Monday, April 11, 2011

I’m convinced I'm a runner (aka Injury and Diversification)

Happy New Year! I hope you all are having a wonderful 2011! What’s that you say? It’s already April…oh dear, it’s been awhile since my last blog post…

Quick race catch-up (you can skip this and go right to the injury part, if you want):
Polar Dash: Mike, Erin and I ran our 5K Polar Dash on New Year’s Day. Brrrrr…it was cold! Below zero with windchill. Eek! But we bundled up (topped off with New Year’s party hats!), ran hard, and hurried back to the car afterwards so we wouldn’t get cold. We all felt like hard-core runners!
Winter: Erin and I managed an outside run about once a week through the whole winter!! Major goal accomplishment there!
MDRA Races: In March, Mike and I ran the MDRA ( 4 mile around Lake Johanna. That was a really tough mental race for me. This was the first race I had done without starting with a running buddy since Erin wasn’t there (she was running the Lucky 7K!) and Mike is a little speedier than me. I had no problem letting Mike run at his pace and me run at mine, but it was way tough. This race was through the Minnesota Distance Running Association, so this was a fast crowd. I was being passed. A lot. I told myself early on not to look behind me because there might not be anybody there. Just run. I hit a speedy groove right around 3 miles and finished really strong with my fastest time yet: 39 min 34 sec! Under 10 min/mile. Quite thrilled with that. One week later was the MDRA 7 mile in Hopkins. Chilly, but sunny day. This time it was Mike, Erin, Scott and I. Erin and I had never run 7 miles; we anticipated much walking. Mike zipped on ahead and Erin and I tried not to start out too fast (hard, due to another fast batch of runners). Around mile 2, I had to command Erin to walk. We both felt great, but I didn’t want to burn out—we still had 5 miles to go. Scott was having a directionally-challenged day, so he was late getting to the race, but he caught up to us at 2 miles. There were several hills and we tended to walk for short times after the hills. I estimate we only walked about 5 minutes total. Chatting with Erin and Scott was such wonderful distraction that we all just kept running. We finished at 73 mins some seconds! Whoa! Did we do that at just over 10 min/mile?? Yes, we did. So amazing to come out of winter and run 7 miles at our pace! Huge, huge confidence boost. A half-marathon near the end of summer feels totally doable!

I'm convinced I’m a runner (aka Injury and Diversification):
Why did I go to the acute injury clinic last Saturday? Because Mike was going. He hurt the top of his right foot somehow and could only walk on his heel. I figured as long as he was going, I would go along and ask about the nagging soreness in my lower right leg that had been there on and off since last…summer. Yes, last summer. I don’t usually ignore the aches and pains in my body, but seriously, this wasn’t that bad! The area just on the inside part of my right tibia along my calf (anterior, I believe) would feel a little sore while running, but not enough to stop me. Then, as long as I didn’t poke at the area, I felt fine and it didn’t really hurt during daily activity. I was aware of it, but mostly ignored it. To give myself a little credit, I had been planning to go in to have it checked out soon because Erin and I were to be training for the half-marathon and I didn’t want whatever it was to get worse.
            So there Mike and I are sitting together in the little room when the doctor walks in. Dr. W is friendly, easy-going, and direct. I like him in the first minute. He checks Mike’s foot first. Dr. W pushes and pulls Mike’s right foot around until he finds the exact spot and Mike grimaces and practically howls with pain.
            “You probably have the start of a stress fracture. We could do an x-ray, but probably won’t see anything. We’ll get you a boot. Wear it a week, then try walking without the boot. Start out slow. Your goal is to be pain-free for three weeks,. Come see me if you have any pain,” says Dr. W to Mike. Not too bad. No x-rays even. Then it was my turn. Dr. W. squeezes my leg at various points and when I whince, he says, “You’ve had this for nine months?”
            “Doesn’t hurt too bad if I don’t touch it,” I say.
            “What have you done for it?”
            “Rested it.”
            “For how long?”
            “About a week at a time,” I say very proud of myself for staying active.
            “So not really rested it, then?” says Dr. W. He prods the top of my tibia. “Doesn’t seem to be in the really bad spot, but let’s get an x-ray and maybe an MRI.” Whoa! An MRI?
            “I just ran seven miles on it a couple weeks ago,” I say trying to understand how I can go from that to an MRI.
            “Yeah, runners never come in. They just keep running through the pain,” says Dr. W. I start to say I’m not a runner, because well…I don’t really know why. I guess I thought of myself as sort of a runner, but I’d only been at this for less than a year. I still felt new. Surely I didn’t have the whole runner mentality already. I was wrong. I do. I’m a runner. I just keep on running.
            I got an x-ray. That didn’t show anything, so I got an MRI (which I totally lucked out on since they had a no-show). That is a loud, strange machine. The technician taped my feet together, laid a heavy flat, blanket-like thing over my legs and gave me headphones with music for the 30 minutes I was inside. I nearly fell asleep. Then it was over and I went back to meet with Dr. W.
            “Looks good so far,” says Dr. W, “I’ll call you on Monday after the full work-up on it, but it doesn’t look like a stress fracture.”
            “So what do I do?” I just know he’s going to say something I don’t like.
            “No pain. No running. Don’t do anything to make it hurt.”
            “Oh. Okay.”
Mike and I leave and I have no idea what to make of this. Not run? It’s finally spring. I have races. I was planning to increase my distance and times per week. Not run? Oh crap.
            On Monday morning, Dr. W. calls.
            “You don’t have a stress fracture, you have a stress reaction,” he says.
            “Eh, what’s that?”
            “It’s what happens before a fracture. It’s not in the bad spot, not medial, but anterior. That’s good.”
            “So what’s that mean?”
            “No running for three weeks. Don’t do anything that causes it pain. Does it hurt when you walk?”
            “No, it’s fine.”
            “Good. Come back to see me in three weeks and I’m going to ask you if you’ve had any pain. The only correct answer is no.” Somehow I found that funny, despite being a little distressed at what that means for my next three weeks.
            “Okay. Okay,” I say trying to convince myself, but extremely grateful I don’t have a fracture. This could be a lot worse. I could have really messed up my leg if I continued to ignore this. I can still walk. I had a fracture in my right foot about 4 years ago and was on crutches and in a boot for seven weeks. That’s hell. I keep telling myself that to resist the urge to run because it so beautiful outside. I see runners everywhere!! There’s that unfortunate kink in human nature that causes us to want most that which we can’t have. Arrgghh!
            I had to tell Erin. That was hard. We were just getting ready to jump into more runs per week. I couldn’t have made it through the winter without her support. Now I felt like I was totally bailing on her. Exercise and Erin are so connected in my mind. I feel so connected to her; what could we do now that I couldn’t run for three weeks?
There’s only one thing to do: Must Diversify! Yoga, biking, strength training! I really need all those to prevent further injury and improve my running. I had been only running. Hey, I was just getting started exercising more frequently and that’s what I could do then. Now I need to branch out. This little stress reaction could be a good thing. I will make it a good thing.
These three weeks are going to be tough, but I must Think Long Term, Expand My Horizons!! Erin sent me a supportive email suggesting yoga for Wed and Thurs. Sounds like a great plan! And we’ll probably bust out our bikes soon, too! 
             Here's to three weeks of trying new activities! (I hope I can make it because I really, really want to go for a run! It doesn't hurt that bad...)


ET said...

We will diversify! We have all summer to run our hearts out and this will only make us stronger, faster, more flexible runners, right???

And never doubt it. You are a runner! You put your shoes on, you pound the pavement, you are a runner. If you can run 5 miles in a snowstorm, run a 5K in negative wind chills (AND KICK BUTT @ it too!), you are a runner. :-P

Keep writing, and running. I love reading your perspective on things and your prose. :)

Toni said...

If you add baby yoga to the mix, you can also spend time with the little man. :)

I know you can do it! You're already doing a great job NOT running...which I know is difficult. Onward!

love you.