Sunday, December 19, 2010

Plan of Attack for Disney

Well, Disney is just three weeks away - yikes!  And I am still having back pain, particularly toward the end of a long run.  Mile 16 seems to be my Achille's heel.

So, I talked it over with one of the physical therapists at work.  And, just let me put in a plug for physical therapy here - those folks really understand musculoskeletal injuries, and they love working with recreational athletes, because we will actually do the exercises they prescribe - sometimes too faithfully!  If you have a musculoskeletal injury and have the means to do so, please ask your doctor for a physical therapy consult.  But, I digress...

I have a facet joint injury at about T-8.  Facet joints are the little spots where the spinal vertebrae come together - they facilitate twisting and bending of the spine.  When I run long, I am hammering that little injured spot, and after awhile it starts to complain - loudly.  It slowly starts healing during the week, and then I do a long run on the weekend and re-injure the soft tissue and cartilage.  The physical therapist advised keeping my runs under 15 miles (since that seems to be the trigger point) until I have given myself time for a little more healing.  In fact, he advised canceling Disney.
This is a facet joint, between two vertebrae.  Doesn't look like it could cause much trouble, does it?

But Disney is PAID FOR! The whole trip! And they don't do refunds or transfers or any of that, so I can't switch to the half.  And I have wanted to run Disney for years. Years! I know that there will be other races, and I know that a major back injury would be devastating, personally and professionally.  Can you just see me in a back brace trying to move around in the operating room?  And back surgery would definitely put a damper on triathlon training and speedwork in the spring, don't you think?

But I have come up with what I think is a workable plan.  Since repetitive motion is the problem, what if I break the cycle periodically? Change things up a bit to give my back a break? What if I walk every second or third mile?  I know - it sounds ridiculous, and if I were one of you who could knock out 6-8 minute miles I might not even be able to contemplate that, but the truth is that at this point in my running I am not.  I run a 10-12 mile pace for my long runs - it is what it is.  And I can walk for hours - I could walk the whole marathon and I'd probably only have a few blisters to show for it.

As it currently stands, if I go to Disney and try to run the whole thing I'm probably going to be walking the last 5-6 miles due to back pain.  I know that, because at mile 16 or so of a long run I have to slow down dramatically or walk.  Walking in at the end of the race because you couldn't run any farther just feels like defeat to me. So why not sprinkle those six or eight miles throughout the race to try to prevent the inflammation and irritation that will occur if I run the whole thing? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic - if there's something I haven't considered, or some trick you've used to overcome an injury, I am all ears!
See?  All ears! Thanks, Google and Disney!

In the meantime, I think I'm going to talk to the physical therapist tomorrow and see what he thinks.  Because bargaining with his patients is probably his favorite activity!  Heh!


  1. For my four marathons, I went with the Galloway method of walking for a minute at each mile. During my last marathon (a year ago this month!) I did some stretches during that minute - raising my arms above my head and breathing deeply, walking sideways (on both sides) at one point, even walking backwards for a few seconds. It really helped break up the race, and I wasn't unbearably sore after the race.

    Good luck!!

  2. i think that you have a solid plan. obviously doing this race is way important to you but you can also see how pushing it too hard might not be the best thing for your back. as long as you have the willpower to stick with it you should be a-okay.

  3. Tough call. I just decided not to do Rock 'n' Roll Arizona because of my plantar fasciitis and it sucks (I'll be blogging about it today or tomorrow). It seems silly that you can't switch to the half. I've never dealt with back issues, but my friend has. She has gotten relief with KT Tape. I don't know if it would help your facet injury, but it's worth a shot.

  4. Jaime, if I thought one minute a mile was enough I would do that - I'm not sure it is. Maybe 3-4 minutes per mile? See, I'm bargaining again!

    MM, it is important to me - I hope I'm not making a mistake.

    Leah, it is silly, isn't it? It is my own fault, though - I could have signed up for the half, couldn't I? I'll look into the KT tape. Thanks!

  5. You could always run the first half and walk the second half? Also, my first marathon in May, they will also not allow changes to the half. I don't get that either.

  6. Jeff, that's not a bad idea, either - Disney advertises itself as a walker-friendly marathon, so why not?

  7. Listen to you bemoaning a 10-12 mile're a rockstar in my books! So you have to walk a little bit, big deal!

  8. I totally wish they would let you move to the half. That's a bummer, Disney! ;) BUT I think you have a good solid plan and it seems like it would be doable. As someone else said...YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR! Finishing is what matters even if you have to walk. But seriously, do not injure yourself further.... I wanna keep you as a running buddy. :)

  9. Thank you, Sandra and Kim, for putting things in perspective. Listen at me - boohoo, I can't run more than 16 miles without pain! :) It will all be fine - I'll run the race and listen to my body and give it what it wants and all will be fine. And if I walk, I walk - hey, dressed as Tinkerbell, maybe I'll fly! :)

  10. I think walking ever few miles sounds like a great idea. Give your muscles a bit of a break as well as your back.

  11. I would go for it, hopefully your PT will give you the green light!

  12. Thanks, Brooke and Molly! I didn't get a chance to touch base with him today - hopefully tomorrow!