Injured runner: The new normal?

I’m running three to four times a week — anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.

I dusted off the pretty Suunto I was gifted for Christmas (of 2016). I’m still getting used to the device and am learning all its features but the main reason I am using the GPS watch is because I need to know how far I am running.

Because I am attempting a 5K trail race at the end of the month.

I signed up for the race several weeks ago and with my PT’s “blessing,” I am encouraged to train for it.

But, what does training entail? It just means I am running three to four times a week and making sure I am at least hitting three miles.

I am slow.

I’m able to run three miles at just over 10 minute/mile pace. This is slow for me. It makes me frustrated and fine all at the same time.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be back to my “normal running self” again.

Will I comfortably be able to run sub 9s in my neighborhood for a leisurely run? Will I be able to knock out a 7-minute pace road 5K like I once did?

Will I ever be able to sub-4 hour the road marathon? Something I never accomplished before I got injured but that I attempted time and time again …

Or, is going out for 30-minute runs with some off and on soreness on my left knee going to be my forever? Will racing be “just to finish” rather than to fulfill a time goal? Will I just never be running or racing long distances again?

I don’t know.

I’m hoping all of this is not my new normal. I’m hoping it’s my new temporary.

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Injured runner: New year, same me?

I’ve gone back and forth with “I have so much to update you on!” to “Meh, nothing new to write home about.” This constant up and down feeling with my recovery along with the fact that wedding planning has started to consume a majority of my time and energy, has now left me with frantically typing up my first post of the year on the last day of January.

What’s new?

My knee got cupped for the first time at PT today! (It kind of hurt).

Yes, I’m still going to PT but this was my first visit of the new year.

Basically, I have been keeping up with my PT exercises (more or less) and have been doing 20-25 minutes of slow running anywhere from two to four times a week. Some runs are better than others. (I did go on one 34-minute run which ended a bit painful).

So, my threshold is running no more than 25-ish minutes for now.

Oh, and remember how I fainted and fell last November? (No?!) Well, I hit my arm (inner elbow area) and at the time it didn’t hurt (after the bruises went away). But, “suddenly” now this month I am experiencing soreness and minor pain in the elbow area when I do certain actions like carry a basket of groceries or have my arm bent for an extended period of time. I went to the doctor just as a precaution and the doctor suggested I wear an arm brace (just below where the pain is) and come back in two weeks. The brace seems to help with the soreness (but is it just in my mind?!)

Needless to say when I walked into PT today, my physical therapist jokingly asked me if I was there to see him for my knee or my arm.

“My knee!” I said. “I don’t care about my arm!”

I just want to get back to fully running … I can do that without a fully functioning elbow, right? 🙂

2017 Running Year in Review

It was a tough year for running. Because, during this entire year, I can only say I ran twice.

You see, I’m classifying running as time spent outside with no walk intervals/breaks. So, the only time I did run was 30 slow minutes on Thanksgiving with high school cross-country friends and 30 slower minutes in snow with my cousin and Uncle on Christmas.

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I first got injured Memorial Day weekend of 2016, a mere three-ish weeks before the Alaska Marathon. I ran the marathon (just to finish) and I did. A month later I was diagnosed with a stress fracture on the side of my knee — and it’s been a long road to recovery since then.

This year, running taught me to be patient and to be diligent.

I didn’t run at all during the first half of the year. I was told I needed to keep resting.

In the summer, since the knee pain hadn’t completely gone away, I sought a second opinion and learned that my stress fracture had in fact healed but that now I have patellar femoral pain (AKA runner’s knee!)

How does one get runner’s knee when she hasn’t been running? Because I’ve been staying active hiking, swimming and a little biking, but not doing proper strengthening — especially to my hips and glutes.

I was referred to physical therapy and have been going since August. Just as I used to wake up early or rearrange my schedule to get my runs in, I do the same for my PT exercises. Also, I’m at the point where I’m very very close to being done with my “Return to Running” program which means that in about a week I will officially be able to run without having to take any walk breaks!

Honestly, I’ve been not running for so long — more than a year-and-half — that sometimes it doesn’t even bother me. I’ve somehow gotten used to it. I feel like friends and family who I’ve seen for the holidays are more upset with how long my recovery is taking than I am.

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But, I’m ready for 2018. I’m so ready to run.

Ready to really run

My coworker flailed her arms in my direction, trying to get my attention. Well, she got it. We work in an open office. I thought it was something urgent related to one of our current projects, or maybe something to do with one of our meetings for the day.

“Will you sign up for Seattle Rock ‘n Roll with me?” she asked me from across the room.

She probably thought I was quick to answer “no” but for a split second I did want to say “yes” (and pay the consequences later).

But I’m not playing that game again, and again … and then again.

The game where I think “I’ll definitely be running XX months from now” and I sign up for a race. That got me into a wasted Seattle Half Marathon race entry in 2016 followed by a wasted 10K race registration this past spring. And, we all know what happened with Ragnar Rainier — at least I could still participate through mostly walking/hiking!

Not only is the money I waste on a race I end up not being able to run frustrating, it’s exhausting to get your hopes up time and time again — only to still not be able to run.

I really do want to register for the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon with her. It’s in June so that’s six months away. And, there’s a “special deal” today so race entry is only $59 or something pretty cheap (for a big name half marathon) like that!

It’s not like I would do it to PR. I would do it to finish, to just run.

But, I can’t set myself up for failure again. After all, six months will come quickly and right now I am still on “Phase 6” of my Return to Running Program.

I’m ready to really run again.

Injured runner: What I’m proud of

It’s easy to get frustrated when things don’t go the way you want them to, the way you think they should go. It’s easy to get annoyed when someone says or acts in a manner that is the complete opposite to what you view as correct or right.

It’s easy for those negative emotions to “turn on.”

I’d always run them off.

In my current state though — slowly returning to running  — I’m doing my very best to not get annoyed or frustrated or mad or sad.

Every run, even if it’s at three-minute intervals, is a victory. If my knee is not in pain, it’s a victory.

I’m currently at stage 5 (of 7) for my Return to Running program from my PT and I’m proud to say that every single run/walk I’ve done, I’ve done outside. I have not done a single one on the dreadmill. This has meant run-walking in complete darkness after work. This has meant run-walking in the cold and rain on the weekends.

I would never run on a treadmill when I was fully healthy so why would I run-walk on one?

Life as a (temporary) spectator

In all my ~12 years of running half marathons and marathons, I had never spectated a race until last Sunday.

I’ve never spectated because I’ve aways been the runner. Or, there were some times when I “just ran the half” and cheered Bryce or other friends into the finish as they completed the full marathon of the same event.

Joanna was doing the Seattle Marathon and as my partner in marathon training and pain, I wasn’t going to miss cheering her on for the 26.2 miles of post-Thanksgiving festivities.

This was my very first time as a race spectator!

It was so heartwarming to see all the runners out there — well let’s be honest — suffering as the rain rolled in. Some managed to grimace as I cheered them on. (Even with a cowbell it was darn tiring!) Some just looked forward with blank stares as they ran on. Some even cheered for me, the spectator!

I identified with each and every one of these marathoners.

It made me wish I could just jump in and run alongside all of them.

Joanna fought hard and had a really strong finish. Friends like her motivate me to work hard at PT, to work hard at my “return-to-running” program, so that I can be back out there and cross many more finish lines.

I won’t allow myself to be a spectator forever.

Getting back to running, sort of

My “Return to Running Program” from my PT consists of seven stages. As the stages increase, so does your running time and overall time on your feet. For example, stage one you are active for a total of 20 minutes and only five of those minutes are running (and not even consecutively). By stage seven, you are at a total of 60 active minutes, with 40 of the minutes being running minutes.

I’m on stage three as of right now, where I am only running at two-minute consecutive increments. However, for Thanksgiving, my PT gave me a pass.

Earlier in the week at my appointment, we talked about the upcoming holiday and what we had planned. I told him that every year my high school cross country friends and I meet at 9 sharp at Discovery Park to run together. It’s a tradition we’ve continued for now 15 years! Last year, being injured, I walked with a few friends — one had just had a baby — and this year I figured I’d be walking again.

“If you want to run, you can run. And, then go back to your running program next week,” my PT said.

It was like music to my ears.

I know I’m my own person and I can do what I want. But, it was nice to hear from a professional that I was “allowed” to run (if I wanted to).

So, I did.

I managed one Discovery Park loop with no major incidents. It was a total of 29 minutes of running the 5K loop (with one quick break to take in the sights of Puget Sound from the bluffs).

It felt fantastic to run with my old friends. It felt fantastic to be on our old stomping grounds together, despite the rain.

My knee did not feel fantastic but it also was not in pain, per se. It just felt like it was maybe going to start being in pain. What was most painful was my breathing. I’ve just gotten so out of shape over the course of more than a year of being injured from running.

But, the victory in it all is I did it. I ran.

And, most importantly, I ran with friends.