Monday, November 04, 2013

Going fast, backwards

Over the last four weeks I ran 122 kilometres (30 and a bit ks per week); the four previous to that, 255. I'm injured, and rapidly losing fitness. I've done something to my left hamstring — I think probably related to the aftermath of the mountain race. I feel like the 23:10 5k, which at the time indicated a return to the 22-somethings (good for me at 56), was a dead-cat-bounce of a run. Now (if I could race) I wouldn't be confident of breaking 25. This injury has come at a bad time as I'm flying to Melbourne on the 16th with my mate Jim to race the 14k City2Sea fun run. I think I could be a spectator — hope it's a warm, sunny day!

I'm susceptible to hamstring niggles/injuries. A search back through my diaries since '04 reveals over 70 mentions of 'left hamstring', so there's something sinister going on there. I think the main cause is asymmetry. Few runners are perfectly symmetrical left to right — run blindfolded on a large flat field and you won't run in a straight line. We use our sight to keep running straight and make automatic adjustments to the stride to do this. Run on a flat sandy beach at low tide and measure your strides — one will be longer than the other, if only slightly. I'm right-handed (legged too — can't high-jump off my left leg) so I have a left hamstring weakness.

I think this hamstring strain is minor in nature. It's responding to rest. In the past I've been able to run through it, or at the most had a week or so off before resuming normal training. I had five days off last week but ran on Thursday and Saturday. Thursday I jogged 3k on the grass track and the hamstring was bearable. On Saturday I raced the Parkrun and the leg felt okay through the first kilometre. I actually ran my fastest first k split (4:43) and was gaining on Jim who ended up running a PB of 23:46. Running up the slight incline onto the bridge my leg started feeling sore and a few hundred metres later it was getting worse so I stopped running. A DNF! Well, after running 1.5k I walked the rest of the course so strictly not a DNF. I've run over 1000 races and had to DNF only five or six times. DNS is definitely preferable to DNF.

Running to a 23:25 in the Tuggeranong Parkrun on October 5 in my Brooks Racer STs


Blogger Thomas said...

Possibly a really stupid question, but have you tried strengthening exercises for your dodgy hamstring? I know it works for my dodgy Achilles.

1:16 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thomas, not stupid at all. I did periodically in the 2006-08 period and had no problems in '09. I stopped doing them so the weakness has obviously returned. I'll get back to them!

7:41 am  
Blogger Grellan said...

That's tough Ewen, and just when you were "coming good", Like you I tend to ignore strengthening exercises when I'm not recovering from an injury (out of sight out of mind). I hope it's a short term blip.

11:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is really frustrating!

When you run on the sand, do you also find that the left foot print is a little more outwardly rotated than the right? To my eye, in the photo, your left foot shows a hint of rotation such that the toes point outwards – the foot does naturally turn out a bit as it swings forward but maybe your foot is rotating out a bit too much. However it is difficult to estimate this during the airborne phase. (Both my feet rotate outwards more than either or yours. In my own case the problem has got worse as I have got older, and I think it might be associated with the shortening of my stride.) Outward rotation of the foot might be associated with restricted rotation of the hip, this might interfere with hip extension, placing strain on left glutes and hams. But I am far from sure this is an issue for you, so the first thing is to run in wet sand and see if your left foot is turned outwards while on stance. If so, maybe it needs a thoughtful diagnosis.

12:11 pm  
Blogger Raina said...

Well, sorry to read of your hamstring misfortune. It seems runners deal either with hammies/hips or calves or things related to both..
I was very interested to read about the blindfold run test. Now I want to go and try it! =D
I hope you mend quickly and that the weather is nice for your visit, should you spectate :)

5:41 pm  
Blogger Rob said...

Being injured really sucks. I hope you recover So you participate in the race Ewen.

6:55 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute thanks for your observations. That's interesting. I'm not sure when I'll get to run on a beach - maybe in Melbourne. The sand here is bone dry! When I can I'll do that. The soles of all my shoes wear differently - faster wear on the left outer heel and toe than on the right. I have asymmetrical knees so that's probably causing different rotation left to right.

Thanks Raina. When you do try the test, make sure you have a 'spotter' running near you! I wouldn't want you to head-butt a goal post or something. The weather's turning warm so even Melbourne (known for dodgy weather) should put on a nice day.

Rob, great to hear from you! I see you're struggling with your own injuries. Hope 'option C' works for you.

9:29 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

Pretty good record of almost uninterrupted running. All the time I've been following you I've hardly seen you down. Hope you're back at it soon.

10:14 pm  
Blogger Mark Watson said...

Hang in there Ewen. You might want to try massaging in some Arnica cream a couple of times a day. I've done this on my dodgy groin and can't believe how well it's worked.

5:50 pm  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

Sorry to hear about the hammy. That and the achilles always need to be taken very seriously. My dodgy hammy flared up a few years back and every now and then it gets sore, but mostly I respond to it, and try to avoid significant injury and it stays a niggle. A few years back it got very bad and every time I ran even with several days rest, 2 out of 3 times it would re-injure. I went to a sports chiropractor and they gave me range of motion increasing exercises to do, and that eventually fixed the problem. Every time the injury came back I would do these stretching exercises many 2x3x30seconds each day (and when I wanted to run) for a few days and I would mostly get over it, although some days nothing would get me painfree, in which case I rested for a few days, until I was painfree. The stretches I did ; one lying on my back using a towel (or a lovely assistant) to slowly and gradually bring a straightened leg from the horizontal as close to 90 degrees (vertical) as I could get it to without significnt pain, and then hold for 30 seconds, gradually trying to push it a bit closer to the vertical... I've noticed that I get several injuries on one side of the body, and that the wear on that shoe is always much greater than the other shoe (similiar to what Canute says re footprints in the sand maybe) so I think I share that "weaker side" too. The other exercise is lying on back moving knee across the body hooking over the other leg using the hand on the other side of the body to hold the knee past the right leg in this case. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat both stretches on the other leg. All the best, try to be patient, and remember if you get good treatment you could be good to go in a few days or a few weeks, as it was in my case, but the risk of re-occurence is high... It may take several weeks, or months to get rid of the problem but if you are persistent as I was, you may have ZERO issue with it for a few years after that... Keep at it, be patient, persistent and find other activities (other than running) to do until the body is ready to run...

11:02 pm  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

voltaren and icepacks sometimes good too, but I think the stretches far more effective, well they were for me, doesn't mean they will be for you, but worth a try I think...

11:03 pm  
Blogger Lize Brittin said...

That area is where my injury is right now, but I'm hoping the PT, exercises and possibly some cortisone on Monday will help. Hopefully you will be back to 100 percent soon. I've been out all summer and fall, but mine was one of those chronic things that took a turn for the worst. I really hope yours is a teeny tiny hurdle and nothing more. It would be nice to read about you racing again soon. Hang in there!

2:47 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Scott, thanks. That's true - sounds boring, but consistency over a long period of time is the main 'secret' to running well.

Thanks Mark. I hadn't heard of that. I'll check it out.

That's great Jonathon - thanks. The pain is barely noticeable now, so I could try those stretches. I'll use the towel for the first one as I can't afford a lovely assistant. Good to hear you got over your hammy problems with patience. You're running well.

Thanks Lize. I hope it's a teeny tiny hurdle too. The thought of being out for months isn't worth thinking about! Best of luck with your injury too.

12:02 pm  
Blogger Black Knight said...

Over 1000 races: a lot! I have only run over 200 races.
Sorry for the injury, I understand very well your feeling. What can I say? You are experienced to know what is better for you. Get well soon and all the best!
This afternoon Italy-Australia and in my opinion this is a good Italy even if I am afraid you will win again. However this time Forza Azzurri!

9:15 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Stefano. Watching it now! Looks like a nice day. Italy started well - now just missed a penalty. 19-10 Australia at half time!

10:46 am  
Blogger Karla Bruning said...

So sorry to head about your hamstring! It's definitely frustrating. But you know what you're doing and what to do. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

3:01 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Karla. It's still niggly, so definitely frustrating. Might resort to physio or massage so getting desperate!

8:39 pm  

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