It’s officially been 8 weeks since my last half marathon.
8 weeks since I set a 12 minute PR.
8 weeks since the stress fracture officially ended my running career for the immediate future.
When my orthopedist told me that my injured foot was a metatarsal stress fracture, and that I had to wear a walking boot and use crutches for 4 weeks, I was a ball of emotions. I was upset, frustrated, angry, defeated, and just all around pissed off.
- I was mad at my foot. Why did my foot have to hurt 1 week before the race? Why not 1 day AFTER the race? Why was this foot broken, again. Why always with this foot?!
- I was angry with myself. Why did I do the stupid runner move and race with a foot that was not 100%? There will be other races. There will be other days where I can run healthy. Why did I push my luck? Why did I set such a bad example for others, especially my readers (do as I say, not as I do!).
- I was frustrated with the outcome. I just ran a 12 minute PR…on a broken foot?! How did that happen? Why do I have to be sidelined now? I had the greatest year of running in my life. I set and broke my 5k PR. I got faster and stronger. I was finally falling into a routine. I overcame an annoying knee injury after MRI’s, x-rays, and weeks of PT.
But in the end – I was grateful. Grateful that even though I was injured, I had a great year of running. Grateful that I still beat my PR (even though it hurt). Grateful that I had a diagnosis and a plan for recovery. Grateful that it was not something much worse.
I approached this healing period as a time to focus on other things. I continued to strength train and improved my core strength through plank workouts. I cross trained as much as my boot would allow. I focused on eating healthy and just relaxing. Sure, I had my bad days. I had my days where I got home from the gym and cried to myself in the shower about how frustrated I was. Any runner who has struggled with injury will tell you – it’s tough. You take someone completely out of their element – completely away from doing the thing they know and love – it’s an adjustment.
Thankfully, I knew my injury was one that would heal. It’s a bone. It will heal, as long as I follow doctor’s orders. That kept me optimistic, much more so than when I injured my knee – and I ran through that injury.
About 3 weeks ago, I finally got the A-ok from the doc to take the boot off. I had spent almost 5 weeks in the walking boot, with 2 weeks of zero weight bearing activity via crutches. It was time. I spent the first couple days with two matching feet just walking. I continued to bike at the gym and do weights, but this time it was with 2 feet. That alone was a workout. The little muscles in my feet CLEARLY were dead and needed to be brought back to life. For the first week, my left foot was sore. Not painful – just overall “I haven’t used this foot in forever” sore.
I kept trying to remember back to the first time I broke this foot. If I remember correctly, I felt the “phantom pains” people talk about for a good while. To this day, 3 years later, my foot still gets a little swollen and black and blue in the area where the permanent soft tissue damage was done by my horse’s hoof – especially in the cold weather. My doctor then told me that it will never go away. The damage of the crush injury was done, but the bones healed.
I wanted to go running the second the boot was off, but I knew that was a badddddd idea. I waited a week before attempting to run at all. Just walking around during the day at work was enough for a little while. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I finally took the plunge and went for a run on the treadmill at my sister’s gym while I was home. It was slow. My lungs were burning. But it was a run.
I followed a run-walk method and did 10 minutes of walking before doing 5 min run/walk intervals. I was on cloud 9 the whole day after. My foot felt great the whole time which was a good sign. I immediately decided to go get fitted for new running shoes that afternoon. I had such bad feelings towards my Asics. Ever since switching from the Brooks Ghosts to them, I’ve injured both my knee and developed the stress fracture. I know shoes aren’t 100% of the problem, but I think they’re a big reason. Especially considering that I trained for and completed my first half marathon in my Brooks Ghosts with ZERO issue.
I owe you guys a post on my shoe fitting experience and which shoes (yes, plural) I ended up with, but I settled with the Saucony Cortana 2′s as my go-to pairs. I LOVE them! They offer a great amount of support for my high arches and have a lower heal to toe drop (4mm), which is very comfortable.
So far, I’ve run a handful of times since the stress fracture. As of right now, I’m loosely following the Pfitzinger plan for returning to running after a stress fracture. It includes a lot of walking breaks in the runs, which are key for me right now. The funny thing – my fitness is returning pretty rapidly. After about 4-5 runs, I don’t find myself getting winded at all, but I definitely notice how fatigued my muscles are after 30 min of running/walking. Strength training is also in the rotation big time – especially body weight exercises. No big weights for my lower body just yet. At the moment, I can run/walk about 3.5 miles with the running intervals not lasting any longer than 15 minutes.
My foot feels good. No big pains like before with the fracture, but it’s definitely fatigued by the end of the day. Last week I was feeling ‘phantom pains’, which are hard to describe. After sitting down and not moving my foot for a while, sometimes I feel like my foot is ‘broken’ – it aches – but the second I move my foot around or get up to walk, the pain goes away. Just disappears. I think it’s the little muscles and tendons in my foot growing and aching from being worked again causing the sensation. The stress fracture site never hurts, even when applying pressure from my fingers, so I’m taking it as a good sign. This week, the pain has been much less despite upping my run intervals, which I’m also taking as a good sign.
I am also looking into getting my gait analyzed. This is my second stress fracture in 5 years, and my 3rd major running injury in the same amount of time. I’m sure there are some tweaks I could make to my stride that will give me a leg-up over the injuries. All I want for 2013 is an injury-free year of running and racing. But for now, I’m happy with my progress.