Monday, March 14, 2011

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

I'm basking in the glow of an 18.5 mile run yesterday. I'm also sitting with an ice pack on my left knee as a preventive measure, but otherwise feeling pretty good.  I took a full week off after the last long run, skied up to Tuckerman Ravine the following Saturday, then did a few easy runs last week.  They were treadmill sessions, 3.1 and 4.3 miles, and my knee felt pretty good.  I've started using an ITB compression wrap that seems to help alleviate the pain and inflammation.

This past weekend was the NATO Telefest at Mad River Glen, an event I've attended for the past 10 years or so that I wasn't prepared to miss.  We skied all day on Saturday and I drove home Sunday morning, getting home by noon and starting my run at 1:00 PM. It was pretty warm, but there were some cold breezes so I ended up with more clothing than I needed.  I chose to run along the Charles River on the bike path, parking the car on the Cambridge side and looping up around the Beacon St bridge.  That would be close to 15 miles, and depending on how I felt I would add another loop.  At around 2 miles I felt a little discomfort, not quite pain, from my left knee and I was worried that this would be another disappointing run.

But nothing else happened. Headwinds along the Boston side of the river were a pain, but I made it through to the Harvard bridges, then Elliot St, then Arsenal St, still feeling pretty good.  As I crossed the river at Beacon I was feeling pretty positive, thinking that 20 miles wasn't out of the question.  The next stretch was a bit taxing, as it seemed to take forever to hit 10 miles according to my watch, then the rest of the mileage ticked by slowly.  I was keeping a steady pace, just over 10 minute miles, and my MP3 player was helping me ignore the time.  Running on dirt was also a big help, and I'm sure my knees are thanking me for that today.

At the Elliot St bridge I did some quick calculations and figured I'd be around 14 when I got back to my car.  Since I wanted to run further than that I had a few options but decided to just continue the loop and then run a second, smaller loop to add mileage as needed.  I could feel that I needed more fluids at this point and was cursing the fact that my belt only carries two bottles, not four.  Food wasn't a problem but liquid certain was beginning to affect me.  At the car I decided to keep running rather than stop for the Gatorade I had stashed in there, reasoning that the last two times I had problems with my ITB it was after a stop.  Up til now I hadn't stopped at all on the run, just a few jogging in place moments at traffic lights.

So, the second loop started and I passed by the Science Museum again, then along the windy Boston side of the Esplanade.  There were times I just put my head down and watched the path in front of my feet just rolling by.  Slowly.  I knew the pace had slowed down but it really didn't matter to me; I was still running 10:35s and that was fine.  Across the Mass Ave bridge (go Smoots!) and looping back towards my car as my watch ticked to 18 miles!  Woo hoo!  I had broken yet another barrier that I'd placed in front of myself. At this point I was out of water and I felt my calves beginning to cramp up a little.  Rather than push on to 20 miles I decided to loop across Memorial Drive and shoot for 18.5 to finish.  That would be a success for me.

At the car I stopped for the first time in 3 hours, waiting for my knee to lock up in pain.  But nothing happened, it still was a bit tender but no real pain.  A very positive sign.  I got the Gatorade from the car and spent a little time stretching, then drove home.  Getting out of my car at home I experienced some real cramping of my thigh, to the point where I couldn't walk or even shuffle, I just had to stand and stretch in place until the pain subsided.  At home I drank lots more, ate some, and stretched for 20 minutes.  Then I sat in an ice bath for 5 of the most painful minutes I've ever experienced.

Today I'm feeling pretty good, muscles and joints mostly fine, with a little tenderness in the ITB. I've been applying ice and taking some Ibuprofen to keep the pain and any swelling down, so far so good.  Not sure when the next run is coming up, tomorrow or the next day, but I'm actually looking forward to the 20 miler in two weeks.  If that's not success, I don't know what is.