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The pain in the rain lies mainly in the brain

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.