Three weeks before Boston, I was outside doing a hill workout. Up and down Honeysuckle Road over and over and over and over and…well, you get the point. As I descended the mountain and completed my cool down, I felt a little nag in my groin. I don’t know why I remember it – I encounter lots of little aches and pains and they’re gone by the time I wake up the next morning. I also remember the remainder of that week. A track workout – 4×1 mile repeats, and I hit a sub 7 minute pace for all of them with no problem. A 20 mile run, at a 7:59 pace. I remember the little “nag” accompanying me on all of them. It didn’t get worse, but it didn’t get better.
And then there was Boston. I’ve written about the good, the bad, and the ugly. I ran completely pain free through the entire race and re-qualifed for the 2014 race, finishing in 3:33:59. I ran a strong race and didn’t push the pace faster than I’d intended. I had the usual routine soreness afterward, and my little nag was still there – though not worse than before the race. After the soreness in my legs subsided, I resumed running and training at an easy, comfortable pace. But the nag persisted, still not getting any worse or better. So I admitted defeat and headed to my sports physician.
A clinical exam, X-ray, and MRI later resulted in a surprising phone call. Femoral stress fracture. Um…what? I’ve had stress fractures before (in my tibia), and this still isn’t presenting itself as a stress fracture. This hurts less when I run, whereas my tibia used to stop me in my tracks. When I fractured my tibia, I remember walking four miles home in the middle of the winter because I couldn’t run another step. This is not the same. In fact, this is quite the opposite. To the point where I ran a few hours prior to my MRI – at a 7:48 pace – with decreased pain. Anyone I know that experienced this same diagnosis is in a world of pain even when walking. Not me. The silver lining? The doctor told me if I had to have a stress fracture, this is not a bad deal. It’s minor, and I can run again very soon. If I listen like a good little girl, I might not even miss many of my spring races.
My physician gave me a four week time out but the green light for any other cross training activities. She is aware of my aggressive goals and is supportive of me running in Vancouver and Alaska in June as long as I can run with no consideration of pace. Done. But I need to cross train like a crazy and go for some physical therapy, which will make the four weeks fly by. Oh yeah, and I can run on an anti-gravity treadmill. So it’s more like I’m confined to treadmill running. I found one semi-locally and I’m going to start running on it on Monday. Yet there is still something even stranger than my pain level and the amount I’ve run since the “fracture”. It’s what the radiology report reads. “There is no evidence of a fracture.”
You read that right. If you’re sitting there and thinking WTF, so am I. The report actually states that there is no evidence of a fracture twice, which is confusing to me. I’m going to the Rothman Institute for a second opinion, and the doctor I’m seeing is actually the team doctor for the Philadelphia Eagles and the sports consultant for the Pennsylvania Ballet. Pretty cool. I’m not going because I want to run (which, of course I do) but because I want to make sure I am rehabilitating correctly and not doing more damage. I’m not going to run the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon this weekend or do any running (besides in the anti-gravity treadmill) until I hear otherwise.
While I’m grounded, I want to figure out why and how this happened, and I already have a few ideas. I’m going to be working with a runner-specific physical therapist so I’m going to use the experience as a learning opportunity to learn to prevent future injuries. What I know after looking back at my training is that I run less in the winter, and then I get excited when the weather becomes nice. I added more miles and began running much more because I enjoy being outdoors. The nice weather started showing up at a point in my training where I began increasing my intensity, and you should never increase intensity and mileage at the same time. I know this, and I know better. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Whatever. I’m in a brief time out and I’m going to embrace some cross training. And since I’ll be biking and swimming, it looks like I’ll be signing up for the Steelman Triathlon in August. Might as well put all of that cross training to good use.
So in the meantime, I’m allowed on the anti-gravity treadmill three times per week. What’s that? Also known as the AlterG, it allows you to run almost weightlessly. It uses air pressure technology developed by NASA to provide precise unweighting in one percent increments to as low as 20 percent of a person’s body weight. The treadmill uses exclusive precision gives patients the ability to set the exact point where exercise becomes pain free and provides clinicians a way to accurately measure patient rehabilitation progress. For the first two weeks, I can run with 50% of my body weight as long as there’s no pain. I’ll be swimming three times per week, and biking or aqua jogging once per week. Of course, I’ll keep getting on my yoga mat daily. I’m choosing swimming over biking because I prefer swimming, but if I miss the great outdoors I’ll hop on my road bike instead. I swam very briefly in 8th and 9th grade, so I’m not terrible when it comes to the sport. Not fast, but I have the form and endurance to make it worth my time.
If anyone remembers my attitude when I was injured two years ago, well…I’m sorry. I was not a pleasant person. Sure, it sucks that I might miss a few races that I was really looking forward to. Of course I hate that it’s gorgeous out and all I’d like to do is head to my favorite trails and run. There are so many things that suck about being injured but I’m honestly in good spirits. I just keep thinking about how much worse it could be. I think about those that ran the entire Boston Marathon and crossed the finish line just as the explosions occurred and lost their limbs. They might never walk or run normally again. So while four weeks has the potential to sound like a death sentence, it’s not. All I’m focusing on is making sure I have the correct diagnosis, rehabilitating safely, and losing as little endurance as possible.