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.

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A runner who isn’t running

It’s been 11 months since my last injury-free run.

It’s been nine months since my last run.

As each day passes, I feel less and less like a runner. I try not to think about running or not running since it just puts me in a bad/sad mood.

But, it has been nice when others make comments to me, treating me like the runner they knew before I got my stress fracture.

One friend who is currently training for an IRONMAN, recently messaged me on Facebook asking for running advice. She asked me for any nearby hilly running route recommendations because she needs to do more hill training in preparation for her race.

I was touched that she reached out to me and responded with a few of my go-to routes. (Yes, Discovery Park, you obviously made the list!)

And then I was chatting with a colleague who used to work on my team and she asked me if I was running again yet. When I told her that I wasn’t and that I have still been experiencing off-and-on knee pain, her response was something along the lines of, “Wow, that must be really hard for you. After all, several of us on the team ran but you were the only real runner among us.”

I was beaming on the inside that she called me a real runner.

We’ve been having a few sun breaks in Seattle in the midst of all the dumping-rain spells. I do still gauge the temperature based on whether it would be running-shorts-weather or not.

So, some runner instincts still cannot be erased.

 

“To race” or not “to race”

When being overly optimistic fails you.

I signed up for this 10K six months ahead of race day. At the time, I was two months into a recovery of “somewhere between six weeks and six months” and figured that if anything, I would be able to walk-jog the course.

Not the case, at all.

I’m definitely nowhere near walk-jogging seeing that I still have knee pain every once in a while from doing whatever random task it may be (standing, sitting, walking or during exercise …)

The race is this weekend.

I’m not even upset about the wasted race entry money. About a month ago I came to terms that I would just walk the race since the 10K is open to both runners and walkers.

But, now I am reconsidering.

There will be a lot of friends and teammates and people I know at this race. I don’t really want to be walking 6 miles while designated “cheer stations” have to encourage me and keep me in high spirits. I really don’t want to have to tell my injury story again to folks I haven’t seen in a while.

Being injured makes you feel like the black sheep.

Am I being childish? Should I just get over it?

Talk to me when you’ve been a lifelong runner who has been sidelined from running for eight months and injured for almost a year.

Instead of “racing” the race, I’m considering volunteering at the race since I saw an email from the race director seeking additional volunteers. Or, maybe I’ll go to the March for Science. Or, a journal meet-up that a friend has invited me to. Or, maybe I’ll just keep my distance from people all together and enjoy a walk on my on time for Earth Day.

There’s a lot of possibilities and options for my Saturday morning plans.

Running is not one of them.

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.

Injured runner: I’m having a hard time swimming

Things OK to do while on the mend:

  • Walking
  • Elliptical-ing
  • Biking/spinning
  • Core and strength training
  • Swimming

Things not OK to do well on the mend:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Bearing weight on my knee (so like, table top/cat/cow position in yoga would all be a big fat no!)

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of consistently doing all but the swimming on my first list. I stopped going to yoga altogether after I talked to my doctor about a month ago to get specifics on what I can and cannot do while I let my stress fracture heal. I know I can still go to yoga but that I wouldn’t be able to do all the moves everyone else is. (So far, I haven’t gotten the courage to go back).

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So, why is swimming so hard? I’ve done it before.

But, my doctor had also told me to avoid breast stroke when I swim — too much kicking of the leg/knee out that could cause aggravation to the injury. Um, as a runner where swimming is not my forte, breast stroke was my saving grace! Now that I have to do the crawl the entire time, swimming is way more stressful and tiring and time consuming.

Right now, I only have the lung capacity to do two laps (so out-and-back twice) of the crawl. After two laps I am winded. I am gasping for air and my heart is beating pretty quickly. I hate having to pause/take a break, especially if there are other swimmers in the lane — it just messes up with the whole flow!

So, what do I do? Just keep going to the pool and get better? The last two times I went to the pool, I spent a majority of my time using the kick board. I wouldn’t mind doing backstroke either, but this takes skill if you have to share the lane with others …

It’s also hard to get better at swimming when I only go once a week. But, the lap swim schedule and my work schedule and how crowded the pool gets on Saturdays leaves me with just Sunday swim days.

Maybe I’ll try aqua jogging. That doesn’t take being in the lap lane. I keep running into my old high school cross country coach at the pool and he’s been telling me to aqua jog instead of doing mindless laps back and forth if I hate it so much.

Maybe I don’t need to get any better at swimming. Maybe I’ll just stay in the slow lane and kick board the entire time.

But, it would be nice for my workout to not take an hour plus …

Injured runner: What’s next?

OK OK, so I’ve been really bad at blogging while injured. But, let’s be real. Who wants to read about a runner who whines about not being able to run? I guess my fellow injured runners?

I haven’t been feeling well the past few days — caught a darn head cold — so I don’t really want to delve too much into things right now since I don’t think I can concentrate for much longer but here are a few notable things:

  • I spent more days in February at the gym than not at the gym.
  • I’m having a hard time swimming (more on this in detail later).
  • I’m having a hard time with my weight (more on this later).

As I type this my knee is hurting … which is frustrating since I haven’t exercised in four days (due to the cold!) **insert crying emoji**

For now, I’m going to focus on recovering from this cold. Then, I’ll get back to all those IOU blog posts I mentioned above.

Let’s hope March blogging is more frequent than January and February combined!

Yes, I’m still injured. But, I’m not broken.

As soon as I got back into my car after seeing my orthopedic doc, the tears started streaming down my face. I didn’t even know I was going to cry. But, cars always make you feel safe enough to just let it all out, right?

I don’t need surgery. (Yay!)

I still have a solid three to four months to allow my stress fracture to heal. (Boo!)

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The weather during my appointment reflected how I felt at the time. 

Going into the appointment I knew I would be getting some answers, some clarity on my knee injury. After all, I have been an obedient injured runner and have not run since the beginning of August — OK, OK, except for one bout in the fall when I literally ran for like five minutes and it wasn’t even continuous.

My knee pain comes and goes.

But, all I can do now is just give it more time.

I’ve been so quiet about my injury lately that people have forgotten about it. A colleague texted me a link to an upcoming trail race the other day. Others ask me when my next race will be. I just politely smile and say I still cannot run.

It’s frustrating.

I’m just glad that I mentally prepared before the holidays and told myself I would not be running any marathons in 2017. Now with the news that I must wait longer to be fully recovered, I know that at best I will begin to ease into jogging sometime during the summer.

Summer feels so far away.

And, what about the two races I have already registered for? What I thought would be my “comeback race” in April will now either be a DNS (Did Not Start) or I will have to just walk the 10K — if there is no time cutoff. I’m still holding out hope for Ragnar Rainier in August …

It’s frustrating.

A friend told me that my several more months of rest will be worth the wait. I have my whole lifetime ahead to keep running, she said. (“And, you’re so young — thank goodness you don’t need to start on the surgery route!” she chimed in.)

I know she’s right. I’m still injured, but I’m not broken.