It occurred to me as I was watching Youtube videos of Kilimanjaro climbs that today marks exactly SIX months until I get on a plane for Tanzania! My climb doesn’t begin until June 12 but as far as I am concerned the adventure begins June 9th when I get on the plane in Dulles. It’s going to be the longest six months ever. I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas. It’s horrible to wish one’s life away but I can’t deny it…all thoughts are focused on one thing: Kilimanjaro!
This weekend was a physical fitness roller coaster. As you may know from my previous posts, I’ve been having IT band issues ever since I ran the half marathon on a broken toe (stupid in hindsight, I know, I know). I’ve done a few short turns and had no problem (two 1 mile runs and a 3 mile run). Yesterday morning I woke up and decided I’d run 3 to 5 miles. My legs felt a little tight and in passing, just before leaving I hopped on my foam roller and rolled out my bum leg for literally 20 seconds. It didn’t feel that tight so I decided to go for it. I drove to one of my favorite spots and jumped out of the car and took off up a gravel road. Things were fine for the first mile or so but I noticed going up a hill that my knee felt “odd”. I didn’t think too much of it because I wasn’t in pain. At precisely
1.78 miles into the run I felt that dreaded pain in the side of my knee that meant only one thing: IT BAND. UGH!!!!!!! The amount of disappointment cannot be described. I really thought all the IT band misery was behind me. Apparently not. Broken and defeated, I walked back to my car. I knew that running through it wouldn’t work. I got back in the car, fought back tears, and drove home. What was to become of my dream of running a marathon in April if I can’t get this IT band under control? I’m supposed to start training in a month. It’s been a month since the half….what will happen? 😦
When I got home I decided to roll out some more, believing that it was tightness that was causing the problems. I had already planned on going hiking to McAfee’s Knob and didn’t want to totally give up on any training so I pressed on with my plans. Trooper had no problems running up the trail but my hips were really hurting. I’ve NEVER had a problem with sore hips so I just couldn’t understand what was going on with me…sore IT band, sore hips on both sides. WTH???
We finally made it to the top. What a glorious sight! If you’ve never seen McAfee’s Knob you need to go! It’s gorgeous. It’s the famous outcrop of rocks that is often used in photos or drawings of the Appalachian Trail. I’m so lucky to live just a few miles from the Appalachian Trail and I think that, growing up here, I sometimes take for granted just how magnificent the natural world is around Roanoke! One of the interesting things about the hike was the number of VA Tech students. It seemed like half the university was on this mountain. Luckily they were all very friendly and offered to snap off some pics of us while we were on top. 🙂
The hike down was painful. My hips were SCREAMING. It really concerned me because I’ve done this hike numerous times and it’s never been a big deal. It’s approximately 8 miles round trip and took approximately 3 hours round trip. I think this mileage is on par with what I will be hiking per day on Kili. With each painful step, I started to wonder what I had done to myself and if this was something permanent? I tried to tell myself that this was just good training and practice for the pain and endurance I’d have to face on Kili but it was little comfort. Nothing is worse than wondering why your body has failed you.
We finally reached the car and I was so happy to go home and rest. On the drive home I pondered all the things that could have caused all the pain, both running and hiking? I kept going back to the foam roller. I foam rolled and that’s when the pain started. Did I aggravate my muscles? Should I have avoided it? I got on Facebook and started asking for advice from my friends. One main theory emerged. Dehydration! My friend Joe asked if I was dehydrated and I answered, “Absolutely!”. To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember the last time I had water. I’ve been on a Dr. Pepper bender. Ugh, I feel ashamed but it’s true! I love that stuff. It’s the devil’s elixer but I swear I am so addicted. My love for the stuff deserves it’s own blog but it’s due more to the emotional attachment I have to it rather than taste. Enough about that! One other suggestion to relieve my pain was an ice bath. I’ve done them before and find they do help but omg, are they painful! I decided I really needed to do it so I bought a 10 pound bag of ice and jumped in the tub. It instantly took my breath and I screamed at the top of my lungs but within 5 minutes, I no longer felt pain and managed to sit in it for 20 minutes.
Back to the water….Joe said that it’s no wonder my muscles were hurting. He said I was basically running on beef jerky. He said imagine taking a steak out of the ‘fridge and letting it sit out. It would lose it’s pliability and become tough. He made a really good point and at that moment, I vowed to drown myself. In the span of 4 hours, I drank 64 ounces of water. It, along with the ice bath, did some good because when I woke up this morning I felt really good!
In addition to the water, I also know I need to do some strength training…specifically, my glutes. I have the worst butt ever. It’s a white girls butt and has no muscle tone whatsoever. To make things worse, I am a runner so that means I have weak gluteus medius. When these are weak, it causes the IT band to work harder, causing issues. Wow…sound familiar? Anyway, I went to the gym today after church and did some abductor and adductor exercises. I also did some leg raises, calf presses, leg presses, and back exercises. Everything went well but I could tell that my adductors were weak. I started to suspect that this was also the problem when earlier on Saturday I attempted to roll them out and they were excruciatingly painful! I thought as a good reward for all this working out would be a good soak in the hot tub. I also felt that it would really relax and loosen my muscles.
After changing into my swim suit, I went to the pool area and found that the hot tub was broken. Noooooooooooo! I really wanted to soak! My only other choice was to get into the heated pool, which I did, and did some aqua jogging. Sounds stupid but it felt good and was a pretty good workout. As a “jogged” (I hate that word. I’m a runner, not a jogger), I decided that I’d hope in the sauna afterwards and dry off and cook a bit in an attempt to relax my muscles. Excitedly, I ran to the sauna only to find it cold and dark. The light wouldn’t work and I waited a good 20 minutes for it to warm up but it never really happened. Talk about a kill joy. 😦
After my cold trip to the sauna, I dried off and decided that it was time to try out my IT band with an easy, flat run at the track. I decided I’d run 2 miles since my trouble started last time at 1.78. I took off and ran 8 easy laps and had NO problems. My knee still felt kind of “odd” but I had no pain while running. Thank God!
So what now? Well I plan to do the following:
1. Stay hydrated. This means drinking at LEAST 64 ounces a day. This should be easy enough as it’s only two full Nalgenes.
2. Stretch before running. I am the worst at this. Taking off on a run without doing ANY stretching or exercise was probably just too much to my cold, contracted muscles.
3. Run MORE! I think I’m taking too much time off between runs. When I was training for my half marathon I ran four times a week. Now I’m lucky to run once a week. I need to try to run at least 3-4 times a day, even if it’s just short distances/
4. Strength training to build my leg and glute muscles.
5. Yoga and constant stretching> I think all this running has caused some of my muscles to lose their flexibility.
I don’t know if these things will fix the problem but I do know that I am willing to do ANYTHING to be in my best possible shape for Kilimanjaro. I definitely want to do marathon training and run Nashville BUT if I had to choose, it would definitely be Kilimanjaro. I feel like everything I do for the next 6 months is all about reaching the top!
Sooooo….that’s my weekend. Full of disappointment but also hope! I think I’m learning lots of lessons that will help me on the mountain. I’ve learned that health and fitness are things you must continuously work on and never take for granted. You can feel great one minute and horrible the next. Finally, water is everything. I watched a video tonight that said that on Kilimanjaro, water is like medicine. Dehydration is a terrible thing and I’m learning that it can really wreak havoc on one’s body.
On that note, I’m off to guzzle 16 more ounces before bed and get a good night’s sleep (which I never get).