Saturday, May 5, 2012

2 Marathons in 2 weeks: running after a hamstring tendon injury

Finisher medal for the North Shore Marathon 2012
After a lengthy period of "down time" to allow my injury (which I sustained in the first 10 minutes of the Peacock 100K trail race) to somewhat heal, I am pleased to announce that I'm back on track, that is, back on the road and trails. It has been an extremely difficult time for me, firstly sustaining the injury from a fall right at the beginning of an extremely tough trail race which I then limped and dragged myself through and completed, but not within the official cutoff time. Then the difficulty was physically actually not being able to run due to extreme pain for months, but on the bright side I learned and sharpened new skills such as patience and other activities like horse riding. I could also still tango as long as no one led me to doing high boleos or other fancy leg maneurves with my left they say "if you can walk, you can tango". The injury was damage to my left hamstring tendon at the insertion site to the ischial tuberosity (sitting bone), so aside from not being able to run, I also found it excruciating to sit for prolonged periods of time and driving on my long commute to work was an ordeal. I sought out therapies such as chiropractic, massage, acupuncture and of course conventional medicine but alas there is no magic pill or quick cure for this type of injury, only patience and time and then the body can heal itself. Five months have passed and I have done minimal gentle jogging without much mileage to build myself up again towards my first marathon since the fall, the North Shore Marathon, on my home island of Oahu, Hawaii. This is the second year that this marathon has taken place and it was fantastic to run in a race that was literally in my neck of the woods. The race started at Kaiaka Beach park in Haleiwa at 5 am when things were still nice and dark and cool, after 2 loops around Haleiwa town, we ran through Waialua, the old sugar plantation town and then on towards Mokuleia, past Dillingham airfield and all the light recreational aircraft, with the beautiful Waianae Mountain range on the left and the untamed Pacific Ocean on the right with a turn around at Kaena Point, the most north westerly tip of Oahu and back the way we came, along Farrington Hwy which was now decidedly hot with a fortunate light trade wind. My aim was to test my left leg out and see whether I still had a marathon in it. I was concerned about re-injuring it and most people tried to disuade me from running the marathon for fear that I had not waited long enough for the healing process to take place. I did not push myself at all, I just ran along at a happy pace without a watch, as I did not want to pressure myself by watching the time and finished feeling fine. My injured leg was tender but I could tell that it was not re-injured, so now that I know it can withstand a bit of punishment I am hoping to be able to improve on my performnace from here on.
Waianae Mountain range
Looking down at part of the route from the mountain, Dillingham airfield at Mokuleia

The start of the 2012 Big Sur marathon
The second marathon in 2 weeks was the Big Sur marathon in California. This race had to be revisited, as I ran in it last year which then, due to a severe storm the course was an out and back from Monterey to Bixby bridge. Usually this is a point to point marathon, so that was my motivation for doing it again. At 3:30 am on the morning of the race we were bused out to the start line 26.2miles/42 km along HWY1 along the Big Sur coastal road. It's always cold in the early morning in California but on this day the temperatures weren't too bad, I could discard my warm clothes immediately prior to the start which was situated at Pfeiffer State Park in the Redwood forests. I felt really good for the first half of the race and was happy with my pace of around 9min/mile. The second half was a house of pain around my injury site but I jogged along trying to block it out mentally and focus instead on enjoying the scenery, the hills (2359 ft elevation gain and 2692ft descent) granted not much in comparison to other races I have done but still not exactly a flat course, the 40 mile per hour gusts of icy fog laden winds interspersed with sunny stretches, the musicians along the side of the road and the great volunteers along the marathon course.
Little Sur

Bixby Bridge in the Fog

Pretty much sums it up

Hurricane Point, one of the many lovely hills along the course
This was my slowest marathon time ever and my hamstring and it's tendon were in excruciating pain by the finish, a bit dissapointing as the first half was going so well and I had run it an hour faster last year. Fortunately I found a bag of ice at the finish and sat on that for 30 minutes in the beer tent after the race. Now I realize that I need further down time as these two marathons aggravated and inflamed the injury.
After the race my friend Sabine and I continued on a fantastic road trip, stopping off at Esalen hotsprings a health retreat, for a lengthy soak in the hot baths situated on the cliff side overlooking the Pacific ocean and a blissful massage to the sound of the ocean. Talk about an endorphin overload! I was stoned immaculate on a natural high at this place that is close to being heaven on earth. On an excellent recommendation we took the road less travelled along the Nacimiento Ferguson road which traversed across the mountains away from the coast offering the most spectacular scenic eye candy.This mountain road took us to the top of the world giving us grande vistas of the coastline and dense forests below and wound back down again through shaded glades and past bubbling creeks, making our word of the day become "wow"! We stumbled upon the San Antonio mission which was a fascinating find, rich in history and an oasis in the middle of the hotter, drier plains surrounded by fields of wild spring flowers.

Olive tree outside the mission buildings was planted in the 1700"s
 Returning to San Francisco I had a fantastic time experiencing many of the things I love, including art, music and dance. I was fortunate enough to go to the cd release milonga of Trio Garufa : Argentino Tango in Berkeley, tango nuevo at Cell Space in the Mission district, street art, exhibitions, a drive out to the quaint seaside village of Bolinas in Marin and an overall fabulous experience.
Finishers medal for the Big Sur Marathon 2012
I am not sure what is going to happen next in terms of the rehabilitation of my injury, so stay tuned for further tales of my running adventures.