Exactly one year ago... the Thursday after I ran the RRCA Club Challenge... I set out for a short little tempo run. I dropped Susanna off at school at 8am on the dot so I could get in four miles before I had to be at an 8:40 meeting. I was feeling fatigued and hadn't done any speed work since the race, and felt no pain on this run (or any previous runs) but could not get my pace below an 8 minute mile. Defeated, I went to my meeting. When I stood up, I was limping. And thus began my epic injury that consumed thousands of dollars in doctors appointments, PT, and of course, lost race fees.
I had planned on a 12 mile run before work this morning, but my calf has been cranky, my right achilles has been tight, and my neighbor Holly who usually does these way-too-early runs with me is skiing in Utah. When my alarm went off at 5:07am, I checked the weather -- 17 degrees with a windchill of 5 -- and rolled over to go back to sleep. Running alone in those conditions was just not appealing...
At noon, I started to get phantom pains in my left hip. Could they be real? Every time I sat down, I was sure that when I stood up I'd be limping. I decided that maybe I should take a rest day, even though last week was a recovery week and this week I'm supposed to be at peak mileage. Aside from the calf that seems to be getting better every day, I didn't really have a reason to skip the run. Except then I'd feel another twinge... my right ankle this time. Or maybe it was my left hip. Or maybe my right foot. Come to think of it, my knees kind of hurt. And maybe my shin?
At lunch I googled "warning signs of a stress fracture." And basically it said they come on without warning. That would be right -- there was NO warning for either of the fractures I've sustained. They came on suddenly, the first during a marathon (far left metatarsel on the left foot, and only an 8 week layoff from running, during a time I would have been recovering from a marathon, so really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things -- plus it got me hooked on swimming and biking and led me to my first tri season) and the second when I wasn't even running (that being the injury I never, ever, ever want to relive..)
I spent the majority of my lunch break reading Camille Herron's blog on stress fractures. She advised serious runners to take it easy most of the time... she said she had the most stress fractures when she was doing all high intensity runs on lower mileage, and the least on high mileage (averaging 120-30 per week!) when she did about 80% of her runs about 2 minutes per mile slower than her 5K pace. My 5K pace is probably a little under 7 minutes per mile, and I have no issues at all with running 9s or even closer to 10s. So I decided I would go ahead and try to get my mileage in -- slowly -- today. I did the middle six miles with the Lululemon Run Club, and got in almost 12 total. Walked in, ate dinner with my family.... I wasn't limping after dinner. So I've officially made it one year post injury without another stress fracture.
I'm still flipping out. This whole "stress fractures come on without warning" thing is a little more than scary. Poor Paula Radcliffe, the marathon record holder, can't even jog more than a few miles at a time due to a stress fracture on her foot that never healed. I read a recent article where she said that she just wants to be able to run for pleasure at this point. She said she can't even run after her two children.
I've spent so much time in the past 2 years trying to better myself as a runner. I want to push myself to the breaking point.. but not break. I guess all of us out there who are trying to set PRs and get the most out of our "running years" deal with this. How far can we push our bodies before they cry "Uncle!"
I want to reach the start line of the Boston Marathon. Unbroken. But ready. It's hard to know where that magic line is.