This was a good week for running. I nailed a faster time on the reverse course of Mount Doug, and shaved anther 3 minutes off my best time (54:20). You have to love the spring, where drastic changes in your fitness and times are observable almost every run.
I have had a pain in my butt for over a year now. I have self diagnosed it as Piriformis Syndrome, which is basically when the piriformis muscle is inflamed and clamps down on the sciatic nerve causing all sorts of drama in the butt cheek and down the leg. The usual cause as you read about it, is overuse in challenging terrain. Well since I only run about 50 miles or so a week and only run up and down gnarly-rooty-rocky trails I was able to conclude that my injury is not a result of overuse or strain from running too much in rough terrain. So I turned to the scientific method to actually get to the bottom of this pain in my bottom. Basically I gathered all the observations as to why or when or how my butt hurts to identify the real culprit. Plenty of people run 200 miles a week in much worse terrain than me so clearly it has more to do with my form or biomechanics than the act of trail running alone.
- It doesn't matter how long I take off from running it always comes back when I start packing on some volume.
- It hurts when I sit for too long on a crappy chair.
- My gluteus isn't very maximus (I mean no padding)
- Speed work on flats makes it worse than hills and distance.
- Often feels better during running sore after.
- Only on my right leg.
The observation I really focussed on was it is only in my right leg. That tells me that there is something going on in my right side that isn't happening on my left. Possible explanations are:
- I am missing a lower right ab muscle due to surgery
- there might be some asymmetry in leg length
- I always carry a fat wallet in my back right pocket
I tend to notice in science, if there is multiple explanations for a problem, it usually isn't one or the other but a combination of all the possibilities in different proportions. So to summarize I have a pain in my butt (right side only) because I sit in hard chairs at school and in my office (terrible office chair) all day long with a fat wallet in my right pocket, which crushes my muscle and pinches my sciatic nerve. I also use the toilet with a hard seat more than the average person (a gory side effect of not having a large intestine - T.M.I. - I know!). Lastly I have a missing ab muscle in my right side which makes a generally weaker core on the right side and may be manifested in asymmetry in running particularly on long runs when fatigue sets in. All of these problems place stresses on the piriformis and sciatic nerve, which are then exacerbated by running high volume in challenging terrain but even more so by flat speed work.
If I was really taking a scientific approach I would try to resolve one issue at a time such as removing the wallet for a month to see the effect this would have and in this way I could pinpoint the exact problem. I don't have the luxury to experiment on my butt pain for the next six months so I am running a preemptive strike against my pain in my butt.
I am first removing my wallet. Next I am trying to walk around more when sitting for long periods of time (I may even start sitting on an exercise ball). I think I need a padded toilet seat, and a new office chair. Lastly I really need to do core work to strengthen my weak core and particularly ab muscle and back. There are some stretches I need to start doing to fix the existing problem. The final step is using as efficient biomechanics as possible focusing on a neutral pelvis and straight back with no hunching or slumping. This should solve the problem.
I dislike that anytime there is any sort of injury on an endurance runner, the go to answer is too much running on too rough of terrain. I can see if I increase mileage in rough terrain by 40-50% in one week, but when I am doing the same mileage that I have been for a while there is usually a different explanation. I find if I try real hard to think and analyze all of my actions and movements throughout the day, not only when running, that often times the cause is more subtle and usually not related to running per se but aggravated by running. I have already put most of these anti-butt pain measures into effect and have noticed a marked difference in my butt pain already, with my wallet being perhaps the biggest factor (nothing to do with running). I think this stresses how important it is that we are able to analyze and listen to our own bodies. Doctors don't know each individuals daily routine and frankly have no choice but to blame running but we can dive deeper and come up with additional explanations.
Yesterday was a long 11 mile easy run (when I say easy I mean effort not necessarily the course or distance since the course I chose was brutal). I wanted to run 13-14 but it got dark on me and I had to bail because I didn't have a light. I made an effort to run easy and go up and down the hills as smoothly as possible. After my usual 7 mile mark I found I had tons of reserves and ran very well the last four miles including my fifth summit of Mount Doug for the night. I really love the 1.5-2 hour runs. I should be logging 3 hour runs right now for my long runs but I am a bit behind due to school. I can't wait to start injecting much longer runs into my week.
Spring is in full bloom on the mountain and I find it super refreshing and motivating to run through cherry blossoms and delicate neon green foliage. I really love the spring. I think that running anywhere in the spring is just about as good as it gets ( I especially love running the deserts in the spring, a green lush desert is just such an oxymoron). It seems that my fitness usually finally starts to come back around about this time of year, as I am ramping up for epic Summer runs.
For this post I decided to throw in a song by Leiahdorus called "Wake". I describe a bit more about this group in a earlier post here. It is just a chill song I really like.