Diary of an Injured Runner, Part II

I’m documenting my process as I recover from a tibial stress reaction, diagnosed in early September. My goal is to track the process so I can provide some insight and information to anyone else in a similar situation. Click here to read Part I, if you missed it!

Week 3 (10/14 – 10/20) – 39.9 miles

Run #1

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Pace: 7:55 pace
  • Terrain: D&L Trail, cinders

It felt good to run, but I feel a slight sensation in the general site of the reaction. I’ve been feeling this consistently since I began running. It’s not at all the same sensation I felt when the injury began. It’s more of a pinching feeling and it feels slightly superficial, almost as though it’s my skin. It doesn’t worsen as I run or hurt when I stop, and I suspect I’m feeling the effects of the scar tissue. My MRI from several weeks ago showed edema in the area of the reaction, so I  hope any sensation I am feeling is coming from the tissue surrounding the bone. My pace is unaffected and the only real concern I have is each time I run that I’m going to re-injure myself. I still have zero pain or sensations before or after running, or with the hop test. I also feel completely normal if I go through any of the clinical exams that the doctor and physical therapist used to clear me to run again.

Run #2

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Pace: 8:40
  • Terrain: Pavement (Roads) and hills

Pace was somewhere in the 8:40 range but I’m not exactly sure since my watch died. It felt good to run on the hills and streets of Bethlehem, as I’ve been confined to trails since the end of August. Everything seemed to feel okay, and the sensation I’ve been feeling was still present but seems to have subsided since my last run. I still have a slight tender spot on my leg but that also seems to be decreasing. It felt fine immediately after running and the next morning (I’m always fearful that I will step out of bed and feel pain). It actually feels the closest to normal that it’s felt since I returned to running. I felt stronger and more confident on this run, but I know I won’t feel totally comfortable until I feel completely normal: no sensations in the general area, and back to running my usual mileage and workouts. My pace was better yesterday, but the overall run felt better today.

Run #3

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Pace: 8:04
  • Terrain: Pavement (Roads) and hills

Everything felt much more normal today, and I ran a bit faster to see how it felt. I spoke to my physical therapist and he actually suggested shorter runs at a higher intensity. Less time out pounding on my feet. I’d planned to do five to seven miles, but decided to do five at a more intense pace. I did it tempo-style: the first and last mile were somewhere in the eight minute range, and the middle three were in the seven minute range. Overall, I felt great. The tender spot on my leg was not present before running, but was present at the end of my run but was very minor. It went away quickly and felt great during my yoga class after the run.

Run #4

  • Distance: 9.3 miles (Runner’s World Festival, 5K & 10K)
  • Pace: 7:09 for the 5K, 7:27 for the 10K
  • Terrain: Pavement (Roads) and hills

I woke up feeling fresh, and my legs felt good. Today’s run(s) were part of the Runner’s World Festival Weekend, and back in the summer I signed up for the “hat trick”. This meant I was running the 5K and 10K on Saturday, followed by the half-marathon on Sunday. I was nervous because I know myself: I felt good, so I was afraid I’d run a little too hard. I started the 5K way too fast, and kept an eye on my Garmin. Although I felt fine – no sensations or pain at all – I was nervous that I was going out too fast for several reasons. I haven’t run a lot of miles lately, and hadn’t done any speed work since August. I also knew that I had 19.3 miles of races left after the 5K over the next two days and didn’t want to tire myself out and completely blow up by Sunday. Lastly (and most importantly), I really didn’t want to re-injure myself.

In the first mile, I knew I was going too fast. My watch was showing a sub-7 minute pace, and I originally set out to run 8 minute miles. I realized quickly that I wasn’t going to do that, so I forced myself to slow down to 10K pace. The last race I ran was a 10K in August, and that was my PR for that distance: a 7:08 pace. I thought that would be reasonable, and then I could comfortably run the other two races around an 8-8:30 pace. I crossed the finish line with a 7:09 registering on my watch. A far cry from a PR, but I felt like I still had a lot left in me. When the 10K went off an hour later, I began the race running with a group of friends. We agreed that 8 minute miles would be a nice goal, but we went out pretty fast. By the third mile, I realized we would likely come in around a 7:30 pace instead of the 8 minute miles as discussed, but I was still feeling great. No pain, and my legs still felt fresh so I went with it. We crossed the finish line in under 47 minutes, and my pace registered as a 7:27 on my watch. No pain afterward, and the sensation I’d been feeling all week long seemed to have disappeared. Although I wasn’t going at my all out race pace for either distance, I ran harder than I expected to, so I knew the half-marathon would be a challenge in the next day. The spot on my leg that felt tender earlier in the week was not present. Even though I felt fine, I iced and rested my leg for the rest of the day.

Run #5

  • 13.1 miles (Runner’s World Festival, Half-Marathon)
  • Pace: 8:36
  • Terrain: Pavement (Roads) and hills

I jogged to the starting line from my car, and it was about a half of a mile. I was a little concerned because I thought I felt some pain in my leg, but it seemed fine once the race began. I ran the race with Emily, which she was doing as part of a 20 mile run. She logged a decent amount of miles before the start of the race. After the race, we were planning to run a few more miles but I chose to call it a day. After we stopped at the finish line, it was a little chilly out and I tightened up. The first step I took to begin running again didn’t feel great. Almost like a warning sign – so I listened. I decided that I pushed it enough this weekend and asked enough of my poor leg and called it a day after the half marathon. It was definitely the right choice. Even though I felt fine, I iced and rested my leg for the rest of the day.

I was surprised that my legs weren’t more tired from Saturday,and were only a little stiff as I began running on Sunday. All things considering, I felt pretty good. I hadn’t done any speed in weeks, so I expected to be more sore. It was nice to run a comfortable and relaxed pace for the half, and to not worry about racing or running a PR. It is always a little discouraging to come through the finish line at a time that is slower than what I’d normally run, but this was not a normal weekend. Three back to back races, and coming back from an injury changes things. I was pleased that I was able to participate and finished feeling strong. I was excited that I was able to push the pace a little on Saturday and still run the distance on Sunday. Even though I wasn’t running any spectacular (for me) times, it felt like a success. I’m hoping this means that things might be a bit more “back to normal”. I’m not going to go crazy and start running 70 miles per week again, but I feel like I’m taking steps in the right direction.

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