It was all going so beautifully. I had my plans all laid out for the year – 2013, ‘the year of running more’ was the mantra. I was hitting some good weekly mileage (40+ a week) and was actually feeling really strong. The Phoenix marathon was just around the corner and I was thinking I might hit a half decent time. All was rosy.
Then I got a stress fracture.
I don’t think there is ever a good time to get one of these – but for me, things started two weeks before Phoenix, right as I was tapering. A dull ache in my left shin turned into outright pain, enough to make me abandon a 5 mile run and leave me with a limp for a couple of days and a dilemma – do I abandon Phoenix, or do I press on regardless and hope the adrenaline of the day would carry me through?
Actually, it wasn’t much of a dilemma. The flights and hotel were already booked and God knows the training had been done. I didn’t know (although I suspected) it was a stress fracture at the time, and decided my blissful ignorance could continue until after the race. Medical advice be damned and I decided I’d rather risk a DNF than not try at all.
I’m always nervous leading up to the start of a marathon, and usually this nervousness just gives way to pure excitement as I line up at the start. Waiting for the gun in Phoenix I was just nervous. I could totally feel the pain in my leg, and I really didn’t know how things would go.
I’ll write up my lessons learned from PHX another time, suffice to say that I ran a little within myself for the first five or so miles, got warmed up and after that the leg didn’t really bother me physically. Mentally though I think I was quite inhibited (in the back of my mind there was always this nagging doubt that the pain would flare up and that would be that) and so I ran within myself. By around mile 6 I had got into a decent rhythm and held that through mile 20, by which time it wasn’t the leg that was causing me problems, it was just the usual issues of having run a bloody long way in increasingly hot weather.
Let the record state that I finished the race, stress fracture and all, in 3:50. Not my best time, not my worst time, and not the time I was hoping for, but this time, and more than at any race since marathon #1, I was just glad I even had a time.
Usually I don’t feel great after a marathon (physically that is, mentally I’m always elated), but this time I really felt, well, just shit to be honest. Gastro-intestinal ‘discomfort’, plus dehydration, plus I couldn’t really walk. At least I had my finishers medal.
Anyway, following a prodigious amount of sports drinks, a lie down in a dark cool room for a few hours, a massage, cold water plunge pool, steam room and finally a nice cup of tea, I felt human again, albeit a human still finding it extremely difficult to walk.
I’d had the foresight to tee-up an appointment with a sports doctor in advance, so I didn’t need to wait long on my return to Seattle to get the confirmation of what I had suspected all along – I had a stress fracture of my left tibia and I was going to have to take a spell on the sidelines.
I’ve scoured the darkest recesses of the internet for a medical opinion that says you can recover from a stress fracture and continue training at the same time, but you know what – I can’t find one. This seems an injury that there is universal agreement that the only real ‘cure’ involves rest, recuperation and NO running, (at least for a period of time). Here is the Wikipedia entry on stress fractures if you want to find out a little more. In the scheme of things I think I’m quite lucky. It could be worse – there is no cast, no crutches, no surgery, and no rods to be inserted in my leg. I just need to give it time.
I’ll update you in another post on what I’ve been doing in the meantime to keep myself from going mad, but for now I’ll just say if you can run, then go run, and throw in a couple of miles for me while you are at it. I’d love to be out there with you.