Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2013 POST 1: TRAINING & KNEE INJURY

WDW Marathon 2013!
Well these posts are long, long overdue.  I have spent several months mulling over my marathon experience, and now I'm finally ready to write about it.  My hope is that someone will read this post who is having a similar injury experience and can learn from it as well.

At the beginning of 2012, hubs and I debated whether or not we wanted to dedicate 2012 to training for a marathon or a half ironman.  We decided that by doing a marathon first, the half marathon at the end of the 70.3 would be mentally easier to do after having completed 26.2.  13.1 was the furthest either of us had raced.  

So marathon it was!  We decided to go big, and do it at one of our favorite places on earth, Walt Disney World in Florida.  I had run the WDW Princess Half Marathon the year before, and resolved then that if I ever did a marathon, it would be at Disney.  Those folks know what they're doing!  At Princess, the miles flew by, and the venue and logistics were seamless.  They make it hard to feel tired when so many Disney characters are cheering you on! 

On the day of marathon registration, we were at my Dad's camp in the cranberry wilderness of West Virginia.  We used a cell booster to get the signal we needed to register for the WDW marathon.  My parents were with us, and they agreed to come too, so a family weekend at WDW was planned!  My best running friend, Tracey, who also ran the Princess Half, the Charleston Distance Run and the Savannah Half also registered for the WDW marathon.  She is the only friend of mine who is as crazy as I am over planning fun and challenging race venues.  Soon after our registration, we texted each other, "WHAT HAVE WE DONE!?!" but resolved to keep each other going as we trained for the marathon.  Little did we know how much we would need each other before it was all over.

We decided to follow the Jeff Galloway training plan, since it was easy to download to our calendars.  Plus it was fun to be on the same plan as so many training for the marathon, sharing our experiences on Twitter and DailyMile.  If I had one regret about the training, it was the lack of cross training that it includes, but I know now that I should have dedicated more time to cross and strength training myself.  More about that later.  
Training in the heat of
summer in SC means
lots of running
before dawn!

On July 4, 2012, we kicked off our marathon training.  At first it was a step back from the mileage and pace I had already been running.  But I loyally followed the plan, and ran my long runs on the weekend and a 30-45 min run twice a week.  I stayed with this until the marathon in January of 2013.  Along the way we registered for and ran the Charleston Distance Run 15 miler as a "training run" (see prior post), and ran several 5ks, Savannah Rock and Roll Half Marathon, the Savannah River Bridge Run (hubs), and other various running events.  One thing I noticed quickly was that marathon training made 5 miles feel like 1 mile, but my average pace at all distances was slowing down.  Looking back, I really should have built in some regular speedwork and tempo runs.  
My best running friend Tracey
and me at Savannah Rock & Roll Half Mary

After finishing the Savannah Rock and Roll Half in November, I was standing in the middle of Forsythe Park looking for Tracey who had also run the race.  As I stood and swiveled back and forth, scanning the crowd, my left knee "popped."  It felt like a tendon rolled briefly over a bone and snapped back in place.  It hurt, and was sore, but my crazy bumpy joints pop all the the time so I didn't think much of it.  

Between the Half Marathon and my next long run, I ran a few 30 minute runs and had no soreness in my knee.  My next long run was to be 17 miles.  By about mile 12 my knee was really aching, and by mile 13 I pretty much had to stop running.  This was the first time I have ever had an injury that made me stop.  Walking was fine.  Running was excruciating.

After that, anytime I ran over about 2 miles, my knee forced me to stop.  Frustrated, I made an appointment at the Orthopedist's office and went in for a consult.  He confirmed that I had a case of IT Band tendinitis, and sent me back with the recommendation to rest as much as I could and when I did run, go until it hurts, then walk home.  Also he told me to ice 3 times per day and ibuprofen around the clock to dampen the tendinitis.  He said that if I couldn't get the tendinitis under control before my long training runs and the marathon, he'd give me a cortisone shot to get me over the hump. 

My one & only 20+ training run
Two weeks later I went back for the cortisone shot, right before Christmas.  The shot definitely prolonged my "run until it hurts" runs, but did not kill the pain completely.  I still had to stop at about 6 or 7 miles.  By this time I had one 20+ mile run to get in before the race.  Just after the first of the year, my family and I were in FL and my parents kept the kids while hubs and I embarked on our 20+ mile training run.  I used the Galloway method and ran/walked the run (4 mins run, 1 min walk) and completed all 22 miles.  My body hurt, my knee was not too happy with me, but I got it done.  To me, that was the important part.  Now I believed I could probably do all 26.2 in the state of injury I was currently in.

Ocean ice baths are the best
Per my Orthopod's recommendation, I went to a physical therapist before the race to learn how to tape my knee with KT tape, and some pointers to avoid pain during the race.  At this point I knew there would be no running without pain, it was just a matter of how far I could get before the pain forced me to stop.

Unfortunately my knee pain got progressively worse up until the start of Marathon Weekend, probably because the cortisone shot was wearing off.  I was disheartened, with all the time spent training, and I even considered withdrawing from the race.  Honestly, if it had been any other race, I would have withdrawn.  But my family was coming down for the weekend to make a vacation out of it, and we had so much invested.  I felt safe attempting this race at WDW, knowing that the race is very well staffed and I would not be left alone on the course.  

How to tape my knee
So I was prepared for the worst: a DNF at my first marathon.  But, I knew Walt Disney World would not let me down.  The magic of the place and the miracle of help from a friend taught me a lesson in human perseverance and a reliance on others that I would not have ever learned if I had run a healthy marathon.