Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Salida Marathon

It's now less than three weeks until my first trail race of the season that doesn't involve miles of trudging through snow, although some snow is to be expected.

Back when I was focused on running road marathons, the three-week-until-race-day mark was always important because conventional training wisdom suggests that athletes implement a gradual cut back in mileage from this point until race day - the so-called 'taper'. I say 'conventional wisdom' because not everyone subscribes to the efficacy of a three-week taper, and in the world of ultra running it is generally pooh-poohed, especially for a race of marathon distance or shorter. However, I have always had success with the three-week taper, as long as it is not too extreme. I would typically implement a 75-50-25 approach, i.e. 75 percent of max miles in week three, 50 percent in week two, and 25 percent in the week leading up to the race, making sure to maintain intensity on mid-week quality workouts.

My original thinking in signing up for the Salida Marathon was that it would serve as a solid training race for April's Spring Desert Ultra 50 in Fruita, which I had targeted as one of my goal races for the year. Therefore, if I was going to taper for Salida, it would probably be a taper of the 'mini' variety, i.e. cut back on the long run the weekend before and take it easy in the days leading up to the race. Now, with my body somewhat beaten up, I am thinking that I will adopt a more traditional approach to this marathon and take a full three weeks of easing and healing with 55- and 40-mile weeks upcoming.

After almost two years of struggling with pain in my right groin (it first flared up at Fruita in '07, causing me to drop), I finally think I have a diagnosis I can believe in. Two doctors and two chiropractors have given me varying theories as to the cause of my pain, but I have had a hard time reconciling those opinions with the pain I have been dealing with.

The chiropractors, not surprisingly, wanted to get me to sign up for three months of two visits a week ($40 a pop with my specialist co-pay) to get my head back over my body (apparently I carry my head too far forward, exerting unnecessary pressure on my lower back), believing that would help sort things out. Maybe, but I doubt it. This has always felt muscular. The first sports doctor I visited had me take an MRI and concluded that I had a stress fracture in the front part of my pelvic bone. Hmm, I had strong doubts about this diagnosis. Another doctor put it down to a bulging disc!

It wasn't until last week when I received the latest copy of Trail Runner that I finally found a plausible cause of my pain. The Colorado-based magazine ran a lengthy piece on common running injuries occurring below the belt. Under the groin section, they described perfectly the maladies I have been dealing with, and also offered up a series of stretches and strengthening exercises to help reverse the pain. If I am right, then I am dealing with something called adductor tendinopathy, which is essentially the tightening and injury of tendons and muscles on the inner thigh that attach to the pelvic bone where they cause inflammation (which I believe was shown on the MRI). It is especially common among runners and athletes who participate in sports that involve a lot of kicking. Considering I played rugby as a fly half (which involves a lot of punting and place kicking) for close to 20 years, and have since taken up running, this diagnosis makes a lot of sense.

If this is the case, then the doc who sent me for the MRI misdiagnosed the results and sent me running down the wrong path to recovery for over a year. How he could listen to my symptoms - classic adductor tendinopathy red flags, as it turns out - and suggest I have a stress fracture is beyond me. I suspected from about two minutes into my first meeting with him that he was incompetent, but I still went with his conclusions.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I finally feel like I am making headway with a simple regimen of daily stretching and strengthening exercises. Just one week in, I am feeling significantly less pain. Combined with a reduced stress load of running over the next three weeks, I am now hopeful I can accomplish some of the goals I have set for myself this year, culminating with a successful 100-mile run in the Big Horn Mountains.

As for doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists, maybe I have just had bad luck, but I am yet to meet one I have faith in. If anyone in the Fort Collins area happens to read this and has a sports doc who they trust, then please recommend.


  1. No offense to doctors, but they are people just like you and me. You are wise to get multiple opinions and question them all. I hope you nailed it and finally found your cure.

  2. I would love to join the marathon too. Hope I will be available from work next time.