It’s been over six months since I’ve posted, by far the longest I’ve gone since starting this blog a few years ago. After the Philly Half Marathon, I had decided to focus on hovering my mileage around 30 miles per week and increasing intensity, with the thought of trying to race a few more 10ks in 2015. Things went really well all of December, January, and most of February. In fact, I was able to log an all-time 5k PR of 20:35 in mid-February, which was really exciting. I was running 7-8 mile long runs each weekend, and doing speed workouts that occasionally added up to 6-7 miles. My fast pace in workouts was hovering around a 7:00 minute mile – very fast for me! It was, without a doubt, the best running had been for me fitness-wise since high school.
But, as the title of the post gives away, that golden era of training came to an abrupt end. On February 21st, I did a 9 mile run in the brutal winter cold, entirely on concrete (as all my runs had been, since the trails were covered in 3-4 inches of solid ice). My foot hurt the next day as I walked around in flats, enough so that I went to the doctor and got a boot to wear for a few days. After 5 days in the boot, my foot felt back to normal so I did a short, easy 3 mile run. Shortly after finishing, I couldn’t walk. Whatever I had done to my foot on my long run, I had made much, much worse.
Two doctors appointments later, my injury showed up on an x-ray and the doctor confirmed that I had a stress fracture in my 4th metatarsal. The cause: too much running in my minimalist shoes, too much running on concrete, and too much flat-wearing. The prescription: rest, ice, compress, elevate. I had to take 8 full weeks off of running (which I did), and then very slowly add running back in. I had to give up flats and wear running shoes ALL THE TIME.
At first, I tried to maintain my full fitness by going nuts on stationary bikes and ellipticals and in the pool, but my foot kept hurting. I could tell it wasn’t healing. So I backed off even more. I did only zero-impact floor exercises for a few weeks, then did a 15-20 minutes on a recumbent elliptical every other day. I increased this little by little, until finally I reintroduced running in mid-April. I kept it conservative, and increased to running 2-3 miles 2-3 times a week in May. I continued to do pilates and other mat exercises that required no impact. My foot felt good, and I started wearing flats and sandals agains. There were a few occasions when I could tell I overdid it, so I wore athletic shoes the next few days and rested more. The healing continued.
At the end of June, I decided to spice up my workouts with more plyometric-type workouts that I would alternate with running. So for three weeks, I did resistance training workouts (that included squats, burpees, etc.) every other day and ran 2-3 miles on the off days. I always took at least one day off a week. I started wearing flats and sandals exclusively out in public because my foot felt great, and I absolutely HATE wearing tennis shoes with non-athletic clothing. My body started changing in a really positive way. I felt more “balanced” and places where I used to be weak, like my hips, felt strong. I was also more flexible and doing upper body work for a change.
Then the 4th of July weekend happened, and as part of my hometown’s annual festivities, the World’s Oldest Rodeo came to town. Because of this, everyone wears cowboy boots all weekend and generally drinks a lot and does a lot of western dancing. I did all of these things, and had an amazing time. Then on Monday, my foot started hurting more than it had in many weeks. So I wore running shoes for three days, and it felt better. I decided to do a short, easy 2 mile run because I actually hadn’t gone running in something like 5 days, and I was starting to miss it. My foot felt a little strange on the run, but nothing hurt too much.
When I ended the run, I felt some numbness near the site of my stress fracture, but it wasn’t really pain, per se, and I was able to walk just fine. At any rate, I wore running shoes that day. Since then it has become more and more clear to me that I have propelled myself back 4 months. I have, without a doubt, re-broken my foot.
The most frustrating thing about this is that I’m just not sure what component of my usual lifestyle is undoing me. Is the the exercise? Is it the flats? Is is both? I’m devastated that I have another 4+ months of recovery to get through. I suppose it will be easier the second time around because I have my diet under control and I know what I can and can’t do, but my spirit is taking a beating. I don’t feel like a runner anymore and I feel ugly walking around in athletic shoes with everything. It’s not me. And not running is not me.
I am prepared to write a post about all the awesome things that came as a result of having to run less, but for now, I’m just upset. 2015: The year of the stress fracture.