I can’t stop too late.  It’s weird and it sounds like it should be easy… just walk – what’s the big deal?  Well, here’s the best analogy I came up with to explain how hard it is (and scary) to time it right.

If you’ve ever cooked oatmeal in a microwave in a bowl that was too small, you’ll understand my example.  You’re cooking the oatmeal, or in my case running, and things are going fine until you notice the oatmeal is getting really hot and is coming close to boiling over the bowl and exploding.  You know you have to stop the microwave AT JUST THE RIGHT SECOND to catch it or it will be too late and disaster will have occurred.  Stop it too soon and you just have to start the heating process all over again.  BUT, if you stop the microwave at just the right time, just as it was about to explode and you stop and let it cool down, give it a minute or two, then you can start it back up again and everything is fine.   But look away for a second and it’s game over.

Same thing with trying to contain my CS.  I can feel my legs getting tight, getting numb and getting hot.  But if I stop to walk too soon, it does me no good and it starts all over when I start running again.  And if I go even 5-10 yards too far, I have screwed everything and I can no longer finish my run and I’ll end up walking home in pain.

So yeah, fun times.  And as I said, I just found this “temporary fix” and I’m afraid that once training really ramps up that it won’t work as a fix.  If that happens…

Nope, I’m not even going to think about that.  I can’t think about not being able to get through my summer and fall races.  I just can’t go there yet.  It’s too much to think about.

So that’s my update, now that I got you hungry for brats and oatmeal, what do you think?  I’m guessing you weren’t expecting all the drama to come from my running and were probably thinking my swimming was what was going to pre-occupy my blog again this year.  Oh how I long for that to be the case.

Not sure how my summer and fall training will unfold, but I do know that I will once again not have an easy schedule ahead of me.  So here’s to doing what I need to do to get it done.  Stubbornness, grit and hopefully a bit of luck will get me to November when I can rest and take care of my legs.

Until next time,

Gotta run

 

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2 responses to “Running, not swimming is keeping me up at night

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