Swim: 0 m/112,725 m
Bike: 13.6/1,408.5 miles
Run: 21/670.2 miles
After my knee seized up and ended my long run last week, I was pretty apprehensive going into this weekend’s 16-miler. The knee was fine for my shorter runs this week, so it was a matter of finding out when it would act up again.
After my last post, several people said the injury sounded like an ITB issue. I wasn’t completely sold because I dealt with a relatively bad case of ITBS five years ago (on the other knee), and this felt a little different than what I remembered. For starters, the pain this go-round was in the lower-front of the knee, and not on the upper part, on the side of the femur where the band comes down from the hip. But I valued everyone’s advice and realized that my memory might be a little cloudy because my experience was so long ago.
For this weekend’s long run, I decided to use the ITB strap that I bought when I suffered from my previous case of ITBS – I purchased it the week before my first marathon, and that race was the only time I’ve ever worn it. I also set out with a plan to start at – and maintain – a slower pace and really focus on my stride as the miles wore on. Part of my concern was that the issue flared up on last week’s long run because my form started to falter as I grew more fatigued later in the run. I just wanted to go out this time and essentially find a relaxed pace that I could hold for the entire run.
(As a side note, I’m also more cognizant in this training cycle of the fact that my long runs should be geared toward building endurance. When training for my half-marathon earlier this year, I attacked long runs just the same as I would a mid-distance run. But now, as the distances grow much longer, I’m OK with scaling back on the pace – a little bit – to help log more “time on feet.”)
To cut to the chase – this weekend’s long run went off without a hitch. I was really sensitive to any odd feelings coming from my legs (and runners know there can be a lot of odd feelings during a long run), but there was nothing alarming and my knee stayed nice and loose the entire time. And, as a side benefit, the relaxed effort left me feeling great afterward – tired but not spent, and not sore at all. As I look ahead to my 20-mile runs, I think that I could easily add 4 more miles to a run like this (10 more miles on marathon day is another story, but that’s what training is for!).
The irony – and perhaps my failure – is that the overall pace of this weekend’s run was only 2 seconds per mile slower than last week’s (7:16 vs. 7:14). So I don’t know if pacing is the answer, but I was definitely paying much closer attention to my form and stride this time.
I’m so happy the knee was quiet on this run, and I’ll give a lot of the credit to the ITB strap. But if it is, in fact, an ITB issue, I need to respond by doing more than wearing a strap on my long runs. I need to address the core issue (although I’m not clear about the root cause of this injury). I’m going to spend some time this week doing some research and coming up with a strength/stretching plan that will focus on my core and legs. I want to assemble a group of exercises that I can do several days a week at home that will focus on the weaker areas that contribute to ITB pain.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that marathon training is going to entail more than just running. I’m going to be asking a lot of my body in the coming months, and there has to be some give as well as take. I’m going to have to put in more effort than just running and cross-training. It really is an “all-in” proposition that requires attention to so many external factors, including nutrition, sleep, strength and flexibility. In the end, I’ll get out of it what I put in to it.