Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Altered gravity = Altered state of mind

Determine that a thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.
-- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 

I sit in the living room, bike fastened snuggly in its box, wetsuit tucked in my suitcase, my Garmin packed safely in my carryon. A funny feeling envelops me as I think about what I thought 2 months ago. February and March still lurk in my mind, those months when my knee would not…stop…hurting. It hurt to walk, it hurt to bend down, it hurt to touch. To run? I didn’t. When my hip began to hurt, too, the only answer looked like a long road of recovery with my ass planted firmly in the couch. Yet St. George 70.3 fell just 8 weeks out on the calendar. To have a race of such difficulty, such challenge, such presentiment breathing down my neck: I cratered.

The physical therapy I sought wasn’t working. The massage and stretching I used stimulated no healing. The prayers I prayed seemed to fall on deaf ears. I missed the Snake River Half Marathon, but traveled down to cheer on friends and ride my bike along the river instead. St. Paddy’s 5-miler came and went, too.

Interestingly enough, an opportunity presented itself in my last clinical internship at B&B Physical Therapy, of all places. In addition to beginning the last of my three rotations (I graduate June 15th …WoooHOOOOOO!), I started running on the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill. I know—if you have read some of my previous posts, you’ve seen me write about it. It has turned around my recovery in such a way that, I have to write about it again.

Starting March 25th, my true therapy commenced. I started running at 75% of my body weight, 15-20 minutes each day for the first week. The next week, I added 10-15 minutes to each of my runs, keeping my percent body weight the same. By the third and fourth week, I tinkered around with my body weight, time, and speed. If I ran slower, I increased the percent of my body weight that I carried (moving from running on 75% of my weight to 80%, or 85%). If I ran shorter, but faster, I allowed the AlterG to support a little more of “me.”

If nothing else, playing around with the settings made boring runs on a treadmill on sunny, warm days a little more tolerable. By the first week of April, I had improved to running on 86% of my weight for slow runs. I even logged an 8 x 800 at 10k pace speed workout, something that never would have been feasible had I stepped out onto the track.

You can imagine my excitement. Suddenly, I realized I might actually find myself at the starting line in St. George. Suddenly, the idea of finishing the race overwhelmed my thoughts. Finally, my knee didn’t hurt after I ran. Finally, I felt reassured.

From then on, I progressed my way to running on up to 95% of my weight. I slowly integrated short, slow outside runs into my week, trying to run everyday regardless of where I ran and whether or not my feet landed on a belt with altered gravity or the ground. April 21st, I ran my first long run through Riverside State Park. For over an hour, I enjoyed sunshine, fresh air, good company, and relatively pain-free running for the first time in months. What…a…relief.

Saturday, my goal for St. George appears complicated. I want to race. I want to race smart. I will swim, bike, and run a fine line between competing well and pushing too hard to cause re-injury. I know I can swim. The winds will wrestle me on the bike. The run… Ia successful one will carry me to the finish—running or walking—but NOT limping. 

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