Interesting thing happened on my run Saturday morning. It was a wonderfully crisp morning (read: perfect running weather). Me, Nina and Katie were well on our way to conquering Mt. Falcon. Nina led on the ascent. I led on the descent working on my steep downhill technique (I’ve been trying a few new strategies) when I had a “lightbulb” moment. Oprah calls them “A-Ha” moments and Gru from Despicable Me will say “light bulb” when he gets an idea and since Despicable Me is in heavy rotation in our home, I’m going with that one. Anyway, I think I figured out what has been behind my nagging hamstring/hip pain (my general left leg miserableness).
This Spring and Summer I covered some serious terrain training for my ultra marathon summer. From North Fork to Leadville to Cottonwood Pass, I tried new trails and had a lot of fun. The strange thing is that at the time my leg really didn’t bother me. It was manageable. You learn how to deal with pain and discomfort. Running the trails and that sort of elevation gain, I wasn’t so concerned with running a certain pace. I just wanted to cover the distance and practice nutrition and just get used to being on my feet for that amount of time. So, I was never pushing the pace and I think that made me last for as long as I did. My ego enjoyed the challenge of testing my limits with altitude and elevation gain, no doubt. My body held up as best as it could for as long as it could, but once I allowed it to rest (kinda), it just hurt.
After a while, though, I just couldn’t ignore it. I lost a lot of flexibility and functionality in that hamstring. I was able to pin point the exact movement that triggered the pain. I was able to pin point the exact spot on my leg that hurt. I was trying to chase the pain and that can be tricky. Because then that leads you down this rabbit hole of trying to strengthen that particular muscle you think that hurts (in my case: the hamstring and glutes) and getting frustrated when nothing improves, only hurts.
I started noticing the pain back in May; lost a lot of functionality by July and would hobble around in August. I saw all sorts of specialists along the way, but the one that made the most sense was a Personal Trainer who specialized in Muscle Activation Technique. She ignored my ramblings about the specific spot of my hamstring pain by saying, “Hamstrings are good for nothing, but help with everything. Your hamstrings have been compensating for the real issue. I can almost guarantee that it’s not your hamstring. We need to find the real issue.” I was intrigued. She helped me figure out some appropriate exercises to help me focus on my weaker muscles and I have been doing those over the past few weeks. Things have been feeling a lot better, but I had never been able to quite figure out what it was that triggered this pain (I was so diligent about not overtraining) so as I was cruising down the steep descent of Mt. Falcon and that pain came back as I was galloping with my left foot leading and bracing, I had that “light bulb” moment. This is it. This is what has been causing this pain. That bracing movement.
So what now? Well, I will be super diligent about my strength training focusing on muscle balance, especially in my hips and my core (mainly low back and abdominals). But, yes, I will keep running and of course, Keep Going.
By the way, I’m working on Halloween costumes: Noah will be a minion and I will be Vector. Noah’s is easy: yellow sweat shirt and some overalls. I just need to find an orange jumpsuit for me. Preferably the non-prison-looking kind. I think Jim would make a good Gru but we will see.
Have you ever heard of muscle activation technique? Any “light bulb” moments for you this week?
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