So I haven't been super motivated to blog lately. I've had lots to say but most of what's taking up my brain space at the moment is related to my hamstring situation... and I don't know... I think I was hoping to wait to write a blog until I had it all figured out... but the way things are going it might be a while before I've got this thing fully resolved so I figured I'd try to sit down and organize an interim report of sorts. The purpose of this is mostly to organize my thoughts in my own head as I am trying to solve this problem but then I figured maybe somebody out there is going through something similar and this could help you avoid ending up in my scenario??
I think I've got my diagnosis dialed in as High Hamstring Tendonitis. If I were to say how/why I got this, since hindsight is 20/20, here's what I would say: Hamstrings were wicked tight after Cabo. I took a week and did next to nothing but then I thought I felt better so I started training again. I was pretty pissed/frustrated that my marathon was so shitty in Cabo, so coach and I got aggressive with the run training too early post-race. My hamstrings were telling me it was too much and I was making note of it in my PWN but I didn't stop the quality run sessions. I don't know if I just figured eventually they would just stop being pissed even though I was irritating them fairly often... whatever. They didn't stop getting pissed. They got more pissed. And one of them is still currently holding a grudge. Apparently hamstrings are like that.
So there was no one session that made this happen. It was a culmination of me being stubborn and pushing through with run sessions against my own better judgement. I *knew* in my gut that more hard running was going to hurt me but I did it anyway because it was on my schedule and heaven forbid I miss a workout once it's on my schedule. That was my mistake for sure. I should have known better. Maybe at some point I will heed this lesson that I have learned like 100 times already. <bangs head on wall>
Beyond this though I am finding out about the underlying factors that made me vulnerable to this in the first place. There are several, though maybe they are related??
I've always thought of myself as a strong athlete... like strength is my thing. But as it turns out, my strength has developed quite lopsided over the years. I've heard the term 'Quad Dominant Athlete' before but didn't totally understand what it meant, nor did I know that it applied to me!? Turns out, it does! And this is not a good thing for running. I'll go out on a limb and guess that maybe spending tons and tons of time mashing big gears on my bike pre-disposed me to developing this way, as well as having some faulty mechanics on the run... but the run mechanics thing is like the chicken and the egg, you know? Let me go back.
Last weekend I went to Jaco Rehab and had a run analysis done. It was super informative as the PT was awesome and she took me through a whole battery of physical 'tests' to see where my strengths and weaknesses are... where I am tight vs where I am not, etc. I'm going to guess I'm not totally unique here, but what she found was weak hamstrings, weak glutes, super tight hip flexors. Strong quads, strong abductors, weak adductors, weak core. Because of this hot mess my lower body as become, my run mechanics suck. I've learned a ton about biomechanics on the run recently and as it turns out, I'm doing pretty much all of it incorrectly. I think I have known this for a while but didn't really know exactly what was wrong or where to start in fixing it!? But it's not just about trying to focus on fixing it, because I am missing the basic ability to extend my hips since they are so tight... and since my hamstrings and glutes are so weak, they can't act to help extend that back leg anyway!
So given this info, no wonder I constantly get hurt when I try to run faster. I don't currently have the functional strength or mobility to support faster running.
So, #1 focus at this point is increasing my ability to extend my hips, and increasing strength in my core, hamstrings, and glutes. Basically, hold planks and single leg bridges like they are my job. I was told to be holding those single leg bridges for a minute at a time, 6x/day. Um ok. I'm up to being able to hold it for 20" now before I feel like my hamstrings are about to seize up in that debilitating cramp I am all to familiar with. Lovely. How the hell did my hamstrings become so completely non-functional?? I swear I remember having strong hamstrings but I guess that was years ago and I have since neglected functional strength exercises in favor of spending my time actually swimming, biking, and running. There are multiple views on this of course- some believing functional strength work is essential to triathlon performance and others believing you get all the functional strength work you need from swim/bike/run. You can guess which camp I used to be in and also which one I am in now. ;)
Next up, how to fix high hamstring tendonitis in a hurry? Honu is in 6 weeks and I have not been able to run at all for 2 weeks. Less than ideal for sure. Again, lots of conflicting advice when it comes to this as well! Ice. Don't ice! Heat. Leave it alone- don't touch it so it can heal on its own! No! Beat the crap out of it with ART, manual massage, graston, foam rollers, etc. Keep running easy- it won't heal unless it's stimulated. Don't run until it's all better. It's really important to stretch. Don't stretch or it will be more irritated... WTF??
So I'm kind of experimenting with all this to figure out what makes me personally feel better vs what does not. Running (even super easy jogging) does not make it feel better. Both heat and ice massage have made it temporarily feel better. Beating the crap out of it hurts a ton while it's being done but afterward does tend to make it feel better. Direct hamstring stretching does not make it feel better. Doing hip mobility drills/exercises and stretching other areas (hip flexors, adductors, quads) does tend to make it feel better. I found this website which has been one of the most informative sites I've ever come across and I am still exploring all these videos- but some of those mobility drills have been great. That said, I can get to the point where it feels pretty much 100% and I think maybe I'm good to go but then I take one running step and pain comes right back. GAH. When that happened on Friday, after all this energy I've been putting into making this thing better, I just felt like completely throwing in the towel on this whole triathlon thing.
This morning I painted a smile on my face and went to cheer on some of my athletes and friends who were racing. It was a shitty morning for a triathlon, as you can plainly see. Racing this morning would have totally sucked. I didn't want to be out there at all. <ahem>
~Figure out where you're weak and fix it. You might need professional assistance here to figure it out.
~Listen to your body when it's talking to you.
~Don't get greedy with your training, especially when it comes to quality run sessions.
My gut says I'm not going to have this thing resolved in time for Honu, but I'm going to go do those damn single leg bridges again right now anyway. Maybe I'll manage 25" this time.