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? 🙂

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.

Injured runner: Return to “running”

At the end of my last physical therapy appointment, my PT asked me if I had any questions.

“Sooooo … can I start running a little bit?” I asked.

His response was yes followed by him away from me — to get me a Return to Running Program handout.

It’s happening! Er, well, it has happened!

I went on my first “run” last Friday. It was a warm, crisp, sunny day so of course I wasn’t going to have my first “run” be on the treadmill.

I considered it a “run” because this is the current regimen:

5 minute walk
1 min. run, 1 min. walk (5 x)
5 minute walk

So, really only five minutes of running was involved. And, really, it was a slow jog.

I broke out my fancy Suunto that I received as a Christmas gift last year. My pace ranged from 9:30 to upwards 11+. For someone who typically runs comfortably around 8 to 9-min/mile range, it was painful.

My body felt so heavy. (I guess justified since I have gained weight in the more-than-one-year-long hiatus from running). I was also just being overly cautious because while my knee did not outright hurt, it didn’t feel completely strong either.

The workout was exciting and sad all at the same time.

It’s exciting because this is progress.

It’s sad because I can only “run” at 60-second intervals.

My schedule has been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to go out on another test run, but I’m hoping to get a few more in before my next PT appointment next week so I can report back that all is well.

I’d cringe to call myself a runner now, but maybe soon I don’t have to call myself an injured runner?

Injured runner: Hiking it out

I have a new goal.

If I’m not going to get any running miles in this year, well, I’m going to get some hiking miles in!

My doctor and physical therapist both have no objections to hiking. Doc said maybe wear a brace just so it will mentally make me feel stronger, if nothing else. So, for the past several weekends, I’ve been going on a hike nearly every week.

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My goal? To hike at least 30 times during my 30th year.

My birthday was in June and I have already gone on 10 hikes. (I didn’t officially start this goal until like September with my first hike of the season being in August). Seeing that I have eight more months until my next birthday, I’m pretty confident that I will be able to surpass my goal of 30.

Maybe this is the “silver lining” of being injured from running.

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I get to hike.

When I’m marathon training, my whole schedule revolves around running. Since there’s always a long run that needs to “get done” on weekends, there is never time — or energy — for a hike to fit into my training plans. My priority has always been running.

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I got some great hikes in during the summer with friends and family. Now that it’s cooler — and snowy — Bryce and I have done a few “winter hikes” already. I’m pretty lucky that even though I’m injured from running, I am still able to climb to the tops of mountains, see water falls and witness the Cascades in all of its glory.

Of course, I still miss running every day.

At least now I can have my weekly hike to look forward to.

Injured runner update: No update

I went back to the doctor like two weeks ago. He said basically what I figured he would say.

To keep at it with PT. Don’t run yet because all my “hard work” of resting will be for nothing if I start back up while my body isn’t 100 percent.

I didn’t have any questions for him.

I think I knew he was going to tell me those things — or some form of it.

The big teller of it all is that when he had me lay down on my side, and when he pushed my leg down, I’m still not able to push back. My leg can still easily be pushed down.

Gotta keep strengthening those hips. Gotta keep strengthening those glutes.

Oh, and when I am walking or just sitting, gotta make sure my knees do not fall outwards. (My body naturally does this but it’s bad mechanics for runners, or just humans in general).

Am I frustrated? Yeah.

Am I going to be sad and mope about it? No.

It’s been more than a year of being injured and I’m not quitting now.

That’s the “update” for now, anyway.