February 11, 2011

When a Runner Feels Less Like a Runner

It seems that just when you start taking for granted your ability to train something loops around and reminds you to be grateful. For me, it was a stress fracture. Usually, the s-word conjures up images of poor nutrition and over-training. This was not the case for me.

I knew something was wrong when, after more than a week out from the San Antonio Rock n’ Roll half-marathon, I was still not recovering. The sore calves lasted a little longer than I expected and there was a pain in the lower, outside of my right leg that felt like a dry twig ready to snap at any moment. Yet, I kept running. I was sure that, as always, running would alleviate my pain, I just needed to loosen up my muscles, I thought.

However, when ten days out from the event I was in more pain than the day following, I went to see my physical therapist. I was able to fake my way through the tuning fork, keeping a straight face, holding back the grimace that I felt welling up. The ultra-sound was another story. I almost kicked my PT in the stomach. I knew it before I went in, but I had not wanted to admit it. He looked at me with regret and said, “you know what this means.” I nodded as silent tears began to spill out and down my cheeks.

The diagnosis was a stress fracture of the fibula, the NON weight bearing bone. To this running purist, three weeks on crutches and up to five weeks in the pool was more than a little overwhelming. Not to mention I would be at least eight weeks behind on my training. It was a completely new experience, one that I would not wish on anyone. After an in depth examination of my foot and ankle my PT discovered two bones out of place and zero mobility in my big toe joint. Combined, there lay the cause of my injury.

After 24 hours of feeling sorry for myself I began to look at this as a challenge. How strong could I become? How flexible could I be? I began aqua running immediately and heart rate-which had never been a focus of mine-was now all I thought about. I went from 4 to 6 days of strength training and from 2 to 4 days of yoga weekly. Three weeks later, I was off crutches and graduated to the elliptical after only five weeks. One jumping-the-gun failed attempt at running and seven weeks later, another visit to my PT revealed a healed bone and a happy runner.

Nine weeks out from the diagnosis, I am running six days a week and began speed training a few days ago. I am stronger (went from being able to do one pull up to ten), more flexible (thank you, yoga), and ridiculously fit. I am also more dedicated, appreciative, and prepared to put the work into my training. Over all, I feel less fearful of “expectations” and more excited about possibilities.

Initially, I was angry-not only at the situation but at my body for letting me down. However, I have come to realize that as athletes we tend to push and push and push, all the while expecting more and more from our bodies. But sometimes our bodies fight back, and in the end our bodies always win.

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Written by Andrija, a member of Oiselle's racing team.