The Dreaded Injury Cycle

I really thought I was back on track. I thought I’d been smart about easing back into running after recovering from the summer’s metatarsal stress fracture. I tried to follow the “10% rule” of not increasing my mileage by much more than 10% per week. I still felt little tweaks in my foot now and then while I ran, but it wasn’t painful and I had been told that it was normal to feel something during the healing process. I gradually reintroduced a bit of speed, building up to 6×800 at 10K pace. I made it up to six miles at marathon pace, and a long run of 10 miles. I figured I should be in the clear since I’d run over 30 miles per week for a couple weeks and had built back up to running five or six days a week.

I typically ran outside a day or two a week, but spent most of my time on the treadmill to play it safe. That made it easy to bail if things went wrong. Of course things went wrong when I decided to venture outside for an 8-mile run and was four miles from home. I’d had a few cringe-worthy moments for a step here and there during some recent runs. They turned into swear-worthy moments during this particular run and I’m usually not much of a swearer. In between cursing my foot, I spent the second half of that run thinking about new goals. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run a spring marathon now. Instead of getting depressed, I knew it was more constructive to think of something else to aim for. Maybe I’d just run a shorter distance? If my foot was bad enough though, I knew it meant I’d have to take more time off of running. Feeling the pressure to follow a training plan for a specific race wouldn’t be smart. By the end of the run, I had decided that my new goal was to get back to doing triathlons.

I did some triathlons during the summers of 2013-2015. I didn’t do any in 2016 because I followed a pretty intense training schedule for a late spring marathon, then had planned to get back into similar training for a fall marathon (before I got injured). I had enjoyed concentrating solely on running for a while since it’s my strength, but I also like the challenge and variety of triathlons. I tried to view the setback with my foot as an opportunity to get back into tris.

I got into the pool the next day after not swimming at all for nearly a year and a half. I knew it might take some time to get back into the groove, but didn’t think that first swim would suck SO bad. It was all good for about four lengths, then I got pretty winded and my arms got really tired. I couldn’t swim freestyle for more than six lengths at a time without having to take a break. I had been used to swimming a mile non-stop in the past, so this was quite a blow to my confidence. The positive is that my stroke, breathing, and flip turns all came back to me naturally. I was motivated to get back into the pool to try again, knowing that I could do better. Luckily, things felt normal by the second swim and I swam 400m intervals without stopping. I guess that first swim had been a shock to my system!

I've traded the running shoes for swim gear recently

I’ve traded the running shoes for swim gear recently

Of course I still had to test my foot. I took six days off of running then tried an easy three miles, but it still wasn’t good. Now I’ve gone three weeks without running and don’t think I’ll be trying anytime real soon. I’ve been taking it easy and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster the last few weeks. Sometimes it really worries me, and other times it seems fine. At first, my foot hurt enough that I limped while walking. I worried that I had refractured it and would need the boot again. It was even iffy at times in the pool, so I’d use the pull buoy more and avoid kicking. I REALLY didn’t want to use the boot again. I really didn’t want to go back to the doctor again if I could help it either. I haven’t found any specific painful spots like I could when I originally fractured my foot. Over the last week I’ve been a little more hopeful because it hasn’t bugged me as much. It hasn’t been painful, but when it’s uncomfortable and bothers me it’s pretty disconcerting.

2017-01-22-paint-creek-trail

My view of the Paint Creek Trail from the last time I was able to run

No more “testing” my foot for now. I better lay off the running until it feels normal. Sometimes it’s even questionable for biking so I’m trying to be smart and cautious. In the meantime, I’m keeping busy by doing core/weights for 45 minutes two or three times a week, biking for an hour or so at least a couple days (if my foot is up for it), and I’ve been in the pool at least three days a week. I use the elliptical every now and then, but I don’t really enjoy it. I’m so used to running taking up the majority of my time, and it’s interesting to see how balanced things have looked in my training log this year. It’s kind of sad to see no running at all in February though.

2017-02-12-january-workouts

2017-02-12-february-workouts

I get excited to ride the bike because it means I’ll have some quality TV time while I ride in the basement at home. I’ve managed to catch up on the first two seasons of the show Schitt’s Creek, and I’m in love with it. I’m working on Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream documentary now and am looking forward to my next ride so I can keep watching it.

The pool gets a bit too busy for my taste if I go after work, so I’ve been dedicated (crazy?!) enough to hit the water at 5am during the week. When I think about how crazy it is, I look at the people who are there earlier than I am and think at least I’m not there as early as they are! It all comes down to going to bed early enough, so it’s not that unreasonable when I’m smart about getting to bed. During the week I give myself enough time to get a mile in, and I’ve done as much as a mile and a half on the weekend. I’ve never been a fast swimmer, but as an adult I now appreciate all of the years my parents put me through swim lessons and made me swim on the swim team. It’s still not my favorite thing to do, but I like the fact that I CAN do it, and I always feel accomplished after I’m done.

I hope I can get out of this injury cycle soon. Like I said, I thought I’d been smart, but I probably ended up pushing just a little too much. I’m familiar with the process of starting from scratch and know I can make a comeback like I have before. I just have to figure out that fine balance of volume and intensity when I start running again and hope this doesn’t happen all over again. Of course I’m really bummed that I can’t run since it’s what I want to do the most, but I’m looking forward to getting back to triathlons (assuming at some point I’ll be able to run). The best way to keep my spirits up is to remember to be adaptable. Rather than concentrating on what I can’t do, I’m excited to see how I can progress in new ways.

– Janet

Follow me on on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Dreaded Injury Cycle

  1. Is there a master’s swim group near you? Masters has made me love swimming! I can barely tolerate swimming laps alone anymore. Plus it has made me wayyyy faster! Sorry your foot still sucks :(

    • Your advice is very wise, Ty! It stirs up an internal battle I keep having with myself though. I’m all about pushing myself with running and enjoy speed and tempo workouts. Yet somehow that drive and enjoyment doesn’t carry over much to swimming or the bike. I’m very casual about those disciplines and debate if I should be pushing harder, or if it will take the enjoyment out of it for me. I think of all the time I spent at swim practice as a kid when I’d question why I was there because I was not fast enough. I know Masters has all levels, but I don’t know if I can bring myself back to that environment. I still tell myself now that I’m too slow, but it’s okay when I’m doing it casually on my own and isn’t magnified by swimming with “real” swimmers. I know it would make me much better though, just like I should probably try spin classes too. I need to quit coming up with excuses and just suck it up if I want to improve, haha.

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