Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Heavy Leg Journey | There is Hope

Galloway, U.S. Olympian and author
I am glad I can write this blog.  I am one to not disclose struggles I face, until I find a solution.  What's the point of complaining without a solution?  I will not complain,  just to complain.

Yet, I wondered if I should even write this blog article. Would it be too much TMI?  Or would it even be relevant to my readers?

Warning - this blog will be long, but the information I am going to share with you, is important to know the backstory.

I ran my first Full Marathon in March 2012.  Until I crossed that Finish Line and had that Finisher Medal put around my neck, I didn't realize how important it was to me.

For over year, I have the same pre-race routine.  Manicure, pedicure and chiropractic adjustment.  Since LA Full, I have added a massage to my routine.  Why?  I knew I would be racing and training a lot of miles in 2012, I want to keep loose.

  • 7 days after the LA Full I ran Cirq de Soilei 5K.  I anticipated my legs to be tired and heavy. I had to walk 1/10 of that course, I was spent, I had nothing left in my legs, even 7 days later.  I didn't realize how tired I was, despite my rest and  pre-race massage.  I blamed my fatigue on the LA Full.
  • My next race was Hollywood Half Marathon.  I was flying at an easy sub1:50 pace until the hit the last 2 1/2 miles and it was a HILL.  My legs were SHAKING on the hill.  Try running and shaking at the same time.  I blamed my leg fatigue on the hill.

  • Next race was Xterra.  Exceptional race for me.  Loved it and ran it well.  (no time to do the mani/pedi or massage before this race)

  • Next race was Labor of Love - double 10K.  Again...my legs were SPENT, but this time - it was from the moment I started the race.  Very odd.  I had nothing left in me, even before I began. Thank goodness for the decline on the back end. I could let gravity do it's thing.  Although it was a hard course and exceptionally warm, something was off.  I knew it.  I blamed it on my asthma attacks.  

  • Mother's Day weekend - I had 2 5K's.  Although I did well, my legs were OFF.  So heavy. I blamed it on the heat. 

  • Pasadena Half Marathon - very humid and hot.  Again, legs were spent and HEAVY from the start until the Finish.  I blamed it on the humidity and heat.

From that point until ET, I was dealing with Heavy Legs, every step I trained or raced.  Heavy legs are typical when you are into the race, but it isn't typical from the moment you start running.  I was believing more and more that the heat was getting to me.

  • So - here comes ET. Cooler temps.  Didn't help.  Even though I made some poor pre-race choices, I remember my legs feeling overtly tired before the race began.  Even a massage didn't loosen then up.

  • Next up - Disneyland Half Marathon.  I couldn't get into my pace nor my groove - even before I pulled back at Mile 7 to lessen the impact on my ankle.  My legs felt tight and heavy.  I loved, LOVED Disneyland but I was heartbroken to see a 2:00 after my name.  I was a 1:44 Half Marathoner or a 1:59 Half Marathoner on a bad day. 

I was watching my Finish times sink into the gutter with each race and most obvious, my legs were slowing down and it felt horrible.  It would of been one thing, if I FELT good, while running - but I didn't. 

After DL - I accepted that my 50+ years, had finally caught up with me and it was time to change my running.  

I had a wonderful 2011.  Every time I stepped up to the Start Line, I had a great feeling race.  I felt strong & great.  That wasn't happening in 2012. The last time I felt GREAT during a race was Surf City - which was my best Half Finish time of the year:  1:53.

So many people told me my heavy legs were from the hotter temps. I would believe that, if I felt better at ET and Disneyland, but I didn't feel better at ET nor Disneyland, despite the cooler temps.

Disneyland was the emotional straw-that-broke the camels back for me.  I was facing two more Full's and I was questioning if I could do this, anymore.  Was it time for me to just pull back and do 5K and 10k's?  Was my body telling me to quit?

I have felt my confidence waiver since March.  I do not lack endurance nor energy, that isn't the problem, I just can't make my legs GO, like they did last year.  What a confidence buster!

After Disneyland, I knew I had a Full on 9/16.  Until then, I decided to lightly jog with my dogs and maybe do a short, LIGHT run. 

About 5 days before I was to leave for the 9/16 race, I decided to go for a light jog......

I ran in the hot weather, on purpose (prep for St George).  I kept it light, but I struggled.  My speed legs were not there.  As I was chatting with myself, I said these words, "OH SHOOT!  I didn't get my pre-race massage!  Darn it...I have been getting it before each race since March..."

Those words stopped me, dead in my tracks.  I stopped running and stood there with my hands on my hips and thought about what I just said to myself...."I have been getting it (massages) before each race since March"

  • I have been struggling since March...I never got massages from April 2011 to February 2012.  Never once.  I didn't start struggling until I started getting massages before my races. 

Was there a connection? 

I ran home...and immediately contacted my running buddy, Mitch Chan (you know him as Marathon Mitch on facebook and my friend who achieved 100 Full Marathons in Pasadena).  Mitch is a Licensed Massage Therapist.  I explained to him what I just shared with you and I have been getting Deep Tissue massages before ALL my races.

I think the man would of hit me, if he was standing next to me. Yet, he confirmed my theory.  A Deep Tissue massage is the LAST thing I should of been doing before a race.  I exhausted my muscles & pushed all the toxins right back into my muscles - no wonder I am tired on race day!  Getting a Deep Tissue massage is like running an Ultra Marathon.  It takes a lot of time to recover and regain strength.

In other words, I had exhausted my legs and since March, I have not given my legs ANY chance to rest and cover.

I have two MT's I go to - and both recommended Deep Tissue because I am a runner.  While I think their intentions were great, their advise - failed me.  Big time.

I made the choice not to have a massage before my Full on Sunday.   It surely was not going to hurt me, if I didn't.  Could I get any worse than I feel now?  Nope!

We ALL go through doubts, but this heavy leg issue knocked me on my butt - especially the last few months.  Yes, I know, I know I have earned awards since March - but I KNOW I have not performed my best.  That is my gauge, always - not the PR's or awards.  I know my body and I know what it can do.  That feeling of running through cement is not my body.

Pre-race, I went to the Chiropractor for my monthly adjustment (which I have done since last Summer).  I shared with him my theory and he also confirmed what Mitch said.  Deep Tissue massages have pushed my body into complete exhaustion. Not PAIN, but they are just stinkin' tired!

So....I arrive on Sunday AM for a Full Marathon. I would be lying to say I was looking forward to it.  I was just hoping to Finish.  But, if someone will go through the heavy leg exhaustion I have gone through - I had also emotionally prepared myself for what I believe to be the inevitable.

>>> Heavy legs beginning within the first half mile

We began our race and the first loop was 4.37. When I came around to the first loop...I realized, that for the first time since March, I didn't have heavy legs.  Okay - I didn't want to get too excited...then the second loop and when I reached the Half Marathon point, my legs were fine!  Not an inkling of heavy legs.

I approached my typical struggling Miles of 18-19 and I kept going (thanks to Ed!).  Despite my glutes tightening up around Mile 23, I ran the entire race without ANY heavy legs.  Not for a moment.   

Talk about a victory

As I crossed the finish, my friend, Andrea Kooiman said, "YOU earned that Finish!"  I said, "yea, I did"  My mind went back to the feelings I had in previous races.  I felt like I had failed, so many times. But, not that day.  I felt I had triumphed.  For 6 months, I had suffered.  But that day, I was not suffering.

I should of never had DEEP TISSUE massages before a race.  Ever.  In fact, I am not going to have ANY massages before any race, from this point forward.  If I have a massage - it will be post-race.

I am focusing more on Foam Rolling and staying limber.

While heat CAN cause heavy leg feeling, it was not that way with me.  I ran in horribly humid conditions yesterday AM to run my 2nd fasted Full Marathon and to beat my previous time by 1 hour and 6 minutes.

How can this help you?  Learn to rest your body, especially during the hot summer months.  Give your body enough time to heal between races.  Aid your healing by foam rolling, loosening up and stretching.  And most importantly, if you are getting massages - and you find your races are faltering - you might want to do what I did.  Stop the massages and see how the race goes for you.

I am supportive of massages, but in the right time.   They will no longer be a part of my pre-race prep.

Mitch gave me an amazing massage post race on Sunday and it was not a Deep Tissue and my legs feel incredible.  Thank you, Mitch!  (BTW, if you are near Costa Mesa - please book an appt with him at Massage Envy).

That will be my last massage until after St George.

While I am hopeful that I have solved my heavy leg feeling, I am still cautious going into St George. I have exhausted my legs for 6 months.  I have no idea how long it will be to heal and rest my legs.

Hope my information helps out someone in your race prep.  

What changes have you had to make to your pre-race prep?  

(c) C. Ragsdale 2011-12
Run F.A.B.,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
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RRCA Certified Running Coach, IFA Certified Sports Nutritionist & Public Speaker
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1 comment:

  1. Interesting, thanks for sharing great experience with us.God bless you!


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