Finally finding relief to knee injury, even without MRI

Follow Rachel’s day-to-day training on her twitter and facebook pages and read more of Rachel’s marathon experience every other Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

By Rachel Luna, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/21/2012 06:13:54 AM PST

I wasn’t thrilled with the fact that I pretty much got brushed off by my insurance company when I wanted an MRI to diagnosis my knee.

The alternative (and by alternative, I mean cheapskate) plan was to throw me into physical therapy for a few weeks before reevaluating my injury to decide whether it was worth putting out the money for the MRI test.

If I were a professional athlete, the scenario would be a different story.

For one, I would have gotten an MRI on the same day I tweaked my knee – more than a month ago.

And who knows, maybe the scenario might have come along with some new groundbreaking medical treatment I could have been the first to try successfully.

But I’m obviously not a pro athlete, just a regular person.

And the last time I checked I didn’t see a medical express lane, so I’ve taken a service number and I’m waiting to be called.

Despite the runaround, I’ve managed to stay positive about my situation, and I’m definitely not out of the Honda L.A. Marathon yet.

I’m not a quitter – I’ve never been. I never will be.

And with my determination to remain optimistic, I’ve traded my training schedule for physical therapy sessions.

For nearly three weeks I’ve been going to therapy sessions twice a week. The hour treatment starts off with muscle stimulation therapy on my knee for 20 minutes, followed by ultrasound heat therapy and ending with several stretching and muscle strengthening exercises.

The therapy sessions are working so far. I have my good days and bad days with my left knee, but overall the recovery process is moving along steadily.

And finally, Jan. 18, I got an accurate diagnosis – without an MRI. According to my physical therapist, Patellar Tendonitis is the likely problem.

The discovery came after he examined my knee and realized I have a stiff knee.

Apparently, if you shift your knee cap towards the outside of your leg, it should be able to be flexible enough to move it over. Turns out that isn’t the case with my knee. My tendons are tight around the outside of my left knee, and they aren’t allowing it to budge much at all in that direction.

The discovery makes sense to me since I was twisting to my left when I got injured.

So now the specialized treatment begins. And oh man does it hurt!

I’ve really had to resist my natural instinct to slug my physical therapist – in a good way – as he’s doing treatment to loosen those stubborn tendons.

During last Friday’s treatment, I experienced the worst therapy pain I’ve had since I started going to physical therapy, but it’s been the most relief I’ve felt in my knee to date.

I appreciate all the treatment my physical therapist is doing since it’s now getting me closer to lacing up my running shoes again.

Another six to eight treatment sessions should do the trick, hopefully.

So I’ll be tough and endure all the pain.

New year a chance to make good on your goals in life



C.J. Lin, staff writer at the L.A. Daily News is training for her first marathon, the Honda LA Marathon.  You can follow C.J.’s day-to-day progress on her twitter page and watch for her stories in the Los Angeles Daily News.

By C.J. Lin, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/01/2012 01:00:00 AM PST

Part of an occasional series about a novice runner training for the 2012 L.A. Marathon.

A year ago, Zia Hotaki was smoking a pack a week. The farthest he had ever run was a mile, and that was in high school.

A year ago, Danielle Hummel ran a 5K on New Year’s Eve and hated every minute of it. She just couldn’t understand why people liked running. She had signed up for several races and always quit.

Fast forward to today, the first of the new year, and Hotaki has quit smoking and is on his way toward becoming a world-class runner and a triathlete. Hummel already has three races – that she actually enjoyed – under her belt just since October.

The two are training for the L.A. Marathon, and on top of that, are about to tackle pretty serious undertakings: their 2012 New Year’s resolutions.

Starting today, Hummel, 27, is going to work on becoming a United States Running Streak Association member. Which means that for every single day of 2012 she’ll have to run at least one mile, even if she’s sick, injured or feeling lazy. Otherwise, she’ll have to start the streak all over again, and make sure she keeps it up for 365 consecutive days. (She can actually stop on Dec. 30, because it’s a leap year.)

Becoming a member is based on the honor system. Runners don’t get anything but bragging rights upon becoming a member. But even so, Hummel is pretty determined not to cheat.

“I feel like if you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself,” said Hummel, 27, of Burbank. “So I plan to stick with it.”

And then there’s her other resolution – doing a race every single month, including the L.A. Marathon in March.

I’m getting tired just thinking about it.

But Hummel, an art director for an automotive design firm, has been pretty tireless in keeping her 2011 resolution, which was to live the healthiest year of her life.

She did, and this year’s resolution is an expansion of that.

And like Hummel, Hotaki is the healthiest he’s ever been.

The 27-year-old computer security engineer had been weightlifting and felt like he had peaked. At the same time, he quit smoking after about four years for his wife, and needed another stress reliever.

So he began running, and for the first three months, it was hell.

But he kept pushing, and something clicked. And now he’s in the fastest pace group with the L.A. Roadrunners training group in Westlake Village, hoping to finish the L.A. Marathon in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes.

His resolution?

To run the Boston Marathon in April 2013.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s not something that anyone can sign up for, like here in L.A. Boston is the world’s oldest marathon, one of the best-known racing events and a hallowed course for serious runners, who must first qualify at other marathons before being allowed to sign up.

“It’s pretty much like if there was a world championship of running, Boston would be it,” said Hotaki of Woodland Hills.

For Hotaki, he’ll have to run a marathon in less than 3 hours and 5 minutes, which means finishing each mile at a 7:05 minute pace or better. And so he’s going to train for and then hope to beat that time during the Long Beach Marathon in October.

“It’s a good motivating factor to keep on not smoking,” Hotaki said. “It would make all my efforts right now all for naught if I started smoking again. Running is definitely a much bigger passion in my life now rather than smoking.”

And he’s also hoping to get into good enough shape to compete in the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Hawaii in 2013, where he’ll have to first qualify. If he does, he’ll have to swim 2.4 miles in the ocean, bike 115 miles and run 26 miles.

In comparison, my resolution seems measly. But I’m OK with that.

With the injury, the holidays, working overtime and it being colder and getting dark earlier, I had all but given up on training for the last of 2011.

So starting today, I’m going to get serious about training and wake up early if I have to. I just want to finish the L.A. Marathon, even if I’m whining and crawling to the finish line.

I should run with Morgan Lieberman, a 16-year-old soccer player from Calabasas High School also training for the marathon.

“My New Year’s resolution is to be able to find strength and motivation with the people around me,” Morgan said. “When I run, I feel invincible being part of a pack, and hopefully when I run the marathon I can give off positive energy to other people, and they can help me along the way, too.”

I’ll need all the help I can get with my resolution.

But I’m looking on the bright side – this is one resolution that I’ll only have to keep for another 78 days.

Sometimes a journey can have a bump in the road

Follow Rachel’s day-to-day training on her twitter and facebook pages and read more of Rachel’s marathon experience every other Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

By Rachel Luna, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/17/2011 06:15:29 AM PST

I’m running the distance, 14 miles and counting now. But the distance will have to be put on hold.

I hit a speed bump in my marathon journey and it’s slowing me down – at least for the moment.

I tweaked my knee. Here’s the inside scoop: it wasn’t while running. In fact, it had nothing to do with running. I got injured doing nothing out of the ordinary.

Last Saturday I was clearing out my bookshelf. As I had a few books in my hands, I twisted to my left to set the books down, and bam! Pain hit my left knee instantly. The pain put me down for the count by the time the evening rolled around. I hobbled around for the rest of the weekend and unfortunately had to miss my first half-marathon race.

I was tempted to still try to make it to the race, figured that wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do.

A few days passed, I gave in and finally went to the doctor to get my knee examined. The doctor suspects I may have torn a ligament or the meniscus in my knee after an initial examination.

I’ll have to see a specialist and get an MRI to know the actual results of the injury.

So for now, crutches are my ticket to getting around until I see the doctor again this week. I can’t stand the crutches. Thanks to them, now I have to deal with pain in my palms, arms and shoulders… and my original knee pain.

It’s not all bad though. I’ve turned my work chair into my daily wheelchair while I’m in the newsroom. It’s way better than the crutches, and a lot more fun. I’m just this little blur rolling by.

Also, I’ve always wanted to ride around in one of those motorized scooters at the store. Now I have a legitimate excuse.

Despite the injury, I’m hoping it won’t keep me out of my training for too long.

No running is allowed, but I hope to eventually get some training done in a swimming pool just to get me going.

But before I do that, I gotta go out and buy a wetsuit. I have a pool at my house, but there’s no way I’m going to train at 6 a.m. in a freezing pool without being bundled up.

Until I find out more about my knee, I’m going keep a positive attitude. There’s still plenty of time before the Honda L.A. Marathon – 91 days to be exact.

After all I have to remember: Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

A support system can go a long way

Follow Rachel’s day-to-day training on her twitter and facebook pages and read more of Rachel’s marathon experience every other Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

By Rachel Luna, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/04/2011 06:37:06 PM PST

It’s official. I ran a half marathon. Well, a half marathon length (13.1miles) in my training, not a race.

But it still counts. It’s definitely a major breakthrough.

My training group even rewarded me with a chocolate medal of excellence for my accomplishment, which I ate shortly after showing it off.

Hunger and a desire for a chocolate treat are to blame. It was my first running award … darn!

My photo instincts managed to kick in just in time to snap a memorable photo before it was too late.

It’s the little things keeping me running. I’ve gotten so used to having a support group behind me through this experience.

And there’s nothing better than training with a group to top it all off.

Each Saturday, 200 of my closest running buddies from the Inland Empire L.A. Roadrunners and I run together, encouraging one another to keep up the training and stay focused on our marathon goal.

The program has become an automatic reliance to keep my training consistent. The extra bonuses with being a part of a running group are all the water stations that keep me hydrated along the routes and the complimentary treats table to enjoy after a long run with everybody.

I don’t have to worry about a thing when I stick with the group.

However, I faced a big hurdle when I had to complete the 13-mile-training. I had to do it alone and had no idea what to expect. Without my accustomed “safety net,” I prepared myself for a lonely half marathon in the Northern California countryside in the middle of nowhere.

It was a thrill knowing I’d reach the half marathon point, but nerve-wracking to face the reality I wouldn’t have anyone talk to or train with during the run.

It was a long run – a two hour and 52 minute run/walk to be exact (it took a little longer because I kept slowing down to take photos). But it flew by.

And the best part was I still had my support group interacting with me via social media. I got the pleasure of sharing my experience of running in the boonies with others.

It helps that I’ve somewhat learned how to tweet while running … when it’s safe.

My first half marathon experience was an unusual accomplishment in my training process. It never felt like the lonely 13.1 miles I expected.

So to all my running mates, followers and readers out there, thanks for your continued support in my endeavor.

I’m nearly halfway through it and at the rate I’m going, I think it’s safe to say I’m going to stick around to see how my adventure ends.

2 heart attack survivors share a new interest in running

C.J. Lin is a staff writer for the Daily News and is training with our newest LA Roadrunners program in Westlake Village. C.J. will be sharing her experience training for her first Honda LA Marathon, as well as featuring the runners from her group as they journey together to completing 26.2 miles.

By C.J. Lin, Daily News Staff Writer
Updated: 11/21/2011 07:34:02 PM PST

Six years ago, Barry Zweben and Michael Moline never thought they’d be training for their first-ever L.A. Marathon.

The two men, both now 54, became close friends through a shared, but unfortunate, set of circumstances: They both had heart attacks. Zweben underwent a quadruple bypass surgery and Moline had a six-way bypass surgery at Tarzana Medical Center.

“When they cracked open my chest, the pain was so bad,” said Moline of Agoura Hills. “I’m just afraid of ever having that pain again. I remember consciously, being in my hospital bed, really believing that I’m going to be living minute to minute. Slowly that evolved hour to hour.”

They met while at a cardiac rehab gym in Tarzana and have been working out four to five days a week since.

And now, they’re healthier than ever. What better time to tackle the daunting 26.2 miles of the marathon?

Which is probably why they’ve decided to take on the task after joking about it for years. Moline had always asked Zweben when he was going to do the marathon, and Zweben would laugh it off. But this year, Zweben told him: “I’ll do it if you do it.”

So the two train with the L.A. Roadrunners in Westlake Village on Saturdays. They’re not doing the race at a full-out run for fear of injury or overburdening their hearts. They’re heading into it with a fast walk that should see them finish in a little more than six hours.

Time isn’t an issue for them; it’s completing the race and getting a second chance to cross it off their bucket list.

That, and hopefully inspiring others as ambassadors for heart health by encouraging a good diet and lots of exercise.

“Our story might give others, who find themselves in similar circumstances, the encouragement to try this as well,” said Zweben, who’s from Chatsworth.

“I know what it’s like to rediscover what it felt like when I was younger,” said Moline. “It would allow me to tell people if you do this, you can run a marathon.”

They’re so lucky that they have each other to train with and then run the race with. The long miles zip by faster when you have someone to chat with, keep your mind off the pain and tell you to keep going because they know you can.

“It’s much easier when you have a friend with you,” Zweben said. “Because it motivates you to keep going.”

Don’t I know it.

I’m supposed to be running three to five miles every other day, but more often than not, that “run” is more of a “walk.”

It’s not that I can’t physically do it. It’s just that I don’t want to for some reason. I guess it could just be my natural dislike for running.

But I recently ran and actually finished my first-ever race, the Race for Rescues at the Rose Bowl to raise money for animal shelters. It was only a 10K – 6 miles. I couldn’t have done it without my buddy Mike Tang. He kept my snail’s pace with me, and made the six miles much easier to bear.

I need someone to train with, someone whose presence alone will shame me out of my laziness and secretly embarrass me into doing my best.

Someone like Moline is to Zweben, or Zweben is to Moline, although they don’t need any extra motivation. They’ve already been through the wringer, and are happy that they’re even able to be doing this.

Which I guess does shame me a bit, now that I think about it. I guess I just need to just shut up and run.

Marathon training with an early start

Follow Rachel’s day-to-day training on her twitter and facebook pages and read more of Rachel’s marathon experience every other Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

 

By Rachel Luna, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/19/2011 06:09:58 AM PST

 

Allow me to wipe away the sleep from my eyes as I begin my fourth marathon installment. My days are starting a whole lot earlier since I’ve begun my training, and waking up is the toughest part about it.

So much thought went into my decision to take on this adventure: all the running I’d have to endure, the healthy diet to adapt, and the commitment to a six-month training schedule.

But none of it steered me away.

Not even the “Are you sure you want to do this?” questions I received from others made me rethink my decision.

In fact, it excited me to know training for a marathon would lead to a healthier lifestyle. That pretty much sealed the deal.

I had it all figured out. Or so I thought.

But the one thing I overlooked was the change in my sleep-wake schedule.

On the first Saturday run with my L.A. Roadrunners training group, I rolled out of bed at 5:30 a.m. and two things became evident that morning. First, that the San Gabriel Valley continues to functions before the sun is up (something I’ve hardly witnessed before). And second, I would be forced to completely change my sleep cycle if I wanted to follow through on my latest adventure.

It’s been a major adjustment.

In addition to my Saturday sessions with the Roadrunners, I’m running two to three times a week on my own for nearly 45 minutes.

Now, it’s bedtime by 8:30 p.m., then rise and shine around 5 a.m. to get out the door for my early runs. Okay, it’s really more like 5:30 a.m., but only because it’s so cold in the mornings and I like to hit the snooze button a few times, and I’ve never been much of an early bird before.

But it’s getting easier to wake up early. And sticking with my sleep-wake routine is just as important to my marathon goal as everything else, if not more.

Published running studies present evidence that lack of sleep interferes with the metabolism of glucose, which muscles use for recovery. The immune system also can deteriorate because of a lack of sleep.

I tend to get sick easily when I’m sleep-deprived, and it’s never fun being sick.

I prefer running in the morning to running in the evenings because I can get it out of the way without feeling chained all day to my marathon training.

The day goes by faster after running and eventually I barely remember running at all.

And no, it’s not because I’m still half asleep. There’s only been a couple of occasions where my recollection was fuzzy.

The sleep-wake schedule adjustment has become the unlikely component to make all of my training possible.

It’s nice to know my need for a full night’s sleep – even if I have to wake up early – is no longer just for my beauty rest. It’s a major necessity to staying healthy during my training process.

All I have to do is wake up.

It’s all technique: downshifting while training for a marathon

Follow Rachel’s day-to-day training on her twitter and facebook pages and read more of Rachel’s marathon experience every other Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

By Rachel Luna, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/05/2011 07:09:19 AM PDT

“I’m going to run a marathon.”

Yes, that still sounds really weird whenever I hear myself say it. I’m not quite sure if it’s because I don’t quite believe it or because I haven’t faced the pain and torture of marathon training.

I keep bracing myself for that slap-in-the-face dose of reality. I don’t know when or if I’ll get to that point in my training.

And yes, I realize it’s still early to say but I’m feeling pretty confident.

It’s 133 days until the Honda L.A. Marathon on March 18, 2012. Just looking at the days seems like it’s years away, yet all the running in the weeks of training are flying by fast – and it’s not because I’m the next Usain Bolt. (For those of you who don’t know, Bolt is the world’s fastest man.)

It’s time to let you in on my little secret that’s giving me all the confidence in the world: I decided to run-walk my first marathon.

Now, don’t laugh or snicker. But if you must, I won’t hold it against you.

When I first heard of the run-walk method I had no idea what that meant. Images of little old ladies walking popped into my head. It’s probably because my grandmother is a mall walker … and she’s got some speed.

The technique doesn’t mean walking when you’re tired. Instead, it means taking a brief walking break while you’re still fresh. And before you judge, know that it is actually faster than running the whole time.

Jeff Galloway, a member of the 1972 Olympic team, came up with the run-walk approach. His method has found that most runners will record significantly faster times in a long run when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of the run.

I’m not going after any time record, but I am interested in avoiding grueling fatigue as much as possible.

Runs are split into run-walk ratios varying from 30-second intervals to a three-minute run and one-minute walk. My particular run-walk group is training at a one-minute run, one-minute walk rotation.

The method uses muscles in different ways so your legs keep their bounce as they conserve resources, according to Galloway. Shifting back and forth between running muscles and walking muscles allows the workload to be distributed among a variety of muscles, which will increase the overall performance capacity.

Another interesting thing I learned while training with the L.A. Roadrunners is the run-walk groups actually will end up passing the slower running groups while they all race in the marathon.

I originally started training with the runners. But I’m now sold on the run-walk method. I did 10 miles last week and had no idea I’d feel so fresh afterward.

Now that the training is hitting the long, double-digit miles, my group already is passing some of the running groups.

It makes me feel fast. Maybe I will pick up some speed after all. But if not, the run-walk method sure makes me feel like the world’s fastest run-walker.

SUNDAY, MARCH 9, 2014