I have to admit, I may have slightly exagerated the severity of my downtime in my last post. Although I was absent from workouts for two weeks, I was only off running for a total of four days and it was only 10 days or so before I was up to 50-60min a day. The glute issue is not completely resolved as some days it's sore and/or tight and other days it feels perfect - I am just trying to keep up with my strengthening exercises and lots of stretching. I got up to 90min last weekend, and this past week was back at workouts. Monday's workout went well as I felt extremely tapered from the cutback in running. I did two thirds of the workout, which consisted of 4x380m hill repeats and a 1.4k uphill tempo. I kept everything at tempo effort and was pleased that my glute and hamstrings felt fine the next day. On Thursday, I did the full workout of 6x1k where again I remained conservative throughout. I progressed downwards in 3:39/3:34/3:33/3:31/3:33/3:30 and felt really strong. The next day, however, I felt some twinges in my hamstring, reminding me that the underlying issue for my pain is not completely resolved.
It seems as though piriformis syndrome - sciatica - random twinging leg pain - glute/hamstring problems - whatever you want to call it (a pain in the ass? ;) - wins the prize for most common injury in our running group. Funnily enough, we have all adopted our own name for it, and have spent months, if not years, addressing our individual problems as though they were distinct from one another, when I think they are all quite related. For the sake of simplicity, I will henceforth be calling this 'glute-hamstring' nuisance GLUMY (pronounced gloo-mee) - appropriate in all respects.
So why does Glumy plague almost half of the angels? There must be some explanation. Well, I went Googling in search of some answers, and sure enough it turns out that it affects women six times more than men. Unfortunately, there isn't a consensus on why this is the case. Some experts say that women are 'under-muscled' in the gluteal area - others think that the anatomic variation of the female pelvis is to blame - and other studies have shown that women have a greater 'Q angle,' meaning that their legs angle in more, resulting in a stretched piriformis muscle. Interestingly, many pregnant women develop piriformis syndrome, likely because the pelvis becomes stretched and flexed during pregnancy. Furthermore, the hormone relaxin that is produced during pregnancy causes the pelvis to stretch and sacroiliac joint to open, which together wreak havoc on the piriformis.
Runners are at high risk of developing piriformis syndrome. According to Dr. Stephen Perle from the University of Bridgepoint, 'almost every long-distance runner has piriformis syndrome to some degree.' He attributes this to distance runners repeatedly doing the same motion in a single plane. We neglect strengthening the muscles required to move in other directions and this results in comparatively weak internal and external rotators. The piriformis is the muscle that controls these movements. Some of the exercises I've been instructed to do are squats and lunges in different planes (medial and lateral rotations) - not just forward and backward. I have also been working on abduction and adduction exercises for my glutes. I am hoping this ultimately alleviates the problem, though I should probably also be getting regular massages to relieve adhesions in the connective tissue that may be impinging on nerves and tissues in the area.
So of course on Friday night I go out to dinner with two fellow Glumy sufferers, Mama K and Dr. Z. We are dressed to impress so naturally fail to recognize each other at the door. It seems I can only spot them if they are red, hot and sweaty (get your mind out of the gutter). It's only until Mama K waves frantically and yells 'G.I. J!!!!' five times that I realize that the foxy, wavy-maned beauty sitting by herself is my friend (henceforth the hot Mama K). Once we sit down we share our Glumy status updates, and I admit mine was bugging me a little after the workout Thursday. Before I could even finish my sentence, hot Mama K whips out a green tennis ball from her chique Gucci purse and hands it over to me. 'Sit on it during dinner. It'll cure ya.' she says. I nod and take the ball in silence, somewhat stunned - first by the fact that she fit a green tennis ball in that purse (who would have known?), second by how prepared she was no matter what the scenario. Does she bring tennis balls to clubs and bars as well? I nonchalantly stuffed the old tennis ball under my dress and rolled around on it for the next hour, sporadically belting out 'oohs' and 'aaahs' when I hit a trigger point. I think the waiter was surprised by how much we were enjoying our meals.
The next morning I did my first 'real' long run and it felt great (must've been hot mama's balls). I felt Glumy for a portion of it, but it went away for the last 75min so I finished on quite a happy (not a glumy) note. I ran for 2hrs10min (about 27k) and it felt like a total breeze. It's frustrating in a way because I feel like my current fitness far exceeds how strong my body is. I don't want to push too hard for fear of hurting myself or over-exerting my weak glute. I am hoping that in the coming weeks the issue completely goes away. It's gotten much better and it can take a lot more running and beating up than it ever has, but it's still not perfect.
Next week I'll be continuing to build up and hopefully be strong enough for a 20-miler on the weekend. The plan is to revert to one interval workout and one long run per week until Glumy goes away for good. I may do one run with some tempo thrown in, but coach and I would rather play it safe until we are confident that I am 100%. Since I've missed a few long runs, I will have to get in at least 20 miles the weekend of the Montreal half. That means I'd do 10k before the race and tempo the race with a hard last 3k. Too bad I can't race it full out - but ya gotta keep your eye on the big sucker - especially when it's a marathon.
Shout-outs to Ali D (2nd in the 5k!), Ruth, Jebs and Amanda who ran in the Spring Run-Off on the weekend representing the Angels. Leslie Sexton also had a great race, coming in 3rd to Pidhoresky and Tallen. Congrats ladies!
p.s. Speaking of hot Mama K, she will be appearing in the next issue of iRUN so keep your eyes open for her! She can be easy to miss if you've only seen her sweating and grunting through a workout like I have ;).