So about two weeks out from the Leona Divide 50 miler, the big goal race for the spring taking place on April 27th, I got a sudden, awful pain in my lower back/right hip area. I still don't quite know for sure what brought it on so suddenly, but I have a few suspects (yes, suspects. There are certainly evil forces conspiring against me).
Not wanting to mess around with it at all, I took a couple days off immediately. Well, sort of. I ran, but short and easy, and with a fair amount of pain. And then I flew to Flagstaff for a workshop and to see Amber for a few days. I thought for sure the travel day of just sitting and doing nothing would have it feeling better, but it continued to nag me through the whole weekend I was there. I went and had some ART done by my favorite Flagstaff practicioner, and that seemed to loosen things up temporarily, but even hiking the next couple days was pretty painful, though manageable.
I got back to Nevada City Tuesday night, about five days out from Leona, and it was still sore, though feeling a bit better. I was starting to get the "uh oh" feeling. Wednesday it was actually starting to improve a little, so that afternoon I tried going on a super easy run. Bad choice, lots of pain, though it seemed like with a lot of concentration I could mitigate it a little. I still am feeling hopeful. That night, Thursday, and Friday I loaded up on as many healthy foods, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, green supplements, fish oil, and whatever other dietary supplement people have ever tried to sell you to make you feel better. I did some stretching and really light strength and stability work. I was really good.
By Thursday evening the pain was greatly diminished. But I had to decide Friday morning whether I was feeling good enough to try and race 50 miles. This was a hard decision. Two factors made it especially difficult: I'm what most people would consider desperately poor, and this is the race I've been training for four months or so (and the potential to win an entry to Western States 100). You see, I had already invested $120 to enter the race, and on top of that, it was a 7 hour drive away. That is a lot of gas money. But man did I want to race!
I woke up Friday, threw on the running shoes, warmed up a little bit, and went for a jog. I ran about a mile and a half with very little pain. Damnit! Why can't it make up my mind for me?! Either cripple me in pain, or be gone with already!! I went to work and wrestled with it for a few hours. I finally decided that I had to go and try to start. Screw it if it drains the bank account to go down there, if I don't try I'll never know what could have happened.
I drove for many thousands of hours and miles down I-5, got dangerously close to Los Angeles (Los Diablos?), slept for maybe 3 hours through the partying of teenagers in a Forest Service campground, and toed the starting line at 5:54 am Saturday morning. I went to the front of the pack and found the two very strong Flagstaff runners I knew- Jason Wolfe and Rob Krar. I said hi to Rob, but both were in the zone. We went off promptly at 6:00 am, and I was immediately relieve to feel essentially no pain as we started climbing up the dirt road from the Community Center. It was really quite pretty, desert mountains, sunrise, and up near the top there was even a bit of conifer forest. I went out with the lead 15 or so guys, and I promptly dropped out of the race at the first aid station at mile 8.
I felt a little disappointed, but at least I knew, and I did what I could. I could feel the pain coming back on with the quickness. I helped the volunteers at the aid station fill the water bottles for about 45 minutes, cheering on runners as they passed, and then got a ride back to the start line from a spectator. I had brought my bicycle, so after relaxing for a little bit, I hopped on my bicycle and did some active spectating, cheering on runners and looking for my Flagstaff amigos. It was HOT out, and everybody suffered. It turns out that Rob and Jason know how to suffer pretty well though, and Flagstaff went 1 and 2, with Rob setting a new course record in 5:53! Holy crap. Seriously awesome. I just hope to see them both on the roster for Western States!
I made a nice weekend of it regardless of the race, driving to Bishop that night and getting in another bike ride and camping there that night. The next morning I went and hiked and scrambled around in the Buttermilks. The next day I drove to Markleville, CA and went on a nice bike ride with a steep, extended climb in the middle of it, and saw some friends in South Lake Tahoe, and drove home. I tried running the next day, and the pain was back in full force. WTF.
A coworker did me a huge favor and recommended me to the chiropractic office that his wife and her father have in town. After a few days of treatment and a set of xrays, he said my structure looks great BUT I have a bulged disc in my lower back (the 5th one? new terminology for me). I also have a 4mm leg length discrepancy, but apparently that isn't enough to worry over too much. It's the last one before it goes into the sacrum. or something. Apparently the bulge is pushing on a nerve that is causing the pain in my lower back/hip. I'm getting a couple more treatments from him over the next few days, and he's prescribed some stretches/exercises to increase my pelvic flexibility to take stress away from the lower back.
Argh! Why did this happen?
Well, the doc said that the disk is (compressed? degraded?) toward the back. I'm guessing its been like that for a long time, probably from lifting heavy shit with disregard for good form when I was younger, assuming that I was invincible. It's probably why I used to get a sore/tight lower back fairly frequently during longer runs, as he said the muscles contract to protect the joint when it's being damaged. I hadn't had that happen for a long time, but I'm betting the trigger was three fold: the road running I did while home in western New York (coupled with stress from the leg-length discrepancy), way too much sitting and slouching in front of a computer at work lately (followed by hard runs at the end of the day), and the fact that I greatly decreased the amount of core and stability work and cross training as I ramped up my running miles in prep for Leona.
So, I'm just going to stop sitting so damn much, and I'm prescribing myself a yoga membership, lots of core and stability
work, and cycling. It's a good thing I really like road biking. I don't
think I'm going to try running for a couple weeks, or at least until all
the inflammation subsides and the pain is gone. Hopefully that will take care of things pretty quickly. It feels better than it did yesterday, and hopefully that will continue to improve. Apparently, the disc can (unbulge?), but the fact that it's "squished" is fo' life, so the doc said I just have to focus on increasing pelvic flexibility and movement, and I take it that I'll just have to do my best to protect that little guy to slow it's degradation. This kind of makes me feel old. Am I getting old? Anyway, I'm in good spirits and the pain is decreasing, and I have specific actions I can take to mitigate this problem. All is good.
On another note, try this for breakfast sometime:
Finely diced sweet apple (I like Fuji, but Amber insists it's good even with a green apple...)
A couple spoonfuls of plain yogurt (I like to use a greek yogurt for the bonus protein...SO CREAMY)
Add like half a cup of water or milk
Cinnamon (I like a LOT of it)
And a large spoonful of peanut or almond butter.
Stir it all up in a bowl, add water/milk to achieve desired consistency.
DELICIOUS AND NUTRITIOUS, CRACKA!
I even added chopped up lacinto (dinosaur) kale and some protein powder to the last one... STILL DELICIOUS AND EVEN MORE NUTRITIOUS.