Chicago Marathon Training Week 5

Sunday, July 6: 3 miles in 27:47 for a 9:15 pace.
Though Sunday turned out to be quite hot and humid, it was cool in the morning: perfect interval weather! Or so I told myself while working up the motivation to do intervals. As far as speedwork goes, I really prefer tempo runs to intervals, but I know they’re both important and will hopefully pay off as the season goes on. I completed five quarter-mile intervals and managed to keep my pace right around the 8:00-8:10 mark for all of them. Hooray consistency!

Monday, July 7: Personal Training.
This session ended up being another quality-over-quantity sort of day at the gym. Over the course of the hour, I only did four different exercises, but BOY OH BOY did those exercises count. Turkish get ups were the particular bane of my existence on Monday. So complicated. So hard.

Tuesday, July 8: Dance.
Sometimes when Tuesday rolls around and I feel like I haven’t done much/enough in the workout department for the week, I commit to dancing as hard as I can during class. I didn’t feel like a slug come Tuesday, but I had indulged in a whole lotta office treats on Monday and Tuesday, so I wanted to give it my all in class. Fortunately, my teacher and I were on the same wavelength! HOLY. SMOKES. I was a sweaty beast after just hip hop, and then I had a whole additional hour of breakdance to get through (which, fortunately, is usually more of a “bursts of energy” sort of class than a “sustained energy for an hour” class).

I had a fair amount of front knee pain on Tuesday, particularly after sitting for extended periods of time. After terrifying myself into thinking I had IT band syndrome (before realizing my pain was well below where my IT band ends, thus eliminating that as a possibility), I Internet-diagnosed myself with patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) instead, for which I actually do match the symptoms! Almost all of them, in fact! Isn’t the Internet a magical place? I don’t think I ever brought it up on the blog last year, but I had a brush with similar pain during marathon season last year (though in 2013, it didn’t show up until the beginning of September, a week or two before my hip flexor went kaput). Clearly I survived that ordeal, but I made a mental note to bring this up with my podiatrist (who admittedly is not a sports doctor, but at least is a medical professional well versed in lower body things) the following day anyway.

Wednesday, July 9: 5 miles in 50:58 for a 10:11 pace.
Let’s start with the good things, shall we? Good Thing #1: the weather could not have been more perfect on Wednesday. Good Thing #2: I felt fine for the majority of my run.

Now, onto what matters.

I mentioned my knee pain at my podiatrist appointment (the podiatrist, by the way, was quite happy with the state of my foot), and the physical therapist who had sat in on my appointment took a very brief look at my knee and said it may be PFPS, as I suspected. At the time my knee felt fine, so I went along my merry way, came home, did my usual PT exercises (skipping the squats and lunges, just in case they aggravated my knee), and headed out for an easy, easy five miler. I actively worked to not push myself on this run for the sake of my knee, and while my hamstrings felt a bit grumpy for the first two miles and the top of my shin hurt a little in the mid-section, my knee, particularly where it had hurt earlier, felt just fine…until I stopped running.

WORLD. OF. PAIN. Oh man. I stop running a few blocks from home to give myself time to walk to cool down, and I genuinely questioned whether or not I’d be able to make it home. I limped back to my apartment, grabbed my trusty bag of frozen peas out of the freezer, and plopped down on the floor to ice my knee and compose a panicked e-mail to my physical therapist.


Unfortunately, my knee still hurt a lot after the icing session, so I did my best to stay off it for the rest of the night, iced it twice more while watching So You Think You Can Dance, and slept with my body pillow under my knees for a little elevation.

Thursday, July 10: Cross training.

My PT got back to me Thursday morning (“Well that’s not what I wanted to hear.” You and me both, buddy.) and said based on my symptoms it did sound like PFPS (because Google never lies, yo! <– false) and instructed me to not run for the rest of the week. HMPH. He did, however, say I could bike and elliptical, so that’s exactly what I did on Thursday, trapped inside the gym while the rest of the city enjoyed picture perfect running weather.


Wahhhhhhhhhhh. I hate everything.

Friday, July 11: Rest.

Saturday, July 12: Cross training.
I did my best to simulate a long run on low-impact equipment at the gym. In theory, I should have run 10 miles Saturday morning, which, at a 10:30 pace, adds up to 105 minutes of running. Because I absolutely could not survive 105 minutes on one machine with the one remaining strand of sanity I have left intact, I bounced around, starting on an elliptical for 26 minutes, moving onto another elliptical-ish device for another 26 minutes, transferring to a stat bike for another 26 minutes, and finishing up back on the elliptical where I began everything for 27 minutes. I kept my pace easy on everything and put in a total of 12.74 miles when all was said and done. I fueled halfway through, just like I would do on a long run, hydrated consistently, and stretched, foam rolled, and did my PT exercises after the fact. I even did a one minute plank to maintain my 10:30 Awesome status 🙂

I felt like my knee consistently improved since Wednesday’s disaster (where, mind you, it didn’t hurt to run — it hurt after I ran). On Thursday I still had a fair amount of pain when I’d get up after sitting for a long time, but that wasn’t as much of an issue on Friday. My knee felt off during my exercising on Saturday, but, to put it in classic scale-of-0-to-10 terms, I’d file Saturday as a solid 1 or 2 (whereas post-run Wednesday was more of an 8, and walking-after-sitting would be more of a 4-5). It didn’t feel right, but it has also felt much, much worse. On the elliptical where I began and ended Saturday’s “long run,” my knee felt stiff to start but loosened up and felt 100% fine towards the end, which was definitely encouraging.

I have an appointment with my PT this afternoon, after which we’ll (by which I mean “he’ll”) decide if I need to go to the sports doctor…which I imagine would result in me being sent back to PT, where I’m already scheduled for five more foot-related appointments anyway. I won’t be running until I’m told I’m allowed to, but I plan on cross training my face off in the mean time.

To say I’m frustrated by this would be an enormous understatement. It’s one thing to do something stupid and get injured. It’s another thing to follow your training program–alter your training program, in fact, to eliminate junk miles–faithfully cross train, strength train, and do your physical therapy exercises, stretch and foam roll like a champ–in short, to do everything you’re supposed to do to stay healthy–and still get injured. 2014, for both concrete and more vague reasons, has been a really tough year for me mentally. While no one incident has made this year a struggle, the cumulative effect of lots of smaller incidents has left me wondering why the hell I can’t seem to catch a break in any department and when things will finally start going well for a change. Through all of that, running has been my primary sanity preserver. When I run, I don’t think. I just exist. I count my steps and breathe accordingly, and that’s it. One, two, three, one two. Inhale, exhale. I’ve spent most of this year feeling like I need a vacation not just from work, but from life and its responsibilities and problems in general. For me, running is that vacation. It’s the one time where, no matter what my foot or my knee or my shins or whatever is doing, I feel okay. Yes, I desperately want to run the marathon in October. But far more importantly than that, I don’t want to lose my “vacation.” Running doesn’t solve my problems, but it keeps them from getting worse, which, at this point, is all I ask. I desperately do not want that taken away from me, and I hope that by catching this essentially when it started, I’ll be able to hang on for the next few months.

19 thoughts on “Chicago Marathon Training Week 5

  1. I am so sorry to hear about the troubles with the foot and knee. At least you are getting help with this at the beginning of training instead of towards the end. Hang I’m there. You are one tough cookie!! 😄

    I agree it is frustrating when you do everything by the book and still things don’t work out the way they’re supposed to.

  2. Pretty much the exact same thing happened to me in 2010 but it was only three weeks before Chicago. Cue tears. Lots of tears. I ran the race (and it was SO HOT so I don’t blame my time on my knee but on the heat), rested for a week, ran that corn maze 5K, got a massage where she KILLED my IT band, and VOILA! No more knee pain. It was so random and so weird.

    Long story short: get a sports massage. And stretch your hamstrings.

  3. Aww hun this makes me unhappy 😦 I’m so sorry to hear about all the foot and knee problems. I wish there was something I could do to help. Keep up with the cross training and listening to your doctors, but damn 2014 needs to lighten up on you a whole hell of a lot. If you need anything, say the word! I’ll do whatever I can ❤

  4. I’m sorry about all the knee problems. I’m so glad to hear that you’re doing everything you can to take of of it, though. All that variety and cross-training should help. Speaking of that, what variety! Your exercise routine sounds like a blast! I need to be inspired again haha

  5. Ooo, turkish getups ARE hard! But that seems odd you only did 4 moves for an hour?!

    I understand your extreme frustration with your knee… but it seems like 2014 has really been a great year for you. Remember all those PRs?! I hope the doc/PT helps you so you can get back to your “vacation” time, but I also hope you are able to find something else that makes you feel relaxed in the meantime 🙂

    • Well, I mean, I only did four *different* moves over the course of the actual workout. I guess if we want to talk about the entire hour, there was also a rowing warmup, dynamic stretching, and cooldown stretching as well. Plus I did I think three supersets of all the exercises? I don’t remember for sure anymore. But it’s not like I *only* did four exercises over the course of an hour! That wouldn’t be a very effective workout.

      Thanks for that reminder 🙂 I definitely did have a lot of good running things happen before everything started falling apart with my right leg in general! The rest of my life hasn’t exactly been sunshine and daisies, but there were for sure a lot of running sunshine and daisies earlier this year 🙂

      • Ha ha, no, that was what I met – four “different” moves (whether in sets or 15 or 10 min increments, each). But I am sure since you were doing supersets it was effective with the weight increases and whatnot. 🙂

        I hope there is a lot more sunshine and daises in your future! 🙂

  6. ARGH!!! What a bummer to hear about your knee pain. I have ongoing knee problems, too, so I literally feel your pain. I know how much it sucks to not be able to run, but I think the cross-training will actually be super beneficial for you. The lungs and legs are surprisingly resilient so your running fitness will not be impacted much, if at all, during this time. I second Erin’s suggestion to stretch as much as possible, too. Hang in there!

    I don’t even know what Turkish getups are, but they sound terrifying!!!

  7. Gahhh so sorry to hear about your knee…I totally feel your pain! I mentioned in my comment earlier how my orthotics seemed to be the culprits for my knee pain, I’m wondering what your podiatrist thinks is the root of your pains?

    Injuries can be so discouraging, especially when you seem to be doing everything correctly. There have definitely been times when I convinced myself that some people simply aren’t meant to run…but that’s silly! It will take time but I’m sure we’ll both figure out what works best with our crazy leg mechanics 🙂

    • I’ve actually been thinking about whether some people just aren’t meant to run a lot too, lately — I don’t know if I know of one single person who regularly runs that hasn’t been injured in one capacity or another, which is kind of crazy when you think about it! Though on the other hand, it is encouraging that people get injured and still are able to continue on as runners.

      My podiatrist didn’t have much of an opinion on my knee pain, but my PT thinks it might be a hip issue. Again :/ My darn hips! I’m trying to be nice to them, and they keep rebelling against me. Alas.

  8. don’t hurt yourself!! i’m so paranoid about sports injuries now and it’s very hard for me read about someone running through the pain. take it easy girl!

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