the pencil runs

posts on running

ITB Anonymous: Session V

Thursday, December 21, 2006
Hi, my name is mis_nomer and I have a problem.

I went to see the sports doctor at National Stadium this week. I was nervous about seeing the doc 'cos I felt like an impostor. After all, I'm not exactly an athlete. But I felt a little better when the person after me was an auntie whose sport was "aerobics". Sports is for everyone; it is just hard to imagine it so.

Anyway, it turns out that my ITB problem may have a biomechanical origin. My left leg is 1 cm longer than my right, and my left knee naturally tilts inwards. This means that every time my foot hits the ground, it rolls inwards and the ITB strains to keep the knee straight. After a while the ITB rubs against the bone and becomes inflamed.

I was a bit appalled to hear about the discrepancy in my leg length, but the nice doctor assured me that a 1-3 cm discrepancy is normal and the only reason I feel pain is because small discrepancies become magnified when you multiply it over in long distances. She thinks that thrice daily stretching will help, followed by short runs (starting 3km, increase 10% per run) in the new year. Hopefully, my body will know how to compensate for the quirks in my leg structure. If the pain comes back, I'll have to consider making a prosthetic.

These are the four ITB stretches she recommended:

For the ITB, this is her preferred stretch. This stretch reaches the hip as well, so if you suffer from hip ITB, this is a good one to do.

This is my preferred stretch. I find it hard to feel the stretch in the one above because I'm fairly flexible and have to lean really low to feel anything at all.

This is another one.

This stretch is good because I can do it while I am sitting at work.

You mustn't forget to stretch your calves and quads too.

I had a lot of questions to ask the doctor and she gamely answered them all.

1. Can I swim the breaststroke? What about cycling?
"Everyone is built differently. Of course the frontcrawl is the best for swimming because the breaststroke shortens the ITB, but if it doesn't bother you, go ahead and do it. In your case, it may be that only running/ walking is the precipitating factor." Whoohoo!

2. What do you think about the Walt Reynolds' ITB Special?
"I can't comment on that because we haven't tested it out."

3. How long must I stretch for?
"Three times daily: morning, afternoon, night; and don't forget to stretch before and after your runs." What! I was thinking along the lines of five minutes before and after my runs!

4. How can I stretch for hip ITB? (on behalf of Smole)
"All of the regular ITB stretches work for hip ITBS. The leaning on the wall stretch is the best. Some athletes use a rubber ball with rubber spikes to rub against the hip ITB. That helps too."

5. Can I buy an insole from the store?
"No. If you have a specific problem like you do, it is very unlikely that a store-bought insole will help. You need one to be custom made. Our podiatrist is a runner and comes in every Friday if stretching does not solve your problem."

6. Is this something that will heal and resolve itself? I want to run for a long time.
"Stretch a lot and if that doesn't work, make a prosthetic." Hmm. Not quite what I was looking for. The doctor said she has the exact same problem as me and hers kicks in at 7km. I wonder if this is going to be a long-term issue if even the sports doc struggles with this...

and these are the questions I didn't get around to asking.
7. Is it possible to stretch too much?
8. Can I do speed training, run on hills, run laps, play squash?
9. What do our athletes at the Asian Games struggle with?
10. Hey doc, nice Treo!

We are the plodders of the world!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We are the plodders of the world!
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the plodders-
We are the plodders
No time for losers
'Cause we are the plodders- of the world!

Sung to the tune of Queen's "We are the champions"
Smole and I made this song up the very first time we ran long enough to feel bored -- it was a 13.5km training run at East Coast Park -- back then, the plan was to work up to where we could run for "two hours or so". Today, we ran for five hours and fifty-four minutes. What a long way we've come.

Of course it hurt. My ITB gave way at the 18km mark. There was a sharp pain and the knee just stopped being able to bend. I popped two ponstans, two panadols, and hobbled on, and waited for the painkillers to kick in.

Thank God for painkillers and deep heat and painkiller gel and friends who wait at the 33km mark and a buddy who inspires; but most of all, for the cool weather today and the strength to run.

The psychological turning point for me came at the U-turn at East Coast ( 27.5km mark). From then on, we were on our way back, and we had Jamie Oliver to look forward to at the 33km mark. It was so good to see her. We stopped for about 5-10 minutes, and she ran with us to Fort Road. That was possibly the most light-hearted stretch of the race.

From then on, it was sheer grit. Step by step, psych-ing myself with "Pain is Nothing"; "Pain is Nothing"; "Pain is Nothing". It was only at the 37km mark that I felt somewhat confident that we would finish, and I started crafting a post for this blog. This was the post I crafted in my head:

"ITBS and fatigue, I laugh at your face!

But now I succumb to my bed."

It is probably indicative of my frame of mind then. ;)

I was so happy when I ran under the Esplanade bridge and someone shouted: "400m more!" and there were photographers and supporters and I knew I would finish that I just about teared up. Turning that corner and seeing the finishing line, looking at Smole and pointing and smiling, and finally, running, running, hand-in-hand to the finish, a dream come true.

Perhaps we are champions after all. :)



Don't panic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've had so much carbo today that if I don't run tomorrow, I'll put on weight. Seriously, you'll be surprised at how much this moderate-sized girl can pack in in a single day when she puts her mind to it. Be awed:

1. One coffee
2. Half pack fish crackers
3. One banana
4. One prawn yellow mee, soup
5. One orange and lemon fountain soda.
5. One curry pumpkin soup, with
6. One and three-quarters bun
7. One crab-craw spaghetti
8. One bite mudcake
9. One Vitamin C effervescent drink
10. One duck rick, with duck leg

I think I can feel my ITB throbbing in anticipation as I type. I've been sneezing and sniffling all day too. Pscychosomatic I am.

This is my revised marathon to-do list on protopage. Note that "carbo load" is crossed out. And guess what? I bumped into Jamie Oliver today and she said that she will be at the 33km mark to cheer us on! YAY! She's so sweet. Hence I have a new category: "Things to leave with J".

It is 8:15pm and I'm too nervous (and full!) to fall asleep. I think I'll go deflect this restless energy and pick up my messy room. Thanks for all the well wishes!

ITB Anonymous: Session IV

Hello everyone, my name is Ms. Nomer, and I have a problem.

A bit of trivia before I start: what is an important difference between running and swimming?

After a swim, you're not smelly!

This past week, my bedroom has been suffused with the antispetic smell of chlorine, unlike the usual musky smell emanating from the laundry basket at the corner of the room. I almost like the sweaty smell more than the chlorine smell, just because it is more familiar and it always makes me feel happy and accomplished.

So after a week of not running, I went for my first run yesterday evening. My mind had grown soft -- I wasn't looking forward to exerting myself at all -- but once I got started, it felt so remarkably good to get gloriously sweaty again. Great big glops of sweat, like a labourer at work. And the cadence of the feet, the ability to breathe whenever I wanted to, the music in my ears, the road before me, it was all very good.

And then of course, the pain set in.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I will not be able to walk after the marathon this coming Sunday. It is not like I haven't cut back my mileage. My total mileage this past week was less than 10km. How I am going to go from less than 10km to 42.195km this coming Sunday is going to somewhat of a miracle on the Moses-parting-the-red-sea scale. Not to mention the ITB. My longest run so far is about 26km; my ITB is probably irrevocably inflamed; the die is cast.

But dang it, I'm going to finish it anyway, hobbling if required.

So, since it doesn't help to ruminate on this matter any more as the die is cast, I'll just do what I have to this week (swim the freestyle, eat, drink) and think about something else altogether:

Do people sweat when they swim?

If so, is that why public pools taste salty?

Food for though eh? :) Have a good day.