Hot New Training Tools: TriggerPoint Therapy

Remember way back when I was talking about preparing for my first Ironman experience? I know, it’s been a while (haha). Anyway, I wanted to retouch on something that I was exposed to during my trip to Madison earlier this month.

The Ironman Expo was amazing. All sorts of cool new products, gizmos, and gadgets. Some were really cool. Others, not so much. One of the highlights was the TriggerPoint booth. The representative, a young massage therapist from Arizona (I think?), approached me and asked me what problems I was having. I explained to her that my left shoulder ached, and that it especially felt weak when I was swimming. I pointed to my shoulder blade, and before I could even say “scapula,” she told me: “Looks like you are having issues with your subscapularis. I know what to do!”

Going into the booth, I knew what to do, too. But I was surprised when she sat me down and had me put my left foot on a block. Looking inquisitively at her, she caught me hesitation, and explained:

“We should focus our maintanence at our feet. A lot of problems in our upper body can originate at the ground.”

This hit home for me, especially since I have had biomechanical issues in the past that stemmed from inappropriate shoes. So she used the Footballer on my calf, and it hurt! She then had me lay on my back on the ground and had me place the TP Massage Ball under my scapula. Just pushing the ball into my back, I felt tension release. She explained that the ball was holding the subscapularis tendon in place, which allowed me to stretch the actual muscle body when I moved my left arm across my body. Again, PAIN! but it was a good pain.

And her logic made sense to me. With my hefty background in biomechanics (both clinical and engineering related), I know that both tendon and muscle have strain-rate dependent properties, and because tendon connects muscle to bone, both can be elongated during a stretch[1,2]. By holding the tendon in place with the Massage Ball, I was able to stretch only the muscle body. When I sat up, my shoulder ached from the ball, but the muscle tightness was gone. A short while later, the ache was gone, too.

That night, when we stayed with Gigi in Whitefish Bay, I noticed she had a few TriggerPoint tools, too. I asked her what she thought of them. She was already on her second set of TriggerPoint devices!

Since Ironman, I’ve tried to find ways of getting around the TriggerPoint therapies, but nothing has worked. I can’t afford to get a deep-tissue massage every week, and even if I could- my masseuse has left the area!! Major blow for me there. I tried using imitation TriggerPoint therapies (read: tennis ball), but they just aren’t the same. Not only are tennis balls too stiff (TriggerPoint has a somewhat cushy fabric around it), they are too big! They also don’t last that long… probably because tennis balls are not made to be stood on! So, I’ve recently become an affiliate for TriggerPoint.

If you are interested in trying out their product, click on the button below and you will receive 5% off your first purchase (except the Grid)!! Just enter this code to get the discount: MKILLIAN. If you order by phone, just tell them my name.

[1] S. Abellaneda, N. Guissard, and J. Duchateau. The relative lengthening of the myotendinous structures in the medial gastrocnemius during passive stretching differs among individualsJ. Appl. Physiol. January 1, 2009 106:169177
[2] C.I. Morse, H. Degens, O.R. Seynnes, C.N. Maganaris, and D.A. Jones. The acute effect of stretching on the passive stiffness of the human gastrocnemius muscle tendon unit
. January 1, 2008 The Journal of Physiology, 586, 97-106.

Decisions, Decisions

This would be a good time to have a coach.

I am starting to think (or have been for the last month) about what races I should do next year. I want to race more than I did this year (only three triathlons in 2009; some running races here and there including two marathons).

Here are some options:

Rev3 Cedar Point Full Rev: Sept 12
pros: close to parents, [marginally] cheaper than M-dot events [$500], perfect season-ending time, lots of pros, fast course, two tickets to Cedar Point included in registration!
cons: no Kona opportunities

Ironman Louisville: Late August
pros: good time of year [August, season ending], Kona potential, fast course
cons: Kentucky can be humid and hot [yuck!], the race is pretty expensive [$575], and the Kona potential is for the same year [so if I were to be amazingly fast and qualify, I’d have to find a way to get to Hawai’i in October]

Grand Teton Races: Labor Day weekend
pros: Incredibly beautiful course in the Tetons, great opportunity to get back to Montana for a vacation!, 100mile or 50mile option, Trophy Series race
cons: I’d have to focus training more toward running an ultra than triathlon

Tahoe Rim Trail Ultra: mid July
pros: early enough in the season that I could still have more races, 50 or 100mile options
cons: early in the season! Would I be ready??

I am still planning on doing a few half-ironman races (Wildflower? Liberty. Chisago Lakes?) and am also going to sign up for the American Triple T in Ohio when registration opens for a great season kick off.

How great would it be if I could just be a nomad all summer, traveling from race to race?! I feel somewhat isolated in the Great Up North.

Back in the Game- and Music!

My 10mile recovery run today was phenomenal. Felt great. Negative splits (even though it was recovery), went by way too fast. I attribute this to my recharged Garmin 405, my iPod shuffle, and my fresh legs. It only took two weeks after Ironman to get ’em back!!

Here’s my run data:
Details for 10mile Recovery Run

I do not condone running with an iPod. In fact, I am adamant about their removal from races, especially marathons, and I feel that they subject users to unsafe habits during road running. However, if used responsibly, they can be an incredibly useful tool in training runs. Today was a good example of this. I kept the volume low, and couldn’t even hear the music if a car was approaching. I also ran on low-traffic roads with wide shoulders- running against traffic as I always do.

Here’s the playlist that got me through the run as if it were only a few miles long (I swore my Garmin skipped miles 6-7):

Ain’t No Good- Cake
Universal Mind Control- Common
We Are Rockstars- Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Balloons- Foals
Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)- Gnarls Barkley
Swagger Like Us- Jay Z and TI
Since We Last Spoke- RJD2
The Heinrich Maneuver- Interpol
Wildcat- Ratatat
Les Artistes- Santigold
Split Needles- The Shins
M79- Vampire Weekend
You Got Your Cherry Bomb- Spoon
Toxic- A Static Lullaby
Live Your Life- TI
Wolf Like Me- TV on the Radio
PunkB*tch- 3Oh!3
I’m Not Your Boyfriend- 3Oh!3
Everything is Alright- Motion City Soundtrack
The Lonely End of the Rink- The Tragically Hip

Losing Track of Time

Today’s long run took Adam and me on the snowmobile trail toward South Range. I discovered this route last winter when I was doing long runs with Margot. It’s a gradual incline all the way to South Range, and to get to town is about eight miles. We didn’t have a big run in mind, and my plan outlined for me a recovery 8-miler.

But, I hadn’t charged my Garmin. I couldn’t find my other watch. Truthfully, I didn’t really look for it. I just didn’t feel like wearing Adam’s ginormous watch, and he wasn’t planning on wearing it, either. So we just left the apartment without anything on our wrists except our roadIDs. Since tomorrow is a rest day and I took yesterday off, I am jumbling my miles around a little. Basically, today’s run was going to be a recovery of the mind more than of the body, and I was just planning on doing what my feet felt like doing. So we walked out of the apartment, our wrists naked, headed down our stairwell and out onto the newly-lined cobble streets of Houghton.

There’s just something awesome about running without a watch strapped to your wrist. We left the Bike Shop at 4:30, but I am not sure what time we left the apartment. We didn’t have any plans for the evening, so we could be out as long (or as little) as we wanted.
We didn’t really talk much either. I listened to Adam’s breathing. I listened to my own. I listened to the acorns crunching under my feet. I was surprised when we got to Old Mill Road, which I recalled from memory as typically being the 25minute mark of my runs. I practiced running down the technical, rocky 100m-long hill and waited for Adam at the bottom. We didn’t have anything planned for the evening except dinner, and we weren’t sure what we’d be having yet. So, on the run, we discussed that a little bit.

A: What sounds good for dinner?
M: I was just thinking about that.
A: We have beans.
M: Mhm.
A: We have pasta.
M: Mhm.
M: I’ll take care of it.
A: Okay.

We kept trudging along the sandy path until we felt like turning around. We peeled off the trail and ran on the road for a few miles back to the Lakeshore Path. Just one foot in front of the other*. We passed Karl on his rollerskis and walked up the Huron Street hill back to the apartment, laughing at the angry driver (the only angry driver, of the three in downtown Houghton). Then, I hesitated, but did end up looking at the clock as I walked by to take a shower. We were out for a little over an hour, which lines up well as an 8-miler… but I don’t really care. I didn’t even write it down in my training log.

*On my TweetDeck, I just saw a friend (@NYCe) post this message: “I love just “going for a run.” no watch, no prescribed distance. just one foot in front of the other. I am so thankful for this gift.”

Back-to-back racing: Do’s and Don’ts

For the first time… ever (in my life, anyway), I will be competing in what are referred to as “back to back” marathons. Granted, there will be five weeks separating my two marathons (#1 as part of Ironman Wisconsin and #2 as the Columbus Marathon), but this is still a big challenge for me.

Five weeks is not very long*. Technically, I am already down to less than four weeks at this point. I recently adapted my marathon training plan (from Pete Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning book) to outline exactly what I need to do to best prepare me for the follow-up race. It was surprising to see the first week included basically recovery, and rest. Which was perfect, because yesterday I was diagnosed with an ear infection. Perhaps a combination of blue-algae, swimming through vomit, and an airplane ride are to blame for that…

Anyway, I digress. The week after my first Ironman looked something like this:

Monday– hobble to car, stand up, sit down x 10 (getting in and out of car) and then stand for 15min in cold bath at SDC.
Tuesday– drive to school, hobble around campus
Wednesday– more hobblefest, with some recovery trail walking
Thursday– walk quasi-normally to school!
Friday– ride mountain bike for an hour or so
Saturday– feel like crap, promote ear infection with plane ride around Keweenaw, rest, nap
Sunday– hike around Keweenaw, some running, more napping

So, after that… I tried to get active! My legs are going crazy. They want to move. They want to go run. Bike. Something! So I rolled out for a 2-hour ride to Elo, Michigan, and- even though I experienced a quasi-bonk- I felt refreshed and more clear this morning. My ear still hurts, but I no longer feels like a toad is residing in my larynx, so that’s probably good.

Here’s what is on deck for this week in training:
Today: Recovery 6mi (actually did a 45 min run, so a little shy of this)
Wednesday: General aerobic 8mi
Thursday: Rest or cross-training
Friday: General aerobic + speed 8mi with 8×100 stride
Saturday: Recovery 5mi
Sunday: General aerobic 10mi

So what do I need to do this week? Doesn’t really look like much! That’s a relief, because I need to make sure I recover well from this ear infection. I also need to concentrate on certain “do’s” and “don’ts” related to this upcoming race!!

— Get active recovery
Check! Even though last week was a lot of hobbling, I did my best to stay on my feet and keep moving around
— Eat healthy, not junk, food
Volume of training will be greatly decreased compared to three-five weeks out from the first marathon of the two. Good thing my appetite disappeared with my DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). I especially need to focus on healthy, hearty, natural foods now because of my ear infection! Thanks to my CSA, my advisor’s donation of green peppers and courgettes, and an awesome anti-inflammatory soup made by Baberaham, I think I am following this DO pretty well!
— Listen to my body
If I start to feel tired on a run, it’s time to turn around and go home. Maybe even walk back. There’s no reason in pushing myself over the edge of physical exertion at this point.

— Start anything “new”
I was going to get back into the swing of using my kettlebell, but now is not the time. It can wait until after Oct 18.
— Spread myself too thin
Other life stresses can get piled on after a big “A” race event, especially if its out of town. For me, my trip to Madison cost me three days away from work and countless hours away from the lab. Luckily, some deadlines have been moved around and I am afforded with the luxury of a more relaxed work schedule. Now would not be a good time to spend 14hours in the lab doing histology or qPCR because I have already pounded down my immune system.
— Do anything “extra” in the workouts
Next Tuesday, my plan has 6x600meter repeats at max-effort pace. Even though I like 800s more, I am going to stick with doing six 600m repeats. And even if I feel good, I am only going to do six. The following week’s 3x1600m repeats are going to be more difficult… because I absolutely love mile repeats.

Luckily, because I modified my schedule to fit a five-week gap between races (from the Pfitzinger book’s described 4 and 6 week plans), I have some flexibility with my training. On the 4th, I have a long run, but it can be anywhere between 14 and 18 miles. That’s convenient. I do have to find a 8-10K race to do the day before, though… that could be a little tricky. There will not be any Tech meets that weekend, so maybe they’ll have a time-trial on the home course? I’m crossing my fingers.

*There is a select group of individuals, known as the Marathon Maniacs, that venture to do marathons even more frequently than what I hope to do this fall. In order to qualify to be a Maniac at the lowest of levels (Bronze), one has to a) compete in two marathons on consecutive weekends, b) two marathons in three weeks, or c) three marathons in three months. Only then are you be eligible to be a true Maniac, and must then pay $35 for membership … $58 if you want to wear this:

And so it is… The Pre-Race Report

Or shall I say, was?

Nearly a week has passed since I tempted fate with my very first ever 140.6mile endurofest that was the Ford Ironman Wisconsin-Madison. I can finally make my way up and down stairs without side-stepping, and I no longer live in a haze of short, fragmented thoughts and incoherent mumblings. But let me back up a bit, and take you to the day that officially made me an Iron(wo)man.
Racing Stripes and Mohawk Man

The days leading up to the race were a little hectic, but nothing we couldn’t handle. The Gang and I headed down to Nashotah, Wisconsin, on Wednesday afternoon, where we stayed with AJ’s family. We got up on Thursday and headed to Madison for the Gatorade open water swim in Lake Monona. Mmmm, algae sure tastes good in the morning. I wasn’t too geeked to be swimming (am I ever?) and chilled for a while by the second to last buoy, chatted with AJ, and then rolled back. My shoulder ached and I just wasn’t feeling it. Love it! We got out of our wetsuits and headed to State Street for some much needed food.
Time to swim!

After a great breakfast at the Sunroom Cafe (which had turkey bacon, and I hope I don’t offend anyone when I say its not nearly as good as real bacon), we went back to the Terrace to get our race packets. The lines were long, the people were silly (let’s just say: “Spandex Everywhere”). At the expo, I used a TriggerPoint ball on my shoulder and the pain magically went away. YAY! We then we loaded back up in the car, dropped AJ at his parents’, and headed to Gigi’s in Whitefish Bay. Gigi is phenomenal. She cooked us a delicious pasta dinner with chicken and homemade sauce, and even had gluten free noodles and loaf of gluten free bread for me and Adam. We ate, talked about a lot of random things, and just chilled out. Whitefish Bay is a cool town, too. Very beautiful, close to Lake Michigan.

The next morning, Gigi made us an eggs and bacon breakfast and then she got ready to head to Madison herself (to pick up her packet and settle in at her hotel). We headed to Madison as well, but stopped in Nashotah on the way for a morning ride.

We rode around some amazing countryside. I could honestly say that I could happily live in that area. We rode around low traffic roads, with beautiful tree-lined roads and rolling hills. Smooth pavement. Low traffic. Just a great 20-mile ride. We took it easy, got the lead out of our legs, and then headed back to Madison for good.

Relaxing in the hotel

My parents arrived around the same time we did, and they joined us for the athlete’s banquet. It was good, for people who eat gluten, I suppose. Adam and I braved the potato bar, and thew on some meat sauce for flavor. It was actually pretty good!

We also got to see some inspirational videos, including a speech by Paula Newby Fraser and the National Anthem by Brandon from Brandon would be competing in the race on Sunday as well, and he’s an opera singer from New York. Pretty cool!

The boys were pretty excited for race day, I think. There was much dancing and giddyness to be had, and they had it!

Stay tuned, I’m going to write up the race report soon. It’s been a busy week!

I am an Iron(wo)man

I will post a more detailed race report later, but for now:

Overall Place: 324, Age Group Place: 8th (W25-29)
Total Time: 11:26:16
Swim Time: 1:15:41 (Div- 34th, Overall 1010)
Bike Time: 5:49:15 (Pace 19.2mph, Div- 5th, Overall 460)
Run Time: 4:11:31 (Pace 9:36min/mile, Div- 10th, Overall 316)

Almost there… Four days until IM 2009

We leave tomorrow for Neshotah. Andrew’s parents, who we have stayed with on a separate occasion (The Mindless Self Indulging of June ’08), have offered up their place of residence as a crash pad for us traveling souls. Not that it’s far away from home, but getting into Wisconsin will take the edge off, albeit we’re several days out of race-time.

On Thursday, we’re traveling to Whitefish Bay to stay with an IronWoman friend of mine. In between these two pad-hopping we’ll be picking up our race packets, swimming in Lake Monona, and trying to stay away from the anxiety.

Caleb at The Bike Shop hooked me up with a new race kit and even screen-printed it for me. Of course, I had to go all-out with the “shimmer” ink, which I mixed 10:1 with elastisol paint (provides the paint stretchy-ness so that when I put on a tight-fitting tank, the ink doesn’t split my Brooks logo in half!). I think it looks B.A… No?
I tried to look even more bad-ass but Adam’s camera handling skills proved an unworthy venture. I was chatting with one of the girls on the xc team at Tech about the big races over Labor Day weekend in the Harbor. She told me that a friend she was with said she wished she had muscles as big as mine. I took that as a compliment 😀

I did a nice little swim in the pool today for about half hour. It was strange… my shoulder started to twinge and get sore when I breathed out the side I normally do. So I switched sides, and my shoulder stopped hurting, but I thought that pain was a little odd. I’ve been swimming just fine for the past eight months without any issues (well… other than my calves cramping up during every swim for about three months straight), and now this? Yikes.

And not to mention that on Sunday’s run, the top of my foot hurt, as if my shoes were tied too tight, but they definitely weren’t. I got worried that it was a developing stress fracture or something of the sort (remember, I’m paranoid?!).

Hasta la vista for now!