April 6, 2012

Andrea: On the Upswing!

Overview - 

After my first year of really hard training and my very first marathon, I needed a break - both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, I was too concerned about losing all my fitness and having to start from scratch all over again that I never really gave myself the necessary break. I ended up severely irritating my back and having a lot of forefoot pain, not to mention that I felt chronically fatigued. By the end of March, I had only run twice since the marathon where I felt GOOD - where running wasn't painful, I didn't feel fatigued, I could run a respectable pace, etc. That's 4 months of frustration! And then finally, it all clicked again. I'm feeling strong now - almost back to my old self.

Details - 

After the marathon, I didn't take any days off. I ran 30 miles the week after the marathon and, for the most part, increased mileage for the next 8 weeks. These runs were all easy, but I definitely did not feel good. I developed bilateral forefoot pain on the second metatarsal around the beginning of January. I was worried that the problem was stress fractures (but that didn't make sense because it was bilateral...). I finally broke down and took three weeks with little to no running. I did do a lot of cross training though - spinning and strength training for the most part. I saw absolutely no progress. The pain was just as bad as before. So, I went to chiropractor that specialized in Active Release Technique and asked him to help me with both my back and feet problems. I also started doing 20 minutes of yoga every morning. Between those two things, I realized that there are specific trigger points (in the calves and feet) and stretches (calf stretches, downward dog) that I can perform to prevent pain in my feet. Shortly after, I was running with less and less pain! I still have to make sure that I massage and stretch before every run, but if I do that then my feet feel good.

(FYI - I found this website about trigger points and if you are having some foot/lower leg pain, I would highly recommend working on the trigger points specified for particular spots of pain.)

I cannot say that I have had a lot of luck with my back pain. This has become a chronic problem and no specialists I have been to were able to figure out how to fix the pain. It is tolerable for running and the pain is not significantly holding me back, but I'm still searching for the cure. I would really like get it resolved. I am even thinking about a complete diet change to see if that will provide some relief. I'm too young to have chronic back pain!!

Anyway, I have been increasing mileage ever since my feet were feeling better. I still felt lousy but was just hoping that it would go away soon. The first day I felt good running was two weeks ago from today. Since then, my running has totally changed. I'm more fluid, can run faster, feel strong and healthy, etc. Maybe that trip to Brazil was the ticket to my healing! I might just have to take another 2.5 week trip down there :o). I have started to incorporate workouts into my training - starting with 200m reps on the track to marathon-paced tempos to mile repeats, gradually putting in more reps and less recovery. I think I will start to really feel confident with another 6 weeks of hard training...just in time for the US Half Marathon Champs in Duluth, MN!

Here is how I have slowly incorporated workouts into my training since the beginning of March.

So lessons learned -
- Take time off after a marathon. Don't significantly increase mileage until you feel fresh again.
- Sometimes pain in one area is due to tightness in a completely different area.
- Be smart and listen to other people that have experience and are knowledgeable.
- A 2.5 week trip to Brazil is good for the body!


  1. I'm glad to hear you're feeling better - I don't know how you balance working full time with that kind of mileage AND a relationship all at the same time, that takes a lot of work and dedication!!

    Sorry to hear about your back problems :( I have back problems from a car accident nearly 3 years ago too... It's pretty awful, I wouldn't wish it on anyone! I find heat pretty helpful- I use a heating pad a lot and hot baths seem to help. I recently discovered Lakota gel roll on - it's like deep heat rub and I find that really good. Otherwise there doesn't seem to be much of a cure for it! Keeping active seems to help too - on weeks when I don't run much I find myself terribly stiff and sore. I hope you feel better soon!!

  2. Glad to hear you are back in the groove! I am looking forward to meeting you in Duluth! Keep up the good training! Allison

  3. Love the trigger points idea. I'm going to try it! Thanks!