Some people don’t believe it, but running in the rain is a lot of fun. The rain is cooling, which feels good but also means there is less need to sweat to cool off. The fresh water from the sky helps wash away all the salt too, so it’s an all-around win. I hadn’t been for a rain run in quite some time — I don’t think I’ve ever done one since I moved to Alameda. We had our first real rain here in months today and I took that as my cue. Sitting and watching the rain on the lagoon is nice, but I did some of that too.
Now a confession: I rarely stretch before a run. At one point it was part of the ritual but the more I’ve read about it and the more I’ve run, the more I’ve become a believer in doing only the most minimal stretching prior to a run and doing some follow-up stretching after the run. Actually, I tend to stretch out my legs multiple times after a run — not just immediately when I’m done but hours afterward. The exception I make before the run is usually to stretch my calves. Running with a forefoot strike does tend to put more stress on the calves so I try to give my calves a little extra attention.
Today, for whatever reason, I did a more complete pre-run stretching ritual. It’s probably foolish to read any causation into this correlation but I also hurt some of those parts I stretched when I ran on them. I got a good start; I was feeling like stopping only up to about the half mile mark. After that I found a rhythm where it felt I could sustain indefinitely. I was doing about 12 minutes to the mile. That’s pretty slow but my target is that zone where I can just keep going without stopping. I keep doing that the zone will become faster over time. At least that’s how it has worked in the past. There’s nothing wrong (and a lot right) with doing speed work, but my experience is that speed work has to come on top of a distance base.
I didn’t take a walk-break until after two miles; that’s better than the last time which was in turn better than the time before. But I noticed as I came around the loop by Crown Beach that my left leg was hurting at the outside of my hip and just above my knee. Sounds like the start of ITBS so that’s something I need to keep an eye on. It wasn’t too bad but I walked most of the rest of the way home just to be on the safe side. My guess is that I need to work on my abductor muscles; the discomfort at the hip seemed to be the primary issue.
This may be counterintuitive, but this is something I consider to be a benefit of running. Not that I expose myself to injury, because first I don’t believe I am and second I’m not quite crazy enough to want to be injured. Running has made me acquainted with a variety of types of bodily discomfort, and I have learned to pay attention to the signals my body sends. With that attention has come the capacity to interpret those signals. I’m not pretending to be a medical professional; the knowledge and awareness I’m talking to comes from a completely different perspective. At best diagnostically I think it makes me better able to communicate with my doctor.
I was hit by a car while riding my motorcycle several years ago and I remember when the EMTs showed up I told them that I felt pain in my knee and my foot. The pain in my knee was much more acute, but I thought that the pain in my foot was more important. Indeed, my knee had been only lightly skinned while four bones in my foot were broken. Had I gauged the injuries solely on the intensity of the pain, I would have sent the EMTs looking at the wrong issue. There is more to it than can be measured by the one-to-ten scale doctors ask people to rate their pain by.
(It seems a little backwards that a skinned knee might hurt more than broken bones, but on reflection it makes sense. Skin is quite sensitive in order to provide an early warning. Reflexes kick in and hopefully the sudden and acute pain signals help to prevent further injury. By the time bone is broken it’s sort of too late. Yeah, it’s important to know something is wrong there but in all likelihood all that can be done is not make it worse.)
The important fact here is that I’m paying attention much more closely than just to the intensity of any discomfort. I’ll run ten miles with a painful blister on the bottom of my foot — I can endure the pain and I know it isn’t really going to injure me. But feeling just a little twinge in my hip, that’s something I take seriously at the first sign.
And back to stretching. What I’ve read is that strengthening rather than stretching is generally what is called for with ITB issues. So I think I’ll be staying with my pattern of stretching afterward rather than before running. I’ve got some homework to do to avoid injury.