The Bitch Stitch

I ran (and won) a 5k early November.  I wasn’t anticipating running competitively because I was told it wasn’t timed, plus I was running with a group and wanted to support them.  I hadn’t gone for a run in two weeks but again, I wasn’t anticipating running competitively.

The morning of the run was a little cold but nice and like any other run I only had some coffee before heading out.  We arrived at the park, put on our race numbers and began to warm up.  Race time was approaching we made our way to the front, just behind the start line.  At that point I learned this race was indeed timed and I felt pretty good about my chances…yeah, I sized up potential challengers, ha,ha,ha!  I turned to my team mates and was like “Yeah….I’m gonna hit the ground running….fast.”  They laughed because they knew I couldn’t hold back.

We were off!  I was not familiar with the race course so I kept a steady pace but stayed ahead of the other females : )  Mile 1 was done, 1.5 then mile 2.  Mile 2 sucked.  All of a sudden I felt that horrid sharp pain just underneath the right side of my bottom rib.  Immediately, I practiced all the techniques I knew of that has helped relieve this awful pain in the past….burping, manipulating my breathing, deep breaths….nothing worked.  I slowed just a little and took a look back and was glad that I was still ahead of any other challengers.  It was the last 1/2 mile and the pain worsened.  I wonder if anyone noticed me crunching down on my right side towards the end but then again I still had a smile on my face and wanted the win.

There it is, the finish line!  With everything I had and a slight cringe look on my face, I finished the race crunched to one side but with a big smile on my face!  I knew I had won overall female but I knew my time sucked.  I finished close to 25min (and also won overall in my age group) but I know I could’ve done it just over 22min.

So what is the bitch stitch, side stitch, side ab pain, etc….? I’ve read it’s simply a muscle spasm.  How to get rid of it? Here’s what has helped me in the past:

  • Don’t eat or drink anything at least 2 hours before your run.  I prefer first thing in the morning runs with only some coffee.
  • Warm up with a brisk walk –  this will help warm up your lunges by creating a breathing pattern.
  • Once you begin to run, maintain a consistent breathing pattern.  Depending on your pace, try breathing in for about 3 strides and 3 strides out.  Give yourself a nice big deep breath from time to time throughout your run.
  • Spit your saliva.  I’m not girly so I don’t mind doing this at all.  This allows less swallowing of any air.
  • Burp.
  • If you feel one coming on, I try burping first.  Or slow down, keep your core tight, breathe deeply and try burping again.  Once this happens, it’s instant relief! I could simply resume my nice steady pace.

Other methods I’ve heard but have not tried:

  • When experiencing a bitch stitch, try landing on the opposite foot of where your pain is for the exhale.  If the sensation is on the right side, land on your left foot while exhaling.
  • Eat salt.  I did read somewhere to dab some salt on your tongue….ha, sorry but I don’t carry salt on me.
  • Stop and stretch by raising your arm of the side in pain overhead.  I can usually relive the pain before needing to stop.

I get slapped with the bitch stitch on random occasions.  Sometimes it cramps up on evening runs or morning runs and sometimes not at all.  Sometimes it comes on during my short 3-5 mile runs and sometimes it doesn’t.  I can go miles and miles, week after week, before ever experiencing the side stitch then one day, BAM, there it is.

5k win 2013

Cold weather in Texas…love or hate running in it?

Running in below 50 degree weather is both a love and hate relationship.  First, like a crazy woman, I usually have an argument with myself and throw reasons to run and reasons not to run back and forth in my head.  Ultimately, I get dressed and head out.  In the first mile or two I feel like my lungs are slowly solidifying and about to crack! Of course they don’t and eventually the sensation goes away.  After that I start to think “Man, it’s getting hot in this sweater!” and wish I hadn’t worn so many layers of clothing.  In the end, the only sensation I may be feeling is a numb nose.  Once your body warms up and the runners high kicks in, you’ll never regret this run.  I really do love the quote “Wow, I really regret that workout. -No One Ever”

Tips for running in the cold:

  1. Don’t wear too many layers.  Some do well with short sleeves and shorts in 50-35 degree weather or shorts and long sleeves w/gloves and a beanie under 35 degrees.  I’m a wuss, I wear compression or dry fit pants and long sleeves along with gloves.  Under 35 degree weather, I’ll add a pull over sweater and a headband that covers my ears.  Be aware of rain in the forecast.  Cover up completely to avoid hypothermia or frostbite in longer distance runs.
  2. Wear lip balm. Chapped lips is not only unattractive but can be painful.
  3. Stay hydrated! Just because you might not sweat as much, you still need to drink up. If you’re a morning runner make sure you drink .75-1oz of water per body weight the day before.  I recommend this much water intake everyday!
  4. Push through the first mile or two, you may experience “cold lungs” or “freezing” fingers and toes but don’t worry, the sensation will go away.

Protect yourself, always.