One year of being injured – and counting

I had my last injury-free run the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend of last year. Granted, I didn’t find out I had a stress fracture until three months later, I still have been injured for now a year.

I had scheduled an appointment with my ortho back in January/February for June 1 as a precaution. After all, he told me that he expected me to be pain-free and starting to run again come May/June. He added that if I was still experiencing knee pain, to come see him again in June.

Well, it’s June. And, I am still experiencing off and on knee pain.

What’s the verdict?

Still, it is to wait and see — a bit more. He was surprised I haven’t healed. He checked both of my MRIs again— the first from August and the second from the beginning of the year — and told me again that the fracture is just taking longer to heal than we expected. He said mid-July would be the furthest out it would take for the injury to heal so he wants to wait until then to do another MRI.

What if I continue to have pain after July though? What if the third MRI still shows that I still have a bit more healing left to go?

I feel like I am going through the longest marathon ever where every time I reach a mile mark, the finish line gets pushed further and further away from me. I keep thinking I will see that finish line banner off in the distance with each passing month of not running, but now I just don’t know.

I don’t know what to do. I mean, the doctor says to keep exercising so we can tell if my knee is healing. (Right now I still have off and on pain during and after exercise so the hope would be in the next month-and-a-half, that will go away completely).

Do I get a second opinion? I feel like a new doctor to me would just tell me to get another MRI as well.

I feel defeated because unlike running, where I am in control of everything, I currently have no control.

I can’t control time. I can’t control how much longer my fracture will take to heal. I can’t control my weight gain or that so many of my dresses are so tight or do not even fit me. I can’t control how sad it makes me feel that I haven’t had a healthy run in one year and that I haven’t been running at all in TEN WHOLE MONTHS.

Think about that one thing that brings you joy, that keeps you sane. Think about how you would feel if you could not do that.

It’s a frustrating, lonely, confusing place to be.

Injured runner: The best workout of my year

There are a lot of things I miss about running.

Alone time. Being able to take myself on my own two feet home for five miles after work rather than drive or take a (delayed again!) bus. Spending time with friends. The sound my feet make as they hit the pavement. The freeing feeling. The stillness when on the trails. Not being afraid of the rain.

The endorphins.

I can’t say I received that same runner’s high at my friend’s spin class on Sunday, but I sure had the best workout of the year (so far!)

I’ve been very good about going to the gym at least six days a week, if not daily. I alternate between spinning on the stationary bike and using the elliptical. I try to push myself to a good pace where I’m sweating. But, in all honestly, most times I don’t feel that tired after my workout. I do add on strength and core exercises after time on the cardio machines and always feel like doing multiple forms of plank is way more tiring than an hour on the elliptical!

What I’m trying to say is that the spin class was a nice change of pace. It really had me pushing myself. And, even though I couldn’t do everything that everyone else in the class was doing — like standing while on the bike while doing our “hill repeats” — I felt a sense of real exercise accomplishment at the end of the class.

I even felt like taking a nap in the afternoon, which felt akin to wanting to nap after a nice long run during my marathon training days.

It was good to have that familiar tired feeling again.

When you no longer feel like a runner

I’m realizing that it’s quite difficult to maintain a (mostly) running blog when you’re not running.

It’s tiring to write over and over again about how I still can’t run.

When I get together with friends who I haven’t seen in a while, their reactions are always the same: Wait, you are still injured? But, it’s been so long!

I had back-to-back activities during a recent weekend so I had planned to go straight to the gym after helping with a friend’s bridal shower hosted at my parents’ house. When my mom saw me in my running clothes, her reaction was: Oh, good! You’re going to go enjoy the sun and go for a run! 

For some reason she forgot that I’m still injured. Probably because I try not to talk about it anymore.

I’m tired of talking about how I am injured.

The other week I ran into a former Team In Training teammate who was training for the Alaska Half Marathon last year when I was training for the Alaska Full. She works at my organization but in a completely different department so our paths hardly ever cross. She was shocked to hear that my stress fracture is still healing — now eight months since I stopped running.

As I started telling her the story of how I got my first MRI and then the pain came back and then I got a second MRI (this time with contrast), I kept thinking, why am I sharing this story? I hate this story. I’m tired of telling this story.

It was memorial day weekend of last year when I first experienced pain in my left knee. Maybe at the one-year mark it will all be over?

I really hope my injury-story will end soon and that I’ll have a new story to share.

A comeback story.

The comeback I’m too scared to talk about

I went in to see my orthopedic doctor hoping for “good news.” Maybe he would say that my knee pain is just runner’s knee (I know, despite not running) and that I just need to work on strengthening specific muscles again. Maybe he would tell me to rest another month and then I would be good to go on running.

He told me that he is concerned that I am experiencing pain now when I hadn’t been prior to a month ago. He wants me to get another MRI — this time with contrast so that he will be able to tell exactly how much longer my injury will take to heal or if it is something more significant that will need “screws put in.”

And, of course this visit was Thursday morning and the MRI office didn’t get authorization from my insurance to schedule the appointment until later that afternoon. Now I have to wait until after the new year to get the MRI done because I will soon be out of town.

The wait continues.

More doubt ensues.

What if I’m not healthy enough to run my “comeback race” that I registered for a month ago?

Yes, I had signed up for The Tenacious Ten. 

The race is being put on in partnership with Oiselle, so, how could I not knowing many of my teammates and friends would be getting their race on together on April 22?

Now, this race seems like a long shot.

I have no idea when my comeback will be.

I’m too scared to talk about it.

 

When all you want to do is that one thing that you cannot do

For the past week or so I’ve been experiencing random “phantom pain” on my left knee.

Is it my stress fracture healing? Is it actual pain? Is it all in my head?

I’ve put off trying to go on a run because of it — until today.

I’ve been tired. And, frustrated. Not just with my injury. Not just with what is happening to my country. But, with everything.

Usually when I feel like this, I can lace up my shoes and just run. I take myself to a place where I don’t have to think. Or, where I can think as much as I want to.  Or, where I just hear my own breath and that is enough.

Tonight I really wanted all of that back.

I couldn’t find my headlamp (because it’s been that long since I’ve gone on a night-time run). I found an old flashlight and wore my reflective vest and called it good. I was going to go out for a little run.

I told myself I wouldn’t do more than 15 minutes. After all, this would be my first run back in 117 days.

But, my first step back was not a welcomed one.

I immediately experienced a dull pain on my knee cap.

“That’s new,” I thought to myself. Throughout my injured state, I had never felt pain in the front of my knee. “So, maybe after a few strides it will go away.”

It didn’t. And then the dull pain shifted to the outer side of my knee (where the injury is/was).

After one minute of slow jogging, I stopped. I debated just turning around and walking home. But, I walked on.

I tried three more times to run. All three times, I experienced some form of the pain, either on the front or side of my knee.

“At least it isn’t super painful,” I tried to reassure myself.

I’m actually surprised that I didn’t cry. Maybe I was too tired. Maybe too cold. My total time of running was four minutes and five seconds out of about 30 minutes outside.

If I had really wanted to, I could have pushed myself to keep running. But, what would be the point? To keep my injured-self off from running even longer?

What am I supposed to do now? I’m tired of being patient.

I’ve been resting for so long. I just want to do that one thing that I cannot do.

I want to run.

Running under pink skies and a bright moon

Saying “see you in four weeks” to my physical therapist rather than “next week” like I have been for the past two months was strange.

But, she wants me to get in more miles and keep progressing with my training and see if “all is well” with my body after that.

Because right now, all is pretty well.

I’m on week #2 of my 14-week half-marathon training plan. (My race is in April!)

It’s a little weird because it dawned on me that I have never really trained for a half before. I mainly just “ran consistently” and didn’t have much structure to my days of the week in terms of exercise. “I feel like I will run 5 miles today,” or “This morning I think I’m going to do an hour,” was common.

But, this time I want to ease back in. I need structure. I have a plan.

I don’t want to get injured again.

So, I am taking it one mile at a time.

This weekend I am going for seven miles which will be the longest run I have done since my marathon in October.

It’s nice to be back into a running routine.

I ran 3 miles tonight at 9:24 pace. It felt freeing to finally let myself run a little faster, to not completely limit myself to the 10 min/mile pace I was forcing myself to go the past several weeks.

I saw little flurries of pink from the sun setting.

I saw the big bright moon shining in the dark.

It was a good run.

I may have forgotten to wear my headlamp, but it was a good run.

Every day I’m recovery running

I ran the inside of Green Lake Sunday afternoon.

It wasn’t so crowded as usual (my main reason for never running the inner loop). The Seattle Marathon took place that morning so a majority of my fellow city runners woke up when it was dark and cranked out 13.1 to 26.2 miles.

I just did about 4 miles (when adding the 2.8-mile loop plus the distance to and from the lake from my house).

And I was sure proud of it.

It was knee pain-free! I haven’t run around the lake in for-e-ver. OK, OK, it’s been like two months but in running time that seems like forever.

My physical therapist has been telling me that running is fine but I should be doing it at recovery run pace and distance. That means short and sweet — and slow(er).

I think it’s paying off.

I don’t want to dive head-first back into training. I am, after all, still continuing PT (for an undetermined amount of time).

At least, I don’t feel broken.

I’m hopeful.

And, I will do everything once I am “fully better” to prevent from getting injured again.

This means, adequate stretching and (core) exercises are going to become part of my running routine. Or, I mean, part of my post-run routine. Stretching and doing core while running seems a little too extreme for me.

Now, where’d I put that foam roller …