Thursday, July 28, 2011

Injury Update

It turns out my ankle injury was not an ankle injury.  I hurt the arch of my foot, which led to swelling in my ankle.  I assumed it was my ankle when my fears got the best of me.  My top goal this year was to rehabilitate my ankle and not hurt it again.  I have come a long way since having difficulty walking this past November to racing today.   

Not that an arch injury is any better.  Abandoning my running plan that I have stuck to since February was heartbreaking.  As far as racing goes I have achieved 2 of my 3 race goals for the year.  Recovering from injury and staying healthy is more important than meeting race goals.  Don’t compromise health and safety for performance!  I will need to delay satisfaction and achieve my elusive ½ marathon goal later rather than right now.  2011 goals:

5k 18:36  18:26  Storm the Bastille
10k 38:42  38:31  Pigeon River classic
½ marathon 1:25:45 

The pain in my arch has subsided after 10 days of abandoning running for low impact activity.  A dull ache persists when my form is incorrect, great biofeedback.  To ease back into running I applied progressive loading and paid close attention to my body afterward.  It is tempting to put in high mileage after taking time off but these transitions need to be gradual to reduce risk and avoid further injury.  This past Monday I ran 1 mile.  Tuesday I ran 2 miles.  Today I did my first brick, cycling 14 miles followed by a 3 mile run.

In failure is opportunity.  I have learned a lot from this injury and will become a faster runner because of it.  I thought long and hard about it, paid close attention to my form, examined event photos, examined video of other runners, and looked at old running shoes.  Turns out my tendency to roll ankles is the result of a multitude of interrelated factors that compound on each other.  These signs have been around for years and I conveniently ignored and rationalized them away.

An old pair of shoes retired to lawn mowing.  Excessive wear on the outside of the foot indicate an uneven foot strike in need of correction.  The wear should be even.

Bruising and blistering of the feet indicate the majority of the impact force occurs on the outside of the feet.  Before placing blame on shoes examine form.

In gray the leg is seen crossing the body's center line.  The arms and legs should be square, never crossing the center line.  The foot strike is on the outside of the forefoot.  An even impact should occur at the center of the forefoot.

I am a natural forefoot striker, always have been.  Turns out all these years I have had a touch of over stride, cross my centerline with my feet, and sub sequentially touch down on the outside of my foot.  My forefoot strike is exaggerated, more like a sprinter running on the forefoot without touching the heel to the ground.  All these factors coupled with an unstable landing leads to a lot of rolled ankles – some with disastrous results.  My form has often been praised but stands room for improvement – if only I had met a critic who would have broke it down.  I don’t need an orthotic or a special shoe to accommodate my sub optimal form.  I need to change my form and undo those years of muscle memory. 
Changing years of muscle memory takes effort and concentration and is greatly aided by minimizing distractions like music and watches.  I have reduced my stride and increased my cadence, which encourages an even foot strike.  I pay close attention to not cross my centerline with my legs or arms and run square.  In the next day or two I need to reevaluate my situation and create a new plan with new goals and rethink events I had planned.  This injury has briefly left me without goals, events, or a plan to motivate me.  These are all necessary ingredients for success.

I challenge everyone to leave there distractions at home and concentrate on their form for one workout.  There may be some easy changes to identify that gain speed with less effort than is expended today.  Thankfully I have sport variety to fall back on when running fails me.  All runners should have backup plans for maintaining fitness in the event of an injury.  Now that I am running again with Lefty at my side I am sure he will be happier and much less of a troublemaker.

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