Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the bee's knees?

Hi, I'm The Blogger's Wife. This is still his baby but apparently I get to throw in my two cents' from time to time, so I'll take full advantage.

So about a year into my running career I started noticing some pain under my kneecaps. It was mostly just while running up or down hills and sometimes while climbing or descending stairs. Gradually it became more and more prominent, but being the non-hospital-going type that I am, I kept convincing myself that it would go away. It didn't. I finally set up an appointment with at at orthopedic practice in Muncie, Indiana, where I was told that initial x-rays showed nothing wrong, I was probably just making it up, and I was fine. Now, I'm not a crier (no matter what my husband may say) but I definitely cried as I was leaving. . .I mean, by that point I couldn't even DRIVE without my knees hurting, but he was telling me there was nothing wrong?

It was another year or so of agony before I finally was convinced to go back to another doctor. This one gave me the diagnosis I had been pretty sure I would hear - chondromalacia, or patellofemoral pain syndrome. Basically what this entails is a roughening of the underside of the patella. It generally is caused by the patella being pulled laterally instead of straight over the joint. The two main causes for this are a relatively weak VMO (compared to your lateral quad muscles) and the Q-angle. In women, the angle between your hips and knee (aka. . .the Q-angle) is wider than in men, causing the patella to be pulled towards that outer hip.

The diagnosing doctor gave me a few exercises for my VMO (some good ones are straight leg raises, lateral leg raises, and partial squats while holding a ball between your knees. Also helpful is running backwards or going backwards on an elliptical machine.)and gave me another nugget of wisdom that I knew but didn't want to heed. . .rest will make you feel a whole lot better.

I didn't rest like I probably should have, but what did seem to help was the crosstraining on an elliptical. I don't like gyms or elliptical machines, but a half hour or 45 minutes of going backwards on one a couple of times a week really did seem to help out the knees some. Then I quit doing that and just stuck to trail running. I think you can guess how that went. It was four days after our first trail marathon that suddenly from a seated position I couldn't even lift my leg to cross it over the other. . .my knee simply couldn't handle the weight of my lower leg without causing debilitating pain.

And then I rested, finally.

Moral of the story? Chondromalacia is not fun. It's a very distinct pain - you'll feel it on inclines, declines, stairs, and whenever your leg is bent with weight on it. Rest it, ice it, and strengthen that VMO!

Play nice

I'm introducing my wife to you all. She's going to be joining in the posting, lots on her running journey, and then other stuff. I'm asking her to talk to you first about her knees. She'll give you the low down, hopefully give you an idea when to seek help for your own knee problems. I'm speaking mostly to women here, they're more at risk for this specific knee problem.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dogs on Trails

I love, love running with my dog. I also love not study epileptic drugs (which I'm not doing right now). Running with a dog is a great way to have a fresh perspective on running. Here's a short list on why
1. They take potty breaks. You may have to clean up after them, but I love it when he's the one that gracefully bows out on hill intervals, you know, to "go potty". I can also assure you that he's had a few fake-outs, to get a blatant break. I love him for it.
2. Level of safety/assurance. I don't like it when the wife runs w/o the dog. He's very, very defensive of us (he's a rescue pooch, it happens) and I always feel secure when he's on board.
3. He's constantly happy. Running is by far the thing he loves most in the world. Belly rubs come in a close second.
4. He can drink from streams. I'm not going to lie, I'm jealous.

That being said, a quick discussion on dog ethics should be had.
1. I don't find it offensive to let your dog poop in the woods. I do find it uncalled for if the dog poops on some one's yard. Also, just flip the poop away from the actual trail.
2. Don't think that your dog is the most well behaved dog in the world. It's not. I met the most well behaved dog in the world, and it's not yours. That story to come.
3. LEASH YOUR DOG! Just yesterday, on our hill interval workout, a lady was walking on the trail with two dogs, unleashed. The ran uphill to us, I pulled Scoot off to the side and tried to call them off. The front mutt got aggressive towards me, which Scoot will have none of. Barely was a fight avoided, and trust me, the other dog is lucky. When it comes to protecting his owner's, Scoot (who is incredibly well behaved to ppl) will have NONE of it. Worse of all, the lady attempted to call her dogs back, showed absolutely no control over the dog, and didn't even bother to jog up to stop her dogs from confronting us. LEASH YOUR DOG!
4. Please, please don't forget that your dog is covered in fur, doesn't sweat, and does much poorer than you in hot weather. Treat them with respect. He can out-sprint you, but not out sweat you.

Perhaps the best training tip for running with your dog? Scoot knows that when my arm is held out to the side, at 90 degrees, he's supposed to jump up and let me hold him. This is very, very handy for crossing metal grate bridges (no broken paws here), and to avoid precarious situations (running into 5 coyotes this January comes to mind). I can't tell you how handy this trick has been.

Time to learn some more about Levetiracetam. I did have to look how to spell that word at least 3 times.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trails again

As road running starts to lose it's fun (about 4 weeks max for me), trails start to call. NE Ohio has a stunning trail system, most specifically the Buckeye Trail. The hills are perfect, decent spread, good singletrack, with many a root to catch your toe.

Dog and master left for the normal 8 mile run and soon found themselves entranced by the depth of wilderness so close to a large city. The lack of greenery in distal tree trunks gave a stark contrast to the sprawling buds growing on the forest base. All 360 degrees on top of a large hill gave way to what could only be spoken as "holy crap". The general feeling of being so deep into the middle of nowhere is so hard to find, but my dog and I found ourselves deep into nothing civil, only wooded.

Our one hour run was to be a classical test piece on a long arguement for and against walking hills while trail running. I tend to be for walking the hills. Based on simple biomechanics, I know that by walking and being able to center my weight directly on the postural muscles of the lower back and glutes, more consisent Type 1 fiber distribution can be had. Type 1 muscle fiber is the type that lets you run marathons, it's the go the distance fiber type. Type 2 muscle fibers let you rip and sprint. Keep in mind this is a quick and dirty fiber type description, there's too much detail and sub-typing to adequately explain.
Leg 1 of the experiment: 30 minute trail run out on singletrack, with heart rate held at 150 BPM, with an allowance to 170 BPM for uphill. Downhill had to be kept in check at 160 BPM.
Leg 2: 29:30 back, with general awareness not to exceed 165 BPM for flats, who cares about the downhill BPM, and strict adherence to walking on the uphills

The difference of 30 seconds may appear to be minimal, but considering I only allowed 3-4 minutes lag time between sets, and man, that's looking good to me.

more science to come!