Archive for the ‘Injuries and Owies’ Category

That Voodoo That I Do

Posted: November 10, 2017 in Equipment, Gym, Injuries and Owies
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And so it begins – the official off-season training program.

In truth, it actually started a while ago but I have begun to get myself back into a daily/weekly routine enabling me to cover all my swimming, biking, running and strength-building bases and already, these workouts comprise approximately 12-15 hours of my week.

I know, I know…I’m bat shit crazy but I’m owning it.

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

One of main priorities right now is to repair the badly atrophied muscles in my legs following my Iron Disaster this past June; my right leg specifically.  To that regard, I have added a new toy to my daily strength-building program – be it core at home in my basement or with the weights at the gym – the Voodoo Band (or “Voodoo Floss”).

voodo

And no, sadly, a “Voodoo Band” is not the name of some hip and rocking swing band.

Essentially, a Voodoo Band is an essential tool that, really, should be a staple tool in the gym bags of every athlete looking to improve range, restore joint mechanics, or unglue matted down or previously injured tissue.

Or so the advertising websites tell me, anyway.

What is really is, is a thick stretchy compression band that one can wrap around their limb (in my case, the muscles of my right thigh and Iliotibial band area) to allow the re-perfusing of tissues that have become stiff or gone cold after injury, and by compressing swelling out of tissues and joints.  Because the Voodoo Band can be used while actually performing the movement the athlete is trying to change, its effect on sliding surface and restoration and tissue mobilization is (apparently) unmatched.

I was first introduced to the Voodoo band on one of my visits to Legacy Health & Performance when Dr. Burr pulled one out during one our sessions.  My first instinct was to cower in the corner like a whipped puppy seeing as how the band – at first glance – kind of resembles something a headmaster might use to discipline an errant student.  Likewise, I’m pretty sure I saw this thing in a fetish video once at a Stag party years ago.

Either way, I was not exactly looking forward to it.

Thankfully, Dr. Burr started to wrap only the muscles of my right leg in it before asking me to perform a series of movements that, prior to this moment, had ached whenever I performed this same movement.  And low and behold, the pain had almost subsided entirely once wrapped in this thick rubber band.

Okay, that’s cool.

Had someone told me about the benefits of the Voodoo Band without my actually having tried it first, I would have assumed that naming it “Voodoo” was just a great marketing ploy to entice lay-people like myself into purchasing one and trying it out but, hey, there is definitely something to this bad ass looking stretchy thing.  Not long afterwards, I saw the band mentioned again in a book (also recommended by Dr. Burr) I had started to read called ‘Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally’ by Dr. Kelly Starrett.  In fact, there’s a whole section dedicated to it.

If you believe Starrett, the Voodoo Band is the be all and end all of helping to cure what ails ya, runner-style.

And you know what?

I do believe him.

This Dr. Starrett fella sure doesn’t look like your typical emaciated, skinny-ass, sleek, greyhound looking Kenyan marathoner.  No, sir!  He’s a large, burly, ripped muscle guy with tattoos.  The kind of tattoos that mean “watch out, motherfucker!”  and not “hey, let me read you some poems about my vegan bicycle”.  Upon first glance, you might better picture him as the kind of person you’d expect to murder you while quietly humming to himself as opposed to out running endless hill repeats in the back country.  In other words, if this guy can run regularly and naturally, and without injury, then there might just be something to this whole Voodoo thingee.

What have I got to lose?

According to Starrett (and Dr. Burr), the Voodoo band is an instrumental tool in restoring the sliding surface between the layers of fascia, creating a omnipotent shearing effect that unglues those sticky sliding surfaces, helps to restore range of motion, floods the affected area with nutrient-rich blood, and helping to reduce swelling while reviving the joint.

Sounds totally boffo, right?

But what’s all that mean?

Well, beneath the skin there are two thick “layers” of fascia. The layer associated with the skin is the Superficial Fascial Membrane. There is another layer which is very closely associated with muscle and skeleton, called the Deep Fascial Membrane. The deeper layer is not simply a “wrap” around muscles and soft tissues, but is also integrated within these structures to pass force and information in every direction.

The superficial fascia is attached to the dermis via “skin ligaments”, called the Retinaculum Cutis Superficialis (RCS). The superficial fascia is attached to the deep fascia via more soft tissue bridges, call the Retinaculum Cutis Profundus (RCP).

Still with me?

Fascial layers are densely populated with all sorts of receptors, most notably mechanoreceptors. In case you didn’t catch that, this means that fascia is like a loud-speaker to the brain, saying “Hey, something is moving down here in your less intelligent tissues. Howzabout you get involved, all up in here?”.  Stack that with the fact that joint capsules (previously thought to be our main source of proprioception) are considered to provide strong feedback only during end range stretch/compression, I think we can safely assume that fascia is a key component in neurological feedback loops, especially related to movement.

So, how does this apply to the Voodoo Band/Floss?

It’s simple really.

voodoo-flossThe strong elastic compression will quickly alter fascia’s relation to all other aspects of the neuromusculoskeletal system when you move with it on.  It would likely take some tension out of certain areas of the fascia, shifting it to other areas via strong intra-sling/intra-layer tension redistribution and inter-layer shear.  Yeah, it’s all about the tensegrity, baby.

So what does this mean now?

Basically, it can massively alter neural input by making a quick change in the mechanical transmission of the fascial system (and its many mechanoreceptors) when moving underneath some strong compression and “stretchy-pulley forces”.

Yes, that’s the technical term.

What’s the ultimate take-away here:  looking at the Voodoo Band simply as a compression mechanism is quite simplistic, since the vast majority of users will wrap themselves up and move. 

Even simpler put:

Compression + Tension + Movement = Fibrosis release.

So wrap myself up and move I will.

Through a whole host of movements actually; squatting, lunging, and stretching specifically.  And here’s the important part, it feels good – during and after.  In a few short weeks I have noticed a significant improvement in all my former “ouchie places” and the power I once had is now beginning to restore itself and this pleases me.

And even when the pain and discomfort is no longer prevalent or a problem, I’m still planning to keep with the Voodoo Band during my strength routines as a pervasive action in order to stave off future injuries and that definitely can’t be a bad thing.

Oh, and hey, I also figure walking around the gym or at home with this bad ass thing wrapped around me isn’t exactly going to damage my street cred any as a total shit-kicker either, could it?

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

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Exactly two months ago today I was in the shape of my life when, poof!, it all disappeared and my life instead took on a completely different type of “Ironman” adventure, one that included having seven titanium pins inserted into my left hand.  Not exactly the beginning, or end for that matter, of the 2017 triathlon season that I was hoping for (click HERE for a reminder).

These last two months have certainly not been easy and I have to contend with and endure some very difficult low points but I’m coming through it now; I can begin to see the light at the other end of the tunnel.  I figure then that having been exactly two months, it was time to post some sort of follow up on the healing process overall and shed some light on where I currently stand in regards to getting back on the ‘ol proverbial horse as it were.

The first four weeks were certainly the hardest as I struggled to simply deal with the situation (click HERE for that reminder).  Thankfully, I have more or less come through that now and am beginning to look to what the future holds for me in regards to the next challenge.

(Insert image of a mythological bird taking flight over smoldering ruins here)

The first issue needing addressing is the weight issue.  This was inevitably going to be the case as sitting around in an EZ-Boy unable to do anything isn’t exactly the key to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.  You know what you don’t want when you’re forced to sit around bored and incapacitated?  Salad.  Well, not unless you substitute all the lettuce and spinach for, oh I don’t know, Cheetohs.  And then swap the tomatoes, onion, and cucumbers for, say, Skittles, Gummy Bears and, peanut butter cups while you’re at it.  There.

That makes me feel superb.

So, yeah, I’ve put on a few pounds.

This was always in the cards of course as part of the post-Ironman recovery process, but at least I would have had one momentous accomplishment to look back on and be proud of in order to justify my laziness.

Without that, I’ve just gotten fat.

Period.

This change towards a healthier diet now that I’m beginning to be more active again will begin immediately.   Coupled with that, I am going to begin my regular (if not daily) core regimen to begin building back lean muscle and prepare my body to once again (three times the charm!) handle the rigors of all my off-season training.  This was likely the smartest thing I did all year in preparation for Ironman so I aim to reinitiate that program.  The upshot to all this, is that I also need to regenerate the muscles in my left hand and forearm, so this is also an excellent add-on to my regular physio treatments.

Speaking of building muscle, the biggest challenge at the moment is dealing with the severely atrophied muscles in my legs.  When this whole shit storm erupted, I was cycling stronger than I ever have before with a strength and endurance that I had previously never imagined and was on track with being able to accomplish a sub 5 hour 30 minute Ironman bike pace.  Now that power is gone.  Rather, I have the power, but I can’t maintain it for any significant length of time.

I just don’t have the wherewithal to do the long distances at the moment.

But that’s okay seeing as how my “riding season” was already aimed at being “fun” anyway, in just being able to get out and ride with Hailey and Kelly and I can do that once more.  I still have The Big Move to look forward to where I will once again be serving for the 10th time in the capacity as a “sweep” rider, then Hailey and I will attempt our second annual “Daddy-Daughter Bike Adventure” (click HERE for last years’ account) come October.  This year the plan is to ride out to Dunnville for brunch (approx. 65k).   I still slip in the odd ride on my own however when time and schedule allow and I’m confident that the legs will return in time.

The major challenge right now is swimming where, essentially, I am back to square one.

For anyone who swims (like, really  swims) they will understand that swimming is all about form and having an immediate “feel” for the water.  The current lack of mobility and muscle in my left hand in part with the severed and regenerating nerve endings after the surgery mean that I’ve now lost this instinctual feel for the water.

however, now that I’m back in the water, the goal is to reacquire this feel and regain my form ASAP so that means drills, drills, paddles and more drills.  Getting in the pool 3-4 times a week, even for short distances (1500m-2500m) is a big priority for me right now, having once prided myself on being an accomplished swimmer.

I really  want to regain that confidence in the water once again.

Running.

Gah!

I was just getting to a place where I was beginning to feel like a runner after years of trying to make peace with it.  Running for me has never been easy.  Having said that, by mid-June I was running off-the-bike comfortably and strongly with no adversity, or what’s commonly called among triathletes as “cement legs”.  That was definitely huge progress after nearly a decade in the sport.  While I might not have been the fastest runner in the field, I was consistent and running with decent form.

Now, with the added weight of two meaty man tits to contend with, that form and consistency have all but evaporated.  As with cycling, it’s back to the beginning and as with swimming, that means drills, drills, and more ABC drills.  Fortunately, the intense heat and humidity of summer has more or less passed so getting out now for easy(ish) short runs around the surrounding area – even it’s just to visit the neighborhood cat (click HERE) – isn’t the most challenging thing I need to get geared up to accomplish.  Once my legs muscle begin to return I will amp up these weekly runs to once again include regular fartleks, hill, speed, tempo and even long distance workouts through the week.

So, physically, I’m coming along nicely and have taken my first few tentative steps (and strokes) along the comeback trail, so to speak.

Mentally?

That’s a bit more daunting.

While I believe that I am on the right path, I’m still impatient and often find myself feeling angry or jealous of others around me who all still in their peak fitness and accomplishing great things.  I mean, it’s not them that I am angry with, but the circumstances if that makes sense.  I have done all the hard work already – twice – and still have nothing to show for it.  And now here I am again dealing with another (more major) setback.

It’s a hard thing to swallow regardless of how well things are going at the moment.

But as my chiropractic guru at Legacy Health & Fitness (also HERE), Dr. Kristin Burr who, I might add, has put this battered and sometimes broken body back together again more times than I can count, mentioned to me last week:

“You’re a real athlete now that you’ve had to deal with this type of serious injury and your ability to get past this is what’s going to define you as an athlete going forward.”

Huh.

I never thought of it quite like that.

Wise person this Dr. Burr.

But it’s true.  Everyone loves a comeback.  If I can manage to remain patient and not get too weighed down by the incredible psychological mire of doubt, regret and frustration and somehow successfully accomplish all the things I’ve mentioned above (not to mention finding a job) to reacquire my prior “Iron fitness” and – fingers crossed – once and for all complete this Ironman goal, that will be friggin’ huge.

HUGE.

I am very fortunate in that I already have the right team and the successful plan to follow (click HERE), I just need to be able to follow through and pull the trigger once the stars manage to correctly align themselves…whenever that happens to be.

THAT will be something truly epic.

And so that’s my motivation and mental state at the moment:

Be patient.  Be smart.  All good things to those who persevere.

We can rebuild him.

Again.

It has been almost four weeks since my big Iron Disaster and three weeks post op after having seven pins and screws inserted into my left hand at the same time I should have been crossing the finish line; becoming a 7x Titanium man instead of a 2x Ironman.  So, yeah, once again this has not exactly been a stellar year competition-wise and I’m still struggling to make sense of it all.

As it with the whole Grief Cycle, first comes the Denial and Isolation Stage.  And, believe me, there was lots of that in the Emergency Room and in the days following the accident as I remained hopeful that I would somehow still be miraculously able to pull the race off.  I remember begging – pleading – the responding EMR’s to give me some sort of reassurance that it wasn’t so bad despite the blood fountaining from my elbow and my baby finger which was sticking out at an odd right angle away from the rest of my hand.

Of course, it wasn’t meant to be.

Shortly afterwards, I entered into the Anger Stage and here is where I really excelled; especially after realizing that had I been able to to compete there was a very good chance I would have won my age group and perhaps even podium-ed over all in potentially 3rd place.

And that’s some hard shit to swallow let me tell you!

If there was some sort of lesson to be learned here, I wasn’t seeing it yet.

Likewise, during this period most peoples’ attempt to have me see either the good or the positive in the situation pretty much fell on deaf ears – I simply was not to be consoled.

Among the worst of the standard adages offered to me was “Well, it could have been worse”.

Well, yes, I could have ended up with a more severe break or perhaps ended up sliding under an an oncoming truck and being dragged for another kilometer or so before being deposited by the roadside for vultures and crows to pick at so, sure, I suppose it’s true that it could have been worse but I didn’t want to hear it at that point.

The other common sentiment was “this is your bodies way of telling you something?”

Pardon?

Tell me what  exactly?

That it hates me?

Couldn’t it have chosen a different and less painful way of telling me the same thing or, better yet, waiting another eight days to tell me which – if you remember – was the plan all along?  Or was it trying to tell it me that it felt that I needed more hassles going through the metal detectors at airports?   Whatever it was, my response to my body at that point would inevitably have been the same:  “Gee, thanks body.  Fuck you too!” 

The problem with this sentiment was that this disaster was more of an environmental and mechanical issue than it ever was my body creating some sort of resistance.  My bike slipped on a slick metal surface so if anything, my body was the victim here but, again, thanks.

And then there’s the people who tried to console me with “hey, at least you can have a relaxing summer now”.

These people in particular I wanted to judo chop in the throat.  Clearly these people have never had metal pins inserted into a major appendage so that can’t shower unless they have a plastic Subway bag wrapped around it and can’t even do up their own pants in the morning without assistance.  Similarly, they have never had to squeeze out a stool as stiff and dry as a mason block thanks to the amount of Percocets they’ve had to ingest in order to keep the pain at a manageable level so that they didn’t try to chew off their own arm in the middle of the night.

Sure, real relaxing…but cheers for that.

Thanks.

The other thing I heard quite often at the time was “everything happens for a reason”.

The fuck?

What possible reason could there be for my having to blow two years of hard work and perseverance for Fate to totally screw me (pun intended) seven days before the big event unless it was just trying to fuck with me?

I wanted to donkey punch these people.

“That’s Fate’s way of telling you that you’re a dick.”

 

Remember this was all during the Anger Stage.

But I’ve had the benefit of time now while being firmly wedged in the Depression Stage to mull it over and attempt to look at the situation a little more objectively.

What is there to be learned?

What can I take away from this whole epic shit show to make me a better person and, hopefully, a triathlete?

Then I had a very humbling experience during my first rehab appointment at the Shaver Hospital.

At first, I was firmly focused on my own pathetic circumstance as I tried to wiggle my baby piggy and feeling very low considering that I was at my peak fitness just a few days previous.  Let’s just say I was feeling very, very low at this point.  But then I looked around at some of the other patients in the room in the middle of their own rehab.  Around me there were people learning to walk with a new prosthetic and unfortunate souls with their arms stuck inside cell regeneration machines after having acquired horrific burns.

And here I was worried about being able to bend my pinky finger and riding my bike by the end of summer.

Really.

What an asshole.

It kind of put a new perspective on things in that, yeah, maybe I did get off pretty lightly and things could definitely have been worse…a lot worse.  I guess that’s what those people were trying to tell me when I wasn’t willing to listen.  Sure I might still struggle to put my pants on, but at least I still have legs to put in them.  Maybe I can’t wiggle my little finger right now but I still have it and it will  heal.

I will  ride again.

Maybe what I was supposed to learn was how fragile my body is and that perhaps I should appreciate it a little more when it is able to do the things that I was able to do just one week ago.  Maybe this was supposed to teach me to enjoy the experience leading up to the event a bit more than I have, rather than stressing about what my body was not able to accomplish in the moment.

Let me explain.

While I am confident in my over all training plan and that it did ultimately help me acquire a fitness that I have not enjoyed in the past few years (in fact, I was both cycling and swimming better than I ever have before), I spent a stupid amount of time worrying about either what I wasn’t doing enough of, or fast enough, or hard enough, or whatever.

I was more often than not focused on the negative rather than the positive.

I mean, give yourself some credit dude.

You’re doing it!

Period.

Full stop.

Maybe this whole situation was intended to be a lesson in humility and will serve to help me grow into a better appreciation for the whole training process and ultimately become the Ironman I believe I can still be and want to be.  After all, the kind of athlete I admire is the one who takes setbacks in stride and rises above them only to return better than ever (not unlike Paula Findley who is finally getting back to a winning form after a disappointing turn of events at the 2012 Olympics – click HERE).

This is far from the end for me in this sport; it’s just a minor setback that happened to come at an inopportune time.

Hopefully, this is just the start of better, brighter and more successful things to come.

Finally…

Acceptance.

Iron Disaster

Posted: July 4, 2017 in Injuries and Owies
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In four days’ time I was scheduled to be competing in my second full Iron distance triathlon in Hudson Valley, New York but just three short days ago this happened:

Yeah.

I was on my last training ride, a “short and easy” 100k spin with a buddy when we attempted to cross the metal bridge across the Welland Canal in Port Colborne on our way back home.  I’ve crossed this bridge several times before and I know to slow and be careful except on that this particular pass, it was slippery having rained the night before.

I was already half way across when I felt my back wheel begin to slide out from underneath me and then, suddenly, it wasn’t there at all.

Boom…crash…

And there was blood…lots of blood.

I immediately felt my Ironman dreams slipping away from me as my bike continued to slide across the metal grating.

Except that my body did not slide.

No, it hit – hard – and stuck.

It was like landing on an iron, life size cheese grater.

Fortunately, thanks to the quick reactions from my riding partner and the kindness of a few passing motorists* an ambulance was called and I was quickly on my way to the Emergency Room at the Welland Hospital to get stitches and x-rays, which showed two bone fractures to my left hand that likely absorbed the brunt of the initial impact.

While the prognosis was not good but I have remained hopeful over the past few days that everything would work out and I would somehow still be able to pull this Ironman thing off and compete.  After all, despite all the bruising and required stitches, I still seemed to have all the mobility and flexibility in the necessary parts required for swimming, biking and running.

Maybe this wasn’t over yet.

I emailed the race director to see if racing with a fiberglass cast was allowable and it was.

Okay, good.

There was still hope.

That’s something  at least, right?

But today’s visit to the plastic surgeon confirmed my worst fears in that the trauma to my left hand was severe enough that to even attempt a triathlon, much less an Iron distance one would be complete folly.

My 2017 Ironman dream is officially over.

To say I’m disappointed at this point is the understatement of the century.  After last years’ cancellation and then again this year, it seemed like the Ironman gods were not necessarily smiling on me favorably.  Now it just seems that for whatever reason they have decided to specifically target me for their wrath and it totally sucks.

They say that “everything happens for a reason”  or that “when a door closes, another window opens”  but truthfully, I’m finding it very difficult at the moment to find the positive in this whole situation.

Part of me is still thinking that maybe I’m being a bit hasty in my decision and I should quit being such a sissy, suck it up and get it done.  I mean, I’ve already come this far, right?

I’ve sacrificed.

I’ve endured.

I actually left my job in part to accomplish this goal.  Might as well just get it done and deal with the rest afterwards.

Except that what I can’t justify risking are the other commitments that I’ve also made this summer, namely riding and swimming with Hailey.  If I were to go and do something significantly more detrimental to my already uncertain condition and jeopardize those opportunities, I’d never be able to live with myself so we made the decision together as a family to pull the plug on this years’ Ironman adventure.

I’m sure my perspective on this whole thing will change in the coming days, weeks and months (hopefully towards the positive) and, maybe, I’ll even attempt this whole Iron Madness once again in the future but, for the time being – my quest to be a 2 x Ironman is on permanent hold.

*And no thanks whatsoever to the lady who slowed down, leaned out the window to look at my arm before making a face as if she had just looked directly at the Ark of the Covenant in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and loudly proclaim “Oh my GAWD!  That’s bone!”, before simply driving off again.  Not cool, lady.

It’s definitely not the way I anticipated beginning 2017.

It happened the Sunday before the Christmas weekend.  I went out for an anticipated long 100 minute progression run (I run in increments of 20 minutes now).  Shitty thing was, Mother Nature decided to throw me a curve ball as she is apt to from time to time by hurling down an epic ice storm the night before.

So, yeah, no progressions that day.

No problem – long, slow distance it was then – and out the door I went after my morning breakfast, coffee and poop ritual.  I had already convinced myself that if I managed to keep it slow and steady, I could still complete the 100 minutes and the workout could still be chalked up as a success.  The only other option was to do it on the treadmill at the gym and, yeah, no.  Fuck no!

Thing is though, I don’t think I felt solid pavement under my feet once.  Every road I ran – even the back roads that I thought would have been at least somewhat gravely and forgiving traction-wise – had fuck all to offer as far as solid footing was concerned.  In fact, to give you some idea what I was up against today, I got passed along Gilmore Rd. by an elderly couple…on skates.

Yes, skates.

There they went merrily on their way down the middle of the road in the middle of Buttfuck Stevensville on old beat up skates going heaven-knows-where.  Needless to say, my pace completely sucked (5:54min/km) and by the end of 90 minutes my quads were so shot that when my neighbor passed by and jokingly called out if I wanted a ride home I was all like “fuck ya!”, shut off the Garmin and hoped in – which is why for those of you who follow me on Strava, my run stopped abruptly at the corner of Nigh and Ridge Rds.  I just didn’t have the wherewithal to navigate the last 3k of black ice home again.

F-u-c-k that.

The next day, my right shin was tight…very tight.  So much so, I bunked off running for the rest of the week and for the first time in 8 years, I did nothing on Christmas Day.

Nothing.

I usually run a half marathon distance Christmas Morning (it’s a tradition) and there was the one year that I rowed a half marathon instead (click HERE), but this year:  nada.

Things started to get better gradually and the following weekend I started running easy for 60 minutes or so and successfully completed two of those, along with a few short drill and tempo runs during the week.  I thought things were progressing well so I decided to push my luck and try a short fartlek run again.

I’m such an idiot.

My only success that day was that I managed to complete the first 5 x 2 minute hard intervals (7.83k).  ‘Ol Thunder n’ Lightning felt tired but I cold attribute that to the 3 minutes of squats I did this morning as part of my 28 Day Challenge (click HERE).  But shortly afterwards, it was a quick slippery shit show of a slide straight to the bottom when my right calf/shin pretty much stiffened up forcing me to hobble like Paul Sheldon after his run in with Annie.  I could have kept running but I knew that would have be really special kind of stupid.  So, instead, in a bit of a panic as it was starting to rain down sleet and I was already cold, wet and still some distance from home, I did what I have never done before…stuck out my thumb and shamefully hitched a ride home with my tail between my legs.

How.  Embarrassing.

So what the hell went so wrong around the 7k mark when all my other runs the past two weeks have been getting progressively better?  Well, the last time I truly suffered on one of these runs I was wearing those exact same shoes (ASICS GEL 3030-2).  Upon inspection of my Strava account upon getting home I saw that they now have exactly 482.6 kilometers on them, give or take the treadmills sessions I’ve done over the past year or so, yeah, maybe this aggravation of my calf/shin issue is a by-product of that?

Well, that and my being a dumbass of course.

So now I’m on the injured list again.

16114630_10157979669500277_4687479425056172463_n

Fucksticks.

I’m quite confident at this point that what I’m dealing with is muscular and while I’m still injured, I’m not necessary damaged per se.  In other words, nothing popped indicated a torn muscle or ligament.  So that’s good.

However, it’s still sore.

As it turns out, there is a very good likelihood that I am suffered from what’s known as an “increased neural drive” to my right calf muscle.

Don’t panic, I’m not dying.

Here’s the skinny as I understand it, when you perform any action for an extended period of time – in my case, running – the body has two ways to power that movement, through the natural fuel that I consume (carbohydrates, proteins, and what have you) or through an automatic neural activation from the brain to the muscles themselves, known as neutral drive to the muscle.

The human body is essentially designed to move, specifically over long periods and distances, so once the primary fuel source begins to deplete itself that automatic neural drive begins to kick in and take over allowing the body to keep going by wiring electrical synapses directly to the muscle.  When it comes down to it, our bodies are primarily wired to be instinctively cavemen-like and we have evolved to allow us to keep running as there are gazelles to catch and mouths to feed, so to speak, so we have to keep going in order to survive.  This is likely what happened on that first long run when things began to go terribly wrong; I was tired, under-fueled and running with a poor form on the ice.

The problem is, that once this automatic neural drive kicks on, it doesn’t necessarily know when to cease and desist meaning that even though I had stopped and didn’t need to run anymore, unconsciously, my body was still in lion-mode chasing down gazelles on the African plain.

It definitely sounds cooler when I explain it that way, right? (thanks Dr. Burr)

Anyway, now that it’s fired up and causing me grief, what can I do in the meantime until it decides that enough is enough?  So while I go through my physio treatments with Dr. Burr at the amazing Legacy Health & Performance to coax my calf to give up on the gazelles already and just be, the question remains:

Now what?

My concern then is how do I continue with my training so that I a) don’t necessarily lose all my acquired run fitness and b) promote healing and no make the issue any worse?

My options then are twofold:

  1. Walking/slow shuffling
  2. Shallow water running

That’s if I don’t consider sitting on the couch doing nothing but eating bags of Ring-Ding’s mind you.

Luckily, I don’t.

Walking or the “slow shuffle” is aimed at replacing the longer non-stop runs. If the injury is not too severe then this can take the form of long hikes and to add resistance, the use of a weight jacket.  Now, I have no intension on strapping any more weight onto this already hulking frame, thank you very much, but I get the point. This type of shuffling would have the same duration of my current long distance times (ie. 60 minutes).  Case in point, Chrissie Wellington when training for Ironman Frankfurt completed all her runs as hikes and finished the race just a few seconds off the World Record.

I’m not so sure it would play out this way for me, of course, but it definitely beats the Ring-Ding’s.

I could do this slow shuffle (below any pain discomfort) on the track upstairs at my local gym on the outside lane in place of my Sunday long runs.  I’m sure it’ll be gutting to be lapped by all the old ladies walkers but if it’s aiding in m recovery while keeping me moving – so be it!

I’ll think of it as building mental strength through self-control.  I’ll just keep “shuffling” while everyone else just walks laps (literally) around me. This type of training has been adapted from Kenyan runners training methodologies.

For many Kenyan groups it is not even a debatable point on whether to ‘push on’ in continuing with the group track work. Injured athletes will often shuffle on the outside lane till their compatriots have finished. Very few carry the Western propensity to push on or hard when injured. The pace instead dictated by the ‘no pain level’.  Think of it as discipline in its most basic form.

And then there’s “shallow water running”, carried out in waist deep water.  Luckily, my local pool has such a wading pool for the kiddies.  This exercise would build (or maintain, however you wish to look at it) strength while still keeping in touch with the ground.  The run mechanics would change,  sure, as this form of running forces me onto the ball of the foot but the big advantage is that, hopefully, I can get back run form quickly.  Varying the depth of the water can even assist with the rehabilitation of various injuries until transitioning back to normal running.

I gave this specific shallow water workout a trial this past weekend and, holy shit!  It’s absolutely challenging!

What’ya know?

In fact, after 6-7 minutes of Figure-8’s I was absolutely sweating buckets seeing as how humid it was.  I’ve never considered this before seeing as how I’m always swimming in the pool and therefore submerged in water.  I’m not so sure the other people in the wading pool with me were as thrilled about my hard work (ie. perspiration) was I was but, meh, fuck ‘em.

After running repetitive Figure-8’s from the shallow end to waist deep water what I can absolutely guarantee you is that my legs were toast!  However, there was no pain.  So that’s definitely good.  The only drag was my having to constantly avoid all the mothers and babies and kids and whatever the hell it is that the creepy old dude was doing in the corner.

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There is also the deep water variety that I could perform with a floatation belt, but I’m not sure I’m 100% ready to delve into that level of crazy just yet.  If this injury goes on longer than another week or so, I will explore that option more closely but for the time being I think the shallow water running and track shuffling will suffice.

So my plan over the next two weeks or so is to supplement my three weekly runs with either a shallow water session or track shuffle and, hopefully, get myself back on track in February without having sacrificed too much fitness.

Knock on wood.

Bang the Drum Slowly

Posted: October 17, 2016 in Injuries and Owies, Swim
Tags: , ,

I get that injuries and ouchies are a part of triathlon.  I get it.  Really I do.  I have an entire category dedicated to them in this blog alone (click HERE).  But worse than the stupid self-inflicted injuries that come of my either doing too much, or doing it too soon, or just my being a dumbass, whatever, are those injuries that I unfortunately incur at the hands of someone else; another dumbass, if you will.

Those injuries, well, they tend to really bug me.

I have recently fallen to one of these types of ouchies which is now threatening to set back my regular swim training.

It began about two weeks ago when after one of my pool workouts, my right ear became plugged with water.  This in and of itself, is nothing to freak out about and I have long become accustomed to it happening periodically.  I figure that when one tends to spend stupid amounts of time submerged in contained bodies of water it’s bound to happen eventually – and it does.  What typically happens then is that a day or two will go by before that little pocket of water in my ear shifts and drains out my ear canal in a teny tsunami of warm fluid which, truthfully, feels awesome.  I figure most swimmers will liken this to a total “eargasm”.  Once this happens, usually after we’ve been lying down on that blocked side for a spell, all is right with the world again.

Sometimes, however, that blockage is a bit more stubborn and simply refuses to give up its stored up bounty of fluid – this is what is referred to as “Swimmers Ear”, or acute otitis externa.  This is highly annoying and exactly the case I found myself in exactly one week after that original blockage.  The symptoms can stem from echoing, itching or clogged feeling in the ear – and lots of discomfort (often a signal of an inflammation of the skin within the ear canal that occurs when water gets trapped there).

I my case it was “all of the above”.

Of course, I could have been doing lots of stuff during that week to be proactive (click HERE) but, as I’ve stated before, I’m a dumbass, and often when the opportunity to be smart and act accordingly comes along, I tend to fold like a Renaissance triptych.  I figured it would just unblock itself eventually.

It didn’t, and so a week later, on a Thursday morning, bright and early, I got up at 6:00am, poured myself a coffee, grabbed my book and headed to the local Urgent Care to have tie issue, hopefully, sorted out.

After about two hours, I was met with by the attending physician in an examination room who proceeded to attempt to flush out the blockage with a syringe full of warm water; not an altogether pleasant experience, believe me.  What he was trying to do was wash out a build-up of excessive wax that had gathered in my ear naturally, as protection against moisture and infection.

In this case, though, my bodies wax manufacturing system was working on overdrive and had instead build it up to the point that it was not allowing what water that did manage to breach its defenses, back out again.  I guess when it comes to wax manufacturing, by body runs with the efficiency of a Japanese auto factory.

What came out of my right ear as a result of the doctor’s “syringing” looked like something you might place on top of a birthday cake and light except, well, much nastier.  Almost immediately afterwards, I was rewarded with that warm gush of fluid out my ear and – low and behold – I could hear normally again.

Winning.

But then it all went horribly wrong and downward spiraled into a total Yakov Smirnoff opening for the Spin Doctor’s at the Iowa State Fair-like shit show.

You see, we decided that, hey, we may as well do the other ear while we’re at it.  After all, if one side is totally gummed up with wax then the other side can’t be too far off, right?  So we opted to give my left ear the same working over with another syringeful of water.

Unfortunately, this did not go as smooth as the other ear.  Within seconds of blasting the water into my ear I experienced an intense pain that was on my Top 5 of all-time painful moments.  Ladies and gentlemen, over the course of my life I have shot an arrow through my hand, subjected myself to being tattooed (click HERE) and endured being kicked square in the Charlie Brown’s by a scorned Eva Roditis on the schoolyard playground back in Grade 3, and this pain was definitely worse than any of those.

Much worse!

If the pain wasn’t enough, hearing (well, barely hearing the doctor that is) the doctor mumble “uh oh” definitely didn’t help matters any.  I definitely felt warm fluid coming out my ear but, but this fluid ended up not being water or another wax build-up, but blood…lots and lots of blood.

“I think I just perforated your ear drum”, he says casually.

FML.

Not winning.

A ruptured eardrum is a small tear in the thin membrane that separates your outer ear from your inner ear.  That membrane, known as the tympanic membrane, is made of tissue that resembles skin.  The eardrum serves two important functions in your ear.  It senses vibrating sound waves and converts the vibration into nerve impulses that convey the sound to your brain.  It also protects the middle ear from bacteria as well as water and foreign objects.  Normally, the middle ear is sterile, but when the eardrum is ruptured, bacteria can get into the middle ear and cause an infection known as otitis media.

Yay.

The doctor then informed me that I wouldn’t be able to swim for at least a week.  Shit sticks!  Furthermore, I would also undergo injecting four drops of antibiotics (which, as an interesting side-note here, my loving wife would place under her boob to warm up for me prior to dropping them in my ear – meaning my drops would now become affectionately known as “mommies boob juice” – how emasculating is that for an aspiring Ironman swimmer?) into my ear every morning and evening and then see my family doctor for clearance before getting back in the pool.

FML x 2.

Anyway, another week goes by of being injected twice daily with “boob juice” and I’m back at my family doctor’s (yesterday) to learn that a) there’s still wax in both ears, b) my ear drum is likely not healed yet, and c) I still can’t swim for approximately another two weeks.

FML x 3.

Needless to say I’m pretty discouraged at this point and now looking for viable options to protect my ear temporarily while it heals so I can at least get back in the pool, meaning, I need ear plugs.

Yay, again.

Remember this idiot (click HERE)?

petal-swim-cap-multi-retro-flower-bathing-cap_1

Yeah, I just took another colossus step to becoming them.

Not really knowing anything about ear plugs, I stopped by the local pharmacy to see what options were available.  In fact, there was a whole cornucopia of options; an entire rackful located inside an entire aisle of ear and hearing-related products.  It was like the pharmaceutical equivalent of a “Turducken“.  Who knew there was such a profound market for ear plugs?  But then again, come to think of it, my grandma probably kept her local pharmacist driving around in a Rolls Royce for the last 10 years of her life given how much stuff she had crammed into her ears on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, none looked very promising.  Most were either the variety used for noise protection, sleeping, or as my grandma used to claim, “keeping the wind out of my ears”.   I’m pretty sure one was just a little baggie of candy corn.  However, there was this one waterproof variety of which I was still a bit skeptical:

They’re essentially little wads of soft, tacky silicon that you warm up by rolling in the palm of your hand and then stuffing into your ear to create a waterproof seal.

Like so:

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I was dubious but I gave it a shot (at home) anyway and, honestly, it felt like I had just stuffed a Gummy Bear into my ear.  Likewise, I was doubtful that they would ever really stay in place in the water and, even then, they were only for a single use only.  Needless to say, I didn’t feel safe actually testing these things in the water so they were more or less tossed into the bottomless abyss of shit under my bathroom sink.

Then I found these TYR molded ear plugs at Team Aquatics in Burlington.  Besides being manufactured by a recognized swim equipment brand name, they weren’t the disposable variety. Instead they were marketed as “long lasting silicone” plugs made for swimmers, by swimmers.

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These definitely looked more promising.

Among the other benefits listed on the package was “allows hearing during use”.  I like hearing stuff when I swim, so this was a definitely bonus.  I couldn’t hear shit with the other soft silicon Gummy Bear variety in my ears.

However, they were a little more complicated to insert as opposed to just cramming a wad of silicon into your ear.

From the instructions:

“Top straight edge of the ear plug core should be in a perpendicular line with the face.  Outer rim fits into the hollow depression behind the ear canal.”

Umm, okay.

Who knew shoving soothing into your ear could be so difficult?

But then again, the instructions did also add:

“DO NOT PUSH THE EARPLUG SO FAR INTO THE EAR THAT YOU’RE UNABLE TO GET IT OUT.”

Gee, thanks.

Anyway, with a little twisting and prodding I did manage to maneuver them into what I think was the proper “perpendicular line (my) face” :

img_1035

And – get this – I could still hear fairly well.

Cool!

For good measure then, I also threw a swim cap on which I never really wear in the pool just to help keep them in place (hey, I already have plugs in my ears to I might as well go whole hog and look the part of the total swim geek) and entered the pool to give them a trial run (swim?).

Upon my first few laps they felt pretty comfortable actually.  However, that “allows hearing” thing went right out the window as everything sounded more, well, in utero I guess…which, truthfully, was very relaxing.  Maybe it was just because I also couldn’t hear the Ariana Grande bullshit they were playing on the pool deck between strokes anymore, whatever, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

I was a bit worried that maybe they weren’t completely watertight and that water was now leaking into the gaping hole of my tympanic membrane and I – unbeknownst to me – going deaf with each additional stroke so I kept my swim short to a few drills only (1300m).

Upon finishing, I unstuck the earplugs and everything immediately returned to blissful normality; no muting, no sloshing around in the ear, no nothing.

Beautiful!

Besides making me look like a total swim pussy, the plugs had done their job and held tight in preventing water from entering into my ear, meaning, that I can now get back to my usual weekly swim workouts while my ear drum continues to heal for another week or so.

Back to ‘winning’ again!

Oh, and what does the remainder of this “healing” process look like?  Well, absolutely nothing for the next 10 days while the membrane rebuilds itself and then I have start adding basic cooking oil into my ears to begin loosening up whatever wax that might still be lingering around in my ear.   Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Yeah.

Not so much.

Thankfully it’s not forever.

(edited:  10/19/16)

So after Sunday’s “trial swim” I was up early and in the pool at 6:30am ready to get my swim on.  Unfortunately, after the first 300m or so, one of the war plugs slipped out and, yeah, nowhere to be found, meaning that I was now forced to abandon my planned workout and doing a stupid amount of kicking drills instead so I could keep my head above water.

And you just know how I love  my kicking drills!

After informing the lifeguard what had happened, she put out the APB to all the other bobbers and floaters in the pool.  Basically, the whole pool was not on Amber Alert for my missing plug.

After 20 minutes or so, they were found by an old lady…four lanes over…on the opposite of the pool…on the bottom.

So much for “floats in water”.

Thanks, TYR.  Great job there.

NOT!

Exactly seven days ago (as of this writing anyway) I came down with a stabbing pain in the middle of my back. It was (is) absolute agony.  I have no idea from whence it came.  Did it come as the result of my first easy drill run that afternoon, or is it the residual effect of lugging around heavy tents and wet floor mats on and off a truck for the SunRype Tri-KiDS days earlier?  I dunno.  All I do know is that it feels like somebody is repetitively plunging a carving knife into my back.  It totally blows.

I initially thought it was a knot or some sort of muscle spasm and tried to treat it with a topical pain relief lotion but that only ended up with my nearly getting third degree burns (click HERE).  I then dosed myself up on ibuprofen to no avail. I even went so far as to have a co-worker at the office walk on my back.  Nada.  Although I might have developed a new fetish for Geisha girls.

Nothing worked.  The pain just got increasingly worse and worse and for five days I barely slept and I pretty much existed in a constant state of agony and while things have improved marginally since then, I am still in lots of discomfort and I’m popping Tylenols like Pez.  Likewise, I’m now constantly walking around slouched over like a vampire cowering away from the sun.

FML.

This was supposed to be my big week back to Ironman training and here I am barely able to make it up the stairs without crying out in pain.  Needless to say I’m pretty frustrated.

Eventually I figured that I had had enough and decided to call in the Big Guns, namely the good people at Legacy Health & Performance, my go-to peeps for all things ouchie.  I booked a massage appointment with Nicole and also received an initial adjustment and assessment by Dr. Burr.  Neither really seemed to know what the issue was as it’s very difficult to treat something so completely systemic.

FML x 2.

I went to my family doctor and was told it was a simple muscle spasm (it wasn’t) and that I should just try and relax and wait for it to pass.  Oh, and she prescribed me some anti-inflammatories which were rather like throwing water balloons at a twelve alarm fire.  Fuckers!  Relax?  Yeah, right!  Ever try to relax  with an ice pick constantly being twisted between your shoulder blades?

Good luck with that.

Since then we have made some progress (at Legacy, not the doctor) in that we now realize that my symptoms (as they’ve changed somewhat since the first few days) indicate something known as ‘Dorsal Scapular Nerve Syndrome’ (click HERE).

Sounds catchy, eh?

Hey, wait, I thought it was dolphins and whales that had dorsals?

Nevermind.

Basically, DSNS is characterized by symptoms of a generalized dull ache along the medial border of the scapula, radiating into the lateral surface of the arm and forearm (which has only started to occur recently).  Now, when you read “Dull” here, think “OMFG that’s torture!”  because, baby, it was.  “Dull” just doesn’t do it justice at all.

So what’s the plan of attack?

Acupuncture.

FML x 3.

I’ve actually had acupuncture before years ago when I was suffering from plantar fasciitis.  At the time I was seeing some quack chiropractor who was more interested in hooking me up to his TENS unit which, I’m sure, was a relic of the Cold War.  Afterwards he would jab a few needles into the souls of my feet and then fuck off for an hour or so leaving me alone in the darkened room to contemplate by pathetic circumstance.

I still remember my first appointment. When I entered the examining room he immediately lowered the lights, closed the blinds and switched on some soothing muzac.  I recall thinking: “is he going to treat me or fuck me?”

Now, if you’ve never had needles plunged into the souls of your feet before it’s really no different than what you’re probably thinking already:  it sucks.  An action you would expect to be preceded by the statement “we ‘av vays of making you talk”.  Anyway, this process repeated itself a few times a week for over a year with no improvement whatsoever.  I realize now being a bit older and wiser, that he was just milking my benefits until they ultimately ran out and I was cast aside like a discarded coffee cup.

That was seven years ago and my feelings about acupuncture are largely connected to that experience.  A barbaric practice geared more towards satisfying the sadistic impulses of the administrator than for the benefit and ultimate relief of the patient.The whole thing kinda made me feel like this:

Or, maybe this guy:

I wasn’t a fan.

So when Dr. Burr suggested we also try acupuncture I was all like:

However, in an effort to make peace with this whole acupuncture thing I decided to do a little research on why so many people seem to accept and appreciate it as a viable treatment practice.  After all, how can 1.3 billions Chinese people be wrong?

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine and a key component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) involving inserting thin needles into the body at acupuncture points.  Most commonly, it is associated with pain relief. Acupuncture as a practice can be traced back at least 2,500 years.  The general theory is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) through the body that are essential for health.  Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease.  Acupuncture may, it has been theorized, correct imbalances of flow at identifiable points close to the skin.

The practice of acupuncture to treat identifiable pathophysiological (disease) conditions in American medicine was rare until the visit of President Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972.  Since that time, there has been an explosion of interest in the United States and Europe in the application of the technique of acupuncture to Western medicine.

Now, does any of this help my feelings towards acupuncture?

Not one bit.

So Tricky Dick liked him some acupuncture.

Whoopee shit.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, plus I trust Dr. Burr implicitly (she did successfully lay out the foundation for the whole “We Can Rebuild Him” plan two years ago).  So if acupuncture is what she recommends, acupuncture is what I will do.  I made another appointment then with Nicole who also doubles as the clinics acupuncture specialist.

At my appointment I was invited to lie face down on the massage table which, it has to be said, is my favorite thing about the Legacy Health & Performance clinic as this table and I have really bonded over the past two years. This made sense given that I wouldn’t be getting needles into my feet today but, rather, my back and neck.  This was fine by me as I’d rather not watch the entire process as I had before, thank you very much.  Nicole asked me try and relax which, again, I find to be pretty impossible given the situation.  I did my best however.

For the next 5-10 minutes or so, she popped these needles into specific spots in the back of my neck, my back and along my left arm and hand since I have been experiencing numbness and a tingling sensation down my left side.  Oh, and let’s not forget about the one that she stuck directly into the top of my head.

Ever had a needle shoved into the top of your head?

Yeah.

Once they were all in and I adequately resembled a human pin cushion I was left to “relax” (there’s that word again) for 15 minutes or so before they were then extracted which, I must say, was less harrowing then the whole inserting them thing.

Did I notice any improvement afterwards?

Maybe a little.

Did I find it relaxing?

Shit no.

Will I go again?

If it’s suggested, sure.

Will I enjoy it anymore?

Doubtful.

But if it’s a means to an end to get over this damnable pain in my back once and for all so I get on with my Ironman training (nevermind just being able to sleep normally again), I will do whatever it takes.

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Needles in the head and all.