I didn’t make it to the California International Marathon this past December as planned which was a true disappointment. Out of the blue a couple weeks after our first half ironman triathlon, I started to have hip/upper leg soreness that kept getting worse as I ran. I know I’m not fragile! I had trained so hard all summer tackling 5 hour brick workouts, intervals on the bike and many open water swims. I made it to the starting line of our big triathlon healthy and strong and did so well. I thought I could train through this current obstacle. Heck, I ran through very painful shin splints while training for the Boston Marathon all last winter and finally ran it. I believed I could also get through this “bump in the road”. But that wasn’t the case. Denial of an injury made things much worse after a hard 8 mile progression run one Friday afternoon in late September. And afterward I couldn’t run outside for a good solid 8 weeks (an MRI ruled out a stress fracture)! It hurt just to walk and put any pressure on my hip/leg. That was tough and it sucked big time! The doctors couldn’t pinpoint my injury, but it was deep in my left hip flexor. Running is my life and not being able to do my favorite passion is like clipping a bird’s wings.
Beautiful bike ride a day after I realized I would not be running for a while
However, sometimes these bad times have a silver lining and we are presented with new opportunities. And I have dealt with long-term running and cycling injuries in the past and knew I would get through this difficult time as well. The great thing about being a triathlete is that usually you can focus and work on your other two sports if you are injured in one discipline. And that was the case for me. While it was painful just to walk around, I could bike and swim with almost zero pain or discomfort. So for the next 8 weeks I bumped up my swim schedule to four days and started cycling six days a week. While it seemed like it took a long time for my hip/upper leg to heal, I kept myself busy in these various ways. I’m writing this blog post for other runners out there who finds themselves injured and in need of support. Perhaps someone out there is looking for ways to maintain their fitness and come out as a stronger athlete, both mentally and physically.
Still love commuting to work by bike!
Even if you are a runner who has no plans of ever doing a triathlon, swimming, cycling, and even hot Bikram yoga are excellent ways to maintain fitness. Nothing truly takes the place of running, but you can stay strong while healing an injury. When my triathlon coach Kelly learned of my bad news, we talked a lot about my upcoming Ironman in August of 2015 and how I would focus the next few weeks on cycling and swimming. It was October and it was getting a bit cold for road biking in Vermont, so I would bundle up and ride my cross bike (and sometimes my mountain bike) on the hilly, scenic gravel dirt roads from my house almost every day. This was excellent as the training was good quality and I was happy to be outside. We had a few warm days where we did get out on the road bikes, but my cross bike was a true savior! I was commuting to work a couple days a week as well on my cross bike which was also helpful.
Towards the end of October we made a courageous decision to join the local Masters Swim group and swim every Tuesday and Thursday morning (and we have no plans of stopping). I’ve always read that if you truly want to become a better swimmer as a triathlete, getting your ass kicked at the Masters swims week after week will make you so much stronger. I absolutely love being a part of this group of awesome swimmers. I do get my ass kicked, but the swim workouts are so much fun! Most of these folks are real competitive swimmers and are amazingly fast. Scott swam in college and has been getting faster, but even he’s not quite ready to join the fast lanes. I’m in the slow lane but have improved quite a bit over the last few months! As a newer swimmer I actually find it inspiring to be swimming with such an incredible group of athletes. And to top it off, everyone has been so nice and supportive towards me and my quest to become a good swimmer. I have truly learned to love pool swimming because of this group. I know this will make a huge difference in my 2.4 mile swim this August up at Ironman Mont Tremblant!
Another great aspect of the Masters swims is that we have a great swim coach, Kim who has been super helpful. I’ve even taken a few lessons from Kim which have also improved my stroke. I can’t recommend enough to sign up for swim lessons if you are a new swimmer considering or already doing triathlons. It will make such a huge difference. Swimming is almost all technique. Even the pros are always working on technique. So joining the Master Swim group was a huge benefit of taking a break from my running this fall. And now that I’m back to running, I’ve noticed that I feel stronger and almost lighter out on the roads after doing so much swimming. And my running fitness came back so much quicker compared to past injuries!
Another activity we decided to do back in October was hot Bikram yoga once a week on Mondays. This is a 90 minute very intense yoga performed in a heated studio at about 105F degrees! I’ve been doing this style of yoga off and on for many years (more off than on however). And I have always returned when I’m injured from running. While this might not be for everyone, I know several other runners and triathletes who swear by doing this yoga. It’s not only good for injuries or injury prevention, it’s also great for heat training! And in Vermont, it’s a great tool if you are planning on doing an event somewhere warm when training all winter in the cold. But honestly, I just really like this hot challenging yoga. I did it the last time I was injured for a while which was 3 years ago. It stretches me out thoroughly and I love all the sweating. It’s almost cleansing in a way. I feel good and relaxed after doing a 90 minute session. And after a long week and weekend of training, Mondays work so well. It’s my new way of taking care of my body and getting it ready for the new week. I love going Monday nights up at Bikram Yoga Stowe at 5:30pm after work. Today we had the day off so we ventured down to the Burlington, VT studio. It’s a great place but it was packed this morning at 9:00am! Lots of people love this yoga! Check it out!
At the end of November we started to get snow here in Vermont. And once that happens my cross bike goes down to the basement until probably April. Slippery dirt roads and paved roads full of salt are not good for my cross bike. We put our studded tires back onto the mountain bikes for riding around our gravel snow packed roads. However we knew we needed to break the bank and finally invest in Computrainers for our triathlon bikes. While we have regular trainers for indoor cycling, the Computrainers add a whole new dimension to training. They measure true bike speed, miles, elevation, heart rate, wattage, cadence, etc. And there are many 3-D and real life video triathlon courses to ride with accurate elevation gains.
While the Computrainer (or a compatible device) is a must for serious triathletes who live in cold weather states, it doesn’t really cure the mind-numbing boredom of riding a bike indoors for hours on end. So what did we do next? Buy Fat bikes! Yes this really did happen:
We love our fat bikes so much and will post our adventures this winter. While the fat bikes won’t exempt us completely from riding the Computrainers, they will allow us to enjoy our Saturdays and some weekdays outside in the woods and on the trails. I have to admit that I do love playing in the snow, so fat biking is our answer to training without the misery of being trapped indoors for our long bike rides on Saturdays. I call this creative Ironman Training!
Trying out a Salsa fat bike rental at Catamount Outdoor Family Center a few weeks ago!
So I did start running outside in early December after doing a few weeks on the Anti-Gravity (Alter G) Treadmill (starting at 20% of my body weight). I have been slowly building back up a mileage base. Luckily I wouldn’t be running too many miles at this early stage of Ironman training even if I hadn’t been injured. But it’s nice to be up to 10-11 mile long runs and 6-7 mile runs during the week days. This week I hit 29 miles but look forward to when I’m running 40-50 miles a week. I always do feel the best when I’m running more.
My eight weeks off from running wasn’t easy but it did present many great training opportunities for myself. I’m on my way to becoming a better swimmer. I have developed a good base mileage of cycling indoors and outdoors. I’m taking better care of my body after a long week of training. I’m going to my Bikram yoga class to stretch myself out and promote healing. Sometimes we just need to give our bodies a much needed rest and embrace other activities that use different parts of our bodies.
Thanks for stopping by! Please feel free to reach out if you are injured and need some support or advice. I feel like I have a good handle on getting through running injuries and making a bad situation become a blessing in disguise. Injuries are normal and part of the process when passionate about endurance sports. From professional athletes to newbies, we all experience these tough times. But they don’t have to be dark times.
And I have to say that the best part of the last few months has been having my husband join me in the swimming, indoor cycling, yoga and fat biking! Best Husband Ever!